Saturday, May 31, 2008

Township of Langley - Replace the New West Rail Bridge

On May 12, 2008, Township of Langley council moved to write a letter to the federal government to "strongly [encourage] them to commence design and planning for a new crossing of the Fraser that would facilitate future rail traffic needs, including potential rapid transit options, and any future vehicle crossing requirement." This is a very good thing.

You can read the letter in our document archive.

Friday, May 30, 2008

City of Langley Densification

Today's Langley Advance has an article about a recently approved residential development coming to the City of Langley, and the new 50% increase in density rules. South Fraser OnTrax was interviewed for the article and a short quote from us was included. We previously sent a letter to mayor and council that was read at the public meeting.

We said that we are always pleased with more densification, as it will lead to better transit and perhaps more transit options for our community. But we were disappointed that this development was not mixed use. A model that has been very successful around the world. We also feel this decision contradicts the City's own Master Plan that calls for this specific area to serve as the "Western Gateway" to the city and include mixed-use along Fraser Hwy.

Mixed use development here would have included some commercial units street-level that could have been small businesses and perhaps even a small cafe for complex residents to mix and mingle. An opportunity for neighbours to meet and talk. It also provides for more eyes on the streets and if these businesses are opening evenings, they increase crime prevention efforts by bring more "legitimate users" into the street scene.

Some or all of the suites could have been live/work, similar to The Muse building just down the street. We heard that some of these new units will be only 400-500 sq. ft. While some owners will occupy such a suite, most likely investors will buy these small units and rent them out. While South Fraser fully supports affordable housing options for all, we have a history in the City of Langley with apartment buildings that needs correction.

Landlords don't always want to pay for proactive management of their rental suites. They remain off-site and allow the tenants to police themselves. Things deteriorate and the Strata or the police become the defacto property managers for the owner. With mixed use we get the affordable housing options and because some suites are owned by proactive business owners, the Strata remains aware of issues and problems and deals with them and the offending suites' owners. A healthy mix of owners and tenants is always a good thing.

If the City of Langley continues to approve developments because of the cash influx to the city only, and continues to ignore the larger master plan and mixed-use, history of buildings with police problems will continue to set us backward, destroying good plans.

CIBC World Markets - Will Soaring Transport Costs Reverse Globalization?

CIBC World Markets recently published an article in their May 27th, 2008 StrategEcon Newsletter about the cost of transportation and its effect on the shipping industry.
Globalization is reversible. Higher energy prices are impacting transport costs at an unprecedented rate. So much so, that the cost of moving goods, not the cost of tariffs, is the largest barrier to global trade today. In fact, in tariff-equivalent terms, the explosion in global transport cots has effectively offset all the trade liberalization efforts of the last three decades. Not only does this suggest a major slowdown in the growth of word trade, but also a fundamental realignment in trade patterns.


It is a very interesting read and if the trend of increasingly higher oil price continue, it will surely have an effect on port jobs and may even translate into a stagnation or reduction in container traffic which may have an effect on our economy and call into question things like the South Fraser Perimeter Road, or maybe port expansion all together.
At today’s oil prices, every 10% increase in trip distance translaters into a 4.5% increase in transportation costs.
Though we may be in luck with our new Prince Rupert container facility that is a full day’s sailing closer to Asian markets. Though it might not even matter...
The duration of a typical sea voyage from China to North America is four weeks.

To what extent will astronomical increases in transport costs alter the huge (but shrinking) wage differential between Chinese labor and North American labor remains to be seen. But we are already starting to see some change in capital-intensive manufacturing whose products carry a high ratio of freight costs to final selling prices.
Who knows, maybe we’ll turn back into regional markets…

I was alerted to this article from the LRC listserv.

It is Unofficially Unofficial

On last night's "News Hour", Global TV's Legislative Reporter Keith Baldrey announced that there will be a Provincial cabinet reshuffle in early June. So, its going to happen folks.

South Fraser OnTrax (SFOT) was going to seek a meeting with current Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon, but we heard from several credible sources that Minister Falcon has achieved some major results that will soon be rewarded.

As our Co-Founder Nathan Pachal pointed out to me last weekend in a telephone conversation on this topic, Minister Falcon was present for the opening of the new William R. Bennett Bridge in the Okanagan, but it was only Premier Gordon Campbell and former Premier Bill Bennett that walked up front over the new bridge. Yes, it did put the spotlight on the former premier, but was a tad unusual.

SFOT has heard some interesting names being tossed around and one in particular would surely excite us, but is only speculation! Looks like the haters of Kevin Falcon will have to find a new cause or perhaps just a new ministry?

Even if you are someone who dislikes the minister, you can't help but recognize that he did get some major projects going that will replace some aging infratsructure. I would have to give him an "A" for Assertive, Aggressive, and even Amusing if he would have had to jump off the new William R. Bennett Bridge! You may recall that the minister had promised to jump off the new bridge if it wasn't completed on time. Looks like he lucked out!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Morning Walk

Every day on the walk from my apartment (or in Vancouver parlance, condo) to my bus stop, I pass by many other condos and the huge parking lot of Langley Mall.




This parking lot sticks out like a sore thumb as mixed-use buildings, condos, city hall, and “Main Street” commercial surround it. It really highlights the waste of space that surface parking is. Also, the lot always seems empty.

This is another example of space in the City of Langley that could be transformed into something mixed-use and truly sustainable.

From the Downtown Master Plan:
Underutilized Land Areas – The accompanying Building Coverage diagram below illustrates the underutilized nature of some of the lands outside the Downtown area. Much of this land is consumed by parking or by large industrial users. In some cases, these land parcels are grossly underutilized considering their proximity to Downtown and could serve more appropriate and highly desirable uses as residential and/or commercial. In some cases, more structured parking could retain convenient access and the number of parking spaces while introducing more compact mixed uses in the downtown core area.





City Hall, Timms Community Center, condos, and my bus stop around Langley Mall.


Looking at what the Downtown Langley Master Plan calls the "Core Area."


Remember, all big buses go to Surrey Central!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Cell Phone

So, I lost my Blackberry on the SkyTrain this weekend. :-( The good news is that it gave me the chance to unplug a little. Now instead of getting email/SMS/calls all the time, I only get SMS and calls all the time...

I got a Nokia 5310 which has a camera on it. I decided to take a few picture on my walk back from Pricesmart yesterday afternoon.



As you can see, Downtown Langley is a community in change. If the City of Langley sticks to its downtown plan, the city could turn into a sustainable community that is the envy of the Valley.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Township of Langley Planning Staff Are Swtiched ON


I make it a habit of attending the Township of Langley special and regular council meetings. Yes, I do have a life! But I find a wealth of information about our community in these meetings. If we are going to advocate for something, then we should understand the big picture and we also have lots to learn from mayor, council and staff if we are open to listen.

At yesterday's Special Council Meeting at the Township, there was a fairly quiet, but dynamic thing that took place. While most people might overlook its real impact and significance, it did not go unnoticed by me. A member of our community is looking to develop an adult community in the Jericho/Latimer neighbourhood area, not far from the new Langley Events Centre. This development will be very unique in that it would include a "Health Care Co-Op". The man who's family owns the land assures me that this would be "real health care" and will not compete with the present government system. He's also very interested in Light Rail Transit. Stay tuned as I've asked him for more information on this health care co-op concept and will Blog about it just as soon as I get the information.

