Surrey’s main issue is simple: better transit

Surrey’s main issue is simple: better transit

Seven of every 10 people moving to the region in the next 30 years will settle south of the Fraser

BY KELLY SINOSKI, VANCOUVER SUN NOVEMBER 20, 2010

Light rail and streetcars will be the talk of Surrey over the next year, as Mayor Dianne Watts and her Surrey First slate-mates attempt to beef up transit south of the Fraser.

Transit is getting a big push from the city council, which has already made headway on most of its campaign goals after being elected in 2008, but has been hamstrung in its bid to get light rail because of TransLinkA?ai??i??ai???s financial woes.

But with Surrey finally considered a priority for transit by Metro Vancouver A?ai??i??ai??? and the focus of a rapid-transit study by TransLink A?ai??i??ai??? Watts hopes her city will soon see some improvements.

City council recently toured Portland, Ore., which has a mix of streetcars, light rail and buses, something Watts would like to see for Surrey.

A?ai??i??Ai??We have to make sure our voice is heard at the table around transportation,A?ai??i??A? Watts said. A?ai??i??Ai??We have to make sure we can manage the influx of people coming into the region.A?ai??i??A?

Another one million people are expected to move to Metro Vancouver in the next 30 years, with 70 per cent of those settling south of the Fraser. Yet despite its growing population, Surrey is still underserved when it comes to transit, councillors say.

During the 2008 election, all but one of the Surrey First team members listed transit as a priority, pointing out that while Surrey pays a hefty chunk of money to TransLink, it doesnA?ai??i??ai???t see any rewards.

Their preference is for light rail, which has an estimated cost of $27 million per kilometre versus $127 million per km for the Evergreen Line and $233 million per km for the UBC/Broadway Line.

Coun. Judy Villeneuve said following the visit to Portland, city councillors will be A?ai??i??Ai??building a case that putting light rail or streetcars in certain neighbourhoods in our city will be affordable in the long run.A?ai??i??A?

Watts said city staff is in the midst of developing an integrated transit plan, which would consider all the options. Council is also in discussions with the province and TransLink.

Her view is that light rail is better for economic development and not as unsightly as SkyTrain.

It is also a core plank of the cityA?ai??i??ai???s vision to create a safe, more connected metropolitan core where people can live, work and play. Other goals include preserving park space, getting the homeless off the street and boosting jobs and investment.

A?ai??i??Ai??ThereA?ai??i??ai???s certainly a long way to go,A?ai??i??A? Watts said, but added: A?ai??i??Ai??My concentration is on making a livable community and building the second metropolitan core of the region.A?ai??i??A?

Watts noted the city has already set up a homelessness and housing foundation, which has significantly reduced SurreyA?ai??i??ai???s homeless count by using permanent housing and not shelters. It has reduced crime and planted 200,000 trees around the city. A Build Surrey project has boosted investment, while Watts plans to lead a contingent of business people to India next year to market the city and try to drum up new business in B.C.A?ai??i??ai???s second-largest city.

A?ai??i??Ai??Ultimately, the thrust is taking the city from being planned as a suburb to becoming the next metropolitan core and an economic generator for the region,A?ai??i??A? Watts said.

A?ai??i??Ai??I donA?ai??i??ai???t particularly make election promises. It is important to lay out the vision and lay out how to get there.A?ai??i??A?

Villeneuve said Surrey is A?ai??i??Ai??right on trackA?ai??i??A? in reaching many of its goals, pointing out that instead of shelving reports like the crime reduction strategy, Surrey is acting on the recommendations. Its Build Surrey project, for instance, will result in new recreation and arts facilities across the city, while 512 homeless have been placed in permanent homes over the past two years.

Coun. Bob Bose, who doesnA?ai??i??ai???t belong to the Surrey First slate, said the Surrey First slate has been A?ai??i??Ai??very cohesiveA?ai??i??A? and canA?ai??i??ai???t be faulted for not achieving its plans for light rail.

A?ai??i??Ai??Transit is a big challenge,A?ai??i??A? he said. A?ai??i??Ai??The question is whether theyA?ai??i??ai???re making the best use of their resources.A?ai??i??A?Bose said while heA?ai??i??ai???s a big supporter of moving City Hall to Whalley, council could have spared the expense and put some of the $150 million cost into streetcars or other transit in neighbouring communities.

He also complained that city council was buying and developing land in Campbell Heights to pay for the new City hall facility.

ksinoski@vancouversun.com

Ai??Ai?? Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

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