As TransLink prepares to update its Regional Transportation Strategy in 2019, the City of Surrey is working on its own long-term rapid transit vision that is hoped to influence the regional plan.
City staff have prepared a report, titled Surrey Long-Range Rapid Transit Vision, zeroing in on just how large the city’s rapid transit network needs to be decades from now.
To make its recommendation to Surrey council, city staff compared long-term transit plans for Vancouver, Calgary, as well as other comparable cities across North America, Australia and Europe, according to a report.
After that analysis, staff determined the City of Surrey should target a rapid transit network in the range of 140 to 150 kilometres in size (similar to what is planned in Vancouver and Calgary).
On Monday night, staff presented city council with a draft map, for discussion, showing a wildly larger LRT system than the 27-kilometre system currently proposed along King George Boulevard, 104th Avenue and Fraser Highway.
The draft image of Surrey’s long-range rapid transit vision shows “future LRT” extending to South Surrey (via King George Boulevard), as well as along 96th, 64th and 24th Avenues, as well as 120th and 192nd Streets.
Surrey’s Engineering Communications Manager Rosemary Silva said in an email that the image “is an initial long-range rapid transit vision concept, at a City of Surrey population of one million people and 500,000 jobs, targeting a rapid transit network of 140 to 150 kilometres delivered in phased implementation over the next 10 to 20 years and beyond.
“It includes future investments after the Surrey-Langley LRT line is delivered and contemplates a high-frequency, grid-based network that would provide service to over 90 per cent of people and jobs would be within a five to 10 minute walk from a transit stop (i.e., LRT, SkyTrain or B-Line service),” she wrote.
The report suggests a “grid network” is one of the most efficient and effective rapid transit network types, which provides service to a high number of people and has “the ability to attract many new riders because they are simple, direct, easy to understand and useful to a broad range of people.”
City council voted unanimously to accept the report as information.
Surrey First Councillor Dave Woods said the report “really capitalizes on what we’re trying to do here in the City of Surrey and the long-term vision.”
Woods said when people challenge him about Surrey’s decision to build light rail instead of SkyTrain, he tells them the city is “trying to build a system here that will last for 100 years and will accommodate probably three times the amount of population that’s here in the city right now.”
Woods asked City Manager Vincent Lalonde to put the report online so the public had easy access to it.
“I’m frequently getting emails from the public criticizing this council for the decision we made to go with LRT and quite frankly, I don’t think it’s justified,” said Woods. “I think this report here provides some pretty sound rationale as to why we’re doing what we’re doing.”
Mayor Linda Hepner said she shares Woods’ opinion.
“Not a lot of people understand it’s actually a network we’re building, not a straight up line,” noted Hepner.
She said as the regional transportation plan is updated, “we should be sharing this with that committee so there’s lots of conversation over the next couple of years before those final decisions on transportation are made.”
Surrey First Councillor Vera LeFranc said the report was “very inspirational.”
According to LeFranc, LRT “makes more sense in the larger context of how we want to connect every single neighbourhood in Surrey.”
“I can imagine in the not too distant future when every resident of Surrey will be within five to 10 minutes walk of a frequent transit network,” said LeFranc. “That’s really what we want for our city. I think we have a dream where our grid is significant and we can reach every neighbourhood. I think we’re supporting also small business, we’re not going to have LRT flying over top of small businesses, small business will be well connected by LRT. I think as well you can see the city will develop around these LRT networks in very family friendly and sensitive way and I think that’s critically important for a city like ours that’s really all about families.”
LeFranc said the system isn’t about moving people from Surrey to Vancouver, but about helping people to move around neighbourhoods in their community.
“Most of the people who take transit in Surrey just want to get from their home to the local shop or to work which is usually in the City of Surrey,” she noted. “So I’m really excited but his plan and I do think we should make sure our citizens know about it.”
Surrey First Councillor and mayoral hopeful Tom Gill noted the Metro Vancouver’s SkyTrain system has grown to “just shy of 100 kilometres” in the last 30 or 40 years.
“So in the context of what we want to accomplish, our line will be longer, bigger, wider, stronger, than what we currently have in terms of the region,” he said. “We’ve got a great plan, I think we just need to embrace it with the community and how we can fund these opportunities moving forward.”
Councillor Bruce Hayne, who recently split from Surrey First to sit as an independent on council and run for mayor, said “a lot of public consultation and a lot of work needs to be done.”
“This is something that’s going to be rolling out over the next 20 years or so. My goal or my hope is that this is the start of a very broad and open conversation with the public about the future of our transportation,” added Hayne. “So I’ll be voting to receive this as information.”
Steele, who also split from Surrey First to run with Hayne in the upcoming Oct. 20 civic election, said “this is a good start to make sure we start to meet with the people and go out… and show them how it will work and explain it to them.”
According to the report, city council’s decision on its long-term rapid transit vision will provide “important input into TransLink’s update of the Regional Transportation Strategy, in particular, pertaining to its vision for the future of rapid transit in the city.”
Simulation video animates LRT ride for Surrey passengers – https://t.co/NOBKVbSgcK
— Surrey Now-Leader (@SurreyNowLeader) May 31, 2018