Now back to the council meeting.... In the discussions related to this project, Paul Crawford, Manager of Long Range Planning for the Township prepared a report that you can read in its entirety here. In this report to council, Mr. Crawford presented options for the planning and development of this area. The significant thing is, Township staff are recommending that these plans be carefully laid in order to preserve the future 200th Street Transit Corridor, and to include dedicated cycling and walking areas, as well as pedestrian crossings. The report speaks of Rapid Bus, and we at SFOT would love for it to be streetcars, but we are pleased to see staff taking some great initiative here. Besides, plans for buses can always change to streetcars quickly :)


Staff and Mr. Crawford are speaking here about that concept we have mentioned often here - complete roads. Roads that support inter-modal transportation options and planning for a sustainable community in this area. The concern is to preserve plans for proper density and design of buildings that are complimentary and sustainable.
... as it is important therefore, that the 200th Street corridor be planned as a complete unit with a consistent vision that ensures that the uses, densities and design of buildings are complementary and sustainable, that 200th Street is designed to function as a transit corridor, that future development is appropriately designed to relate to 200 Street and that pedestrian and cyclist movements are integrated into the plan.
Thank you Paul Crawford and Township Planning Staff. Well done! Nice to see the Township switched on and moving in a terrific direction that will create sustainable communities with practical and diverse transit options. Thanks to Jason Chu, Strategic Planner at the Township of Langley for helping me to find the report and that goldmine in the Township website!

Traffic Calming
In other council news, the Township has experimented with a couple of area radar unit signs that display current speed to area drivers. The units have served the community well as traffic calming devices. Paul Cordeiro, Manager, Transportation Engineering with the Township reported that they have located some neat mobile units that can be moved around to different areas and will cost just $15K each. The Township will be purchasing four (4) these mobile units, which incidentally are solar powered. Great stuff! Money well-spent!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Put Rail First

So on my many weekend transit adventures, I ran into a friend of mine who is a longshoreman at Fraser Docks and Deltaport. She does everything from unloading ships to scheduling trains and trucks. She had some great insights into goods movement in the Lower Mainland.

She told me that the vast majority of goods loaded onto trucks are for the local market. She went on to explain that the vast majority of goods loaded onto rail are for “out east” and the US.

I asked her where she thought money for goods movement should be spent. She said that it would make more sense to expand the rail infrastructure as a first priority. She believes that the increase in port traffic will overwhelmingly be going outside of the Lower Mainland, as that is where most of the containers are heading today. She also explained that the 100+ year-old New Westminster Rail Bridge needs to be replaced right away.

So there you have it, from someone who deals with freight traffic all day: Put rail first!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sustainability Summit 2008

Metro Vancouver has been doing a great job of promoting dialogue on various issues related to our region, and most especially on the creation of a sustainable region. I've attended some of these events and I can tell you that the speakers and the content are exceptional!

In June, 2008 Metro Vancouver will host a series of discussion forums. Then in October of this year, they will hold an inaugural region-wide Future of the Region Sustainability Summit. This June forum allow participants to contribute in one of three "streams" that include:

Stream 1
Transportation & Growth
Economy
Governance & Finance

Stream 2
Drugs & Crime
Culture & Learning
Housing

Stream 3
Waste
Energy & Climate Change
Ecological Health

A total of five (5) forums will be hosted. South of Fraser (Delta, Surrey, White Rock, Langley City, Township of Langley and Abbotsford) will be held on Tuesday, June 24, 2008 from 8am to 12 Noon at the Guildford Vancouver Sheraton at 15269 104th Avenue in Surrey. You must register ahead and more information can be obtained here. At the bottom of this Metro Vancouver page you will find links to major background and policy documents.

Unfortunately I will be out of the country managing a large consulting project on this date, and will not be able to attend. But the great thing about Metro Vancouver is that they generally video tape all sessions and post them on the website. Still, being there and interacting with the panel of experts and other participates is really neat. I'm bummed!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Going to Richmond

So, I'm heading to my friend's birthday tonight in beautiful Richmond. I'm going to a place called the Cucumber Cafe, address: 10251 St. Edwards Drive. To get there will require a true adventure on Translink and four tickets to get there and back (tickets are valid for 1:30, total travel to Richmond 2:06). My travels will take me on the 502 to Surrey Central Station (where all good Translink buses go.), 22nd Street SkyTrain station, then the 410 via the Queensbrough and Highway 91. If I had a car, it would take about an hour. Not that I'm complaining about the bus travel time; I've been stuck in traffic for over 2 hours sometimes (sadly "Bus"* can get stuck in the same traffic.) If only there was light rail (or even a more direct bus.) :-p To give Translink credit, at least all the routes I'm taking run past midnight on a weekend.

Wish me luck...

*Arrested Development is a great show... Remember Lupe's "car".

Minister Falcon Talks About Tansportation Study Moving Forward

Really the headline for today's post should be "Unsung Heroes". Every day we read the headlines of the local papers and never see the inside view of what was going on behind the scenes. Here's a little insight into a recent headline...

I posted links to two newspaper articles last weekend from Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon. In them the Minister promised that the light rail study has been budgeted for and will move forward. On February 16, 2008, I sat in a Lion's Club Hall in Chilliwack listening to two dynamite speakers on Light Rail Transit.

Malcolm Johnston and Nathan Pachal spoke to a packed house. The excitement in that room was palpable and CTV had interviewed Nathan just prior to him speaking at that event. You can see the video clip of the CTV interview here. I believe Malcolm was interviewed by some newspapers as well that day, but I was unable to locate the links that have since been removed.

I recall seeing the CTV interview with Nathan about the old Interurban line that evening, and then CTV had located Minister Kevin Falcon earlier that day for comment. I recall the minister saying on CTV that the old Interurban rail line is something that we must study, so that "we don't blow our brains out financially".

Malcolm Johnston has been a member of the Light Rail Transit Association since 1984 and has served in numerous rail advocacy groups and meetings over the years. He is a fine, well-read man that has been a tireless advocate and expert for Light Rail Transit (LRT) for many, many years. Malcolm's technical knowledge of light rail is exceptional!

Nathan Pachal is a young accomplished Television Broadcast Engineer that serves his community of Langley City on the Parks and Recreation Committee and as Co-Founder of South Fraser OnTrax. He is also a strong supporter of SmartGrowth BC. He was also selected by the City of Abbotsford to serve on their new Inter-Regional Transportation Select Committee.

So, only four months later we see the minister talking about the study going forward. I know Nathan and Malcolm would never jump to take credit for anything, but I think all of us supporters of light rail owe great thanks to Nathan Pachal, Malcolm Johnston, and many others for their excellent presentations and advocacy over the years that have lead the transportation minister to make a commitment to study the Interurban line in February of this year. This is the news behind the news.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Sustainability Workshop

South Fraser OnTrax with the help of Smart Growth BC will be hosting an interactive sustainable community and transportation workshop on June 18th from 6:00pm to 9:00pm at the Langley campus of Kwantlen University. More details will be coming, but mark this date and time off in your calendar. We promise it will be time well spent.

Langley Advance: Living car free possible

The Langley Advance ran a great piece about living car-free in Langley. Check it out on their website.
Pachal is one of the founders of South Fraser OnTrax, a transit advocacy group based in Langley.

