Our most recent question, sent to mayor and council candidates in the City of Surrey, Township of Langley, and City of Langley, was the following:

For the portion of the Surrey-Langley rapid transit line running along Fraser Highway, do you believe LRT or Skytrain technology is best, and why?

Here are early responses. We welcome commentary from all candidates; we will continue to publish submissions as they come in.

Stacey Wakelin – Township of Langley (Independent)

The challenge with Skytrain would be cost—which one would assume would be between 2-3 billion. LRT needs to connect with Skytrain, etc to be most useful. This is a great question, with rapid development we need more transit options in the Langleys.

Vera LeFranc – City of Surrey (Surrey First)

Recently I responded to a constituent who wrote to let me know that they believe Skytrain should be the preferred technology to LRT. It is no secret that I support LRT, and it compelled me to put my thoughts to paper. The following is a refined version of that letter:

1. Housing affordability
We are in a crisis of housing affordability. Sky train stations cost $40M compared to about $3M for LRT. With LRT we will have about 19 stations. Why is this important? Development accelerates around stations, and if you notice the density around current stations is intense with towers as the main built form, small square footage, and high cost per square foot. Surrey is a city of families. More stations mean that the density will be more evenly distributed along the line, creating family friendly low rises along the line, and a mix of townhouse and single family homes moving away from the line. LRT builds the kind of city that we want to live in. LRT will create affordable housing within connected neighbourhoods.

2. Accessibility
I take Skytrain whenever I need to go to downtown Vancouver or to Metro Vancouver in Burnaby. I live on a frequent transit network so I’m able to walk from my home, catch a bus, and then take Skytrain. I’m able bodied, so I can access the Skytrain station. This is not true for those who are older, who have mobility challenges, or might have children and strollers. If you take Skytrain on a regular basis, you will note that often the escalators or elevators are out of service. In fact, during the Metrotown renovation, elevators were out of service for over a year and Granville Station will have the escalators out of service for 2 years! Imagine what that means for people with reduced mobility. LRT is incredibly seamless, with the ability to take strollers, wheelchairs and bicycles without negotiating stairs or elevators. In Phoenix I rode in a train car with one person in a wheelchair, two moms with strollers, and six bicycles hanging in the rack. LRT will create complete, connected and accessible neighbourhoods.

3. Local commutes
Most commutes in Surrey are within Surrey. About 46 per cent of our workers commute to other municipalities, which include New West, Langley, Delta, and yes, Vancouver. However, the further out you move, the lower the number of Vancouver bound commuters. Langley is endorsing LRT because fewer than 4 per cent of their citizens commute to Vancouver. They want LRT to ensure local commuter’s needs can be met.

Surrey is huge geographically, and can fit Vancouver, Burnaby and Richmond within our borders. We envision a future when LRT connects every one of our city centres and where the vast majority of our residents are within a five minute walk to a frequent transit stop, and can navigate a system to get them from point A to point B within Surrey — whether they want to get from City Centre to Port Kells, or from South Surrey to Cloverdale. LRT will help us to achieve our goal of proximity to frequent transit by the majority of residents.

4. Support for local business
Skytrain flies over local business, making it difficult to access locally owned and operated retailers and restaurants. As previously mentioned, when development accelerates around Skytrain stations, real estate becomes very expensive, squeezing out the local retailers and restaurants. In order to compete with the high lease rates, you need to be a chain. In cities like Phoenix, LRT provides hop on and off which supports local business and increases economic opportunities for the people who live in their community. LRT will support a thriving local economy.

5. Stations as neighbourhood hubs
Skytrain stations are in themselves problematic. Not only are they inaccessible and incredibly expensive to build and operate, they also can be a magnet for crime. We have a vision of LRT stations that are community connectors, activated with significant public art that become points of neighbourhood pride and ownership. They will reflect the unique identities of the neighbourhoods that they serve. LRT Stations will create a sense of pride, place and points of connection.

6. Moving beyond the primacy of single occupancy vehicles
Skytrain seems to be the preferred mode for those who want to maintain the primacy of cars. By lifting skytrain above our streets we would leave room for vehicles to continue to use up road space. The argument is that LRT will cause collisions between vehicles and trains if the train is at grade. While there have definitely been instances of collisions of this sort, what we learned in Phoenix is that this happened in the beginning as drivers got used to the new road signals. We will do a better job, and learn from other communities how to implement seamlessly. As well, because there will be so few stations, residents will not be able to walk to the stations, and are far more likely to get into their cars. LRT will move people out of their cars and onto transit.

6. LRT is being embraced by cities around the world
Often I hear that LRT is second-best, i.e. “my cousin came from Calgary and took Skytrain and prefers it to the CTrain.” Many cities in the United States, Europe, China and Australia are either in the process of adopting this technology, or have adopted it and are expanding because not only is it working well, but the residents love it, and are riding it in record numbers. In Phoenix we heard from business, citizen groups and government that even those who adamantly opposed their LRT are now wholehearted fans. LRT is the best technology to achieve the city that we all want to live in.

So I believe that we do deserve LRT. It is better, more modern, more human scale, more adaptable, more accessible, builds neighbourhoods, is safer, and can connect us much more effectively than Skytrain. After years of study and community consultation, LRT is the technology of choice that has been endorsed by the Mayors Council, has received funding approval from both the Federal and Provincial Government, and will be built in Surrey.

