Surrey’s municipal government is seeking public feedback on key strategies for its long-term citywide transportation plan.
At this phase of consultation, city staff have proposed “bold moves” that generally align with the overall transportation strategies of the City of Vancouver.
This includes improving road safety for all users through mitigation measures, potentially reducing speed limits.
There is a desire to adopt the “15-minute neighbourhood” concept that allows residents to walk or cycle 15 minutes from home to destinations.
Currently, a lack of destinations and incomplete pedestrian and cycling networks do not make this feasible. The intention is to build more protected bike lanes and sidewalks, but with an understanding that this potentially comes with the tradeoff of reducing parking and travel lanes.
According to the city, based on its Fall 2020 citywide survey, 95% of citizens want to walk more and 70% want to bike more.
As would be expected from the transportation plan, there would be a renewed emphasis on public transit — both more frequent bus service to better connect neighbourhoods and services, and rapid transit that is fast, frequent, and high capacity.
The aim is to work with TransLink to build a rapid transit network that connects all six communities in Surrey, with consultation materials suggesting SkyTrain and bus rapid transit on exclusive lanes that are not blocked at intersections or by turning vehicles. Street-level light rail rapid transit was not noted as an example.
However, city staff note that alternatives to SkyTrain must be considered given that it is challenging to build SkyTrain everywhere because of Surrey’s geographical size.
Although Surrey’s land area is equivalent to Vancouver, Burnaby, and New Westminster combined, its overall population density — a key factor for sustaining transit ridership — is lower.
Demand is rising, however. Prior to the pandemic, according to the city, bus ridership in Surrey was growing faster than any other city in Canada and the United States, with ridership up by 50% over four years.
But Surrey’s population is expected to soar, with forecasts pegging the population trajectory to rise from just under 600,000 today to over 880,000 by 2051.
A fourth “bold move” proposed by the city is to build and catalyze green transportation choices, including exploring ride-hailing, making walking and cycling more pleasant, and investing less in road expansion.
“Surrey is one of the most dynamic and fastest growing major cities in Canada,” said Mayor Doug McCallum.
“Feedback from residents and stakeholders is vital to the development of a shared vision on how we approach transportation investments over the next decade. The new transportation plan will improve safety, address climate change, and better connect people and places for the Surrey of the future.”
Findings from the current phase of consultation will lead to a draft transportation plan, which will go through a final round of consultation before it is reviewed by city council for approval later this year. The timeline for the planning process was originally slated to conclude in early 2021, but this was delayed due to the pandemic.
The City of Surrey’s new transportation plan will be integrated with TransLink’s Transport 2050 regional transportation plan and the forthcoming refresh of the rapid transit vision for the South of Fraser.
This municipal transportation planning process was partially triggered by city council’s decision to cancel the Surrey Newton-Guildford light rail transit project, and the reallocation of resources towards the Fraser Highway corridor for the Surrey-Langley Expo Line SkyTrain extension from King George Station to Langley Centre.