Re: Surrey needs transit now, July 5 column.
There’s no doubt Surrey needs rapid transit. Surrey is expected to face huge growth in next the 30 years. We also need to face a single, unchanging fact: there is no one-size-fits-all solution for rapid transit.
A system that works somewhere in the world will not necessarily replicate with stunning success elsewhere.
In a 2008 survey, 88 per cent of Surrey residents agreed “transit should be as convenient and attractive as driving a car on city roads.” But let’s look at what the City of Surrey is favouring: on-street LRT (light rail transit) that cannot and will not be any faster than Surrey’s drivers, with reliability and performance compromises at well.
All told, the city is ignoring the expectations of 88 per cent of its population. Some people, it appears, don’t seem to be getting the message.
The City of Portland has built an 84-km LRT system, MAX (Metropolitan Area Express). However, in spite of servicing a greater population base over a larger area of service, there are fewer weekday boardings on MAX than on SkyTrain’s Canada Line. Conclusion? In three years of operation, a single SkyTrain line spanning 20 kilometres has attracted more riders per year than an entire LRT system operating over four times the service area, and for more than 26 years.
Portland had little to gain from LRT. The transit commute-to-work mode-share has remained at a standstill for more than 15 years, despite $4 billion in additional LRT-related investment. The service hasn’t made the overall system any stronger though; just recently, a cut in overall service came hand-in-hand with fare increases and the removal of free downtown transit.
Conversely, TransLink’s service hours actually increased during this same period. SkyTrain – as an attractive, profitable service – is part of what makes our system strong. The introduction of the Canada Line has tapped new potential riders and realized operational cost-savings, allowing TransLink to boost revenue and facilitate improvements to service beyond Canada Line.
As a result, TransLink maintains a much stronger regional transit network than Portland’s TriMet.
One of the things columnist Frank Bucholtz is right about is that it would be difficult to come up with the funding for rapid transit service. When we do get it, I would rather see that funding go towards SkyTrain expansion. It’s simple: SkyTrain is a competitive rapid transit service that helps truly unlock the potential of Surrey as the region’s next business centre.
We must not waste our limited resources on an LRT system that has a poor business case in benefiting our community.
Daryl Dela Cruz, Surrey