A rendering of Surrey’s planned LRT line. (Photo: surrey.ca)

LETTER: Without a doubt, LRT is the best system for Surrey

Surrey Board of Trade CEO makes case for light rail in a letter to Mayors’ Council chair Derek Corrigan

The Editor,

This is an open letter to Mayor Derek Corrigan, chair of the Mayors’ Council:

I am writing in support of Surrey’s Light Rail Transit project.

In fact, the Surrey Board of Trade would like to see all 27 kilometres of the proposed light rail to be built as soon as is feasible. In our most recent Surrey Road Survey, more than 80 per cent support to strongly support the building of the “City Centre-Guildford-Newton” and over 85 per cent support LRT along Fraser Highway through to Langley City.

Surrey is growing rapidly, and as it grows, the opportunity exists to shape it into a world-class destination in its own right. With nearly 1,000 new residents coming monthly, the need for a vision has never been more necessary. The LRT provides an opportunity to consider how to manage the growth, where to densify, how to move people, and how to create commercial space while achieving an attractive streetscape.

Businesses are on board with creating an economically viable city that is attractive to clients, customers, and employees alike. LRT sparks development along its corridors, a mid-rise, medium density, mixed-use type of development that will attract both families and business to the area while also maintaining affordability.

Anita Huberman, CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade.

We have done our due diligence and read through all available reports. We have had roundtables and panel dialogues. We have had all of our advocacy team members review material and provide feedback (12 teams with over 400 volunteers). We’ve reviewed the number of technology and route alternatives that were examined using multiple metrics to evaluate their effectiveness.

The Surrey Board of Trade has taken the position that the project should be completed in one phase to capitalize on lower construction costs and LRT fleet vehicles, and the simple fact that waiting for phase 2 will unnecessarily delay needed transit through Surrey.

We are concerned that those who oppose LRT in favour of increased buses and a SkyTrain down Fraser Highway are not fully considering what they are saying no to, or conversely what they would be saying yes to, if they in fact succeed to influence decision-makers.

Three things we know will occur if there is no support for LRT:

  • Increasing B-line buses will very quickly increase congestion on those routes as more and more would be required to move commuters, but they would still not be sufficient to meet anticipated future population growth as quickly as the LRT on its dedicated lanes — and within 10-15 years would need to be replaced with LRT to meet the demand.
  • The cost of the Surrey-Langley line is nearly a billion dollars more to build SkyTrain than LRT, money that can be spent elsewhere on needed infrastructure and services.
  • The ability to quickly adapt to growing town centres and expand the system through the large Surrey geography will be severely compromised by putting all available and future funding into one option.

We have observed that where the SkyTrain has gone, it encourages development only around the station, not along the line. The stations are relatively far apart and the ability for riders to view commercial options is minimized. The purpose would be to move people from one far distant point into the City of Vancouver Hub.

As it turns out, this is not necessary. Over 70 per cent of our survey respondents like to work and live south of the Fraser; and LRT encourages that livability by also promoting affordable housing strategies along existing corridors.

Although the Pattullo Bridge and other crossings need to be improved to accommodate commuters, more are staying South of the river. Over 50 per cent live and work in Surrey, unchanged from 2016, and an additional 24 per cent commute into Surrey for employment.

Our businesses and our residents deserve a system that encourages growth along the corridors, the creation of livable streetscapes, and the flexibility to add stops as required with the minimum of cost and disruption in the future — as well as extending the lines to loop through the city as it ought to be. We need a system that moves people around Surrey and South Fraser, with links to cross the river where appropriate to minimize congestion on river crossings.

With over 400 LRT systems worldwide, we know that this is a system that has proved itself many times over. We anticipate TransLink to release its business case very soon, so that all can likewise be assured of the value of the LRT and not rely on out-dated documents to put forward erroneous positions in the media.

We have determined that Surrey is the destination, not a thoroughfare to somewhere else. The demand for more transit increases annually, as reflected on our own surveys. Surrey is becoming the hub of the south Fraser Region. Businesses are moving here. People are moving here.

It makes no sense to build a system that by-passes the opportunity to develop and grow a city of our choosing to meet our own vision.

Without doubt, the LRT is the best system, dollar for dollar, for Surrey and South of Fraser. The Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce has also indicated their support of the Light Rail Transit transportation system, which includes the Fraser Highway line.

Anita Huberman is CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade.

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