South Surrey and White Rock residents should reject the TransLink mayors’ council plan as it now stands, as it will do more harm than good to their transit trips and wallets.
The mayors swallowed Surrey’s light rapid transit (LRT) plans that will not only cost more than bus rapid transit (BRT) – $2.2 billion compared with $900 million – but will have a longer journey time to Surrey Central and SkyTrain and force inconvenient transfers at Newton. The net result is a terrible-value-for-money proposition.
For these reasons, the City of White Rock voted in favour of BRT and improved bus as outlined in the Surrey Rapid Transit study in 2011, following the recommendations of White Rock’s transportation committee, that I was vice-chair of, whose members participated in the TransLink study.
The other Surrey LRT routes are also problematic. BRT is the best choice to Guildford, as buses can then use the Highway 1 HOV lanes to Langley, and they can also reach Maple Ridge. There are no ideal options to Langley on the Fraser Highway corridor, as all three choices – BRT, LRT, and SkyTrain – will carve up Green Timbers Park and the ALR by Highway 15. Moreover SkyTrain loses its appeal and its efficiencies for long commutes, like from Langley to Vancouver, with cramped seating and no restrooms.
If there is room for added rail in Surrey and Langley, it is with a diesel-multiple unit (DMU)-operated commuter rail from Waterfront to Langley, and eventually Abbotsford and potentially Chilliwack, over the BNSF and the Interurban.
The “South Fraser Express” or SFX would provide direct, high-quality premium-fare service on existing tracks, like the West Coast Express, but with short (two- to three-car) DMU trains and platforms. SFX would cost less than LRT or SkyTrain to build. South Surrey and White Rock commuters could use SFX by taking the bus or driving to Newton, Sullivan or Cloverdale.
Noting that the vote on the mayors’ council plan has been delayed, this is an opportune time for the province and the mayors to fix the flaws like by removing LRT and come up with an attractive, feasible, and cost-effective plan that benefits all communities.
Brendan B. Read, Belmar, N.J.