Thursday, July 21, 2016

The trouble with minimum parking requirements

When someone builds or significantly renovates housing, offices, or retail and commercial buildings, they are usually subject to minimum on-site parking requirements throughout municipalities in Canada.

Building parking spots is expensive, and building structured or underground parking is even more expensive. Minimum parking requirements add to the cost of business and make housing less affordable.

A surface parking space costs around $5,000-$10,000 to build. Structure parking costs around $15,000 to $25,000 and up per space to build. This does not included ongoing maintenance costs.

Minimum parking requirements significantly impact urban forum, and can take away from creating walkable, livable communities. The Langley Bypass is the perfect example of this.

So why were minimum on-site parking requirements put into zoning bylaws in the first place? To deal with people parking on the street, using all available curb spaces. The idea was that if you required enough on-site, off-street parking, people wouldn’t park on the street.

Unfortunately, people will park on the street (if it is free) no matter how much on-site parking is provided. There are some good examples of this in Langley City’s Downtown Core and in Willoughby.

Getting minimum parking requirements correct is near next to impossible. For example, a Starbucks and cheque cashing business were built on a former section of parking lot at Valley Centre Mall in Downtown Langley. Because of minimum parking requirements, they were required to build an additional parking lot adjacent to the mall. As you can see, this parking lot isn’t used.

A Starbucks and cheque cashing business were added to a former section of parking lot in Valley Centre Mall on Fraser Highway.

An empty surface parking lot built to meet Langley City minimum parking requirements is located behind the mall on Industrial Avenue.

Are their better ways to manage parking? There certainly are! The paper Smart Growth Alternatives to Minimum Parking Requirements by Christopher V. Forinash, Adam Millard-Ball, Charlotte Dougherty and Jeffrey Tumlin provides some great alternatives.

It is critically important that on-street parking is properly managed. In commercial areas, this generally means pricing parking to ensure there is always a few spaces available. In residential areas where there is an over-subscription to on-street parking, permitting generally should be considered.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Some more information on the 2016 Transit Report Card

Earlier this week, I released the 2nd Annual Transit Report Card of Major Canadian Regions. Over the last few days, I’ve had the opportunity to talk about the results of that report card. I thought I would share some of the interviews that I gave about it.

The first interview is from Global BC 1 where I provide some context around the report card, and what some of the metrics mean.

The second interview is from Roundhouse Radio. The interview starts at 33:20. Some of the things that we talked about were the differences between perception and reality when it comes to TransLink. We also talked about how TransLink’s service optimization has been effective in creating a transit system that, more so than other agencies in Canada, matches service with demand. I also noted that without any further investment in transit operations, we will see a degradation of transit service quality in Metro Vancouver.

Listen to the Roundhouse Radio Interview

Monday, July 18, 2016

2016 Transit Report Card Released: Montreal leads; Metro Vancouver maintains “A” grade

Public transit is a critical component of the transportation network of major Canadian urban regions. How, though, do our transit systems perform? While this information is available, it hasn’t been easily accessible to the average Canadian. This is why I, with the help of urban planner Paul Hillsdon, launched a Transit Report Card of Major Canadian Regions last year.

People are very passionate about transit and that leads to very strong opinions about transit service providers. Unfortunately, many of these opinions are based on purely anecdotal evidence. These transit reports card, however, provide an evidence-based evaluation of transit service.

New in this year’s report card is a section tracking national median metrics. The operating cost of providing transit service slightly increased between 2013 and 2014 due to inflationary pressures (2014 is the most recent year for which complete data is available.) Transit service hours also slightly decreased which resulted in a slight decrease in passenger trips per capita.

Passenger Trip Intensity slightly increased at a national level meaning that transit agencies in Canada’s major urban regions have become more efficient.

Investing in transit service is of critical importance. In 2014, investment in new transit service hours did not keep up with population growth. With a new federal government, there has been renewed interest in investing in public transit projects. Equally important is investment in on-going operations costs. This, of course, takes the leadership of provincial and local governments.

Montreal was the only region in Canada to see an increase in its grade as its operating cost per service hour came in line with other regions in Canada. The Montreal region is by far the best performing major region in Canada.

Metro Vancouver was the only other region to maintain its “A” grade. TransLink continues to provide the most efficient transit service of the regions evaluated. While TransLink has the highest operating cost per service hour, because it is also one of the most efficient agencies, it has a lower operating cost per trip compared to the Greater Toronto & Hamilton Area.

Download the 2016 Transit Report Card of Major Canadian Regions.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

July 11, 2016 Council Meeting Notes: Part 3 of 3. Regulating thrift stores, 203rd Street project moving forward, showing we are an inclusive community

This will be the third and final post about Monday night’s City of Langley Council Meeting. For the full story, please read part one then part two.

City of Langley Council gave final reading to an updated Waterworks Regulation Bylaw. You can read more about this on a previous blog post. Council also gave final reading to amend our Officer Establishment Bylaw. This amended bylaw now allows the CAO, Director of Development Services and Economic Development, and the Director of Engineering, Parks and Environment to have signing authority for the City.

Over the last little while, there has been a large increase in the number of thrift stores in the community. This has caused some concern to people, and resulted in a letter from the Downtown Langley BIA requesting that council consider regulating the number of thrift stores in the community. There has also been concern about donation drop boxes as they can become unsightly with debris and items left around them.

To address these concerns, City of Langley staff developed three bylaw amendments for council to consider.

The first bylaw amendment would prevent new thrift stores from being opened with 400 meters of any other thrift store. All current thrift stores would be allowed to operate as per BC law. Council gave first and second reading to this bylaw amendment. The bylaw amendment would also prevent any new donation drop boxes from being placed in the City. Councillor van den Broek and Councillor Storteboom did not vote in favour of giving first and second reading. Some of their concerns were that businesses should be treated equally, and that council shouldn’t be getting so prescriptive with business regulations. I understanding their perspectives. For example, the City has a lot of sushi restaurants. Should we regulate the number of sushi restaurants too? I believe that Council needs to carefully consider all bylaws that place restrictions on what types of businesses we allow, or don't, in our community.

This proposed bylaw change will be heading to a public hearing to get input from the community.

Council also gave first, second, and third reading to a proposed amendment to our Business License and Regulation Bylaw. This amendment would require thrift stores that receive goods to have a person attending the donation acceptance area at all time when donated items can be dropped off, place clear signs around the donation acceptance area noting when items can be dropped off, and require a daily cleanup of the area expect for Sundays and holidays.

Council gave first, second, and third reading to amend our Fees and Charges Bylaw for existing donation drop boxes in the community. The City would require a $173 fee, plus an additional $100 for each donation drop box that is on private property.

Council approved a staff recommendation to award the tender of the 203rd Street project to Eurovia.

Over the last year, there has been an increase in violence around the world towards people who are sexual and visual minorities. Talking with some other members of council, we wanted to find a way to show that Langley City acknowledges and respects all people in our community. On Monday, I put forward a notice of motion that the City of Langley fly a rainbow flag one week during the summer to show that we are a community that accepts people no matter their colour, race, region, national or ethnic origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or mental or physical disability.