Monday, October 16, 2017

Metro Vancouver’s expanding Urban Containment Boundary

One of the roles of the Metro Vancouver Regional District is to provide a regional growth strategy. Provincial legislation requires that a regional growth strategy work towards incorporating the following goals:

  • Avoiding urban sprawl and ensuring that development takes place where adequate facilities exist or can be provided in a timely, economic and efficient manner.
  • Settlement patterns that minimize the use of automobiles and encourage walking, bicycling and the efficient use of public transit.
  • The efficient movement of goods and people while making effective use of transportation and utility corridors.
  • Protecting environmentally sensitive areas.
  • Maintaining the integrity of a secure and productive resource base, including the agricultural land reserve.
  • Economic development that supports the unique character of communities.
  • Reducing and preventing air, land and water pollution.
  • Adequate, affordable and appropriate housing.
  • Adequate inventories of suitable land and resources for future settlement.
  • Protecting the quality and quantity of ground water and surface water.
  • Settlement patterns that minimize the risks associated with natural hazards.
  • Preserving, creating and linking urban and rural open space, including parks and recreation areas.
  • Planning for energy supply and promoting efficient use, conservation and alternative forms of energy.
  • Good stewardship of land, sites and structures with cultural heritage value.
  • A regional growth strategy can cover a good deal of ground, and our region’s strategy covers many of these goals.

Two of the tools used in our regional growth strategy to accomplish these goals are regional land-use designations and an Urban Containment Boundary. The primary purpose of the Urban Containment Boundary is to limit sprawl, and preserve green-space and employment lands.

All municipalities must submit Regional Context Statements to the Metro Vancouver Regional District board for approval. These Regional Context Statements show how a municipality’s Official Community Plan aligns with the regional growth strategy.

The Township of Langley’s Regional Context Statements were subject to a dispute resolution process which completed in October 2016. It was the last municipality to have these statements approved. In addition, there has been other minor amendments to regional land-use designations in other municipalities.

The regional district is now moving forward with updating the land-use maps included in the regional growth strategy.

The following is the current regional land-use map for the South of Fraser.

Current Regional Land-Use Map for the South of Fraser. Select map to download. 

The following is the proposal regional land-use map.

Proposed Regional Land-Use Map for the South of Fraser. Select map to enlarge.

As you can see, there is not much difference. The Urban Containment Boundary does change around Campbell Heights, Trinity Western University, and Murrayville.

Urban sprawl happens slowly, parcel by parcel. The Urban Containment Boundary helps hold the line. Earlier this year, the regional district asked member municipalities if the current regional growth strategy was effective. The generally consensus was that it is effective.

The current update to the regional growth strategy maps does show the Urban Containment Boundary being pushed out, but it was a long process for that to happen. While no plan is perfect, the current regional growth strategy appears to be working well in limiting sprawl.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

#LangleyCityConnects Neighbourhood Meetings: An open forum for residents of our community

For the past several years, Langley City has hosted a series of neighbourhood meetings in the fall. These meetings provide an opportunity for residents in our community to come out and learn about what City Hall has been up to including our new strategic plan, parks and trail upgrades, recreation programs, and road safety improvements.

Senior staff members from all the City’s departments will be present, and there will also be representation from the RCMP. If you have questions about fire safety, the financial plan, zoning, bylaws, crime prevention, or any other topic, this is a great opportunity to get them answered straight from the horse's mouth.

The City will also be seeking feedback on extending bike lanes along the whole 52/51B Avenue corridor.

Last year was the first year I attended these neighbourhood meetings as a member of council, and I had some really great conversation will people in our community.

There is a meeting tonight and next Thursday as noted below. No RSVP is needed, all you need to do is show up.

Date:Thursday, October 12
Time: 6:00pm - 8:00pm
Location: Douglas Park Community School Gym - 5409 206 Street

Date: Thursday, October 19
Time: 6:00pm - 8:00pm
Location: HD Stafford Middle School Small Gym, 20441 Grade Crescent

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Metro Vancouver looking to ban some wood-burning fireplaces and stoves

This summer was extremely smoky in Metro Vancouver due to the devastating forest fires which swept through the province and Washington State. The Air Quality Health Index was at a higher risk state in our region for multiple days. As someone who has asthma, I was acutely aware of the link between air quality and health.

