Your columnist Frank Bucholtz is far off the mark when he says that it is too late to change from LRT for Phase 1 of the Surrey Rapid Transit project.
It is never too late to avoid making an appallingly bad decision.
The sunk costs to date will be nothing compared to the ongoing losses that will result from building LRT. A November 2017 University of Calgary School of Public Policy study concluded LRT Phase 1 would have a net present value of -$510 million, in 2010 dollars. In other words, it will destroy nearly half a billion dollars of value in Surrey. That study was done before the recent massive increases in estimated cost of the LRT project.
Bucholtz correctly notes that land acquisition was the major driver of those cost increases, but doesn’t see the obvious corollary: to keep costs in line, LRT will require reducing King George Boulevard to two lanes, as it was 90 years ago when Surrey had a population less than one per cent of its current population.
LRT construction costs may be marginally lower than SkyTrain, but this will be more than offset by immensely higher operating costs:
• LRT cars require a driver, which SkyTrain does not, and personnel costs are usually one of the fastest-growing cost components.
• Having a different vehicle and track will mean much higher costs of procurement, since the volume will be far lower than adding another 50 cars to a large SkyTrain order.
• It will not be possible to use the existing SkyTrain maintenance facility in Burnaby, which means additional capital costs to acquire a site for an LRT-only maintenance shop, and constructing and running that facility.
• Operating procedures, security systems and staff training will all be completely different, resulting in much higher operating costs.
The result is entirely predictable: LRT will be the unwanted orphan of TransLink. Being a Surrey-only system, it will quickly become a Surrey-only cost, leading to immensely higher property taxes on Surrey residents.
Ed Beauregard, Surrey