Surrey lags far behind other big Lower Mainland cities in ratio of SkyTrain stations to population
In this region, New Westminster and Burnaby have been the big winners when it comes to provincial transit investments.
The Royal City had a population of just 65,796 in the 2011 census, ranking 18th in the province.
But it has five SkyTrain stations, which are a gold mine for promoting real-estate development and boosting city coffers with fees and new taxes.
Meanwhile, Burnaby mayor and former B.C. Transit chair Derek Corrigan oversees a city with 11 SkyTrain stations. Burnaby's population was 223,218 in the 2011 census.
It's no wonder that Burnaby has been able to accommodate an increase in its population without displacing too many residents. All it had to do was jam the development around existing SkyTrain stations.
Surrey has more than twice the population of Burnaby and more than seven times the population of New Westminster.
But there are just four SkyTrain stations in Surrey, which is one of Canada's fastest growing municipalities.
It's easy to see why Mayor Dianne Watts is clamouring for rapid transit. Metro Vancouver has put her city next in its queue after the Evergreen Line is built to Coquitlam.
But Vancouver and UBC have recently been advancing economic arguments that a Broadway subway should take precedence.
A recent KPMG report suggested that a $2.8-billion subway between the Broadway Station and UBC would yield tremendous commercial benefits.
The corridor carries more than 100,000 bus passengers per day, which makes it the busiest for this mode in North America. And more than 200,000 people live and work along the proposed route.
Today, Mayor Gregor Robertson and Coun. Geoff Meggs will make their case at a town hall meeting at St. James Community Hall (3214 West 10th Avenue) at 2 p.m.
Vancouver, with 603,502 residents in 2011, already has 20 rapid-transit stations. That means one station for every 30,174 residents.
If a new subway were to be built, that could add 11 stations, bringing Vancouver's total to 31.
Based on the 2011 census, there would be 19,468 residents per station—though we can reasonably expect Vancouver's population to increase by the time passengers are boarding any new train.
That's not as bountiful a ratio as in New Westminster, which had one SkyTrain for every 13,159 residents in 2011.
Burnaby had one SkyTrain station for just over 20,293 residents.
Richmond had one raoid-transit station for every 31,745 residents.
Meanwhile, Surrey had one SkyTrain station for every 117,063 residents.
Some might make the argument that Surrey doesn't deserve more rapid transit because its poor town planning in the past caused urban sprawl, undermining the success of any line.
Coquitlam, with 126,456 residents, has no SkyTrain service, though the Lougheed Town Centre station is just across the border in Burnaby. The Evergreen Line will help address this imbalance.
The provincial government has always been the key decider in where rapid transit gets built.
The NDP government of the 1990s built the Millennium Line through several NDP constituencies. There wasn't much population, but there was a tremendous political bang for the MLAs.
The provincial Liberal government promoted the Canada Line, which travelled mostly through B.C. Liberal constituencies out to Richmond.
It didn't matter to then-premier Gordon Campbell that Richmond is on a flood plain and it's highly susceptible to earthquakes. There were three MLAs on the governing side of the house.
Neither of these projects conformed to the wishes of the regional government's original plan, which called first for a T-line light-rail system connecting Vancouver, Coquitlam, and Surrey.
The next rapid-transit project after the Evergreen Line will probably be determined by the voters in the May 14 provincial election.
If the B.C. Liberals manage to elect three or four MLAs in Surrey and if Vancouver elects nine or 10 New Democrats, I'm betting on the subway to UBC.
That's notwithstanding the inevitable howls of outrage we'll hear from Surrey City Hall.