SkyTrain to Fleetwood: Cut-short and short-sighted

xflcdvm

With yesterday’s Mayors Council vote in favour of finalizing the business case for the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain project, it is now certain that SkyTrain will be extended along Fraser Highway, but only as far as Fleetwood within the foreseeable future. As expected, the 1.65 billion in funding currently secured for rapid transit in Surrey will only allow for a 7km / 4 station extension of the Expo Line from King George Station to 166 Street, not to be in service until the end of 2025. With no funding secured, and no timeline in place for a phase 2 extension to Langley, it’s unlikely that SkyTrain will reach Langley before the 2030’s.

Given the decision to go ahead with SkyTrain on Fraser Highway, Surrey’s most urban corridors of 104 Ave and King George Blvd serving the 2 largest Town Centres of Guildford and Newton will likely now see no rapid transit for the next decade, due to the limited 3.55 billion funding envelope (with 1.9 billion yet to be secured) for rapid transit South of the Fraser. This funding envelope would have provided Surrey 27km of LRT across the city, including both the Guildford-City Centre-Newton ‘L’ line, and Fraser Hwy line to Langley. With SkyTrain, Surrey will just receive a single 16.5km line down Fraser Highway instead, along a corridor much more suburban in form, and with much less opportunity for land assembly to higher densities to support a SkyTrain line.

hx8mvfs

as8krbm

While rapid transit to Langley is definitely a good thing, the reality of the line not likely reaching Langley until the 2030’s, while rapid transit elsewhere in Surrey is stalled, is very unfortunate when Surrey could have had a full 19-Stop (27km) LRT system across the City inclusive of Langley within the same timeframe as an 8-Stop (16.5km) SkyTrain line. LRT additionally would have transformed, urbanized, and distinguished Surrey in ways that SkyTrain will not. LRT and trams are common fixtures and symbols of inner urban cores in major cities around the world, of which Metro Vancouver currently lacks. Cities such as Berlin, with robust multi-tiered rail transit networks, are embarking on major expansions of their LRT networks, on top of their existing metro rail networks. LRT would have urbanized and distinguished Surrey as a city on its own, as an inner core of the region. With SkyTrain, Surrey remains similar to Burnaby, a by-pass suburb along the line to Vancouver. This is not to mention, the negative effects of SkyTrain on the streetscape – obtrusive overhead guideways that cast shadows, are noisy, unsightly, and ultimately very suburban in nature, compared to urbanized street-integrated LRT which can transform a city and its streetscapes.

kjztbez-1
Eventual 8-Stop (16.5km) SkyTrain to Langley by 2030’s
2969deq
Cancelled 19-Stop (27km) LRT network that would have been completed within same time frame as SkyTrain

It’s hard to imagine rationalizing a 4-station SkyTrain extension to suburban Fleetwood over an 11-station LRT line servicing Surrey’s most urban corridors and largest Town Centres, but here we are. Ultimately once the line does reach Langley in the 2030’s it will help to move people through the region, benefit Surrey’s City Centre (although with less new stations), and those living near the line, but at the expense of what could have been a much more extensive rapid transit system, more urbanizing, distinguishing, and transformative for Surrey.

West Village Park & District Energy Centre Open

After nearly 2 years of construction, the new West Village Park and District Energy Centre officially opened last week in the rapidly growing West Village neighbourhood of City Centre. Located at the corner of Central Avenue & 133 Street, the new 0.7 Acre park was designed by Vancouver’s Space2Place Landscape Architects in conjunction with a community consultation process, and is one of 10 new parks planned for City Centre. The park includes a plaza, stage, green space, play area, benches, picnic tables, and a distinctive hexagon pattern of concrete, cork, and landscape beds. In addition to the park, a new segment of Central Avenue was opened, with a new sidewalk and dedicated bike lane (now standard on all newly constructed Collector and Arterial Roads in Surrey).

