Pipe Dreams or Reality for New Skytrain Lines

Comments 18 by Rebecca Bollwitt

When I was 9 years old the Skytrain came to Surrey. I remember driving over the Pattullo in our little red van every week and watching the progress on the Skybridge, just wondering how tall it would go and what it would look like when a train went across there for the first time.

This was 1989 and it took another 5 years until 3 more stations were put in place throughout North Surrey. King George Station became the terminus in 1994 and it’s pretty much stayed that way for the last 13 years.

There was speculation that the Expo Line would extend down Fraser Highway in a few years, which didn’t happen. Then some said maybe it would turn a bit and head toward Newton, which I haven’t heard much else about at all. With all the hub-bub over the RAV Line/Canada Line I’m wondering when commuters from other burbs are going to get a break.

Over the last few days local news was inundated with stories about the millions of extra commuters taking to public transportation and highways during the fall rush back to school and work [News1130]. Obviously transit is a hot topic and I would assume more so for the communities involved in the postponed Evergreen Line project, which was supposed to be up and running by 2009.

The Evergreen Line is a proposed rail transit line in Greater Vancouver, Canada. It is proposed to run from Lougheed Town Centre SkyTrain station in Burnaby through Port Moody to Coquitlam, and is planned to begin operations by the end of 2011. [Wiki]

And while relief for commuters out in the North-West of the region is needed, I’m still wondering about Surrey.

It has no Millenium Line expansion, no West Coast Express, just a couple bridges (one of which is barely standing and has killed 15+ people over the last few years) and the other is constantly backed up. On top of this, wait times for buses are ridiculous. Downtown you can catch a bus across town or across downtown every 5-10 minutes. You’d be lucky to find the same bus coming every 30-45 in Surrey or Langley. I looked up a schedule last week for one of the busiest routes, Surrey Central to Newton exchange. It had a bus every hour, once an hour.

The Surrey Leader recently covered and reported on the rumours and ideas surrounding Translink’s 30 plan for transit expansion in Metro Vancouver.

“Every crazy idea everybody has, let’s put it on the table and have a look at it,” said TransLink vice-chair Marvin Hunt. “This is a golden opportunity for us to be able to look at all the different possibilities that are there and work on the ones that are the most viable today.” [Surrey Leader]

The Evergreen Line is #1 on the agenda as it’s been in limbo for a while now. But does it not seem as though the top “solution” for Surrey thus far has been a) more roads b) twinning a bridge c) more roads? Can’t Surrey folks be environmentally conscious in their commute and not have to lose valuable greenspace in the process?

Photo credit: SqueakyMarmot on Flickr

So far, TransLink has identified King George Highway and 104 Avenue in Surrey and the Fraser Highway to Langley as routes to get median bus ways between 2013 and 2021 [Surrey Leader]

Median busways like in Richmond? Hmm. The Leader article continues including ideas like:

  • An express bus route on Highway 1 between Langley and Burnaby that would come with the twinning of the Port Mann Bridge.
  • Express bus service launched immediately across the Port Mann between north Surrey and Port Coquitlam.
  • Meanwhile, light rail fans south of the Fraser keep pushing for a new modern passenger rail service using the old Interurban rail corridor from northwest Surrey through Cloverdale, Langley and beyond.
  • Interesting ideas for sure, but what would help the most? Do Surrey and Langley commuters want more express buses? More roads and routes? What’s the best way to get working folks from their homes and into their offices in under 2 hours? Perhaps the possible lack of office space in Vancouver is a good thing, for this very reason.

    Personally, I know I would like to see the Expo Line completed. Take it to Guildford Mall, expand to Langley, take it to South Surrey, either way would help.

    Update: A bit of backlash is arising over the Vancouver Mayor’s push to extend the Millennium Line ahead of completing and moving forward with the Evergreen line. [CKNW]

    18 Comments  —  Comments Are Closed

    1. Keira-AnneTuesday, September 4th, 2007 — 9:59pm PDT

      My personal frustrations with TransLink and their inefficiency are way more than I can post in a comment, let alone write a blog about. Maybe I should someday but you summed it up pretty well.

    2. Miss604Tuesday, September 4th, 2007 — 10:04pm PDT

      Oh I’ve written about it before… and I probably won’t stop here. I mean we can’t even get to my sister’s house without taking 2 to 3 buses + train and she lives very close by two major roads. Although rail line expansion probably won’t help that much, improved bus service would.

    3. John BollwittTuesday, September 4th, 2007 — 10:17pm PDT

      Not to mention something that loops around to the Port Mann and back into PoCo for SkyTrain service, connecting it back up with the Millenium Line or something.

      On top of that, see what they are doing in/near Seattle?

      We should have service in place like that to the ferry terminals at Tsawwassen and Horseshoe Bay. At least in my head that would be cool.

    4. GreggTuesday, September 4th, 2007 — 10:28pm PDT

      The Expo line completed… well I do remember that the original plans when they built it was to run it down the freeway, having it to Abbotsford very soon after Expo and to Hope by I believe the year 2000.

      However, I’ve often wondered why they don’t do something similar, at least to Abbotsford. If you ran tracks down the middle of the freeway, you could greatly reduce costs as their would be no need to buy land or elevate they system. You could put large Park and Rides along the route; placing the stations half way between the existing freeway exits so that they are not contributing to the congestion at those exits. We also know from existing lines that if you build the line, that is where a lot of the new development will happen; which should help keep the other areas from developing even worse congestion.