Adam MacGillivray – City of Surrey (Proudly Surrey)

Thank you for including me in providing input from potential councillors for our plans on working with the federal and provincial governments to supply Surrey with this much needed upgrade to our transit infrastructure. Our first choice for the Fraser Highway expansion is Skytrain. It makes the most sense for that route and will be able to connect the most people in the fastest way to our neighbouring communities. In the end we will work to provide the best possible system for our residents.

Comments

  1. Vera Lefranc offers some heartfelt and informed comments about LRT in Surrey. However, she makes the mistake of interchanging local, frequent stop and slower LRT for regional, faster SkyTrain with fewer stops. They are quite different. This is a common occurrence in the debate over the Broadway Line. LRT is flexible enough in the suburbs to offer either regional or local service by adding or removing stops and beefing up the speed for regional modes. However, it’s clear with the more closely-spaced stations, Surrey is opting for local service. To claim that is a replacement for SkyTrain is not accurate. In fact, LRT can be quite easily replaced with BRT in the same stop configuration, with maximum ridership potential clipped a bit but partly made up for with off-track detouring capability. And it will come in far less than $2 billion or cause as much disruption during construction.

    Vera also does not mention the elevator service available at Metrotown and City Centre stations.

    1. Do you want to promote a transit system that encourages everyone to go elsewhere or one that encourages mixed use and dynamic neighbourhoods everywhere? Do you want to encourage people to commute farther or to live, work and play close enough that all transit options are viable?

      There are a lot more places around the world building trams and LRT than elevated systems or subways. They can carry a lot more people than buses, have a smoother ride, are more energy efficient and require fewer operators per passenger. I need not repeat all the other great reasons that Vera Lefranc has pointed out. But integration with, rather than snubbing its nose at, the communities it passes through is critical.

    2. There are too many examples of tram system failures that have cropped up since they have taken off in popularity. Their juxtaposition in mixed road traffic is its greatest Achilles heel. Ridership hasn’t been up to par either, and I suspect that is because they are failing to compete with the advantages of cars. These two concerns are painfully obvious with Surrey, as is the experience in other cities.

      http://blog.daryldelacruz.com/2017/12/09/gold-coast-light-rail-ridership-failing/

      Having said that, I believe trams and especially long-distance LRT at a service level approaching commuter rail that respects citizen’s demand for better mobility** and provide serious alternatives to driving a car do indeed have good potential, but that would entail placing them largely in their own rights-of-way and physically separating them as much as possible from all other forms of traffic.

      Cities cited that possess an ideal urbanism amidst Eurotrams (Zurich, Strasbourg, Montpellier….) it has to be noted that the largely human-scaled urbanism evolved centuries before the trams appeared, which is attributable to a long car-free pre-20th Century history. Moreover, building the tram systems in too many cities was a very painful experience, not unlike the two-year trench warfare from the Dark Ages that beset the Cambie Village during the building of the Canada Line. Still, it’s noted now that the CL is a success story with frequently overcrowded ridership, and there is no issue with a lack of revenue for the unfortunate presence of a private operator.

      ** To propose conditions that limit citizen’s right to mobility, whether regional or local, or through constrained urban design and transit, may be a good way to ensure system failure. Not everyone wants to be confined to one neighbourhood forever and a day, not even me as one who believes strongly in walkable neighbourhoods and compact cities, but who also needs to access amenities and services in other neighbourhoods several times a week.

      1. ** I do no such thing.

        First off. Mobility is a right. SkyTrain is not. Yet everyone is welcome to transfer to SkyTrain if they choose.

        There has been some angst expressed among suburban councils that Vancouver is getting the lion’s share of office development. I don’t think it is bad regional policy to try to encourage more jobs around the region. I’m open to other suggestions as to how to do that.

        I will repeat that SkyTrain encourages longer commutes which is another form of sprawl. Yes better than car sprawl but not as good as finding ways to encourage people to live, work and play closer to home. Ultimately we will have better communities and use far less energy if we have success in that.

        1. //I do no such thing.

          … Yet everyone is welcome to transfer to SkyTrain if they choose.//

          Ron, you’ve said yourself that light rail is supposed to make Surrey “stickier” by forcing Langley residents to give up and stop in Surrey – and that appears to fit the definition of limiting mobility.

          If everyone is welcome to transfer, then there should be both a local LRT and an express RRT. If Surrey is attractive in of itself, RRT riders will be stopping there anyway.

          //There has been some angst expressed among suburban councils that Vancouver is getting the lion’s share of office development. I don’t think it is bad regional policy to try to encourage more jobs around the region.//

          A planning issue, not a transit issue. If anything, SkyTrain’s helped encourage offices and workers to cluster around Metrotown, Brentwood, Surrey Central and other non-downtown hubs (having rapid connections to YVR and downtown doesn’t hurt either).

          //I will repeat that SkyTrain encourages longer commutes which is another form of sprawl. Yes better than car sprawl but not as good as finding ways to encourage people to live, work and play closer to home. Ultimately we will have better communities and use far less energy if we have success in that.//

          Confusing cause with effect means that however many times it’s repeated, it’s wrong.

          Long commutes exist with or without rapid transit; no matter how accessible your community is, a lot of people need to get to another community. Universities, cinemas, office branches, “destination” pools, Phnom Penh chicken (and so on), they’re all limited to a few places in a few parts of the city. Anybody from other parts must commute. No one person or entity can force those places or their users to all be in the same general area, nor demolish the suburbs, nor force residents back into Vancouver – that’s blocked by the housing market, free will, and government checks and balances.