Air quality has an impact on human health. At Metro Vancouver’s Climate Action Committee, Michael Brauer who is a professor in the Faculty of Medicine, School of Population and Public Health at UBC delivered a presentation on air quality and our health in Metro Vancouver. The following slide from his presentation sums things up: increased air pollution results in more people dying.

Air pollution and health. Select slide to enlarge. 

Metro Vancouver generally has some of the cleanest air of any major region in the world, but we still have room for improvement. Fine particulate matter —released when wood is burned— causes increased mortality rates. In fact Brauer noted in his presentation that “on cold days and days with highest biomass contributions [there is a] 19% increase risk of heart attacks.” Biomass contribution means burning wood.

Air pollution in Metro Vancouver and other world regions. Select slide to enlarge.

In Metro Vancouver, about 27% of all wood burning is from 100,000 fireplaces and stoves. These are generally the single largest source of wood burning in the region, and have a negative impact on people’s health. The Metro Vancouver Regional District has regulatory authority over air quality, and is looking to ban some residential wood-burning appliances in our region from being used.

In 2020, the regional district is proposing to only allow indoor wood-burning appliances to be used between September 16 and May 14 expect cooking appliances which could be used year-round.

In 2022, the district is proposing to implement a registration requirement for these appliances to ensure that they emit no more than 4.5 grams of particulate per hour with the goal in 2025 of prohibiting emissions from all wood-burning appliances except:

  • Registered appliances
  • Appliances that are the sole source of heat
  • Appliances that use wood burning as the heat source for cooking
  • Outside the Urban Containment Boundary
  • In case of hardship

It is good that Metro Vancouver is proposing to take action to reduce wood burning in our region, but the “in case of hardship” clause may make the regulation more educational than anything as it would be hard to enforce.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

No tolls mean more congestion on Metro Vancouver roads

Artist rendering of proposed Pattullo Bridge. Select image to enlarge.

Most transportation planners know that you cannot build your way out of congestion. More roads simply create more traffic in growing urban areas. The only way to reduce congestion is by using direct user fees, whether through tolling or a more comprehensive mobility pricing program.

Equally important is building communities that are walkable, bikeable, and served by high-quality transit which gives people a way out of congestion.

Last month, tolls were removed from the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges; traffic across those crossings increased significantly. A CBC article proclaimed that “ending tolls snarls traffic on Port Mann, Golden Ears bridges.

While traffic did decrease on some other crossings such as the Alex Fraser and Pattullo, there was a significant overall net gain in traffic. This is called induced demand.

In the Pattullo Bridge Replacement Project update for TransLink’s September 28 open board meeting, there is a section called Traffic Implications of No Tolls which sums this ups.

The elimination of point tolls from Metro Vancouver bridges necessitated a re-analysis of traffic patterns without tolls on the new Pattullo Bridge. Without tolls as a demand management tool, traffic volumes would be higher on the new Pattullo Bridge, and at other key locations in Metro Vancouver. The new four-lane Bridge will represent a capacity increase of approximately 10 percent compared to the existing bridge, but with continued population and employment growth in the region, queues and peak-period congestion can be expected to continue on the new Bridge approaches. Similarly, queues and congestion will continue at many other key locations in the regional road network. The future introduction of mobility pricing and continued expansion of the transit network represent the best opportunity for road congestion relief in the region.

Earlier this year, the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation launched an independent commission on mobility pricing. This commission is scheduled to complete its work early next year, and will be recommending “a coordinated approach for regional road usage charging in Metro Vancouver.” Whatever solution is proposed, it would have to be implemented by the provincial government.

The current provincial government appears to be on board with expanding transit in our region. Will the province also move forward with implementing mobility pricing? Implementing such a system will take political courage. In the meantime, congestion will only continue to increase in our region.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

October 2, 2017 Council Meeting Notes: Holding the line on property tax exemptions, plus budget amended for additional projects in community

Over the last few days, I have been posting about some of the major items that were on Monday night’s council agenda. Today, I will be posting about the remaining items that were on the agenda.

