Letter: SkyTrain, not trams, are in Langley’s best interest

A letter writer says Surrey wants trams for cities to its east so it monopolizes high speed transit.

Dear Editor,

The City of Surrey (ie. the municipal council) has been advocating for these trams in a fashion that borders on baffling, because there is virtually zero support for trams, and huge support for SkyTrain, amongst its residents.

If there were *ever* a rationale to show that the Mayors’ Council shouldn’t have the last word, this is it. I was hoping that support for this horrid idea would not outlive Diane Watts’ mayoralty term, but it’s certainly found a champion with Mayor Heppners’. Let’s hope we can lockdown SkyTrain before Watts becomes premier.

Don’t get me wrong, a lot of what’s happening in Surrey is laudable, but the transportation planning is not. I haven’t seen a single expert opinion that shows anything but what the author puts forward: not only is tram service not the *best* option for south of the Fraser, it is far and away the *worst* in almost every metric. A 10-lane equivalent boulevard? How does that promote a pedestrian streetscape?

It’s my view that this tram plan is solely political. Full disclosure: I live in Langley, but I seriously do not expect that any rapid transit will be in place here before I die; I’m not saying this dramatically – it won’t affect me.

I can’t distil any reason for trams in Surrey and on to Langley, for other than political reasons. By keeping grade-separated rapid transit no further south and east than Whalley, Surrey will be the beneficiary of fast, efficient transit (SkyTrain) to the rest of the region, and then also trams in the other column.

As most of the growth over the next 20-25 years will be SoF, that would leave Surrey the only economic counterweight to NoF. But it will be far from just Surrey that it affects; without equal infrastructure, it would be a wonder why a business looking to set up shop SoF would choose any of the smaller municipalities. Surrey doesn’t deserve a veto over the rest of the valley (Surrey council already publically knocks development in other regional town centres, insisting the Amazing Brentwood, Lougheed Town Centre and Metrotown, for example, have “poached” development that should have gone Surrey’s way!)

Currently, the Langleys punch far above their weight economically, but given light-years better infrastructure built only in Surrey and north, will be leading a Langley lamb to the slaughter. Trams only makes sense (particularly the Fraser Highway portion) for Surrey in a bid to get rid of the economic competition. To claim otherwise is insulting.

The councils of the City of Langley and the Township of Langley have remained too quiet about this. A citizen might want to know where they stand, given the municipal elections coming up this year. Surrey officials have incorrectly presumed that the Langley’s will be happy just to get *any* transit: does that sound like a community with the region’s best interests in mind? Not to me.

It also has a dramatic effect on the region from the Langley border eastward, even though we know that area is not part of “Metro Vancouver” now. I’ve read many times that eventually, the true region will become Coast to Hope, a “super-region” if not in name, then in fact; it will become a San Fernando Valley North, so to speak.

Lately, there’s been a lot of talk about Vancouver International Airport – YVR – further expanding its presence with more gates, terminal buildings, and runways. Richmond, the city the airport built, has said “enough”, it won’t support any new runways, and has made that plain to YVR.

There’s still years of YVR growth possible without any new runway, but sooner or later, Abbotsford Airport – YXX – will have to become a major transportation facility for that Coast to Hope “super-region”. That inclusion of YXX implies a requirement for fast, efficient transit, and trams just don’t fit that bill. We have some time for solutions to the YXX issue, but that ball has to start rolling around in peoples’ minds now.

The whole idea of SkyTrain pre-Expo was to provide safe, rapid and efficient transit to *all* of the then-GVRD. Trams would add a third rail technology on four lines, with all of the management, storage and maintenance costs quite apart from the three existing lines, and will present grossly higher operating costs. It wasn’t what we signed on for, especially if “rapid” transit is built with inferior technology, and trams *are* inferior to SkyTrain. If Surrey wants trams, fine. Build them, but only within its boundaries.

To stop the expansion of SkyTrain 30 years on, and substitute trams that fall far short, is unjust and illogical.

Andrew Erasmus, Langley City

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