Light rail vital to city’s future

Surrey is one of the fastest growing municipalities in Canada and is expected to surpass Vancouver in population within 30 years.

As the largest municipality south of the Fraser, it is becoming the “downtown” for this rapidly expanding area.

These factors challenge Surrey in managing its growth and economic development.

Construction of proposed LRT lines, linking Surrey City Centre and Guildford, Newton, Fleetwood and Langley town centres, is an important part of meeting this challenge.

LRT is known to stimulate investment and high-quality residential, retail, entertainment and civic development in many North American cities, which generates additional employment and will increase Surrey’s tax base.

By helping to focus and intensify urban development, the LRT will also contribute to sustaining Surrey’s agricultural land.

Unlike RapidBus or SkyTrain, LRT has both a permanent physical presence yet is pedestrian-friendly and human in scale, which encourages both eyes on-the-street and from-thestreet visibility.

This, together with its accompanying requisite urban-style neighbourhood lighting, landscaping and other design elements, make it more compatible with lower density portions of the lines and supports a mix of residential densities that will help maintain Surrey’s role as a provider of affordable familyoriented housing.

LRT contributes to Surrey’s economic development strategy, which targets the City Centre as a catalyst for broadening investment, economic growth and employment and increasing high-value jobs in the health and high-tech sectors, two of the City Centre’s existing strengths.

From a financial perspective, the LRT is expected to generate significant benefits. Construction alone will generate an estimated 24,600 local and 4,200 jobs elsewhere in Canada, resulting in $1.4 billion in wages locally and $242 million elsewhere in Canada.

It will also return $132 million in taxes to B.C. and $354 million to Canada. On-going operations and maintenance will annually create another 400 to 600 highvalue jobs in Surrey and $22 to $35 million in wages, resulting in approximately $4 and $6 million in additional taxes for BC and Canada respectively.

No one transportation solution is perfect for every situation or community. Each needs to assess what it wants to achieve from this investment. In Surrey, it is LRT.

Teresa Watts is an independent economist.