SkyTrain for Surrey, not LRT!

The SkyTrain for Surrey team would like to applaud and recognize Alex Vowles – a citizen of the City of Surrey – for his outstanding response to a recent misleading letter bashing SkyTrain and calling the service a loser [CLICK HERE] that was published in the Province and also recently in the Langley Times local newspaper.  His letter response, which was published in yesterday’s issue of The Province, can be read at [CLICK HERE] or below (quoted).

Vowles points out very well that SkyTrain is a profitable service (100%+ farebox recovery – fares have been recouping 100% or more of operating costs across the entire system since at least 2007) and each line has been exceptionally appropriate foe the corridor it now serves.  Vowles also recognizes an exceptionally important truth concerning the issue of rail transit should it be built and operated in any place and situation:

All rail, whether light, intermediate (SkyTrain) or high-capacity is expensive to build and must be competitive with the auto in terms of travel time in order to be successful.

Especially in areas where automobile travel is the dominant choice of transport for commute (such as Surrey), this is a large-scale factor that determines whether an implementation of rapid transit is successful and profitable.  In the City of Surrey where, currently, well over 80% of the population commutes by automobile (and less than 6% by transit), this will be important in several ways:

  1. A more competitive service attracts more ridership
  2. The amount of new ridership on rapid transit can help determine the service’s farebox recovery.  Higher farebox recovery rates on rapid transit can unlock spare funds available for the service provider to allocate to other services such as local bus service in other areas of the region.
  3. A more competitive service attracts automobile commuters and can have an impact on transportation mode-share in the city, which:
  4. reduces congestion on city roads
  5. reduces greenhouse gas emissions to the environment, stimulated by congestion
  6. More ridership gives investors more incentives to be placing transit-oriented, higher-density urban development near transit; thus, one can expect more such development, unsubsidized, to be proposed
  7. A more competitive service gives low-income citizens and those without regular automobile access (i.e. students) more reliable options for getting around
  8. A more competitive service opens up new commute options by bringing previously distant locations to within more acceptable travel times

If an expensive rail transit implementation is not competitive with the automobile, its implementation may not end up being justifiable.  The last thing anyone wants in a slumping economy is a white elephant transit project.

The Province has not published a response that SkyTrain for Surrey Initiative Leader Daryl Dela Cruz submitted himself in response to the letter by Atkinson [SEE HERE], noting his inaccurate description of the needed $30 million as funding that is “necessary to maintain existing services” when this is actually capital funding that is being portioned to expand and add new services – the majority of them to be in the South of Fraser/Surrey area.

Don’t Bash SkyTrain

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Letter writer Colin Atkinson opines that SkyTrain is a loser. If at-grade, light-rail transit that he favours had been built for the Expo Line, it would have reached maximum capacity years ago.

The Expo line today struggles to keep pace with demand at peak times, but there still remains the ability to add capacity without significant capital outlay.

As for the claim that TransLink doesn’t recoup its operating costs for SkyTrain: The Expo line generates more in revenue than it costs to operate.

There aren’t many transit agencies in North America operating rail transit that can make that claim.

All rail, whether light, intermediate (SkyTrain) or high-capacity is expensive to build and must be competitive with the auto in terms of travel time in order to be successful.

Comparing the three modes and saying that one is inherently better than the other is disingenuous.

SkyTrain is appropriate for all of the corridors where it has been built. I support the concept of light rail from the Valley to points west. You just don’t need to bash the successful SkyTrain to make your point.

Alex Vowles, Surrey

© Copyright (c) The Province
Local writer deserves recognition for oustanding response to anti-SkyTrain letter

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