Monday, August 22, 2016

Learning from Auckland Transport and vacation alert

I will be taking a break from blogging until after the Labour Day long weekend. I’m in New Zealand at the moment. Auckland is New Zealand’s largest region, and has some of the same challenges that we have in Metro Vancouver. Providing enough affordable housing is top of mind in the region, as is the provisioning of a multi-modal transportation network. Their central government, just like our province, is obsessed with building wide freeways even if it goes against regional sustainable growth objectives.

Me standing by Canada Lane in Auckland. Select image to enlarge.

Over the past weekend, I had the pleasure of having a tour of Auckland and its transportation network with Darren Davis who works for Auckland Transport. AT is like TransLink, but on steroids. Expect for state roads (which are 99.99% freeways), they are responsible for all transportation in the region from sidewalks and roads, to public transit. The agency is arms-length from politicians, but unlike TransLink, has the resources to actually implement a quality transportation network.

Eye and ears at a bus exchange in Auckland is key to providing high-quality customer service and a safe environment. Select image to enlarge.

Over the last few years, Auckland Transport has been working hard to create a multi-modal transportation network. While there is much work to be done —most of Auckland’s land-use doesn’t encourage walking, cycling, or the use of public transit— Metro Vancouver and our provincial government could certainly learn a few things from the operation modal of Auckland Transport.

One of the things that I noticed right away was about the infrastructure in Auckland. It is in an excellent state of repair. Talking with some of the folks at Auckland Transport, I learned that maintaining infrastructure takes priority over expansion. I also learn that taxation levels are set to ensure that infrastructure can be adequately maintained.

High-quality, protecting cycling infrastructure is being rapidly built in Auckland. Select image to enlarge.

When I get back to Metro Vancouver, I will share more observations from Auckland and how it could apply in our region.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Road blocks to building a sustainable transportation system in Metro Vancouver

Today will be my last post on Metro Vancouver’s annual progress report, “Progress towards Shaping our Future,” for our region’s growth strategy that has been adopted by all but one municipality.

I’ve already posted about creating a compact urban area, supporting a sustainable economy, protecting the environment and responding to climate change impacts, and developing complete communities. Supporting sustainable transportation choices is the last major goal of the regional growth strategy.

TransLink and Metro Vancouver have a shared role when it comes to supporting sustainable transportation choices. While Metro Vancouver guides regional land-use objectives and sustainability goals, TransLink is responsible for developing and implementing a long-term transportation vision.

Legislatively, because the Mayors’ Council must approve any long-term TransLink transportation plan, and because there appears to be a good working relationship between our regional district and TransLink, the regional growth strategy and long-term transportation strategy generally align. You can view TransLink’s long-term transportation strategy and the Mayors’ Council 10-year transportation vision for our region to better understand the nuts and bolts of the transportation strategy for our region.

One of the unfortunate realities in our region is that the provincial government, whether it be the NDP or Liberals, tends to beat by its own drum resulting in massive freeway projects (such as the Massey Tunnel replacement bridge) that don’t align with our regional growth strategy.

One of the major regional growth strategies is to ensure that both land-use plans and our region’s transportation system encourage transit use, cycling, and walking, while discouraging single-occupancy vehicle usage. This also extends to ensuring the flow of goods and services in our region through the lens of sustainability.

The following map shows the 10-year transportation vision for our region.

Map of Mayors' Council 10-year transportation investment plan. Select map to enlarge.

One of the other key metrics is the amount of people that are within walking distance of frequent transit services. As of 2011, 55% of residents in Metro Vancouver were within walking distance of frequent transit. More current information will be available after data from the 2016 census is released.

In next year’s progress report, there will also be updated information on the share of trips people make by transit, driving, cycling, and walking.

The safety of our transportation system is of critical importance. Unfortunately between 2011 and 2013, the rate of injuries and facilities due to collisions increased.

2011/2013 vehicle related collisions, injuries, and fatalities. Select table to enlarge.

