Governance & Politics
November 9, 2018

SFU: Want More Skytrain? Do the Numbers (Part II)

Yesterday’s post about the Vancouver Sun op-ed by Alex Boston scraped the surface of what could comprise an effective business case for Skytrain south of the Fraser, let alone what numbers may (or may not) have been used to justify LRT in the first place.

Did Translink miss some data? As I hinted in Part I, perhaps they simply missed communicating the most relevant, top-line numbers the public have an appetite — and capacity — to understand (no offence to all of us).

But let’s assume they made a whole raft of calculations, such as those that can be found in “Regional Transportation Investments: A Vision for Metro Vancouver (Appendices)“, pointed to me by  Boston’s colleague Keane Gruending from the Centre for Dialogue. The Centre’s own analysis on this file is reminiscent of their Moving in a Livable Region program around the time of the 2015 transit plebiscite, which attempted to hold our leaders accountable (and the politics in check), using a facts-first approach.

Boston’s deeper piece on the Renewable Cities website also reminded me that a lot of the debate on whether to pause Phase 2 and 3 of the Mayors Plan to once again deal with the Skytrain question often fails to deal with two important metrics tied to land use: jobs density, and CO2 emissions.

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This week, Alex Boston, the Executive Director of the Renewable Cities program at SFU’s Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue, wrote an op-ed in the Vancouver Sun on the proposed two big changes threatening to upend phases 2 and 3 of TransLink’s Mayors Plan.

Boston’s piece is a call, if slightly veiled, to Vancouver’s Kennedy Stewart and Surrey’s Doug McCallum to do what they were elected to do when it comes to regional matters — understand all the issues in a city which are regionally dependent or impactful, obtain support and confidence from your respective councils on big ideas, and work collaboratively with the other mayors and the TransLink Board to realize them.

But of course as you may know, it’s never that easy. And much like the housing crisis, there may not even be agreement on what the two problems are. 

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There was a time when Surrey was the butt of jokes. No more.

As we read in Part I of our exit interview yesterday, the city is growing by leaps and bounds. New town centres, new towers, new parks, and of course, new bike lanes.

More tellingly, the next mayor will have at least as much influence over the implementation of the Metro Vancouver Regional Growth Strategy as any other mayor. ‘Cause Surrey is where it’s all going to happen —people, homes, transit and jobs. The big question though — in what order?

In our conclusion, Hepner addresses the role of the Province in accommodating that growth, why she feels women sometimes avoid politics, and what candidates should stay away from. (If you’ve been reading this Mayoral Exit Interview series, you may not need three guesses for that one). Plus, her immediate priorities upon leaving office.

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This year, despite the oxygen taken up by Vancouver’s municipal election, Surrey’s race is just as interesting — highly partisan, complex and crowded.

Six candidates for every available seat on Council, and eight mostly credible candidates for mayor.

And zero chance of Surrey First repeating its clean sweep of 2014, when Mayor Linda Hepner stepped in. It’s a tough act to follow. None of the candidates bring anything resembling Hepner’s experience and steady rise to power over the past 33 years — two decades as city staff, three terms as councillor, and now the mayoralty.

All this, right at the end mid-point beginning (?!?) of Surrey’s growth explosion; currently close to 550,000 people, the city tends to add the equivalent population of a Mission or Port Coquitlam every five years.

Thankfully, work on Phase 2 of the Mayors Plan for transit and transportation will bring a commuter rail system to Surrey’s bursting town centres; Hepner’s been fighting for light rail since her election in 2014, as the BC Liberal referendum plot brewed away in Victoria.

Despite the senseless delay, the plan is going ahead and the rail lines will be built — as will the new Pattullo Bridge. Just not on her watch.

Infrastructure is a funny thing that way. So are legacies — and Hepner has something to say about that.

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If you’ve ever travelled to India, Sri Lanka, Java or Myanmar, you may have stayed in a place that had peacocks. They look pretty magnificent, but you will find out why many people who keep these birds either get up early in the morning or wear earplugs at night.
Hear for yourself what a peacock sounds like in this YouTube video.
Imagine the noise (and the attendant excrement) of dozens of these birds living in a neighbourhood in Surrey B.C. 

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[Jenelle Schneider / PNG]
Golf and country-residential go together like bears and garbage cans. The Morgan Creek development of recent decades has pushed big house cul-de-sacs into rural land along 32nd Avenue east of Highway 99 – its accessibility to malls and commuting was made easier by the 32nd Avenue interchange that went in about 15 years ago.
Now there’s this, where the Hazelmere Golf Course on 8th Avenue east of 176th (the Pacific Highway which leads down to the truck crossing) has been the only non-rural incursion for many years. This article by Larry Pynn in the Vancouver Sun describes the latest attempt to push an “urban” use past the Metro containment boundary. (Thanks to David Riley for the tip.)

A planned residential development in rural Hazelmere in south Surrey was described Friday as both a dangerous land-use precedent and a boost to young farmers and the local environment.
The Metro Vancouver regional board ultimately decided that residents should have a say at a public hearing before a final decision is made on the project.
Regional staff had recommended against the City of Surrey’s request to amend the Metro 2040: Shaping our Future land-use designation map in order to accommodate the development proposal.
The amendment would create a “23.7-hectare non-contiguous extension” of the Metro 2040 Urban Containment Boundary, and redesignate lands from Metro 2040 Rural to General Urban.
The plan for a 145-lot single-family residential subdivision, housing about 450 residents, would require extending regional sewer lines to the site, which is part of the Hazelmere golf course development.
“The proposed amendment challenges the most fundamental elements of Metro 2040 – containing urban sprawl, focusing urban growth to support complete communities, and efficient transportation and infrastructure investments,” the staff report read.
“In addition, approval would set a clear precedent regarding the permeability of the urban containment boundary, and likely trigger additional land development speculation in the rural areas of southeastern Surrey and other similar areas of the region.”


