Thursday, September 3, 2015

That half-full bus is a better use of road space than two Honda Civics

One of the things that I hear sometimes is people complaining about buses being half-full, taking up much needed road space. This is a common perception, but does this perception line up with reality? At what point would a typical bus take up less space per passenger than a car?

To illustrate this, I picked a typical 40’/12.2m transit bus and a 179.4”/4.5m 2015 Honda Civic Sedan.

Travelling 50km/h, two Honda Civics fit into the space of one bus. Select image to enlarge.

When travelling 50km/h on the road, you should leave at least 2 seconds between vehicles. This happens to work out to about 30 meters. If a typical car has 1 to 2 passengers, a typical bus would need to have 2 to 4 passengers to take up the same amount of space as a car per passenger. More than 5 passengers, and a bus becomes a more efficient use of limited road space. A typical 40’ bus in Metro Vancouver fits about 70 people, so a half-full bus has about 35 people. That means that a half-full bus uses at least 8 times less road space per passenger than a typical car.

This even holds true when stopped in a queue at an intersection. Research shows that most people stop their cars about their vehicle length behind the vehicle in front of them.

Stopped at an intersection, two Honda Civics fit into the space of one bus. Select image to enlarge.

Now passenger vehicles come in all shapes and sizes, but the point is that it doesn’t take much for a bus to be a better way to move people around in an urban environment over longer distances. Even if cars ran only on solar power, in urban centres, we simplely could not afford to build large enough roads to have everyone drive a personal vehicle. Even if we could afford to build large enough roads, we would destroy our Metro Vancouver way-of-life in the process.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Where do younger households live? Where do people retire in Metro Vancouver?

Once a month, Metro Vancouver posts an aptly named Map of the Month. These maps look at the geography of Metro Vancouver with an eye on how it relates to the Regional Growth Strategy, and the creation of a livable region.

I thought I would share the map that will be posted for September.

Demographics and Development: Major Development Projects and Age Cohort Housing Trends. Select map to enlarge.

The graphs show what housing types various household groups live in based on average adult age, and whether they own or rent. Not surprising, but 30% of households aged 25-35 live in single family homes. That number rises to 55% for those aged 35-64 before dipping down to 51% for households aged 65+. It will be interesting to see how housing type preferences trend moving forward.

The map shows which parts of the region have higher than, or lower than average numbers of households, grouped into three age categories. It turns out that Langley City and Clayton in Surrey are popular places for younger households. Willoughby in the Township of Langley is also a emerging choice for younger households. These younger households live in places with good transit access, or places where transit access will be improved shortly (like the Evergreen Line.)

Middle-aged households live in areas that have poorer transit access. South Surrey stands out as an area where many middle-aged households are living. Interestingly, UBC is also a popular location.

A higher than average amount of 65+ households live in the more rural parts of our region, and in some of the older communities like Tsawwassen, White Rock, and Crescent Beach. The North Shore also appears to be a retirement haven.

Besides demographic information, the map shows small dots which represent apartment and townhouse projects that are worth $20 million or more, that have been built since 2011.

The maps and graphs are based on the 2011 National Household Survey and BC Stats Major Projects Inventory (March 2015).

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Latimer Neighbourhood plan receives Metro Vancouver staff support

Back in May, I posted about the new Latimer Neighbourhood land use plan. In general, the plan increases the diversity of housing types available in Willoughby along the 200th Street corridor. It also introduces mixed-use areas at major intersections along 200th Street. If Latimer is built as planned, it will support the creation of a walkable, bikeable, and transit-ready community.

One of the cool things about the plan is that it removes the original suburban business park zoning for the northwest corner of 80th Avenue and 200th Street, replacing it with mixed-use zoning.

Proposed regional land use changes in the Latimer Neighbourhood. Select map to enlarge.

Under the Metro Vancouver Regional Growth Strategy (RGS), this area is currently zoned as “mixed-employment”. To allow the mixed-use area, the regional zoning must be changed to “general urban.” Section 6.2.7 of the RGS allows municipalities to change regional land use zones within the Urban Containment Boundary as long as the total adjustments doesn’t total more than 1 hectare.

This can only be done if a municipality has a regional context statement that permits this. This context statement must be approved by the Metro Vancouver board. Because of all the legal issues between Metro Vancouver and the Township of Langley, the Township of Langley is one of the only municipalities without a regional context statement for the RGS.

Township of Langley Council has therefor requested a Type 3 amendment to the RGS to permit the changes in Latimer. A Type 3 amendment to the RGS only requires 50%+1 weighted vote approval of the Metro Vancouver board.

The Township of Langley would also like to change the regional land-use to “mixed-employment” for the area just west of the currently zoned office park. This would create about 3 hectares of land that could be used for commercial or industrial use.

Both Metro Vancouver staff and the TransLink board support these changes as it will support the Regional Growth Strategy. According to a Metro Vancouver staff report:

The Township of Langley’s Willoughby area is one of the largest developing urban areas in the region, and the urban form of this area is crucial to achieving several Metro 2040 goals. Overall, the proposed amendments will serve to shape the form of this emerging urban area in a manner generally consistent with Metro 2040’s goals and strategies. Primarily, the amendments allocate planned land use and density to promote concentrated residential and commercial development at strategic locations along the 200th Street corridor, which will become the main north-south transit corridor connecting this subregion of Metro Vancouver.

Monday, August 31, 2015

The Case of the Ever Shrinking Sidewalk in the City of Langley

It is also important that the placement of features such as bus stop amenities, garbage cans, bicycle racks, and planters does not reduce sidewalk clear width to maintain accessibility. – City of Langley Master Transportation Plan

The City of Langley has been replacing the street lights around Downtown Langley over the past few years. These new street lights are a marked improvement over the various previous styles of lighting. The City of Langley is even adding new street lights in some parts of Downtown Langley.

These changes are all part of the Downtown Langley Master Plan. Of course, the Downtown Langley Master Plan and the Master Transportation Plan have clear language around enhancing the walkability of Downtown Langley. This includes having comfortable sidewalks.

City of Langley Council signed off on its Master Transportation Plan about a year ago. The plan states that “wider sidewalks (greater than 1.5m) should be concentrated in Downtown, around schools and multi-family areas where more people are and can be attracted to walking.” The plan also spells out that wider sidewalks are needed in Downtown Langley in table 3.1.

With this in mind, I was a bit shocked to see that the City of Langley was actually shrinking the sidewalk width on the north side of Fraser Highway between 208th Street and 207th Street.

New street lights are being install along Fraser Highway. Notice that the sidewalk is barely the width of one person.

The City built small sidewalk extensions into adjacent property, but even with these extensions, it is still under the 1.5 meter minimum standard. The extensions will make for tricky navigation for people using a mobility aid.

The interesting thing is that between the Langley Bypass and 208th Street, the City of Langley installed these new lights without compromising the width of the clear area of the sidewalk.

Section of sidewalk between 208th Street and the Langley Bypass. The street lights do not encroach into the sidewalk.

Besides installing the lights right next to the sidewalk, the City could move the lights and utility poles into the street. This could be done by creating a pervious strip between the road and the sidewalk. This can be done without requiring the costly relocation of the drainage system. This would greatly enhance the public realm.

Example of a pervious green strip from the NACTO Urban Street Design Guide. This could be design to accommodate street lighting and utility poles.

When I see things like the installation of lighting in the middle of the sidewalk, I have to wonder if walkability is truly a concept that is understood at City Hall.