The SkyTrain for Surrey citizens’ group is asking incoming Mayors’ Council chair Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan to call for the removal of the Surrey-Newton-Guildford LRT from the Mayors’ 10-Year Vision for Metro Vancouver Transportation.
“We are looking forward to seeing whether Mayor Corrigan will impose a delay on construction of the first phase of Surrey’s Light Rail proposal,” states a release from the group, which notes they’ve sent an open letter to Corrigan asking for as much.
“In our view, this first phase LRT should be cancelled altogether. It is imperative that we are investing in effective projects that offer tangible transportation improvements.”
The first phase of Surrey’s proposed 27-kilometre LRT network would connect City Centre to Guildford on 104th Avenue, City Centre to Newton on King George Boulevard and a second phase would connect City Centre to Langley on Fraser Highway. It would have 19 stops, once complete.
The SkyTrain for Surrey group says it is “appalled by the City of Surrey’s resolve to build one of the slowest light rail systems in Canada on this corridor, while Fraser Highway commuters are forced to wait five more years before they can get any rapid transit at all.”
Instead, SkyTrain for Surrey wants to see the Mayors’ Council endorse a Bus Rapid Transit project instead of Surrey-Newton-Guildford LRT on King George Boulevard and 104th Avenue.
They say this would reduce costs and complexity, and addresses concerns of TransLink’s capacity to deliver Surrey to Langley rapid transit while also building a Millennium Line, Broadway Extension and new Pattullo Bridge.
But the City of Surrey insists SkyTrain would cost far more than LRT, and with fewer stops, wouldn’t connect as many citizens to the line.
Furthermore, the city says it would have higher annual operating costs than LRT after that.
The city says bus rapid transit would reach capacity far too quickly.
The city also argues that nearly a dozen rapid transit projects in the country are LRT, and none are SkyTrain.
While the city acknowledges LRT would be slightly slower than SkyTrain, they say it’s only a matter of a few minutes.
Earlier this month, Mayor Linda Hepner said Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan was “talking through his hat” after he suggested it may not be possible to build Surrey’s light rail line and Broadway’s subway alongside a Pattullo Bridge replacement.
“That money is on the table for a limited period of time, and that’s $2 billion,” she told the Now-Leader in early January. “We can’t slow it down and expect those other agencies to have committed funding at such a significant level when we’re good and ready.”
While the endorsed Mayor’s Council’s transportation plan includes a replacement of the aging Pattullo, Surrey’s light rail line and a subway in Vancouver, incoming chair Corrigan has suggested the three may not be able to be constructed at the same time.
Hepner rejected any notion that any of the projects could wait.
“I don’t think there’s anyone, big or small, in this region that doesn’t understand that transportation is a significant issue both in terms of movement of people and movement of goods,” she said. “We in Surrey have endorsed that regional growth strategy where we’re accepting significant growth, only on the basis – and we made that very clear – only on the basis of improved transportation systems and infrastructure.
“I don’t know what the objective is, that the chair is looking for, when he has been, by nothing more than the sheer geography of his city, entirely blessed with every mode of transportation possible,” Hepner continued. “It’s really a selfish thing to say that those in the region where we’re most constrained should sit back and wait again.”
Hepner worries Corrigan’s comments will cause “confusion,” particularly since she had hoped to see an accord between all levels of government signed in late January or early February.
“So now I’m unaware what Corrigan’s comments may have done relative to having everybody scratching their heads. That’s what concerns me,” said Hepner.
If Corrigan insists on slowing down the construction of the Broadway line and Surrey’s LRT project, Hepner said a weighted Mayor’s Council vote could be called.
She noted Surrey and Vancouver have “very near 50 per cent” of the region’s population, which would be reflected in such a vote.
“That’s why that exists in the first place so those that carry the weight of the population have the proportional say.”
The next Mayors’ Council meeting is set for Jan. 25.
The Now-Leader has asked Corrigan for comment and will update this story with his response.