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The Future Lives Here! – A Panel on the Future of Surrey as envisioned by UBC Master of Urban Design Program

  • Linda Hepner     Mayor, City of Surrey
  • Andy Yan           Director Cities Program, Simon Fraser University
  • Mike Harcourt     Former Premier of BC, Former Mayor of City of Vancouver.

Presentation of student proposals by Patrick Condon and Scot Hien, Professors, UBC Master of Urban Design Program.
What happens when the region’s largest “suburb” is the “centre city”? How does  the role of this huge and poly-centric city change? What does a city look like that grows not primarily from internal births but rather from wave after wave of immigration? How does an archetypal suburban city, one organized around the needs of baby-boomer era families, adapt itself to the wildly cosmopolitan demographics of today, of tomorrow, of four decades from now? And how does a city organized around the car become a sustainability leader,  where living, moving and working are all contributing to making a better world?
All of these questions and more were taken up, and in depth, by the students of urban design in the new UBC Master of Urban Design Program. For three years, and in partnership with the City of Surrey, UBC students explored what this city would look like when, by 2060, the city will house over one million souls; when English will no longer be the first language of most of its citizens; when most of the jobs in the region are to be found there; where housing is hopefully still more affordable and where large families are still the norm.
We are clearly looking at a different city, a different region, and even a different world.
Wednesday February 7
6.30 pm
Westminster Savings Theater, Simon Fraser University Surrey Campus, 13450 102nd Avenue,  Surrey BC. 

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Regret missing this lecture co-presented by SFU’s Vancity Office of Community Engagement, SFU Urban Studies, and SFU City Program.  Fortunately there’s a video.

Historically, Surrey has been talked about derisively and condescendingly as a suburb on the margins with questionable urban planning decisions. Visionary SFU honorary doctorate recipient Bob Williams weighs in on why the growth and maturity of Surrey represents a game-changing disruption to how we view the Metro Vancouver region in the future. He will argue that the centre of gravity in the region is already shifting to the south of the Fraser.

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Historically, Surrey has been talked about derisively and condescendingly as a suburb on the margins with questionable urban planning decisions.
Visionary SFU honorary doctorate recipient Bob Williams weighs in on why the growth and maturity of Surrey represents a game-changing disruption to how we view the Metro Vancouver region in the future. He will argue that the centre of gravity in the region is already shifting to the south of the Fraser.
Bob Williams is an urban planner and former provincial MLA and cabinet minister.
Wed, Oct 4
7 pm
Djavad Mowafaghian World Art Centre, Goldcorp Centre for the Arts, 149 West Hastings Street

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Back to the south side  of the Fraser River where positional information on the Massey Tunnel and Bridge appears daily.  The latest is reported in the Delta Optimist  where the Mayor of Delta has added another reason for the support of an overbuilt bridge on the sensitive Fraser River delta-it could have light rapid transit. But, just like the Mayors’ Council’s lack of support for this behemoth of a bridge, the rest of Metro Vancouver nixed that.
Here’s what the Delta Mayor said:  “I’ve been trying to press this with the mayors for a long time in that it makes sense to take the Canada Line and run it south, over a bridge, and it’s meant to do that, accommodates that. The idea being maybe go out to the ferry terminal, with stops in Ladner and Tsawwassen. Most importantly, it would go through all the southern area, as opposed to the northern area where the Expo Line goes through Surrey”.
We have to look ahead 75 years. It’s a great way to connect communities. I was pretty much poo pooed because they said they want everything on the table. They want, for instance, the Evergreen Line extended. They don’t want even a planning concept forward for a line that will pick up hundreds of thousands of people through that great burgeoning area of Surrey that travel by car everywhere because there’s no option”.
So why after the support of the massive ten lane bridge is the Mayor of Delta so bullish on rapid transit? Because if a bridge connecting Delta and Richmond is built, “LRT could run down the middle of the freeway”.
Meanwhile City of Richmond Councillor Harold Steves stated: “The 10 lane bridge is not designed for LRT. Under FOI (freedom of information) Richmond received 1400 pages of bridge plans and a special report on LRT on May 8th. The LRT report states that because of the scattered population LRT would not have enough ridership to warrant putting LRT on the bridge. That would certainly be even more true with a 10 lane bridge.”
Richmond Councillor Steves is getting a little miffed at the Corporation of Delta’s continued one side clamouring for a bridge. Even the  CTV is reporting on the “fake news” Delta is propagating with their $35,000 budget going towards advertising their point of view on newspapers and online. They have even bought the domain “” to garner support for their project. Full page newspaper ads tell readers that “the existing tunnel cannot be sufficiently seismically upgraded,” and would not be “physically capable of withstanding a moderate to severe earthquake.”
“This ad is a really great example of fake news. They’ve taken facts that aren’t in context and put them together to tell us something that isn’t real, Councillor Harold Steves said.”



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