Let’s call Mayor McCallum’s proposal to scrap the LRT L-line for SkyTrain down the Fraser Highway for what it is: an express train to Langley.
No wonder the new mayor of Langley is heartily in support. No wonder the Surrey Board of Trade isn’t. The benefits will largely accrue to the businesses, real-estate developers and commuters up and down the 200th-Street corridor, east of the Surrey border. Meanwhile, Guildford and Newton will have to settle for its B-line.
As Ken Ohrn mentioned below, transportation and land use go together – arguably, the latter being more the point than the former. We rarely travel just for the purpose or pleasure of moving; it’s to get to a place to do something. The more places where you can stop along the way, the more economic development is likely to occur, the more passengers generated. And that was Surrey’s rationale for LRT along 104th and King George.
LRT is more about local access; SkyTrain is more about regional access. We need both, but clearly the priority for a growing municipality like Surrey was to shape that growth to be more transit-oriented, to be denser, to have more destinations. That’s not going to be as likely when a Langley-anchored SkyTrain passes through a large park, ALR flood plain, and lower-density suburban development like Clayton/Cloverdale. Indeed, the only true regional centres will be at King George and Langley City itself.
Surrey’s hopes to have job-supportive mixed-use development at Guildford and Newton will be frustrated and delayed – and Surrey will have to pay more to do that.
The most likely reason why McCallum went for SkyTrain is the populist sentiment he detected (and felt) that LRT was second-class; Surrey deserved SkyTrain, damn it, since Vancouver got it. Ironically, it’s Vancouver that will again benefit if the locally oriented LRT is scrapped. SkyTrain will deliver and concentrate more jobs in the regional core, while Surrey remains the bedroom suburb it has been the building of the first Port Mann Bridge.