The World-Wide Inspiration Behind Surrey’s Light Rail Transit

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Surrey is the second largest city in British Columbia and by 2041 it is expected that another 300,000 residents will be joining our neighbourhoods. One of the top questions from Surrey residents is, “How are we all going to get around?” We want to know what will happen to our roadways and the infrastructure. And we are concerned that if something isn’t put in place soon, we’ll not only be bursting at the seams, but stuck in a gridlock, too. The City of Surrey has responded to this projected growth with a light rail transit (LRT) system for many reasons. Here are some that they have mentioned:

Benefits of Light Rail Transit (LRT)

  • reduces congestion
  • increases transit capacity
  • saves time
  • sparks local development
  • creates and attracts jobs
  • meets the regional vision

We know that there has been a lot of discussion in the media and on the streets about the LRT and whether this is really the most viable solution for Surrey. Asking questions is the best way to get the answers you need. The video below from the Facts and Frequently Asked Questions page of the project’s website explains what LRT is, what the benefits are, what we can expect from the two phases and how they will connect the various communities, and what the tracks, trains and stops look like. The video also indicates that other cities in North America and around the world use this system successfully.

We highly recommend taking a few minutes to watch this introductory video so you can get a true feel for the vision of this project:

What we have taken away from our research into the project is the overall vision of what the LRT will do for us as Surrey residents; the selection of this particular form of transportation was based on the fact that light rail transit systems create connected, complete and livable cities.

To better understand the success of the LRT, let’s take a look at what is already happening in cities around the world.

This article from CNN’s tech section talks about how the Minneapolis metro region successfully connects downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul while having a positive impact on neighbourhoods, driving business, and gaining the support of the communities it serves. While at first not widely accepted by a community that had seen failed highway projects, the light rail has now put this region on the map of great systems. Politico Magazine also covered this story with narratives of people directly affected by the project.

Right here in Canada, the Kitchener-Waterloo region is already seeing more economic boom thanks to their proposed LRT system which for the most part will be ready to go next year. This is attributed to the fact that the tracks, once laid down, will be a permanent part of the picture for at least the next 50 years – highly motivating for anchor stores and businesses that want to build around a reliable, steady source of traffic. And not just traffic that flies by overhead, but allows passengers an eye-level view of the scene. There is also a certain prestige that comes with the LRT because it is known as a high quality system that is linked to growth and first class cities.

And outside of North America, the LRT is thriving. Essentially, Surrey is getting what big European cities have. For example, in France, what began as a 126 km LRT route has now expanded to 700 km.

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Graph supplied by TheTransportPolitic.Com

In true French fashion, France is teaching North Americans about ‘the art of insertion’ (what we North Americans would simply call street design). It’s essentially looking at streets and seeing them as more than just a space for cars but also for a major transit line.

As residents of Surrey, it’s natural to be concerned about how we will accommodate the kind of growth we’re expecting. Understanding the hows and whys is really important. There are some documents and resources available on the City’s site and we will also be sharing more information here as we learn more.

Click through the City’s LRT information pages and leave us comments with questions you have!


Taslim Jaffer
Taslim combines her love of writing and social change by telling the stories that build bridges among people. Her motivating forces are her 3 children and her INFJ personality. Taslim is a regular contributor to Huffington Post Canada and Yummy Mummy Club, and a columnist for Peace Arch News. She has romantic notions of travel writing across European countrysides and historic African towns but her heart belongs to Surrey, B.C. You can connect with Taslim on Twitter and Instagram @taslimjaffer.