Put this under the category of “not a new idea.” Most people who have followed urban development in Metro Vancouver know that Surrey is the fastest growing city in the Metro region and that it’s transit system is woefully inadequate.
Whenever we talk about transit South of the Fraser, a lot of people seem to promote more and more SkyTrain for Surrey. This may not be the most cost effective way to go for a fairly low density municipality. It’s true that the city is trying to consolidate residences and jobs in several town centres in Newton, Cloverdale, and more, but most of the city is not dense enough to support what SkyTrain offers. SkyTrain is a costly automated people mover that does not become cost-effective and cost-efficient until you reach certain density levels.
What I am happy to hear is that Surrey city council is looking at some other alternatives.
Surrey Coun. Judy Villeneuve said her city is in desperate need of more transit, especially as it’s set to become the second largest metropolitan region in the province. The city is developing its town centres to become more transit-dependent, she said, while also looking at alternatives such as light rail, heritage rail and more community buses.
Surrey city council will visit Portland in October to consider that city’s transportation system, Villeneuve said, and will lobby the federal government for more infrastructure funding.
Portland would be a good place to look at how light rail can be implemented. I think that Surrey should also consider bus rapid transit. We know how successful the 99 B-Line has been in driving ridership through the Broadway corridor. The 98 B-Line was also a very popular ride. We know that Marpole businesses sorely miss all those transit riders that used to shop in Marpole on their way home.
The other place that Surrey should look at is the York Region of the Greater Toronto Area. The York Region is made up of all the suburban municipalities immediately north of the City of Toronto. These cities include Markham, Richmond Hill, Vaughn, and Newmarket. It’s a collection of Bus Rapid Transit routes that connect all the city centres of the York Region cities. Sound close to what Surrey wants to accomplish?
Because of York’s proximity to Toronto, there was a lot of talk about extending the subway. The subway will eventually happen (for Vaughn Corporate Centre), but subways are expensive and the York Region needed a quick solution. Bus Rapid Transit in the form of Viva was the answer. In a very short time frame, the York Region set up 4 to 5 Viva routes. A quick and relative cheaper solution to congestion and poor transit service. Bus Rapid Transit is not the end all of the story for Viva. There are “rapidway” construction to give priority lanes and more to the Viva buses. There is the Spadina line extension from Downsview to Vaughn. And there is talk of building LRT in conjunction with the TTC along Jane Street and Don Mills Road.
I really think the Viva model is worthwhile investigating for Surrey and Metro Vancouver. Set up Bus Rapid Transit to have a quickly improved transit scenario with limited stop service between town centres. Then eventually as ridership builds and town centres build-up, light rail may become a viable mode of transport. If down the road things become very successful, then SkyTrain could even enter the picture. But please do Bus Rapid Transit now to get folks South of the Fraser some decent transit.