Back in May, a public hearing occurred for a rezoning application for 19942 Brydon Crescent. The rezoning would allow a four-storey apartment building which is permitted under the City’s Official Community Plan. Council gave final approval to the rezoning, and approved the issuance of a development permit for the project on Monday.

Langley City Official Community Plan land-use map. Select image to download.

The City’s Financial Plan was approved in February. Over the course of the year, some parts of the budget must change which requires council to amend the budget. Since February, Langley City has received around $650,000 in additional funds from TransLink and the province which has enabled the following projects:

  • 48 Avenue bike lanes near Simonds Elementary School
  • Improving sidewalks along Duncan Way
  • Additional safety improvements along 56 Avenue
  • Left turn signal and pedestrian timers for 200 Street and Grade Crescent intersection
  • Upgrade traffic signal at 200 Street and Michaud
  • Overhead street name sign upgrades
  • 53 Avenue bike lanes

In addition, 14 other projects received funding in 2017 including a new washroom, storage facility, and additional park benches, picnic tables and a shelter for Penzer Action Park. These additional projects were funded from the Capital Works Reserve, Community Amenity Fund, and the Parks & Recreation Reserve.

On the topic of finances, the City grants property tax exemptions for certain properties in our community. These exemptions must be renewed annually. In 2017, the City provided $200,675 in tax exemptions. Church buildings are entitled to a statutory property tax exemption under BC law. The City also generally provides a tax exemption for the full lot that a church building is sited on, as well as to churches that lease land.

The City generally provides property tax emptions to the following non-profit organizations:

  • Langley Seniors Resource Society
  • Langley Stepping Stones Rehabilitative Society
  • Langley Community Music School Society
  • Outdoor Langley Lawn Bowling Club
  • Langley Community Services
  • Governing Council of the Salvation Army for the Gateway of Hope
  • Ishtar Transitional Housing
  • Global School Society which operates a Montessori school
  • Langley Care Society which operates Langley Lodge
  • Langley Hospice Society
  • Langley Association for Community Living

The City received additional requests for property tax exemptions for 2018, but council decided to maintain the status quo. These exemptions do have a material impact on all ratepayers in our community. For example, if council eliminated these exemptions (which is not being considered at this time), property tax could be decreased by almost one percent.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

October 2, 2017 Council Meeting Notes: Council endorses recommendations for a possible pilot program to reduce discarded needles, and to increase reporting suspicious activity

As I noted late last month, Langley City’s Crime Prevention Task Group has been busy working on evaluating and recommending policies that can help reduce crime in our community, and send the signal that Langley City residents will not tolerate negative activity.

Council gave unanimous approval to the following recommendations from the task group on Monday night’s council meeting.

THAT the Task Group recommend that Council direct staff to investigate an information sticker for residents which would include RCMP non-emergency contact information and a space to write their own civic address.

THAT the Task Group recommend that Council direct City staff to investigate with Fraser Health, the possibility of a pilot program which would install needle drop boxes in areas where there is a pattern of discarded needles; and
THAT a public education component precede the pilot program.

The first recommendation stems from the fact that the RCMP uses data about reported suspicious and negative activity to target their resources. The more that people call in to report these activities, the better the RCMP can target crime hot spots.

At the same time, when there is an emergency, the stress in these situations can make people forget basic information. The following sticker is currently distributed to the business community.

Current "Report all suspicious activity" sticker that is distributed to businesses.

With a simple change from “Your Business Address” to “Your Address”, this sticker can also be distributed for home-use as well. This sticker would be distributed primarily to seniors, and be made available at locations such as the Langley Senior Resources Society Centre.

Broken glass theory is based on the concept that vandalism and other signs of negative activity in neighbourhoods increase crime. This is because these signs cause people to withdraw from the public realm, creating space for more bad actors. Inversely, addressing the physical negative elements in neighbourhoods decrease crime by drawing people back into the public realm, creating a sense of pride and ownership, pushing negative activity out of neighbourhoods.

When people see discarded needles in our community, a negative signal is sent. This signal causes people to withdraw from an area. By addressing discarded needles, more people will be drawn into our parks and public spaces, creating more eyes and ears on the street which leads to reduced crime.

