Rendering of Surrey's proposed light rail lines

Rendering of Surrey's proposed light rail lines

Toronto planning boss pitches LRT in Surrey

Jennifer Keesmaat says the light rail transit has the benefit of creating livable places along its route

A Toronto planning expert is in Surrey this week laying out the benefits of light rail transit (LRT).

Jennifer Keesmaat, Toronto’s chief planner, spoke at city hall on Wednesday night, elaborating on the benefits of light rail.

One of the biggest advantages is the that it contributes to “place making,” creating areas at rail stops which create a warm and inviting feeling of place.

Her team of planners is working on the construction of Toronto’s $7-billion Eglington-Crosstown LRT project.

She has successfully recommended several transit offerings for Toronto, including rapid transit, standard rail and LRT.

“You can never solve all your problems with one project,” Keesmaat told The Leader in an interview Wednesday. “You always have to look at how your network works.”

Rapid transit is great for when you want to get people great distances at a high speed.

Local transit requires a lighter touch.

“It’s about place making, it’s about affordable housing, it’s about local commerce, it’s about creating main streets,” Keesmaat said.

“I would argue that if Surrey, or any other suburban municipality, wants to begin to transition into becoming a place where people can work and play, then don’t put some high-speed infrastructure in the sky, start creating destinations in your city you can access from excellent transit.”

Surrey has been working to get the LRT lines along 104 Avenue into Guildford and to Newton from City Centre, known as the L-Lines. In addition, the city is hoping a line down Fraser Highway, connecting Surrey City Centre, with Fleetwood, Clayton and the Langleys.

Finding the $2.7 billion to pay for it has been a challenge so far.

And the plan has opponents.

SkyTrain for Surrey advocate Daryl Dela Cruz proposes SkyTrain to Langley on Fraser Highway – which would get riders boarding in Langley to Waterfront Station in under an hour – and bus rapid transit instead of light rail on other corridors.

Light rail on King George would be only one minute faster than the existing 96 B-Line express bus to Newton, he said, while 104 Avenue would end up more congested with the loss of a lane of traffic to LRT.