Wednesday, February 22, 2017

New study: Metro Vancouver is not the most congestion region in Canada by a long shot

Ever since the TomTom Traffic Index started being released annually, it has generated headlines that Metro Vancouver has some of the worst congestion in North America.

Unfortunately, the TomTom Traffic Index has a flawed methodology which favours auto-oriented regions with large freeways over walkable, transit-friendly, and accessible regions. For more information about the why the methodology for the TomTom Traffic Index is problematic, please read a previous post I wrote on the topic.

Earlier this year, the CAA’s Congestion Index was released. This report was focused on freeway bottlenecks, and as I posted previously “there is an underlying assumption that if a bottleneck exists for single-occupancy vehicles, the solution is to expand capacity. Of course, we know that building more capacity simply leads to even worse congestion and/or a shift of the bottleneck to another area.”

Earlier this week, the INRIX Global Traffic Scorecard was released. It looks at congestion in regions through the world.

In the INRIX Global Traffic Scorecard, Metro Vancouver is the 157th most congested region, and the fifth most congested region in Canada. Montreal, Toronto, St John’s, and Ottawa all had worse ICI scores (an INRIX metric.) So why is the INRIX ranking so different than the TomTom ranking? It’s all about the methodology.

Top 10 list of regions with highest ICI score in Canada. Select table to enlarge.

The INRIX Global Traffic Scorecard has a more robust methodology than the TomTom index.

The INRIX methodology evaluates congestion based on time-of-day, and differentiates highways from local roads. As I posted about previously, this is important.

INRIX defines congestion as 65% of free-flow speed. Free-flow speed is basically driving the posted speed limit on roads with no traffic, at-grade intersections, crosswalks, or construction. Free-flow speed is not the most efficient speed for traffic flow. Traffic flows best at speeds between free-flow and congestion. Wikipedia has a good article on the fundamental diagram of traffic flow.

The INRIX methodology also includes median travel time in its Congestion Index (ICI.) As I posted about previously, Metro Vancouver has a lower median travel time than Montreal or Toronto.

The time it takes to get to work and back. Source: Statistics Canada 89-622-XIE and 11-008-X.

What this all amounts to is a better representation of actual congestion in a region.

Will building more freeways reduce congestion? If Toronto and Montreal are any indication, no. As stated by INRIX, “the fundamental cause [of congestion] is an imbalance between the demand for roads and the supply of road space. Managing demand for road space is critical. That includes smoothing demand through flexible working, avoiding peak hour trips through remote working and encouraging the efficient use of our roads through wider adoption of road user pricing.”

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

February 20th, 2017 Council Meeting Notes: Budget approved, Homelessness Action Table created, and community grants allocated.

Last night was a brief council meeting; several items were given final reading for approval. Final reading is the “sober second thought” for local government bylaws. Final reading does not normally occur at the same time as other readings and debate of a bylaw. At final reading, you can only vote for or against a bylaw. Council tends to go through final readings quickly.

Council gave final reading to a bylaw to update the Official Community Plan to incorporate Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESAs), and development guidelines for ESAs. You can read more about ESAs in a prior post.

Council also gave final reading to our 2017 Financial Plan. You can read more about the capital projects and operating component of the budget, which includes increases to services, in previous posts. The financial plan was approved unanimously by council.

Council also gave first and second reading for a proposed rezoning to allow a 98-unit apartment building near Michaud Crescent and 201 Street to be built. This will allow for a public hearing about the proposed rezoning at the March 6th council meeting to proceed. I will be posting more about this proposed project after the March 6th meeting.

Rendering of proposed apartment building at the corner of Michaud Crescent and 201 Street.

Putting in place solutions to reduce homelessness in our community is something that is a priority for people in Langley City. Langley City council approved the creation of a Homelessness Action Table —a task group— to guide the implementation of our Homelessness Strategic Plan, as well as track and report on progress, and advocate for projects and funding last night.

