SkyTrain for Surrey is a grassroots campaign that has helped establish strong support for a SkyTrain extension on Fraser Highway. Today we are issuing the following points in response to the recent TransLink reveal of the construction costs for light rail and SkyTrain alternatives, TransLink’s decision in favour of LRT on Fraser Highway, and other recent statements related to the ongoing ‘LRT vs SkyTrain’ debate.
1. Higher light rail travel times will hurt potential ridership
- An Expo Line extension offers travel times of 22 minutes from King George Station to Langley, with a seamless connection to existing SkyTrain. Light Rail would take up to 35 minutes to cover the same distance, with a transfer required to connect to the Expo Line. The Light Rail alternative’s travel times, to all destinations, are significantly worse, reducing the potential transit ridership.
2. Light rail presents almost no time savings against B-Line bus
- A light rail line would save riders only a few minutes compared to the proposed Fraser Highway B-Line, despite having 4 less stops between King George Station and Langley.
- For reference, Fraser Highway B-Line service is expected to have travel times of 40 minutes between Surrey Central and Langley Centre. A Surrey-Langley Line LRT would have travel times of up to 35 minutes between King George Station and Langley Centre, with an additional 2-3 minutes required to connect from Surrey Central Station.
- Extending SkyTrain is the only option that will significantly reduce travel times.
3. Light rail capacity is significantly lower than SkyTrain
- The LRT estimate released by TransLink offers significantly less capacity than the SkyTrain alternative. According to the estimate, LRT platforms will be 40m long, only half (20m) of which will be weather-protected by a canopy. This compares to 82.5m long, fully canopied platforms for the SkyTrain alternative, which will be capable of handling 5-car trains.
- There is no indication as to whether or not the LRT platforms may be extended beyond 40m, or what is the maximum frequency that LRT trains may safely operate at.
4. Ridership revenue on SkyTrain is higher than on LRT
- Despite saying that ridership will be ‘too low’ to support 5-car trains running east of Fleetwood, TransLink admits (in their Sept. 2017 memo) that higher ridership revenue will offset the higher operating costs of running 5-car trains. Assuming this allows the extension to fully recover its operating costs, Expo: Langley will be sustainable to operate even if trains are under-utilized in the first 20 years of operations.
5. It will cost billions to upgrade Light Rail alternative in the future
- Ridership numbers referenced in the Sept. 2017 memo are estimates for year 2045, which is only year 18 of operations. Rapid transit will play a role in increasing transit use and accommodating demand in our region for the next 50-100 years.
- We strongly believe that the light rail alternative is under-built, and that humongous expenses to upgrade infrastructure (i.e. adding grade-separation, improving capacity) will be incurred in the future if Light Rail technology is selected for the Surrey-Langley Line.
Transparency lacking in decision to favour LRT technology on Fraser Highway