Despite calling for more rail and more buses for the South of the Fraser region, Pachal drove a car, a leased Hyundai Accent, until recently.

The end of his lease gave him a chance to practise what he preaches, he said.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Rail in Washington

Did you know that since 1994 Washington State has invested $280 million for the Amtrack Cascades passenger rail service between Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland? Washington State has also allocated $344.3 million to both passenger and freight rail infrastructure since 2003. From 2005 to 2009, they will be spending $201 million on passenger rail alone. Of course this is only about 3% of all money budgeted for infrastructure in the state ($10.7 billion has or will be spent on road since 2003), but it is way better than what we are currently doing in Canada. As a note, in late July/early August there will be four trains a day between Vancouver, BC and Seattle.


Also interesting is that Washington State has been buying up rail lines (they own 3 currently.) They see rail as a key part of the economy.

Another interesting fact from BNSF: 40% of all goods travel through rail in the US, but rail is only responsible for 13% of overall transportation costs. It would seem that rail is the most effective and efficient way of moving goods.

For passenger rail, $5 – 6 billion will need to be spent in the next 15 year to bring the Amtrak service up to par. This seems to be a reasonable amount of money (about the same cost of 2 UBC SkyTrain lines.) I had a converstation with a fellow at WSDOT Rail, and learned that they are currently updating the long range vision for passenger rail in the state. He told me that (just like Canada), the federal government will need to providing funding for many of these projects to go forward.

Anyway, the point of today’s story is that rail transportation delivers the most bang-for-your-buck compared to other, more rubber-based, solutions.

As the US Congress The National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission said in their recent report:
Our Nation will need to put more emphasis on transit and intercity passenger rail and make them a priority for our country. A cultural shift will need to take place across America to encourage our citizens to take transit or passenger rail when the option is given. It is also important to increase the market share for freight rail…

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Streetcar Photos from Melbourne Australia

Here are some pictures from trams (light rail) in Melbourne, Australia. Melbourne has the third largest tramway network in the world and the largest outside Europe, with approximately 480 vehicles in service on 29 routes covering 245 kilometres of double track. Thanks to Mr. Brent Graham, Project Director for the Rail Group in Melbourne for some of these pictures!

Enjoy.





Tuesday, May 20, 2008

ConfusingBus

I have been car free for about a week now. It has been good, but as I have been riding the bus more, there are some things that are very frustrating about the system out here in Langley that I am noticing. The first is bus routing.

You need a masters degree in transit timetable reading to figure out where the 501 [Langley Centre]/590 [Langley South] (this is the same bus route, BTW) goes.


From the timetable:

+ Operates as a 590 Surrey Central Station.
x When school open, routes from 200th St. via 72nd Ave., 202A St., 80th Ave.,
200th St.; then regular route.

– 501 (both directions)
Operates locally at all stops for pick-up and drop-off between Langley
Centre and Surrey Central Station.
– 590 to Surrey Central Station
Stops for pick-up and drop-off are made at all local stops up to and
including Guildford Exchange. Beyond this point stops are made for
drop-off only at Surrey Central Station.
– 590 to Langley South
Stops for pick-up only at Surrey Central Station and 104th Ave. at 150th.
Starting at Guildford Exchange stops are made for both pick-up and
drop-off at all stops to their termini.

Sometimes the 590 [Langley South] only goes to Walnut Grove (which is really North Langley), so figure that out…

Case in point: This weekend the bus driver on the 501 wasn’t sure which routing he was suppose to take on a trip. He spent 5min looking at HIS routing information.

I’m sure Translink could fix this (and other) route's timetable/signage/numbering and make it less confusing for all parties.

To give Translink some credit, the 502 has three different termini, but the timetable and bus signage make it pretty easy to figure out where you’re going.

The second easy fix for Translink is to put the bus route and destination on ALL their bus stop. More often then not, you’ll just get a sign that says “Bus Stop.” This is a throwback to the BC Transit days. The transit systems in Edmonton, Calgary, Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco (to name a few), all put the bus routing number and destination on their signs. From personal experience, it really sucks to be on the wrong side of the street when a bus comes every 30min – 60min.

Bad Sign


Better Sign


Calgary Sign



Translink’s new SMS texting service is great, but it too doesn’t tell you the route’s destination.

Anyway, that my rant and I believe both of my concerns could be addressed for a minimum amount of money ($200k-$300k). In 2007, Translink spent $200k to spruce up Main Street bus service. Surely they could spent the same and spruce up the whole system.

A confusing transit system will not help attract new riders to the system.


Translink Photos from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/paradigm4/
Calgary Transit Photos from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/missvincci/

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Kevin Falcon

On Friday both the Langley Times and the Langley Advance carried letters from Kevin Falcon, Minister of Transportation. The letters promise a study of light rail and other options. While South Fraser OnTrax certainly welcomes such a study, we would like to see some time lines for this study, along with a scope of work and methodology.

We hope that this will be an independent study and not any self-fulfilling prophecy that is driven by past decisions. But with public awareness and press coverage for light rail at an all-time high, we can appreciate that the Ministry will need to be open and transparent heading into a provincial election in another year. Not that we are suggesting that he has not been transparent in the past. But well-meaning staff can sometimes sideline forward-thinking solutions.

Some 14+ communities across North America have scrapped plans for rapid bus service (which TransLink is currently embracing going forward). The rapid bus or Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) has failed to attract "choice riders" (people that can drive cars if they wish). So these communities are switching to light rail, which their studies have proved will be attractive to those with cars. Therefore, SFOT is hoping that this promised study will include a look at those communities that have decided to dump rapid bus service.

The Minister mentions farmlands or the ALR. We have a simple solution. Give us service on the old Interurban like just from Langley to Surrey as a test case. Add Abbotsford and other communities when we are approaching proper ridership demands for that. It would be fairly inexpensive as compared with other options, and would begin to solve some problems south of the Fraser.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Paul Hillsdon

In a bit of older news, blogger Paul Hillsdon has announced his intention to run for Surrey City council. Check out his campaign site for more information. The Province also ran a piece on his campaign.

Complete Roads


One of the objectives of South Fraser OnTrax is to see the building, and retrofitting, of complete roads that provide equal access to all form of transportation (from walking to driving.) This currently isn’t happening on the majority of our roadways in the South Fraser. As an example, the bus stop near my work is a pole surrounded by mud with no sidewalks.

While doing a search, I came across a website called Complete Streets. It’s full of great information, so I suggest that you check it out.
Implementation Help

An effective complete streets policy should prompt transportation agencies to:

* Restructure their procedures to accommodate all users on every project.
* Re-write their design manuals to encompass the safety of all users.
* Re-train planners and engineers in balancing the needs of diverse users.
* Create new data collection procedures to track how well the streets are serving all users.
Happy long weekend!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Car Culture in Cartoon

So, I found this video at Vintage ToonCast. It is interesting to see that in this cartoon there are still streetcars and other forms of public transportation, but at the same time you can see how the love affair with the auto was at it's beginning. (If you look at the roads, you can see the streetcar tracks. :-) ) Too bad they ripped them up for Susie...

PS: The streetcar really was the antagonist in this feature.

video

Green Buildings and Renovations Made Easy

Over at my live/work office suite I have some great neighbours, and a young couple, Jesse and Melissa Roberts two awesome examples. Melissa is an interior designer, and we got talking about sustainability the other night in anticipation of tonight's Township of Langley Sustainability Cafe that we plan to attend.

