There's no doubt that Surrey needs rapid transit. Surrey is expected to receive huge growth in next 30 years and we need rapid transit to manage, shape and accommodate that.
We also, however, need to consider the differences: some types of rapid transit are better than others.
In a 2008 survey of Surrey residents, 88 per cent agreed that transit should be as convenient and attractive as driving a car on city roads.
The City of Surrey wants light rail transit. Well, on-street trains that will run no faster than Surrey's drivers and are vulnerable to reliability issues aren't exactly very competitive.
The City of Portland has built an 84-km LRT system (MAX). However, in spite of being a larger system, there are less weekday boardings on the MAX then there are on SkyTrain's Canada Line alone. In less than three years of operation, a single SkyTrain line has attracted more riders than an LRT system operating for 26 years.
Portland had little to gain from LRT. The transit commute-to-work mode-share has remained at a standstill for more than 15 years, despite $4 billion in additional LRTrelated investment.
The service hasn't made the overall system any stronger: just recently, a cut in overall service came hand-in-hand with fare increases and the final annihilation of free downtown transit.
TransLink's service hours actually increased during this depression. SkyTrain as an attractive, profitable service is part of what makes our system strong.
The introduction of the Canada Line unleashed a new generation of potential riders and operational cost savings, allowing TransLink to make more revenue and make more expansions to service beyond Canada Line. The result is TransLink maintains a much stronger regional transit network than Portland's TriMet.
It would be difficult to come up with the funding for rapid transit service in Surrey.
When we do get that funding, I would rather see that funding go to SkyTrain expansion. It's simple: SkyTrain is a rapid transit service that Surrey will actually gain from.
We must not waste our limited taxpayer dollars on an LRT system that has much less potential of making a difference and benefiting our community.
The City of Surrey has an urgent need for rapid transit. Whatever is built must also, however, be competitive rapid transit.
Daryl Dela Cruz, SkyTrain for Surrey