Transportation advocate Daryl Dela Cruz at Vancouver’s Burrard Skytrain station. (philippinecanadiannews.com photo)
Daryl Dela Cruz – what’s behind his passion for transportation
By Ted Alcuitas
He could talk non-stop for hours on his favourite topic – the need to change LRT to Skytrain in Surrey.
The man behind the advocacy group – Skytrain for Surrey is not your typical coat-and-tie wearing lobbyist.
Daryl Dela Cruz would have been mistaken as your next-door neighbours’s son just off work.
And that’s how he appears during our interview at a coffee shop just next door to the Burrard skytrain station in downtown Vancouver, an ideal location to talk about the subject of skytrains.
The day before, he was on an early morning talk-show at CBC and was on the six-clock news on prime TV for the much-touted showing of the LRT bus proto-type, shipped all the way through the Panama Canal.
He also organized a lightning rally against the bus showing which attracted media despite the small participation.
All this activity plus his work and studies did not deter him from agreeing to see us for an interview.
I wrote short pieces about him over the years but never meet him in person.
No wonder why officials seem to ignore this brash but not overbearing young man who have been hounding bureaucrats and politicians for the past five years.
Since 2012, when he founded the advocacy group Skytrain for Surrey, (http://skytrainforsurrey.org/mission/) he has been on the news everytime the subject of skytrain comes up. He is the groups’ Director and Campaign Chair and acts as its main spokesperson.
SkyTrain for Surrey is calling on decision-makers to build a 16km extension of the Expo Line. The extension would stretch from the terminus at King George Station to Langley Centre Station.
TransLink however is committed to building a Light Rail Transit (LRT) and the plans and budget are well underway. It is projected to start in phase 1 in 2020 with the line carrying its first passengers in 2024. In early 2016, the City of Surrey altered the cost of the project from $2.14 billion to $2.6 billion.
Dela Cruz is not fazed by rejection and his persistence and stamina could wear out a lesser person.
Is it a losing battle?
With an election coming up next month, this could become a political hot potato for politicians who would dare to champion or oppose it.
He pulls out his laptop which is kind of his work-horse and proceeds to show me the graphs and statistics- neatly laid-out in full colour and simplified so that the average layperson could grasp it.
He rattles off statistics and arguments without batting an eyelash, proving his extensive knowledge of his subject.
According to Dela Cruz, rapid transit studies for Surrey have consistently found SkyTrain to be the superior option.
“Passengers boarding an extended Expo Line at Langley Centre Station would reach Waterfront Station in downtown Vancouver in less than 60 minutes,” claims Dela Cruz.
It seems Dela Cruz was destined to be this crusader for a skytrain in Surrey.
He spent a year in Japan on a scholarship, spending 10 weeks travelling across the country to study its transportation system.
The 22-year-old does not drive a car and takes public transportation which he loves.
“I can be on the skytrain and work with my laptop,” he says.
How did he got bitten by the transportation bug?
“I live among many other students in one of the most progressive cities in North America. After spending a year away from Canada in one of the most transit-developed countries in the world, it’s clear that Metro Vancouver could benefit from ideas and innovation that can contribute to making this community even more vibrant,” he says.
“My goal is to take the inspiration I find through my impacts and my achievements and turn those ideas into real change.”
He has helped build the bus stop on Highway 1 at 156 St. in Surrey and influenced the TransLink decision to reverse a proposed drop in SkyTrain service frequencies.
In 2015, he was invited to a SmartRail Asia transportation conference. His awards include the Wall of Fame Brightest Star Award, Top 24 Under 24 Community Leader Award and Top 25 Under 25 in Surrey. Last year he was honoured as a Community Builder Award by the City of Surrey.
He is currently manager for Sprout Landscapes and is finishing his degree at Kwantlen University where he is majoring in Geography.
Asked if he has no plans to parlay his transportation knowledge into a consulting venture, he deferred but said he would not rule it out.
He is thinking of pursuing a research-oriented degree at SFU after he finishes his geography course
Dela Cruz is the eldest son of Narima and Joel Dela Cruz. He has a younger sister, Glisha.
Narima is the woman behind the 10-year-old organization Surrey Philippine Independence Day Society (SPIDS).