The Homelessness Action Table will have members from local, provincial, and federal governments as well as representatives from the Fraser Health Authority, BC Housing, RCMP, and other community social service agencies in Langley. The Township of Langley was invited to sit on the action table, but have declined at this time.

Throughout the City, there are banners on some of our streetlights with a focus around the Downtown area. The current policy that guided the installation of these banners was dated and inflexible. Council approved a new banner policy last night which is more flexible.

The new policy continues to allow seasonal streetlight banners to be paid for and installed by the City in the spring, summer, and fall. The biggest change in policy is to allow the installation of banners that are not seasonal to support civic, charitable, or community-oriented events within the following guidelines:

  • Be specifically happening within Langley City.
  • The majority of the population of the City would be able to participate in or be generally interested in the public event.
  • Benefit locally-based, non-profit organizations.
  • Not be political, religious, commercial, or profit making.

Organizations that request and are approved for the installation of banner, must pay a fee for the installation of their banners. Council gave first, second, and third reading to update our Fees & Charges Bylaw to set the installation fee prices.

Langley City allocates $168,000 per year from casino revenue for community grants. Last night, council approved $131,341.05 in grants to the following organizations:

Monday, February 20, 2017

Population changes in the South of Fraser and Langley

Earlier this month, Statistics Canada released population and dwelling counts from the 2016 census. Throughout the rest of the year, the agency will be releasing further data from the most recent census.

While population in the South of Fraser has grown significantly, it hasn't been evenly distributed. The population in the Township of Langley has increased by 12.6% due to massive growth in Willoughby. Surrey’s population has increased by 10.6%. Langley City’s and White Rock’s population increased by 3.2% while Delta had a population increase of 2.4%.

Communities like White Rock and Langley City are unique because they have already been built-out. All new growth is from urban redevelopment.

In Langley City, the overall population increased by 807 people. Langley City is divided by the Nicomekl River. Single-family housing is located south of the Nicomekl, while the area north of the Nicomekl is zoned for apartments, townhouses, mixed-use, commercial, and industrial.

Single-family neighbourhoods in Langley City saw a population decrease of 40 people. The following map is from Census Mapper.

City of Langley: Area highlighted in blue had an increase in population of 698. Source: Census Mapper.

The area highlighted in blue saw the largest population increase in Langley City with 698 people. This is an area in the City which is being redeveloped from single-family housing to townhouses and apartments. All other north of the Nicomekl neighbourhoods had population increases.

Overall, the highest concentration of growth in the South of Fraser was in Willoughby between the 2011 and 2016 census.

Township of Langley: Area highlighted in blue had an increase in population of 8,703. Source: Census Mapper.

To find out the change in population in your neighbourhood, I suggest that you check out Census Mapper.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Yet more bus service coming to Clayton Heights and Willoughby

Thanks to the approval of the new 10-Year Vision for TransLink which was approved by the Mayors’ Council, with some funding support from the provincial and federal governments, transit service is improving in the South of Fraser.

One of the areas where transit service needs improvement is in Clayton Heights in Surrey and Willoughby in the Township of Langley. TransLink recently introduced bus service along 208th Street. The transportation agency is now looking to introduce another bus service as shown on the following map.

Map of proposed 372 Clayton Heights/Langley Centre bus route. Select map to enlarge.

This proposed new transit service will be within walking distance of 19,000 people, and will give around 2,000 people access to transit who didn’t previously. The route will have bus service every 30 minutes from early morning until 10pm on weekdays, and until 9pm on weekend.

Map of population increase between 2011 and 2016 census. Select map to enlarge. Source: CensusMapper

Some of the other improvements for Langley residents as part of phase one of the 10-Year Vision include:

  • New B-Line on Fraser Highway with 15 minute or better service
  • 501 with 30-minute service until 10:30PM
  • 502 with more trips during weekday peak periods, Saturday mornings and evenings
  • 555 with increased weekday peak periods service every 6 minutes

TransLink is looking for public feedback on these proposed changes. You can submit your feedback on TransLink’s website until March 6th.