Fraser Health currently distributes needles as part of their harm-reduction program. Unfortunately, their currently system of collecting needles is not working well in our community.

Task group members reviewed a report from Montreal which found that there is “strong evidence of reduced discarding following the installation of drop boxes; drop boxes were associated with reductions of up to 98% (95% CI: 72-100%) and significant reductions for areas up to 200m from a drop box.” Members thought a drop box pilot would be worthwhile in Langley City considering the success in other communities.

I look forward to seeing the results of City staff’s investigation with Fraser Health on a pilot program.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

October 2, 2017 Council Meeting Notes: Langley City residents in opposition to Urban Agricultural Demonstration Project. Land-use contracts discharged.

Earlier this year, I posted about Metro Vancouver’s Urban Agricultural Demonstration Project. This project is funded from Metro Vancouver’s Sustainable Innovation Fund, and Langley City and KPU are both partners.

There has been a series of open houses about the project, including the most recent open house which took place on September 19.

Many residents near the Urban Agricultural Demonstration Project study area are opposed to the project. At last night’s Langley City council meeting, around 50 residents attended the council meeting and expressed their opposition to the project being implemented.

A resident speaking on behalf of residents who are opposed to the implementation of the Urban Agricultural Demonstration Project. Select image to enlarge.

They presented four main points:

  • The green space in the study area is already heavily used by both people and wild animals.
  • This part of Langley City does not need urban agriculture as the area is surrounded by large-lot housing where gardens can be built on private property if desired.
  • It will create new problems.
  • It will cause increased traffic, and increase vehicles using on-street parking.

The presentation was professional, and the people that attended the meeting were respectful. The message of opposition to the project being implemented was certainly heard loud and clear by me. The residents also delivered a petition to council.

The public consultation period for this study is still on-going, and council will be presented with a full report which I look forward to reveiwing.

This deliverable of this project is an urban agriculture plan. All council will be receiving is a plan; no funding has been approved to implement the plan.

There was also a public hearing on the discharge of land-use contracts at properties located at 5040 205A Street and 20215 44A Avenue to allow for secondary suites. The City’s residential zoning in those areas allow for secondary suites, but many properties in our community have land-use contracts from the 1970s which supersede zoning. Land-use contracts haven’t been used for close to 40 years, and at the request of owners, the City will terminate these contracts.

There were no people at the council meeting who wished to speak to, or correspondence received about, land-use contracts. Council approved the discharge of the land-use contracts.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Light rail corridor redesign along 104th to accommodate more traffic. Bus service on-time performance improves along Fraser Highway.

TransLink’s Open Board Meeting occurred last Thursday. One of the items on the agenda was an update on the South of Fraser Light Rail Project.

In the Summer, the City of Surrey and TransLink hosted a public engagement process which included some artist renders of what 104 Avenue would look like.

Original proposed design of 104 Avenue, east of 144 Street.

The preceding drawing shows a street with one motor vehicle lane in each direction, sidewalks, protected cycling lanes, and light rail tracks. Currently, 104 Avenue has two motor vehicles lanes in each direction.

In the South of Fraser Rapid Transit Project Update which was prepared for the TransLink Board, the following paragraph is present:

The Project Team and the City of Surrey jointly reviewed the impacts on road users and emergency service response along the 104 Ave portion of the proposed LRT Corridor. The result is a modified road cross-section that enables better incident management. Further, the corridor was reviewed end to end to find additional opportunities to increase capacity of the traffic lanes without compromising adjacent land.

The key line is “find additional opportunities to increase capacity of traffic lanes.” It will be interesting to see what this mean for the final design. How will this impact the proposed cycling and walking infrastructure? Generally increasing motor vehicle capacity means more travel lanes, and/or left and right turn lanes at intersections.

Public information sessions are being planned for January 2018.

Fraser Highway is a busy transit corridor with many transit routes serving it. As someone who travels along this corridor daily, I've noticed that bus schedules seem to be more of a suggestion. This can be due to congestion, and it can be due to transit operators departing from timing points before schedule.

