Thursday, December 14, 2017

Making developers pay their fair share for regional transportation expansion

Development Cost Charges (DCCs) are used to pay for improving infrastructure that is required to support new development projects. Municipalities can collect and use DCCs to pay for building or upgrading sewage, water, drainage system, and roads.

Municipalities can also use DCCs to pay for new park land and for improving parks. The Metro Vancouver regional district collects a DCC to help pay for expanding the sewerage system. School Districts also collect a DCC which is known as a School Site Acquisition fee which is used to purchase land for schools. The following table shows all these charges in Langley City.

Development Cost Charges in Langley City. Effective April 28, 2014. Select table to enlarge.

The idea is that growth should pay for growth, and that developers should pay their fair share for infrastructure required to support their projects.

New development projects also increase the usage of our regional transportation system which includes public transit. The Mayors’ Council and TransLink are looking for the provincial government to enable the collection of a regional transportation DCC which would start in 2020. This transportation DCC would pay for the capital costs of transit expansion projects. The draft initial rate is as follows:

Single family: $2,100 per dwelling unit
Townhouse/duplex: $1,900 per dwelling unit
Apartment: $1,200 per dwelling unit
Retail/service: $1.00 per sq.ft.
Office, Institutional: $0.50 per sq.ft.
Industrial: $0.50 per sq.ft.

In Langley City, this DCC works out to be around 10% of the DCCs that the municipality charges. This regional DCC is expected to generate between $20 million and $25 million per year.

There was discussion about making this proposed regional transportation DCC stepped, meaning that development projects closer to transit service would pay a higher DCC. The current proposal is to have a flat DCC throughout the region. This is to simplify the administration of this DCC. In the future, a stepped DCC could be considered.

One of the big concerns about the regional transportation DCC is that it will impact housing affordability. A report by Coriolis Consulting Corp titled “Will TransLink’s New DCC for Transit Infrastructure Affect Housing Affordability?” states, “Adding a new DCC, such as the one proposed by TransLink, will not directly increase the market price of housing. Prices in a region with strong demand and constrained supply are not determined just by adding up the costs.”

In addition, it is proposed that agricultural uses, affordable rental housing projects, and statutory places of worship projects will be exempt from this regional transportation DCC.

It is expected that the provincial government will support creating enabling legislation for the collection of this new DCC.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

TransLink bringing back independent access for all SkyTrain customers

When the fare gates on the SkyTrain system were finally closed in the summer of 2016, there were some customers that were no longer able to use the system independently. TransLink estimated that there were around 15 to 50 people with limited mobility who would now need SkyTrain staff to assist them to access the system.

Taking away a person’s independence is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly, and TransLink planned to upgrade the accessible fare gates at stations to give people back their ability to independently use the SkyTrain system.

If you look above the accessible fare gates at many of the SkyTrain stations, you’ll see a white rectangular panel. This panel is an RFID reader which will be able to detect a person who has a special card. If it senses this special card, it will open an accessible fare gate.

A new RFID reader installed at Main Street – Science World SkyTrain Station. Part of TransLink’s Universal Fare Gate Access Program. Select image to enlarge.

About 40% of SkyTrain stations now have these new RFID readers, and this new universal access system is scheduled to be fully rolled out by the end of 2018. According to a recent TransLink report, the agency’s management is now seeking board approval to start rolling out their “Universal Fare Gate Access Program.”

People who will be eligible for the program must meet the following criteria:

Resident of [Metro Vancouver] who is a person who travels independently and due to a disability, confirmed by a medical practitioner, is physically not able to tap fare media, without assistance, at a Compass Fare Gate, to use conventional SkyTrain and SeaBus.

TransLink management hopes that by starting the rollout of this program before the RFID readers are fully functional, they will be able to better tune the system based on the number of people that enroll in the program.

Our SkyTrain system used to be barrier-free, and over the years, TransLink worked to make the system fully accessible. When the fare gates were closed, accessibility was reduced which is unacceptable. Bringing back independent access for transit customers is critically important. I’m happy to see that TransLink is taking this matter seriously.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

December 11, 2017 Council Meeting Notes: City's own GHG emissions down, plus 48 Avenue sewer replacement moving forward.

Last night was the final Langley City council meeting of 2017. Two of the major items on the agenda were the receipt of the 2016 Corporate Energy and Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG) Inventory, and tendering a contract to replace a section of sanitary sewer between 208 and 210 Street along 48 Avenue.

