Surrey’s Hobson’s Choice – A Choice Of Taking What is Available (LRT) or Nothing At All.

First posted April 18, 2018


Surrey has a big transit and transportation problem, and now with the announcement by mayor elect, Dough McCallum, now leaves the LRT project in doubt.

The cacophony of the SkyTrain Lobby with their half truths, cherry picked data, and intimidating innuendo are demanding a change from light rail to the proprietary Innovia SkyTrain.

With their campaign of deceit and deception now ended, one fact remains for Surrey, either build LRT now or wait twenty or more years for a SkyTrain Line; which will be assuredly out of production and will end up building with LRT in the long term!

Surrey faces a classic Hobson’s Choice: Either build LRT now, or get nothing.


The problem with SkyTrain, is SkyTrain itself. Extending the Expo Line means a $3 billion refit of the Innovia system must take place. This refit or rebuilding is to increase capacity; increase the electrical supply; a host of track and switch replacements: and expand the station platforms on all stations on the entire Innovia network.

This means a $2.5 billion (current budget for LRT – 3 lines) SkyTrain expansion in Surrey could cost $5.5 billion or more for one line and there is no money budgeted for that!

There is no money for an elevated Light Metro SkyTrain line to Langley or any money for one down the King George. The existing federal funds are not transferable and are program specific because all federal government transit money is done using a Private-Public Partnership or 3P structure. Money for basic design, planning and engineering has already been spent by contractors to the LRT project. Even though the main build, design, finance, operate and maintain consortium holder hasn’t been chosen yet! Both Translink and the Feds have to pay the contractors because as per the 3P agreement, they the early contractors, went out and got private money from Banks to complete their early design planning and engineering work in good faith and now await payment. This early work is already in the 10′s of millions of dollars. As soon as Translink and Surrey accepted federal money, they were committed legally to LRT!

Remember ALL FEDERAL TRANSIT MONEY IS PROJECT SPECIFIC, it’s been that way since 2009 and the alternative finance model or 3P structure is the only way you can get their money for transit! The era of just getting a certain dollar amount of federal money for transit and you can do whatever you want with it, is dead and gone forever! If you take the federal money, the project is set in stone! If you change your mind and plan to change the scope of the project you have to give the money back and wait for new funding for your new project! McCallum will find that unfortunately, at the end of a very long line.

The region can only afford one rapid transit project every decade ans even with a windfall of federal money, a change from LRT to SkyTrain may prove to be too expensive and the project deferred. This will be a bonus for the now $3.5 billion  Broadway subway as politicians may divert Surrey’s LRT money to complete the politically prestigious subway project – even to UBC.

This will leave Surrey with no money for SkyTrain unless road pricing and congestion charging is in place and that will not happen any time soon.

Surrey Mayor Doug Mc Callum and Council should take heed. You will have a Hobson’s choice with light rail;

“Either build with LRT or build with nothing at all.”


7 Responses to “Surrey’s Hobson’s Choice – A Choice Of Taking What is Available (LRT) or Nothing At All.”
  1. Causa Causans says:

    One stands back aghast what is happening in Surrey. The mayor seems utterly devoid of any knowledge of transit at all.

    The politics of Metro Vancouver leaves on with a strange taste, Vancouver now seems not wanting the subway and Surrey now wanting a museum piece transit.

    I hope the good Burghers in Wuppertal don’t see this as they may want to extend the sSchwebebahn!

    I must defer to haveacow for local knowledge but from our side of the Atlantic, we see nothing but ultimate failure.

    Sure one can build SkyTrain, until the funding runs out but who is this metro going to carry? Chickens to market?

    That your local politic allows this to happen just makes us shake out head.

    Our Bombardier friends on this side of the pond also shake their heads in disbelief and have told us a few choice stories of how business is done in your province.

    Is it rue that the new mayor wants a subway in surrey as well????

    Zwei replies: With this Mayor anything is possible.

  2. Joey says:

    @causa causans

    The new mayor with a criminal record in Vancouver wants skytrain and more than previous mayor. He wants to build it all the way to UBC.