I’ve noticed over the last little while that operators now stop at timing points along the 502 route, even during peak periods. As noted in TransLink’s most recent board report, Fraser Highway was part of an on-time performance pilot project. This pilot resulted in a 1% improvement in on-time performance for transit routes along that corridor. This project will now be rolled out to other corridors in the region.

TransLink’s goal is to have 80% on-time performance for frequent bus routes. Right now, frequent routes have an on-time performance of 76.1% region-wide.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Langley City council advocating to Provincial Ministers on behalf of community at UBCM

The Union of BC Municipalities Annual Conference is occurring this week at the Vancouver Convention Centre. At the conference, people involved with local government learn about issues that are impacting communities throughout our province, including potential solutions. They also debate and pass resolutions which get forwarded to the provincial government to consider. One of the other key things that occurs at the UBCM conference is meetings with provincial cabinet ministers.

Each local government submits a request for the ministers they’d like to meet with, and wait to hear back on who accepted the meeting requests. For many local governments (especially outside of the South Coast), this is the only opportunity they get to meet in person with several provincial cabinet minsters.

Langley City was able to secure meetings with four ministers. Members of our council, including myself, have been meeting with these minsters throughout the conference.

Building more affordable housing with a focus on affordable housing for seniors and supportive housing for people who are currently living on the street, is a major concern in our community. We met with the Honourable Shane Simpson who is the Minister of Social Development & Poverty Reduction to outline how we think the provincial government could help in Langley City. We talked about funding affordable and supportive housing, and increasing the rent supplement for low-income individuals and households.

We also met with the Honourable Rob Fleming who is the Minister of Education. As I posted about a few years ago, Langley City has serious concerns about the School Site Acquisition Charge. This is currently charged on new development projects in Langley City even though there will be no new school sites acquired for students in our community for the foreseeable future. We talked about the need to reevaluate the charge to allow more flexibility for established communities.

Later today, we will be meeting with the Honourable Adrian Dix who is the Minister of Health. The number of medical calls that our fire department responds to has been rapidly increasing year-over-year. This is due to decreased response time of the ambulance service. This places a strain on our first responders and the City’s budget. Langley City has been calling for the provincial government to develop a fair cost recovery model to help local governments pay for this downloading of first-response services.

We will also be meeting with the Honourable Carole James who is the Minister of Finance. We will be advocating for the provincial government to create two residential tax rates. As I’ve posted about previously, the current single rate doesn’t allow local governments to set tax rates that reflect the actual cost of service delivery for the various forms of housing.

With a new provincial government, I am eager to see how they will engage in supporting our community.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Final Homelessness Count Numbers Releases: 30% increase in Metro Vancouver, 124% in Langley

Every three years, a count of the number of people who are experiencing homelessness is completed in Metro Vancouver. Earlier this year, the Metro Vancouver Regional District released a preliminary count of the number of people who are experiencing homelessness. The final report has been recently released. 3,605 people in our region were found to be experiencing homelessness. 2,573 people were sheltered, staying in shelters, transition housing, safe houses, hospitals, jails, and detox facilities. The remaining 1,032 people were living outside or couch surfing.

This number isn’t exact as some people could be missed in the count including people who are couch surfing. This is a point-in-time count, so the number of people could fluctuate over the years.

The following infographic shows the state of homelessness in our region.

2017 Homeless Count in Metro Vancouver Infographic: Count and Demographics. Select image to enlarge.

2017 Homeless Count in Metro Vancouver Infographic: Barriers. Select image to enlarge.

There has been a 30% increase in homelessness in our region. There is a large number of youth and seniors who are experiencing homelessness as well.

Total Sheltered and Unsheltered Respondents (2005 to 2017) - Trends

With the increase in homelessness, some people think that the majority of people are coming to their community from other places. Of people who are unsheltered, 85% have lived in the municipality where they were counted for over a year. 67% have lived in the same municipality for more than five years.

The following table shows where people who are experiencing homelessness were located at the time of the survey.

Total Respondents by Municipal Sub-Region (2017)

Langley, which includes both the City and the Township, has the third highest population of people who are experiencing homelessness.

