Transit planning unveils subtle differences between Expo and Canada Lines
By Greg Waldock, Staff Writer
With Surrey getting shafted with Light Rail Transit instead of a proper SkyTrain extension, accusations of class warfare have sparked across the Greater Vancouver Area. The controversial BC Liberal funding announcement leaves Surrey and Langley increasingly separate from the rest of Vancouver both in transit, and in wealth. I, investigative reporter Greg Waldock, decided to visit the different parts of the train system and see for myself how exaggerated this controversy is.
I went first to the Expo Line, beginning in New Westminster. The train was 20 minutes late and each car was filled beyond capacity by the unwashed masses. In one car nearly 100 people were huddled around makeshift fire pits for warmth, cooking curries and stir fries. At the next station, I switched to another car—this one showing the clear signs of the gang warfare that ravages Surrey daily. The seats were scorched and broken needles were scattered everywhere. Rival gang members glared at each other as they tried to angle their bikes awkwardly into the aisles.
The train then passed over the Fraser River, creaking and swaying as the wind blew in through the bullet holes in the windows. We reached Scott Road Station just as a fight broke out over a man who accidentally had blocked the doorway with his oversized travel backpack, so I switched over to the final car. In this one, the huddled masses were simmering with discontent, and a teenager—filled to the brim with youthful fervour—stood on a priority seat and called for the violent overthrow of the Surrey Central bus loop. Men with beards and mutton chops were drafting a manifesto on the back of an Uncle Fatih’s pizza box. I left before they realized I wasn’t one of them.
The next day, I visited the Canada Line starting at Waterfront. Each car was a wide open space, enough room for people to politely ignore each other while pretending to stare out of windows, as proper transit should be. Men and women garbed in fine silk lounged on couches, children frolicked freely through the cars, and smooth jazz played from a live band at the front. Commuters were fed grapes off the vine, and each stop had a timer for pinpoint-accurate train schedules. I met with an MP candidate who was shaking hands and accepting opulent donations.
“Yes, the housing problem in the unsavoury parts of Vancouver is a problem,” she said, when I asked her about conditions on the Expo Line. “And yes, we could approve cheaper housing to get people off the streets for proper mental health and medical care. But have you seen cheap housing? It’s so ugly and grey. My constituents don’t want to see that around their beautiful Point Grey neighbourhoods. The poor can wait until the housing prices fall. It doesn’t get that cold in Vancouver.”
It was only days after I had decided to call off my class warfare investigation that the provincial government announced the Surrey Light Rail will only be funded for halfway to Langley Center. For the rest of the route, the Light Rail will be pulled by teams of fare-dodgers and the TransLink employees who keep asking for more funding.