Monday, June 30, 2008

Sometimes People Just Do Not Get It - The BC Carbon Tax

I was reading The Province newspaper at Starbucks this morning and found this article on the carbon tax. It includes interviews with various people to see if their lifestyles will be changing, and whether or not they will take a vacation this year. It got me thinking about what I have been doing to conserve fuel and be more sustainable.

Thanks to The Amtrak Cascades, I've saved huge amounts of fuel and kilometers on my vehicle, during numerous trips to Seattle and Portland for business and pleasure. The kicker is, this choice has greatly improved my quality of life! I arrive and depart fresh and stress free. I get loads of work done coming and going. I have time to get on my cell phone and reach out to clients and associates. Since February of this year, I have saved a conservative 8,000 kilometers on my vehicle's odometer by using the Cascades. The ticket prices have amounted to a fraction of the costs related to vehicle fuel and maintenance. My fellow passengers and I are making a huge contribution to saving the environment and conserving resources. In the coming months I will seek out other opportunities and things that I can do to continue on this course of sustainable living. But each little step seems to yield big results.

I wondered why people have gone from paying $1.25/per liter to $1.45/per liter, while basically continuing to tool down the highway. Now suddenly, Premier Gordon Campbell is equivalent to satin himself, as the carbon tax will add a petty 2.34 cents /per liter to the cost of our gasoline. Suddenly the sky is falling down, people cannot take vacations, and we are now dispatched to Carbon Tax Hell. Not thought to the amount of money we will get to keep in tax savings.

Are these people from Mars or what? Get real folks! The rest of the world has realized long ago that times have changed. You can deny global warming all you want, but please take a look at the changing world around you. I too used to enjoy the independent ride in my car and the open road. But as the Premier rightly pointed out, we have all been part of the problem and not the solution. We behave as if oil is an endless resource and we can leave future generations to find their own solutions. I am guilty. You are guilty.

I believe the carbon tax will allow people to STOP and think for a short period of time. For me, its all worth it. It is also causing some people to make decisions for the betterment of society and that is another good thing. I'd like to see our government show some innovation now and reactivate the interurban as communities around the globe are doing. I'd love to see streetcars down the Fraser Hwy. and up 200th Street. I long for the day when I can board a streetcar at my office and ride it down 200th to my favorite Starbucks, leaving my vehicle behind. When will we see meaningful options that allow us to park the cars and develop a new love affair with energy-efficient Light Rail and streetcars?

I also read that the Conference Board of Canada has issued its new report card to Canada. I'm thankful that this group doesn't sugar-coat the results and tells it like it is. We got a "C" for our care of the Environment, or 15th out of 17 nations for our poor performance in greenhouse gas emissions, smog, and waste generation. We generate more waste per person than any other country. Only Australia produces greater per capita greenhouse gas emissions.

Sadly, we got a "D" for Innovation. Oh Canada, why? We are told that we have some of the brightest minds and technology at our disposal. Yet this report card goes on to say,

"It's a "myth" that Canada has one of the highest living standards in the world, the board said, noting that living standards here have fallen to ninth in the world from fourth in 1990, citing as other myths the idea that Canada has a highly educated population and that it is a world leader in science and technology. The BlackBerry is the exception, not the rule, it said. Over seven million Canadians do not have the literacy skills to cope with the demands of everyday life and work in modern society."

I'm thankful for opinionated people. Despite my living and working around the world, I have never met more opinionated and passionate "for the cause people" than here in Canada. But if all this talk and rhetoric does not lead to innovation and change, then why waste your breath? I long for innovation and more sustainable choices. How about you?

Saturday, June 28, 2008

More on CIBC - Mass Exodus

As an update to yesterday’s post about CIBC’s prediction of a “mass exodus” of vehicles off the roadway, the Metro newspaper ran a piece from a Canadian perspective.
Based on current prices, it would put gas prices in Vancouver somewhere in the neighbourhood of $2.40 to $2.55 per litre. By 2012, it would result in 500,000 to 700,000 fewer cars on the road across Canada, said CIBC senior economist Benjamin Tal.
That works out to about 30,000 to 45,000 less vehicles on the road in Vancouver by 2012. In today's terms it would be like rolling back traffic volumes by two years. That’s pretty amazing, and I'm sure this trend will continue to some extent before settling down. (I beleive that there will always be cars on the road in whatever form they take.) Hopefully, the 502 to Surrey Central can keep up with the demand.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Heading for the Exit Lane - CIBC World Markets

So, the folks at CIBC World Markets have predicted that by 2010 we will see $1.85 per liter gas.

"Over the next four years, we are likely to witness the greatest mass exodus of vehicles off America's highways in history. By 2012, there should be some 10 million fewer vehicles on American roadways than there are today..."

The report goes on to state the poor will be the hardest hit. They figure that half of all vehicles leaving the road will be from America's poor. People with access to Public Transport will be the lucky ones.

Oh, the article also states that oil prices will be high for the foreseeable future.

"The additional 200,000 barrels per day pledged form Saudi Arabia is a pittance compared to the four million barrels per day that depletion will hive off world production this year... "

So if I were in charge of transportation projects in BC, I would start spending real money on transit today: beef up Translink's bus network, build light rail to UBC and to Coquitlam, restore the Interurban to the Fraser Valley, and build streetcars. The cost of oil combined with road pricing should should take care of the congestion (it's already happening) for the time being as we build out our transportation system for the future. We can then go back an expand our road network as needed.

On that note, it's also good to see that some of our municipalities and provincial leaders are waking-up to the fact that our world is changing. Mixed-use, transit oriented development is the future. Hopefully more will realize this in the coming months or years.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Bike Lane, What...

My strata just installed a secure bike lockup yesterday, and that got be thinking about our bike network out here in the South Fraser. South Fraser OnTrax is all about complete roads that allow equal access to all modes of transportation. So, how does the bicycle fare out here? Sadly, there is much room for improvement.

All the municipalities in the South Fraser have an official bike network plan. On paper they are very nice; Translink has even compiled a downloadable map of the network. In reality things are very different.

Right now our bike network is more of a patchwork of bike lane sections. Having ridden in both Langley and Surrey, cycling can be both a joy (when there are proper lanes) and a game of chance with your life (when the lanes end). Take Glover Road in Langley from my place near 53rd Avenue to Kwantlen at the Langley Bypass.


The road starts out as a wide two-lane road with no marked bike lane. The road is wide, so it’s pretty safe. From Langley City Hall to Logan Avenue, there are no bike lanes and the road becomes four lanes. This section of road is scary to bike on. There is a shared bike lane/side on the west sidewalk from Logan to Eastleigh. Finally from Eastleigh to the Langley Bypass, there is a shoulder that acts as a bike lane. It really is an adventure.

It’s not all doom and gloom. Surrey a few years ago repainted many of their roads with bike lanes and new road construction seems to come with bike lanes now too. Though it still looks like bikes are more of an afterthought than anything else, as some of these bike lanes can be dangerously narrow. I have always been a fan of physically separated bike lane like this one in Montreal.