Melissa followed up with me by sending me a very cool website link that we have added to our SFOT website's resource section. The Light House Sustainability Centre is a non-profit group that will do everything from educating us on sustainable building materials, to managing a sustainable home project!

The website is full of some exceptional information, including a sourcing guide for products. Want to green your home? Buy this kit. Need some new tile for your kitchen back splash or shower? How about some recycled glass tiles? Or perhaps some rubber flooring for your garage?

Light House holds Green Building 101 workshops for home owners and Strata Corporations. I hope to visit the centre soon, and also attend one of these workshops in the near future. I sure wish I had seen this website before I had major renovations done to my Walnut Grove home. Thanks Mel and we'll see you guys tonight at the cafe!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Please Do Not Take Transit

Before you attack us, we here at South Fraser OnTrax are not saying this, TransLink is! Yes, the very people that should be advocating for people to take transit have a new advertising campaign that was written up in today's Vancouver Sun. Maybe the ad campaign that encourages people to carpool and cycle to help them deal with high gasoline prices is related to our overcrowded and inadequate transit services? Some quotes from the article...

"Our problem -- and it's a nice one to have -- is that people want more than what we have to give and we're trying to expand the system."

Ridership: With the region's limited supply of roads and expanding population, one of TransLink's prime goals is to provide alternatives to the single-occupant vehicle. Between 2003 and 2007, the number of revenue passengers per capita, a standard measure in the transit field, grew 13.4 per cent. Last year, for every resident of the region, 76.5 paying trips were recorded.

Satisfaction: Overcrowding and insufficient service were the reasons, according to TransLink, that last year less than half of riders surveyed rated the system as "good to excellent." In 2004, the average rating out of 10 was 7.5 and that declined to 7.1 in 2007.

So of the people using the system, many we know don't have cars, rate the system 7.5 out of 10. Just imagine what the people with vehicles that TransLink's primary goal is to coax them out of their cars think of the system!

TransLink should be providing the product that the public wants. In the South Fraser region we want true light rail to connect us to our other SF neighbours, with a connection to SkyTrain. The drivers of single occupancy vehicles (SOV's) want this as well. Smart marketing would be to give the people the product they desire. Build it and the SOV operators will come. Use these advertising dollars to complete the studies to make that happen.

Today's Stephen Rees's Blog may provide you with some additional insight and thoughts. Stephen mentions the Golden Ears Bridge and how it leaped ahead on the project list thanks to tolling. But this project also jumped over the replacement of the 100 year old railroad bridge in New Westminster to an inter-modal bridge that would ease heavy rail freight traffic in the South Fraser and possibly allow for high-speed Amtrak passenger rail service to Seattle. The replacement of the Pattullo Bridge was also bypassed.

The New West rail bridge and the Pattulo were listed as #1 and #2 priority infrastructure projects under the Gateway plans. You can access massive amounts of reports and PowerPoint presentations on these bridge replacements on the net from 2000 - 2008. So if Gateway is so critical to our success, why have these two bridges been ignored and why haven't we focused on increasing passenger rail success by replacing this New Westminster rail bridge with a modern inter-modal one?

Paul Hillsdon has some great Interurban information on his Blog. Check it out!

Cyclist Safety

Mr. Thang Vu of Burnaby knows first-hand just how dangerous our cars and roadways can be. As an avid cyclist, Thang has been struck and injured several times by cars. He believes that our federal government should do something about the problem. So, Thang Vu has been taking the time to visit area municipal councils, asking that they approve motions for them to write to Ottawa.

Thang wants the Canadian Federal Government to convene a federal hearing to examine the Motor Vehicle Safety Act and the Motor Vehicle Transport Act. The Motor Vehicle Safety Act provides the legal framework for automobile manufacturers, and the Motor Vehicle Transport Act deals with trucks and buses. Specifically, Thang is hoping the feds will examine the engineering specification of our autombiles. Things like weight, width, speed, and related design specifications. The weight of vehicles is a major concern for cyclists and pedestrians that are struck by cars and trucks each year. The ultimate success from these hearings in Thang's opinion, would be for the government to require vehicle manufactures to produce lightweight, narrow, and speed-restricted automobiles.

Thang points out that such vehicle designs would provide additional benefits to society through improved road safety, a savings for our economy, and reduce our environmental impact.

I'm sure if a bunch of people sent e-mails to the following people requesting this hearing, it would happen soon:

The Honourable Lawrence Cannon, Federal Transport Minister - mintc@tc.gc.ca
Mervin Tweed, Chair of House of Commons Transport Committee - tweed.m@parl.gc.ga
Maxime Ricard, Clerk - House of Commons Transport Committee - tran@parl.gc.ca

Complete Roadways

South Fraser OnTrax lists "Complete Roadways" under our issues and solutions and we believe this roadway design may be more effective and do-able than the changes to vehicle design. Besides, even if new designs were required for the automobile manufacturers, they would be given years to implement and then we would have to wait for all the older, non-compliant vehicles to die off. In addition to vehicle design issues, our local communities can also help solve these problems in a very meaningful way. The roadway design concept of "complete roads" allows for distinct travel lanes for pedestrians, cyclists, streetcars/light rail cars and finally automobiles. Complete roadways are awesome and should be designed into the plans of every community!

Unfortunately our current local street scenes in the Langleys include cycle lanes that end abruptly, sidewalks that force you to cross the road for safety, and many roads that would kill you if you tried to walk or cycle on them. Doesn't that picture of a complete roadway from Australia invite you to get out of your car and walk, cycle, or take the streetcar?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Buses - They Do Serve A Purpose

Many times in our quest for light rail we speak against the buses, as usually someone is trying to force them upon us. But while buses will not lure "choice riders" from their cars, we sometimes forget that people that don't own vehicles need the buses for daily survival. Additionally, as we get light rail moving we will need buses to connect the system. Hopefully densification will then turn the buses into streetcars.

I had a healthy transportation conversation last week with Mayor Kurt Alberts, Township of Langley. Despite what some may say during this election year, the mayor knows a boat load about transportation in the south Fraser region and I have spotted him with a bus ticket more than a few times. One has to respect His Worship because he spent many years in various planning positions, as well as his work with TransLink in his capacity as mayor. He's a practical sort of man and one that I personally respect and value.

The late US President, Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, "Plans are nothing; planning is everything". He said this because things change and plans change with them. These plans can change very rapidly as well. So as long as we are continuing down a healthy path of planning, we will be OK.

Not long ago I heard from someone that was very angry at some Township councillors for voting to approve the new South of Fraser Area Transit Plan that included many buses and rapid bus services. But I understood that many of our neighbours approved the plan to move it along and that the mode (bus or rapid bus) could easily become light rail very soon. So I recalled this quote from Eisenhower and thought to myself that this approved plan means nothing in the big scheme of things, as the planning process and the influx of massive numbers of people in the south Fraser region will force a change in the mode. It will become light rail.

Its good for us to see what is being done by TransLink in a positive way and these good things will further enhance an eventual LTR system. He's some good news sent to us by Mayor Kurt Alberts.

Bus 502 between Surrey Central Station and Langley Centre - first route in the south Fraser to be upgraded to Frequent Transit Network (FTN) status. I've got to try this one!