          So people’s destinations will remain the same, no matter how slow and time-wasting their transit is. Waste enough of their time, and you encourage car dependency. Save their time with more, better options, and you break car dependency.
          That’s what SkyTrain does. It doesn’t produce long-distance commuting, it facilitates it; it doesn’t produce sprawl, it compensates for it. We’re a city of only 2.5 million, and yet we keep 490k trips off the road every day – let’s see light rail do that.

          1. “So people’s destinations will remain the same, no matter how slow and time-wasting their transit is.”

            Justin, centuries of city-building before the car and trains or buses prove you wrong. How many times have we heard that European cities are so tight (and delightful) because there were no cars nor other means of fast mobility?

            People drive so much and so far because it is artificially cheap. It caused sprawl. SkyTrain supports it in its own way.

          2. Half right, Ron. As we both know, Vancouver was indeed planned around the streetcar for the early days, as were most Western cities. Then Robert Moses and all his disciples came along, and so we (and most of North America) opted to ditch compactness for sprawl.

            We’ve since decided that the old way was better… and yet the sprawl remains. Short-distance transit is insufficient as a main grid for a long-distance city; as a secondary grid to a metro network for said city, absolutely. Even the European cities you’ve mentioned have both.

            Here’s a visual: http://urbankchoze.blogspot.com/2014/02/lurbanisme-ne-peut-pas-se-dissocier-de.html. Note that a streetcar city will have even less coverage than a subway city.

          3. Justin, that was a terrible read. Misses so much of my point. “One word: speed.” Please. The assumption is that people must travel far because the city is big. In reality, people choose to travel far because it is artificially cheap and easy – in a vicious cycle. We won’t develop attractive, self-sufficient cities within the region as long as we continue to make it cheap and easy to fling oneself around the region on a daily basis.

            The example in that link radiates out from a single centre. We need many centres that are close enough to everyone to make speed much less relevant. Don’t fixate on putting everyone within reach of frequent transit. Try to put everyone within reach of attractive downtowns.

            If we build SkyTrain to Langley they’ll be clamouring for it in Chilliwack. We need to fill in what we’ve already sprawled before we sprawl under-developed pseudo-centres up the valley, encouraging yet more driving on the fringes. There just aren’t many (any?) places in the world that sprawl their grade-separated mass transit out that far. Surrey Centre is plenty far enough.

          4. Fascinating, Ron. Every part of your rebuttal was incorrect.

            – You said that slow mobility shaped city building for centuries. Yes, and now we’ve embraced fast mobility, and the city has changed. Point noted, caught, and returned to sender.
            – If getting across the city on $4.40 for a three-zone fare and 1-2 hours of travelling is “cheap and easy,” then “expensive and hard” will likely cause half the population to leave (which admittedly, would solve a lot of problems). If living near every place you work/play was possible, everybody’d already be doing it… and they’d be walking or biking, not wasting money on streetcar tickets.
            – Frequent transit and multiple downtowns are one and the same. Without SkyTrain, Brentwood/Metrotown/Whalley/etc would either be unable to sustain their own weight, or have much more vehicle traffic than the present.
            – Unlike Langley, Chilliwack is outside the GVRD and surrounded by farmland. They’d be better served by a WCE extension or a second commuter rail line.
            – If you want 45km+ (Waterfront to Langley-sized) metro lines, try Seoul, Beijing, Guangzhou, Singapore, New York, DC, San Fran, London, or Delhi – not counting future line extensions, just to be fair. Lower the goalposts to 40km and the list gets even longer. We are nowhere near unique in wanting greater access to/for the entire city.

          5. “Every part of your rebuttal was incorrect.”
            “– You said that slow mobility shaped city building for centuries. Yes,… ”

            Every part was incorrect? The very first example you agree with.

            “– If getting across the city on $4.40 for a three-zone fare and 1-2 hours of travelling is “cheap and easy,…”

            Hmmmm. Since $4.40 doesn’t cover the actual cost it is definitely cheap. The fare box covers less than half the actual cost…. on average…. Suburban routes much less. So yes. Cheap.

            Meanwhile SkyTrain zips you in to town from waaaay out in Surrey in 45 minutes. (It is SkyTrain we’re talking about, right?) So yes. Easy.

            ” If living near every place you work/play was possible, everybody’d already be doing it… and they’d be walking or biking, not wasting money on streetcar tickets.”

            Wrong. It is possible. It hasn’t been achieved. Too many mega condo developments (without corresponding office and cultural space) on SkyTrain corridors marketing them selves with X minutes to downtown Vancouver.

            “– Unlike Langley, Chilliwack is outside the GVRD and surrounded by farmland. They’d be better served by a WCE extension or a second commuter rail line.”

            Langley lies across a big expanse of near-nothingness. We haven’t begun to fill in our past, vast sprawl with anywhere near it’s potential and you already want to begin diluting it with… sprawl. If WCE encourages more people to live further out, in car-dependent communities, then any capture for commuting will be offset many times over by said car-dependence for everything else. Just what the valley needs is a bunch of park-and-rides skipping across the countryside.

            All those cities you mention are many many times the population of Vancouver. It would be pretty unique for a bumpkin little town like Vancouver to compete for reach (ie. sprawl) with such big cities like those.

          6. – Partly agreeing with post before rebuttal =/= agreeing with rebuttal. Always gotta make sure you have the context right before doing a “Gotcha!”

