Light Rail for Surrey The WKW Line ai??i?? A Rerun from May 2011


It has been over one year since this post was printed and in that year nothing of substance has been done.

In the lower mainland, transit is designed to increase density, thus increasing property values and profits for friends of the government at the expense of the taxpayer.

The same is true forLRT/streetcar for Surrey. Having TransLink do light rail planning is a major mistake, as TransLink has no experience with modern light rail, nor cares to, preferring to plan for much more prestigious SkyTrain and/or light metro. TransLink’s LRT planning for Surrey and for Broadway (in Vancouver)Ai??is extremely weak and seems to be designed to fail from the onset. This would, of course, make the SkyTrain lobby very happy indeed, asAi??the SkyTrain lobbyAi??is growing more and moreAi??desperate because as SkyTrain design has stagnated for the past twenty years, yet modern LRT is evolving with new ideas and applications, such as TramTrain, that makes the grade separated SkyTrain (and Canada Line) mini-metros seemAi??very dated indeed.

What Surrey needs is a bold new vision for modern LRT and I believe the WKW Line or a close variant would provide the impetus to implement a strategic and affordable light rail network for the lower mainland. Failure to do so and continue with the hugely expensive SkyTrain light-metro, will beggar the region, driving out business and residents alike, leaving Metro Vancouver a ghetto for the wealthy and the poor.


LIGHT RAIL FOR SURREY ai??i?? The Whalley ai??i?? King George ai??i?? White Rock (WKW) Line

Posted by zweisystem on Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Surrey wants light rail, but where will the first LRT line go and what line would attract the most customers to the new light rail line?

If the goal of the new light rail line is to serve customer needs and offer the ability to provide an attractive alternative to the car, it must serve a multitude of destinations. Those presently planning for LRT doAi??not much expertise and tend to treat the mode as a poor manai??i??s SkyTrain. Building LRT as an extension of the SkyTrain light-metro system will fail to meet expectations as LRT will not be designed to its best advantage. It is not ai???rocket scienceai??i?? to design a transit line to be an attractive alternative to the car and the following plan may prove useful.

The Light Rail Line

The 23 kilometer Whalley ai??i?? King George ai??i?? Rail for the Valley ai??i?? White Rock line (WKW Line for short) may be just the trick in laying a foundation for an attractive light rail system in Surrey. The light rail would be a classic LRT, operating on a ai???reserved rights-of-way’ (RoW) in the median of the roads involved.

The route of the WKW Line would start at Gateway SkyTrain station at 108th Ave & 134th St. and continue a short distance east (500 m) to the King George Highway, From the KGV Hwy and 108th St, the KWK Line would travel South (7.5 km) to the Southern RR of BC (formerly the BC Hydro R.R.), running in the median of the KGV highway. This portion of the route would service the Central City shopping district; Surrey Memorial Hospital; Queen Elizabeth Secondary School; Bear Creek Park; and the Newton shopping district.

The WKW Line would then network south-east along the former BCE interurban and proposed Valley Rail Vancouver to Chilliwack TramTrain route to 152nd (4 km). Traveling mainly through industrial lands, which would provide the ideal location for the Light Rail storage and maintenance yards. The 4 km. of track involved would be double tracked and adequately signaled for safe freight/Interurban/tram operation.

There is the possibility of futureAi??joint operation with the RftV/Leewood interurban, enabling South Surrey and White Rock transit customer’s to continue on the Scott Station or even into downtown Vancouver, if the ai???full buildai??? RftV/Leewood Interurban project is built.

From 152nd Street, the KWK Line would go straight south to White Rock (11 km) crossing the Nicomakle /Serpentine River valley basin. Along here the line must be raised above flood plain and three new bridges across the Superport Railway Line, and the Serpentine and Nicomakle rivers must be built. It is this portion of line that will be the most expensive.

Rising out of the small river valley the KWK Line would continue south along 152nd Ave., terminating in downtown White Rock.

Map of South Surrey & the City of White Rock

In the summer, the light rail line would bring congestion relief to White Rock by providing a quality transit alternative for the many thousands of people who come in cars to the popular beaches. Also close to the KWK Line is the South Surrey Athletic fields, which many fields and arenas are constantly busy with hockey, baseball, soccer, rugby, and football games, twelve months of the year. The KWK Line would also provide an excellent transportation access for the burgeoning housing estates in South Surrey and White Rock.

The Cost

The the total cost of the KWK Line, including bridges and/or viaducts should cost no more than $690 million, based on an average of $30 million/km to build. The high cost of major engineering in the Nicomakle/Serpentine valley, would be mitigated by simple on-street construction on 152nd and the King George Highway and track sharing for 4 km on the Southern Railway of BC Line bisecting Surrey .