The main feature of the park is the new West Village Energy Centre, designed by Vancouver’s Francl Architecture, and complete with an art installation titled ‘Blankets’ on the building’s stacks. Operated by Surrey City Energy, the centre is the first of  3 District Energy Centres planned for City Centre, with the remaining two to be located near King George Station and Gateway Station in the future. These District Energy centres are intended to provide reliable, cost-competitive, and sustainable heat and hot water services to the City Centre’s growing high-density population. They work by distributing thermal energy, typically in the form of hot water through a network of closed-loop underground pipes to individual customer buildings. As new developments come on-line, they can connect to the District Energy System for their heating and hot water services.

g4gvjnt
Plaza looking west from 133 St
36wrn5h
Looking East towards West Village Park greenspace
yyjxrcj
West Village Energy south facade featuring art installation ‘Blankets’ on building stacks
ikt2lar
Looking East on Central Avenue
2pwr8vl
Looking East into interior of West Village Energy Centre
rjztpag
Newly constructed Central Avenue half-road
cnla0kn
Looking west into interior of West Village Energy Centre
yodwmvz
West Village Energy Centre entrance
nxfgv25
Greenspace and picnic area
iuxuexp
Greenspace, plaza, and seating area
irxu1i2
Greenspace and seating area

New application submitted for mixed-use project at Gateway

A new application (19-0095) has been submitted for a mixed-use project near Gateway Station at 10925 University Drive. According to application details, the applicant is seeking to Rezone and Subdivide the site into 2 new parcels to allow for approximately 500 residential units and 1580m2 (17,000 sq.ft.) of office space within 1 mid-rise and 1 high-rise building.

The subject site is currently made up of 2 existing lots adjacent to the 22-storey ‘Observatory’ condo tower built in 1995. The site was originally intended for a twin of that tower back in the 90’s – similar to the ‘Cornerstone 1 & 2’ towers just to the south – but the project never completed. The site has since sat vacant for over 2 decades now. This new proposal will also include in the site area an existing single family lot fronting 133A Street.

wknrqtf
Subject site – vacant land next to existing condo towers built in 1990’s
y7gapdc
Looking south towards subject site
bctzcr4
Looking north-west towards subject site
amfakmi
Subject site within City Centre Plan

As per the City Centre Plan, the site is currently designated ‘High-Rise 5.5 FAR (with 20% allowable increase to 6.6 FAR)’. It is located directly across University Drive from the currently in-process application (18-0388) which is proposing a pair of 28 & 30 Storey residential towers.

For more on the application:

https://apps.surrey.ca/Online-Development-Inquiry/?year=19&seq=0095

SFU Sustainable Energy & Environmental Engineering Building Opens

Nearly 3 years since construction began, SFU’s new Sustainable Energy & Environmental Engineering Building officially opened today. The opening was marked with a ceremony attended by BC’s premier John Horgan, MLA’s and other guests. The 5-storey, 220,000 sq.ft. building, designed by Vancouver’s late Bing Thom, has already become a new landmark redefining the Surrey Central area.

As just the first phase in a three-phase expansion plan for SFU in Surrey City Centre, the new building will accommodate 440 full-time students, and be home to SFU’s Mechatronics Systems Engineering (MSE) program with additional space for SFU’s Technology Entrepreneurship program.

m8wfnu0

et47qqs

ukxwblr

jcrkluc

ircgcy7

gwz6bnw

j4y0i81

bu56zwd

In addition to the building itself, the development has contributed to a new high quality streetscape along University Drive with grade-separated bike lanes, benches, and a temporary corner park at 102 Avenue. The grassed corner will remain until 102A Avenue is eventually re-aligned through that space and the Surrey Central Bus Loop, as per the City Centre Plan.

 

vzax9lk
Current temporary corner park at 102 Avenue & University Dr
znfr9n6
Future re-alignment of 102A Avenue

For more on the new SFU building:

http://www.sfu.ca/sfunews/stories/2019/04/sfu-opens-new-sustainable-building-as-first-phase-of-surrey-camp.html

‘North Surrey Medical’ Heritage Revitalization heads to Council

A proposal to revitalize the North Surrey Medical Building at 9656 King George Blvd in the emerging Health & Technology District is heading to Council on Monday for 1st & 2nd Readings. The project, by Vancouver’s Rize Alliance, is seeking to restore and integrate the 1960’s North Surrey Medical Building on site into a new mixed-use development consisting of a new 4-storey office and retail podium along King George Blvd, and a new 31-storey residential tower behind. The project was first reported on here back in February when it passed ADP.

According to the Planning Report to Council, the application is seeking both OCP and City Centre Plan amendments for increased density from 3.5 FAR to 5.5 FAR to allow for the proposed development. In exchange for the increased density, the project is proposing to preserve and revitalize the 1960’s North Surrey Medical Building on-site under a Heritage Revitalization Agreement. In total the project is to contain:

    • 293 Apartment Units
    • 5 Townhouse Units
    • 34,369 sq.ft.sq.ft. of Commercial Space with within the revitalized North Surrey Medical Building and new adjacent 4-storey podium (including ground floor retail along King George Blvd)

qjqiqx8

j1ptljx

5znfj6v

vwrewhe

4rpu1kg

cjx7jv6

A landscaped courtyard designed by Vancouver’s PWL Partnership will separate the residential and commercial portions of the project. The Architect on the project is Stantec.

