Surrey Mayoral Election: LRT or Skytrain?

*Update*

Doug McCallum has regained the mayor’s seat in Surrey ten years after he lost a big for re-election. With 45,484 votes McCallum ousted Surrey First candidate Tom Gill with a 41.43% share of the vote.

McCallums Safe Surrey Coalition party also won 7 of 8 council seats and all 6 school trustee positions.

McCallum plans to create a city-based policing service, as he believes Surrey has outgrown the RCMP’s effectiveness in the city.

It’s time to stir things up in the Surrey city council. Current mayor Linda Hepner has chosen not to run for re-election so many new candidates have stepped up from major parties and independents.

Surrey’s new mayor will have their hands full with the new LRT system being built and questions regarding the RCMP and potential moves to an independent police force.

BCIT News emailed all Surrey mayoral candidates and asked them to identify what they believe is the most important issue to students from the following list:

  • Marijuana legalization

  • Environmental issues

  • Transit

  • Housing

Some of their answers were edited for brevity.

“Progressive Sustainable Surrey support the reactivation of Interurban transit system rather than supporting the LRT or Skytrain. The state-of-the-art reactivation of the Interurban South of Fraser Community Passenger Rail using hydrogen powered fuel cell trams would cost $1.2 million, according to three engineering studies supporting the proposal, costing much less than LRT or Skytrain options.

The hydrogen fuel cell technology has been developed by Ballard Energy in Burnaby. A 99 Km state of the art community light rail passenger service from Scott Road station to Kennedy Heights, Strawberry Hill, Panorama Ridge, Sullivan Heights, Cloverdale, Clayton Heights, Langley, Abbottsford and onward to Chilliwack, powered by new hi-tech hydrogen trams that will contribute significantly to the local economy, create thousands of jobs, serve 1.2 million citizens, sixteen cities and communities, major industrial parks, Abbotsford International Airport, Agri Tourism, fourteen Post-Secondary Institution Campuses and much more!

Newton township was created by the BC Electric Railway going through that community in 1910. All of this on an existing protected rail line by the provincial government at no cost to tax payers. 99 kms at a total cost that is 48% of the total cost of the proposed 16 Km LRT line down Fraser Highway from Surrey Center to Langley City or 20.23% of the per capita cost! Langley City and the community of Clayton would receive the same service and the taxpayer would pay 7.9% of the per-KM cost of Surrey LRT, PLUS serve the entire Fraser Valley while we are at it!”

Imtiaz PopatProgressive Sustainable Surrey

Transit is a major issue in the Lower Mainland. For example, everyday, Alex Fraser, westbound, is plugged up in the mornings, and in the evenings. Everyone competes for the same road space. The Pattullo Bridge, a 4 lane 80 years old structure is to be replaced by another 4 lane bridge, though expendable to 6. Does it make any sense? Back in the late 1930’s, when the bridge open, it was used by 5000 cars a day. And now, there is 80,000 cars/trucks a day, and yet the replacement bridge is to be 4 lanes, This is a HUGE error in judgement from those who sat at the table to decide that option.

As for the LRT in Surrey, the cost is another incredible number. The assessed cost so far is 1.646 million dollars for 10.5 km of rail. That works out to be 157,000 per METER! Go to YouTube, and search, for example, Shonan monorail. It is a suspended rail system, 100% weather proof.

Note that I am the only candidate that promotes this version of public transportation. It is a brilliant system! The provincial government, Translink, and the Mayors’ 10 Year Vision for transportation is quite expensive, and must be reviewed objectively, then rejected for something much better, much more logical, and most of all, more cost effective.”

François NantelIndependent

“I’m becoming increasingly concerned over overly simplistic rhetoric by some of those engaged in this debate, and I’m equally concerned over what appears to be a fully committed position on LRT, despite the fact that none of the residents in Surrey were properly consulted on technology. It’s puzzling that any elected official would advocate for technology which is so clearly not in line with the wishes of the constituents. In fact, Translink’s own study in 2012 said that Skytrain and bus use was far superior to LRT and there has been no comparison study since.  The business cases provided for LRT are woefully inadequate.

There is no doubt Surrey needs infrastructure investment with respect to mass transit, but I question the process and the logic of moving forward with such an unpopular approach and technology. An Integrity Now council will push pause on the LRT approach in order to do a full and transparent analysis as to what is the best technology for the people of this city. We need to give LRT a sober second thought before it is too late and really look at how we can get Skytrain in to serve Surrey.  Skytrain works everywhere we put it.”

Bruce HaynIntegrity NOW

“Metro Vancouver has a housing crisis. It is a layered and multifaceted issue. It affects many residents in the lower mainland and the predicament we find ourselves in is problematic for all of us including students and young people.

Land is limited by an ocean on the west, mountains to the east and the American border on our south. Because we have a rapidly growing population and a shortage of space, developers can ask high prices for a product that barely meets most people’s needs.

Infrastructure has not kept up and as the Proudly Surrey Mayoral candidate, I feel that development must slow in Surrey so that more roads, schools, parks and hospitals can be built. That being said, part of the cost of that infrastructure is passed onto builders who do not absorb the costs but pass it on to the consumers who pay increasingly high costs for housing.

Compounding the issue is the fact that rental stock is low. Many homes, be they condos, townhouses or single family homes, have been purchased offshore and sit empty; they should be put into the rental pool. If elected, I will implement an empty house tax to help alleviate the pressure. Additionally, developers must be pressured to provide a certain number of social, rental and lower cost housing within their developments spread all over the city; permits will be issued based on such an agreement.

Beyond the high prices, lack of product and poor accompanying infrastructure, there is also the many issues surrounding the homeless. Developers are unlikely to provide precious land or development toward solving that problem so it must fall to provincial and municipal governments. Basic accommodation must be provided in developments built on municipal land with a commitment from the province to provide ongoing mental health and drug treatment support”.

Pauline GreavesProudly Surrey
“The reasons we oppose LRT:
LRT vision is of small neighbourhoods having a leisurely transportation connection between them. SkyTrain extension is, on the other hand, a big city vision of Surrey. It offers a fast, road signal free connection to different areas of Surrey as well as to rest of the Lower Mainland. It is a transportation tool which moves people.  LRT, if built, is going to be here for next 60-100 years. This is something we will pass on to our kids and grandchildren.
PEOPLE FIRST SURREY PROPOSAL:
• The immediate need in Surrey is more buses. We need to increase the frequency of buses to create more practical alternatives to the use of cars.
• SkyTrain in both planned routes (SNG & Fraser Hwy). It may be implemented in multiple phases and slightly different routes than planned for LRT.
• Later, a rapid transit to South Surrey.In the future, rapid transit in South Surrey to be connected to the Vancouver–Seattle high speed rail. Ensure current system to be designed for this.
Jobs which are advertised as coming with LRT are small-time jobs like baristas, etc., created by local shops around the LRT corridors. These types of jobs will be obsolete in the coming decades anyway with advent of new technologies. What we need are high paying technology jobs of the future. We need fast connectivity to other tech centers to let the people commute and work there, as well as to persuade those companies to come to Surrey.”
Rajesh JayaprakashPeople First Surrey

The following candidates were also contacted, but did not respond by our deadline.

Tom GillSurrey First
Doug McCallumSafe Surrey Coalition
John WolanskiIndependent