    5. Paul HillsdonTuesday, September 4th, 2007 — 10:34pm PDT

      Good post Rebecca. I think this whole transit conversation is really ramping up… perhaps not with the right solutions, but at least there is something of a discussion forming out of all the voices clammering for better transit.

      Now, I’m not being a Translink spokesperson here, but I would like to point out that while there are three bus routes designed to simply go from Surrey Central to Newton, the 321, which goes all the way to White Rock with a stop in Newton, is by far the most popular way to get between the two exchanges, and has 10 minute headways throughout most of the day. I’m pretty sure it’s the best bus service in the south of Fraser on that route.

      There’s a whole lot more I could mention, rebutt, or continue on from this post of yours, but I think I’ve leave that for a blog posting of my own, rather than continue to ramble on in your comments section.

    6. Miss604Tuesday, September 4th, 2007 — 10:39pm PDT

      Oh wow, nice coverage on your site, Paul 🙂

      Yeah the 321, 323 and 324 are all pretty effective except on Saturday mornings, as I found out last week. But that’s my own fault for trying to get to Surrey at 7:00am… and for being out of bed at 5:30am on a weekend.

    7. Paul HillsdonTuesday, September 4th, 2007 — 11:02pm PDT

      In a quick response to Gregg:

      I was at a meeting early this year about the redevelopment of the Cloverdale Farigrounds, and the discussion eventually brought up SkyTrain and the lack of transit in the area, especially not having a rapid transit connection to what could become an even bigger regional attraction after renovation. Anyways, one of the local business owners apparently knew for certain that when Translink and Surrey redid the Fraser Highway recently, they built the mid-lane islands to accomodate the cement structures for SkyTrain. So that if expansion was to occur, they would simply remove the plants, and be able to place the columns right down. He seemed to think it wouldn’t cost very much, and while I think that was just his assumption, if this is true, and all the foundation is laid, such an expasion would in fact be much cheaper than the Canada Line, the Millennium Line expansion, or the Evergreen Line (all due to tunneling).

      Heck, as much as I think the costs outweigh the benefits by going with SkyTrain technology, there’s no doubt in my mind that it would be the best technology to take out to Langley, Aldergrove, and Abbotsford, especially since it’s already pointing out there, and it would provide very speedy connections to the Lower Mainland (versus LRT or commuter rail). Plus, considering the huge hills between Fleetwood and Clayton, SkyTrain would actually be able to handle that slope much better than any other rapid transit technology (especially having the advantage of elevation to reduce the %).

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    9. Tyler IngramWednesday, September 5th, 2007 — 8:09am PDT

      I remember the West Coast express station in Coquitlam was originally designed for the SkyTrain. But because they couldn’t think of a way tunneling under the mountain without moving everyone they abandon that.

      That was was like 20yrs ago!

      Translink is like 10yrs behind. It is nice we’re getting another bridge (between Langley and MapleRidge/Pitt Meadows) but again that should of been done a while ago. At least they are building a bigger (non-swing) bridge across Pitt River to accommodate the traffic between Pitt Meadows and Port Coquitlam.

      One day people out in the Tri-Cities and further will get some sort of rapid transit system like the SkyTrain… ah well. Though I did hear of plans that the West Coast Express might start running all day and not just in the morning and in the evening.

    10. Keira-AnneWednesday, September 5th, 2007 — 1:54pm PDT

      In discussing bus schedules, my biggest beef is the lack of coordination between Translink and the ferries. Quite obviously, there’s not a lot of room to be flexible with the ferry’s schedules. I take the ferries all the freakin’ time and have stopped relying on Translink altogether to get from Horseshoe Bay back downtown. It almost never fails that as the ferry is docking, a bus can be seen waiting at the stop, but because of scheduling, it’s gone by the time the foot passengers are unloaded. I’ve waited in long lines in either extreme heat or extreme rain in excess of 45 minutes for a 257 or 250 to take us back downtown. Forget Translink – I’ve switched to Greyhound for those trips. At least Greyhound works with the ferries and is a service I can rely on.

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    12. teflonjediSaturday, September 8th, 2007 — 6:38pm PDT

      Which is the bridge that has killed 15+ people? I still have nightmares about driving across the Pattullo bridge, and it’s been 15 years since I last lived in Vancouver, and 1999 was likely the last time I drove across the bridge when visiting. I had thought they were supposed to have replaced it by now…?

    13. Miss604Saturday, September 8th, 2007 — 7:22pm PDT

      The Pattullo is what I call the “bridge of death” they have done *nothing* to fix this except close the centre lanes during the night so only 1 lane is open in each direction. And by ‘close’ I mean they put up orange traffic cones… yeah… effective….

    14. teflonjediSaturday, September 8th, 2007 — 10:00pm PDT

      Geez, they were talking about straightening out the New West end of the bridge 15 years ago, or more. I seem to remember the road would end up going into a tunnel, or some nonsense like that. It’s the bend at that end, where if you blink wrong you’re driving into the oncoming traffic, that prominently figures in my nightmares. They’ve done nothing? *sigh*

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    18. chadSaturday, July 5th, 2008 — 3:12pm PDT

      they should expand skytrain from the King George station through Surrey and into Langley, then from Langley down the freeway to Abbotsford and so on.. it would reduce emissions and traffic congestion on the freeway and make transit much easier for many people..

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