Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts says she's concerned about the planned multi-billion-dollar price tag for a buried SkyTrain line Vancouver wants built along the Broadway corridor to UBC.

Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts says she's concerned about the planned multi-billion-dollar price tag for a buried SkyTrain line Vancouver wants built along the Broadway corridor to UBC.

Vancouver should cut ‘grandiose’ SkyTrain plan: Watts

Surrey Mayor suggests satellite UBC campuses, not buried subway along Broadway corridor

Vancouver should pare down its overly ambitious plan for a $2-billion-plus buried SkyTrain line along Broadway toward UBC, says Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts.

She said she’s not worried the heavily promoted Vancouver rapid transit line might take priority ahead of Surrey’s aim of building light rail lines.

But Watts warned “nobody’s getting anything” until there’s a deal with the province to generate much more money in taxes or tolls for TransLink and it will be important to keep a lid on costs of proposed projects if that process is to succeed.

“We can have all the grandiose ideas that we want but unless that sustainable funding policy is in place, nothing’s going to happen,” she said.

“Vancouver wants to push their agenda and they have every right to do that. But I would suggest that the multi-billion-dollar project that they’re proposing is not going to fly with residents in Surrey – and Surrey residents will be contributing to it.”

It’s the first time Surrey representatives have taken a direct shot at Vancouver’s plans.

The two cities have sought to advance their rapid transit agendas in tandem without being drawn into a potentially divisive conflict over scarce funding that could unravel the broad consensus at the regional mayors’ council in dealing with Victoria.

Watts spoke after Vancouver officials – led by Mayor Gregor Robertson – recently stepped up their pitch for rapid transit on the heavily congested Broadway corridor.

Vancouver planners have concluded a buried SkyTrain subway is needed to avoid paralyzing traffic on Broadway with street-level light rail trains or streetcars.

Watts challenged Vancouver and UBC officials to instead to consider other alternatives – like following SFU’s lead and building new campuses that could serve UBC students on existing transit lines.

“UBC’s a small city and they built it at the end of a peninsula as far away as they could,” Watts said. “There has to be some critical thinking. Does it make sense to invest billions of dollars in infrastructure? Or does it make sense to have satellite campuses in other areas of the region?”

Part of the problem, Watts said, is that development at UBC has focused on market housing – adding to the population there – rather than student housing, which would have reduced the demand on transit corridors.

Surrey wants three light rail lines – along 104 Avenue to Guildford, down King George Boulevard toward White Rock and southeast along Fraser Highway towards Langley.

Watts said the price tag of about $2 billion is far less and covers more of Surrey than if more expensive SkyTrain was used.

There are four SkyTrain stations in north Surrey, but a better network of rapid transit connecting town centres is considered critical to shaping future growth of the city, so developers build transit-friendly walkable neighbourhoods, not ones designed mainly for cars.

“We want at-grade rail to shape the city because we’re building the city,” Watts said. “Which is a very different goal and measure from a city that’s already built out.”

Advocates of light rail in Vancouver have also criticized Vancouver’s SkyTrain proposal as too costly.

Building SkyTrain to UBC would cost an estimated $3.2 billion, but Robertson has suggested going only to Arbutus and then switching to rapid buses to lower the cost. The light rail option on Broadway all the way to UBC was estimated at $1.1 billion.

Vancouver Coun. Geoff Meggs called Watts’ comments an “interesting discussion” but added Vancouver hopes to make its rationale better understood across the region.

He said Vancouver could make the argument that Surrey corridors should be built with B-Line bus service first ahead of rail in light of current Surrey ridership, but it has not done so.

“We don’t quarrel with Surrey’s aspirations to grow a progressive rapid transit system,” Meggs said.

He also pointed out the debate comes as the “widest bridge in the world” opens giving Surrey residents improved transportation as part of the $3.3-billion Port Mann/Highway 1 project.

Meggs said more than half the ridership on the Broadway corridor comes from outside Vancouver and a tunnelled SkyTrain there to UBC is the most effective solution on a route where jammed buses pass up 2,000 riders a day.

“We have more jobs on the Broadway corridor today than Richmond and Burnaby combined, both of which have LRT.”

Buses on Broadway already carry loads nearing that of a light rail system, Meggs said, adding it’s not logical to spend large amounts on intermediate-level service that would permanently disrupt business through lost parking and a ban on most left turns.

“It’s important for us to understand the long-term thinking behind Surrey’s LRT proposal,” Meggs said. “And it’s good for Surrey to understand why our staff are very concerned about the replacement of a rapid bus system with a [light rail] system.”

City of Vancouver presentation on Broadway options

Urgent need for Broadway Subway – City of Vancouver Staff Presentation

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Corner of Fraser Highway and 152 Street traffic camera. (Surrey Cosmos)
One dead after targeted shooting in Surrey

Incident took place near shopping complex at the corner of 152 Street and Fraser Highway

Items collected from last year’s Ocean Park Food Drive. (Contributed file photo)
Ocean Park Food Drive expands, open to residents south of 32 Avenue

Homeowners south of 32 Avenue and west of 160 Street encouraged to put donations on doorstep

(Black Press Media files)
‘Potentially damaging’ winds expected in Metro Vancouver

Wind is expected to pick up late Sunday night

An animated Gordie Hogg introduces his 'Community Connections' videos. (YouTube screenshot)
Community Connections: Gordie Hogg speaks with Kathy McIntyre

Former mayor, MP began posting conversations on YouTube in June

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

NDP Leader John Horgan, left, speaks as local candidate Ravi Kahlon listens during a campaign stop at Kahlon’s home in North Delta, B.C., on April 18, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Top doctor urges Canadians to limit gatherings as ‘deeply concerning’ outbreaks continue

Canada’s active cases currently stand at 63,835, compared to 53,907 a week prior

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A Canadian Pacific freight train travels around Morant’s Curve near Lake Louise, Alta., on Monday, Dec. 1, 2014. A study looking at 646 wildlife deaths along the railway tracks in Banff and Yoho national parks in Alberta and British Columbia has found that train speed is one of the biggest factors. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Study finds train speed a top factor in wildlife deaths in Banff, Yoho national parks

Research concludes effective mitigation could address train speed and ability of wildlife to see trains

A airport worker is pictured at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C. Wednesday, March 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canada extends COVID restrictions for non-U.S. travellers until Jan. 21 amid second wave

This ban is separate from the one restricting non-essential U.S. travel

Langley RCMP issued a $2,300 fine to the Riverside Calvary church in Langley in the 9600 block of 201 Street for holding an in-person service on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, despite a provincial COVID-19 related ban (Dan Ferguson/Black Press Media)
Updated: Langley church fined for holding in-person Sunday service

Calvary church was fined $2,300 for defying provincial order

The Abbotsford Police Department is investigating a shooting on Adair Avenue on Saturday night. (Photo by Dale Klippenstein)
Drive-by shooting in Abbotsford targeted home with young children, police say

Investigators believe home was mistakenly targeted by assailants

Most Read