Bus 502 now starts from Langley Centre at 4:32am to get poeple to Surrey Central Station for the first westbound SkyTrain (as at April 2008).

Bus 341 was extended Langley Centre every 30 minutes (as at December 2007)

Buses 501 and 502 "reverse peak service" has been increased over the past 2-3 years for people getting to and from Langley.

Bus 502 hours of operation extended to 2,400, with more service for Aldergrove.

Community Shuttle Service began in 2002 with 22,600 annual service hours and expanded to 31,200 hours by 2007. This is a compounded growth of 8.5% per year. A new Community Shuttle route is planned for 2008 and will add another 5,000 more annual hours.

I have to say that I like the Community Shuttle program. I like it because it connects our community for a reasonable fee and offers clean vehicles. But unless they are run every 10-15 minutes like they are in downtown Vancouver, they will not lure choice riders. Also, although equipped with a handicap lift, its a slow process and our population is aging rapidly. I'm hoping these Community Shuttles will one day be swapped out for streetcars that will provide at-grade boarding for the elderly and handicapped. I'm not far from that age bracket when I'll be eligible for senior meal discounts. One day when I have to give up my driver's license I hope reliable and elderly-friendly transit in my lifetime will help me to remain active and connected with my Langley community and beyond.

One final note is that TransLink's TRRIP Projects (co-funded through the Transit Related Road Infrastructure Program) in Langley from 2000 - 2008 thus far total $203,900.

The mayors and councils in the south Fraser have been very vocal with TransLink and vow to not cease in doing so, regardless of how much more transit we get. They fully realize that our current and future growth requires them to remain vocal. South Fraser OnTrax intends to do the same!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Car-Free in Langley

So (in theory) I sold my car, and by this time tomorrow I will be car-free. It's kind of an exciting feeling. I did the math and I'll be saving over $450 a month (and that includes buying a one zone bus pass.) Even if I need to rent a car one weekend a month for $63, I'm still way ahead. I live about a 15min bike ride/15min bus ride (on the 341) from my work. Also since I'm in Langley City, I'm within walking distance of three grocery stores and most everything you need for day-to-day stuff.

When I lived in suburban Calgary, I didn't have a car and got along fine. Let the adventures begin in Langley...

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Vancouver - New Centre of the Universe ?

A Sunday read of The Province newspaper at Starbucks this morning prompted the following thoughts...

Priced Out - an article related to home prices in Vancouver presents one case for massive growth that will come soon to the south Fraser and why we will need to get our light rail projects going now, before it it too late.

The article has several quotes from a Langley resident. Among some of his statements is this one:

"And the reason I live here is not for Langley. If I'm going to live in Langley, I could live in Lloydminster, (Alta.). Or I could move to Nanaimo. But I live here to be close to Vancouver. I want to live close to Vancouver because I love Vancouver. We all love Vancouver. That's the one thing that brings us all together."

Now as someone that lived in downtown Vancouver for several years and walked the seawall every day I could, I think Vancouver is a great city. But to say that we all live where we live to be near Vancouver is a bit much. I have come to love Langley and the people here. I moved to Vancouver after living in several international cities, and generally speaking I found people in Vancouver to be cold and lacking community spirit. While I'm able to network and make friends anywhere, I've gotta say that my face showed one of the few smiles on the seawall most mornings! I now travel to Vancouver about once every three months or so if I can help it. I'd rather travel in the south Fraser and I find everything that I need out here. I'm fortunate to also be self-employed and not having to commute.

I found another quote in the same article that doesn't amaze me, but is rather sad. SFOT has mentioned many times the concept of building communities around people and not roads. Here is the reality of why we need to do that:

Neil Sutherland, a 77-year-old retired UBC professor, is convinced it has reduced the sense of community on campus. He recalls after-work hockey games with colleagues and dinners at the now-defunct faculty club, which no longer take place. "People wonder why the faculty club failed. Well, it's because nobody lives out here any more," he says.

The experts are now starting to realize and examine what impact this building of communities around roads is having on people and is spoke about in this news piece.

Until now, there has been little research on the social consequences of skyrocketing house prices in B.C., although that is beginning to change.

One UBC study is looking at the link between people's professions and where they live in Greater Vancouver. Another, by UBC sociology Prof. Nathaneal Lauster, is studying the links between Vancouver real-estate prices and people's willingness to start families.

Housing has always been an emotional subject because so many believe where they live is a part of their identity.

"It's not just the place where you live, it's a symbol of who you are," says Lauster. "And that sort of meaning is important. It's something that tends to be overlooked by real-estate economists and people who just think this is consumption of living space.

Elsewhere in the same newspaper were these gems on transportation-related matters:

TransLink
finally clarifies for us that fact that people have not been tasered by transit police for fare evasion. Rather they were tasered for resisting arrest or being belligerent after it was learned that there was a warrant out for their arrest for serious charges. This makes good sense to us at SFOT. If these are the facts of the case, then TransLink Police acted appropriately to taser these suspects!

You can read more of this Letter to the Editor. But read the article on Priced Out and then you can judge whether there is any logic in this musing. I have absolutely no sympathy for arrogance. The letter writer says...

I have absolutely no sympathy for people who choose to live in the Fraser Valley and commute such ridiculous distances. No one has forced these people to live such distances from their work.

This Abbotsford resident and commuter pleads the case for light rail.

Any money redirected to transit should go to a light-rail system out to the Fraser Valley, instead of expanding in Coquitlam, Surrey and to UBC.

Bravo Mr. Dunlop!

Have a great Mother's Day!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Truth About TransLink?

South Fraser OnTrax has been very busy meeting with our politicians, community leaders and people within our business community over the past many weeks. One very interesting discussion took place with a high profile individual that had been involved in the TransLink planning process.

South Fraser OnTrax has learned that years ago, TransLink performed a great deal of research and an examination of technology. They took a look at Bombardier's Advanced Rapid Trasit (ART) linear induction motor-driven trains (Greater Vancouver's current SkyTrain) vs. Light Rail Technology (LRT). The TransLink study concluded that LRT was clearly the way to go based on cost, efficiency, maintenance costs and related data.

This research was shipped off to the BC Provincial government of the day with a recommendation for an LRT system. For some unknown reason, the recommended LRT suddenly became ART!

TransLink gets its fair share of criticism. Perhaps the ART & LRT debate was not their fault? SFOT would love to hear from others in the know with the facts and information as to why this ART decision was made. E-mail me confidentially at: joezac@sfot.info

Friday, May 9, 2008

BREAKING NEWS...



South Fraser OnTrax has been investigating Travel Demand Forecasting studies, also know as Emme/2 Modeling. We have been doing so because the Township of Langley's Community Rail Study by UMA suggesting this modeling as a next step. A recent motion was approved by council, but with an amendment that requires council to seek funding of this project from "all orders of government". Township staff opined that this follow-up work could cost as much as $100,000 or more.

Recently some transportation engineers have told us that many of the bits and pieces required and outlined in the UMA study have been compiled by Surrey and other cities. This groundwork should significantly reduce the consulting cost.

Today, South Fraser OnTrax discovered through a confidential source in the know, that TransLink has already performed some substantial Emme work that covers Surrey, Langley, Abbotsford and out as far as Hope, BC ! Our source suggested that if policies were added to the existing TransLink work, a significant reduced of work would be realized. Our source also tells us that most of the area consulting firms have access to this same TransLink data.

