FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – October 21, 2020 – Surrey, BC
SkyTrain for Surrey’s founding director has sent the following letter to the B.C. Liberal Party, leader Andrew Wilkinson, and local candidates in Surrey and Langley, urging for a funding commitment to build the full 16 kilometre Surrey-Langley SkyTrain extension.
Our organization has sent this letter because we feel that a clear commitment to expansion of the SkyTrain system south of the Fraser has not been made by the B.C. Liberal Party. The most recent indication that SkyTrain has not been seen as a serious priority came in the B.C. Election 2020 Voters’ Guide released by the Mayors Council, in which the party did not respond to a question asking them to commit to keeping Phase Two of the 10-Year-Vision on track. ‘Phase Two’ is the framework under which the first phase of SkyTrain (to 166 Street in Fleetwood) is being advanced.
SkyTrain for Surrey has serious concerns about the B.C. Liberal’s emphasis on advancing highway projects, with commitments to projects such as a 10-lane bridge replacing the Massey Tunnel, Highway 1 widening to the Fraser Valley, and an interchange on the Lougheed Highway in Pitt Meadows taking precedence, whereas no specific transit projects have been identified for funding in the party’s “Rebuild B.C.” plan. Given the high cost of these projects, we are concerned that there may not be much headroom to fund the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain’s second phase to Langley City.
Surrey and Langley’s economic growth and prosperity have been shunted by the lack of rapid transit, with no major SkyTrain system expansions made south of the Fraser River in over 30 years. Today, Surrey and Langley residents and families face average annual combined transportation costs over $15,000—more than double what those who live in parts of the region well-served by SkyTrain pay. While these costs could be directed to the local economy, we instead pay these commuting costs out of necessity because of the lack of efficient and rapid transit options.
SkyTrain is also needed to support a rapidly growing city core, with a recent proposal for a 10,000 seat multipurpose indoor stadium in downtown Surrey highlighting the urgent need to complete this extension. Just as the Expo Line has proven invaluable to supporting events at B.C. Place and Rogers Arena, an expanded SkyTrain system offers the high capacity needed to support a major downtown Surrey sports and entertainment complex.
With these issues in mind, it is clear that the 16-kilometre Surrey-Langley SkyTrain is the region’s highest unfunded transportation priority, ahead of a George Massey tunnel replacement bridge, given the far greater implications of delaying SkyTrain expansion to Langley.
21st October 2020
Subject: Surrey-Langley SkyTrain is a higher priority than the Massey tunnel replacement
ATTN: B.C. Liberal Party, Andrew Wilkinson (Leader)
CC: BC Liberal Candidates in Surrey and Langley: Dave Hans (Surrey-Guildford), Dilraj Atwal (Surrey-Green Timbers), Garry Thind (Surrey-Fleetwood), Gulzar Cheema (Surrey-Panorama), Margaret Kunst (Langley East), Marvin Hunt (Surrey-Cloverdale), Mary Polak (Langley), Paul Boparai (Surrey-Newton), Shaukhat Khan (Surrey-Whalley), Stephanie Cadieux (Surrey South), Trevor Halford (Surrey-White Rock)
To the B.C. Liberal Party and Andrew Wilkinson,
I am writing to you about the urgent need to build the full 16-kilometre Surrey-Langley SkyTrain. For the last 8 years, starting during a time when the B.C. Liberals were in power, my organization (SkyTrain for Surrey) has conducted a citizen advocacy campaign calling for the construction of this extension, most recently our issue advocacy during the 2018 municipal elections, which had a strong impact as SkyTrain expansion became a top issue. This project is now at an urgent turning point with much of the first phase (King George Station to Fleetwood at 166 St) design work completed.
Before the election, a commitment had not been outlined to deliver the second phase (166 St to Langley City), nor any commitment to deliver both lines in a single phase, as we strongly urge. It is my understanding that the B.C. Liberals intend to continue existing infrastructure projects under its Rebuild B.C. Plan and that new infrastructure projects will be targeted with $4.5 billion in new funding. If the B.C. Liberals form the government, a portion of this funding must be allocated towards the provincial funding share of the second phase Surrey-Langley SkyTrain, and we also ask for your support in enabling the construction of the entire line in a single phase—which, as noted by TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond, is possible if all funding is in place by the end of this year.
Today the need for a full 16-kilometre extension from King George Station to Langley City is clearer than ever. To date, public consultations, opinion polls, a trip data study and a strong business case have all strongly indicated the need for a full 16km Surrey-Langley SkyTrain built in a single phase. Your party may not already be aware of some recent developments, such as a proposal for a 10,000 seat multipurpose indoor stadium in downtown Surrey, which highlights the urgent need to complete this extension. Just as B.C. Place and Rogers Arena rely on the Expo Line to bring in spectators, a downtown Surrey sports complex needs SkyTrain and its high capacity.
