Light rail system may be the wrong choice

Surrey’s primary transportation corridors need to be serviced with high-capacity, reliable and expandable rapid transit service.

I have a few important points to share about Surrey’s transportation future.

Currently dominating the “vibrant” future of the City of Surrey is a cataclysmic light rail transit scheme that may make transit service worse instead of better.

Surrey’s primary transportation corridors need to be serviced with high-capacity, reliable and expandable rapid transit service. The city’s push for LRT (light rail transit) over SkyTrain RRT (rapid rail transit) may be a mistake.

Firstly, LRT will not improve service. In fact, LRT may even end up reducing (not increasing) the overall transit capacity of a corridor. Congestion increases associated with the removal of traffic lanes will not only disrupt parallel bus service, but also disrupt communities and stall economic development.

LRT’s slower speed (approximately 10-15 km/h slower than RRT) also renders it uncompetitive with the automobile, which may result in lower service popularity.

LRT is not “future-proof.” Due to frequency limitations caused by communication restrictions, the only way to expand LRT service once having reached frequency capacity would be to lengthen trains, requiring costly station extensions and street-scaping.

Misinformation from LRT advocates is responsible for deceptive claims that SkyTrain RRT will cost “billions” to build versus just “millions” with LRT.

Several refer to rough ballparks of about $110 million/km to describe the costs of RRT, derived from the Evergreen Line and Canada Line. These lines contained many special provisions (including underground bored tunnels) and the cost per kilometre cannot be reasonably compared to the cost of expanding SkyTrain in Surrey. The 1994 extension of SkyTrain in Surrey to King George from Scott Road Station was, in fact, the cheapest per kilometre to construct at just $66 million/km (and that’s in 2011 dollars).

To adopt a LRT system would be challenging; LRT would require many special provisions of its own. Aside from new rolling stock, a new maintenance centre and yard would have to be built and employees would have to be trained.

It is likely that after factoring in the capital cost to start up the system as well as the possible need to upgrade several roads parallel to LRT corridors, LRT in Surrey will cost not significantly less to implement than RRT expansion.

It is widely accepted that transportation is one of the most pressing issues in Surrey.  The right choice for the City of Surrey’s transportation future needs to be made.

Daryl Dela Cruz

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