SkyTrain expansion would be cheaper, faster than LRT, says Surrey citizens’ group

SkyTrain expansion would be cheaper, faster than LRT, says Surrey citizens' group

SURREY — Surrey could spend less money and get faster travel times with a SkyTrain-based transit plan rather than the current light-rail model, claims a new report from Better Surrey Rapid Transit.

Despite this, current Surrey mayoral candidates maintain their support for the LRT option.

The BSRT report proposes an elevated SkyTrain Expo Line extension from King George to Langley City Centre along Fraser Highway, a dedicated rapid bus lane along King George to White Rock and bus service improvements along the 104 Avenue corridor.

The citizens’ group estimates this would cost $2.3 billion, compared with the $2.44-billion city-endorsed LRT model.

It could also save commuters from Langley to Surrey Centre seven minutes, and commuters from Langley to Vancouver 12 minutes of travel time, compared to the proposed LRT model.

And it could attract 202,000 new riders per day, versus the LRT’s 166,000 riders, according to estimates based on TransLink’s 2010 Surrey Rapid Transit Study.

The city, said BSRT’s Daryl Dela Cruz, a Kwantlen student and Surrey resident, has been “focused on getting a lot of light rail for lower capital cost, but is not actually having a coherent look at the benefits or a coherent look at the risks.”

The existing LRT plan proposes three light rail lines between City Centre and Guildford along 104 Avenue, from City Centre to Newton along King George and from Surrey City Centre to Langley City Centre along Fraser Highway.

Mayoral candidate Barinder Rasode defended the LRT, arguing speed and price aren’t the only considerations. She favours the LRT option because it would “prevent the community being divided up by big concrete pillars” and would promote business along the route.

Candidate Doug McCallum said his research as a former TransLink chair showed LRT was the most logical and economical option for Surrey’s urban-rural geography.

“(Surrey is) one-third parkland, one-third agricultural land, one-third residential and commercial,” McCallum said. “It’s not really high density overall in our city. The only option that could be built is light rail.”

Candidate Linda Hepner could not be reached for comment. In the past, the Surrey First candidate has backed the LRT plan.

Cruz argued the LRT plan will save commuters on 104 Avenue only one minute over the current B-Line service, and that the King George LRT construction will cause more traffic disruptions on the already heavily congested road, while the at-grade LRT installation along Fraser Highway will require wider rights-of-way than an elevated SkyTrain, meaning more community disruption.

Proponents of the LRT plan include the grassroots group Rail for the Valley Society, which has been advocating for the model since 2008.

Outgoing Mayor Dianne Watts has been lobbying TransLink for funding for the plan for years, with the support of the Surrey Board of Trade’s Light Rail Links advocacy group and the Mayor’s Council. However, the transit authority has not committed to the plan.

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