            – All three lines turn a profit, so $4.40 or less actually is the entire cost of operations. Many other cities/countries are much more subsidized and have city-wide fares for $3 (Paris) or less. I sincerely hope I’m reading wrong and you’re not suggesting Bateman-style that fares increase threefold to replace taxes and subsidies; that completely defeats the purpose of trying to make transit attractive.
            As for speed, more trains and higher frequency would decrease Vancouver-Surrey travel time, and more lines would share it around with the rest of the city. We’re operating at 40-58% capacity right now.

            – SkyTrain creates “sprawl” AND “mega condo developments?” They’re pretty mutually exclusive. Demovictions and a ridiculous housing market have pushed city dwellers out into the ‘burbs, and others still want to get around the city. There’s only one Stanley Park, only one UBC, only one Metrotown, only one Festival of Lights; the gig economy may have you jumping from place to place, or working far from home; cinemas and department stores can’t be on every street because of supply and demand; family, friends, and colleagues don’t always all live in the same area; the supermarket/restaurant further away might have the thing that the local one doesn’t.
            Ron, you may have everything where you want it, but that doesn’t mean everybody else does. I’d also add that staying inside your part of the city blinds you to other great places within the metro in other parts.

            – Langley is the metro’s fastest-growing municipality. Give it and the Valley access to high-capacity transit and zone accordingly, and new residents and development will stack up around stations instead of moving further outward.

            – Your goalpost-moving notwithstanding, other “bumpkin towns” (some with much larger populations) that settled for LRT backbones are still car-dependent, low density and constantly losing riders. Some have even tried making their transit free.
            Whereas building large-scale (sort of) and stretching far like we’re a big city has given us mode share, density and ridership comparable to other big cities. Planning for the future and punching above one’s weight are always good things. Settling for mediocrity due to some kind of inferiority complex is not.

          7. Justin, SkyTrain won’t function well without feeder buses that lose money. SkyTrain may break even on operation, but does it cover capital? And how do you allocate the losses of the feeder buses toward the cost of SkyTrain operations since SkyTrain would lose money without them? You can’t isolate SkyTain from the rest of the system. Most of the suburbs are not within reach of SkyTrain because of the nature of SkyTrain. It’s too expensive to put everywhere. The farther out it sprawls the farther apart the radiating lines are from each other leaving a continuously increasing wasteland of more sprawl.

            But my reference to cheap and easy stems from motor vehicles first, followed by a requirement to subsidize transit to be able to compete. I’ve always maintained that if you remove the subsidy for cars you will soon be able to phase out the subsidy for transit. Urban bus routes make money. So there’s no reason all transit can’t make money at current fares *IF* you get rid of sprawl.

            There are at least two aspects to sprawl. The worst is the monotonous spread of ticky-tack housing across the landscape. But anything that leads to the majority people commuting across the region and driving for most of their trips is sprawl – even if they live in a forty storey tower. There is still far too much of that.

            What is necessary is proper mixed-use, including attracting office development and supporting culture so most people can live/work/play nearby. We have a ridiculously sprawled region that needs to be infilled with properly balanced centres of residential – and all facets of employment. I would argue it will take many decades for that to happen *IF* we stop sprawling SkyTrain out beyond its current reach. If we do it will never happen to the degree that it needs to.

            To make a city more livable, less car dependent and less energy hungry we need to offer an environment where the car is a less attractive choice for *ALL* trips. Pushing SkyTrain out further and further does not achieve this. A pocket of residential towers on a shopping mall is an improvement but, be honest, it’s just not anywhere near enough of one.

            We can provide shopping and cultural amenity near everyone if we allow enough density to support it. Downtown Vancouver does not have a monopoly. And it needn’t be at that high density either.

            Yes, Stanley Park is special and it should be accessible to all. But let’s face it, you should have no expectation of going there daily if you live in Langley. Langley, for example, needs to create it’s own “Stanley Park”. I don’t think it’s up to the taxpayer to ensure that everyone in the region can get to every place in the region at SkyTrain speed. What is wrong with the adventure of getting to Stanley Park the one or to times a year that you go?

            As for UBC etc: Build more housing for staff and students at UBC. It’s absurd that so many people commute there from east of Main. It’s because it is too cheap and easy to travel.

            Langley may be the fastest growing municipality precisely because it is too cheap and easy to commute from out there and it’s growth completely undermines the region’s ability to make more of it walkable.

            We have socially engineered a nightmare of energy consumption, pollution, social isolation, wasteful land use, dependence on a single mode of travel, congestion, accidents and spiraling costs by continuing to make it too cheap and easy to travel. Make it stop. We can put the resources toward policies that allow people to live closer to what they do on a daily basis. Stop worrying about how long it takes to get to somewhere you rarely go. Visiting places less often makes them more interesting and allows them to evolve their own character.

          8. You’ll want to refrain from using zweisystem’s spam posts as an argument, Ron. At best, it looks like groupthink, and at worst, sockpuppeting.
            It’s a universal truth that direct routes from anywhere to everywhere are rarely practical. Doesn’t matter the technology, there is no mass transit network on the planet that does not rely on transfers – that’s why it’s called a network. Yet even with transfers, the majority of light rail lines operate at a loss, and the Canada Line is scheduled to pay back its capital cost by 2020; you seem to ignore both facts every time they’re posted.

            SkyTrain definitely can’t be in all places at once; it serves ridership, not coverage. But it’s there, and it works well, and people are willing to live/work/play nearer and travel further to use it.
            The ultimate aim should be new lines for more parts of the city, which for being “too expensive,” we get roughly every seven years (referendums notwithstanding). “First/last mile” trips that you mention would be solved with increased bus service. Or if cost is your concern, perhaps we should scrap both RRT and LRT plans and just build more B-Lines?

