Leveling the Playing Field: Improving Public Transportation Infrastructure in Surrey, BC

Downtown Surrey Business Improvement Association releases special report: “Leveling the Playing Field: Improving Public Transportation Infrastructure in Surrey, BC”.

 Executive Summary

This report outlines the context and rationale for increasing the efficiency of existing transportation options and exploring innovative funding services for future public transportation investments in Surrey, BC. Based on the data examined, Surrey is not receiving its fair share of required transit investment from TransLink to keep up with future population and employment projections. City residents continue to identify poor transit service as the top transportation issue requiring attention.

We highlight some regional transportation funding inequalities and discuss some of their consequences. We identify how transportation improvements designed to reconfigure the urban form can have beneficial economic impacts and conclude with recommendations and policy implications that the City of Surrey and the Surrey Downtown Business Improvement Association should support to move transportation improvements forward.

Potential transit ridership increases are greatest South of the Fraser due to increasing population growth, rapidly changing land-use patterns and relatively low transit service levels. Surrey had 46% of Metro Vancouver’s average bus service hours per capita and 6.2% of transit modal share to, from and within Surrey (compared to a regional average of 12.4%). Transit levels in Surrey were at 0.57% annual service levels compared to a 1.65% regional average in 2005. During 2006-2009 approximately 50% of the regional transit service hours expanded and bus service in Surrey increased from .057% to 0.97% service hours per capita, yet still remained significantly lower (by 120%) than the regional average of 2.13% transit service hours per capita (2009).

If current regional population and employment growth trends continue, demand for enhanced transit service will only increase in the coming years, particularly in South of Fraser suburb-to-suburb segments and connections.

Increasing the efficiency of the existing public transit infrastructure through transit priority measures is another missing link to improve Surrey’s transportation. Queue-jumping lanes and intersection controls that prioritize public transit vehicles and high occupancy vehicles (HOV) over other vehicles can provide time savings that reduce unpredictable delays and increase the value of alternative transportation compared to single occupancy vehicles. HOVs provides travel time savings, operating cost savings and increased travel reliability.

Innovative funding sources for transit are needed. Surrey will have to form innovative partnerships with diverse partners to ensure secured funding for future investments.

Potential funding sources should seek to ensure equity, efficiency and address short and long term transportation improvements. Funding sources can be divided into demand management (short term) and supply management (longer term) mechanisms:

Demand Management Mechanisms

a. Motor vehicle user fees

i. Carbon tax revenue

ii. Vehicle registration fee

iii. Road pricing

Supply Management Mechanisms

b. Transportation Oriented Development (TOD)

i. Land value taxation

ii. Special assessment districts

iii. Other funding mechanisms

Improved transportation approaches in Surrey require generating greater ridership and making costs for transit more equitable within the City and the South of the Fraser area. Subsidizing operational costs to provide greater value investments in transportation can result in improved economic impacts for the City, such as higher property values, improved business performance, and increased productivity and quality of the work force.

Surrey should prioritize developing Light Rail Transit (LRT) and enhanced Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) connections and other bus services to link parts of the City in a much more effective way and also to connect Surrey to neighbouring municipalities. Based on lifecycle costs, trip lengths and GHG reductions, light rail represents the most appropriate investment opportunity for communities to support overall vehicle trip reductions. While suitable and cost-effective options are explored that work in tandem with existing transportation services, all stakeholders including the City of Surrey and Surrey Downtown Business Improvement Association will have to work together to carefully examine the opportunities presented in this report.

Complete DSBIA Transportation Report

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