Dianne Watts Calls for Light Rail in Surrey


Read this story from the Vancouver Sun on Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts’ call for building light rail in Surrey as a cost-effective solution to long-term vehicle congestion as her community continues its rapid growth. (March 13, 2012)

METRO VANCOUVER — Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts is renewing her call for light rail transit south of the Fraser River, arguing rapid buses or a costly SkyTrain line to Langley won’t reduce increasing gridlock on city streets.

Watts said city taxpayers give $160 million every year to TransLink, but the city is not getting the transit service it needs to meet a growing population that is set to reach 750,000 by 2040.

In the past five years, the city’s population has grown 18.5 per cent — more than three times the national average of 5.9-per-cent growth in metropolitan areas. About one-third of the population is under the age of 19.

“When we’re faced with the growth we’ve had exponentially we see the challenges in that,” Watts told a packed crowd at her annual state-of-the-city address at the Sheraton Guildford Hotel.

Using the same stage backdrop — depicting a light rapid transit train — as last year, Watts said light rail is not a “request of the month” and she won’t give up fighting for it. She noted three light rail train lines could be built for less than the cost of a $2-billion SkyTrain extension to Langley.

Just adding more buses won’t be efficient enough, she argued, and rapid buses are “not 21st century.” A SkyTrain to Langley, she said, would run through Green Timbers Park and cut Fleetwood Town Centre in half. This would hamper the city’s goal of encouraging denser town centres, she said, and would only offer service between Vancouver and Langley when 80 per cent of transit trips in Surrey are expected to be in the city itself. Watts said that by 2040, the number of vehicle licences issued to Surrey residents is expected to increase by 50 per cent, while road capacity will rise 12 per cent, meaning a 40-per-cent boost in congestion and gridlock.

The city is in line for a B-Line bus service along King George Highway from White Rock to Guildford, buses from White Rock to Langley and a rapid bus along Highway 1 over the new Port Mann Bridge. A new Pattullo Bridge is also included in the TransLink plan. A study on a potential rapid transit line extension to Langley, linking to the King George station, is also underway. But Watts insists this should be light rail and not SkyTrain, because it will help shape and connect communities across Surrey’s vast land base.