            Of course private sector buses turn a profit. If TransLink was for-profit, they could likely charge $7 for a one-zone trip and $14 for a three-zone (extra for transfers, like the States), $557 for a monthly pass, and therefore break even… at the cost of chasing everybody out of Metro Vancouver altogether. Whatever neoconservatives may say, public transportation is a service, not a business.
            Hong Kong’s MTR and others like it do have a surplus from partial control of local business income and development fees… but Vancouver’s businesses/developers pay the government, which subsidizes TransLink, which is hardly any difference if you’re not the CTF.

            There is no definition of sprawl that includes anything but SFH suburbs, highways and infill. If you refer to suburban patchwork-type planning, that’s a building permit and/or zoning issue. So are mixed use and more offices and cultural spaces. They happen or don’t happen because City Hall (and maybe the UDP) gave their permission. SkyTrain has nothing to do with it – in fact, increased transportation capacity helps them sustain their density, like with the Cambie Corridor Phase 3 plan. Looks pretty un-sprawling and walkable to me.

            Nope, Langley’s growth is because all Vancouver’s industry is being priced out out the city and/or rezoned for residential. They’re packing up and moving to the outer ‘burbs, and Langley’s one of them.

            “In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.” – Yogi Berra

            Stanley Park: Gone thrice this year. A family from Surrey I sat next to at the VAG Ghostbusters screening’s been five times. Best to make it more accessible, not spend money and acquire land (neither of which we have) for a “park” in Langley that’s half the size and lacking a seawall or lookouts. And good luck trying to build a second Vancouver Aquarium just to stop commuters.

            Universities: UBC alone has a population of 61k and climbing, not including faculty. Housing units number less than 5k and cost $10,550 on average (not including meals, that’s $42k+ extra for a Bachelor’s degree), which is why most students already live off-campus.
            Again, your suggestion involves a doubled student loan, and dorm sprawl – which we’re trying to avoid – on top of Pacific Spirit Park. Nor is a second campus possible for many courses, especially ones that need a mocap stage. Easier for everybody to live at home and sleep on the train coming in.

            That’s to say nothing of the PNE, Pacific Central, Capilano Suspension Bridge (two tourists asking me for directions today), YVR (I don’t have to explain the idiocy of trying to transform YDT, right?) and others. Heck, if you’re just trying to…
            – Watch a movie (again, few and far between due to supply and demand)
            – Get to another department store whose product isn’t sold out yet (see above)
            – Meet up with friends in Coquitlam (couple behind me on the 84 today)
            – Or trying to get to a restaurant in Richmond (yesterday; it’s definitely not franchiseable)
            … then you’re commuting.

            Ron, the New Urbanist utopia ignores both economics and human nature by limiting everybody to a tiny part of the city and expecting to fit everything and everyone we’d ever need inside it. If visiting places less makes us enjoy them more, let’s not remove mobility and force people to look at those places over and over again like goldfish in a bowl – let’s give them the whole aquarium.

          9. Justin, Sorry if I don’t take your word for it. please cite evidence of the CL payback. But even if it’s true, you wouldn’t get that if the CL ran to Ladner or Tsawwassen. The payback gets longer and longer the longer and longer the reach. Like Langley.

            A moratorium on the reach of SkyTrain is hardly trying to limit everyone to a tiny part of the city. I think you don’t understand sprawl because you are sprawl. You don’t see it because you live it. A 45km+ commute is sprawl. Make it stop.

            I never said anything about private buses. Our urban buses are often profitable. Our suburban ones are not and many run at massive losses. Therefore urban residents are subsidizing suburban residents. They do this with road costs too. Of course this leads to a perverse exodus from the city. How could it not? Human nature!

            You think human nature led to sprawl? It was/is completely engineered.

            Now we’ve had three generations in a row that cannot imagine life without a car. Hard to undo that mindset, but the only way is to create a region where you really don’t need one. You want more sprawl by serving a narrow corridor within sprawl with SkyTrain leaving vast stretches unserved. If you’re so hell-bent on more SkyTrain then a Brentwood-Metrotown-Oakridge line would serve way more people who are less likely to need a car for other trips and would add to the *network*. Personally I think that route would be better serviced by LRT/Tram. But in either case it should be a much much higher priority than encouraging more people to move to Langley – where, I repeat, they will drive for most everything.

            If Langley’s growth is due to industry moving out there then they certainly do not need a SkyTrain to Vancouver. People who move to Langley should be chasing those jobs. But they move there because they don’t pay the true cost of their transportation.

            If most people drive for most trips, and a high percentage of commuters travel long distances, often into downtown Vancouver, what makes it better than sprawl by your limited definition? I’ll call it “Sprawl II” if you prefer.

            New York City created Central Park in the middle of Manhattan. And you’re telling me Langley has no room to make a park? Too funny. You work with what you have. Langley does not have a seawall or a canyon gushing with a mountain river. Neither does Manhattan. If that’s what you want, don’t move to Langley. And don’t expect the taxpayer to build you a SkyTrain. That expectation, coupled with highly subsidized transportation (car or transit) just leads to sprawl.

            All those destinations you mentioned are places people go once in a while. There should be no expectation of fast transit from waaay across the region just so those few trips are really fast.

