Two more responses to our last question, sent to mayor and council candidates in the City of Surrey, Township of Langley, and City of Langley.

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?

Thanks to all candidates who responded, and to Price Tags contributors for your commentary. 

Gail Chaddock-Costello – Township of Langley (Council)

Thank you for the question and the opportunity to respond. I’m in favour of light rail. My conversations as a provincial candidate in 2009 and 2017 brought me into contact with many voters and the topic of transportation came up frequently. Once I reviewed your question, I polled neighbours and friends and the feed back was 100% in favour of light rail, my personal preference. Why? It is a cheaper alternative providing a similar service and makes sense to me considering the extensions through Surrey-Newton and Guilford have been recommended by the Mayors to be light rail. In addition it will be seen to be and will be, less environmentally intrusive.

Andrew Mercier – City of Langley (Council)

Skytrain is the Right Choice for Langley City

Folks in Langley may remember the conversation in the ‘90s about extending the Skytrain from King George to Langley Centre. The case for a Skytrain route to Langley has only gotten stronger as time has gone on. The Fraser Highway corridor is the missing piece in the lower mainland’s rapid transit map and Skytrain is the right choice for Langley City.

Skytrain’s benefits are significant. According to a 2012 joint study commissioned by Translink and the Ministry of Transportation, a Skytrain route down Fraser Highway would be faster and have a lower operating cost than light rail. Additionally, it could be built with minimal dislocation due to construction, and would not contribute to traffic congestion once it is operational.

Opponents of Skytrain may point to the lack of accessibility at current stations—anyone who is a frequent Skytrain rider knows the familiar refrain about the Metrotown elevators being out of service. The problems at current stations aren’t going away, regardless of which transit option is ultimately selected. But there is no reason that accessibility cannot be put front and centre in the design and construction of new above ground stations, ensuring that there is more than one accessible entrance.

This isn’t to say there isn’t a role for future investment in light rail in Langley City. Light rail may well factor in as a practical solution for rapid transit within the two Langleys (say, along 200th street). However, the factors that make it attractive for a local method of transportation within a municipality are also part of its drawbacks when conceived of as a main commuting route connecting two urban transit hubs, Surrey Centre and Langley Centre.

Skytrain is the right choice. If elected as a Langley City councillor I will support it as the best option available to complete the lower mainland’s rapid transit system.

Comments

  1. “The Fraser Highway corridor is the missing piece in the lower mainland’s rapid transit map and Skytrain is the right choice for Langley City.”

    And once it’s built, councilors in Abbotsford will be saying exactly the same thing. Then Chilliwack… Hope anyone? It’s just more incentive to sprawl up the valley instead of concentrating on the densification necessary within our current blight of suburban sprawl to make more of it walkable.

    1. All three are outside of TransLink’s jurisdiction, blocked on all sides by ALR farmland, are content with the Route 66 “Fraser Valley Express” and won’t need anything more than a commuter rail line.

      If that somehow turns into satellite towns and four hours trips into the GVRD, that’s a failure of the Mayors’ Council to plan a proper city or solve affordability. Let’s focus on that before making slippery slope arguments against a much-needed piece of infrastructure.

      1. I agree, let’s focus on affordability within the city and not try to avoid it by pretending we can solve it by chasing cheap housing out the valley. If affordability is to be solved it must be able to be solved within the inner areas of the city and not by building highly subsidized, higher-speed transit out beyond what is reasonable for a city of our population.

        We’d serve the transportation needs of a lot more people at a lot lower cost and do a lot better job of city-building by building better transit where density is already higher and where trips will naturally be shorter.

        People in Langley will not give up their cars any time soon even with SkyTrain because it would be such a one-dimensional service. But improving the transit network in the city and inner suburbs can foster the type of development that makes owning a car a choice.

        SkyTrain in itself does not create dense walkable communities. It took way too many decades for SkyTrain to play its role in concentrating development because it sprawled out too far too soon. Most metro systems worldwide started as tighter networks with more inter-connectivity serving denser development. They grow outward with time. They don’t try to capture those who are fleeing the city because that notion is absurd.

        When people are ready to give up a car (or cars) they have tens of thousands of dollars more to spend living closer. But even more importantly, they take a lot of financial strain off of the taxpayer, potentially leaving even more money in their pockets so they can afford to move closer in yet. That doesn’t describe Langley.

        1. Remind me, how much density or walkability did we have outside of downtown before the SkyTrain came along? Merely zoning high-density in the middle of nowhere and expecting a regional centre to pop up is exactly what you’re complaining about.

          What you’re really looking for is City Council to exercise its new “rentals-only” zoning powers around train stations, so that people can live in the city and get around easily.

