The Truth About Transit South of the Fraser

More from the South Fraser Community Rail Society.

The Zwickau Vogtlandbahn TramTrain


South Fraser Community Rail Society

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TransLink’s wrong-headed Fraser Highway to Langley SkyTrain debacle

is starting to be seen for what it is…. WRONG!

                             Know the FACTS…. This cannot be allowed to continue!

TransLink and the Mayor’s Councils handling of this issue was a sham from the start despite the advent of COVID-19. This Newsletter should remind all decision makers and the public as to why we are in the position we are in, wasting an immeasurable amount of your tax dollars and time with nothing to show for it. All of this to satisfy the wishes of a NEW Mayor who won with 13% of the popular vote! If common sense prevailed, your well-planned LRT line would be well under construction as of today! Consider the following timeline of events that got us to where we are at today -

FACT     Through a comprehensive community involved plan over about ten years Surrey secured approval and funding (Federal, Provincial and Regional) for LRT – Guildford down 104th to Surrey Center down King George Blvd to Newton. Proposed in 2012 construction start – 2019.

FACT     The original 10.5 KM LRT line was supported as a mode for internal transit for Surrey, designed to build communities within Surrey with an approved senior and regional government funding envelope of $1.65 Billion. This LRT line was Phase 1 of the ten-year plan.

FACT      $50 million dollars of regional tax dollars were spent in engineering funding for this LRT project through TransLink!

FACT     The 2018 Municipal election campaign was won by the Safe Surrey Coalition, new Mayor Doug McCallum. Two major promises 1) Establish new Surrey Municipal Police Force promising same cost as the RCMP 2) Change the approved and funded LRT project to a Surrey Center to Langley City SkyTrain at same cost of $1.65 Billion and not a penny more.

FACT     First TransLink Meeting after election with majority of NEWLY elected Mayors, Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum and Mayor Kennedy Stewart of Vancouver supported each other in a pre-arranged weighted vote, blindsiding the Mayors around the table, most unaware of what was happening. Vote passed for Vancouver Subway to Arbutus and support for the suspension of the Surrey to Langley LRT, moving forward to develop a draft SkyTrain business plan.

FACT     IMPORTANT – The Mayors Council at the urging of TransLink Senior Staff and Mayor McCallum changed support from LRT to SkyTrain based on Mayor McCallum’s well publicized (during the election campaign and to the Mayors Council) assurance that they could do it for the same $1.65 Billion and not one penny more. The Reality, cost will be $3.5 – $4 Billion. Due to this fact the project should NEVER have been approved nor should it go ahead. The promise was not kept! Mayor McCallum’s mis-represented project can only proceed at OUR expense!

FACT     IMPORTANT – Mayors Council changed support from LRT to SkyTrain based on Mayor McCallum’s assurance Surrey would repay TransLink the $50 million spent on LRT preliminary engineering and then goes outside the meeting as says he is not going to pay. It has now been agreed that Surrey will provide $30 Million in property plus $9 million in cash?

FACT     The change from LRT to SkyTrain initially was justified in that the Surrey to Langley City SkyTrain was Phase 2 of TransLink’s 10-year plan, so in their pronouncements this was just a matter of switching phases. Unfortunately, there were four problems with that position.

FACT     First – There was a significant cost difference between the LRT (planned in the financials) and a SkyTrain project (not planned in the financials). The difference? LRT $157,142,857. / km vs SkyTrain $225,000,000. / km. TransLink knew this info from the outset, so why make change?   

FACT     Second – TransLink’s decision to go with SkyTrain for Phase 2 was decided through a non-public, flawed internal study that looked at one corridor option only. The valuable Interurban corridor was never considered despite its identified value and connection to a far greater population, inter-regional connectivity that was identified and protected by a Provincial Government for passenger use at no cost for its use at a fraction of the cost!