It is interesting to note that the total cost for the 98 km RftV/Leewood Chilliwack to Scott Road Interurban using Diesel LRT and the 23 km KWK Line would be under $1.2 billion or put another way we could build 121 km of modern LRT lines in the Fraser Valley for $200 million cheaper than the 11 km Evergreen Line!

Unlike present light rail planning, where development is encouraged to take place along a LRT/SkyTrain route, the KWK Line can pass through sensitive agriculture and ecological areas, without the need to densify along its entire route. By building the KWK Line a potential capacity of 20,000 persons per hour per direction is available to handle future passenger loads, yet still can be built much cheaper than its Skytrain/light-metro competitors. The cost for a SkyTrain along the KWK Line? About $2.3 billion at a conservative cost of $100 million per km to build!

A modern LRT Line in Madrid, Spain ai??i?? A template for the WKW Line?

The WKW Line will provide a high capacity light rail line with a potential of carrying over 20,000 persons per hour per direction, without increasing road space. Using low-floor trams, with convenient stops, ensures an obstacle free journey for all transit customers, including the mobility impaired, without the need of expensive stations and equally expensive to maintain elevators and escalators.

The KWK Line can provide traffic calming where needed, yet still supply ample capacity for future transit needs. By providing a regular and efficient transit service from White Rock to Surrey Central and servicing many destinations along its route, would attract ample ridership, including the all important motorist from the car, to the new light rail line. The KWK Line would also easily integrate with the RftV TramTrain interurban service from Vancouver to Chilliwack and could provide in the not too distant future a direct White Rock to Vancouver TramTrain service, faster than the present bus and Canada line service.

The WKW Line would bring 21st century transit solutions to Surrey, transit solutions that are too long overdo.


7 Responses to “Light Rail for Surrey The WKW Line ai??i?? A Rerun from May 2011”
  1. peter springer says:

    This article could use some proofreading, There seem to be many errors that make it hard to understand. Otherwise I like the route and concept of the WKW line.

  2. Haveacow says:

    I will be honest and say I have not read your entire report about your Tram Train Line. So if you have answered this already please be paient. Who would be the operator of the line? I can guarantee that if it is not a recognised transport agency you will need a new agency that has a provincial or federal act recognizing that this an official agency before Transport Canada will let you have an operating certificate. Even tourists lines require at the least a provincial act to operate. In Ontario for example, The York Durham Heritage Railway needs the York-Durham Heritage Railway Act to operate legally. Have you contacted local MLA’s for help? Even federal help could be important here. If Translink is as foolish as you have portrayed on your blog then you may need local or regional help to build up real political support for a new agency. It doesn’t appear to me that Translink is very interested in your idea so you may have to go around them.

    Zweisystem replies: Personally, I believe the Southern R.R. of BC would be the best operator of the RftV/Leewood TramTrain. As for transit in South of the Fraser, I believe a new transit authority should be established as TransLink has all but lost any credibility with their transit planning.

  3. eric chris says:

    Haveacow, it seems to me that Surrey engineers could operate transit very easily – like the City of Edmonton engineers operate transit in Edmonton. It is very uncommon for the province to operate transit as is the case in BC. Municipalities know what is best for their community transit and what is best for Burnaby or Vancouver might not be the best for Surrey or Delta.

    TransLink is too far removed from municipal politics. This often results in poor planning and conflict with residents on transit routes. TransLink is not required to do an environmental and social impact assessment. None of the SkyTrain lines would be allowed to proceed if TransLink had to do the environmental and social impact assessment because the many diesel buses operating in parallel along SkyTrain lines and required to fill the SkyTrain cars degrade the air quality severely and cause adverse noise impacts.

    If anything, the transit system in BC with clueless provincial politicians making transit decisions for municipalities is perverse. Surrey and Metro Vancouver would be wise to break free from the shady accountants and economists cooking the books at TransLink to make SkyTrain appear more economical than LRT. SkyTrain by TransLink is in fact the most uneconomical transit in Canada (Shirocca Consulting, March 2012).

    Engineers who have a code of ethics to follow aren’t easily influenced by shady politicians or developers. Engineers are motivated to do what is best for transit users. Edmonton transit is run by a small number of capable engineers and the overhead for the engineers handling transit in Edmonton is next to nothing. TransLink has an overhead of about $100 million to employ a whole lot of accountants and economists doing a whole lot of nothing.

    In the comparison of elevated transit and LRT by the City of Ottawa, LRT scored much higher than SkyTrain even though the executive summary wrongly states that SkyTrain is best in terms of operating and maintenance costs. SkyTrain is the worst in terms of operating and maintenance costs if you “rightly” include all the added diesel buses and drivers required to shuttle passengers to and from the distantly space SkyTrain stations located 2 kilometres or more apart.