In addition to the revitalization of the North Surrey Medical Building, the applicant will be providing community amenity contributions including funding towards enhancements to Quibble Creek in the area. Contributions will also be provided for construction of a new east-west lane to the directly adjacent north of the site in the future, and towards the City’s Affordable Housing Strategy.

mpyl92r
rmkuhsd
For more information on the project:

Public Consultation to Begin for Surrey Langley SkyTrain and South Fraser Rapid Transit Refresh

ekmjcjv

Public consultation is set to get underway this month for the proposed Surrey Langley SkyTrain (SLS) extension, as well as the future of rapid transit along 104 Avenue & King George Blvd.

In 2014, the regional Mayors Council identified Fraser Highway, King George Boulevard, and 104 Avenue as priority corridors for rapid transit South of the Fraser in the 10-Year Vision. Following a study looking at combinations of SkyTrain, LRT, and Bus Rapid Transit for the corridors, the Mayors Council decided on 27-km of urban-style LRT on dedicated track (separate from traffic) on each of the corridors to be built over 2 phases:

  • Phase 1: Surrey-Newton-Guildford Line on 104 Avenue & King George Boulevard
  • Phase 2: Surrey-Langley Line on Fraser Highway

With funding in place to cover the entire first phase, and construction set to begin this year – a last minute request was made in 2018 by Surrey’s new Council to the regional Mayors’ Council to suspend the Phase 1 Surrey-Newton-Guildford LRT line and re-direct funding to the Phase 2 Surrey-Langley line instead, while switching the technology of the Phase 2 line to SkyTrain. The Mayors’ Council voted to move forward with this request, and directed TransLink to begin planning work for SkyTrain on Fraser Highway while at the same time re-visit rapid transit plans for 104 Avenue and King George Boulevard corridors.

qghqbsb
Proposed Surrey Langley SkyTrain route and conceptual stations

The switch of priorities to the Phase 2 Fraser Highway line and changing its technology to SkyTrain has had implications both in budget and timeline. The funding that was allocated for the full Phase 1 Surrey-Newton-Guildford LRT line has been identified as inadequate to fund the entire Fraser Highway SkyTrain extension to Langley. Pending a future round of funding (timeline unclear), the line may have to be phased, with the current funding getting the line potentially only as far as Fleetwood. Start of construction and delivery of new rapid transit South of the Fraser is also now delayed by approximately 2 years as a result of the switch.

Despite the funding and timeline uncertainties, planning work is nonetheless well underway for the new SLS line, which will need to involve a significant re-evaluation of land-use plans along the Fraser Highway corridor to support SkyTrain, completion of a number of supportive studies, and extensive Public Consultation. In a project update report to Surrey Council this week – a preliminary timeline was given for this work by TransLink, with start of service targeted for 2025.

9yoplbi

fwexrbl

To run concurrently with the SLS planning and consultation work will be a planning process to ‘refresh’ the South Fraser Rapid Transit Strategy for delivering the Mayors’ Council fully envisioned 27km of Rapid Transit along each of the Fraser Hwy, King George Blvd, and 104 Ave corridors. This refresh will look to re-examine and engage the public on what rapid transit along the remaining corridors could look like, now that SkyTrain has been chosen as the technology for Fraser Hwy. The 2013 Rapid Transit Alternatives Study identified Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) for these corridors based on a scenario with SkyTrain on Fraser Hwy. With much LRT planning work having now been completed however, for the 104 Ave and King George Blvd corridors, it’s possible that LRT could still be an option for them rather than BRT, especially given Surrey’s long-term rapid transit vision for an extensive LRT network on major arterials across the City.

The first round of Public Consultation on the SLS line and South Fraser Rapid Transit refresh gets underway on April 11 in Langley, with open houses in Surrey on April 15, 16, and 17. TransLink has also recently launched an online survey where you can voice your feedback on the proposed SLS line. Open House times are set for the following dates and locations between 3-8pm:

  • Thursday, April 11 – Langley City Hall
  • Monday, April 15 – Surrey Sport & Leisure Complex (Fleetwood)
  • Tuesday, April 16 – Surrey City Hall
  • Wednesday, April 17 – Newton Seniors Centre

More info on the land-use planning review process for the Fraser Highway Corridor being undertaken by the City of Surrey can be found here: https://www.surrey.ca/bylawsandcouncillibrary/CR_2019-R059.pdf