These kinds of bike lanes do not break-the-bank, and provide improved safety for cars, cyclists, and drivers alike. Richmond is even starting to build them as they improve No. 3 Road.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Seattle/Strep Throat/Signs

Last weekend I went to Seattle via Amtrak to catch a show. The show was great and the train trip was relaxing, but I ended up catching strep throat somehow. Anyway, since I’m home on antibiotics (and probiotics paid for with the help of the Climate Change Buyout), I thought I’d review some of the pictures from my trip.


Sharing

Stephen Rees’ comment on his blog about alleged union issues that would prevent a bus from a.) running directly from Langley to Abbotsford, or b.) sharing the same bus stops. I’m not sure why this would be an issue as this is done in many American regions. For example, this Seattle bus stop services three different agencies.


Each county in the Seattle area is responsible for its own transit system. There is also a regional transit agency, Sound Transit, which provides rail, light rail, and regional express bus service. Even Amtrak provides some services. There are more than five transit agencies in the region, and you can transfer with the same ticket between all the major systems. Also, you can buy a regional “PugetPass” that works on all the system. Imagine this kind of service between Abbotsford, Langley, and even Chilliwack.


Signs

Of course all bus stops in Seattle have useful information like these stops (I’ve been outside of the downtown core just to make sure).



Apparently Translink has identified that they have deficient bus stop signs because their Transport 2040 plan includes improvement of wayfinding and signage.

Anyway, I always enjoy visiting cities on the West Coast. Lots of good transit. Well, back to bed I go. :-)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

CBC Quirks & Quarks

The CBC Radio One science show Quirks & Quarks ran a whole show about sustainable communities that exist or are being built today. It is an hour long show, but very exciting to listen to. You can download the show and read more information at the episodes web page.

The Rail Bridge

Way back on April 21st, Township of Langley Councillor Charlie Fox noted that freight traffic through the Langleys was, has, and will continue to be a major issue. He then explained that replacing the over 100-year-old rail bridge at New Westminster should be a major priority.

Replacing the bridge will cut-down on the amount of trains going through Langley (many trains are currently going between Vancouver and Deltaport via Mission and Langley due, in part, to the poor condition and capacity issues with the New Westminster bridge) and would also allow improved Amtrak service. The new bridge could be built to handle light rail, trucks, bikeway, etc to allow better multimodal access across the river. In fact, even the Greater Vancouver Gateway Council has identified that the New Westminster Rail Bridge needs replacement.

To that end, the Mayor and Council decided to write a letter to Langley MP Mark Warawa expressing their concerns and need to replace the bridge. They received the following letter back:


“I agree that the Fraser River Rail Bridge is reaching the end of its life and is a bottleneck that causes trains to be diverted through Langley. The Langley rail issue is one of my high priorities and I will continue to look for a resolution to this concern.”


This is good to hear, and I hope meaningful, because back in April 2006 he said,
I am working along with Langley municipal and provincial governments toward a short-term goal of the Mufford/Glover interchange as well as a long-term project which could involve re-routing the line outside of Langley's core. I served as member of the Langley Rail Task Force, which is a consortium of stakeholders, including municipal representatives, the VPA, the BC government, the railways and others. The Task Force was charged with looking into all avenues to satisfy the rail issues facing Langley.

I have been very active on this issue and finally gotten Transport Canada to agree to implement a study into alternative routes for the rail line through the Fraser Valley, which should commence in the new year. One suggested alternative route would be to construct a “Y” at Colebrook Road, and utilize the Burlington Northern line as part of the route. We are also looking at the necessity of replacing the Patullo rail bridge and how that project might best fit into the overall rail traffic issue in the lower mainland, not just Langley.

I am working diligently with others on this issue, and consider it a top priority of my mandate. I am confident that the political will exists on all sides to ensure an amiable resolution to theses issues. I would ask that you please contact the Township of Langley website for more information from local government on this most important issue.
Funding was provided for the proposed Mufford-Glover road/rail overpass as part of the $75 million Roberts Bank Rail Corridor Road/Rail Grade Separations. (As a note, the federal government also set aside $365 million for the South Fraser Perimeter Road.) We are still waiting on the alternate rail study.


Photos from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dennissylvesterhurd/

Monday, June 23, 2008

Workshop Drawings Are Now Online

As promised, I have posted the drawings from the June 18th Sustainability Workshop. You can click on the images to expand them. These are very impressive drawings, I must say. I have also update "The Solutions" section of the South Fraser OnTrax website. Enjoy.



Sunday, June 22, 2008

Crisis Clashes With Design

QUESTION: What happens when developers don't listen to the market and disaster strikes? ANSWER: Massive Empty homes, crime, and McMansions.....

The US mortgage crisis has led to many empty homes and vast wasteland neighbourhoods. While the US is a big place and there are exceptions to the rule across the nation, many a suburban US home remains empty today. Apart from the mortgage crisis, developers did not do their homework. If they had, they would have found that the well-educated young people of today prefer "walkable urbanism", instead of their parent's detached single family home in the suburbs that offer long commutes and cars. And I would add that urbanism can come to the suburbs if we allow it to. A new CNN article goes on to say,

"Recent market research indicates that up to 40 percent of households surveyed in selected metropolitan areas want to live in walkable urban areas, said Leinberger. The desire is also substantiated by real estate prices for urban residential space, which are 40 to 200 percent higher than in traditional suburban neighborhoods -- this price variation can be found both in cities and small communities equipped with walkable infrastructure, he said."

Be it called Transit Oriented Development, Walkable Urbanism, or Eco-Chic, it certainly appeals to me and to anyone else that has figured out that our supplies of petroleum are not endless, spending hours a week in a car stuck in traffic gridlock does not provide me with a good quality of life, and I can enjoy meeting new people and my neighbours in a dense environment.

I wish we could see a development like Dockside Green (minus the ocean) here in Langley, along with some streetcars and an Interurban to round out the transit options. Wouldn't 200th Street look grand if it was anything like this? With eco-chic designs and light rail I would be putting my home up for sale in a heartbeat!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Road Safety Forum


Councillor Mel Kositsky in an “arresting stance” at the Road Safety Forum










The Township of Langley’s Community Safety Commission, Chaired by Councillor Mel Kositsky, held a Road Safety Forum Thursday night at the Township Facility. The event was held in partnership with the Township, Langley RCMP, ICBC and the BCAA Traffic Safety Foundation. Mayor Kurt Alberts was also on hand to meet and greet the participants for the entire evening’s program. Councillor Kositsky spends countless hours attending meetings related to public safety and related matters. I know because I previously served on the Community Safety Commission with Mel.

There were several booths sponsored by the participants, and I had loads of fun checking out the technology. I had previously blogged about the Township’s purchase of several portable VCalm traffic calming sign, that will include solar panels. Tom Ewasiuk of Trans Canada Traffic Inc., distributor of VCalm, allowed me an inside look at this neat equipment.

Left-to-Right: Paul Cordeiro, Manager Transportation Engineering (TOL), Alison Wong, Road Improvement Engineer (ICBC), Leanne Cassap, Road Safety Coordinator (ICBC) and the author stand with the VCalm.







