Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum’s Safe Surrey Coalition has issued a campaign promise to build SkyTrain to Newton from King George Station in Whalley as “one of the main pillars” of the coalition’s platform heading toward the Oct. 15 civic election.
“We have heard loud and clear from Surrey residents that they want SkyTrain to Newton and as part of Safe Surrey Coalitions’ 2022 campaign, one of the main pillars of our platform will be to build SkyTrain from King George station to Newton,” McCallum stated in a press release Monday.
The slate says this would spur economic growth along the corridor and help fight climate change by providing an alternative to automobiles.
During the 2018 election campaign the SSC promised to cancel Light Rail Transit (LRT), which was championed by the previous Surrey First-dominated council, and to build SkyTrain to Langley. Surrey city council last week awarded nearly $18 million in road building contracts to make way for the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain extension, which is expected to be completed in 2028.
“Safe Surrey Coalition will deliver on their promise to build SkyTrain to Newton,” the SSC press release states. “We will get it done.”
Coun. Brenda Locke, running for mayor under Surrey Connect’s banner, dismissed the SSC’s promise as “an announcement of nothing.”
Locke noted TransLink is already talking about phase two of the transportation plan for Surrey, with a view of bringing SkyTrain to Newton. “So to me there was nothing to see here,” she said. “It’s already in the TransLink 2050 plan to increase the transportation corridor down King George and into Newton. That’s not new and we know that previous councils had already said that as well, so they recognized that need. So I guess my comment is this is a re-announcement of a re-announcement, there’s nothing new with this.”
“There is no budgeting for this,” she added, “and we haven’t even really stuck the shovel in the ground for the Surrey-Langley line. We need to do more consultation with the public – the public needs to say what they want. The business community in Newton needs to say what they want. Do they want SkyTrain or do they want a different kind of system, an at-grade system?”
Locke said she thinks residents and businesses need to have a say and to that end a feasibility study needs to be done.
“This is a big part of the problem we’ve faced for a while, we’re doing all these knee-jerk reactions and we need to get the experts and the public involved in the decision-making process.”
Coun. Linda Annis, of Surrey First, said her preference would be to see rapid transit built at street level in the form of LRT or a rapid bus service. She doubts the City of Surrey has the financial wherewhithal to send SkyTrain to Newton. “I am very concerned about the financial situation of the city, we have no idea how much this police transition is going to cost.”
“I have no idea where Doug McCallum would be getting this funding to build SkyTrain,” she said. “I’m not aware of it being in any provincial or federal budget so I’m not sure how he can make this promise. He’s already spending an awful lot of the taxpayers’ money on this police transition and a tonne more to come if we complete the transition and for hiring more police officers, so I have no idea how he would be paying for something like this.”
Annis is seeking re-election, running with Surrey First, which has not yet announced a candidate for mayor or other candidates for councillor.
“Surrey will definitely be running a team, we will be running a full slate. The only decision I’ve made so far is I will be seeking re-election. We do plan to make some announcements soon but that’s as far as we’ve gotten. There’s no decision yet who would run for mayoralty.”
McCallum told the Now-Leader on Monday that taxes wouldn’t be raised to pay for a SkyTrain extension to Newton.
“I had got TransLink to, we just approved our 10-year transportation plan, that’s our short-term plan, and we got it put in to being done in that 10-year period and as far as funding for it, I think all levels of government are recognizing that rapid transit needs to be built in all major cities in Canada but especially in Surrey, we’re one of the fastest growing cities in Canada,” he said. “The other factor why I believe very much the money’s going to be there is that we did get it in the final plan that TransLink has the board’s approved and I think when that goes into that then TransLink recognizes that some funding has to start to be put aside for it.”
McCallum said he also thinks other levels of government will recognize they need to contribute funds toward it and “it has been talked about” and “received very well by the provincial government, for instance.
“I think we would see the levels of government would come together very quickly in it. It’s the fastest growing part of Surrey. But our big push in Surrey, it has a huge other benefit and that is helping the environment. You know, we’re going to do a very big push in the environment, encourage people to buy electric cars for instance, and SkyTrain will really save a lot of emissions from cars if we get it along that corridor, from City Centre to Newton down the King George. It will really, really help the environment.”
McCallum said “there will be lots of money to get it built” (SkyTrain into Newton) but it won’t happen by raising taxes. “We’ll be working with the other senior levels of government towards building that. We already pay fees into the other levels of government to provide these type of transportations so it won’t affect our local or our city taxes at all.”
The longer-range plan outside of the 10-year plan is to eventually bring SkyTrain to South Surrey, McCallum noted, “but I think that actually is a long time in the future.”
Asked when he’s expecting to reveal other pillars of his campaign platform, McCallum replied that the SSC is “out in the public right now” and the way he’s “always operated is to go out and listen to the public first, get a really good idea what they want us to do if they elect us again and once we get that idea what the people of Surrey want too, right now we’re out listening, we’re asking people to give us a call and talk to us.”
“Once we get an idea, in working with the people of our community, then we’ll start to put together more pillars of our program as we move forward,” McCallum said.