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Why Surrey City Centre needs transit commitments now

May 9, 2012

There’s no doubt that Surrey (both public and private sectors) has made a major commitment to the growth of its regional town centre – the once-languishing strip mall known as Whalley.   No longer.

Here’s a link to major projects (43 in all) – and, below, just the developments around the new City Hall (30) and along 104 Avenue:


Surrey’s transportation plan calls for a major transit commitment to complement this growth – in particular, three light-rail lines that would serve the corridors (104 Ave, King George Boulevard and Fraser Highway) feeding into Surrey City Centre.  In the short term, TransLink was to have gone ahead with a B-Line rapidbus service on King George, leading the way on shaping growth appropriate to the 21st century.

All on hold, as explained below.

What takes the current quandary beyond just sad into the tragic is the likelihood that south of the Fraser we will see the biggest expansion of road capacity in a generation, further locking the fastest growing parts of the region into car-dependence.  To add insult: no express bus service across the new Port Mann Bridge – an argument used by Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon at the time to rationalize this Gateway project as ‘sustainable transportation.’

There was also the argument that the bridge would be tolled, thereby avoiding the likelihood that the new lanes and expanded Highway 1 would quickly congest by inducing more traffic.

Prediction: there will be no tolls on the Port Mann Bridge.  A wiser observer than me argues that the Province will suspend its commitment to tolling in reponse to complaints from New Westminster that there will be too much pressure on the free alternative, the Pattullo Bridge; and complaints from those South of the Fraser that they are being discriminated against, having the only toll bridges in the region.  Not to mention, of course, that there’s an election coming up.

Expect, says my source, a task force charged with studying the problem in order to avoid a political firestorm.  And in the event that the Liberals lose, they will have left a poison pill for the incoming government who would have to either impose the tolls or find another funding source to pay for the bridge.  Leaving no money for more transit.


But an election is also a time for policy commitments.  The people of Surrey (supported by the rest of the region) must now get their representatives, elected and aspiring, to follow through on the regional and local plans that have been in place for a generation – for complete communities served by rapid transit.

The reality can be seen on the construction sites of Surrey City  Centre.    The politics must follow.


10 Comments leave one →
  1. Tim permalink
    May 9, 2012 12:23 pm

    Until rapid bus is placed on the new Port Mann the new bridge is to sustainability as the Iraq war is to weapons of mass destruction.

    The only saving grace right now is the bike path

  2. Agustin permalink
    May 9, 2012 1:12 pm

    As a person living near, and regularly using transit on, West Broadway in Vancouver, I fully support transit investment in Surrey ahead of the Broadway corridor.

    If would be lovely to have Skytrain or streetcars on Broadway, but Surrey needs it more urgently.

  3. Richard permalink
    May 9, 2012 1:14 pm

    Not so sure about no tolls on the Port Mann. At least on this, the government was totally honest about the tolls and gave people plenty of time to react before the final decision was made. The tolls and the bridge went hand and hand and still people said they wanted the new bridge.

    Eliminating the tolls will mean that all taxpayers in the region or the province end up paying for the bridge so either taxes are raised or projects elsewhere are cut. Given the choice between pissing off 2.2 million or 4.5 million vs. 100,000 who have known for years that tolls were part of the project, I expect that they will keep the tolls although they might lower them a bit. There simply are not very many other good options.

  4. Doug permalink
    May 9, 2012 2:36 pm


    Like they were honest about the rapid bus? Translink as it is doesn’t work. Playing with the pieces will do nothing to solve the problem.

  5. Yvonne Alice Grue permalink
    May 9, 2012 2:49 pm

    Not sure how payment can be made on the Province’s Design-Build project if toll is removed. Remember it was P3 until McQuarrie wilted in the 08 meltdown. A toll contractor with h/w and s/w readiness and a new building to house the toll operation are all in place. It’d take a bold, bold political stroke to cancel tolling on the new Port Mann bridge.

  6. Rod Smelser permalink
    May 9, 2012 10:39 pm

    There will be tolls on the new Port Mann. The real question is what other crossings will be tolled by the new NDP Govt, and with what kind of time variation. And will those tolls be dedicated to bridge and tunnel construction and maintenance, or dumped into some general Translink pot.

  7. Richard permalink
    May 10, 2012 2:31 am


    While certainly improved transit is needed across the region including Surrey, the business case for improved transit on Broadway is really strong. Between increased ridership revenue and lower operating costs, rapid transit on Broadway, even with large capital costs, performs really well. This means more money in the transit system for other improvements. Both in terms of cost per new rider and GHG emissions reductions, Broadway is a clear winner. Probably the best or at least one of the top transit corridors in North America.

  8. mezzanine permalink
    May 10, 2012 8:40 am

    I disagree with this prediction.

    The current provincial administration has no political base in new westminster. the plan to toll the PMB has been telegraphed quite well for the past few years. not tolling the PMB while still tolling the GEB would be harder for Victoria to explain.

    If the yet-unused 3rd platform at lougheed station will finally be used 10 yrs later, then I am sure that if rapid bus is not there when the PMB opens, it will be in the future and it will take less than 10 yrs to do so.

    There is no need for a ‘poison pill’ as future local funding initiatives for translink (other tolls, road pricing, car tabs, etc) suits that role nicely.

    I would be interested to see how other future administrations look at funding and further proposals for road-pricing.

  9. Jim permalink
    May 10, 2012 8:37 pm

    It just would have been better if all this money getting spent on the Portmann bridge was put into transit we could have build the Broadway corridor Line the Surrey extension and the evergreen line by now and still have money left over.. : (

  10. afeltham permalink
    May 10, 2012 10:55 pm

    With TransLink cancelling their Hwy 1 express bus service, its interesting to see a private company trying to fill the void.

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