            UBC chose to use their endowment lands for maximum profit instead of the health and convenience of their staff and students. Housing was primarily developed for those who can’t afford it on the wages of most university employees. Student housing should be subsidized more than student u-passes. And there should be way more of it. It need not encroach on Pacific Spirit. UBC is a sprawling campus. There’s lots of room for more housing.

            Quoting Yogi does not make your arguments more powerful.

            Finally, If you actually read my posts, you’d see that I did not propose $7 or $14 transit fares, which would obviously be self-defeating. I very very clearly said you could make transit profitable at current fares. This the the point that you completely fail to understand – over and over and over again.

            Our land use patterns are a perversion of artificially cheap transportation. If the driver/rider paid the true cost they would not move to Langley, or even Surrey, if they worked in Vancouver. Yet they do. Because we pay them to. We subsidize their commute and we subsidize their otherwise car-dependent lifestyle even more.

            Housing looks cheap out there because others pay their freight. And we’re not even talking about the societal loss of farmland and proximate green and wilder lands.

            Stop subsidizing the car. The city will urbanize through natural selection. Transit will become increasingly profitable at current fares. Don’t sprawl SkyTrain further out or that won’t happen.

          10. Good on you to already start walking it back Ron, just in case I did have a source.
            http://spacing.ca/vancouver/2010/08/26/the-canada-line-one-year-36-million-boardings/ “For TransLink, 100,000 riders is the break-even point for operating costs, while the financial break-even point for the line as a whole (full repayment) could arrive as soon as 2020.”
            140k and climbing, set to steadily upgrade to 350k. If we’d gone with LRT, we’d be in the red and scrambling to upgrade a system designed for 70k.
            Ladner definitely in the far future, since there’s parts of Richmond that need coverage and pressure on the Massey crossing. Tsawwassen would be better served with coach buses or an hourly train.

            Your entire argument is that more mobility is bad, less is good, and that our end goal should be a region that inhibits long commutes. That’s pretty confining.

            Nope – the 99 B-Line, our most “profitable” bus, operates at a 79-cent loss per rider – only SkyTrain breaks even. Perhaps the metro’s subsidizing the buses? Or perhaps we’re one big interconnected city that should focus on good returns on investments, instead of who pays for what?
            Living closer to downtown is obviously more attractive. Again, demovictions, a high cost of living, foreign money laundering, property flipping and an industrial exodus make that impossible. You might be fine, but living far away is not a choice for most people (bankruptcy or homelessness not counted as choices); they shouldn’t be punished for trying to stay and make a living here instead of finding another city.

            I support two lines for that route: UBC down 41st to Port Coq, and Willingdon to Phibbs to Ambleside… right after Hastings and Langley get theirs. Most people don’t need a car if they have frequent train and bus service.
            Once again, on-road LRT has low capacity and poor cost-to-benefit ratios, and operates at a loss.
            Wouldn’t those “unserved” stretches count as sprawl too, by your definition? Perhaps we should bulldoze them and relocate everybody to an apartment beside a SkyTrain station! It’s no less ridiculous than leaving Langley to fend for itself, instead of reshaping it for transit.

            My definition of sprawl seems to be the usual one, and your definition seems to encompass “anything that isn’t a mixed-use lowrise near Vancouver proper.” The case against suburbia is increased car usage, pollution, and inefficient land/resource use; conventional wisdom is that all those problems are mitigated by rapid transit and high-density TOD. Understand that the suburbs are not going to magically shrink just because you cancel their rapid transit and penalize driving.

            Central Park was planned in an era where taking over private property and evicting 1,600 residents could be done for no financial or political cost, and when farms weren’t considered vital; Langley lacks such advantages, or the ability to finance the new park. Other points already addressed.
            Let’s quantify a “while” (day? week? month? year?) before we make flippant dismissals; I watch movies almost every Tuesday, for example. I’d also say that a whole lot of “once in a while” trips at the same time would seem to be a problem… and that having ready non-car access to public services like hospitals and schools should be universal, regardless of how often they’re used per person.
            Funny, because even a 1% subsidy for 55k more UBC student dorms at $10.5k is $5.8 billion (the cost of two Broadway extensions) every single year, which’ll either be paid by taxpayers or downloaded onto the students. Clearing UBC’s houses for student midrises only gets you 20k more dorms at most; any further growth is outward into the Park. Then there’s your ideology being violated by having “tower sprawl” at the edge of town. Come on, I can’t be the only one doing my homework here.

            “The borrowing is often honest enough, and comes of magnanimity and stoutness. A great man quotes bravely and will not draw on his invention when his memory serves him with a word as good.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

            Profit comes from capacity, not usage – even Asian cities don’t have 100% farebox recovery. You propose no more SkyTrain (which has a surplus), more LRT (which doesn’t), and little to no fare increase (so buses don’t either)… that’s a lousy business plan.
            More like the true cost of driving AND the true cost of transit would cause a mass exodus. In case you haven’t noticed, we already have an affordability crisis.
            Rather, we should build more SkyTrain, make the network more useful to more people, and watch revenues skyrocket due to Metcalfe’s Law.

          11. Justin, is an 8 year old article projecting cost recovery targets ten years later the best evidence you have?

            But if you want to quote from there how about this?

            The area hardest hit by the Canada Line construction hasn’t seen much of an uptick in customer traffic. While Oakridge Centre and locations close to new stations have seen 10-20% increases in foot traffic, Cambie Village has been left out, primarily because the area was not granted its own station. It is really incomprehensible that a Canada Line station was not built at 16th Avenue, since Cambie Village is the only truly complete neighbourhood along whole length of Cambie Street.