The VCalm unit can be programmed with a laptop computer to display various messages based on your speed. The programming can also be placed on multiple SD memory cards and placed in units around the Township. The same SD Card will record speed data, such as the speed of vehicles as they approach the device and their speed after passing it. The equipment can also be placed in “stealth mode” where it appears to drivers to be switched off, but it is still recording data. The engineers like to run tests like this to see the effectiveness of the VCalm in an area. The unit pictured includes a strobe light that can flash at a vehicle that is speeding, although the Township has chosen no to have this feature on their initial order. The City of Richmond is experimenting with the strobe light version. I think the strobe would really wake drivers up and probably make them feel like a police officer is there.

Components of the VCalm System


Internal Radar Unit






Strobe Light










SD Memory Card












In his opening remarks, Councillor Kositsky shared a research note that people who put bumper stickers on their cars are more likely to be involved in road rage incidents, than those that don’t!

Cory Day, Senior Transportation Engineer for the Township, shared how his department supports the use of the 3 E’s: Engineering, Education & Enforcement to help reduce accidents and traffic problems. He shared lots of information related to signs, signals, beacons and pavement markings that we as drivers take for granted every day, or may not even notice. Cory spoke about resident complaints and how his department will approach such a case. They start with a study of 5 years of collision data that will often include the numbers and types of collisions. One important factor that must be considered is a comparison of the number of vehicles on the road vs. the number of collisions. His people will observe intersections day or night as required and record data for examination and mitigation.

Cory also stated that currently only 1% of Township residents cycle, but these residents are being protected with all new roads being equipped with cycle lanes, paved shoulders (in rural areas), pavement markings or other protective measures that are being taken. He spoke of pedestrian saferty measures that are being initiated by the Township, to include more markings of crosswalks, pedestrian signals, count down signals, and curb extensions that shorten the distance the pedestrian needs to cross, while keeping them highly viable to drivers. Of course the roundabout in Murrayville was mentioned as a nice traffic calming tool that will be used more so in the Township.

Leanne Cassap of ICBC talked about ICBC’s Road Improvement Investment Program. She spoke about the need to link education with enforcement, how car crashes are the # 1 killer of youth in BC, and how 40% of all crashes in the Province of BC happen at intersections.

Lynne Robinson, Road Safety Coordinator for the Township spoke about the Safer School Travel Program and some near road safety maps that are being designed and distributed for each specific school.

Inspector Amrik Virk, Langley RCMP Operations Officer spoke about the enforcement element of road safety, and what the RCMP is doing locally, with the Langley Traffic Services Section and the Integrated Road Safety Unit.

Allan Lamb, Executive Director of the BCAA Traffic Safety Foundation said that in BC, car crashes cost the Province $8.8 billion dollars each year. He said that you are 4 times more likely to be involved in a crash caused by cell phone use, but there is no “political will” in BC to enact a no cell phone use while driving law. Allan said that as of July 1, 2008, BC drivers suspected of driving under the influence of a drug will be required to provide police with a saliva sample, and the Province now has over 200 police officers that are specially trained to detect drug impairment.

Before turning the evening over to audience questions, there were few dry eyes in the chambers when a young Langley resident by the name of Kevin Brooks positioned his wheelchair at the podium and spoke about his horrific crash that was caused by his impaired driving on a summer night in June of 2000. Kevin spoke about his carefree party lifestyle and poor choices that paralyzed him from the chest down, forever changing his life, and killing his passenger and best friend, Brendan.

Questions were taken from the audience. Of course they included a discussion of some solutions for 16th Avenue. Cory Day promised that spending approved by Mayor and Council will flow to the area and provide significant solutions, resources, and benefits to 16th Avenue.

As a side note, Paul Cordeiro, Manager of Transportation Engineering will be our guest speak at the South Fraser OnTrax’s August 14th meeting. Paul will explain to us the process that is used to devise a transportation plan for the community, as well as how the plan evolves and is revised over time, as the community grows. We look forward to Paul’s insight and expertise!

Can you guess the Top 10 Crash Sites in Langley before you peek here?

Langley Advance Coverage of Workshop

The Langley Advance wrote an article about the workshop we hosted on Wednesday night.
The area is rapidly becoming a dense and narrow strip where about 80 per cent of Langley residents will occupy 20 per cent of the community's land.

"That's like preaching to the choir in that group," Bateman said.

He liked the mix of people who came out, which included both those over 50 and those under 30.

"I think that's a good mix of experience and ideas," Bateman said.

OnTrax organizers Nathan Pachal and Joe Zaccaria gathered all the ideas from the groups and had graphic recorder Avril Orloff turn them into large posters as the meeting progressed.

Some notes of clarification when reading: Jordan Bateman gave his presentation about the 200th St. Streetcar at our June 10th meeting, and in total there where 20 people at the event. Either way it was a great article. Read the whole thing at the Langley Advance's website.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Workshop Last Night

I was impressed with the workshop we hosted with Smart Growth BC last night. I have never done a workshop with a graphic facilitator, and have to say that it adds a whole other dimension to see your thoughts turn into picture.


Avril Orloff, the artist, did a great job of capturing our ideas into a mind map. We hope to have the graphics posted to our website in the next week or so.




Smart Growth BC started the workshop by giving a presentation about building smart growth communities. They explained that the world is changing: oil prices, climate change, and our aging population. They then talked about how our communities changed from people-centric to car-centric after World War II. One interesting slide they presented was a walkability index of communities in Metro Vancouver.


The five most walkability communities are Vancouver, New Westminster, White Rock, City of North Vancouver, and Anmore. The five least walkability communities are Township of Langley, Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows, Surrey, and City of Langley.

Smart Growth BC talked about the 10 principles of Smart Growth.

1. Mix land uses. Each neighbourhood has a mixture of homes, retail, business, and recreational opportunities.

2. Build well-designed compact neighbourhoods. Residents can choose to live, work, shop and play in close proximity. People can easily access daily activities, transit is viable, and local businesses are supported.

3. Provide a variety of transportation choices. Neighbourhoods are attractive and have safe infrastructure for walking, cycling and transit, in addition to driving.

4. Create diverse housing opportunities. People in different family types, life stages and income levels can afford a home in the neighbourhood of their choice.

5. Encourage growth in existing communities. Investments in infrastructure (such as roads and schools) are used efficiently, and developments do not take up new land.

6. Preserve open spaces, natural beauty, and environmentally sensitive areas. Development respects natural landscape features and has higher aesthetic, environmental, and financial value.

7. Protect and enhance agricultural lands. A secure and productive land base, such as BC's Agricultural Land Reserve, provides food security, employment, and habitat, and is maintained as an urban containment boundary.

8. Utilize smarter, and cheaper infrastructure and green buildings. Green buildings and other systems can save both money and the environment in the long run.

9. Foster a unique neighbourhood identity. Each community is unique, vibrant, diverse, and inclusive.

10. Nurture engaged citizens. Places belong to those who live, work, and play there. Engaged citizens participate in community life and decision-making.

You can read more about smart growth at Smart Growth BC’s website.

