Monday, July 28, 2014

Langley Seniors Resource Society provides vital services to community

The average age of Canadians continues to increase. The large Baby Boomer generation, born between 1946 and 1964, will be entering retirement in droves over the coming decade. With this in mind, both the City and Township of Langley have unique challenges to ensure that seniors can maintain an independent, high quality of life.

The City of Langley has a significant population of seniors. 4240 seniors —17% of the population— called the City of Langley home based on the latest census data. About 30% of seniors live in or next to Downtown Langley. 42% of seniors live alone.

In the Township of Langley, the senior’s population continues to rise. 22% of seniors in the Township live alone. Unlike the more walkable and compact Downtown Langley, due to the Township’s large size and more auto-oriented design, many seniors living alone are not close to any community services. These seniors are at a high risk of social isolation.

Building walkable, accessible communities that support all generations is key, and particularly helps seniors. Over 70% of seniors have some form of disability. Besides building accessible communities, it is important that there are community services available for seniors.

Many people in Langley think that seniors are generally well-off both financially and socially. This is not necessarily the case. Seniors living in poverty, without a support network of friends and family, is a real and growing issue.

In Langley, we have the non-profit Langley Seniors Resources Society (LSRS) which provides services to seniors in both the Township and the City. The LSRS has a facility in the City of Langley.

They provide recreational opportunities to seniors including fitness programs, social programs, and educational workshops. The Society also has an outreach department which focuses on getting frail and isolated seniors the support services they need.

The LSRS also hosts an Adult Day Program for all adults living with physical and mental disabilities.

In additional, the LSRS has a food program which provides seniors with access to affordable, healthy food options. Many seniors do not have the skill set or even money to eat health on their own. I’ve seen some seniors in Langley trying to live off a can of soup a day; senior’s poverty is a real concern.

I suggest that you check Langley Seniors Resource Society website for more information about their services.

In 2013, the LSRS had $2 million in revenue. While the City of Langley did recently pay of the Society mortgage for their facility, the City and Township provide $0 in on-going operational financial support.

The LSRS recently requested that the Township of Langley contribute $40,000 to support seniors outreach and recreation services to that community, and support society membership subsidies for Township residents to access LSRS services.

With the amount of services that the Langley Seniors Resource Society provides, and with all the talk about creating age-friendly communities by many politicians, I was a bit surprised to that there appears to be little local government financial support for this organization which plays a vital role in the community.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

CBC On The Coast Radio Interview about SkyTrain and TransLink

Yesterday, I was on CBC Radio One’s On The Coast talking about SkyTrain and TransLink. I talked about how the lack of long-term funding for transit in our region has forced TransLink to “optimize” transit service, doing more with less. I talked about how it leads to a less resilient system, so when one part of the system fails, the ability of the rest of the system to compensate is reduced.

I also talked about the need for TransLink to improve its communication when transit service is disrupted, including how to prevent people from breaking out of trains.

I’ve embedded yesterday's show in this post, this interview starts at 0:07:30.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Rezoning application for proposed mixed-use development in Carvolth

Transportation systems have a profound impact on the design of our communities. Carvolth, in the northern section of Willoughby in the Township of Langley, was slated to become an area full of auto-oriented office parks.

Because of the construction of the Carvolth Park and Ride, and the introduction of higher-quality transit service like the 555 express bus to SkyTrain, the Township updated the plans for the area. Carvolth is now transforming from a first-generation suburb into a transit village.

Due to the changes to the area’s plan, the Township received a rezoning application for a 9.4 acre parcel of land between 86th Avenue and 84th Avenue, just east of 200th Street.

Proposed site plan included with rezoning application for land between 86th Avenue and 84th Avenue, near 200th Street in Carvolth. Select image to enlarge.

Along 86th Avenue, which will become a mixed-use, high street, the rezoning applicant is proposing to construct a 6 storey building that will included 15,000 square feet of commercial on the ground-floor, plus a possible hotel on the upper floors of the building.

In the area around a future 85th Avenue, the applicant is proposed to building two 18 storey apartment buildings with 3 storey townhouses at their base, plus a 4 storey apartment building. In the area near 84th Avenue, the applicant is proposed to building 3 storey townhouses.

