Why Surrey needs the next transit expansion
There is a growing debate as to which city will have the next transit expansion, Vancouver or Surrey? There are compelling arguments for both sides of the debate. The Broadway corridor is an important regional destination and Surrey is one of the fastest-growing cities in Canada. We need to decide how we will shape the future of our region; this is a crucial decision that will affect development for decades. The debate isn’t just about where the next transit line will be built. The expansion will shape the future decisions of hundreds of thousands of people. It’s imperative that we build a transit expansion in Surrey and offer an affordable lifestyle for people from all over the region. More buses isn’t going to cut it, Surrey needs a Skytrain connection from King George to Langley.
The Broadway corridor is undoubtedly an important employment and education destination. There is impressive density along West Broadway. Some are calling it Vancouver’s second downtown. There are influential locations like the Vancouver General Hospital, Vancouver City Hall, and of course, UBC. Moreover, there are thousands of subsidized students transiting all the way to UBC. The 99 B-line travels along Broadway, and it’s usually full. The fact is that in Commercial skytrain station there are commuters left stranded, and for many advocates, it’s unacceptable. There is demand for more efficient transit because it would benefit the students, residents, and workers who use the corridor frequently. If they build a rapid rail transit to UBC, it will reduce the travel times.
Personally, I’ve commuted to both UBC and SFU. The UBC commute is long and inconvenient, but so is the SFU commute. The 145 B-Line from Production Way/ University skytrain station to SFU on Burnaby Mountain is comparable to the 99 B-Line in Commercial station, people get left behind at both! All too often a full bus drives by and leaves disappointed commuters waiting for the next one. It would be nice to have a gondola or Skytrain going up to Burnaby Mountain, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that we need one. It’s irritating to get left behind by a bus, but it’s a B-Line and there will be another one in 5 minutes. I disagree with the notion that Translink and the province should decide on its next major investment because some commuters don’t want to wait for the next bus.
As we all know, the city of Surrey is an affordable housing option that is destined to continue growing much faster than Vancouver. There are half a million people living in Surrey and thousands move in every month. In the coming decades, much of the population growth in Metro Vancouver will be centered in and around Surrey. It offers qualities needed by the middle-class, like affordable housing and pre-secondary education. In the future, owning a home and raising a family will likely be done south of Fraser.
Frankly, there aren’t enough incentives in Surrey for people to take public transit. There are lengthy commutes, and expensive bus passes. Most buses in Surrey lead to and from the Surrey Central skytrain station. Most of the residents in Surrey do not live in the Surrey Central area and have to bus there, which takes a long time. For example, a supposedly 15 minute bus ride from Fleetwood to Surrey Central turns in to an extra one hour commute per day. There’s the time to walk to the bus stop (pray you didn’t miss it), and wait for it to arrive; two ways each day, and not to mention the Skytrain ride and more. Thus, many Surrey residents choose to not take transit. They drive cars and I don’t blame them. There are only 4 stations in Surrey; Vancouver has 20 stations. Municipalities in the south of the Fraser are underserved by Translink.
An extension of the Skytrain line all the way to Langley Centre will allow for a complete restructuring of the bus system in Surrey and Langley. Presently, most buses travel to and from the north-west part of the city. Whether a bus comes from Newton, Fleetwood, or Guildford; most of them go to or from Surrey City Centre. Suppose there was a Skytrain heading down Fraser Highway. Some bus routes would arrive at a Skytrain station much faster because they don’t have to go to Surrey Central anymore. Translink can reorganize routes to travel to the new stations. From Langley to Surrey Central, a train ride could take 20 minutes; instead of a bus ride of 50 minutes. Everyone will greatly benefit from this change, whether they drive or transit. There will be reduced traffic and more mobility through the city. For instance, those that give their friends or family a ride to a Skytrain station will travel for a less amount of time. Of course, those that live close to a new station could now walk there. These are the benefits that can be won with rapid rail transit.
A modern city should have an extensive transit network and smart urban planning. If they prolong a transit expansion in Surrey, then the car culture and externalities will continue. It’s important to get people out of their cars and taking public transit. The future of Surrey ought to be green, affordable, and transit-friendly. The city will continue maturing and soon it will surpass Vancouver in population.
That’s why the future lives in Surrey.