After their presentation was complete, people broken into groups and answered some questions. Some of the question and answers we received included:

What kinds of development and where should be focusing our future development?
-Build on a people scale
-Urban growth boundaries
-More wood construction – less steel & concrete
-Build in our old community centre
-User semi-used land like industrial and commercial better

How can we build communities that reduce our carbon footprint?
-No more than 10-story buildings
-Urban Villages
-Age in Place
-Live in compact downtown cores
-Build smaller house that use less energy

How do we build communities that focus on accessibility for all and not just mobility
-Restore interurban light rail, and use that to guide development
-Change from highway-oriented development to walkable development
-Clearly marked biking routes
-Traffic Calming, roads are too wide – too many parking lots

How can we handle a doubling of population with minimal impact on green space and ALR? land?
-Mixed-use, new residential development should have commercial space attached
-Infill development on existing commercial property

We then mapped our ideas, and then listened to some presentations about sustainable transportation and smart growth.


After those presentations were complete, we were asked to answer some more group discussion questions.

What kind of public transportation system would you like in the South Fraser?
-East/West and North/South public rail network
-Run from Chilliwack to Vancouver
-Grid-based, frequent, multi-modal transit network

What would it take for your to stop driving your car?
-Would have to live in a walkable community
-Make bike lanes and trails safe (clear distinction between bike lanes + car lanes.)
-Everything in close proximity
-Retrofit older neighbourhoods for transit

How do we build communities that support all modes of transportation?
-Change the culture
-Build transit first. “Build it and they will come.”
-Mixed land use
-Neighbourhoods need to be consulted!

How to we need to change our transportation system to provide accessibility to all?
-Frequency of transit is a big need.
-Provide accessible transit at-grade that will serve wheelchairs, strollers, bike, and low-mobility passengers
-More transit
-Strata transit U-Passes
-More creativity in transit funding

What transportation modes are underserved in the South Fraser?
-Everything expect cars!


This was a great event, and it is something that agencies like Translink and the Ministry of Transportation should be doing more of before declaring plans for our region.

We are planning on partnering with Smart Growth in the fall to work on a more focused interactive (Lego may be involved) workshop. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

More Riders on the 341

So, the Langley Advance ran a piece in yesterday's paper about the 341 bus route. This happens to be the bus that I use to get to work every morning.

Sytko has spent the past three months driving the 341 route, a bus that heads from the City bus loop at Logan Avenue and Glover Road, and stops in Cloverdale, Newton and Guildford before looping back.

"My first trip out here at five o'clock, I'd bring one or two," Sytko said. "Now I'm bringing 10, 15."

Read the whole article at the Advance's website.

Alberta Light Rail Update

The City of Calgary is on track to completing its Northwest, Northeast, and West light rail system by 2012. Their system has pretty much been under constant expansion since 2001. They will have added 26.2km to their system by 2012 since 2001.

On June 9th, the City of Calgary approved the alignment of their new west light rail line. Construction is slated to beginning in early 2009. This 8km expansion which includes extensive elevated, trenched, and tunneled sections is budgeted at $700m or $87.5m per km. Compared to $233m per km for UBC SkyTrain, it’s a steal of a deal.


Not be left behind, Edmonton will have almost doubled their original pre-2000 system with the under-construction 10km southern expansion by 2010. Meanwhile, the City is working on building a north line and just recently started at study to consider a light rail expansion to the West Edmonton Mall area.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Change Happens



Last night's Public Hearing at Township of Langley Council was packed to capacity, as Mr. Tony McCamley of Athenry Developments (pronounced ah-then-rye) presented a proposal for the Southwest Gordon Estate area of Willoughby. Its an interesting mixed-use development for a number of reasons, and I think it also represents a significant shift that we will soon see more of. I'd like to point out that I do not know Mr. McCamley nor his company or anyone connected with it to the best of my knowledge. I simply found myself embracing this community plan and wanted to share it with you.

This development is driven by a long-time Langley resident who wants to build a mixed- use centre for the Irish community. I'm sure it will also be wide open to the general public as well. His big dream includes an Irish Cultural Centre that will house world-class Irish dancers, putting Langley on the international stage with some competitive dance events that will happen right here in Langley. If this is not a tall order in itself, the site would also provide affordable Irish Senior's housing, a headquarters office for a non-profit community health care society, and a 50 seat Irish Pub. As the current site contains the old Willoughby Community Hall, the developer proposes to spend a few hundred thousand dollars that will be necessary to bring the old community hall up to code, then place it near a new treed park to be built on the site. The Willoughby Hall society concedes that without this boost in the arm, the hall is likely to be no more, as they have no people to do the work, nor the money to bring it up to snuff.

One by one, people spoke for and against the Bylaw to establish this centre. Neighbours that moved into the area less than 2 years ago said they were told that this plot would become a low-rise strip mall. Its too bad that sales people and marketers pass along rumors like that to sell developments. If buyers are that concerned about future development, they can always access a community plan online, or visit the Township Planning Dept. where the staff are very helpful. You can clearly see from the Township development plans for this area that they include high-density development in and around the single-family homes, where these opponents live. We aren't trying to take sides here or dump on these homeowners, but as the south Fraser grows, people no longer wish to drive to Vancouver to visit their cultural centre. I suspect we will see more of these developments spring up. Of course mixed-use is good for providing a host of transit options. Our seniors deserve good, quality streetcars and light rail transit to keep them active and connected to the community. Streetcars at curb level would provide easy on/off loading without any steps up. Our community is aging rapidly and we need transit options now to serve them.

Many of these homeowners said they were for the centre, but wanted to see it placed somewhere else. It was very much a Not in My Back Yard kind of night. Many proposed an "industrial site" or something near the big box stores. I sat there and thought how unfair it was that these Irish seniors should be pushed aside, and made to live near some commercial complexes. Why can't they enjoy the neighbourhood and green space of a regular neighbourhood as well?

Others complained that an area marked "Cafe" in the early plans is really a Pub that would consume massive floor space and attract noise. The developer's people explained that the Township was given early plans when a cafe was being thought of. It has now evolved into a 50 seat Pub. Now I'm not Irish, but please tell me what Irish community on earth would not have a local pub to socialize at? Its part and parcel of the community and culture, and 50 seats is not going to create a Granville Street. Still others said it would negatively impact their property resale values.

I find Irish dancing interesting and entertaining. I'm not about to drive to Vancouver to enjoy an evening of it, and I certainly wouldn't want to do that, and have a pint ot two. But I would take it all in if it was all in my neighbourhood and I could hit the road home sober or walk.

While I can empathize with homeowners that were told grand stories of what their neighbourhood would look like, they had the ability to perform their own due diligence. I (as an individual) sure hope the Irish community gets their centre and the affordable senior housing. I'd love to visit their cultural centre and watch some of the spirited dancing. This Italian would be sure to grab a bowl of Irish lamb stew or bangers in the pub with you.

A wise man in his late 80's made his way to the podium. He said that he hadn't moved his home in something like 89 years. It was a simple but profound thing that he said next..."I've seen allot of change over the years. So much change. But I can tell you that change is going to happen". This older man in bluejeans has probably seen what many would consider to be his world turned upside down. He put his personal desires aside many times over the years I'm sure. He embraced the future for the sake of his neighbours. Isn't that what true "community" is all about? I was humbled by this man.

