Mayor Dianne Watts is speaking up about the need for more transit in Surrey after Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson called for a new transit line to connect Commercial Drive with UBC.
Robertson recently proposed constructing a $2.8-billion subway along the city's Broadway corridor. However, with such a high cost, Watts is saying light rail would be cheaper - and that Surrey needs it first.
"I think that there are needs across the region, and as mayor of the City of Surrey, I want to make sure that those needs are expressed to both the provincial government and the federal government in terms of the current growth and future growth of a city of half-a-million people," said Watts, who is also chair of Metro Vancouver's transportation committee.
While Vancouver has 20 SkyTrain stations for just over 600,000 people, Surrey only has four for a population of about 468,000. Watts stressed the importance of putting more transportation corridors in Surrey as the city's population continues to grow by about 1,000 residents per month.
Watts also mentioned that the City of Surrey has helped to fund other completed and ongoing transit projects in nearby cities such as Richmond and Coquitlam.
"There has been significant expansion throughout the region, whether it's the West Coast Express, the Evergreen Line, the Canada Line, all of those pieces that we have contributed significantly to," she said. "When we're looking at the future growth that's coming south of the Fraser, it is most definitely our time for that infrastructure."
Watts said she is a proponent of light rail transit and would like to implement it to and from City Centre along 104th Avenue to Guildford, down King George Boulevard to Newton with rapid bus to White Rock, and along Fraser Highway to Langley.
"It's important that we have multimodal options," said Watts. "Having the SkyTrain from our City Centre to other areas in the region is appropriate, but I think moving forward and moving people around the south of the Fraser region, at-grade rail's the way to go."
Patricia MacNeil, manager of communications for TransLink, said the transportation authority has reviewed a range of transit options - including rapid bus, LRT, SkyTrain and combinations of the three - and found they were all capable of meeting needs for Surrey over the next 30 years.
"What needs to take place now is a regional discussion on the right options, on the level of investment, on the timing of implementation, within the context of a regional transportation system and other transportation priorities," said MacNeil.
Watts said current provincial laws make it difficult to fund and expand transit, and she's pushing for changes to be made to allow the much-needed upgrades in Surrey.
"Those funding tools that are provincially legislated are inadequate, and so only when that legislation's changed will we begin to move this region forward," she said. "It's very critical that the government's model and the funding model be changed."
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