Surrey lags far behind other big Lower Mainland cities in ratio of SkyTrain stations to population

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      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.


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      Eric Doherty

      Mar 10, 2013 at 11:43am

      OK. Prediction Time, assuming NDP win. Mainly bus rapid transit in Surrey 1st (hopefully electric trolley buses), perhaps with a short section of light rail to keep the tower developers and their mayor happy.

      In Vancouver either light rail all the way to UBC, or bus rapid transit to ubc and skytrain to Cambie with promise of future expansion further west.

      Construction starts in both Surrey and Vancouver in 1st NDP term.

      History Lesson

      Mar 10, 2013 at 11:50am

      One of the main reasons why Burnaby and New West have so many SkyTrain stations is that they are on the way to Surrey. Surrey was a huge beneficiary of the first rapid transit project in the region. The other cities have done a much better job of encouraging development around SkyTrain.

      Surrey has also supported billions in road construction that has taken money away from transit and competes with transit for riders.

      Surrey has no one to blame for the lack of transit but itself.


      Mar 10, 2013 at 12:36pm

      As I've said before, what we're missing is a sensible plan - a plan that tells us who should go next, why and what the specific costs will be (and why).

      Sensible arguments can be made for ANY rapid transit expansion in the lower mainland. But I'm not seeing a single, unified body tell me what should happen in the region and in what order. What I'm seeing is Robertson and Watts (e.g.) trying to win a contest. That's a win-lose situation, not a plan.

      Improving transit along the Broadway corridor is a great idea. Improving the ability of people (workers, students) to get from south of the Fraser TO the Broadway corridor is also a great idea.

      Time for some moron to come up with a plan that tells us how we will achieve both goals over a sensible period of time.

      Richard Campbell

      Mar 10, 2013 at 1:47pm

      Both Mayor Robertson and Mayor Watts are saying that both Surrey RT and the Broadway Line need completing as soon as possible. Neither is saying that theirs should go first. It is really tiresome and irresponsible for the media to try and gin up controversy by claiming otherwise. Stick to reporting the facts and cut the creation of drama where there is none.


      There are thirty years of plans recommending rapid transit on Broadway and in Surrey. Enough. Lets get them both built ASAP. It is time that both Dix and Clark stepped up and supported both. They are in the Provincial Transit Plan.


      Mar 10, 2013 at 2:37pm

      “Surrey lags far behind other big Lower Mainland cities”? I expect the residents of Abbotsford and Chilliwack might have something to say about that. And no, that's not a completely facetious comment: Surrey lies at the end of the line. If transit extended through Surrey, you could write the same article about Langley or Abbotsford.


      Mar 10, 2013 at 2:49pm

      I don't see any SkyTrain or transit expansions in the Lower Mainland's future until Translink gets audited and hires better accountants.

      Between fare increases and added taxes in order to keep what currently exists running its slightly higher than substandard level, money and funding always seems to be the organization's biggest issue, and they're pinching everyone using and not using its systems while not pinching themselves!


      Mar 10, 2013 at 3:02pm

      @ Richard Campbell:

      "Both Mayor Robertson and Mayor Watts are saying that both Surrey RT and the Broadway Line need completing as soon as possible." -- Yes, of course they're both saying that, because it's obvious to an idiot. Unfortunately, the idiots in charge aren't listening.

      "There are thirty years of plans recommending rapid transit on Broadway and in Surrey. Enough. Lets get them both built ASAP." -- Yes, but where are the plans today, and who is promoting them? The plans are invisible, and nobody is promoting them, period.

      Please show me the plan that says we will do Canada Line, Evergreen, Broadway and Surrey - in that order, with costs and financing plans included - and I'll give you a gold medal.

      Transit planning is complete, useless nonsense and all of those involved should be fired. A Grade 6 class could do better.


      Mar 10, 2013 at 3:32pm

      Umm, cool story about the ratio of population vs. Skytrain stations bro.

      Does the term, non sequitor mean anything to you? Surrey's population and jobs are scattered liberally about the largest municipality (geographically) in the lower mainland, and they continue to allow remote business parks and sprawling single family developments.

      At the end of the day, if you want to live somewhere close to rapid transit, live in an urban environment. People need to quit moving to sprawling suburbs and demanding the services of a big city.


      Mar 10, 2013 at 3:51pm

      There are a few things I would like to point out.

      1. Just how large Surrey is. You could put Vancouver, Burnaby and New Westminster in Surrey and still have space for a large part of Richmond.

      2. The Liberal Government builds roads because that is the transit system that best supports their business and corporate donor base.

      3. If the Liberal Government forced LED street lighting on municipalities rather than smart meters on citizens it would have actually resulted in substantial power conservation (peak time power too). And significant cost reductions for municipalities which could have created the money needed for improving public transit.


      Mar 10, 2013 at 4:11pm

      Of course it has fewer stations, you cant serve a suburb with skytrain, even the density around the millennium line made no sense until 2005 at the earliest.

      For all the complaining Surrey does about a lack of transit, I dont see them suing it now, got Surrey on the Sktrain and all you see is crackheads, students and the dirt poor, hardly Watts constituency. They cannot seriosuly believe it is possible to deliver the services downtown has in an area that size but it seems they do.

      They just had a massive mount of money spent on a new bridge isnt that enough.