Surrey council knows what it wants for transit expansion in the city - light rail. Coun. Tom Gill said Surrey will continue to "spar" with TransLink to secure funding for the system.
But Gill, chair of Surrey's Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, isn't happy that possible revenue sources for TransLink are set to go to referendum.
"Surrey's been very patient, waiting for every other line to be built. And quite frankly, it's our turn. I think that there's no justification to be waiting any further," Gill said. "There's no need for there to be a referendum to ask folks whether we should continue to make these investments."
Premier Christy Clark announced in April that any potential revenue sources suggested by the Mayors Council on Regional Transportation, such as tolls on all roads and bridges or a vehicle levy, would be subject to a referendum during the municipal elections in November 2014.
The move, Clark said, would allow people to have the chance to decide how much transit they want to pay for.
Gill's concerned that people who are already well served - such as in Vancouver - may not be supportive of spending dollars for a system they won't benefit from.
Gill said Surrey provides $41 million a year to TransLink and is not receiving value for that money.
"I think TransLink's lost context in the sense of who it is they're serving and why. I think there needs to be a level playing field in terms of what Vancouver is being offered in terms of service per client versus the service level we're receiving south of the Fraser."
But if Surrey does secure funding for transit expansion, council has its heart set on light rail.
Surrey is advocating for three light rail transit routes: 104th Avenue between 152nd Street and City Centre, City Centre to Newton along King George Boulevard, and Fraser Highway between City Centre and Langley. The whole network would be roughly 26 kilometres long.
Gill said the city would be widening roadways to accommodate the at-grade rail.
The Rapid Transit Now plan, which is posted on the city's website, says Surrey is pursuing LRT because its cost effective, high quality and flexible.
Gill said the city's been told at-grade rail will cost approximately $65 to $85 million per kilometre and SkyTrain at $100 to $120 million per kilometre.
But its more than just the price tag, he added.
Given that Surrey's land mass is three times that of Vancouver's, Gill said the region needs to be serviced differently.
And he said Surrey projects LRT ridership would be about 165,000 a day by 2041.
"Surrey is so vast. We need something that's so robust that would encourage the utilization versus having a shabby system that's not going to move anybody and has no incentive," he said.
Gill wants a system that allows people to commute quickly to jobs within the city. "That's how the city can stay sustainable," he said.
The reliability of transit in the area just isn't there right now, Gill said.
"People, by virtue of ensuring they have employment and trying to get to school on time, trying to be good parents, is forcing them all to buy cars."
Gill said other major cities, such as Calgary, Toronto and Ottawa, are looking at or are in the process of expanding rapid transit and are all choosing light rail.
Gill said an aggressive timeline the city has talked about is five years.
"Obviously, having something go live in five would be an ideal situation," he said.
But some have strong opposition to Surrey's light rail plans.
A group called Better Surrey Rapid Transit thinks SkyTrain would be the better option.
Daryl Dela Cruz, the campaign's director, spoke to Surrey's Transportation and Infrastructure Committee last April.
The group's preference for SkyTrain is based on high reliability, higher speed and capacity expansion potential, and better offpeak operating frequencies.
The group believes full-grade segregation with the SkyTrain will provide better reliability for the Metro Vancouver region as a whole.
"Most of the reasons being presented for light rail options, especially over, say, SkyTrain, they're pretty vague," Dela Cruz said, adding that the group hopes to speak to Surrey council again in September.
But Dela Cruz and Surrey council can agree on one thing: Transit investment should happen in Surrey.
"In order for this region to remain sustainable the amount of car trips all over the region have to stay the same as it is now. That's going to become a problem if we don't invest in transit in Surrey," Dela Cruz said.
© Copyright 2013