With the completion of the new City Hall in late 2013, Surrey will finally gain its first ever public square. With activation by the Library, City Hall, and 3 Civic Plaza, the square is arguably designed for success. However, it is still missing one key ingredient: a direct connection to the SkyTrain.
Most of the pedestrian flows in the downtown currently stem from traffic dispersing from Surrey Central station. The station currently has two exits – both pointed south-west. One directs traffic towards the entrance to the North Surrey Recreation Centre; the other puts commuters into the bus loop. From these two exits, pedestrians head south along one of three corridors towards Central City.
While this currently functions quite well as the SkyTrain facilitates southward movement of pedestrian towards the Central City anchor, with tens of millions of dollars worth of new infrastructure north of the station, pedestrians will need a new connection to access this area easily.
As it stands, pedestrians would have to walk around the Recreation Centre’s ‘superblock’ to access the public square and its facilities. While this may be reasonable if you already have a reason to go to City Hall or the Library, it is not conducive to more leisurely trips. If someone is looking to just relax at a plaza, they’ll choose Central City over the new public square.
This is troubling for the success of the public space. Due to its public nature, there is far more potential for events in this space over the private plaza of Central City. These events could suffer from poor attendance without the natural flows of commuter traffic and spontaneous stops from passers-by. The commuter traffic from the station is the reason the farmer’s market is far more successful in its current location in front of the Rec Centre over its original space in the parking lot across University Drive.
The only way to get some of that pedestrian traffic is to add a new northern entrance and exit to the Surrey Central SkyTrain station.