News Local

Light rail drives Surrey planning

By Michael Mui, 24 Hours Vancouver

Light rail is widely used in Ottawa and Surrey wants to do the same.

Light rail is widely used in Ottawa and Surrey wants to do the same. (QMI AGENCY)

Surrey really wants light rail.

It’s evident in how its proposed transit development areas are strategically placed along routes where approved light-rail lines would travel — Scott Road Station, 104 Avenue, West Fleetwood and East Clayton.

To make it more clear, Surrey Coun. Tom Gill is even proactively asking the federal government for $1.8 billion to fund its plan.

“The reality is, it should be our turn,” he said. “We’ve been standing at the front of the line for quite some time.”

However, unlike other municipalities with designated “frequent transit development areas,” Surrey’s got double the areas of any other city to develop — partly due to its sprawling size.

Development in the areas it wants to grow has also been slow.

Surrey planning manager Don Luymes expects that pace to pick up once council adopts incentives to allow about “30-40%” more density in the four LRT neighbourhoods. But it’s a “chicken and egg” argument, he said, as the density is needed to make a good case for transit — while frequent transit itself attracts development.

Under Surrey’s plan, the four areas would have about 3,000 more dwellings built, with an increase of about 5,100 jobs created in the area.

According to TransLink’s analysis, the $2.18 billion that would be needed to create Surrey’s LRT lines could create 19 light-rail stations, 45 vehicles and 26.8 kilometres of light-rail service.

It would also include a component of “bus rapid” service travelling from Newton to White Rock, which adds another 23 vehicles and six stations.

Each rail tram, according to Brian Mills, TransLink system planning and research director, would have an arrival frequency of every three minutes.

He expects the province and regional mayors to make a decision this year on whether Surrey would get its funding.

If approved, the line could also expect additional revenue from about 12,000 new riders across the system, he said.

Gordon Price, Simon Fraser University urban planning professor, said Surrey’s got big competition in Vancouver’s own multi-billion-dollar subway plans, however.

“Do you invest in transit to shape the growing city? Or do you invest to serve the demand that’s already there (in Vancouver)?” he said.

Price said Surrey could possibly make its case stronger by investing its own dollars, but that sets a “precedent” of cities paying for their own transportation — which is primarily a provincial role.



Should Surrey get light rail before rapid transit on Broadway to UBC?

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