Last weeks City Hall column for 24Hrs Vancouver: Surrey LRT plans scary expensive!

In the iconic movie Field of Dreams, farmer Ray Kinsella hears a voice whispering every time he walks through his corn field: “If you build it, he will come.”

But only in the movies could a farmer plow a cash crop, build a baseball field for ghosts and have everything turn out OK. In reality, while a vision mocked by others can result in great achievements, just as often that vision results in hardship — often financial.

With voters in the region smacking down an increase in the sales tax to fund the Mayors’ Council transportation vision, it’s clear now that there really was no plan B.

Why the Mayors’ Council had no credible back-up plans for funding in a vote that was doomed to fail remains unanswered. In the corporate world, any CEO without a plan B, C and, last resort, D, would be shown the door.

Enter Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner, who finds herself in the awkward position of having promised to have LRT running in the city by 2018, but has yet to find an economically viable way to do that.

With the city carrying a debt load of approximately $245 million, borrowing to finance a $2-billion-plus project isn’t an option. That has the city grasping at straws to locate funds, and Hepner making headlines again for suggesting she might “take back” the city’s share of gas tax that currently goes directly to TransLink.

Hepner’s lastest suggestion has critics once again raising questions as to whether LRT is really even the best economic or logistical option for rapid transit in Surrey.

In a post yesterday, Daryl Dela Cruz of Better Surrey Rapid Transit, claims that even a public-private partnership deal for LRT would not recover operating costs and require the city to subsidize the line to the tune of $100 million a year.

While Dela Cruz is pushing for SkyTrain, another group called Rail for the Valley has been advocating for years to upgrade the existing interurban rail line that runs from Chilliwack into Surrey — at a fraction of the cost of Hepner’s plan.

Their release of the highly regarded Leewood report in 2010 presented a compelling argument to support the idea, yet remains largely ignored by politicians in favour of plans with more cachet.

The no vote should give Surrey council pause to reflect and re-assess what the city’s actual transit needs are, versus what sounds nice to build — otherwise it’s just another field of dreams with the taxpayers on the hook.

10 thoughts on “Last weeks City Hall column for 24Hrs Vancouver: Surrey LRT plans scary expensive!

  1. The big NO vote really needs some analysis. What were the people saying NO to? I can think of three separate topics (management, taxes, transit). I would have voted yes, no and no (’cause I think Allen is OK) but no more taxes, fer sure and the idea of mass transit is simply a faulty one from the get-go (for my two ‘no’s). Plus, the big NO may have simply been a general, overall protest vote for EVERYTHING because we aren’t really happy with anything government does, now are we? Suspending good people because they won’t kill bear cubs? Yoga on a bridge? Workers committing suicide. The government is stupid, evil, greedy and nauseating – what’s to like? Having said my usual rant: they really MUST find a way to ease traffic congestion. I suggest they try thinking originally. Seems trying to copy others is too hard for our nincompoops. The systems (like Compass) don’t work for us even tho they work in other places. So, try something new. Ban heavy traffic during rush hours (all slow trucks move after midnight and stop before 6:00 am.) Cameras and computers to sync up traffic so that the flow is continual rather than start and stop. More pedestrian under and over routes. Tax incentives for staggering work hours. Fuel price reductions for 3 or more riders. Let Uber run wild. Subsidies for small car purchases. Extra subsidies for small, GREEN cars. The list could go on and on. But it should start with: ‘why did they say NO?’


    1. When Allen thinks the vote was not about Translink he just does not get it and probably never will cause they all have blinders on. What a waste of lose to $500,000 annually. Get rid of Translink, the Translink board and start over. The Province needs to take ownership of Transportation but as long as they continue to give away the Province to the likes of Petronas we will never get what we need to solve our problems which is more money.


      1. The Translink referen-dumb was another revolting display of why voters all across Canada are either voting No to either the question posed OR no to the incumbent party seeking re-election.
        Ignore the fact that all the money in this referendum ( $6 million? 12?) promoting an unpopular tax increase was paid for by you
        The ads promoting a “yes” vote threatened voters with grid lock( a sign of desperation?).
        The ads ignored systemic ongoing problems with breakdowns ironically even while the referendum was underway..
        An epic fail in so many ways.
        Christie Clark re-election campaigners take note.


  2. oh those dammed voters again! imagine they EXPECT us to be fiscally responsible… we need more debt, debt that will hang over the citizens for decades… yeah, that’s it… MORE DEBT


  3. and on Tuesday’s news it was reported some of the ceos at Translink got fired. wonder how much that is going to cost the taxpayers? it wasn’t these C.E.O.s on their own who screwed up Translink, the vote, or lack of planning. Don’t forget Translink has a board of directors and they get anointed by the B.C. Lieberals and her photoopness.

    No plan B, because they can’t plan beyond, I want the money, I want the money, I want the money so I can give it to may latest new best friend who came up with this reallllllly great idea and we can all make lots of money by getting it from the taxpayers. The only way Translink is ever going to work is get rid of the B.C. Lieberals, fire the top management, the board of directors and hire a couple of C.E.O.s who have proven track records in public transportation. I hear the head of the New York transit commission makes a lot less than the C.E.O.s at Translink.

    Poor, poor Hepner. Never was the brightest of the lot and now she has to think her way out of this problem in Surrey. Well she could raise property taxes just a tad. The city does need more cops and a decent transit system. Rail for the valley is a great idea. We should have gone with a ground rail system back in the mid 80s. It would have been less expensive and would have worked better. but hey some idiot premier at the time wanted to look like a forward thinking big shot. Didn’t work out so well.


  4. Correct me if I’m wrong but don’t we have a Minister(who receives extra pay for holding this title) with a large staff, to oversee and plan all types of transportation issues? Perhaps Todd Stone should be outlining what his ministry has in mind to correct the problems facing voters commuting from Surrey. Isn’t that what the extra pay is for ?


    1. And, shouldn’t HE step down? Wouldn’t THAT be the honourable (in his title) thing to do? When you are at the top, you have to TAKE 100% of the RESPONSIBILITY. THAT is the reason why you are at the top and get the BIG bucks. It is not because you weld or sweep or type a whole lot more. It is because you take full responsibility. So, take it!


    2. perhaps in other governments that is why they get extra pay, but in B.C., not so much. They get extra pay because her photoopness liked them best and she thought if she gave them a bigger salary they wouldn’t cause her too much trouble.

      Now Todd Stone doing what is in his job descriptions, well lets see the last time he decided to do something like that he raised the speed limit in B.C. from 110 to 120K. Guess that’s it for this year.

      Stone would have to know some thing about transportation. He would perhaps have to have gone and spoken to a few professors in the field, gone to N.Y. and talked to the guy there and Portland. But hey that would have required some sort of planning and the b.c. lieberals aren`t too good at that. about all they can plan is their next photoopness. there is also the part where her photoopness might not have let him go on something like that because, he might look better than here and then there would have been a problem with all those friends of the b.c. lieberal who were anointed at great cost to the b. of d.s.

      cabinet ministers doing their jobs in b.c., just not a happening thing these days.


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