This is an open letter to TransLink’s Board of Directors and the Mayors’ Council written by Daryl Dela Cruz with the SkyTrain for Surrey advocacy group.
I am writing to you urgently to submit the following comments on the 10-Year Vision Phase Two Plan and its selected projects in advance of today’s vote.
Based on the available information, the Surrey-Newton-Guildford Light Rail Transit project offers little to no contribution to meeting 10-Year-Vision objectives and should be removed from the 10-Year-Vision and the Phase Two Plan. The LRT consumes excessive taxpayer funds while delivering few tangible benefits to Surrey and Langley residents.
Performance metrics estimated by TransLink have never been in favour of a street-level light rail system, according to the numbers found again and again at all stages of analysis. As such, we are also calling for an audit of the full 10-Year-Vision.
We encourage all stakeholders in the region and their elected representatives to hold strong concerns about the cost metrics of the LRT projects. At a cost of $1.65 billion for 10.5 km, Surrey-Newton-Guildford LRT is set to cost more (per km) than our previous SkyTrain expansion projects, such as the Evergreen Extension and the Canada Line, while delivering significantly less capacity, speed and frequency. This is an enormous sum that is being taken away from other pressing priorities throughout the region, including numerous South-of-Fraser priorities such as the Surrey-Langley Line in Phase Three.
Much of the justification presented by the City of Surrey for the SNG LRT is based on a flawed assumption that the 96 B-Line will become inadequate for Surrey’s needs.
There is no capacity justification to build this LRT for the next 25 years. Today, the 96 B-Line runs at 1/3 of the peak-hour frequency of the 99 B-Line. At just 2,030 passengers per hour per direction, the estimated 2045 peak-hour load on the SNG LRT line is less than the current peak-hour load on the 99 B-Line and could thus be easily handled by an expanded 96. This is according to TransLink’s own numbers in the May 2018 socio-economic review.
The reliability justification for LRT is also non-existent. The 96 B-Line scored above-average on-time performance ratings relative to regional and South-of-Fraser averages, with 84% of service running on time in 2017. Adding more bus lanes and traffic signal priority can offer further improvements in 96 B-Line travel times and on-time reliability, for a fraction of the cost of building an LRT.
Surrey and Langley’s residents have always wanted the best rapid transit system that can be bought for the money. It has now become evident that light rail is not the system that will deliver the most bang-for-buck, and Surrey and Langley residents increasingly agree.
We have even heard from a Surrey City Councillor – Councillor Bruce Hayne – who cited this issue as a reason to quit the Surrey First civic party, which has championed light rail technology, and run against them in the October municipal elections.
SkyTrain for Surrey has consistently found that a SkyTrain and Bus Rapid Transit-based system will deliver the best value for money. We insist that this option be re-considered.
Any further approvals related to the SNG LRT project should be moved to after the October municipal elections, and a thorough review of 10-Year Vision priorities – including the rapid transit technology choice for Surrey and Langley – should be conducted.
If these considerations cannot be taken seriously, then SkyTrain for Surrey urges Regional Mayors to vote for the cancellation of the entire Phase Two Plan.
Written by Daryl Dela Cruz, the founding director of the SkyTrain for Surrey advocacy group.