            Wouldn’t have happened with LRT.

            And don’t tell me incorrectly what my arguments are. You clearly don’t understand them. It is *not* my whole argument that mobility is bad. That is absurd.

            Excessive mobility is bad. Excessively subsidized mobility is bad. Fast trains way out into the hinterlands that encourage more people to sprawl out further are bad. Networked, high quality transit that serves areas where you least need a car are especially good.

            If SkyTrain doesn’t encourage longer commutes then why do they market condos with time to downtown Vancouver?

            You don’t need to subsidize every students housing but you need to provide more of it to keep rents in check. And you can house students for a lot less than $10,500. A 1/3 subsidy on $6,000 rent for 30,000 students is $60million.

          12. $60million is 50 years of not requiring SkyTrain to UBC. 50 years of a more vibrant and healthy campus. 50 years of more people having a deeper connection to the place they live and study instead of shipping zombies off to the distant burbs every single day.

            $60million is the cost of one renovation to one SkyTrain station.

          13. Best of luck trying to find a news article about the Canada Line from more than three years ago… or from less than three years ago, since everybody but anti-SkyTrain advocates have moved on since then.
            If you’ll read the technical documents, the 16th tunnel is too deep (and the bedrock too hard) for a cost-effective station; 33rd and 57th will get theirs soon enough. Still beats a $1-2B LRT that provides little advantage or additional foot traffic over existing bus service, nor gets ten times as many people using transit.

            Or rather networked, high-quality transit out into the suburbs (Scarborough to Missisauga; hardly the hinterlands) turns that suburb into another area where you least need a car.
            Condos are marketed that way because people are living farther away from downtown without SkyTrain and want to live closer. SkyTrain is mitigating the exodus, not causing it.

            Thank you for crunching your own numbers for once. Now realize that any place for $500/month is a spare basement or living room somewhere beyond Kitsilano, and that any construction and upkeep of dorm-sized units in Point Grey with the same rate will have to be funded completely by the City and its tax base. Neither the UEL nor the developers will touch that kind of deficit.

        2. SPRAWL —- The number of passenger stops on the proposed Langley line does not depend on which of ( BRT, LRT or skytrain ) is chosen. Grade separated skytrain costs more to build but less to operate & not get stuck in traffic or stop or traffic lights.

  2. Let’s see…

    1. Housing affordability
    If saving money is really a priority, then perhaps we should skip the LRT altogether and simply upgrade the 96 B-Line to it’s cousin’s (the 99’s) level of service. Every 3-5 minutes during the day and all-door boarding is enough for 61k+ riders, which is more than enough for Surrey’s 2030 ridership projections… by which time they’ll likely have the budget for a SkyTrain line.

    If “family friendly low rises” were all Surrey had in mind, a tram might be fine. Instead, they’re planning THIS: http://dailyhive.com/vancouver/surrey-future-development-vancouver-oakland-san-francisco-bob-williams. A second downtown is not family-friendly at all.
    Also, the Canada Line’s got the maximum capacity of a tram (6,000 pphpd) and half the density of Future Surrey, and it’s already close to bursting.

    2. Accessibility
    For seniors and the disabled, there’s HandyDART service; for families, there’s bus service. Cyclists, wheelchair users and families with a cartload of luggage ride the metro just fine. Everybody else doesn’t mind climbing a bit.

    3. Local commutes
    So… help them get to Surrey faster? Many Langley politicians actually want SkyTrain (eg Mr. MacGillivray above, Ted Schaffer) or don’t care so long as their city gets rapid transit (Nathan Pachal).
    As for a five minute walk, SkyTrain stations are roughly 1km apart on average; if you’re in-between them, that’s five minutes walking and three cycling in each direction. Not exactly a hardship.

    4. Support for local business
    Please explain this to the multitude of independent businesses around existing stations. Increased rents and demovictions are a landowner problem; if anything, they’ll be offset by extra customers coming in/out of the stations.

    5. Stations as neighbourhood hubs
    Because of course, nobody has ever been attacked on an LRT train or platform without somebody coming to the rescue (/sarcasm). The transit=crime argument needs to die quickly and horribly.

    6. Moving beyond the primacy of single occupancy vehicles
    Rather, since LRT offers no advantage over driving and several disadvantages, everybody will stay on the now-smaller road and clog it up… whereas RRT, competing directly with the car at the car’s speed in a grade-separated ROW, will cause many motorists to actually switch. Note that Phoenix’s ridership is falling and Vancouver’s continues to grow.

    7. LRT is being embraced by cities around the world
    This one needs to die too. Those cities are either stymied by a low population/low density/small budgets/”use it or lose it” funding that forces a tram network, or they already have a metro network to do all the work (leaving the trams as high-capacity feeder lines). Even then, most busy tram systems are opting for more grade-separation, increased stop spacing and longer trains – in other words, light metro like SkyTrain.

    1. SkyTrain to Langley (or Guildford or Newton) would just encourage more people to commute from those places to Vancouver, stifling job growth in Surrey. And while they might commute by SkyTrain they’ll drive for most everything else.

      LRT will make Surrey stickier by discouraging through-commuting and helping establish Surrey as a walkable economic and residential centre in it’s own right. The time difference from Langley to Surrey by LRT or SkyTrain would be slight.