As shown in the following table, the increase in people who are experiencing homelessness has hit some communities harder than others. For example, homelessness has increase 124% in Langley. Interestingly, homelessness has decreased in the North Shore by 16%.

Total Number of People who are Homeless by Municipal Sub-Region (2005 to 2017) - Trends

As I posted about previously, reducing homelessness in our region will take a coordinated approach by local governments, the province, and the federal government.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Affordable Housing: What can municipalities really do?

Why isn’t Langley City providing more affordable housing in the community?

This is a question that I hear people ask from time-to-time. While municipalities have a role to play in supporting affordable housing, the provincial government through BC Housing and federal government have the authority and resources to ensure that affordable housing options are available for all Canadians.

There are different types of housing required for people depending on their needs. This is referred to as the Housing Continuum which goes from emergency shelters to home ownership. The following graphic from BC Housing shows the Housing Continuum including the number of households using government-assisted housing in 2015-16.

Housing continuum diagram which also shows BC Housing's annual contribution across the housing spectrum.

The tools available to municipalities to support affordable housing outside of the City of Vancouver include:

  • Providing city-owned land if available.
  • Supporting rezoning for all housing options along the continuum.
  • Providing property tax exemptions for some affordable housing projects.
  • Reducing Developer Cost Charges for affordable housing projects.
  • Providing zoning that supports a variety of housing types and sizes.
  • Allowing “bonus density” which enables a developer to build more units of housing than otherwise permitted in a zone if the developer agrees to build or provide funding for a certain number of affordable housing units.
  • Requiring “inclusionary zoning” where a developer must build or provide funding for a certain number of affordable housing units as part of a rezoning application in combination with “housing agreements” to ensure that the units remain affordable over time.

Referring back to the housing continuum graphic, how can each order of government support affordable housing?

Emergency Shelter & Housing for the Homeless
Provincial and federal government provide funding to build or expand shelters, plus provide on-going operating support usually in partnership with a non-profit organization. Municipalities provide zoning approval for shelters, property tax exemption, reduced developer cost charges, plus could provide land if available.

Transitional Supportive & Assisted Living
Provincial and federal government provide funding to build or expand facilities, plus provide on-going operating support usually in partnership with a non-profit organization. Municipalities provide zoning approval for facilities, property tax exemption, reduced developer cost charges, plus could provide land if available.

Independent Social Housing
Provincial and federal government provide funding to build or expand housing, plus provide on-going operating support usually in partnership with a non-profit organization or co-op. Municipalities provide zoning approval for housing, property tax exemption, reduced developer cost charges, plus could provide land if available.

Rental Assistance in the Private Market
Provincial government provides on-going assistance to households and individuals.

Private Market Rentals and Homeownerships
Municipalities use bonus density and inclusionary zoning to build affordable housing units, plus have zoning that supports various housing types and sizes.

While municipalities have tools to support affordable housing for people with moderate to higher incomes, the provincial and federal governments have the resources and the mandate to provide affordable housing for people no matter their income or health needs.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Crime Prevention Task Group: Promoting crime prevention programs including stolen bicycle recovery program, and discarded needle reduction pilot program

On Thursday night, the Langley City Crime Prevention Task Group met. One of the initiatives of the task group is to promote both the Block Watch and Business Link crime prevention programs. Earlier this month, City council authorized municipal resources to help promote these programs.

The task group heard from Dianne Robinson and Florence Fowler who are Crime Prevention Coordinators for the Langley detachment of the RCMP. They provided more detailed information on the aforementioned crime prevention programs. Task group members and City staff will be working toward a big push to promote these programs in our community during Crime Prevention Week which takes place between November 1st and 7th.

Committee members will also be working with City staff to promote crime prevention programs through the City’s official social media and advertising channels throughout the year.

Engaging the business community on crime prevention and reduction is also in the works. A new document will be included with City-issued business licenses that will provide information on free services available to businesses included CPTED reviews.

These programs are effective in reducing crime. A research paper call “The Effectiveness of Neighborhood Watch” delves into the effectiveness of Block Watch programs.