FACT     Third – TransLink’s plan for SkyTrain did not consider its negative impact on Green Timbers Urban Forest, plus cost of going through 7 kms with no population (Green Timbers Forest and the Serpentine Flats). Further, they did not consider the high construction cost to build through the Serpentine Flood Plain soil conditions.

FACT     Fourth – Surrey (Fleetwood & Clayton), Langley City and the Township of Langley have not appropriately planned for, nor have they adequately informed their residents on what density will be required to justify the high cost of SkyTrain down Fraser Highway to Langley City should it happen. To give residents an idea we offer the following visual taken off of Port Moody’s plan surrounding their Evergreen Line. COVID-19 has changed the game entirely, cost and density.


2,800 homes are being proposed next to Port Moody’s SkyTrain’s Inlet Centre Station. A massive redevelopment could completely transform an existing 13-acre, low-density neighborhood immediately adjacent to SkyTrain’s Inlet Centre Station. According to a city staff report, the developer’s intention for Coronation Park, the tentative name of the project, is to build six towers between 32 and 36 stories, each with a six-story podium and five six-story buildings. If you want to see the reality, check out what has happened to the Brentwood area development in Burnaby, do you want this for your community.

Summary: It is long past time that the TransLink Board of Directors Rethink and review their decisions and planning related to both SkyTrain, LRT and the Interurban South of the Fraser. The decisions to proceed with SkyTrain are wrong on ALL and every count, they are totally disingenuous. Yes, COVID-19 has seriously caused reconsideration, however, are our decision makers going to lead or are they going be led by TransLink staff or because of some internal biases by a few TransLink Board members (more on this at a later date).

It is time for some real leadership by the TransLink Board and the TransLink Mayors Council and an intervention by the Provincial Government if necessary. A review of the staff reports on the Fraser Highway SkyTrain project to the Mayors Council from Geoff Cross Vice-President and comments attributed to Kevin Desmond CEO put a good deal into question. (quotes from local published media) Despite our four points listed above CEO Kevin Desmond comments “Whether ridership levels will recover is a million dollar question” and yet Geoff Cross states “TransLink still believes the project makes business sense and hopes to put forward an investment plan in the fall.” REALLY, in who’s imagination? To CEO Desmond, this is not a million-dollar question, THIS IS A MULTI BILLION DOLLAR QUESTION! Obviously, there are conflicting statements being made by senior TransLink executives!

“There’s an active discussion right now around North America asking – Is this the death knell of public transit” said Councillor Craig Cameron of West Vancouver. “I don’t think it is, but…. Do we believe the new normal that we get to, is going to be significantly lower than Pre-COVID peak? Are we going to have to do transit differently? “… “it would take some time to evaluate the level of ridership that is realistic in the months ahead” said Desmond. In a number of comments TransLink staff are continuing to base their future on a boost in senior government funding which is not even close to be being realistic, especially in view of our NEW normal. Continuation of this debacle will cost all of us responsible transit improvements!

This debacle is the result of TransLink capitulating to the wishes of the Mayor of Surrey who was demanding his election promises be kept – Well they weren’t kept, they were irresponsible and yet our TransLink Mayors Council and Board supported him! Why?

  1. SkyTrain in place of LRT at the same cost – $1.65 Billion and not one penny more! FACT Cost $3.5 – $4 Billion. Promise not kept, should be denied.
  2. Surrey Municipal Police Force in place of RCMP at the same cost! Promise not kept, should be denied.

Rethink – It is not too late to go with the original LRT project and Surrey would not have to pay back the $50 million already spent by TransLink!

Throughout all of this discussion, our transit provider TransLink is still not facing the reality of the fact they are promoting an outdated, highly overpriced, unaffordable, and poorly performing technology at great cost to us taxpayers. We urge the Provincial Government to implement the “South of Fraser Transportation and Housing Study” already promised through this year’s Throne Speech and Budget Announcement before any decisions are made on South Fraser Regional Transit or Inter-Regional Transit.

South Fraser Community Rail Society


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