Monday, July 25, 2016

Improving sidewalk and transit stop safety with yellow tactile walking surfaces

One of the reasons why I ran for Langley City Council is to advocate for improving the sidewalks in our community. When I’m in other municipalities, I’m always on the look out to see how they are improving sidewalks in their communities.

The City of Abbotsford has been doing some impressive work over the last little bit planning for, and improving their public realm to support the creation of a walkable, livable community. Safe sidewalks are one of the indigents required to build a walkable community.

McCallum Road is one of the streets in Abbotsford that is in transition. Some sections of the street have super narrow sidewalks and strip malls, but as it redevelops, it is being transformed into a walkable corridor that could support frequent transit service.

Sidewalk safety is a big deal, and I was pleased to see that Abbotsford appears to be taking sidewalk safety seriously as it redevelops McCallum Road.

Yellow tactile walking surface installed at intersection on McCallum Road in Abbotsford. Select image to enlarge.

Yellow tactile walking surface indicates
the location of transit stops along McCallum Road in Abbotsford. Select image to enlarge.

As you can see in the preceding pictures, the City of Abbotsford has installed yellow tactile walking surfaces at bus stops and intersections. This strips let people who are visually impaired know when they are leaving the sidewalk and entering the street. There is a great post on the Civil PDX blog which provides a detailed overview of tactile walking strips, and how they help people.

These strips can also be used to provide directional guidance, and as in the case of Abbotsford, to indicate the location of transit stops.

These strips also provide visual cues to both people who are driving and have full visions, and can improve overall safety for everyone.

In Metro Vancouver, TransLink provides guidance on how to incorporate tactile surfaces at bus stops. Here is an example of a new transit stop at King George SkyTrain Station.

Transit stop at King George SkyTrain Station in Surrey. Select image to enlarge.

It would be great to see tactile walking surfaces installed at intersections and transit stops in Langley City as we rebuild our sidewalk network to improve safety for everyone.

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.