Surrey’s next mayor should push for SkyTrain
The departing Mayor Dianne Watts has said that one of the things she regrets is her inability to secure an LRT (Light Rail Transit) expansion for this city – which will probably do all of us very good.
It was three years ago when she announced support for LRT on the basis of SkyTrain being expensive and disruptive, saying SkyTrain would “destroy our communities” because of “monolithic pillars.”
But SkyTrain has spurred billions of dollars in real estate development, building entire communities such as Metrotown, Brentwood and Richmond. It’s building our city centre right now and is what’s responsible for making it a more vibrant area.
Because of SkyTrain, Metro Vancouver’s transit system is leading in ridership in North America – ranking third in transit trips per person per year, behind only New York and Toronto. We’re ahead of Montreal, Boston, and Washington, D.C. – cities with full-size metro systems – and far ahead of cities with only LRT systems.
LRT has its downsides: It’s slower, vulnerable to accidents, and far less-effective at creating transportation benefits. A study indicated that the monetary value of LRTs benefits does not exceed the costs.
There are other implications. The LRT or BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) plan to Guildford is very inconsiderate, removing two traffic lanes on 104 Avenue. During construction, Guildford residents will be giving up quality transit altogether. Commute times to Surrey Central will double or worse as 96 B-Line buses must share that one lane of traffic or detour. Graduating students and Guildford’s many low-income families won’t find the options they need to manage busy lives, access jobs and get to classes. All this for several (four-plus) years to save one minute on LRT.
SkyTrain can cost more money to build, but will give us veritable benefits. Imagine this: vibrant communities and productive citizens; Newton to Guildford in 13 minutes; less traffic; safer roads; and more frequent buses.
A high-quality, grade-separated rapid transit system will give us these benefits and more, and I want to see the next Surrey mayor pushing for SkyTrain.