Workshop Fever Brewing

People are getting excited about tomorrow night's workshop on Sustainable Community Design and Sustainable Transportation Options. One of those excited persons to get creative is Township of Langley Councillor Jordan Bateman! He produced this great looking poster to use at the workshop. Jordan is an event sponsor, along with the City of Surrey and Corporate Protective Solutions. Check out this slick poster!

You may have seen The Province newspaper article last week regarding Jordan's streetcar idea. We at South Fraser OnTrax fully support the streetcar plan as part of an overall system strategy to build the Interurban , and then have other transit options which will feed Interurban ridership and further growth. Every time I drive along a Langley road in the City and Township, I see another potential streetcar loop. I hope that we can be like the City of Portland one day soon!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Car-Free Vancouver

I transited it out to Vancouver on Sunday to enjoy the sunshine at Stanley Park. On my way, I happened to stumble upon the West End part of the Vancouver Car-Free Festival. I decided to snap a few pictures for your enjoyment…

All that separates man from the auto...







Township of Langley 2007 Annual Report - Response

South Fraser OnTrax provided the following written submission re: the Township of Langley's 2007 Annual Report. The Annual Report can be downloaded from the Township's website. You may download our submission from the document archive.
June 15, 2008

Mayor and Council – Township of Langley
c/o Legislative Services
20338-65 Avenue
Langley, BC V2Y 3J1
Via E-mail:

RE: 2007 Annual Report of the Corporation Comments


Your Worship and Honourable Township Council,

South Fraser OnTrax takes note of the numerous projects and initiatives undertaken by Township Mayor, Council and Staff in 2007. It is truly an exciting time to live in the Township. Please excuse this late written submission with our comments regarding the 2007 Annual Report.

1. The report calls upon the Township Transportation Department to strive to implement multimodal roadways, or complete roads. Of course, these roads would support equal access to walkers, cyclists, transit, and vehicles. The report goes on to say that the Township recognizes the demands of roads to support these multimodal uses.

This year, council approved a motion by Councillor Bateman that among other things, called upon the “Township to continue to protect key right-of-ways for possible Community Rail or other transit use”, including but not limited to an Interurban Rail Line. The motion specifically mentioned 200th Street, 208th Street, Fraser Highway, 88th Avenue, and 96th Avenue.

South Fraser OnTrax would like to know if council could and would support a formal and enforceable Transit Corridors and Complete Roads Protection Plan for the Township? Such a plan would include some basic complete roadway design guidelines and specifications. The plan would include arterial, collector roads and corridors that would be identified by Township staff, with an initial draft and listing of protected roadways being made available to South Fraser OnTrax and other interested parties. South Fraser OnTrax feel that unless a formal protection plan and strategy be implemented soon, some or all of these corridors could evolve into roadways that preclude some modes of transportation uses.

Closely related to this topic, we are excited about our new Langley Events Centre, and the many community gathering opportunities it will make available to our Township. With densification coming soon to this area, as well as discussions of a transit corridor to move people to and from the Events Centre, we trust that the final built-out design at the outer edge of the property will preserve and consider the future introduction of streetcars to compliment the movement of people in this area.


2. Under the “Contributing to a Sustainable Region” section of this report there is mention of a new Park and Ride Transit Exchange in the vicinity of the 200th Street corridor. While we realize that council may consider this exchange to be a long-term project funded by the Provincial Government, we would like mayor and council to consider several design considerations:

a. Facility support for light rail/streetcar, bus, community shuttle, van pool, and vehicle co-op (an Inter-modal Transit Exchange);
b. provision of bicycle lockers near the exchange; and
c. consideration for a Smart Car and other Co-Operative Auto Network/Zip Car Programs based at the station, and along 200th Street, which would preserve this commuter parking lot for other development that would generate more property tax dollars.

South Fraser OnTrax believes that we can only truly contribute to a sustainable region when we build our communities with people first. We would like council to consider higher-density, mixed-use transit-oriented development along the 200th Street corridor combined with an Interurban Light Rail and Streetcar program. With mixed-use transit oriented development, and numerous transit and vehicle-as-needed options presented to residents along this corridor, we would finally give people true transportation options.

Finally with a truly multimodal 200th Street corridor, higher-density developments could be opened up to public parking for other residents wishing to take transit, but not living along the transit corridor and parking requirements reduced. The parking and land development now become a profit centre, rather than a vast under-utilized space (at off-peak times) that does not present as many development options and the resulting property tax generation.


3. The completion of the Township’s Sustainability Charter is mentioned in this report, and South Fraser OnTrax is supportive of this Charter work. We hope that this charter will quickly become the seminal document that drives all future policy, guidelines and development within the Township of Langley. In anticipation of this soon-to-be-released Charter, does the Township currently have any plans to review and link various current policies?

We realize that such a project could present a significant drain on staff resources. If there is currently no plan in place to make these important linkages now, will it be utilized going forward? How will this occur?

South Fraser OnTrax would like to suggest that if a retrospective review is not feasible, that the Township consider a basic framework be implemented quickly after Charter ratification, so as to preserve the integrity and relevance of this Sustainability Charter.


4. The annual report makes mention that development along the 200th Street corridor will require a number of pedestrian overpasses to be constructed. South Fraser OnTrax is of the opinion that in Canada many public infrastructure projects of this sort end with ugly industrial/utilitarian concrete designs that ruin the beauty of the surrounding area and neighbourhoods. Whereas in the USA and other places, designers have used decorative steel and other materials to create innovative overpasses that serve as street art, often including local symbols and themes embossed or cut from the materials.

Aside from the aesthetics of these pedestrian overpasses, South Fraser OnTrax is equally concerned that these structures will hinder elderly and handicapped residents and possible future streetcar and related transit infrastructure. We trust that during the design phase of these projects consideration will be given to maintain the beautification of our neighbourhoods and our aging population.


Best regards
for and on behalf of South Fraser OnTrax



Nathan Pachal, CTech
Co-Founder & Transportation Advocate



Joe Zaccaria, CPP
Co-Founder & Transportation Advocate

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Fraser Hwy., Langley City Score = 75 Out of 100

I was doing my usual Sunday morning reading and poking around the internet this morning. I stumbled upon a very cool website that rates the walkability of our neighborhoods! Walkscore.com was established to help potential home buyers, renters, and real estate agents to find houses and apartments in great neighborhoods.

Simply plug in your street address and Walk Score will open Google Maps and check the distances of such things as grocery stores, restaurants, cinemas, parks, and many more area amenities from the address that you provided. As these locations are loading in, the site is calculating a Walk Score for your address. The score is based a perfect score of 100.

My home in Walnut Grove scored only a 25 out of a possible 100. But my office on Fraser Hwy. in Langley City scored 75 out of 100. The Township of Langley Municipal Facility (a very green building), scores only a 58 out of 100, while Langley City Hall scores a whopping 82 out of 100!

Plug some of your favorite addresses into this neat website and see what you come up with. Generally I found that the site can easily distinguish between a US and Canadian address automatically. If not, just add the city and province after the street address and you are golden. Enjoy!

