The City of Surrey offers a first look at a light rail car Tuesday morning in City Centre. (Photo: Amy Reid)

VIDEOS: LRT car showcased for first time in Surrey

‘Early example’ of light rail vehicle on display in City Centre

SURREY — City council unveiled today an “early look” of what a light rail car might look like in Surrey.

Mayor Linda Hepner and several councillors hosted the showcase this morning at Central City Shopping Centre.

At the event, Hepner said the LRT car will be put on display throughout the city over the next nine weeks, including at the Surrey Children’s Festival and Surrey’s Canada Day celebration in Cloverdale.

Hepner told the crowd that will attract LRT will attract businesses and affordable multi-family housing of all sizes.

“It’s really all about pairing people moving with city having and putting rapid transit at the heart of a community and creating vibrant neighbourhoods all along the route, not just at terminus stations,” she added.

At the press conference, Hepner acknowledged the disruption that will be caused by LRT construction.

“Anytime you have a significant transportation project you have significant disruption,” she said. “I’m not going to stand here to say there’s not going to be growing pains.”

Councillor Tom Gill, who is considering a mayoral run in the fall election, opened the media event on Wednesday.

“LRT is a societal equalizer that provides access to all residents,” he told reporters. “It provides access for seniors, students, working class, business leaders. LRT provides a safe, reliable means of travel. LRT provides opportunities to live, work and play in our great city. LRT will revitalize and provide economic stimulation.”

Surrey Board of Trade CEO Anita Huberman also spoke at Wednesday morning’s showcase, saying the project will create job creation, attract investment, shape communities, and help bring Surrey to the next level.

“We have a new image, we have increased confidence, we have progressive policies at our local governments, we have connectivity,” said Huberman. “Sometimes all it takes is a little imagination, sometimes simply a change in perspective through information and suddenly you can see a whole new horizon of possibilities.”

Leaders of several other business groups also spoke in favour of LRT at Wednesday’s event, including Newton BIA and Downtown Surrey BIA.

Newton BIA’s director Philip Aguirre said LRT is going to further transform and revitalize that community’s town core.

Aguirre said LRT will “bring everyone together, connected as one, instead of fragmented in different town centres.”

Elizabeth Model of the Downtown Surrey BIA said as a world traveller, she’s ridden many LRT lines across the globe.

“I have never rented a vehicle in Europe, because this is the way to get around. Light rail will transform Surrey,” she told the crowd.

In a release, the City of Surrey said the demonstration LRT vehicle is only an example of the wide selection of light rail cars available for LRT projects. It says the actual light rail car for Surrey’s phase one LRT project will be selected through an open and competitive procurement process.

On Monday, TransLink announced it will cost a total of $1.65 billion to roll out out the first phase of Surrey light rail by 2024. CEO Kevin Desmond said that costs for the Surrey-Newton-Guildford line have gone up by 33 per cent ($410 million) since 2015.

When asked about the total costs of the rapid transit project, including phase two of project that will run along Fraser Highway to Langley, Hepner said: “Every single day we wait the cost goes up $1 million.

“The longer we wait, the higher the costs will go,” she added.

Asked what she says to the still very vocal LRT opponents who call for SkyTrain instead, Hepner said, “I hope their pockets are deep.”

According to Hepner, expansion of the existing SkyTrain system wouldn’t shape a city, and there isn’t enough funding to construct it.

In response to Monday’s announcement, SkyTrain for Surrey founding director Daryl Dela Cruz called it the “worst value rapid transit investment in Canada.” Cruz called for the “immediate cancellation” of light rail in Surrey and its removal from the Mayors’ Council 10-year-vision.

Cruz was among a small group of protesters at Wednesday’s event.

The LRT demo car will remain on display in the parking lot of Central City Shopping Centre until May 11 from noon to 6 p.m. daily. It will then move to the Newton Superstore parking lot from May 13 to 23, open from noon to 6 p.m. daily.

For two days, on May 25 and 26, it will be at Bear Creek Park for the Surrey International Children’s Festival, on Friday from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and from 10:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Next, it will be moved to Surrey Civic Plaza for May 28 to June 1, open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

On June 9 it will be at Surrey Operations Centre for the Surrey Doors Open event, open for tours from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., then from June 11 to 22 at Guildford Town Centre from noon to 6 p.m. dail.y

Finally, it will be open for tours from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Surrey’s Canada Day celebration in Cloverdale July 1.

Meantime, procurement for the initial Surrey-Newton-Guildford LRT line will begin in 2018, with construction to start in 2020 and trains expected to run between Newton, Surrey Centre and Guildford by 2024, despite Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner telling Black Press Media that the line could be operational by 2021.

The trains will run in their own separate lane that will be unaffected by traffic, but still have to obey stop signs and traffic signals.

It will take nine minutes to get from Surrey Centre to Guildford and 13 to get from Newton to Surrey Centre.

The $7.3-billion transit plan will also include a Surrey B-Line to run between Newton and Surrey Centre along Scott Road and expansion of bus service out to 68 Avenue and eastern Fraser Heights in Surrey.

– With files from Katya Slepian



amy.reid@surreynowleader.com

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