SFOT is continuing our investigation into this and related matters. We also plan to engage area experts in this field to ensure that these further south Fraser area studies will move forward in a professional and responsible manner. We'll be sure to keep you informed.

South Fraser OnTrax Inaugural Meeting Pictures

These are the beautiful people that came out this past Thursday evening for SFOT's first official meeting. Enjoy the slide show!



Making a Difference

"Making a Difference" declares issue #122 of the ASTT News (the newsletter of the Applied Science Technologists & Technicians of British Columbia). On the cover is a picture of Premier Campbell and Prime Minister Stephen Harper with workers beneath the new Park Bridge in the Kicking Horse Canyon. Underneath is a message from the Premier:
Climate change has now emerged as the single-most important issue facing us. As members of ASTTBC, your role in combating climate change is crucial. Whether you are involved in a traditional or emerging sector, you have the power to inspire and influence so many, within and beyond your industy, and within and beyond the borders of BC. My personal request to each of you is that you continue to lead the way in reducing GHGs, improving air qaulity and conserving water in your projects, your offices and your homes.
Well as a member of the ASTTBC (certified electronics technician), I have a few solutions. :-)

A Story of Two Polls

When doing polling, it’s all about asking the right questions. Take for example a poll conducted by Get Moving BC. It asked:

Based upon what you now know about the project to expand Highway 1 from Vancouver to Langley, improve on and off ramps and twin the Port Mann Bridge would you say that you support or oppose it?

Total Support: 72 %
Strongly Oppose: 12 %

Similarly, the Livable Region Coalition asked:

I'd like you to think about two transportation options being considered for the Lower Mainland:
1. Twin the Port Mann Bridge and widening Highway 1
2. Build rapid transit to Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam, expand bus and rapid transit service in Surrey, and extend rapid transit out to UBC in Vancouver. Which of these two options would be your first priority?

30% chose options one.
60% chose option two.

Next, the provincial government's study on the Gateway Project shows that the project will increase emissions that cause global warming. However, in order to meet the emissions reduction targets set by the provincial government, the regional transportation authority has said that transit use must double by 2020. Given this, would you support or oppose redirecting money from the province's road building plans into better public transit?
Total Support: 68%
Total Oppose: 20%

Interesting, eh?

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Download May 8 Meeting Audio

Our May 8th, 2008 meeting audio minutes are available for downloading.

Download the MP3 Audio File

(Remember to select "Save As" if you want to save it to your desktop, otherwise it will play in your browser.)

Inaugural Meeting Finally Here - Tonight

INAUGURAL MEETING – MAY 8, 2008
7:00pm – 9:00pm
Township of Langley Municipal Facility
4th Floor, Nicomekl River Meeting Room
20338 – 65 Avenue, Langley

6:45pm – 7:00pm Self-Registration / Greeting

7:00pm – 7:05pm Welcome & Introductions (Nathan Pachal, Joe Zaccaria &
participants)

7:05pm – 7:30pm What Is The Interurban? (Nathan Pachal)

7:30pm - 7:40pm Q & A / Feedback (participants)

7:40pm – 7:55pm The Issues, What We Believe & The Solutions (Joe Zaccaria)

7:55pm – 8:05pm Q & A / Feedback (participants)

8:05pm – 8:10pm How Can We Help ? Society Status (Joe Zaccaria)

SFOT Volunteer Jobs & Board Members

8:10pm – 8:15pm Workshop & Brainstorming Session (Nathan Pachal)

May 31st or June 7th – Volunteers Needed

8:15pm – 8:20pm Donations & Company Sponsorships (Joe Zaccaria)

8:20pm – 8:30pm June 10th Meeting -Yorkson Room - Streetcar Night (Joe Zaccaria)

Participant Questions / Feedback

Adjourned

If you are planning to attend tonight, you can save some time by registering your name and contact details on this Blog!

Gas Prices

Good morning! My friend Allyson Hiebert was on page A8 of today's The Province. The title of the article is "Gas prices take big bite out of workers' wages".

"There's definitely not as much freedom to spend money on extra- curricular activities," she added.

With predictions of $1.50 a litre by summer, Hiebert said there may come a time when she will have to get a job closer to home.

Commuters in suburbs closer to Vancouver tend to travel shorter distances and have frequent transit services.
Hmm, if only there was an alternative....

As a note of correction, she actually works in Langley and lives in Vancouver. She takes transit and walks when in Vancouver.

Transport 2040

As you may be aware, Translink is working on Transport 2040. This is their 30-year service plan, and is a sort-of update to Transport 2021.

Here are some interesting facts from their Backgrounder document:
The average commuting time has been decreasing in Metro Vancouver. In 1992, the average round trip travel time was 70 minutes, which decreased to 68 minutes in 1998 and 67 minutes in 2005. In other large metropolitan areas in Canada, the average round trip travel time has been increasing over the same period.

Age of Major Transport Infrastructure:
New Westminster Rail Bridge: 104 years
Pattullo Bridge: 71 years
Massey Tunnel: 49 years
Ironworkers Memorial Bridge: 48 years
Knight Street Bridge: 32 years
SkyTrain Expo Line: 21 years
SkyBridge: 19 years

It would seem to me that it’s high time that someone (hint: the federal government) replace that New Westminster Bridge. It would open up rail options in the Lower Mainland as well as provide a much needed safety improvement. (I hope a barge never hits that bridge.)

What was also interesting is the views of the BC Chamber of Commerce on transportation.
Road infrastructure in BC, as in many other jurisdictions, is considered a public good and therefore is heavily financed by the taxpayer. In the absence of effective price signals such as tolls, as well as other mechanisms to influence behaviour such as High Occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, and appropriate and available transit options, there is inevitably an increase in single-passenger vehicles and use, which then leads to congestion and bottlenecks.

Efforts to plan and allocate public funds towards improving road and parking facilities, in an ongoing attempt to avoid congestion, tend to make insufficient use of other transportation alternatives. In many cases, zoning regulations impose minimum standards of road and parking services, and impose de facto regulated automobile dependency. Significant growth in vehicles also gives rise to congestion at peak traffic hours on major thoroughfares, in business districts and often throughout urban areas.

The Chamber recommends that TransLink:

1. Make it a prerequisite of these visions that there is a need for investment in public transit to provide viable alternatives to single passenger vehicle travel.
2. Commit to funding transportation infrastructure investment through mechanisms that are equitable, efficient and reflect basic traffic demand management principles.
3. Create, in conjunction with business, a tolling policy on transportation infrastructure, and examine the use of tolls and other innovative funding programs as a sustainable funding mechanism and a key traffic demand management tool.
It is very interesting to note that the BC Chamber of Commerce thinks that the BC Government should reevaluate its tolling policy.
The Chamber believes that the global trend is towards an acceptance of the necessity of tolls as both a provider of long-term sustainable funding for transportation and transit investment, within the concept of ensuring that the user pays, as well as the most efficient traffic demand management system that is available.

The Chamber understands there is likely to be significant public resistance to comprehensive tolling. However, we also believe that public acceptance of tolls would be possible if quality transit options are made available from the start. Initial tolls can fund the inevitable start-up costs and can be adjusted to keep traffic at targeted performance for the benefit of the public and business.
I have always been a supporter of road pricing and I'm glad to see that the BC Chamber agrees.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Must Read Book

In our document archive, we have some maps and schedules from the Interurban line in the 1950’s. You can thank Henry Ewert for that information. While you're at it, I suggest that you pick up a copy of “The Story of the B.C. Electric Railway Company” from your local library (the book is out of print.) This book has to be the definitive guide on the history of the line from its beginning to the 1980’s. There is even an introduction by Jimmy Pattison.