I understand that the B.C. Liberals have strong concerns about transportation projects in our region that have been paused or pushed down in the list of priorities. In many areas we do share that concern; it was only recently that proposals for a Surrey-Langley SkyTrain were set back by the local municipal government, which preferred a surface light rail transit system. While a switch-over back to a SkyTrain expansion proposal has cost some additional time, we wish to reiterate that the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain is the region’s highest transportation priority and that means that it is ahead of a Massey tunnel replacement in line.
We understand that the George Massey tunnel replacement project solves one of the biggest traffic bottlenecks in western Canada and that there are many residents, including some Surrey residents in the south part of the city, that are poised to benefit significantly. However, we believe the lack of rapid transit investment connecting Surrey and the Langleys presents a far bigger long-term problem than the current capacity restrictions on the Massey tunnel corridor.
For one, the impacts of the shortfall in transit investment south of the Fraser River are stated very clearly in the recent TransLink trip data: 73.3% of commute trips in Surrey and 84.6% of commute trips in Langley Township are made by car. This includes many trips made on the Highway 99 corridor to access our region. Surrey and Langley’s residents need useful transit alternatives so that they can get around both within their cities and to the rest of the region now, which means major rapid transit investment in Surrey and Langley must come ahead of another Fraser River highway bridge.
I want to exemplify this further by noting that the costs of owning and operating a vehicle immensely restrict the South-of-Fraser economy by placing a large burden on residents’ incomes. In areas of east Surrey (Clayton) and near Langley City, households face average annual combined transportation costs over $15,000—compared to lower costs of between $5,000 and $10,000 in areas of the region, north of the Fraser River, that are well served by SkyTrain, including the Canada Line corridor. This is money that should be spent in the local economy, particularly in supporting local businesses, but it is instead spent on commuting by car because this has become necessary in our cities.
Our organization has some key concerns that we hope your party will be able to address before the election or after the election has taken place in the event the B.C. Liberals form the government. In the recent online forum held by Moving in a Livable Region, the representative for your party (George Affleck) noted that the majority of the new $4.5 billion transportation funding outlined in Rebuild B.C. is being allocated towards the Massey tunnel replacement and towards widening the Fraser Valley Highway 1. We understand that the B.C. Liberals also have several road expansion commitments, including delivering the Lougheed Highway/Harris Road interchange in Pitt Meadows and additional improvements on Highway 99; however, have not outlined any specific transit commitments that will receive funding in the Rebuild B.C. Plan. We are concerned that these commitments may not leave much headroom for the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain from 166 Street to Langley City Centre.
We have also seen the recent voters’ guide released by the Regional Mayors’ Council, in which it was noted that the B.C. Liberals did not have a response to a question concerning finalizing funding for the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain’s first phase (to 166 Street). While this is an area of great concern to us, we want to highlight the opportunity for the B.C. Liberals to reiterate a strong will to build infrastructure by committing the full Surrey-Langley SkyTrain while there is still time.
The most recent budget releases by the Regional Mayors’ Council indicate that the total funding share needed to support the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain under the current framework will be in the area of $525 million in year-of-expenditure dollars, not all of which would necessarily need to be released over the next three years. We believe this is a reasonable commitment to include in the Rebuild B.C. plan to ensure that the full extension is built in a single phase.
We understand that the B.C. Liberals have always been supportive of extending SkyTrain to Surrey and Langley, particularly when the bold proposals to complete the line were made by Premier Gordon Campbell a decade ago. Expanding SkyTrain is crucial to reducing congestion and maintaining high-quality connectivity between our economic sub-regions, and we hope to see that demonstrated with a B.C. Liberal commitment to completing the full 16-kilometre Surrey-Langley SkyTrain alongside the replacement of the George Massey Tunnel and supported in the same round of funding.
Daryl Dela Cruz
Founding Director of SkyTrain for Surrey
View the PDF copy of our letter below:
SkyTrain for Surrey is the community organization that advocated for the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain extension, which was adopted by the City of Surrey and the Regional Mayors’ Council in 2018. Since our establishment in 2012, our efforts to make this extension a reality have included a 6000-person petition calling for the scrapping of a street-level LRT proposal, and campaigning to make SkyTrain a 2018 municipal election issue in Surrey and Langley. We continue to call for high-quality projects that offer a positive return-on-investment and recognize the rapidly increasing demand for transit.
Daryl Dela Cruz – Founder, SkyTrain for Surrey
Phone: +1 604 329 3529, [email protected]