Wednesday, December 13, 2017

TransLink bringing back independent access for all SkyTrain customers

When the fare gates on the SkyTrain system were finally closed in the summer of 2016, there were some customers that were no longer able to use the system independently. TransLink estimated that there were around 15 to 50 people with limited mobility who would now need SkyTrain staff to assist them to access the system.

Taking away a person’s independence is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly, and TransLink planned to upgrade the accessible fare gates at stations to give people back their ability to independently use the SkyTrain system.

If you look above the accessible fare gates at many of the SkyTrain stations, you’ll see a white rectangular panel. This panel is an RFID reader which will be able to detect a person who has a special card. If it senses this special card, it will open an accessible fare gate.

A new RFID reader installed at Main Street – Science World SkyTrain Station. Part of TransLink’s Universal Fare Gate Access Program. Select image to enlarge.

About 40% of SkyTrain stations now have these new RFID readers, and this new universal access system is scheduled to be fully rolled out by the end of 2018. According to a recent TransLink report, the agency’s management is now seeking board approval to start rolling out their “Universal Fare Gate Access Program.”

People who will be eligible for the program must meet the following criteria:

Resident of [Metro Vancouver] who is a person who travels independently and due to a disability, confirmed by a medical practitioner, is physically not able to tap fare media, without assistance, at a Compass Fare Gate, to use conventional SkyTrain and SeaBus.

TransLink management hopes that by starting the rollout of this program before the RFID readers are fully functional, they will be able to better tune the system based on the number of people that enroll in the program.

Our SkyTrain system used to be barrier-free, and over the years, TransLink worked to make the system fully accessible. When the fare gates were closed, accessibility was reduced which is unacceptable. Bringing back independent access for transit customers is critically important. I’m happy to see that TransLink is taking this matter seriously.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

December 11, 2017 Council Meeting Notes: City's own GHG emissions down, plus 48 Avenue sewer replacement moving forward.

Last night was the final Langley City council meeting of 2017. Two of the major items on the agenda were the receipt of the 2016 Corporate Energy and Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG) Inventory, and tendering a contract to replace a section of sanitary sewer between 208 and 210 Street along 48 Avenue.

Langley City is a signatory to the BC Climate Action Charter. As such, we are committed to reduce our own GHG emissions by 134 tonnes between 2008 and 2018. The major incentive of being a signatory to the BC Climate Action Charter, and reducing GHG emissions, is that the City receives a 100% refund of any carbon tax that it pays.

The City has met its original target of reducing direct GHG emissions by 134 tonnes. The following table shows the year-over-year reduction throughout the last eight years. Most of the reductions in GHG emissions have been obtained by making municipally-owned buildings more energy efficient. There is still work to be done to make our vehicle fleet less GHG intensive.

Langley City direct GHG emissions. 2008 – 2016 Tonnes CO2e. Select chart to enlarge.

The City must also report GHG emissions from contacted services. In 2016, contact services added an additional 128 tonnes of CO2e emissions to our bottom line.

Some of the 2017 projects that the City is working on to further reduce GHG emissions include:

  • City Hall LED Lighting Retrofits
  • LED Streetlight Replacement (203 Street, 56 Avenue)
  • Vehicle Replacement (Plug-in Hybrid)

Over the next several years, the City will be replacing 100% of municipally-owned streetlights with LED lights. City staff is also developing a new 10-year GHG reduction plan.

Council also approved awarding a $495,000 contract to PW Trenchless Construction Inc. for the 48 Avenue sanitary sewer replacement.

City council adopted seven bylaws last night. Most of the bylaws were related to water, sewer, and garbage services. You can read more about these in a post I wrote last week. The other bylaw was a housekeeping amendment to the Council Procedure Bylaw.

Council appointed the following people to the Advisory Planning Commission for 2018: Trish Buhler, John Beimers, Jamie Schreder, Dan Millsip, Kimberley, Kim Mullin, and Ron Madsen. The Advisory Planning Commission “reviews development proposals while considering criteria that includes: overall design appeal, form and character, siting of the buildings and total site development in relation to its surroundings.” The commission provides advice to council and developers for consideration.

City council members sit on about two dozen committees. Council approved the list of committee appointments for 2018, as well as the finalized 2018 regular council meeting schedule.

Monday, December 11, 2017

TransLink Study: Traffic way up across Fraser River crossings, commutes slower

At the start of September, the provincial government removed the tolls from the Port Mann and Golden Ears Bridges. Transportation planners predicted that there would be a marked increase in vehicles across these two bridges. They were not wrong.

Port Mann Bridge: Source: https://flic.kr/p/XRDY1a

Preliminary data and personal anecdotes suggested that traffic ballooned across the Port Mann and Golden Ears. Unprompted, Langley residents have been telling me that they want the tolls back to make their commutes faster again.

