From Business in Vancouver:

“We will certainly respect Surrey’s decision about the kind of technology it wants,” Ken Hardie, one of the city’s new crop of successful Liberal candidates – and a former TransLink spokesman – said when asked about the federal government’s role in the project. “That hasn’t always been the case in the past; there have been times where federal governments have prescribed technology to be used. Surrey has its business case locked down for LRT as opposed to SkyTrain technology, and that’s what the Liberal government will definitely respect.”


Next questions:

What if the Province insists that their contribution is dependent on the use of SkyTrain technology or similar?

Does Surrey and/or region have to come to the table with a one-third contribution?

If regional, does there have to be another referendum?

Might the Feds even insist that there not be another referendum?


  1. That’s a bit of a shame, in my opinion. I take the skytrain often and it’s the cat’s meow. I can’t think of a better public transit vehicle I’ve taken, anywhere. It goes super fast, comes super often and has a nice view.
    I predict that a few years after the LRT opens, people will be complaining about its performance vs. the skytrain. It will really be hard to compete.

  2. “Surrey has its business case locked down for LRT as opposed to SkyTrain technology”
    I really don’t think that’s the case. I don’t think there has been any serious analysis made public at least. If someone is aware of one, please post it. It’s unfortunate how many politicians seem to be jumping on the LRT wagon without any evidence it’s the best alternative.

  3. Surface LRT will be slower than Skytrain because of the need to mix with traffic, less reliable because of the inevitable collisions, and less convenient because the requirement for manually driven trains means you won’t be able to run them as often. It really is a lose-lose solution compared to the service enjoyed by the rest of the region.

  4. It’s about cost. SkyTrain costs twice as much to build as compared to LRT, which is why LRT is the norm across North America, including Ottawa, Edmonton, Calgary, etc.
    LRT also does a better job of connecting communities, which is important “south of the Fraser” where transit is lacking. People need to get around within Surrey and Langley, and not just to downtown Vancouver. If you look at TransLink trip diary info, you’ll find that the vast majority (76%) of trips originating in South of Fraser sub-region (Surrey, White Rock & N. Delta) are to destinations within the South of Fraser. In comparison, only 5% of all daily trips from the South of Fraser sub-region are to the Vancouver/UEL sub-region.
    FYI, Surrey LRT project info is publically available here:

    1. The question is not whether it’s right for the Surrey of today. The question is whether it’s right for the Surrey of 40+ years from now.
      When Calgary installed its LRT, in the 80s, it was a suburban prairie town of 500k-600k people. Now that it’s over 1.2 million with a rapidly densifying city centre, the LRT through downtown is very, very slow. If Calgary had installed a subway from the start, transit service would be much better today, for a fraction of what it would cost to bury the LRT now.

