Wednesday, December 17, 2014

City of Langley applying to feds for 203rd Street bridge widening and bike lanes

When I ran for Langley City Council this fall, one of the things that I heard from people in the community is that they are concerned about the volume of automobile traffic flowing through their neighbourhoods. People were resigned to the fact that 200th Street and 208th Street were major thoroughfares, but people wanted safe streets in the rest of the community: streets that are safe for pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists; streets where children could ride their bikes or walk to school; streets where seniors don’t have to worry about being mowed down.

At the last council meeting, City Council unanimously passed a motion to apply to the Federal Build Canada fund for various projects along 203rd Street. The Build Canada fund is the major federal infrastructure funding program for local governments in Canada. This federal program could cover up to one third the cost of the projects the City has submitted.

The City of Langley will be bundling $2.6 million in projects which include:

-Upsizing Watermain - 203 Street from Grade Crescent to 49A Ave to support re-development
-Rehab and add capacity by widening 203 St Nicomekl Bridge – widen for the multi-use pathway (MUP) including bike lane
-Paving 203 Street – Grade Crescent to north approach of Nicomekl Bridge
-Adding bicycle infrastructure on 203 Street from Grade Crescent to 56 Ave/Douglas Cres
-Decommission/abandon 965m of AC Watermain
-Replace AC Sewer on 203 St from Grade Crescent to 49A Ave

While I’m excited to see that the City is working toward putting cycling infrastructure along 203rd, I’m hoping that they will be separated bike lanes. Regular curb bike lanes have not been found to be effective in encouraging the majority of people to cycle. This would be a great chance to provide a much needed north/south bikeway in the City. I hope council doesn't squander this opportunity if they get federal funding.

I’m also concerned about what widening the Nicomekl Bridge means. I’m sure people along 203rd won’t be too thrilled if their street becomes a 4-lane thoroughfare.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

New Community Garden and Dog Off-Leash Area for Linwood Park

The City of Langley Parks and Environment Advisory Committee has been advocating for adding a new community garden site to the city. Earlier this fall, the City of Langley hosted an open house to gather feedback from the community on a preferred location for a new community garden site, plus a site for an additional dog off-leash park.

130 people submitted feedback on where they though the City should build a new community garden and a dog off-leash area. Linwood Park was the top choice as a new community garden site though Douglas Park was also popular having received two less votes as the preferred community garden site.

Map of parks within the City of Langley with Linwood Park highlighted. Select map to enlarge.

Example layout of Linwood Park with dog off-leash area, community gardens, and sports field. Select image to enlarge.

The preferred park for a new dog off-leash area was Linwood.

At last night’s council meeting, the following motion was put forward by council:

That Linwood Park is chosen as the location for the new Dog Off-Leash Park and Community Garden site.

hat the City requests proposals from not for profit groups for the operation and maintenance of the new community garden site.

That a fee of $25 be established for the 16 sq.ft. garden plots and a fee of $50 established for the 32 sq.ft. plots

That the yearly fee at the Nicomekl Elementary garden plots be raised from $15/year to $25/year to be consistent with the new site.

Currently, the City of Langley subsides the cost of the current Nicomekl Elementary garden plots at a cost of $3000 per year. City of Langley staff is recommending putting out a request for proposal for a non-profit organization to look after the operation and maintenance of the new Linwood community gardens. As an example, Langley Environmental Partners Society operates some of the Township of Langley's community gardens.

There was discussion around the council table about the appropriateness of setting the plot fees before getting proposals from the RFP process. As such, Council voted to not establish the fees it would charge for plots at the new Linwood Park Site. Council also kept the the Nicomekl Elementary garden plots fee at $15 per year for now.

Work will proceed with the construction of the new community garden and the dog off-leash areas in Linwood Park in time for the 2015 growing season.

Monday, December 15, 2014

TransLink Third Quarter Stats Released

Every quarter, TransLink releases their financial and performance results. TransLink's third quarter results were recently released.

As you are probably aware, TransLink had two major service disruptions on the SkyTrain system this summer. During the first nine months of 2013, 95.4% of SkyTrains arrived within 2 minutes of their scheduled time. During the first nine months of 2014, that number dropped to 92.8%.