TransLink staff crunched the numbers, and they found that traffic was up close to 30% on the Port Mann Bridge and 30% on the Golden Ear Bridge. They also found that traffic decreased by 11% on the Pattullo Bridge, 5% on the Alex Fraser Bridge, and 2% through the Massey Tunnel.

Truck traffic decreased 19% on the Pattullo Bridge. There was a 30% increase of truck traffic on the Golden Ears Bridge, and 15% increase on the Port Mann Bridge.

When all Fraser River crossings are considering, there was an overall average 7% increase in traffic during the weekdays and 9% increase on the weekends. That’s an extra 30,000 vehicles per day!

At the same time, transit ridership across the Fraser River has continued to grow at a similar rate as last year. These extra 30,000 vehicle trips materialized out of thin air. This is called induced demand. Simply put, more vehicle lanes produce more traffic.

How did this increase people’s commute times? Travel between New Westminster/Surrey or New Westminster/Coquitlam by car is now faster. Otherwise, travel times are longer.

TransLink’s Regional Transportation Model, which is used to predict traffic patterns, was “close to the actual outcomes on all three types of impact.”

The removal of the tolls at the Port Man Bridge and Golden Ear Bridge has been an excellent case study of tolling and its impact on congestion. The only way that our growing region will be able to reduce vehicle congestion along major corridors will be by implementing a system of fair tolls at all major crossing.

I believe that as a region-wide tolling system is implemented, gas tax should be lowered. This is one way to make the new tolling system fair.

The Mayors’ Council’s Mobility Pricing Independent Commission is looking a different decongestion road pricing options. Tolling is only one of the options that they are looking into. The commission will be presenting its recommendations early next year for the provincial government to consider.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

December 4, 2017 Council Meeting Notes: Council approves new $15,000 ongoing grant to Langley Senior Resources Society, improvement projects, and changes to council remuneration

Over the last few days, I’ve been posting about items that were covered at Monday night’s Langley City council meeting. I posted about the library system on Tuesday, and about water, sewer, and garbage services on Wednesday. Today, I will be covering the remaining items.

Even though winter is only a few weeks away, Langley City crews are still busy making improvements throughout our community. Council received an update from Rick Bomhof, Director of Engineering, Parks & Environment. The 200th Street Bridge upgrades over the Nicomekl River is compete. There is still some work which will be done in the new year between 50 Avenue and Grade Crescent, including installing a new traffic light at 50 Avenue and repaving.

Traffic calming is currently being implemented near Linwood Park and Conder Park, with speed tables now in place. If you are around Timms Community Centre, you will see that the sidewalks to the centre are being replaced with concrete sidewalks which will improve accessibility.

On the topic of accessibility, Langley City is also replacing pedestrian buttons at traffic lights. While a small change, these new buttons are more reliable.

An example of a new pedestrian signal button in Langley City. Select image to enlarge.

Work is continuing along 56 Avenue, and it is expected to be wrapped up for the season in the next few weeks. Other projects on the go include the 48 Avenue sewer replacement, and culvert upgrades along Production Way and the Langley Bypass. Park improvements in progress include expanding the spray park at City Park, upgrading the sports fields at Rotary Park, and adding washrooms and a picnic shelter at Penzer Park.

Council also approved changes to our community grant policy, updating grants that are automatically given. The following outlines the changes:

  • Six scholarships to graduating students who reside in the City of Langley will increase from $600 to $750 each.
  • Support for the Youth Parliament will increase from a total of $600 to $1,000.
  • A new $15,000 grant for the Langley Senior Resources Society to be used to subsidize the membership packages for low income seniors living in the City of Langley and for upgrades and maintenance to the facility.

I’m extremely pleased that council decided to provide stable and consistent operating funding for the Langley Senior Resources Society which provides critical social and recreational services for older people in our community. Langley City has supported the society for many years. The City contributed $40,000 per year towards the society’s mortgage since 1998, paying it off fully in 2014.

Langley City council also approved an update to our own remuneration. Currently, one third of council salary is tax-free. The federal government announced that starting in 2019, they will be making the salary of local government elected officials fully taxable.

To compensate for this change, the mayor’s remuneration will be changing from 85% of the median of other municipalities in our region to 100% over the next two years. Other council member’s remuneration will increase from 40% to 45% of the mayor’s remuneration. There will be a temporary 11% increase to the mayor’s remuneration in 2019 that will be evaluated in 2020 to see if it is still warranted based on remuneration in other Metro Vancouver municipalities. These changes will result in a $53,000 increase in the City’s budget for 2018 which is about 0.1% of the overall budget.

Council voted to extend the Crime Prevention Task Group’s mandate into 2018, and also voted to approve the 2018 regular council meeting dates.

Council also gave final reading, and approved the issuance of a development permit for a townhouse project located along 55A Avenue.