    2. Well, let’s look at the Translink documents to which you linked.
      Several different scenarios were considered for each modal choice, including a mixture of modes. From the prevailing description of the forthcoming Surrey Light Rail Transit (“LRT”) network (a line down Fraser Highway to the City of Langley, a line along 104th from Surrey City Centre to Guildford, and a line along King George Highway from Surrey City Centre to Newton with a B-Line/quasi-Bus Rapid Transit (“BRT”) route continuing south to White Rock) matches the “LRT Alternative 1” scenario.
      Arguably, the most likely Rail Rapid Transit (“RRT”) option is an extension of the SkyTrain Expo line along Fraser Highway to the City of Langley and an increase in level of service for the existing 96 B-Line bus between Guildford, Surrey City Centre, and Newton, with an further extension of service down to White Rock. This matches the “RRT Alternative 1A” scenario.
      A whole series of metrics were modelled for each scenario, including “Business As Usual “BAU”), and for the sake of this post we shall just compare “LRT Alternative 1” and “RRT Alternative 1A”.
      Capacity to Meet Demand
      2041 Forecast Peak Load (passengers per hour per direction), Fraser Highway – 4,300 [LRT1], 6,600 [RRT1A]
      2041 Forecast Peak Load (passengers per hour per direction), King George Boulevard – 3,450 [LRT1], 3,650 [RRT1]
      2041 Forecast Peak Load (passengers per hour per direction), 104th Avenue – 1,800 [LRT1], 1,850 [RRT1A]
      2041 Assumed Capacity (passengers per hour per direction), Fraser Highway – 6,500 [LRT1], 10,200 [RRT1A]
      2041 Assumed Capacity (passengers per hour per direction), King George Boulevard – 6,500 [LRT1], 4,700 [RRT1A]
      2041 Assumed Capacity (passengers per hour per direction), 104th Avenue – 6,500 [LRT1], 4,700 [RRT1A]
      Transit Trips and Mode Share
      2041 Surrey Rapid Transit Daily Ridership – 166,000 [LRT1], 202,000 [RRT1A]
      New Regional Daily Transit Trips (2020-2049) – 12,00 [LRT1], 24,500 [RRT1A]
      Reduction in Vehicle Kilometres Travelled (millions km, to 2041) – 1,300 [LRT1], 2,400 [RRT1A]
      2041 Transit Peak Hour Mode Share (regional % / study area %) – 16.5% / 15% [LRT1], 16.6% / 15.5% [RRT1A]
      Air Emissions
      CO2 net Reduction, Life Cycle (tonnes) – -38,000 [LRT1], -50,000 [RRT1A]
      Land Use
      Station Area Redevelopment Demand (square feet millions, to 2041) – 19.4M sqft [LRT1], 19.4M sqft [RRT1A]
      Capital Costs ($ Millions [presumably $2015]) – 2,180 [LRT1], 2,220 [RRT1A]
      Net Present Value of Life-Cycle Costs ($millions [presumably $2015]) – 1,630 [LRT1], 1,670 [RRT1A]
      So, some conclusions. RRT1A will attract a greater number (+22%) of daily trips on rapid transit within the Surrey and Langley study area versus LRT1 while yielding more than double the number of new regional rapid transit trips occurring by transit users outside the study area. RRT1A will reduce regional vehicle kilometres travelled by 2.4 billion kilometres by 2041 versus LRT1’s 1.3 billion kilometres saved (an 85% improvement of RRT1A over LRT1). Furthermore, the CO2 net reduction associated with RRT1A will be more than 30% greater than LRT1. Miraculously, the forecast development associated with station-area infill will be precisely the same; I’m suspicious at the symmetry, to say the least. For capital costs, the paltry $40 million difference between the two (1.8%) makes them be so close as to make little difference. Again, I’m suspicious of the symmetry.
      What’s missing from the executive summary is a quantitative discussion of level of service: total travel times, vehicle frequency, hours of operation at what levels of service, etc. These were included in the previous study and the big take away was that there were little if any time savings for LRT vs BRT for the options where one or the other would be used, while the time savings for the segments that compared LRT vs RRT found the RRT offered vastly shorter travel times, which contribute to an overall shorter commute for transit passengers. However, there is an infographic on the website and it does spell out the travel time difference:
      Travel Time from Surrey Centre to Langley Centre (base case 54 minutes) – 29 minutes; a 46% reduction [LRT1], 22 minutes; a 60% reduction [RRT1A]
      Travel Time from Surrey Centre to White Rock (base case 59 minutes) – 37 minutes; a 37% reduction LRT1], 38 minutes; a 36% reduction [RRT1A]
      So, LRT1 was chosen, despite having a materially poorer ability to attract local ridership than RRT1A (34,000 fewer daily passengers; a 20% shortfall); it fosters less than half as many additional regional transit trips (24,500 RRT1A vs 12,000 LRT1); has only approximately half the impact at reducing regional vehicles kilometres travelled and affecting congestion relief on our roads and highways (2.4 billion fewer km travelled with RRT1A vs 1.3 billion fewer km travelled with LRT1); has virtually the same capital costs ($2.22B RRT1A vs $2.18B LRT1) and only marginally lower operating costs ($45M/yr RRT1A vs $39M/yr LRT1); LRT1 has travel times that are significantly poorer or essentially identical to RRT1A (depending on the corridor); and it will introduce fundamentally different road geometry and turning options along 27 km of key municipal arterial roads.

  5. Translink commissioned a study from a third party, and they’ve concluded that there’s a higher ROI for using Skytrain technology since it’s effectively an extension of the existing Expo Line, so there’s no need to transfer.
    In fact, for not much more than the price of 2 LRT lines, Surrey could have BRT on King George and 104th, and Skytrain on Fraser Highway. The result would be double the amount of new daily riders and 34,000 more daily trips (200k vs. 166k) Source:
    Executive summary from the full report is here:
    This is an unfortunate case of prioritizing a technology choice over a solution that will actually deliver more benefits to Surrey, and encourage greater ridership. Light rail is not bad – it’s just not as good as Skytrain + BRT in this scenario.

  6. The linked documents all support BRT plus a SkyTrain extension to Langley. The conclusions are well supported by a long period of neighbourhood consultation and by nearly all the transit advocates south of the Fraser. So why is Surrey council pushing for an LRT solution?
    I doubt the mayor of Surrey is going to tell us why she and her predecessor rejected the TransLink plan. Until she does I’ve got a theory: the failed transit plebiscite.
    I believe the switch to LRT was done to fit the proposed collection of money through a small regional sales tax. On the other side of the river we saw the City of Vancouver do the same thing. The Broadway subway was chopped off at Arbutus to fit a smaller budget and moved a few years farther into the future.
    Not only is the LRT plan a little cheaper than the TransLink plan, it’s easier to build in short segments making it a better fit for the collection of money over 30 years.
    Rather than be seen to be flip-flopping, Surrey continues to push LRT even though the plebiscite failed and senior government money might be available sooner than previously anticipated.

  7. David, your theory supposes that Surrey knew the referendum/plebescite result long before anyone else.
    After extensive route, stations and planning of options, which included a visit to Portland to inspect their system, Surrey announced its decision months before voting ended.
    The Conservative government also committed their one-third, $750 million, to the project at that same time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *