Transit money better spent on SkyTrain

On-street light rail transit wouldn't be any better than driving.

There’s no doubt that Surrey needs rapid transit. Surrey is expected to face huge growth in next 30 years. Rapid transit will help manage, accommodate and welcome these newcomers.

We also, however, need to face a single, unchanging fact: There is no one-size-fits-all solution for rapid transit. A system that works somewhere in the world will not necessarily replicate with stunning success elsewhere.

In a 2008 survey of Surrey residents, 88 per cent agreed that “transit should be as convenient and attractive as driving a car on city roads.”

But let’s look at what the City of Surrey is currently favouring: on-street LRT that cannot and will not be any faster than Surrey’s drivers, with reliability and performance compromises at well.

The city is ignoring the expectations and demands of 88 per cent of Surrey’s population.

The City of Portland has built an 84-kilometre LRT system (MAX).  However, in spite of servicing a greater population base over a larger area of service, there are fewer weekday boardings on the MAX than on SkyTrain’s Canada Line alone.

Conclusion?

In three years of operation, a single SkyTrain line spanning 20 kilometres has attracted more riders per year than an entire LRT system operating over four times the service area, and for more than 26 years.

Portland had little to gain from LRT.  The transit commute-to-work mode-share has remained at a standstill for more than 15 years, despite $4 billion in additional LRT-related investment. The service hasn’t made the overall system any stronger though; recently, a cut in overall service came with fare increases and the removal of free downtown transit.

Conversely, TransLink’s service hours actually increased during this same period. SkyTrain as an attractive, profitable service is part of what makes our system strong. The introduction of the Canada Line has tapped new potential riders and realized operational cost-savings, allowing TransLink to boost revenue and facilitate improvements to service beyond Canada Line. As a result, TransLink maintains a much stronger regional transit network than Portland’s TriMet.

Leader columnist Frank Bucholtz is right about one thing (“Urgent need for rapid transit, The Leader, July 5): It would be difficult to come up with funding for rapid transit.

When we do get it, I would rather see that funding go towards SkyTrain expansion.

It’s simple: SkyTrain is a competitive rapid transit service that helps truly unlock the potential of Surrey as the region’s next business centre.  We must not waste our limited resources on an LRT system that has a poor business case in benefiting our community.

Daryl Dela Cruz

SkyTrain for Surrey Initiative

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