    TransLink supplies the operating and maintenance data for transit comparisons and purposely does not include the total cost of operating a SkyTrain line. Engineers aren’t fooled by the monkeys at TransLink and know that TransLink is full of crap because engineers can do the math and trivial present value calculations to show that LRT is the best transit for the money at the present. No transit company operated by engineers has built a SkyTrain line in Canada. Not one.

    If you subjectively assign a zero (0) for a poor score, 1 for a fair score, 2 for good score and 3 for a best score, out of the eight criteria used to score SkyTrain (light metro) and LRT, LRT scores 19 and SkyTrain with the understated operating and maintenance costs by TransLink scores 14 (with the real operating and maintenance costs including added buses and drivers along the SkyTrain lines, the “real” score is 11 for SkyTrain):

    In other words, LRT is 73% better than SkyTrain: (19 -11) / 11 = 73%. Furthermore, the overall commute on LRT is much faster than SkyTrain for the vast majority of transit users when you consider the transfer from the diesel bus to the SkyTrain. Notwithstanding this, people moved per hour per direction (pphpd) for LRT is better than for SkyTrain as the table on page 16 shows (19,440 pphpd for Calgary LRT and 15,000 pphpd for Vancouver SkyTrain):

    It costs TransLink more money to move fewer people than every other transit organization in Canada. I’m going out on the limb; another inane light metro line will not happen in Coquitlam. Adrian Dix will shelve the silly elevated transit line proposed for Coquitlam, after the next provincial election, and a tram line will replace it, saving $1 billion and moving more people than SkyTrain.


  4. Haveacow says:

    As a transportation planner I work with engineers, planners and many other technical specialists, I do not think anyone type of expert has a lock on what’s best for the transit user. It is team effort and I have never seen any transit agency completely run by engineers or planners anywhere. The point to remember we just advise, it is senior managers and politicians who usually represent another type of skill set that make the final decision on general policy directions. The main issue as I have observed it, is similar to the problem OC Transpo had in Ottawa. They (senior managers at Translink) have become institutionaly fixated on one type of technology, ie the Sky Train system built by Bombardier and other types of light metro systems. So much time and effort has gone into it the thought of managing the technology and creating management structures to support it that moving away from it requires massive institutional change. O C Transpo’s constant need to support the Transitway BRT system stopped any internal self editting of their own structures. Finally, through 2 or 3 massive managerial purges have forced the change the corporate direction needed. It really did not have to be this way. This change also finally has gone a long way to improve very problamatic labour relations. Often poor labour relations is a symptom of other managerial issues, like a canary in the coal mine. No one technology has a fix in every situation, although I agree Light Rail is the most adaptive rail technology available it is not perfect. A good BRT line can quickly and efficently move many people in low density environments that ccan not support rail technology. There is also nothing wrong with reliable diesel/trolley/hybrid buses feeding passengers to a rail or brt line as long as the transfers are quick, frequent and easy. You can’t have single seat rides from everywhere to everywhere, Ottawa’s tax payers have slowly discovered this over the last 35 years.

  5. I. K. Brunel says:

    A sound and logical plan it seems, though I would suspect that the tracksharing portion of the line would be a problem. A quick ‘google’ of other routes tells me that many of the roads in Surrey could easily handle a tram route.

    I find it perverse that Vancouver and regional transit planners do not plan for workable light rail, instead putting forth half baked transit plans, many which include the Skytrain light metro system.

    One would assume from TransLinks’ planning that the streets in Metro Vancouver are paved in gold.

  6. eric chris says:

    Haveacow, you make sense – no technology is best for every application – BRT, is fine as long as you don’t ignore the social and environmental impacts and don’t operate it indiscriminately. In Vancouver, loud and noxious articulated diesel buses pass within 10 to 15 metres of residences every one minute to six minutes for 22 hours daily.

    This is too much and BRT is not the right technology – trolley buses are more appropriate. Ottawa appears to be doing much better than Vancouver when it comes to transit.

  7. Sai says:

    And the beat goes on. The B-Line has already been dyealed by 2 years This is why I’m usually skeptical of any news. We’re at least 20-30 years away from seeing RRT expansion in Surrey.As a junior Urban Planner, I think it’s realistic to say that Surrey will always lack the necessary transit infrastructure to meet the needs of the population. The region has always catered to the automobile; and this is demonstrated by countless strip malls and sprawled neighborhoods (which usually lack pedestrian and cycling infrastructure.) Dianne Watts is clearly catering to investors (real estate development) which is exacerbating sprawl in Surrey. It is for that reason why the transit infrastructure will seemingly always lag far (far far) behind development in the region.

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