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City Hall, Transportation, Urbanized, Politics, News

Where Surrey's mayoral candidates stand on LRT vs. SkyTrain

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Kenneth Chan Oct 11, 2018 7:55 pm

There is no question the debate of street-level light rail transit (LRT) versus SkyTrain has evolved into one of the most important and controversial issues in the 2018 Surrey civic election, just behind crime and perhaps ahead of housing affordability.

The immediate matter at hand is the $1.65-billion project to build the Surrey Newton-Guildford (SNG) LRT project, which entered the procurement phase last month and is scheduled to begin construction in 2020 for an opening in 2024.

Also in contention is the unfunded second phase of the LRT project, the future line along Fraser Highway from King George Station to Langley Centre.

LRT supporters believe both street-level projects are key to the City of Surrey’s economic development aspirations and would create new communities and business opportunities in the South of Fraser. They maintain the SNG LRT is a done deal and cheaper to build, and can be implemented more quickly than SkyTrain.

However, supporters of SkyTrain argue that LRT as currently designed will create road congestion and only offers a transit service that is marginally quicker than the existing 96 B-Line rapid bus service that runs on the same route as the SNG LRT. They want SkyTrain as it would be a long-term solution, provide regional connectivity, operate at higher speeds, attract more ridership, and not be prone to service disruptions from road accidents.

Here is a rundown of the various SkyTrain vs. LRT positions of the major candidates and parties in the 2018 Surrey civic election (be sure to also vote in our ‘SkyTrain vs. LRT’ poll below):

Tom Gill (Surrey First)

Build LRT position: Yes

Build SkyTrain position: No

Platform:

The South of Fraser LRT project is the brainchild of Surrey First, the governing party of Surrey City Council.

Over the past decade of running the municipal government, the party has created an economic development plan that significantly depends on the implementation of surface rail, specifically LRT along the King George Boulevard and 104 Avenue corridors to help develop Surrey’s city centre.

Tom Gill with Surrey First says LRT will attract property development along both corridors, and both the SNG and eventual Fraser Highway projects are part of the current municipal government’s long-term vision of building 150 km of street-level LRT across Surrey.

He believes LRT will also create “connected communities” and enhance livability in the municipality.

“I think the impression that has been given by others in the community is that there’s an opportunity to change the game,” said Gill. “The only opportunity that I can suggest is that if this opportunity is not seized, then we likely will be going through a ‘Waterloo’ example, whereas LRT was proposed at one time, 15 years ago, and now they’re back at LRT.”

Doug McCallum (Safe Surrey Coalition)

Build LRT position: No

Build SkyTrain position: Yes

Platform:

If re-elected, former Surrey mayor Doug McCallum says he will work with TransLink and the Mayors’ Council to cancel the SNG LRT project and negotiate to divert the funds towards completing an extension of SkyTrain’s Expo Line on Fraser Highway from King George Station to Langley Centre.

Safe Surrey Coalition says SkyTrain is faster than LRT, and “even local B-Line bus services compares favourably to LRT” and “would have a higher ridership than LRT.”

Rapid bus will serve the SNG route and Cloverdale, until a second SkyTrain phase is underway to extend rail transit along King George Boulevard from Surrey Central Station to Newton and South Surrey.

“It’s time for Surrey to have the same SkyTrain technology that the rest of Metro Vancouver has. There is no way Vancouver would have accepted LRT along Broadway. None of the Surrey First excuses would have worked.”

Rajesh Jayakapresh (People First Surrey)

Build LRT position: No

Build SkyTrain position: Yes (but this is dependent on a plebiscite)

Platform: 

Rajesh Jayakapresh with People First Surrey says LRT’s appeal of improving the city’s urban landscape is important, but such a multi-billion dollar investment must also properly address transportation.

“In fact, LRT will make the transportation issue worse with more congestion for a majority of Surrey’s population… Strategically, LRT is about disconnecting Surrey from the SkyTrain network.”

There will be a high number of accidents with pedestrians and vehicles during left turns, says the party.

While the party believes in a SkyTrain solution, it says the decision will ultimately be left to the residents of Surrey in a mail-in plebiscite. This will provide explanation to the federal and provincial governments on the required change in technology.

Bruce Hayne (Integrity Now)

Build LRT position: No

Build SkyTrain position: Yes

Position: 

City Councillor Bruce Hayne, formerly a member of Surrey First and now the mayoral candidate for Integrity Now, wants to “press pause” on SNG LRT due to the “woefully inadequate” business cases for LRT. At the same time, the party warns that “no mayor of Surrey can decide alone on different technology” as it must be approved by TransLink, the Mayors’ Council, and senior governments.

But the Integrity Now party believes SkyTrain is the right solution to absorb and handle Surrey’s rapid growth.

“It’s puzzling that any elected official would advocate for technology which is so clearly not in line with the wishes of the constituents,” said Hayne, who cited TransLink’s 2012 technical study that found SkyTrain and rapid bus were “far superior to LRT.”

“There is no doubt Surrey needs infrastructure investment with respect to mass transit, but I question the process and the logic of moving forward with such an unpopular approach and technology… We need to give LRT a sober second thought before it is too late and really look at how we can get SkyTrain in to serve Surrey. SkyTrain works everywhere we put it.”

Pauline Greaves (Proudly Surrey)

Build LRT position: Yes

Build SkyTrain position: Yes

Position:

The SkyTrain vs. LRT debate is not a key priority in Proudly Surrey’s transportation platform.

However, the party, with Pauline Greaves as its mayoral candidate, wants to see the SNG LRT proceed given that funding has already been allocated towards the project. It also wants to see an extension of SkyTrain’s Expo Line from King George Station to Langley.

 

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Kenneth Chan
National Features Editor at Daily Hive, the evolution of Vancity Buzz. He covers local architecture, urban issues, politics, business, retail, economic development, transportation and infrastructure, and the travel industry. Kenneth is also a Co-Founder of New Year's Eve Vancouver. Connect with him at kenneth[at]dailyhive.com

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