The Newton town centre

72nd Avenue near the site of the historic Newton farm

72 Avenue near the site of the historic Newton farm (established 1886, now vanished)

As it turns out, there’s an urban village at the Newton Town Centre in Surrey, British Columbia. Finding it requires selective vision, looking past monster roadways, big box stores and industrial yards; but in its lopsided way, the village offers housing choices, commercial services, transit, and walking trails, straddling the former main highway between Vancouver and the USA.

Areas of Surrey, from the official community plan section of the City website

Areas of Surrey, from the official community plan section of the City website

Newton is one of seven planning areas in the vast city of Surrey. The municipality covers 316 square kilometres, an area as big as Vancouver, Burnaby and Richmond combined — or four times the size of the island of Manhattan, if that’s clearer. Google Maps estimates that it might take you three hours time to cross Newton diagonally on foot. It’s too big to be a neighbourhood — a borough, perhaps — but there are broad demographic tendencies. Surrey’s fact sheet on languages reports that Punjabi is the most common mother tongue in Newton, ahead of English; in the Cloverdale area to the east, the English-to-Punjabi ratio is 10 to 1. Continue reading

Surrey’s poll on light rail transit

Light rail transit, central Phoenix, 2012

Light rail transit, central Phoenix, 2012

Kudos to the City of Surrey for posting detailed tables from its recent opinion survey on light rail transit. Too often, governments hide the results of taxpayer-funded surveys from the taxpayer.

As reported earlier, Surrey is acting outside its jurisdiction in developing a plan for local rapid transit. This activity is intended to move regional, provincial and federal authorities to come up with the cash for detailed design and construction. Surrey is the 12th-largest municipality in Canada, and growing rapidly. City government is hoping that Ottawa in particular will go beyond the conventional limit and pay 50 per cent of the cost of a new stand-alone rapid transit system. Continue reading

North Surrey’s LRT landscape

The proposed light rail transit network in Surrey, British Columbia showing potential station locations (City of Surrey website, January 2016)

The proposed light rail transit network in Surrey, British Columbia showing potential station locations (City of Surrey website, January 2016)

In a November 2015 post we described a possible route for the Arbutus transit extension in the City of Vancouver. This line would feature both high residential density and major employment nodes along much of its length.

Surrey’s light rail transit proposal, by contrast, traverses long stretches where current density is very low. As an example, this post shows something of the current state of the Guildford leg of the proposed Newton-to-Guildford “L” line. Fraseropolis associate Robert J. Smarz and the editor visited hypothetical station locations along 104 Avenue from Surrey Central to Guildford on a recent Saturday morning. Continue reading

Light rail for Surrey: “Eyes on the street”

1-Surrey Central Station

The pedestrian arcade under the Skytrain line at Surrey Central station, 2011

The City of Surrey posted its animated vision for light rail in 2011, and set up a rapid transit office in the same year. A detailed route plan is finally on the way, we are told, but there is no clarity on who will pay for construction.

Surrey is British Columbia’s second largest municipality by population, and ranks twelfth in Canada as of this post. Under former mayor Dianne Watts, city government invested heavily in the Surrey Central precinct to create a focus for advanced education, culture and technology. Surrey wants to compete with  Vancouver in terms of national profile, employment quality and career opportunity. Rapid transit is part of that story. The hub of the proposed LRT system is to be located at Surrey Central, with connections to the Skytrain line that feeds into Burnaby and Vancouver. Continue reading

At Crescent Beach

Beach 1

The historic heart of Crescent Beach is partly screened from the rest of the city of Surrey, British Columbia by a railway line — operated today by Burlington Northern and Santa Fe, a 32,500-mile network controlled by Warren Buffett with all of 30 track miles in Canada.

Two and three generations ago, the railway line brought people out from Vancouver to enjoy days along the shore. Some built modest cottages and stayed for a few weeks during the summer, and a few of the old cottages still stand. On a clear morning, the promenade along the dyke from Blackie Spit park around the corner to the seafront cafes is one of the finest short walks in the region. Continue reading

Revisiting fabulous Cloverdale

Street 1

I recently returned to Cloverdale for a solo Sunday afternoon tour, three years after my first report on this historic commuter railway village in Metro Vancouver.

A local paper had suggested the business association might be falling apart, with the cancellation of major public events in 2015 due to a “lack of sponsorships.”

The eastern side of Surrey, British Columbia’s second largest city, has developed rapidly in recent years. Cloverdale’s special status as a somewhat self-contained urban village is acknowledged in the city government’s area plan (2000) and updated land use map (2013). Eight or 10 blocks of adjacent medium-density housing provide the beginnings of a customer base for local merchants and professional services. A minor campus of Kwantlen University is a 10- to 15-minute walk from the main street shops and restaurants. Continue reading

Fort Langley evolves

shops 1

For more than a generation, historic Fort Langley has evolved as a day-trip destination for people in eastern Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley. It features a walkable main street of coffee shops and art galleries, built alongside an 1840s-era  national historic site.

Fort Langley plan 2006In recent years Fort Langley has taken a leap forward in both liveability and visitor interest. The Bedford Landing riverside development, shown in gold on the map to the left, includes an inviting walking trail system and new commercial and cultural space. The emergence of Bedford Landing and smaller developments has pushed the Fort Langley population up from the 2,700 maximum contemplated in the 1987 area plan, to something over 3,700, going by the municipal estimate. Continue reading