I just picked up a copy from my local Langley library, and it’s well worth the read (even if all you’re reading are the pictures.)

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Meeting in the News

The Langley Advance did a story on our upcoming meeting on May 8 in the Nicomekl River Meeting Room at the Langley Township from 7 - 9 p.m.
South Fraser OnTrax, founded by former members of the Valley Transportation Advisory Committee (VALTAC), is about sustainable transportation and sustainable communities, said founding member Nathan Pachal.

Formed by Pachal and Joe Zaccaria, OnTrax now has six members, and the group wants to welcome anyone who has a passion for transportation, Pachal said.
Read the full article on their website.

Last Night at City Hall

City of Langley council held a public hearing last night for a proposed redevelopment on the corner of Fraser Highway and 201A Street. This area is identified on the Downtown Langley Master Plan as the “West Gateway.” While SFOT supports redevelopment, we had some concerns and submitted the following:

Dear His Worship the Mayor and Members of City Council,

We are writing to you today representing South Fraser OnTrax, a community group supporting sustainable communities. Many of our members are also property owners in the City of Langley.

It has come to our attention that there is a plan (Rezoning Application No. 01-08 / Development Permit No. 02-08) to redevelop 20168 Fraser Highway into a residential complex. While we certainly support redevelopment in the City, and most especially a complex that will support a sustainable pedestrian and transit oriented downtown, we have some concerns.

The townhouse component of this development facing Fraser Highway, a mixed-use corridor, is currently not being designed for any mixed-use or commercial use. While storefront commercial units along this corridor may not be warranted according to the Downtown Langley Master Plan, live/work units are. Why is the City not asking for a large percentage of live/work suites in this complex, especially for the suites that face Fraser Highway? We believe that by ignoring the commercial and mixed-use intention of the zoning, you will be causing the street scene to appear significantly disjointed.

Live/work suites will attract professionals to downtown Langley. These businesses will contribute to the City economy. Again, live/work units are also suggested in the recently announced Downtown Master Plan. As the report says about the West Gateway, “Live/work [will be] permitted along the street front.”

The City of Langley currently suffers from a number of residential only complexes that sometimes attract undesirable tenants, many of whom put a significant strain on police services. By encouraging mixed-use in this complex, the City would be attracting business owners that would occupy their suites and demand a clear level of civility and decorum within the Strata. This perspective should be added to the list of the crime prevention strategies that the City is in the process of implementing. We understand that some home-based businesses will be the compromise here in this complex, but a watered-down usage like this is simply not acceptable to us.

It is our understanding that this developer was considering some commercial units along Fraser Highway, but decided not to do so after reviewing the unsold commercial units at The Muse complex. But one must examine that developer’s overpricing of those commercial units and the fact that The Muse has a significantly less number of total units than this proposed development.

South Fraser OnTrax respectfully urges Mayor and Council to include a significant portion of live/work units to this development.

Thank you for attention to this important issue.
We were informed that City council approved the bylaws to construct this project without Live/Work. We were told that Mayor Fassbender believes this project fits in with the Master Plan. We are disappointed that Live/Work was not considered.

Last Night at Township Hall

I, as well as other members of SFOT, spent 3.5 hours at the Township council meeting last night. If there was one theme yesterday, it was sports tourism and transportation. I will focus on transportation.

As was posted previously, there were two motions that dealt with the Interurban and community rail: one motion by Councillor Bateman and the other by Councillor Richter. Both the Valley Transportation Advisory Committee (Committee) and South Fraser OnTrax (SFOT) gave delegations to council in support of Bateman's motion. You can download our presentation notes from the document achieve. It was interesting to note that Sonya, on behalf of the Committee, was originally going to ask for a delay of both motions. She stated that the Committee wanted a chance to review the presentation by the Township Staffer Paul Cordeiro. I personally don't see how reviewing Paul's presentation would matter, as council seems to be in support of going forward with community rail. Anyway, she did change her mind, and that was a very good thing. The Committee also asked for a round-table discussion with council to talk about the Cordeiro presentation. It seemed that at least Councillor Long and Ward were in support of that.

Councillor Long asked both SFOT and the Committee who would pay for the community rail ridership study. We pointed out that the Township paid for the original UMA study. Councillor Richter seemed keen on meeting with the Committee before supporting Bateman's motion on the study. She also asked how many people were in SFOT. She then noted that the 60+ demographic is the faster growing according to the 2006 census data. I would certainly think that people 60+ would want better transit and community rail sooner rather than later.

The meeting then shifted to sports tourism. There was talk about spending $20k to place signs on all the major gateway roads into Langley to help people find sports venues. There was also a presentation on the recent $100k upgrade to the lacrosse box at McLeod Athletic Park. There was discussion of spending $20k for Aldergrove At-Risk Youth Sports. Also, council voted 5-4 not to support spending $15k on a concert this summer at the McLeod Grandstand. Councillor Kositsky seemed very much in support of sports tourism, as did many on council.


The meeting then shifted back to transportation. Bateman's motion was the first on the list. Councillor Kositsky started off by mentioning that the motion was in contrary to council's March 10th 5-4 support of Translink's South of Fraser Area Transit bus plan. Mayor Alberts said that he though the motion fits within council's conditional support of Translink's plan stating that the motion would provide further information to aid Translink in getting rapid transit to Langley. The motion was allowed and Councillor Bateman explained the reasons why he drafted the motion.

1.) It was based on the recommendations of the High-level UMA Community Rail Study.
2.) There is a time crunch with the Livability Accord (a committee of the Township of Langley, Surrey, Abbotsford, and Coquitlam). He mentioned that there is funding in the Livability Accord to study transportation. (Mayor Alberts stated that Transit is a pilot.)
3.) There should be money from other municipalities to help fund the next step in the study.
4.) People in the Township are looking for leadership from council. People want council to lead the way in getting community rail for Langley.

Councillor Fox added that much has been happening in the way of transit and community rail. He cited the Abbotsford Inter-regional Transportation Select Committee and Surrey’s Heritage Rail Project. He mentioned that Langley needs to get involved because it is in the middle of the Interurban line. He said that buses are not the only solution. "We need to be big and bold." Councillor Vickberg noted that 70% of all trips stay in Langley and that buses will play a major roll in transporting these people. Councillor Bateman mentions his streetcar plan. Councillor Vickberg stated that he would support the motion.

Councillor Richter said that buses are important. She was also concerned about the cost of continuing with the recommendations of the UMA study. She then asked Paul Cordeiro what he though the second phase reporting would cost. He said it might be $100,000, but admitted that he didn’t really know.

Councillor Richter moved to refer (aka delay) the motion to staff for detailed costing analysis. It was moved by Richter and seconded by Long. Councillor Kositsky asked staff how much the original UMA High-Level Study cost. Staff said it cost $20,000 (due to the fact that Surrey completed a similar study.) Kositsky said that is was ridiculous to spend money on something that Translink and the Province has control over and should pay for. Councillor Ferguson said that he didn’t support Richter’s move to refer the motion to staff. He mentioned that the Township spent money on thing like the new townhall, and that the Township must continue to invest in the future of the community.

