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Surrey should hold a referendum on light rail transit, says activist

Kenneth Chan Feb 16, 2018 8:17 pm 1,318

Surrey’s rapid transit rail project should be decided in a referendum, according to a fiercely critical activist who believes most residents in the municipality are deeply against a ground-level train running through city streets and intersections.

In an interview with Daily Hive, Richard Landale said the $2.6-billion project of building light rail transit (LRT) along the Newton-Guildford and Fraser Highway corridors will be a costly mistake and believes there is “a complete lack of transparency” on the negotiations that led to the decision of moving forward with ground-level light rail.

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He believes LRT along 104 Avenue – which reduces the four-lane arterial route between Whalley, Guilford, and Highway 1 to a two-lane route – and King George Boulevard will not reduce existing vehicle traffic volumes, which should be the purpose of the project.

Surrey Light Rail

Map showing the route and station locations of Surrey Light Rail, with the Surrey Newton-Guildford Line highlighted and the Surrey-Langley Line slated as a future phase. (TransLink)

“The LRT takes up road space, reduces lane capacity by over 50%, due in part in many instances to narrow easements, buildings, park space alignments, and so on so forth,” he said.

The space required by LRT also necessitates more land acquisitions than SkyTrain, which could escalate project costs significantly.

“It will require a huge ‘untold’ land acquisition cost to the City of Surrey, TransLink and all of its partners, along the entire northern property line of Fraser Highway,” he continued. “This has already been identified by Surrey, but they have not yet bought all the lands necessary along Fraser Highway.”

The project along the Fraser Highway corridor to Langley, in particular, should be an extension of SkyTrain from King George Station as this was “always part of the ‘original concept.'”

“You only have to look at the track layout east of the station to realize that,” he said. “It aligns perfectly with Fraser Highway, east to Langley.”

Surrey Light Rail

Artistic rendering of Surrey Light Rail running through a redeveloped area. (TransLink)

Landale also criticized the use of artistic renderings that show light rail transit running along streets fronted by non-existent redevelopments instead of a portrayal of the existing condition.

“Glossy artistic renderings should not be the basis for sound decision making,” he said. “Glossy headlines and public consultations with many display boards of artistic renderings is not transparency. It is cheap salesmanship.”

He believes the project will not meet ridership forecasts, and the municipal government’s decision with LRT will commit regional taxpayers to “extremely large long-term debt” as the train system will require ongoing operational subsidies.

If LRT does not head to a referendum, he believes it will become a major issue in the upcoming October civic election, when more details on the project will likely be made public.


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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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