OPINION Killing light rail would result in fewer stations
urrey residents are eager to have a Skytrain extension, judging by the October 20 election result. The winning party, the Safe Surrey Coalition, pledged to dump a fully funded light-rail line connecting Guildford and Newton to Surrey Centre. The party’s mayoral candidate, Doug Mccallum, promised to use this money to develop Skytrain along the Fraser Highway to Langley.
But do Surrey residents realize that this will mean far fewer rapidtransit stations?
There were 11 planned stops along the $1.65-billion Surrey-newtonguildford light-rail line. Four were on 104th Avenue at 152nd Street, 148th Street, 144th Street, and 140th Street. Seven more were planned along the King George Highway between 72nd Avenue and Surrey Central Station.
The next phase was going to be light rail from King George Station to Langley. The Hatch report, which was done for Translink in 2017, noted that this $1.64-billion lightrail line would include nine stations.
That would have given Surrey 17 additional stations, not counting King George and Surrey Central, which already serve Skytrain passengers.
The nine along Fraser Highway would be at King George, 140th Street, 152nd Street, 160th Street, 166th Street, 68th Avenue, 64th Avenue, 192nd Street, and Langley Exchange.
Translink has estimated that it will cost $2.9 billion to develop Skytrain from King George Station to Langley. That’s about $175 million per kilometre.
If only $1.65 billion is spent—the current funding envelope for the suspended Surrey-newton-guildford light rail—the Skytrain line will only extend about nine kilometres down the Fraser Highway, based on Translink’s estimated cost. That wouldn’t even make it to 68th Avenue, which is 12.4 kilometres down the Fraser Highway.
That means, at most, there will likely be two or three Skytrain stations in addition to King George Station if the Translink Mayors’ Council agrees to reallocate the funding from light rail to Skytrain. This is because Skytrain stations tend to be placed at greater distances from one another, in comparison to stations on light-rail routes.
Of course, this estimate of two or three new Skytrain stations is predicated on Translink’s financial estimate being correct—something that Mccallum has disagreed with. He maintains that by building part of the line at grade beside the highway, the cost can come down significantly. But that doesn’t take into account the cost of building huge parking lots for motorists who want to park and then ride the Skytrain.
So there you have it: nine new rapidtransit stops with LRT from Guildford to Newton via Surrey Centre (in addition to LRT stations at King George and Surrey Centre). And possibly only two or three new rapid-transit stops with the same amount of funding going to Skytrain down the Fraser Highway.
It raises serious questions as to whether a truncated Skytrain line that stops before 88th Avenue would attract anywhere near as many riders as an 11-station LRT line that brings hordes of passengers to Surrey Centre.
The Translink Mayors’ Council hasn’t approved Skytrain in Surrey. The mayors merely suspended light rail after more than $50 million was spent, pending further study.
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