If Vancouver insists on Cadillac transit

EDITORIAL: Sorry, but Surrey is next in line

Vancouver's 'grandiose' SkyTrain proposal will have to wait until residents south of the Fraser are better served by transit.

There’s a transit tussle brewing between Metro’s biggest cities.

On one side – Vancouver, with Mayor Gregor Robertson and his ambitious pitch for a nearly $3-billion SkyTrain system to the University of B.C.

On the other – Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts and her long-standing battle cry for better transit options for her burgeoning city.

At issue is the next TransLink mega-project to go ahead (provided the regional mayor’s council can reach a deal with the province for more funding options).

Surrey is calling for three light rail lines – along 104 Avenue to Guildford, down King George Bouelvard toward White Rock, and southeast along Fraser Highway towards Langley, at a cost of about $2 billion – far less than it would be if more expensive SkyTrain was used.

Watts is not impressed with Vancouver’s “grandiose” subway scheme.

“I would suggest that the multi-billion-dollar project that they’re proposing is not going to fly with residents in Surrey…”

That’s putting it mildly.

Stinging from the news that a Highway 1 express bus over the new Port Mann Bridge won’t stop in Surrey, and still smarting from years of substandard transit service south of the Fraser, Surrey residents – who receive about 90 to 95 cents worth of service from every dollar they contribute to TransLink through gas tax, property tax, and transit fares – won’t move to the back of the bus on this one.

Especially when there are more logical solutions.

Watts’ idea to open satellite UBC sites rather than carve out a $3-billion SkyTrain to the main campus at the farthest western edge of Vancouver is bang on.

SFU’s Surrey location (the main campus is in Burnaby) – with its innovative programs and savvy spot downtown (right next to SkyTrain) – is a lesson in success. Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, the Central City site has reached its capacity of serving 7,000 students and is looking to expand.

Within the next few decades, Surrey will be the largest city on this side of the country – and the growth is not going to stop. Sinking $3 billion into a SkyTrain system in a city that is built out and already well served by transit is myopic and unaffordable.

If Vancouver insists on Cadillac transit, then it must wait in line until after Surrey gets its essential system.

 

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