Thursday, November 27, 2014

City of Langley's New Master Transportation Plan

On November 2nd, during this last election campaign, Langley City Council adopted a new Master Transportation Plan. This plan lays out the vision for the City’s transportation network over the next decade. The previous Master Transportation Plan was adopted in 2004.

While some people think that master plans are set in stone, they are actually guiding documents. Council can choose to move forward with some of the recommendations in these plans, while ignoring others. Council can also shift priorities in these plans, funding “long-term” projects before “short-term” projects. Council could also move forward with projects that are not even in these plans. For example, the City of Langley contributed $8.4 million toward the new Fraser Highway Bridge at 208th Street even though it was not in the previous Master Transportation Plan.

City of Langley Sidewalk Priorities. Select map to enlarge.

One of the most exciting aspects of this plan is that it is heavily focused on improving accessibility for pedestrians in the City. In fact, $10.5 million of the estimated $21.4 million in capital costs in the Master Transportation Plan is to improve walking. The single largest focus of this transportation plan is to ensure that sidewalks are provided on both sides of every street in the City. The plan also suggests funding crosswalk improvements in the community.

While the new Master Transportation Plan talks about the need to widen existing sidewalks in some parts of the community, I don’t see that translated into any funded projects in the Plan.

The plan also recommends installing audible signals, countdown times, and bicycle pushbuttons for most traffic signals in the City.

City of Langley Recommended Bicycle Network. Select map to enlarge.

The proposed enhancements to cycling infrastructure in the new Master Transportation Plan are disappointing. City of Langley Council has a poor track record of improving cycling infrastructure in the community. While the majority of new road projects include bike lanes, Council has consistently denied funding to fill in the cycling network, leaving a patchwork of bike lanes. A network is needed in order for people to actually consider cycling. In order for the majority of people to consider cycling, off-street trails and separated bike lanes are a must. The Master Transportation Plan sets aside $3.7 million for cycling improvements, though most of it is relegated to the “long-term” funding category which is code for “not going to happen anytime soon.”

There is some good news though, the Master Transportation Plan has identified 203rd Street and Michaud Crescent as short-term priorities for bike lanes. I hope that City Council will show some vision and put bike lanes on these corridors as it will allow for at least one north/south cycling corridor and an east/west corridor.

Bike lanes don’t feel safe for seniors, children, or women. To make cycling safer, and to attract more people to cycle in the City, building separated bike lanes is a must, but there are none proposed in the Master Transportation Plan.

The Master Transportation Plan proposes to spend $5.2 million on changes to the road network. Short-term priorities included reconfiguring keys intersection in the City to improve traffic flow for automobiles.

City of Langley Proposed Road Network Changes. Select map to enlarge.

Longer-term projects including spending $1.7 million to widen 200th Street between the Langley Bypass and Fraser Highway. The Plan also suggests advocating for the province to widen the Langley Bypass to six-lanes between 200th Street and Fraser Highway.

One of the more interesting long-term road projects is to realign Grade Crescent for $1.26 million. One of the proposed options would see the City bulldoze people’s homes for this realignment.

50th Avenue/Grade Crescent Realignment Options.

While the City has very little control over transit, as it is the responsibility of TransLink, the Master Transportation Plan identifies $2.0 million in projects. These projects include moving towards making 100% of the City’s 121 bus stops fully accessible for people with disabilities. These projects also include improving bus stop lighting and improving or installing new bus shelters.

If you want to see the full details of the new Master Transportation Plan, the City of Langley has posted it online.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

2014 Residential Development in Surrey

The City of Surrey posts large amounts of data on their website. Sometimes that data can be a bit tricky to find, or needs to be changed into a different format to be better interpreted. Today, I thought I would share new residential development approval stats from January to October of this year. It might surprise you which Surrey neighbourhoods saw more single-family development approvals issued, and which neighbourhoods saw more multi-family development approvals issued. These numbers don’t included previously issued approval, even if those units haven’t been constructed yet.

Total Surrey residential development approvals January thru October, 2014. Select graph to enlarge.

Continue on for more development graphs.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Who will lead the campaign for more transit funding?

With the upcoming referendum on transit funding (in theory) set to occur before June 30, 2015, things are starting to heat up in the campaign to have voters approve a ballot question which will seek more funding to maintain and improve transit in our region.

The first hurtle that must be crossed is actually coming up with a ballot question for the upcoming referendum. Elections BC needs to know the ballot question by mid-December. This means that both Metro Vancouver mayors and the province have only a few more weeks to agree on the ballot question and potential new funding source for transit. The next Mayors’ Council meeting is on December 11th.

Ballot measures asking to increase taxes to fund transit have succeeded in the US when government, business, and labour come together. In BC, it looks like local government leaders will be supporting more transit funding, but the province has so far tried to distance itself from transit in Metro Vancouver.

Since the province forced a referendum on transit in our region, it is a real shame that they are abdicating responsibility to either fund, or advocate for more transit funding. It is really interesting that both former BC Liberal Transportation Minsters Kevin Falcon and Blair Lekstrom do not support a referendum on transit funding.

According to Lekstrom, “Governing by referendum I think is always a difficult position. I'm a believer if you cast your ballot for someone, whether it's for a three or four year term, I'm giving them the ability to make decisions on my behalf and I'll judge their results later. I'm not a huge supporter of governing by referendum.”

While the provincial government is currently non-committal in its support of transit in Metro Vancouver, proponent groups are starting to come together.

The first organization is Moving in a Livable Region. This group is aiming to provide fact-based information about the importance of funding transit in Metro Vancouver. It is a coalition of business, labour, advocacy organizations, and SFU.

Another organization, the Metro Vancouver Alliance, is comprised of 51 faith groups, organized labour, and community groups. It is supported by the BCTF, Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver, IBEW, and Vancity. According to the Alliance they “consider the current regional transit issues as one of the most important topics of concern.” They are calling on all their members to “support the referendum and to rally the people with in each group to then carry that message forward to the communities to seek their support for a successful referendum.”

There are other groups that are supporting a successful referendum outcome to increase transit funding.

My main concern is that there is no leader or group that people can stand behind to support transit. A strong organization to ensure that all the proponents of the upcoming transit referendum are working together will be key for a successful outcome of the referendum.

Monday, November 24, 2014

City of Langley seeks input on parks

The City of Langley is hosting an open house to gather feedback for two parks in the community: Buckley Park and Penzer Park.

City of Langley Parks Map. Select image to enlarge.

The City’s 2013 Parks, Recreation and Culture Master Plan recommends that these parks be upgraded.

Buckley Park – this low-use park has a small play area and two gravel fields under the powerlines, supported by washrooms and a soccer meeting room. The challenges are the low level of the lights due to the powerlines. Options to consider include an improved playground, community gathering space and a perimeter trail.
Penzer Park – this park contains a mountain bike skills park and a sports field, both of which are rarely used. There are significant opportunities to revitalize the bike park through working with user groups such as local youth and the Langley Mountain Bike Association, organizing programs and events at the facility, and placing recreation staff at the bike park.
Options for the sports field need to be identified with input from the community, and could include a sport court, basketball court or other facilities for youth, and a gathering space for youth.

Open House Information:
Date: Wednesday, November 26
Time: 3:30pm to 6:30pm
Location: Simonds Elementary School, 20190 48 Avenue

Coffee, tea and cookies will be provided. Call the City of Langley at 604-514-2997 for more information.