Friday, June 13, 2008

June 18 Workshop Agenda

I've posted up the final draft agenda for our upcoming Sustainable Living and Transportation Brainstorming Workshop to the document archive. This agenda may be subject to some final adjustments. Hope to see you out next Wednesday!

Four (5) Reasons Why You Should Travel by Train

The blog Four Reasons Why... posted the following reasons why you should travel by train.
1. When you travel by air, you are essentially sitting in a tin can with nowhere to go. If you are lucky enough to get a window seat, you have the pleasure of looking at the colour blue for hours on end. Or black, if you’ve got an overnight flight. Driving? A little better, but you still don’t have much comfort, and the most you will often see are the backs of other cars and long stretches of highway. If you take the train, you actually get to see the landscape through which you are traveling and experience the wonders of territories only interrupted by train tracks.

2. The pleasure of train travel is highlighted by the ability to actually stand up and move around. There isn’t really a time someone is asking you to sit down and strap on a belt. Feel like taking a walk? Talk a walk to the observation car! Feel like you need to pee? Go pee! Feel like you need a drink? Go to the bar car! Ah…the bar car. Find me another mode of transportation that has a bar car. Love it!

3. Security. Or lack there of. Of course we’re all concerned about safety and security when we travel. But trains, no matter where you are, are generally safe and, as such, security is fairly limited. You see your train. You have your ticket. You get on. It’s as simple as that. No need to arrive at the train station two hours before your flight, take your shoes off, empty your pockets, dump all liquids over three ounces in volume and subject yourself to the whims of security staff.

4. Many passenger trains these days have wireless Internet connections, so you can stay connected. While it’s not necessarily free, what you save on tickets versus flying more than makes up for paying for access. This doesn’t mean you have to connect to work either. Login to your favourite video streaming site and catch up on some TV or movies. Or if you have a Slingbox, or a friend who will be nice to you, tune in to live action or something on your DVR/PVR. (Do as one friend did during the last World Cup, who Slingboxed live games when taking a long train trip. In the bar car, no less. Brilliant!)

5. Train travel is actually better for the environment. While staying at home and doing nothing is the best things you can do for the environment, if you are going to travel, take the eco-way. According to a Train Chartering, a train uses up to 70% less energy and causes up to 85% less air pollution than a jet aircraft.

SFPR Stuck in Burns Bog

Here is an interesting video about the South Fraser Perimeter Road Project. It talks about the highly critical report from Environment Canada. It also touches on the Hoover/Naas Proposal alternate routing for the SFPR. It's worth a watch.

In the News - Streetcars and Copyright

Well it’s been busy in the news the last few days for things that I personally care about. In Thursday’s Province, Brian Lewis wrote a piece about the 200th St. Streetcar idea.
Bateman wants a modern streetcar system as the primary public-transit provider along the fast-developing 200th Street corridor, which runs in a north-south direction along the so-called spine of Langley Township.

Right now, roughly two-thirds of the township's population, or about 76,000 people, live along this corridor between 196th and 216th streets, and in another 20 years that should increase to 80 per cent of the population, or about 185,000.
Not surprisingly, yesterday the Environmental Assessment Office green-lighted the twinning of Port Mann and 37km expansion of Highway 1 from 4-6 to 8-10 lanes. We can now look forward to construction during the 2010 games. Still no word on the South Fraser Perimeter Road Project.

Also in totally unrelated news, the federal government introduced Bill C-61 which aims to change our copyright laws to be more like US copyright laws. This would make things that many of us do everyday like copying a DVD to a laptop for private viewing later, posting on blogs, quoting from blogs, or uploading clips to YouTube illegal. Michael Geist, a law professor at the University of Ottawa and the Canada Research Chair of Internet and E-commerce Law, has a great blog about this bill and copyright law in Canada. Also, the Vancouver Sun ran a piece about it.
Had Prentice and Verner respected the Supreme Court's emphasis on balance and the public interest, they could have easily avoided this one-sided approach.

Canada's earlier copyright bill, which died on the order paper in 2005, along with the approach in countries such as New Zealand, has identified a more balanced framework that preserves user rights by only prohibiting circumvention where the underlying purpose is to infringe copyright.

That approach ensures that the law targets commercial piracy rather than consumer property.

Instead, their self-described "made in Canada" solution actually looks an awful lot like the much-criticized U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Once Canadians read the fine print on this bill, many may demand that the government go back to the drawing board.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Fraser Valley Light Rail - A Tale/A Skit/A Dream for the Future

So, I thought I'd share some fine art today on the blog. The following skit was given to me at our meeting on Tuesday.

20-year-old:
I'd really like, To take my bike.
But I need to go far. I'm a student -- No car.

50-year-old:
By car, every day. There's no other way.
Need to fill up my tank -- Without robbing a bank.

80-year-old:
And me, Still alive, But I no longer drive.
Or if I still drive, I don't WANT to drive.

All:
They say, "Take the bus". But IS there a bus?

20:
We don't have all day. We need a good way.

50:
So what can we do, Since we need to get through?

80:
We're looking for choice, So we speak with one voice.

All:
Let it snow, Let it rain. We'll take the TRAIN.
Hit the Campaign Trail
Fraser Valley Light Rail.

Copyright Val Ridsdale
Rail for the Valley
June 2008
Used with permission

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Streetcar Night - What a Night

The meeting room was filled to capacity last night as Township Councillors Grant Ward and Jordan Bateman joined an excited group of transportation advocates for a lively and informative discussion about current and future growth, densification of the 200th Street transit corridor and of course, streetcars!



Councillor Bateman told the story with maps and charts, of a Langley that is quickly approaching us. He presented the streetcar concept and how that could work for us. Then Councillor Grant Ward spoke about things to come and presented some very interesting facts and figures about the various communities and a bit of history that is setting the stage for a new Langley today. You can catch all the details by downloading the audio file of the whole meeting below.

We also received confirmation last night that Township Mayor Kurt Alberts will be our guest speaker for the July 10, 2008 meeting. Mayor Alberts was formerly part of the Senior Township staff in the planning department, and is outstanding in working with other orders of governments and agencies to get things on track.

But please don't forget the June 18, 2008 workshop and brainstorming event at Kwantlen University in Langley! Sponsored by: City of Surrey, Councillor Jordan Bateman, and Corporate Protective Solutions. SmartGrowth BC will be presenting with SFOT as well.

