British Columbia

Surrey, B.C. light rapid transit plan on track to proceed despite protests

Opponents of a street level light rail plan linking Newton to Guilford say the system will be too slow and disruptive for what it costs.

Opponents say street level train system will be slow, disrupt traffic

This graphic of the proposed LRT line between Guildford and Newton in Surrey shows how the trains would be part of the streetscape. (TransLink)

In less than two years, TransLink is expected to begin building a new light rail transportation system in Metro Vancouver, which will link Guilford, Surrey Central and Newton.

As the LRT project zooms ahead, a group called SkyTrain for Surrey, is pushing back against the plan, saying it's not the right fit for the city, where the population is expected to rise to 800,000 by 2041 from the current 500,000.

The group says the LRT project is too pricey for what it delivers.

Darryl Dela Cruz is part of a group called SkyTrain for Surrey, which is against street level LRT in the city. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

"The project is going to be a very expensive mistake, with a very high cost, yet delivering very little," said Darryl Dela Cruz as he stood on 104 Avenue Saturday. The LRT will most likely run along the street.

The $1.65 billion dollar project would include 10 kilometres of two-way, street-level track with 11 stops between Newton Exchange, Surrey Central and Guilford Exchange.

Similar systems are used in Toronto and around the world, where rail cars run in their own lanes. Passengers board and disembark at street level at stops and intersections.

Increasing capacity

"It's a very important project," said Stephan Mehr Saturday at an open house, as he explained the LRT project to residents.

"We're introducing transit to increase the amount of capacity."

TransLink says it plans to start construction in 2020 on a new LRT line in Surrey, B.C. (City of Surrey)

According to the city, 72 per cent of residents are in favour of the project, which will eventually extend an LRT line from Surrey Central Station to Langley.

But many residents at the open house were critical of the project, saying the LRT may worsen traffic and won't be very fast.

"It doesn't make any sense, except for the Surrey Central to Langley line," said resident Patrick Henry.

Randy Ellis, another resident who is worried about the cost, is also concerned that putting rail lines down the middle of busy roads in Surrey will make them more congested.

"They're spending a lot of money to make the roadway smaller when they just have to increase the buses ," he said.

Dela Cruz argues that the trains will mix with traffic and run through major intersections, which will be disruptive.

He also says that the rail line is not much quicker or reliable than buses and wants TransLink to extend the Expo line of SkyTrain along the Fraser Highway to Langley. 

The transit authority has rejected that option due to cost.

As for the Newton to Guilford line, SkyTrain for Surrey wants a bus rapid transit system on 104 Avenue and King George Boulevard.

TransLink's Manjit Gill, a Surrey resident, says despite the criticism, the authority has done its due diligence on the project and is excited about it.

"It meets transit ridership demand now, and well into the future, which is a fantastic thing," Gill said. "It really is conducive to transforming these corridors into connected, livable, vibrant communities."

Construction is expected to take up to four years.

With files from Jon Hernandez.