At that time, the meeting ran out of time and council took at break.

When council returned to discuss the motion, Councillor Ferguson continued saying that community rail must move forward. He stressed that the motion said pursue and that funding will come later. Councillor Fox, Ward, and Long didn’t see value in Councillor Richter’s proposed referral to staff. The referral was defeated with only Councillor Richter and Kositsky in support. Councillor Long then suggested that the originally motion be amendment. Councillor Kositsky suggested changing the sentence Therefore be it resolved that the Township support the concept of community rail and pursue the following measures: to Therefore be it resolved that the Township support the concept of community rail and pursue funding from other orders of government and agencies for the following measures:

The motions was carried

Richter's motion was referred to the Livability Accord task-force.

At the end of the meeting, I was left with mixed feelings. Township council is going forward with community rail, and that's a good thing, but I don’t think they are fully realizing their leadership potential in championing it and the Interurban. Finding funding is a good first step, and I believe that there are others who will step-up-to the funding plate, but Township council still needs to play a leadership role if we are to see community rail and rapid transit before I'm old and gray.

Community rail IS going forward.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Big Vote Today

Today is a pivotal moment for the Interurban in the Township of Langley. Township council has the chance to become the champions of light rail in the South Fraser.

Sometime after 4pm council will vote on the following motions:
Councillor Bateman, presented the following Notice of Motion within the deadlines according to Council’s Policy:

Whereas transit service in the Township of Langley is the poorest, per capita, in the Lower Mainland, and

Whereas the vast majority of trips south of the Fraser stay south of the Fraser, and

Whereas a desire for light rail, streetcars, and community rail has been expressed throughout the entire south Fraser region, including the Council of the Township of Langley,

Therefore be it resolved that the Township support the concept of community rail and pursue the following measures:
1. An EMME2 and micro-simulation study, as recommended in the UMA community rail report, for community rail improvements in the south of the Fraser and Fraser Valley regions,
2. A study of the possible routes for community rail within the South of Fraser region,
3. The Township continue to protect key right-of-ways for possible community rail or other transit use, including, but not limited to, the Interurban rail line, 200th Street, 208th Street, Fraser Highway, 88th Avenue, and 96th Avenue,
4. Send a letter of support to the Fraser Valley Heritage Rail Society reinforcing the Township’s support for their efforts, and
5. Send an update to the TransLink Board, Ministry of Transportation, and the Mayors and Councils of the Cities of Surrey, Langley, Abbotsford, and Chilliwack regarding this motion, and offering agencies an opportunity to participate.

---

Councillor Richter, presented the following Notice of Motion within the deadlines according to Council’s Policy:

Whereas the planning and development of light rail transit South of the Fraser will require the banding together of local politicians in the high growth municipalities in order to put effective pressure on more senior levels of government and to negotiate with them;

Whereas the fracturing of support for rail transit will occur unless there is a significant effort made to unite efforts of local politicians, local transit advocacy groups, and local communities;

Therefore be it resolved that Langley Township take the initiative to form a South of the Fraser Transit/Transportation Task Force and to invite elected representatives from Surrey, Langley City, Abbotsford, and Chilliwack to sit on this Task Force as well;

Be it further resolved that the purpose of the Task Force be to develop a strategic plan, using the resources of all municipalities and transit advocacy groups such as VALTAC, which would effectively implement a unified light rail transit system South of the Fraser by no later than 2018.

Let’s hope that Township council votes to become visionaries for restoring the Interurban and light rail.

The meeting is open to the public around 4pm and is in the Township Council Chamber.

Southern Railway of BC May Like Passengers

I was poking around the Southern Railway of BC's website and found it interesting that their new president, Frank J. Butzelaar is a fairly young man that rose up the ranks to become the boss.

I also see where there are several industrial properties along the main line that could severe as potential Interurban rail car maintenance and storage facilities, especially if the Southern Railway of BC was awarded a contract to run the Interurban passenger service. The new president is leaving the door open to this and South Fraser OnTrax is liking the idea. Makes lots of sense to us, and I would gather by the "could work" statement that Southern may consider the passenger service to be a lucrative business venture. Now let's call it Community Rail instead of Commuter Rail. Maybe this should give the nay-sayers something to think about?

Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Langley Times - Development Put in Context

In today's Langley Times editor Frank Bucholtz discusses a recent transit forum in Langley, and how he liked what Stephen Rees had to say about growth and municipal planning being centred around the car since 1945, and how this much change.

Mr. Bucholtz points out that in his mind Mr. Rees differentiated himself from the "Vancouver anti-growth crowd" that he says does not understand how the South Fraser region differs from Vancouver. Rees said that the Lower Mainland will keep growing "and you can't stop it". SFOT agrees with Rees on this very logical point. But if we will follow the patterns of other municipalities using best practices, we can begin to build our communities around people. Higher density development/compact communities, community rail, neighbourhood streetcars and light rail within a 5-10 minute walk.

We have pointed out this lack of smart growth at the South Fraser OnTrax website on The Issues page and some remedies are offered on The Solutions page. We will soon have an entire section of the website devoted to Transit Oriented Development (TOD). An area that is of great interest to the authors of this Blog. So much so that we are about to embark on acquiring credentials in this area of study. We are very happy that the local press like the ideas put forth by Stephen Rees.

SOUTHERN RAILWAY OF B.C. WILLING TO LET PEOPLE RIDE THE RAILS

The new president of the railway is open to passenger rail. Read all about it in the Langley Times.

200th STREET STREETCAR IDEA GETS MORE PRESS

The Langley Times covered Councillor Jordan Bateman's presentation.

Three Langley Times articles this week, plus multiple stories in the Langley Advance. Looks like light rail is getting some much-needed attention.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Top Reads On This Blog

The South Fraser OnTrax Blog is being well-read with daily readership numbers soaring since it was first launched on April 7, 2008. Of several thousand page views, these were the most popular:

# 1 Councillor Bateman Presents 200th Street

# 2 South Fraser Community Rail in 2012

# 3 South Fraser Gets News Rubbers

# 4 Best Way to Langley

Note that until this week, the SF Community Rail in 2012 was #1. I guess this 200th Street streetcar idea has captured reader interest. Views of the presentation are also healthy!

BATEMAN NOTICE OF MOTION

Councillor Bateman's Notice of Motion will be voted on between 4pm-4:30pm. We encourage all of our supports to be there in the Township Council chambers with us if you can.

SFOT INAUGURAL MEETING

The South Fraser OnTrax (SFOT) inaugural meeting is coming up this Thursday, May 8th at the Township Civic Facility. Please sign up for our mailing list here if you plan to attend (not mandatory, but a good idea). The meeting is scheduled for 7:00pm - 9:00pm, but our goal is to end a little early, unless the attendees have questions. We can always mix and mingle at the conclusion of the agenda!

SUSTAINABLE LIVING AND TRANSPORTATION WORKSHOP

Things are coming together for an excellent workshop program! If you have previously participated in the Township's Sustainable Community Planning sessions or wish you had, you will not want to miss this one! Best of all, our program will only take two hours of your Saturday morning, and then you can enjoy the great outdoors! As with our meetings and all events, we promise to respect your time. We will be ON Trax and ON time.