Download June 10 Meeting Audio

Our June 10th, 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.)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Meeting Tonight - Streetcar Night

7:00pm – 9:00pm
Township of Langley Municipal Facility
4th Floor, Yorkson Creek Meeting Room
20338 – 65 Avenue, Langley

Download a Copy of our Agenda


REGULAR MEETING AGENDA

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

7:00pm – 7:10pm Group introductions
• Name
• Place of Residence
• Occupation

7:10pm – 7:25pm Reports (Nathan Pachal (NP) and Joe Zaccaria (JZ))
• Regular Meeting Schedule (NP)
• Meeting & Expense Report (NP)
• Township Roundtable & LRT Expert Update (JZ)
• Delegation Request
• Special Research Project (JZ)
• June 18, 2009 Workshop & Brainstorming Event (NP & JZ)
o Content/Agenda
o Expense Report
o Sponsorship status report

7:25pm – 7:30pm Streetcar Night Program Introduction (JZ)
• Disclaimer
• Introduction of Guests – Township of Langley
o Councillor Jordan Bateman & Councillor Grant Ward

7:30pm - 8:30pm Potential for Streetcars in Langley (Cllr. Bateman & Cllr. Ward)

8:30pm – 8:45pm Q & A / Feedback (participants)

8:45pm – 8:50pm Help Needed (NP & JZ)
• July 10th Meeting –Nicomekl River Meeting Room

Meeting Adjourned

Monday, June 9, 2008

History of Light Rail

I have to say that the Internet Archive’s WayBackMachine is a very handy research tool, and it's just plain fun. For example, I can go to the City of Vancouver’s website from 1999 and learn a whole bunch of interesting facts about light rail.

Back in 1995, the Provincial government announced a 10-year transit plan. The plan included the construction of an at-grade light rail system along the Broadway/Lougheed/Coquitlam corridor by 2005 with a connection to New Westminster by 2008. This 27km route was to cost $900 million dollar.

City of Vancouver council, at the time, recommended that this line (via Port Moody) be the first priority for rapid transit.

By 1999, the 27km light rail project that would have run from Granville Street to Coquitlam Town Centre turned into the 20.3km $1.167 billion two-phased Millennium SkyTrain line that went from Commercial Drive to New Westminster with a Coquitlam Spur.By 2002 the project was over-budget and phase two was canceled. Phase two, of course, was the most important part of the project.

Fast forward to 2008, we have the Richmond/Vancouver Canada Line, many highway projects, and we’re still waiting for the original concept of a line from Vancouver to Coquitlam to be built.

Surrey didn’t fair much better, they have been talking about a busway/light rail on King George Highway since 1999 and we are still waiting for that. Officially we’ll get a busway maybe sometime after 2020…

Sunday, June 8, 2008

MSNBC - Mass Appeal



In the US, it looks like they are having a hard time keeping up with the demand for good public transit. The same thing is happening in Vancouver. Where should we be investing our infrastructure money?

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Riding the Rail - Taking the AMTRAK Cascades to Seattle

This week I took another business trip to Seattle. I love going to Seattle and Oregon these days because I can take the AMTRAK Cascades train. While I’m sure one could drive to Vancouver and catch something there, the Via Rail website leaves something to be desired. Besides that, shall I drive out to Vancouver from Langley and then park my car a stone’s throw from Main and Hastings?



For me the choice is very simple, and I have to credit our co-founder Nathan Pachal for enlightening me. I simply drive to Bellingham, WA on I-5 and take Exit 250 to the little historical area of Fairhaven, the Fort Langley of Washington State. The modern AMTRAK station is also a Greyhound bus terminal, and they have everything you need, including Greyhound Bus service to BC. I usually cross the border early at the Pacific Hwy. crossing with little to no wait, then zip down to Bellingham.

I book my ticket from BEL to SEA online at the AMTRAK website, and print out my paper receipt. When you get to the station you simply swipe your credit card at a machine in the lobby of the station and select pre-paid ticketing. The machine efficiently prints your return tickets. Sign the top of your ticket and you are good to go!

Coach fare is US$ 40 round-trip, all-inclusive. Business Class is US$ 62 round-trip, all inclusive and then they give you a US$ 3.00 food voucher each way that can be used in the Bistro car. I have a BCAA membership and they offer a discount for BCAA (use the AAA code) and for seniors. You must book at least 3 days in advance of your trip to get the AAA discount. The station has long-term parking across the street from the Fairhaven Station and its US$ 6.00 per day, or $30 for the week. I’ve parked my car there for a week during a recent business trip to Portland and I had total peace of mind. The gates to the lot are locked shortly after the last train arrives each evening. Just bring correct change, as you have to fold the US bank notes and insert them into a manual parking board located in the lot, with space numbers printed on it. This is very LOW tech for sure! No receipt is given. I just found that if you arrive early enough, there is a little side street next to the lot and you can park in certain areas there free!

I must stress that if you plan to travel to Seattle or Portland on a weekend, you had better plan and book your trip at least 1-2 weeks ahead, as this train sells out on weekend, with even the dining car tables being filled and sold out! On a recent business trip to Portland

My Business Class ticket with AAA discount cost me only US$ 58 and minus the food vouchers, it was only US$ 52. Business Class gives you’re a wider seat with more legroom. It’s never crowded in Business Class except on weekends and sometimes I’ve had an entire car to myself in the evening! I left in the morning and came back the same evening. Its stress-free and even in Coach there are electric plugs for your laptop (no WiFi on this route though). The Bistro has a great selection of hot and cold foods and drinks. I generally have a breakfast sandwich on the way down and I can’t resist a couple of nicely cooked Hebrew National hot dogs with some Dijon mustard and even diced onions in a sealed pouch that is available in the condiments area. How civilized! I find the prices to be reasonable. You can also purchase great wines, beer and other alcoholic beverages in the Bistro car. The wines and beer are always Washington State varieties and some are very good.

The Cascades takes about 2 hours to 2 hours and 20 minutes to reach Seattle and makes some stops along the way. I find it to usually take just 2 hours. I’ve also taken the Cascades on to Portland, OR. I travel with Nathan and our friend. The train stoped in Seattle for 20-30 minutes and then continued on to Portland. The stop was just enough time for Nathan and Rob to bring a Starbucks coffee back to me. Its about 6 hours total, to get to Portland from Bellingham. The Portland trip was lots of fun. We got a table in Coach (asked for it at the ticketing desk) and sat around as a group to chat, eat and enjoy the ride. I believe that Coach ticket was just US$ 63 round-trip, all-inclusive and I’ve done the same trip Business Class for US$ 82.20 before deducting the $6.00 in food vouchers. I should mention that you could also take your bicycle on the train for an additional US$ 5 only! They do show a movie on this train. You can bring your own headset, or purchase a pair for US$ 4 that you can keep for the next trip.

Be sure to register for the AMTRAK Rewards Program. Just like the airlines, you can earn trips and rewards by riding AMTRAK and using the services of their partners. I have 3,604 points without counting this recent trip I'm hoping to reach AMTRAK "Select" status very soon to earn a 25% point bonus and special offers. A times AMTRAK will email you special offers if you sign up to allow them to. With some of these offers you must visit the Rewards homepage and enter the promotional code they give you, in order to get the bonus points or other deal.

This month AMTRAK is offering a travel deal from Seattle to LA aboard the scenic Coast Starlight. You get double AMTRAK Guest Reward Points if you purchase by June 30, 2008. Along the 34 hour trip they offer regional wine and cheese tastings. I recall a member's reward notice that said they were offering a free reception in LA as well. A round-trip ticket from Seattle to LA was about US$ 180. For $500 one could get a round-trip ticket with an Superliner Roomette for two!