    Funding can be changed. It is called negotiation. The problem is that governments never listened to what the people of Surrey and Langley wanted. Failure to listen results in the government being kicked out which happed to Mayor Linda from Surrey. This is a democracy. Governments need to smarten up and listen to the people. Doug McCallum got elected because he listened to the people. People want Skytrain not a lame LRT.

    Zwei replies: You don’t get it do you. It is called breaking a contract s the negotiations are long over. Break the contract, the surrey taxpayer will liable for $50 million plus; break the contract, no funding for transit in Surrey.

    The SkyTrain Lobby spewed lies and deceit and believe a criminal investigation should take place.

  3. zweisystem says:

    Joey is a professional troll, employed to discriminate lies. This how our transit is being planned. Who is paying you Joey? is on a UK spam and troll list.

  4. Rob Sutherland says:

    Joey. I don’t see you addressing the points that this blog continues to raise about skytrain vs LRT. Its in fact Skytrain that is “lame” and you know what happens to disabled creatures in the wild…

    its only because “natural selection” in transit acquisition has been exchanged for a rigged corporatocracy, rampant grift and political class that cares not a wit about the public good that your argument, you believe anyway, has any currency.

  5. Haveacow says:

    I was talking to a colleague of mine yesterday about newly elected local politicians who suggest that all you have to do talk and renegotiate for more money after a whole series of governments and funding agencies have already funded a particular project. It seems Surrey’s new mayor had already decided either before or during his mayorial campaign that stage 2 of this project should be another rapid transit operating technology. It’s definitely too late for stage 1 because Translink is already started soliciting bids for qualified companies to apply and show off whom has the best cv’s. What is known as the RFP process or Request for Qualifications.

    As my colleague reminded me, they could just pay off the initial engineering and design contracts attached to the stage 2 part of the contract, to avoid being sued. Then confident in their ability to get more money, hold on to the existing cash and beg the province and Feds for more. Confident also in that the Feds and province won’t immediately scream for their money back.and threaten to break your collective legs! This extra money who pays? It sure isn’t coming from the locals or should it? To all those who want Skytrain instead of LRT for stage 2 to Langley, how much more are you willing to pay? The reason Skytrain wasn’t chosen was primarily cost and the much greater project complexity compared to LRT. So the extra billion or with inflation, $50-$100 million plus the $1 Billion, where is it coming from?

    Do you expect the feds and the province to kick in an extra $525-$550 million each? Do you think they will at the least, demand that Translink pay a 1/3 share? So where is Translink going to come up with an extra $350-$366 million? You guys have funding guaranteed for stage 1 but not stage 2. So where is that extra money locally coming from? First thing I can guarantee you, every other lower mainland municipality represented by the Mayor’s Committee will inform your new mayor, “either you stay with the existing plan or Surrey by itself pays the extra cost!” Remember, to fund the existing projects there is a complex local funding formula to raise local money for Translink, your former mayor and current city staff agreed to. All the other Mayor’s will most likely force Surrey to pay the rest of the local funding! So how is Surrey at a minimum, going to raise an extra $350 million by itself? You guys want Skytrain to Langley, pony up the cash folks! That is assuming the feds and the province are willing to each pay another 1/3 share on top of the funding they already kicked in.

    Scarborough residents had to pay a 40 year, extra add on subway tax, because the rest of Toronto didn’t want to kick in their money for a subway extension, when the residents of central Scarborough got a LRT line paid for by the province. No, Scarborough residents had to have their subway and wanted to extend the Bloor-Danforth subway line from Kennedy Station to Scarborough Centre Station. They are still arguing that LRT woul have been better, cheaper and it would be under construction by now, instead of the one stop subway line they now have. A line that won’t start construction until 2021 at the earliest.

    So Mayor Mc Callum, where is your cash going to come from?

  6. zweisystem says:

    According to McCallum he will save money by using the Expo Line designs and operate it at grade.

    TransLinl’s estimate for just a line to Langley City is $2.9 billion, but hey, the Evergreen Line cost $1.4 billion, and again according to McCallum, so can a SkyTrain Line to Langley!

    If anyone is interested, go to CKNW’s audio file and look at Oct. 22 12:33 pm, it is good for 10 days.

  7. Haveacow says:

    The last link seems to have failed we will try it again.

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