Surrey’s transportation “nightmare” is in question: Light Rail or Skytrain?

SURREY – As we’re entering last week of municipal election campaign every single opportunity to have candidates from all sides is greater and important for those who’ll cast their votes next weekend, especially to those who still didn’t made their final decision regarding support to one of the coalitions or independent candidates for Surrey Council and Mayor. Citizens Transportation Initiative hosted on Sunday afternoon their second debate on issues of Transportation in Surrey, featuring four very important topics and asking two candidates from all sides to answer on questions related to these issues. This debate was held at Fleetwood Library with slightly bigger audience than it was on their first debate two weeks ago at Newton Library.

Independent candidates Paul Griffin, John Wolanski, Surrey First Marvin Hunt and Barinder Rasode, and SCC candidates Grant Rice and Stephanie Ryan were asked to present their opinions on following question and issues:


Question: Assuming there will be an ongoing financial challenge for Translink what would you advocate for a) including Skytrain in the mix and a system of smaller scope, b) Light Rail/Street Car and the exclusion of Skytrain


Question: How would you work to contain future legal paving and what will you do about illegal paving including existing violations?


Question: What is your vision for transportation within the town centers? Would you push for free tram style transportation?


Question: Would you advocate for more Park & Ride in Surrey, especially at malls? What would you do to make this happen?

Candidates at second transportation debate (Photo: E.Milavic)

In a mix and match of questions due to some organizational issues CiTI decide to move paving issue to the front and ask candidates to offer their opinions but also to confront their own ideas with counterparts. Only two female candidates on Sunday’s debate agree on issue of paving telling to attendees Surrey needs more green areas, less paving and giving more options to citizens in effort to keep them out of cars. Stephanie Ryan, SCC candidate, if elected will ask for more parking spaces directly related to new developments in Surrey, but she also wants to see more quality work, more gravel and pro-environment materials in Surrey in effort to keep flora and fauna in best possible situation. On the other side Paul Griffin, who describes himself as “truly independent” candidate, pointed out he’s intention to ask for higher standards on Surrey boulevards. He, as Rasode, sees Surrey’s need for more by-law officers to enforce regulations adopted by City of Surrey, on the other hand Griffin wants to put bigger fines on companies whom are implementing illegal paving works in Surrey. Veteran Councillor and Surrey First candidate, Marvin Hunt, explained to the public illegal paving is mainly related to works performed on front yards on Surrey houses, while the City of Surrey can’t do anything on matter of paving backyards. It seems when it comes to paving issues global transportation resolution will be only possible, the second most important element in making the resolution could be change in minds of our citizens how to approach issue of everyday transportation and environmental issues around us. As on any other issue all six candidates wants to research more and to adopt applications developed at the other local, provincial and federal levels [not only in Canada] to put paving issues to the end. Some help will come through “Sustainability Charter” which was adopted by current Council and will help The City of Surrey in tracing right path on the road to the city will considerably less pavement than it is today.

SCC Candidate Grant Rice is addressing attendees (Photo: E. Milavic)

Future of transportation system in Surrey caused more discussion on possibilities, best models and to be fair caused more exchange between candidates. Clearly we saw two totally different sides of the same coin – on one side “coalition” for light rail which is supported by Surrey First and SCC, with Paul Griffin at the other side as hardcore opposition to the light rail wishing to see more Skytrain rails all over Surrey. Light rail proponents, and I agree with them, arguing that light rail will bring more benefits to Surrey not only by the fact light rail is much cheaper than Skytrain construction, but also Light Rail will help to Surrey keep it neighborhoods intact. Light Rail will also made communication between town centers much faster and much easier. Griffin as only opponent to this system believes Skytrain is only Surrey’s the best chance because “seen as the best” system in North America and in some parts of Asia, beside that Griffin claims Skytrain construction costs are almost similar to Light Rail construction costs. During debate Griffin and Hunt exchange in several occasions opinions on Light Rail in many European cities and countries, and that discussion poised me to put out a question to Griffin on merit of his opinion regarding Light Rail. My question was: If Bosnian capital of Sarajevo was a first European capital to adopt some sort of light rail system in late 19th century and was followed by many others, most of the similar to Surrey in terrain aspect, and much bigger than Surrey in population why they didn’t accept Skytrain system up to this moment? When I heard his answer [this is sole my opinion] I conclude that he’s against Light Rail just because others are against it. In his words Skytrain system is not implemented in Europe and other parts of the world because that technology was not available to other countries before 1980’s when Canada invent it for Expo exhibition. I didn’t had enough time to ask him another question, but if I had, it would be: Well they had more than two decades to adopt that system and they’re still “stuck” with Light Rail and subways, isn’t that enough time to adopt new transportation system? I also must to agree with Stephanie Ryan, SCC candidate, who said that Light Rail will be more accessible to seniors, mother and children, also will improve security of all users giving them more confidence in public transit in hours following rush hours and night. Barinder Rasode, incumbent Councillor and Surrey First candidate, pointed very well that Light Rail or street cars will open more chances to improve connectivity between our town centers, giving us a chance to protect heritage and uniqueness of each community while we will promote Surrey’s diversity. Grant Rice and Marvin Hunt on a matter of Light Rail clearly stated old plans prepared by Lower Mainland communities to introduce that system instead of Skytrain system, but those wishes were dropped by dictate of former Premier and Liberal leader, Gordon Campbell who introduced Skytrain as only possible and reliable option. To conclude this issue is important to be said that Ryan, Rice, Hunt and Rasode want to have better relationship, communication and understanding between local and provincial government, also they want to have provincial government which will accept their opinions not intervene and act as dictator on important issues as transportation is.

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