It was a fun trip, despite being for business. The train was busy because many people from Bellingham and other places were going down to the Seattle Mariners game and coming back the same evening. There was lots of excitement heading down in the morning. By evening, I was sitting next to a group of two couples in their early 70’s that had attended the Mariner’s game and were very happy after several bottles of wine! I couldn’t help but smile as I worked away on my laptop at my table, and watched one lady in the group who kept spilling her red wine all over the table. Later I joined them for some good conversation and fun. Wished I had snapped their picture!

I met with some clients, had lunch with them and then had another alliance partner meeting at a Starbucks near the King Street train station in Seattle where I got my train home. Near the Starbucks is an office I have passed many times. Usually on weekends, when they were closed. It’s the Seattle office of Cascadia Regional Green Building Council, a non-profit organization that supports sustainable and green development through training workshops in such things as the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) principles, the Pharos materials selection process and other green building design and sustainability programs.

Cascadia is active in Alaska, British Columbia, Oregon and Washington State. They do some advocacy in the Pacific Northwest, serve as bio-regional problem solvers, help network architects, engineers, builders, brokers, owners and others who care about green buildings; provide educational and training programs, while accomplishing several other mandates. Thor Peterson and Katie Spataro provided me with some great brochures and I will certainly be looking at a membership and purchasing some of their books. Thor and Katie’s flooring was just resurfaced, so their two desks seemed alone in the large space that is usually filled up. Thanks for the conversation and materials guys!

I also had a nice chat with AMTRAK Conductor Chuck Allen who is a real character, and has been known to play “Working on the railroad” on his harmonica while the train is making its way into Fairhaven Station! He also gives some great insight into little areas along the train route when he wears his tour guide hat. Chuck is also involved with a rail advocacy group in the area, All Aboard Washington. This group is actually looking to acquire and operate a rail line!

It was a great trip and I got lots of work done on my laptop without any stress. I got to meet some new people, laugh, and of course have my Hebrew National hot dog dinner. Who could ask for anything more?

Friday, June 6, 2008

Abbotsford Inter-Regional Transportation Select Committee - Part 2

I was at the second meeting of the Abbotsford Inter-Regional Transportation Select Committee last night. This committee will report back to Abbotsford Council by October 2008 on regional transportation issues.

The committee represents a broad range of views: everyone from the Abbotsford Chamber, City, BC Transit, and transportation planners to “activists” like myself. Getting such a diverse group of people to come to a consensus is quite a challenge, but at the end of this meeting a motion was made, and passed, that states we want to see a regional transit system that connects Abbotsford, Langley, and Surrey.

While this may seem trivial, it is an important first step. It will allow the group to focus on how and where we want this system to work.

According to 2004 Translink/BC Ministry of Transportation surveys, more and more people are making trips outside of the Abbotsford region. 4% go to Mission, 4% go to Chilliwack, and a full 11% go into Metro Vancouver. Of the trips into Metro Vancouver, 60% go into Langley and Surrey. That’s 22,000 trips a day. To put that into context, Mission (with the West Coast Express) has only 13,900 trips a day into all of Metro Vancouver. There are also 37,000 trips a day from Surrey and Langley into the Fraser Valley Regional District. Compare that to only 16,100 trips from Langley into Burnaby and Vancouver.

Another point that kept on coming up: transit spending will need to increase (ie: more local taxes) if we truly want to attract people to transit in the Fraser Valley. It was noted that Whistler, with a population equivalent of 26,023, and Abbotsford, with a population of 123,864, have the same amount of buses. Also, there was a strong desire to see the Abbotsford Airport and all the universities in the South Fraser/Fraser Valley connected to this regional system. Abbotsford Airport seemed very excited about restoring the Interurban service.

The committee also received a letter that came as a result of the May 5th Langley Township Council meeting to get a South of the Fraser Transit/Transportation Task Force started. The Abbotsford Committee recommended to Abbotsford City Council that Councillor Harris and Councillor Loewen be selected for the Langley Task Force.

The next meeting will be in one month.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Sustainability

sustainable |səˈstānəbəl|
adjective
able to be maintained at a certain rate or level : sustainable fusion reactions.
• Ecology (esp. of development, exploitation, or agriculture) conserving an ecological balance by avoiding depletion of natural resources.
• able to be upheld or defended : sustainable definitions of good educational practice.
DERIVATIVES
sustainability |səˌstānəˈbilitē| noun
sustainably |-blē| adverb


It seems that wherever you turn these days, something is being toted as sustainable: sustainable shopping bags, clothes, cars, lipstick, you name it. While the use of the word “sustainable” indicates that there is growing awareness and concern about how we live our lives, the true meaning of the word has been lost in all the eco-hype and marketing spin.

I’m fond of the BC Ministry of Forests and Range’s definition of the word sustainability: “A state or process that can be maintained indefinitely. The principles of sustainability integrate three closely interlined elements—the environment, the economy, and the social system—into a system that can be maintained in a healthy state indefinitely.”

So with that definition in mind, I had a great chuckle when I was reading the Township of Langley’s 2007 Annual Report. Under the heading of “Contribute to a Sustainable Region” was highway and road construction. While this post is not intended to debate the merits or perils of road construction, the harsh reality is that road construction is rarely sustainable. If it were, we would never have to expand them. On the same token, driving cars and taking diesel Translink buses are not sustainable either. Growth is never sustainable. At some point in the near or distant future, it will have to stop. So am I anti-growth? Of course not, but I do think we can do a better job of managing growth and ensuring that it will stop in the distant future, and not the near. Our municipalities have a long ways to go on the sustainability front.

The right words people should be using are “moving towards sustainability.” The City of Surrey recently created a Sustainability Charter, and the Township of Langley is in the process of creating one. Hopefully the Township of Langley can avoid the issue that the City of Surrey has with their charter: business as usual.

I was chatting with a planner at the Township and he told me that the Sustainability Charter, once approved, should have a ripple down effect on every procedure and policy in the community. This would be truly exciting. Imagine a road built for sustainability modes of transportation like walk, biking, and streetcars. Or a storm water collection system that filters water back into the earth on site. Or neighborhoods that can sustain a person from birth to death. These are all possible today. I truly hope that we are moving out of the lip service to sustainability stage, and into putting sustainable principles into practice.

Smart Growth BC has excellent resources on how to move towards sustainability

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Maps of Streetcar and Interurban Network

To sound like a broken recorded, I highly recommend that anyone interested in the history of public transit, streetcars, and interurbans in BC read Henry Ewert's The Story of the B.C. Electric Railway Company.

On that note, I have posted some of the many maps from the book. These maps represent the transit system in its hayday during the 1930's and 1940's.

As you can see, Vancouver had a very well developed streetcar system.

If you take a close look at the streetcar route numbers, you can see that they mirror some of our current trolley bus route numbers.

You can thank the streetcar and interurban systems for creating many of the cherished and people-friendly neighbourhoods in our region that exist today. The vast majority of these neighbourhoods were located alone these lines.



The Fraser Valley Interurban that we would like restored.



I find it very ironic that we tore up our streetcar and interurban systems in North America in the 1940's and 1950's to make room for the auto, only to start rebuilding them again (at a much higher cost) starting in the 1970's until present. Today we are realizing that we must place a greater importation on public transit if we are to see reductions in green-house-causing gases. Cities like Toronto were truly lucking in bypassing this costly mistake.