Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Plan released for rail transit across Surrey

with 10 comments

SURREY – Surrey City Council candidate Paul Hillsdon announced today the centrepiece of his campaign – the Transit for Tomorrow plan. The plan, designed specifically to meet the growing transport demands of the South Fraser area (Surrey, Langley, Delta, and White Rock), would vastly expand the rapid transit system, with no need for local property tax increases or fare hikes.

“The Transit for Tomorrow plan begins to fix our woefully inadequate transit with fiscal prudence during these times of economic hardship. Construction of the lines will boost the local economy and create jobs, while addressing our transport, health and environment issues all at the same time,” said Hillsdon.

The Transit for Tomorrow plan is based on the thesis of getting more for less. It calls on the Provincial government to shift $1.1 billion dollars promised for 6 km of SkyTrain in Surrey, to instead fund a 43.4 km light rail network across Surrey and Langley.
Light rail, as was initially proposed for the Evergreen Line in Coquitlam, is a well used transit technology around the world. Light rail runs at street-level with priority over other road vehicles. It costs $27 million per km, almost five times less than the cost of SkyTrain. Light rail systems exist in Calgary, Edmonton, Seattle, Portland, and Sacramento, among other world cities.
The light rail network as proposed would be composed of three lines – the King George line, the 200th line, and the Interurban line. The network would connect Surrey City Centre and the Expo Line SkyTrain with Newton, Guildford, Cloverdale, Langley City, Willowbrook, Willoughby, and Walnut Grove.
An expanded Rapid bus network would extend the reach of the region’s transit network and would add communities such as White Rock, Abbotsford, and Maple Ridge to the rapid transit system.

Hillsdon challenged civic candidates from across the South Fraser area to endorse the plan: “I call on all civic candidates in Surrey, the Langleys, Delta, and White Rock to let it be known whether or not they support the Transit for Tomorrow plan, and whether they too would pressure the Provincial government to redirect its funding promise from SkyTrain to light rail technology.”

The Transit for Tomorrow plan is attached to the media release and can be downloaded from Hillsdon’s campaign website at


See the story on CBC News

Written by Stephen Rees

October 27, 2008 at 7:59 am

Posted in politics, transit

10 Responses

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  1. Certainly Surrey and Langley has the population to support a stand alone LRT/tram network.

    In Europe, new light rail/tram lines have been built quite cheaply, as low as $6 million/km. The real debate of course is not SkyTrain versus LRT, rather metro versus LRT. SkyTrain is a metro style transit system, designed to service very high passenger ridership, but the actual SkyTrain (a.k.a. ICTS/ALRT/ALM/ART) is really a light metro – a transit mode made obsolete by LRT some time ago! The fact that we continue to build with SkyTrain, has more to do with secret agendas, secret contracts, and very weak transportation planners in Victoria and the lower mainland caving in to politicians.

    Only in Vancouver, is the light-metro built instead of LRT and is the root cause of our transit and transportation woes.

    Malcolm J.

    October 27, 2008 at 12:56 pm

  2. Just a note:

    I have always thought that a King George/Scott Road loop line would be more useful in attracting ridership. As for the interurban line, well it must connect to Vancouver to succeed.

    Malcolm J.

    October 27, 2008 at 1:00 pm

  3. Just to respond to Malcolm.

    I based my pricing estimates on those provided by TransLink so that the plan would be taken more seriously. I’m sure TransLink does inflate costs, but I went with their numbers – regardless, it was still enough to get three lines and a 43 km network.

    I do agree the Interurban isn’t well suited for intercity travel. However, at least by opening up the first phase, we can judge the actual success of it then, and it’ll be a lot easier to expand to Abbotsford or Vancouver.


    October 27, 2008 at 2:48 pm

  4. Look at this news item from the LRTA ( ).

    Helsinki grows : Sunday 10 August saw the opening of Helsinki’s first new tramline for 17 years. The new route 9 includes >> five km of new double track which cost EUR 15 million to build (This works out to CAD $4.85 million per km. to build!) << , and links Kaartinkaupunki in the city centre with the northern suburb of Pasila via Kallio and Alppila. It means the HKL tram network has reached its largest length since 1959. More new tracks are under construction in the Kamppi area, where route 3 will serve a new alignment in 2009.

    13 August 2008

    Malcolm J.

    October 27, 2008 at 4:12 pm

  5. Working on another project, some information from the USA may prove useful. The following is the cost of electrification for LRT. Tis fits very well with the previous ‘cheap’ costs of LRT/tram construction.

    “For electrification, the figures we’ve been using are about US $1.5 million per single-track mile and $3.0 million per double-track mile, including OCS and substations.

    Consultants and planners who really work at it can double or triple that, especially if they use platinum or gold suspension poles.


    Malcolm J.

    October 27, 2008 at 9:20 pm

  6. The routes seem reasonable – one big factor on cost will be whether there are existing utilities (gas, sewer, water, hydro) under either King George Highway or 200th Street that will have to be relocated in order to accommodate the line, or whether the allignment can be accommodated at one side of the road allowance to avoid such utilities.

    Ron C.

    October 28, 2008 at 12:59 pm

  7. Here’s a map of the Helsinki line.
    Route 9 is in magenta. Based on the scale of the map, looks like less than 5 km of new track.

    Ron C.

    October 28, 2008 at 1:11 pm

  8. Has anyone noticed that this candidate is only 18 years old? 🙂

    “…believe it or not, Hillsdon was forming his transit plan and weighing the pros and cons of running for Surrey council back last spring — while he was preparing for high-school graduation.

    Yes, Hillsdon is just 18 years old, which is the minimum age for voting and running as a candidate in the Nov. 15 election.”



    October 28, 2008 at 5:39 pm

  9. i would like to see these lines extended, the King George Line, for example to hop the river north to Coquitlam Centre while also extending south to White Rock. And also the 200th St Line extended across the Golden Ears bridge to Maple Ridge, maybe linking back to Coquitlam Centre. The Tsawwassen ferry terminal should also be connected to the regional rapid transit network.

    It is entirely possible to link suburban communities together — and to link to the dense urban core — with light rail.

    The Centre for Sustainability conducted a design charrette for the Evergreen Line that demonstrated how beneficial (I even would say vital) a rail line is to urban design. In their version, the most debilitating stretch of the Barnet Hwy west of Coquitlam Centre converted an asphalt wasteland lined with the tackiest strip malls to a linear park in the median (where the transit line was placed) and with pedestrian-oriented sidewalk retail.

    This is a round about way to say that the vision for especially rail-based transit must go way beyond technology and budget. It must extend to urban form and sustainable principles.


    October 29, 2008 at 12:29 pm

  10. Paul Hildon sure has great ideas. LET’S HOPE we can use his talents one day

    Red frog

    December 9, 2008 at 2:00 am

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