TransLink tracks the amount of complaints it receives per 1 million boarded passengers. Comparing the first nine months of 2014 to 2013, complains for the bus network were down 11.4%. Complaints were up 23.3% for the West Coast Express. What is really surprising is that complaints were up only 2.6% for the Expo and Millennium Lines. Complaints on the Canada Line were down 4.1%. Overall, passenger complaints were down 10.1% during the first nine months of 2014 compared to the same period in 2013.

Transit ridership continued its two-year decline. According to TransLink, “Analysis into the decline in ridership suggests that the 2013 fare increase had a longer lasting effect on ridership than expected. However, preliminary ridership estimated for quarter three indicate that ridership is beginning to recover.”

In the third quarter of 2014, ridership was down 4.6% on the West Coast Express, down .8% on the Expo and Millennium Lines, and up .4% on the Canada Line. Bus ridership was down .5% compared to the third quarter of 2013.

A drop in ridership, combined with the "free transit day" in August has resulted in a drop of transit revenue by $3.2 million or .9%. Fuel Tax revenue dropped .7% in the first nine months of 2014 compared to 2013 while other taxation revenue grew at 2-3%.

Year to date, TransLink has spent $74 million on roads and bridges, $471 million on bus service, and $118 million on rail service.

TransLink has been hammered in the media lately about its administrative costs. TransLink held the line on these costs spending $47 million on corporate services and planning in the first nine months of 2014, an increase of .1% compared to the first nine months of 2013.

More detailed information is in TransLink's third quarter report.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Transit Referendum Ballot Question: $10 per month for $7.5 billion in transit and transportation improvements

Last August, Paul Hillsdon and I released Leap Ahead, A transit plan for Metro Vancouver. In the plan, Paul and I outlined the importance of a well-functioning transit system for the economic, social, and environmental health of the region. We also proposed what transit investments would be needed, and suggested a 0.5% region sales tax to pay for these investments. Today, the Mayors’ Council voted on the ballot question that will be going to voters in mid-March 2015 around transit in Metro Vancouver.

This morning at the Mayors' Council meeting in the New Westminster Anvil Centre.

Metro Vancouver mayors approved a ballot question that asks Metro Vancouver voters to support a modest 0.5% increase of the PST to support $7.5 billion in transit and transportation improvements. This is essentially what Paul and I proposed last year.

By the way, the 0.5% increase in the PST would cost the average household in Metro Vancouver $10 per month. This is a deal if you ask me.

The Mayors’ Council has updated their website with new information about the referendum and their plan. This includes fact sheets on what transportation improvements will be delivered to each sub-region in Metro Vancouver.

The question voters in Metro Vancouver will have to answer is “Do you support a 0.5% increase to the provincial sales tax in Metro Vancouver, dedicated to these transportation and transit improvements, with independent audits and a public review of spending?”

The proposed ballot for next spring's referendum.

The preamble on the ballot includes states:

One million more people will live and work in Metro Vancouver by 2040. The region’s mayors worked together to develop a plan to reduce congestion on roads and bridge and to provide more transit to communities across the region.

The Mayors’ Transportation and Transit Plan will:

-Add more bus service to crowed routed and add new routes in growing areas
-Increase service on SkyTrain, Canada Line, SeaBus, and West Coast Express
-Add 11 new B-Line rapid bus routes, with fast and frequent service connecting town centres
-Maintain and upgrade the region’s major roads
-Build a new, earthquake-ready Pattullo Bridge
-Build light rail transit connecting Surrey Centre with Guildford, Newton, and Langley
-Extend the Millennium Line tunneled along Broadcast in Vancouver
-Improve safety for pedestrians and cyclist

Revenue raised through this referendum, together with Provincial and Federal contributions, will be dedicated to the Plan. Revenues and expenditures will be subject to annual independent audits and public reporting.

I was very proud that both Mayor Jack Froese of the Township of Langley and Mayor Ted Schaffer of the City of Langley supported the vision.

Mayor Froese noted that improved transit will be critical for the future of Langley, while Mayor Schaffer said the vision was a “great plan.”

Business, organized labour, and NGOs such as the David Suzuki Foundation have come together to support the mayors' vision. The campaign will starting in earnest after the Christmas season.