Bike theft occurs in Langley City. Recovering stolen bikes can be difficult because there is generally no way to match a bike to its owner. Task group members learned about 529 Garage. This is a program that uses the power of crowdsourcing and the Internet to help recover stolen bikes. This program is available in Langley, and you can signup online. In-person signup events are also being planned throughout the community.

One of the goals of the task group is to send a signal that our community is safe by using the broken windows theory. Litter, tagging, and inappropriately discarded needles send negative signals. The task group passed a motion asking council to consider piloting the installation of needle disposal bins in problem areas, along with a public education component. In other communities, this has proven to be effective in reducing inappropriately discarded needles.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

This fall will reveal the future for transit in Metro Vancouver

For as long as I’ve lived in Metro Vancouver, funding for transit expansion has been challenging. Since the launch of the 10-Year Vision for Transportation in Metro Vancouver, our region is closer than ever to finally getting stable, long-term funding required to move forward on much needed transit expansion. With the change in provincial government, we will know within the next six months if our region will be moving forward with the Vision, or if it will be business as usual.

The Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation is meeting today; on the agenda is an update on the 10-Year Vision for Transportation. The business cases for the Broadway Extension of the Millennium Line and Surrey-Langley Light Rail will be finalized this fall. Based on those business cases, the Mayors’ Council will be working with the provincial government to find a regional funding source to pay for transit expansion.

Current overview of 10-Year Vision including phasing. Select table to enlarge.

The provincial and federal governments have agreed to pay for 73% of the costs to building rapid transit, and the provincial government has agreed to pay for 40% of the capital costs for other projects in the 10-Year Vision out of their own revenue sources. This leaves the region on the hook for the remaining costs to building rapid transit and other projects, plus 100% of the on-going operating costs.

As a first step, the Mayors’ are looking for the provincial government to authorize a regional Developer Cost Charge for Transportation in the spring 2018 legislative session. If this is not approved, projects currently underway in phase one of the 10-Year Vision will have to be cancelled or deferred. The Mayors’ are also hoping that the provincial government will announce a fair, affordable regional revenue source to help fund the remaining phases of the Vision this fall.

The following table outlines the preferred timing for phase two projects.

Timeline for phase two service expansion and new rapid transit investments. Select table to enlarge.

On the Pattullo Bridge, with the removal of tolls in our region by the provincial government, the Mayors’ Council is looking for confirmation that the province will straight-out pay for 40% of the capital costs, plus provide an annual operating subsidy in lieu of toll revenue for the replacement bridge. The toll revenue was to be the way that TransLink was going to pay for the new Pattullo Bridge.

On another interesting note, it looks like the Burnaby Mountain Gondola is back on the table.

We will know if the new provincial government is committed to getting Metro Vancouver residents out of congestion by funding much need transit expansion by the end of this fall.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

September 18, 2017 Council Meeting Notes: Green Walls, Casino Impacts, and Environmental Stewardship

Langley City council approved issuing a development permit for an expansion to one of the car dealerships located in the “Langley Auto Collection” located near Glover Road and the Langley Bypass. The addition to the existing dealership will facilitate an expanded parts and service department. The current auto dealership has a small section of green wall. I noticed that the green wall was missing in the expanded version of the auto dealership. I asked the proponent of the project if the green wall was being removed, and was told yes.

Rendering of expanded parts and service department for an auto dealership on Collection Drive. Select image to enlarge.

While green walls can have energy saving benefits if done correctly, most green walls are used for aesthetic purposes. Since being on council, there have been two green walls/roofs proposed in projects were development permits were issues, and where the greening was subsequently removed from the plans. This auto dealership will be the first time that a green wall is being removed after being installed in the City. Green walls are not a requirement for development permits to be issued in Langley City.

Green walls have significant maintenance costs which is likely why they end up being removed from projects. I find it interesting that they seem to show up frequently in development permits.

Later during the council meeting, there was a presentation from BCLC about the casino in our community, and the benefits derived from the casino. Representative from BCLC also outlined their new program to encourage positive gaming. About 3% of people problematically use BCLC products (slots, table games, and lottery tickets). Their new program is called “Player Health.” It is based on the following four pillars: Informed Decision Making, Encouraging Positive Play, Reducing Problem-Gambling Prevalence, and Effective Referral to Treatment and Support.

