For Civil 3D, there's no other reliable way to share data (alignments, surfaces, etc) between C3D drawings. I don't want to duplicate my Existing surface, I just want to display it in other drawings. Vault is the Autodesk path to do that. Datareference the surface, stylize it, and you should be good to go.
Data shortcuts do exist, and may be usable for some, but they are not all that reliable, and cannot be used for points or point groups. Of course, Vault doesn't handle parcels either.... Nothing in the C3D world seems to work as well as it should. Lot's of good functionality in C3D though, and with LDT dying on the vine, little choice. Save early, save often.
Caveat -- Autodesk just released a service pack 1 for the ADMS portion of Vault that broke the Civil 3D installations of Vault. Some serious QA/QC and communication issues there.