COLUMN: Trained to go it alone

Surrey goes straight to the source in bid to secure funding for at-grade light rail.

The City of Surrey is asking the federal government for $1.8 billion under a federal infrastructure program.

It wants the money to build three at-grade light rail systems (LRT), independent of TransLink. It has come to the conclusion that TransLink’s funding woes, and an apparent bias toward SkyTrain, will prevent South Fraser residents from getting rapid transit in a timely fashion.

This initiative is a very important step forward. It would transform Surrey from a city that is, of necessity, auto-dependent to one where many local trips could easily be made by transit.

Studies consistently show that most Surrey residents travel within the city or to a neighbouring city, for shopping, work, school or recreation. There are relatively few trips between Surrey and downtown Vancouver. Yet the transit system is centred on most travellers getting downtown.

Surrey would like to build three LRT systems – along Fraser Highway, from the current King George SkyTrain station into Langley; along 104 Avenue from City Centre to Guildford; and along King George Boulevard, eventually as far as South Surrey. This would be a revolutionary advance, if it ever comes about.

There are a significant number of opponents of LRT, and they have some valid points. One is that SkyTrain is separated from traffic and thus can move faster. They are correct.

However, an at-grade LRT system can still move people quite quickly. There are such systems in Edmonton, Calgary and Seattle.

I have ridden the entire length of the Edmonton system, which goes from the northeast corner of the city to a point in the far south. It uses some existing infrastructure, such as rail grades, and also tunnels under the downtown area.

Perhaps even more relevant to what Surrey is proposing is the Sound Transit Link system in Seattle. It goes from downtown Seattle to the Sea-Tac Airport, and a considerable portion of its route is at grade.

The final stretch into the airport is separated from traffic, as is SkyTrain, but about half the route is at grade. Overall time between the two end points is reasonable, yet it serves a fair number of stations. It accommodates cyclists and bikes. It costs $2.75 per trip.

What is particularly relevant to the Surrey proposal is that it makes good time along a busy street, using a separated right-of-way in the middle of the street, and traffic lights that are co-ordinated so the train can keep moving.

LRT lines along the three Surrey roads could travel in the middle of the street, and if traffic lights and crossing arms are co-ordinated, a trip between SkyTrain and Langley, or City Centre and South Surrey, would likely take 20 to 25 minutes.

This might be slightly slower than SkyTrain, but any such line is decades away. While Surrey SkyTrain extensions have been promised, most notably by former premier Gordon Campbell near the end of his years in power, there was no funding commitment. With the cost of building SkyTrain and pressure on TransLink to build rapid transit to UBC before doing anything in Surrey,  any such line is a pipe dream.

LRT lines that could be up and running within a decade would make Surrey much more livable, and given Surrey’s growth projections, they would be a good use of federal infrastructure dollars.

Frank Bucholtz is the editor of The Langley Times. He 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

Surrey pushing the poor out of Whalley, public hearing speakers say

‘There is a war on the poor here in Surrey,’ resident Dave Diewert tells city council

Surrey seniors call Seniors’ Centre Without Walls, a new-to-B.C. program

‘Crazy coincidence’ saw program connect soon after COVID-19 pandemic hit

IHIT investigating death of Surrey woman

Injured woman was taken to SMH early Tuesday morning

Charges laid in 2019 single-vehicle crash in Surrey that killed young soccer star

Dilpreet Sandhu, 19, faces eight charges in early morning crash that killed Brandon Bassi

Surrey Mounties seize guns, drugs and cash from Guildford residence

One man was arrested but no charges have been laid as investigation continues

If Trudeau won’t stand up to Trump, how will regular people: Singh

Trudeau did not directly answer a question about Trump’s actions amid protests

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

We’re asking you to lock arms with us, as we look to better days ahead

VIDEO: Internal investigation into aggressive arrest by Kelowna Mountie

A video allegedly shows a Kelowna Mountie striking a man several times

COVID claims 23rd Langley Lodge patient, making it the deadliest outbreak in B.C.

Coronavirus kills another senior at Langley care home, bringing B.C. total to 166

Family of dead B.C. football star urge changes to mental health policies in hospitals

Uko family disappointed in actions of Regina hospital, hosting public funeral service this weekend

22 new COVID-19 test-positives, one death following days of low case counts in B.C.

Health officials urged British Columbians to ‘stand together while staying apart’

John Horgan says COVID-19 restrictions won’t be eased regionally

B.C. Liberals urge ‘tailored’ response based on infections

Feds get failing grade for lack of action plan on anniversary of MMIWG report

‘Instead of a National Action Plan, we have been left with a Lack-of-Action Plan’

Maple Ridge woman fights WorkSafe BC over police widow’s pension

Dalila Vroom says husband, Const. Rob Vroom, died as a result of PTSD from time with Abbotsford PD

Most Read