How we design our transportation system can have a profound impact on safety. Designing roads that encourage people to drive slower reduce serious injuries and fatalities.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

How is our region doing with the creation of affordable housing?

Over the last week, I’ve been posting about Metro Vancouver’s annual progress report for our regional growth strategy. Today, I’ll be posting on goal 4 which is to develop complete communities.

Goal 4 is tied closely to goal 1 which is to create a compact urban area. Developing a complete community which includes a variety of housing types, and with access to jobs, shops, services, and recreation activities within a close walk, bike ride, or transit trip; inherently supports the creation of a compact urban area.

Affordable housing is one of the goals of our regional growth strategy. The focus of this goal is to build more row housing and apartments to provide housing at various price points. In 2011, 51% of housing in the region was ground-oriented, 40% was apartments, and 9% was row housing. In 2015, 50% of housing was ground-oriented with 10% now being row housing. 40% remained apartments.

For growing families, row housing likely provides the sweet spot of space, affordability, and support for ensuring accessible communities. Surrey is currently the row house building leader in the region.

Share of growth by housing type between 2011 and 2015 in Metro Vancouver. Select graph to enlarge.

Increasing the social housing and rental housing supply is also a key strategy for our region which is extremely important considering our low rental vacancy rate. Unfortunately, the number of social housing units is on the decline in our region, and the number of purpose-build rental units has been growing at a slow rate.

Change in rental stock between 2011 and 2015 in Metro Vancouver. Select table to enlarge.

Homeless supportive and transitional housing units have increased by 38% which is encouraging. In Langley, these units have increased from 45 in 2011 to 69 in 2016.

Change in the number of homeless supportive and transitional units by sub-region between 2011 and 2016 in Metro Vancouver. Select table to enlarge.

While the region’s goal is to create a healthy mix of housing types, it is really up to municipalities in the region to make it happen. 13 municipalities in the region now have housing action plans including all South of Fraser municipalities.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Protecting and preserving the environment. Making progress in Metro Vancouver.

Today, I’ll be continuing with the review of our regional district’s 2015 annual report of the Metro Vancouver Regional Growth Strategy. I posted about creating compact urban areas last week, and supporting a sustainable economy yesterday. The third goal of the growth strategy is to protect the environment and respond to climate change.

One of the primary reasons why we have a regional growth strategy today is because of the rapid urban expansion of our region up until the 1970s. With single-family housing creeping up mountains, and with green space and farmland being paved over, people had enough. If you look at our region today, it’s no surprise that the vast majority of remaining sensitive ecological areas are in parts of the region that were urbanized after the 1970s.

Human health and ecological health are linked, so it is important that we protect our environment. The following map shows sensitive ecosystems in our region. You’ll notice that the City of Vancouver doesn’t have much.

Map of sensitive ecosystems in Metro Vancouver. Select map to enlarge.

There were 167 species in Metro Vancouver listed in the BC Conservation Data Centre as of 2011. In that same year, we had 131,819 hectares of conservation and recreation areas regionally. This grew to 132,671 hectares in 2015 due to changes in regional land-use designations in Coquitlam, Richmond, and Delta.

Changes in the Conservation and Recreation regional land-use designation between 2011 and 2015. Select chart to enlarge.

Over 60% of greenhouse gas emissions come from on-road transportation and buildings. The following maps are from 2010, and show per square kilometre and per resident GHG emissions within the urban containment boundary. This map will be updated in the next few years.

It’s no surprise that White Rock, Langley City, and New Westminster which have better transits service, and a more diverse housing mix have a lower GHG footprint than Delta or the Township of Langley which have poor transit service with a larger portion of their population living in single-family housing.

Maps of per square kilometre and per resident, residential buildings and on-road transportation GHG emissions within the Urban Containment Boundary in 2010. Select maps to enlarge.

District energy systems provide neighbourhood-scale energy distribution that is generally more efficient than heating and cooling buildings individually. Since 2011, our region has seen these systems expand from 4 to 7. Downtown Surrey is the only area in the South of Fraser were a district energy system is being built at the moment.