          1. Main Street, 4th Avenue, Commercial Drive, Denman, Davie, Kerrisdale, West Broadway, West 10th, Ambleside, Dundarave, lower Lonsdale,

            Not perfect, Not nearly dense enough.* A good start. Not serviced by SkyTrain.

            *Not dense enough (Denman & Davie aside), but viable within the context of the immediate neighbourhood. None of these places depended on transportation services from elsewhere. They were/are of and for the local community, many of whom could reasonably walk there. Unlike the megamalls of the ‘burbs where few can walk. We need not strive for super high density – though it makes sense in pockets. These neighbourhoods worked well at fairly low density. They’d work better at medium density… no SkyTrain required

          2. http://i.imgur.com/xRRVfRq.jpg
            I realize that I basically asked for “any density beyond downtown,” but that’s still pretty weak. Nine of eleven are close to downtown (remember, the SeaBus opened in ’77), the other two are IN downtown, and the densest area south of False Creek is VGH. Considering previous rhetoric, I’m surprised that you don’t consider Ambleside to be “sprawl.”
            Meanwhile, Burnaby/Richmond/Coquitlam/etc are content to be purely SFH. Remove one’s nostalgia filter, and 99% of pre-Expo Line Vancouver is a car-dominated spoke and hub, just like the rest of North America.

          3. All of them are walkable for the neighbourhoods they serve. They all rely on limited street parking suggesting that they are not destination oriented but serve the local community. There are very few parking lots – usually associated with a supermarket. With more density they could have more amenity and begin to support office space. They don’t need SkyTrain. That was the point. You think SkyTrain is required to build walkable neighbourhoods. SkyTrain can be a catalyst to concentrate development way out there. Let’s let that happen before we sprawl it out even further. There is decades worth of development potential around the existing system. Why wouldn’t we try to ensure those reach critical mass before we dilute our region again? Even the most advanced of the regional town centres have just crawled out of the crib.

            Davie and Denman are distinctly not downtown. It is only from the perspective of someone who lives and breathes sprawl that one would think so. The West End is a residential neighbourhood built close to downtown because it makes sense to build high density close to business/shopping/culture. It has next to no office space nor destination shopping itself. It is a neighbourhood. It needs no SkyTrain. I left Robson Street off of the list because it, arguably, is downtown. In reality, the lower stretch, beyond Bute is more local neighbourhood street than downtown oriented.

          4. If they served the local community, everybody around them would walk or bike their way – parking wouldn’t even be required. Busy commercial areas always try to attract people from all over the city.
            Not sure what kind of office you’re looking for. Without high transportation capacity, neither developers nor large businesses are interested, so you end up with 2-4 floors and small shoebox offices with a dozen workers on each.

            Why can’t we build critical mass on the network and expand it? Rezoning and building permits need City Hall’s approval, not TransLink’s.

            Ah, you’re using that narrow definition. I can understand why somebody from the core itself would consider the West End and beyond to be “suburbs…” the rest of Vancouver, or anybody from a big city, will head “downtown” to Sunset Beach and watch the fireworks.
            Again, if it didn’t need SkyTrain (or at least more buses), it wouldn’t need carparks either. The number of “residents only” signs and a need for an official West End Parking Strategy implies an unfulfilled need for increased mobility.

          5. A lot more people walk to these neighbourhood shopping areas than you or the local merchants care to admit. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t make sense to take the car for some of those trips. I’m not trying to completely eliminate cars. They serve a purpose. But we’re way too dependent on them and moreso the farther out you go.
            That’s why we shouldn’t try to build critical mass and expand at the same time. They work against each other.
            SkyTrain to downtown is great. It’s awesome how many people can get into that tight geographic area. Never said otherwise. It’s SkyTrain to Langley that’s a problem.

          6. If something is a 10-20 minute walk away, then there’s no need to drive or use transit. If it isn’t, there is, and less wasted time and disruption getting there is better. The city needs to serve both kinds of trips with both local and rapid transit.

            We’re getting redevelopment along the current Expo/Millennium/Canada, and simultaneously property acquisition for future development of the Broadway extension. Vancouver’s developers are more than capable of handling several construction projects at once.

            No problem with Langley. Most commuters will head to Surrey as they currently do, and any trip past it will be much easier. Burnaby, Richmond and the North Shore have managed to become destinations in their own right instead of just a layover; no reason Surrey can’t do the same.

  2. Wow, Gail sounds like a right populist. Since when does polling people make for good decisions apart from what colour one wants streetlights to be? When you are spending billions of dollars on infrastructure, Andrew sounds like he is thinking with his head rather than with his popularity in mind. That’s something that I wish all politicians did, but alas in the age of Trump and Christy Clark, it is all too rare.

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