04/16/2015 11:51 EDT | Updated 06/28/2015 09:59 EDT

Surrey looks to Portland for ideas on light rail transit

If you are wondering what Surrey's light rail transit system will look like when it is up and running, take a trip to Portland.

Surrey's proposed three lines, which will run from the City Centre area to Newton, Guildford and eventually Langley, will look and operate more like Portland's MAX Light Rail Service than the SkyTrain and Canada Line, according to city officials.

"In other parts of the region where SkyTrain is currently running, you get station spacing, which is very far apart," said Paul Lee, Surrey's rapid transit and strategic project manager.

"Minimum a kilometre apart until you get downtown. At that spacing, more than a kilometre apart, you get fairly concentrated development. Towers that are 30 or 40 stories high."

Lee says building clusters of high rises around SkyTrain stations works well in other Metro Vancouver communities, but that's not what you're going to see in Surrey when the LRT line is completed.

"It won't look like the Millenium Line or parts of the Expo Line," he said.

"The densities along the line are a little more even."

Portland's MAX Light Rail Service popular with users

Trips to Portland's downtown core by transit nearly doubled between 1994 and 2011, thanks in large part to MAX Light Rail Service.

"It's very simple, very easy to navigate around town and it's very affordable," said Mike Rosetti, who was visiting Portland on a business trip from Kentucky.

"I have rented a car, but I found it's easier to leave the car at the hotel."

"It's cleaner than I thought," said Ron Grisby, who lives just outside of Portland and took the MAX for the first time last weekend.

"We're in no hurry, so I just kind of sit back and relax. I usually do all of the driving, so this gives me a chance to sit back and relax and enjoy all of the sights."

Portland's Advice for Surrey

Surrey sent a delegation to Portland to study the MAX system.

Alan Lehto, the Director of Planning and Policy with TriMet, which is the company that runs Portland's transit system, is reluctant to offer advice.

However, he says Surrey would benefit from building a line that showcases the look and feel of the city.

"Each of the lines that we have built over time has its own character to reflect the communities that it's serving," he said. 

"We have different designs, different station feels and amenities."