Rapid Transit to nowhere – The land-use issue with SkyTrain on Fraser Hwy

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Since my last post on the differences between the proposed LRT and SkyTrain generated much discussion – I felt it would be good to highlight in more detail – the key land-use, route, and scope differences between the 2 routes, and why SkyTrain down Fraser Highway – makes no rational sense from a land-use or planning perspective.

LRT (Phase 1)

The proposed LRT route along 104 Avenue and King George Blvd serves Surrey’s City Centre, 2 largest Town Centres, and 2 most urban corridors, designated to handle the bulk of Surrey’s urban growth and revitalization over the next few decades. The 104 Avenue and King George Corridors contain numerous major trip-generating destinations which include:

  • Surrey City Centre – would be served by 4 LRT stations
  • Guildford Town Centre – Largest Town Centre in Surrey with existing high-rise residential, hotels, offices.
  • Guildford Shopping Centre – 3rd largest shopping centre in Metro Vancouver
  • Guildford – 104 Avenue Corridor PlanCurrently underway land-use plan which will direct increased density, growth, and revitalization along this key corridor linking City Centre and Guildford – would be served by 4 LRT stations.
  • Surrey Memorial Hospital – As well as the emerging Health & Technology District surrounding it would be served by 96th Avenue Station
  • Bear Creek Park / Surrey Art Gallery – and surrounding area would be served by 88th Avenue Station
  • Newton Industrial Area – Large employment area consisting of light industrial, business parks, commercial – would be served by 2 LRT stations.
  • Newton Town Centre – 2nd largest Town Centre in Surrey – already significant retail, offices and planned increased density/growth.

In addition LRT would create 2 vibrant multi-modal transfer hub stations at Surrey Central and King George – integrated into new urban plazas.

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Multi-Modal Transfer Hub Station at Surrey Central integrated into Plaza
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Envisioned Newton Town Centre Plaza with LRT integration

SkyTrain (Phase 1?)

While it is unclear how far down Fraser Hwy SkyTrain could be extended given current funding, an extension to Langley is unlikely within the 1.65 Billion approved budget. As such, the Fraser Highway SkyTrain line would have to be phased, with Phase 1 likely going as far as Fleetwood, and future extension to Langley at a later undermined date (by 2030?). Such a SkyTrain extension down Fraser Highway makes absolutely no rational sense from a land-use or planning perspective. Fleetwood is Surrey’s smallest Town Centre, with no plans for any significant increases in density or growth. Fraser Highway is also a very low density, predominantly single family / strip mall corridor with few trip-generating destinations along the route. The only nodes of significance are:

  • Fleetwood Town Centre – Smallest of Surrey’s Town Centres. The current Fleetwood Town Centre Plan designates this area for modest urban growth, consisting of townhouses, village like commercial, and some 4-6 storey apartments.
  • RCMP E-Division / Jim Pattison Outpatient – The only major destinations along this route would be at the 140th & Fraser Hwy station (assuming a station is proposed at this location)
  • 152 & Fraser Hwy Commercial Area – Currently a low-density strip mall area with no current land-use plans underway for revitalization. A land-use plan to change the density in this area would be necessary given the introduction of rapid transit to the area. This would present a major change to the Surrey OCP and where future density/growth directed to in Surrey.

In addition, a Fraser Highway SkyTrain extension would lack any vibrant multi-modal transfer hub stations centered on plazas. A missed opportunity for city building / urban revitalization.

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Likely 3-stop ‘Phase 1’ SkyTrain extension to Fleetwood with current funding
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Likely terminus of Phase 1 Fraser Hwy SkyTrain extension in Fleetwood

Timeline?

  • LRT is scheduled to begin construction in 2019 with the 10.5km Phase 1 completed by 2024.
  • SkyTrain would need to start from scratch in 2019, beginning with at least 2 years of design, planning, consultation. New land-use plans would have to be initiated along the route – as land-use must be planned in cohesion with rapid transit. A 5.5 km Phase 1 extension of SkyTrain to Fleetwood could likely be completed by 2026.

By 2030 – assuming a second round of funding is made available – there are 2 possible scenarios for rapid transit in Surrey:

Scenario 1 – Surrey’s 2030 Rapid Transit Network – LRT

Scenario 1 would see 27km of rapid transit built in Surrey, serving both the Guildford – Newton corridors, as well as the Fraser Highway corridor to Langley.

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Scenario 2 – Surrey’s 2030 Rapid Transit Network – SkyTrain

Scenario 2 would see 15.5km of rapid transit built serving only the Fraser Highway corridor to Langley. Guildford and Newton – Surrey’s 2 largest and most urban centre’s would have no rapid transit. While Doug McCallum does mention a future SkyTrain extension down King George Highway to Newton – this is unlikely until the Langley extension is complete – so post 2030.

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Best way to spend $1.65 Billion?

Each of these scenarios costs the same $1.65 Billion price tag.

  • Which option do you think provides more value to Surrey?
  • Which option will result in the most rapid transit for Surrey by 2030?
  • Which option will best integrate with the neighbourhoods it passes through, create a sense of place, and be a catalyst for vibrant communities? Rather than just a means of by-passing Surrey to get somewhere else.
  • Which communities should be prioritized for rapid transit?

LRT showcase brings prototype train display to Surrey

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Numerous community and business leaders joined Mayor Linda Hepner today to launch an 8-week LRT showcase, offering residents a first glimpse at Surrey’s future LRT. As part of the showcase, a prototype LRT train car has been brought in from Europe and put on display in the Central City parking lot next to King George Blvd. It will remain there for the next couple of weeks before being relocated to Newton Town Centre, Guildford Town Centre, and finally the Surrey Canada Day celebration in Cloverdale.

The goal of the showcase is to give residents a first-hand look at what the urban-style LRT train will look like. Unlike high-floor commuter-type LRT trains like those in Calgary and Edmonton, Surrey’s LRT will be low-floored, similar to those found in many cities throughout Europe, and even Toronto. Despite being more integrated with the urban environment, the trains will nonetheless run on a dedicated right-of-way, apart from traffic, offering significant improvement over a bus – not only in speed, but also through more consistent/reliable schedules, frequency, capacity, boarding doors, and comfort. It is important to point out that the particular train car brought in for display is just a prototype, and the actual trains chosen for the Surrey line, will likely look a bit different.

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LRT was chosen as the mode of choice for rapid transit in Surrey following years of study that began as far back as 2010. Numerous options, and combinations were looked at including LRT, SkyTrain, and Bus Rapid Transit. The results found LRT to be the most cost effective system for Surrey – with 27km of LRT track (2 lines) able to be built for the same $2.2 billion price tag as 16km of SkyTrain (1 line). Surrey gets a more extensive rail transit network, better integrated with the community, creating more pedestrian-orientated streetscapes, with LRT. Further, operating costs for LRT were found to be $6 million cheaper annually, with negligible differences in travel times.

Since securing funding back in March, the first phase of Surrey’s LRT network – the Guildford-City Centre-Newton line – is now on track to begin construction by late 2019 and be in service by 2024.

For more on Surrey’s LRT project:
https://surreylightrail.ca

For a detailed look at the Surrey Rapid Transit Study:
https://surreylightrail.ca/Documents/Surrey_Rapid_Transit_Study_%20Alternatives_Analysis_Findings.pdf

For an infographic of the findings of the Rapid Transit Study:
https://surreylightrail.ca/Documents/surrey_rapid_transit_study_infographic.pdf