COLUMN: Community is at capacity

City needs to find parking solution before September

Sometimes in Surrey, it seems that the right hand has no idea what the left hand is doing.

This is being clearly illustrated right now in Clayton, one of the fastest-growing areas in the city. There are major issues involving schools, roads and transportation, but solutions to these problems are being pursued in silos. Those working on the solutions are not communicating with each other – or simply not listening.

At present, construction work is proceeding on Salish Secondary, in the 7300 block of 184 Street. The school, which will have 1,500 or more students attending classes when it opens in September 2018, is being built to take some pressure off nearby Clayton Heights and Lord Tweedsmuir Secondaries.

However, the school is located on a very busy two-lane road which has deep ditches. It is just two blocks away from Clayton Elementary on the same busy arterial street.

At the elementary school, which is hopelessly over capacity, there are traffic jams at the beginning and end of each school day. Parents park all along the street and on adjacent streets and block private driveways, in order to pick up their kids.

What will happen when the much-larger high school opens? There is no place for any parking on the street near the high school. While there will undoubtedly be pick-up locations on the school grounds, it is unlikely there will be enough space to accommodate all parents wishing to pick up their children.

Many high school students also drive to school. This is obvious when travelling by Lord Tweedmuir or Clayton Heights. Not all of them park on school property. Where will those attending Salish Secondary park?

If the ditches on 184 Street remain in place, and the road is not widened, there will be chaos outside the new school. The street has heavy traffic throughout the day. Combine this with the current traffic outside Clayton Elementary, and there will be gridlock on 184 Street every school day. There is a four-way stop at 72 Avenue and 184 Street, which slows traffic, and a stop sign at 80 Avenue means traffic routinely is backed up as drivers try to turn left on 80.

In addition, the city has approved a major development across the street from the new high school, so there will be plenty of construction traffic there when work begins.

There is no bus service anywhere close to the new school. The nearest bus runs along Fraser Highway, almost a kilometre away. No new bus service is planned to the area. The lone bus which runs through Clayton residential areas goes by Clayton Heights Secondary, but is a community shuttle which runs quite infrequently.

There is another indication that city planners and engineers, along with politicians, work in silos. A new rapid transit line is being proposed for Fraser Highway through Clayton. It probably won’t be built for at least a decade. Paul Lee, the city’s rapid transit and strategic projects manager, said at last week’s Cloverdale Chamber of Commerce meeting that the city favours an at-grade light rail line. He told me afterwards that there are no plans to construct a station at 184 Street and Fraser Highway when the line is built. One could be added later.

That means that students attending the new high school won’t be able to use the transit line to get to school either, even though the school may have been open for a decade by the time the transit line is built.

Yet Lee also said that the rail project will be built “hand in hand with city building.” It is to be designed in line with development plans for the city. In Clayton, in the area where the new high school is being built, the city recently adopted a neighbourhood concept plan to outline and guide future development.

Yet in all those expensive city-building exercises, no consideration is being given to how students will get to school and how they can do so without adding excessive amounts of traffic to streets that simply cannot handle it.

The city needs to put more time and energy into a solution that works for parents and students of the new school, and residents of the area. The solution needs to be in place before next September.