Langley City is a signatory to the BC Climate Action Charter. As such, we are committed to reduce our own GHG emissions by 134 tonnes between 2008 and 2018. The major incentive of being a signatory to the BC Climate Action Charter, and reducing GHG emissions, is that the City receives a 100% refund of any carbon tax that it pays.

The City has met its original target of reducing direct GHG emissions by 134 tonnes. The following table shows the year-over-year reduction throughout the last eight years. Most of the reductions in GHG emissions have been obtained by making municipally-owned buildings more energy efficient. There is still work to be done to make our vehicle fleet less GHG intensive.

Langley City direct GHG emissions. 2008 – 2016 Tonnes CO2e. Select chart to enlarge.

The City must also report GHG emissions from contacted services. In 2016, contact services added an additional 128 tonnes of CO2e emissions to our bottom line.

Some of the 2017 projects that the City is working on to further reduce GHG emissions include:

  • City Hall LED Lighting Retrofits
  • LED Streetlight Replacement (203 Street, 56 Avenue)
  • Vehicle Replacement (Plug-in Hybrid)

Over the next several years, the City will be replacing 100% of municipally-owned streetlights with LED lights. City staff is also developing a new 10-year GHG reduction plan.

Council also approved awarding a $495,000 contract to PW Trenchless Construction Inc. for the 48 Avenue sanitary sewer replacement.

City council adopted seven bylaws last night. Most of the bylaws were related to water, sewer, and garbage services. You can read more about these in a post I wrote last week. The other bylaw was a housekeeping amendment to the Council Procedure Bylaw.

Council appointed the following people to the Advisory Planning Commission for 2018: Trish Buhler, John Beimers, Jamie Schreder, Dan Millsip, Kimberley, Kim Mullin, and Ron Madsen. The Advisory Planning Commission “reviews development proposals while considering criteria that includes: overall design appeal, form and character, siting of the buildings and total site development in relation to its surroundings.” The commission provides advice to council and developers for consideration.

City council members sit on about two dozen committees. Council approved the list of committee appointments for 2018, as well as the finalized 2018 regular council meeting schedule.

Monday, December 11, 2017

TransLink Study: Traffic way up across Fraser River crossings, commutes slower

At the start of September, the provincial government removed the tolls from the Port Mann and Golden Ears Bridges. Transportation planners predicted that there would be a marked increase in vehicles across these two bridges. They were not wrong.

Port Mann Bridge: Source:

Preliminary data and personal anecdotes suggested that traffic ballooned across the Port Mann and Golden Ears. Unprompted, Langley residents have been telling me that they want the tolls back to make their commutes faster again.

TransLink staff crunched the numbers, and they found that traffic was up close to 30% on the Port Mann Bridge and 30% on the Golden Ear Bridge. They also found that traffic decreased by 11% on the Pattullo Bridge, 5% on the Alex Fraser Bridge, and 2% through the Massey Tunnel.

Truck traffic decreased 19% on the Pattullo Bridge. There was a 30% increase of truck traffic on the Golden Ears Bridge, and 15% increase on the Port Mann Bridge.

When all Fraser River crossings are considering, there was an overall average 7% increase in traffic during the weekdays and 9% increase on the weekends. That’s an extra 30,000 vehicles per day!

At the same time, transit ridership across the Fraser River has continued to grow at a similar rate as last year. These extra 30,000 vehicle trips materialized out of thin air. This is called induced demand. Simply put, more vehicle lanes produce more traffic.

How did this increase people’s commute times? Travel between New Westminster/Surrey or New Westminster/Coquitlam by car is now faster. Otherwise, travel times are longer.

TransLink’s Regional Transportation Model, which is used to predict traffic patterns, was “close to the actual outcomes on all three types of impact.”

The removal of the tolls at the Port Man Bridge and Golden Ear Bridge has been an excellent case study of tolling and its impact on congestion. The only way that our growing region will be able to reduce vehicle congestion along major corridors will be by implementing a system of fair tolls at all major crossing.

I believe that as a region-wide tolling system is implemented, gas tax should be lowered. This is one way to make the new tolling system fair.

The Mayors’ Council’s Mobility Pricing Independent Commission is looking a different decongestion road pricing options. Tolling is only one of the options that they are looking into. The commission will be presenting its recommendations early next year for the provincial government to consider.