Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Surrey Rapid Transit Study - Phase Two

In 2008, TransLink completed the South of the Fraser Area Transit Plan which looked at how to improve the local bus network. The plan recommended switching to a more urban grid bus network, developing a frequent transit network along the grid, and increasing service hours. To date TransLink has increased bus service by 33%. This plan did not go into any detail about rapid transit options for the South of Fraser, so TransLink launched the Surrey Rapid Transit Study in the spring of 2010. Phase one of the study looked at the broad list of rapid transit options and objectives which you can read more about from a previous post.

TransLink has just launched phase two of the study which will take a closer look at the rapid transit options from phase one to selects a shortlist of options or alternatives for phase three of the study. They expect phase two to be complete in the winter. Tomorrow TransLink will have all the options on their website including bus rapid transit, light rail, and SkyTrain which range in price from $650 million to $2.1 billion.

More important than the technology choices is the choice of corridors. TransLink has picked King George Boulevard, 104th Avenue, and Fraser Highway. They picked those corridors because they link the largest growth areas in the South of Fraser which are Surrey City Centre, Guildford, Newton, and the Langley Regional Centre. Missing is the Interurban corridor.

Rapid Transit Corridors in Green
I had the chance to talk to Jeffrey Busby and Dan Freeman who are both project planners at TransLink. I asked them why TransLink has never really been interested in the Interurban corridor. I was told that the Interurban corridor was always “sold” as an easy and fast solution to build, but TransLink does not see it that way. As they want to build a rapid transit network that will run up to every 5 minutes, the corridor would have to be triple-tracked or quadruple-tracked because the federal government will not allow freight trains and light rail trains to share the same track. Because the track is only single-tracked today, the amount of property that would need to be acquired would be cost prohibitive. They pointed out that the City of Surrey already has the right-of-way on King George Boulevard, 104th Ave, and Fraser Highway to build rapid transit along those corridors. They also pointed out that the only major growth areas that the Interurban corridor touches is Langley Centre and it misses the most important growth area which is Surrey City Centre. Busby and Freeman thought that the Interurban corridor would be more suited for a less frequent service like a tourist tram.

One of the interesting things that Busby and Freeman talked about was the delusion effect that could happen in Surrey City Centre due to building rapid transit. Basically, there is a tonne of room in Surrey Centre right now for density and that Surrey needs to be careful to balance the growth objectives of their new downtown with density they’d like to build along transit corridors. You wouldn't want all the new density to leave their new downtown.

As you know, TransLink currently has no money to build any transit improves. Right now they are in talks with the province to fund the Evergreen Line and I was told that in 2012 they will be sorting out how to fund the Surrey Rapid Transit Project and other projects like the UBC line.

TransLink is currently seeking feedback and I suggest that you participate in the Webinar on May 30, 2011 or at one of the in-person workshops.

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