Rendering of a planned Surrey light rail train. (Photo: surrey.ca)

LRT protest planned in Surrey today

SkyTrain for Surrey group organizes protest as City of Surrey and TransLink hold public open houses

As the City of Surrey and TransLink hold public open houses about the planned light rail project in the city, opponents have organized rallies near the events.

“We want to let people know that yes, there is a crowd of people that have spoken out in opposition of the LRT,” said Daryl Dela Cruz with the SkyTrain for Surrey group that’s organizing the protests.

Dela Cruz said about 25 people gathered for a rally at 5 p.m. Tuesday (June 5) at the intersection of 88th Avenue and King George Boulevard, near an open house set for 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Surrey Arts Centre up the street.

See also: Surrey LRT open houses planned

See also: All eyes on Newton as Surrey LRT plan rolls forward

“We notified the RCMP last week to let them know we’d have a presence at corners of the intersection,” added Dela Cruz. “We’re not going to be obstructing, we’re going to be peaceful. We want to raise awareness to people passing by. We want to grab the attention of drivers.”

The group was also out protesting last Saturday, near Peoples Church which played host to another LRT open house that day, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“This is the beginning,” Dela Cruz said of the groups’ efforts.

SkyTrain for Surrey has been vocal in its ongoing opposition to the Surrey LRT project and the group’s change.org petition against the project has garnered more than 4,800 signatures so far.

Instead of LRT, SkyTrain for Surrey calls for the Expo Line to be extended to Langley on Fraser Highway, and a rapid bus system on King George and 104th Avenue.

They’ve also called for the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation to pull the project from its 10-Year Vision for the region.

See also: SkyTrain for Surrey wants LRT pulled from Mayors’ Council plan

See also: VIDEOS: LRT car showcased for first time in Surrey

The group says the more-than-$2-billion LRT project will be the “most expensive mistake in our region’s history.”

“Safety is part of our key concern,” said Dela Cruz. “It happens in other places with LRT systems. There’s a risk of collision when trains are crossing roadways. There’s also the potential this causes in delays in service in the event tracks are blocked or if there are break downs.

The project, said Dela Cruz, “betrays the expectation of Surrey residents.”

The group is waiting to see what happens with the civic elections this coming October. Dela Cruz is hopeful a big shake up in the regions’ mayors could change things.

In all, Surrey’s planned LRT system would be 27-kilometres long, including the 10.5-kilometre Surrey-Newton-Guildford (SNG) line, which would connect Newton to Surrey Central along King George Boulevard, and Surrey Central to Guildford along 104th Avenue.

In TransLink’s latest cost estimates, the SNG line alone is now expected to cost $1.65 billion alone.

See also: Some Surrey intersections may be safer with LRT: TransLink

See also: Simulation video animates LRT ride for Surrey passengers

Last week, TransLink and the City of Surrey held a “technical briefing” about the project.

Some of Surrey’s intersections will work “much better” after the “transformational” light rail line is running, according to TransLink.

Stephan Mehr, who was introduced to the media at Surrey City Hall as TransLink’s project lead for the SNG line, said all of the intersections where Surrey’s LRT line will run are being redesigned to incorporate a process called “channelizing,” which is said to make turning “safer.”

Essentially, this involves upgrades so left turns are only permitted with a left-turn arrow.

The briefing also provided updates about the project, including changes to previous designs to keep more lanes along 104th Avenue.

TransLink says updated plans mean 70 per cent of the 104th Avenue route will maintain two lanes in each direction.

“In some cases we’ve widened the lane to be safer, to have more room, to get around an incident. In others we’ve looked very carefully… for a solution where we are able to bring back two lanes in each direction for most of the corridor,” said Mehr.

King George Boulevard, meantime, will be “much the same as it is today,” said Mehr, with two lanes along the entire route, which when built connect Surrey Central to Newton Town Centre, just past 72nd Avenue.

In order to achieve four lanes along the corridor, HOV lanes are to go.

Despite ongoing opposition from some in the community, TransLink says there has been “constant” for the Surrey-Newton-Guildford LRT line, which will have 11 stops and take 27 minutes, from start to finish.

TransLink reports that in a survey last May, 67 per cent of respondents from Surrey who used transit in the previous 30 days considered the project “extremely” or “very” important.

A 2016 TransLink survey suggested 58 per cent of Surrey residents were likely to use the system, but Mehr said it’s now expected that ridership will be much higher.

“B-Line bus ridership has grown considerably over the years,” he noted. “In the last couple of years, there’s been more than a 16 per cent increase. Ridership of B-Line is going to transfer over to the LRT line and increase in number of vehicles per hour or trains per hour, to a five-minute headway. That will make this service much more attractive. While that may sound like a figure that has a line to it, we believe it’s going to be much more than that.”

TransLink anticipates that current ridership will triple once LRT it is operational and estimates that by 2045, it will see more than 70,000 daily boardings, with an estimated 31.5 million annual trips.

Mehr said right now, 75 per cent of transit trips in Surrey both begin and end in the city. The SNG line, he noted, will be a faster, more frequent, more reliable mode of transportation for those riders.

It’s anticipated that shovels will be in the ground for the first phase of Surrey LRT in 2019, and that it will be operational by 2024.

Have your say: Take an online survey, open to June 14, through the Surrey LRT website, surreylightrail.ca.

See also: TransLink defends huge spike in cost of SkyTrain, light-rail projects

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