Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Pie Chart of 2014 TransLink Property Tax

Property tax is a major source of revenue for TransLink. In fact, property tax represented about 40% of the taxation-based revenue that TransLink received in 2013. This money is used to fund both roads and transit service in Metro Vancouver.

The Government of BC collects various statistics from local governments in the province. One of the things that I was curious about was the amount of property tax revenue collected for TransLink in 2014 by municipality. I have presented this information in the following pie chart.

2014 TransLink property taxes by municipality. Select chart to enlarge.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

McBurnay Lane, lighting, and creating a safer Downtown Langley

Due to my work schedule, I walk through Downtown Langley anytime between 6:00am in the morning and 1:30am in the late night to get between my place near the Nicomekl Floodplain and the Langley Centre Bus Exchange. Over the years, I have become very familiar with the types of activity that occur in Downtown Langley and the surrounding area both during the day, and at night.

Last night, I was walking through the new McBurney Lane in the heart of Downtown Langley. Lighting is a major element of the lane, and at night it truly shines. The bright lighting in the lane not only is beautiful, but also makes the area feel safe.

McBurnay Lane at Night. Select image to enlarge.

Unfortunately, many other parts of Downtown Langley are dimly light including Douglas Park, the bus exchange, and many of the City-owned parking lots. When I have observed unsavoury business going on in Downtown Langley during the night, it is usually in these poorly light areas.

Unsavoury business likes to be hidden in the shadows; people do not feel safe in poorly lit areas. The lighting in much of Downtown Langley was not designed to create a brightly and evenly lit area. Since these lighting system in Downtown Langley were installed decades ago, a good deal of research has been done on lighting and the creation of a safe public realm. The City of Saskatoon has a great guide called “Safe Growth and CPTED in Saskatoon” if you want to read more information about how lighting plays a key role in creating safety.

In order to increases the perceived and actual safety in Downtown Langley, the City really needs to exam its current lighting strategy.

For example, I felt totally safe walking through McBurnay Lane, but when I had to walk through the poorly light Douglas Park, I felt unsafe.

Light pollution is a major concern when upgrading lighting, but new lighting technologies are very good at putting light were it is needed, and blocking it where it is not (like through people’s windows.)

While I believe that good light is key to improving the safety of Downtown Langley, Council has been reluctant to improving lighting in areas like the bus loop. This is ironic considering that installing street lights in Downtown Langley was the reason that the City of Langley was created in the first place.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Brydon Lagoon

Earlier this month, around 500 to 1,000 fish died in Brydon Lagoon. As reported in the local news, and according to information from the City of Langley, the deaths were likely the results of low oxygen levels in the water due to the significant green algae blooms in the pond, combined with the extremely warm temperatures.

The City of Langley commissioned a Pond Management Strategy which was finish back in March 2013. The Strategy focused on Brydon Lagoon, the ponds at Sendall Gardens, and the pond just beside the Langley Seniors Resource and Recreation Centre.

The City of Langley Parks and Environment Advisory Committee, which I am a member of, provided input into the Pond Management Strategy. Based on the report, I wanted to highlight some facts about Brydon Lagoon.

Brydon Lagoon was built in 1963 to serve as a primary sewage treatment facilities for the City of Langley. As it was designed to be a sewage treatment facility, the lagoon needed to be shallow. Today it has a maximum depth of 1.25 metres.

In 1975, the lagoon was decommissioned as a primary sewage treatment facility and turned into a storm water management pond (see image in the post.) The lagoon was meant to help regulate the flow of water from storm water drains and reduce the sediment that would be deposited into the Nicomekl River, when it rains.

Brydon Lagoon - Existing drainage features and location. Source: Pond Management Study. Select image to enlarge.

In 1985, the lagoon and its surrounding area was designated as a wildlife sanctuary and public green space. The two aeration fountains in the lagoon today were installed in 2003 in an attempt to improve water circulation and increase the oxygen levels in the lagoon.

As the lagoon is only feed by storm water, during the summer month, the lagoon water essentially becomes stagnant.

The lagoon has become home to both invasive vegetation and aquatic animals. The dominant plant life consists of Reed canary grass and Himalayan blackberry. The grass at the edge of the lagoon is slowly causing an infilling of the lagoon.

Right now the lagoon is home to invasive fish species introduced by humans. While the lagoon does connect to the Nicomekl River, due to the current design of the lagoon’s outflow, indigenous fish from the Nicomekl River could not enter the lagoon.

So what could be done to improve Brydon Lagoon?

Dillon Consulting recommended that the lagoon would be most useful as a natural/park area. As such, they recommended keeping up with the current maintenance of the aeration fountains, perimeter path, and vegetation control along the path. In addition, they recommended that the City:

  • Install additional signage and lighting to improve the public realm
  • Replace the wooden outlet culvert with a new structure that would also allow fish to pass between the lagoon and the Nicomekl River
  • Install sediment catchers on the storm water inflow pipes
  • Stabilize the south bank of the lagoon to reduce infill
  • Widen the perimeter gravel path to 2m and build a viewing platform.

If the City implemented all the recommendation in the report, it would cost $218,025 and add $6,000 to the City’s operating budget.

To me this is well worth the cost as it would enhance the Nicomekl Floodplain Park System.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Crime and Safety in the City of Langley

One of the top issues that concern residences in the City of Langley is crime. People want the City to tackling crime, but how to tackle crime is nebulous to many people. When people talk about crime, especially at the local level, I believe they are actually talking about feeling safety in their community. How can the City of Langley help people feel safe?

There are two broad areas that must be addressed to help people feel safe. One is the public realm.

Rundown buildings, vacant buildings, empty lots, tagging, and poorly maintained or broken infrastructure (like street lights, sidewalks, roads, and benches) make people feel unsafe. The first thing that the City must do is make sure that the public realm is in a state of good repair. Sometimes this means investing more resources to address years of deferred maintenance, or vandalism. In the end, this will pay off. This is how New York City addressed the perception of crime, and transformed seedy places like Time Square into a major tourist destination.

When it comes to rundown buildings, vacant buildings, and empty lots, the City of Langley needs to work with land owners, local businesses, and the development community to find ways to attract new, and retain current, businesses. It must also work to support well-maintained commercial and residential buildings while also encouraging redevelopment. The City of Surrey, through the Surrey City Development Corporation, actually co-develops property with the private sector; this is something that I would certainly investigate doing in the City.

The second thing that makes people feel safe is when they are around other people. Of course this comes with a caveat; if people are around others that look like they are up to no good, then people feel unsafe.

It is no surprise than that people feel safe in Downtown Langley during the day, but not so much in the evening. One of the first things that the City should do is work with the RCMP to ensure that there are police “walking the beat” in places like Downtown Langley in the evening. This police presence will help discourage activities that make people feel unsafe.

The solution though is to give people a legitimate reason to be in Downtown Langley in the evening. In the short-term, the City could look at partnering with the local business improvement association to support evening events. With the new Timms Community Centre that is being built, the City will also have the opportunity to extend the reach of the community centre into the street.

The real solution is to build a walkable downtown core. This means building more housing in the downtown core that supports local business. It also means redeveloping parking lots into mixed-use residential buildings with ground-level retail. Like I said earlier, the City must also invest in its public infrastructure.

I believe that having a vibrant downtown core, and well-maintained public infrastructure, will make people feel safe in the City of Langley.