      1. The travel time difference between LRT ( or BRT ) & skytrain depends on speed limits , traffic conditions & the number of times they stop for passengers. & traffic lights. Grade separated skytrain is faster with an equal number of stations & bus/tram stops.. The cost of a grade separated LRT would be the same as skytrain

      2. LRT will make Surrey stickier by discouraging through-commuting and helping establish Surrey as a walkable economic and residential centre in it’s own right.

        So will a simple change to mixed-use zoning irrespective of transit mode. It is a fallacy that trams automatically beget low rise Euro-urbanism and Strasbourg architecture. That has already been achieved on many of Vancouver’s arterials where the lowly trolley has been moving the masses.

        1. It’s a post hoc fallacy. Back when Portland started their streetcar network, they coordinated “walkable, mixed-use community” construction block-by-block so that both finished at roughly the same time.

          So now every other city planner/politician in North America’s been duped into thinking the former automatically creates the latter no matter what. Or they realize it doesn’t, and they’re just chasing that sweet, sweet redevelopment money (*cough*Hepner*cough*).

  3. As Miss LeFranc and others have pointed out, most of Langley works in Surrey right now; the focus should be on continuing to be an attractive destination to work and play so that doesn’t change. Transit “protectionism” can’t and shouldn’t compensate for Surrey’s potential uncompetitiveness and/or bad planning.

    BRT: 34-38 minutes. LRT: 33-37 minutes. RRT: 18-20 minutes. Driving: 24 minutes.
    People are always going to pick the shortest, faster, straightest route to their destination. Surrey Council, by assuming that people don’t value time or convenience, is only encouraging them to hop in a car.

  4. I think the Surrey LRT project will be a big experiment, a really HUGE ~$2 billion experiment that could fail. I hope it doesn’t.

    1. Nobody wants it to fail, but Surrey First is cutting every corner that could make it work. Grade separation through Whalley could improve frequency and minimize delays. Fences for the median, crossing gates, or even tracks that don’t twist and turn all over the road could improve safety.

      As is is, their own studies – not TransLink’s – peg opening capacity at 2,400 pphpd (200 passengers/car x 12 cars/hr) and total capacity at 4,800: https://surreylightrail.ca/Documents/Surrey%20LRT%20Environmental%20and%20Socio-Economic%20Review.pdf. The 99 B-Line does around 5,000.

  5. LRT is much more expensive than Skytrain
    Cost of Skytrain vs LRT
    Surrey’s Guildford-Surrey-Newton line is 10.5 km, and the current estimate is $1.65 Billion. The cost comes to $157 Million per Kilometer. Now read the following facts from Vaughan Palmer of Vancouver Sun’s article, https://vancouversun.com/…/vaughn-palmer-costs-of-metro…
    a. For comparison’s sake, the Canada Line, completed less than 10 years ago in time for the 2010 Winter Olympics, was priced at $2.1 billion, or about $100 million for each of its 19 kilometres.
    b. The 11-kilometre Evergreen Line, completed in late 2016 after a delay in construction, came in at $1.43 billion or $130 million a kilometer. Both lines involved some tunneling.
    Here cost of Skytrain is much lower than LRT.
    Also, LRT is much more expensive than Skytrain as it wastes commuters’ time. I teach Accounting and Finance, and I calculated the value of time-savings with Skytrain from Surrey to Langley to $8.5 Billion over the life the system. If we include time saved in transfer at Surrey Central station, the total value goes up to $12 Billion

    1. Nice cherry picking. Obviously the cost of everything has gone up including the Broadway Subway. You can bet a Langley SkyTrain would cost much more than LRT. So your opening statement is just plain false.

      As for wasted time, A car travels much faster than a bicycle so obviously a bicycle “wastes commuter’s time”. Only I’ll bet the average commute on a bicycle takes less time than in a car. SkyTrain just encourages more people to have longer commutes. Surrey is on the right track in trying to encourage people to treat it as a city in its own right instead of merely a flyby for commuters from Langley to Vancouver.

      Some have argued that Langley residents tend to work in Surrey rather than Vancouver. Of course they do: it’s expensive and time consuming to get all the way to Vancouver every day. But that could well change when you make it too cheap and easy to do so. What’s the benefit to society? Mobility is good. Too much mobility is not. The expression too much of a good thing definitely applies.

  6. Why would Surrey think of building LRT?
    LRT is a Proven DISASTER in Calgary, Edmonton, Seattle, Portland, and Houston-the cities with LRT
    LRT causes accidents resulting in death, destruction of property, traffic delays, street closures, and congestion
    Just Google the headlines below:
    • Don’t let idiots build your transit- Global News video
    • Destroyed in Seconds Houston Metro Rail- YouTube video
    • Pedestrian killed by CTrain was 43rd accidental death on LRT system
    • Platt: Train pains continue to vex transit riders on a daily … – Calgary Sun
    • Drivers could be stuck at LRT crossing for up to 16 minutes: Metro LRT ..
    • Man dies when hit by MAX train in East Portland; service disrupted …
    • Portland Streetcar collisions? Nearly 1 a week, reports say …
    http://www.debunkingportland.com/printables/MAX_Kills.pdf
    • Person struck, killed by light rail train in Seattle | Q13 FOX News
    • Metro LRT Line experienced 11 service delays in November
    • LRT shut down after crash with cyclist – Edmonton – CBC News
    • Link light-rail service halted by car crash in Rainier Valley | The Seattle ..
    • Seattle Light Rail Hazard Analysis Shows High Collision Potential and …
    • Light Rail Increasingly Dangerous | The Antiplanner

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