COLUMN: Better transit still stalled

Existing bus and SkyTrain lines in Surrey are completely inadequate to deal with the city's rapidly growing population.

COLUMN: Better transit still stalled

In a March 1 meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at city hall, Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner again emphasized the importance of Surrey’s proposal for two Light Rail Transit (LRT)  lines, as well as other green infrastructure.

It was the first visit ever of a sitting prime minister to Surrey city hall, which demonstrates Surrey’s rising importance nationally. It continues to be one of the fastest-growing cities in Canada. It also suffers from a significant infrastructure deficit, with schools, recreation facilities, roads, parks and transit projects all in short supply.

The timing of the LRT line construction will likely be tied to federal infrastructure plans, as TransLink and individual cities do not have enough funds to pay for the local portion of the project. The defeat of a referendum to raise the sales tax to give TransLink additional funds effectively put the Surrey LRT lines, as well as the Broadway corridor SkyTrain extension, on hold.

The federal budget is due on March 22 and it may offer some clues as to whether Surrey will get enough funds for at least the first phase of the LRT project to proceed. That would be the L-line at street level along King George Boulevard from Newton to Whalley, and then east to Guildford along 104 Avenue.

For a short time last week, Metro Vancouver mayors and councillors thought perhaps they would have access to more funds without the necessity for a referendum, as Premier Christy Clark has dictated. Surrey-Fleetwood MLA Peter Fassbender, minister responsible for TransLink, suggested a vehicle levy was possible without a referendum.

The levy has been available as a funding option to TransLink since the regional transit agency was created by the NDP government of Glen Clark in 1998. However, it has been controversial. People living in areas where transit service is minimal felt they would be subsidizing transit riders and fiercely opposed the vehicle levy.

Fassbender quickly retracted his remarks, saying, “I misspoke when it came to the vehicle levy, and I do apologize for that.”

He said that a vehicle levy would require the province to enable ICBC to collect an annual vehicle registration fee.

“It is also a new tax, therefore it would be subject to a plebiscite or a referendum with the public.”

The challenge facing Surrey LRT, which is now expected to cost $2.6 billion, is going to be funding. Even if the federal share of funds is more than the traditional one-third which usually flows to infrastructure projects, TransLink and/or Surrey will have to come up with a substantial amount.

If local taxpayers have to pay for one-quarter of the cost rather than one-third, that would still be $650 million. TransLink can’t come up with that amount based on its current funds. A vehicle levy would help it get a little bit closer, but that wouldn’t likely be enough, given the other large projects (the Broadway line and new Pattullo Bridge) which need significant funds from TransLink in order to proceed.

Surrey badly needs significant investment in transit. The existing bus lines are completely inadequate to deal with the city’s rapidly growing population. SkyTrain has not been extended further into Surrey since the final three stations in Whalley opened more than 20 years ago. There is minimal or no transit service in newly developed areas such as East Clayton and Grandview.

This means that people in Surrey need to have vehicles in order to live their day-to-day lives. Until Surrey’s transit system is expanded substantially, that won’t change.

Frank Bucholtz writes weekly for The Leader.


Surrey North Delta Leader

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Traffic was tied up at the intersection of Scott and Old Yale Roads in North Surrey on Tuesday afternoon, after a semi truck hauling a load of pipes flipped while making a turn. (Shane MacKichan photos)
VIDEO: Semi hauling load of pipes flips in North Surrey intersection

Traffic near Scott and Old Yale Roads tied up by Tuesday afternoon incident

Sheila Malcolmson, B.C.’s minister of mental health and addictions (Screen shot)
Minister of mental health tells Surrey audience COVID-19 ‘has made everything worse’

More than 23,000 people in B.C. are receiving medication to treat opioid addiction

Farmers raise slogans during a protest on a highway at the Delhi-Haryana state border, India, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. Tens of thousands of farmers descended upon the borders of New Delhi to protest new farming laws that they say will open them to corporate exploitation. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Manish Swarup
Delta council stands in solidarity with protesting Indian farmers

Farmers have been protesting for months new laws they say leave them open to corporate exploitation

Shana Harris-Morris was killed Feb. 4. (GoFundMe photo)
IHIT says 22-year-old killed in Surrey shooting was ‘unintended victim’

Shana Harris’ family makes appeal for more information

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media file)
Man charged after pushing pregnant woman to the ground in Surrey, police say

Surrey RCMP say it appeared to be an ‘unprovoked assault’

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has restricted indoor dining at all restaurants in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 indoor dining, drinking ban extending into May

Restaurant association says patio rules to be clarified

In a 2019 photograph, Yin Yin Din held a picture of her brother Kyaw Naing Din, 54, and her late father Hla Din who passed away in 2014, during a trip to Victoria. (The News files)
Family of B.C. man killed by cop appeals to Attorney General for help

The Din family want B.C. Attorney General David Eby to forward their case to Crown

B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
Tougher COVID-19 restrictions in B.C., including travel, still ‘on the table’: Horgan

John Horgan says travel restrictions will be discussed Wednesday by the provincial cabinet

Protesters occupied a road leading to Fairy Creek Watershed near Port Renfrew. (Submitted photo)
B.C. First Nation says logging activist interference not welcome at Fairy Creek

Vancouver Island’s Pacheedaht concerned about increasing polarization over forestry activities

Flow Academy is not accepting membership applications from anybody who has received a dose of the vaccine, according to a password-protected membership application form. (Submitted image)
B.C. martial arts gym refusing patrons who have been vaccinated, wear masks

Interior Health has already issued a ticket to Flow Academy for non-compliance with public health orders

Of 46 arrests made between March 16 and 19 at Metrotown mall in Burnaby, 27 suspected shoplifters are now facing charges. (Twitter/Burnaby RCMP)
RCMP arrest 46 people in 4 days during Metrotown shoplifting crackdown

$4,800 in stolen merchandise was recovered and returned to businesses inside of the mall

Maple Ridge's Doug Ubell caught some photographs recently that he was anxious to share, one taken while on the Trans-Canada Trail looking southwest towards the Pitt River Bridge, and another from on Golden Ears Bridge. (Special to The News)
Traffic on Golden Ears Bridge returning to pre-pandemic levels

Commuters from Greater Vancouver still driving more, taking transit less

Kao Macaulay has been charged in relation to a home break-in on March 30 in Abbotsford in which five kittens were stolen. (Facebook photo)
‘Prolific offender’ charged with theft of 5 newborn kittens in Abbotsford

Kao Macaulay, 23, is accused of breaking into home on March 30

Facebook screenshot of the sea lion on Holberg Road. (Greg Clarke Facebook video)
VIDEO: Sea lion randomly spotted on remote B.C. logging road

Greg Clarke was driving home on the Holberg Road April 12, when he saw a large sea lion.

Most Read