Proposed height and concept for various buildings included in rezoning application. Select image to enlarge.

If the project gets developed, the Township will require a 4.5 meter greenway to be constructed along 84th Avenue as part of this project.

If this redevelopment application gets approved, development permits gets issues, and construction actually begins, this proposed project will lay the groundwork for other projects that will support the creation of a walkable and accessible transit village in Willoughby. I look forward to seeing the actual proposed design for the project.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The dangers of having a too efficient transit system: the SkyTrain meltdown

It has been a rough few days for transit riders in Metro Vancouver. On Thursday, the SkyTrain system was shut down during the evening peak travel period due to a failed computer component. This left many passengers stranded both at SkyTrain stations and in SkyTrain cars for up to five hours. This was really bad, but the system was repaired and service restore.

I don’t say this lightly; I’m very grateful that no one died due to the failures that shut down the SkyTrain system on Thursday and Monday. Other transit agencies, like Toronto’s TTC, have had people died when system failures occurred.

The SkyTrain system is very reliable —TransLink claims the system has 95 on-time performance— who could have predicted that there would be two system meltdowns within four days?

Luckily on Monday, the failure occurred during lunch, and TransLink was able to have service restored for the majority of the evening peak travel period. I was impacted by both Thursday’s and yesterday’s shutdown, but I’ll get to that in a moment.

During the system failure yesterday, I saw some truly silly comments from the anti-tax, anti-transit crowd saying that if TransLink didn’t have a new head office, executive staff, public arts, police, or a facility to refurbish old SkyTrain cars, there wouldn’t have been a system failure on Thursday or Monday. The implication was that TransLink was spending money on these items instead of keeping the system in a state of good repair; this couldn’t be further from the truth.

I take the SkyTrain from Surrey to Main Street Station at least five days a week, and sometime after 8pm. Because TransLink is replacing the power rails along the entire Expo Line to keep the system a state of good repair, it takes me an extra 15 minutes to get home if I’m working the late shift.

On top of that, TransLink is also rebuilding Main Street – Science World SkyTrain station due to its age. This means that I have to transfer to a special shuttle train which adds another 10 minutes to my commute.

I’ve also ridden in the refurbished older SkyTrain cars. TransLink is refurbishing, and not replacing, the older SkyTrain cars to extend their service life. This costs less than buying new cars while still improving the reliability of the system.

I have certainly been impacted as TransLink works to keep the SkyTrain running, so when I hear people claim that the SkyTrain failures of the last few days are due mismanaged priorities, I have the question the creditably of the people making these claims.

Ironically, the people campaigning to strip TransLink of funding in the name of efficiency may be responsible for the time it took to get service restored and get people moving over the last few days.

What should be apparent from the last few days is that having a resilient transit system is important.

When the SkyTrain was shut down on Thursday, I was able to take the West Coast Express to get back to Langley.

During yesterday’s SkyTrain shutdown, I was able to take the new B Line from Surrey Central to Netwon, catch a bus on the frequent transit network to the new South Surrey Park and Ride, then take an express bus to the Canada Line. I was only 30 minutes late for my work which is near the Olympic Village in Vancouver.

Due to the provincially mandated requirement to become more efficient, TransLink has reduced the resiliency of the system.

For example, TransLink didn’t purchase a $20 million backup system that may have allowed SkyTrain service to be restored faster on Thursday. Also, TransLink doesn’t have the long-term funding to pay for the over $1 billion in upgrades that will be required to keep the SkyTrain from becoming overcrowded and running as reliably as possible over the coming decades.

TransLink has tightened up the amount of spare buses and staffing on the bus network. This means that when emergency bus service is needed, there are fewer people available to drive these buses, and few buses available.

Running an efficiency transit system is important, but should transit service be optimized at the expense of reliability?

I will say that TranLink does need to review how it communicates information to customers during a SkyTrain shutdown. I have posted about this in the past, and moving forward, I hope TransLink will work to improve how it communicates to customers during a discontinuation of SkyTrain service. This includes simple things like providing information about where to catch a bus bridge.

Over the last week, the whole region has been made aware of the important role that transit plays in getting people around Metro Vancouver. A well-funded transit system is critical for the livability of people who live in our region.