Langley City helps funds the Langley Environmental Partners Society’s Summer Eco Crew. This program employs two post-secondary students and two high school students full-time during the summer months. Carly Stromsten gave a presentation to council about this year’s program. The goals of the program are to provide: habitat enhancement, environmental education to the community, and employment skills to participating students.

Presentation including picture of LEPS 2017 Eco Crew. Select image to enlarge.

This year, the Eco Crew removed invasive plants at 7 sites totaling 637 square metres in Langley City. They participated at eight community events. They also gathered data throughout the City, noting the location and density of invasive plants, to generate a heat map. This map can be used for targeting invasive plant hot-spots for removal in the future.

Later during the meeting, council gave first and second reading to discharge land-use contracts from two lots in the City. Land-use contacts were used in the 1970s, and have since been superseded by zoning.

Council also approved the updated Officer Establishment Bylaw, and Fire Protection and Safety Bylaw. I posted about these two bylaws previously.

Council also gave first and second reading for a proposed rezoning at 19753 55 A Avenue. This will allow a public hearing to be scheduled. I will post more about the proposed rezoning at that time.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

September 18, 2017 Council Meeting Notes: Traffic Calming Approved near Linwood Park

Traffic calming in an important issue for many people who live in Langley City. It is becoming something that the City is increasingly focusing on. $400,000 was specifically budgeted for implementing traffic calming measures this year throughout the community. This is in addition to projects like 203rd Street.

Back in June, Council approved traffic calming measures around Conder Park, at Brydon Park, and along 198th Street.

The City held an open house near the end of July to get feedback from residents for traffic calming measures along Michaud Crescent and 201A Street near Linwood Park. The open house was well attended. Based on the feedback from the open house, City staff proposed that the following traffic calming measures be implemented.

Design of temporary painted curb bulges with delineators at the intersection of Michaud Crescent and 201A Street. Select image to enlarge.

Location of three approved speed humps on Michaud Crescent and two speed humps on 201A Street. Select image to enlarge.

The proposed design of the intersection at Michaud Crescent and 201A Street uses paint and delineators to narrow the intersection. This is because the City will be completing a greenway plan for the Michaud corridor in 2018 that, if approved could start construction in 2019. The paint and delineators will allow traffic calming before the full greenway plan is implemented.

On Monday night, Langley City council approved the proposed traffic calming measures.

Many residents also requested a four-way stop be installed at 201A Street and Michaud Crescent. City staff will be completing an evaluation to see if a four-way stop is warranted. Streets need to have similar traffic volumes to warrant a four-way stop. If the evaluation comes back positive, a four-way stop will be installed.

Some people think that four-way stops are a good traffic calming measure. They are not. The following is a small sample from the Traffic Calming Program from London, Ontario about why four-way stops are not a good idea for traffic calming. The full list is longer.

  • Creates higher traffic speeds between stop signs.
  • Results in poor compliance with stop signs due to driver frustration.
  • Results in more frequent rear-end collisions caused by low percentage of motorists who actually do come to a complete stop.
  • Potential risk to pedestrians especially children and seniors crossing an intersection, since not all motorists approaching an intersection will stop.

City staff is working hard to get the speed humps installed at all traffic calming location this fall.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Census shows more apartments in Metro Vancouver. How does Langley City stack up?

Earlier this year, I posted about the changing housing stock in Langley City. The area of Langley City north of the Nicomekl is in one of the major Regional City Centres as identified in Metro Vancouver’s Regional Growth Strategy. This area has been zoned for higher density for some time. Based on the 2016 census data, only 23% of the housing stock in Langley City is now single-family housing.

Map of Metro Vancouver Urban Centres. Select map to enlarge.

How does Langley City compare to the rest of the region? How does it compare to other communities with similar constrained footprints? The following table was put together by Metro Vancouver staff based on the latest census data.

Trending Shift to Apartment Units in Metro Vancouver. Select chart to enlarge.

White Rock and Langley City both have constrained footprints in the South of Fraser. White Rock is 5 square kilometres while Langley City is 10 square kilometers. Langley City has a higher percentage of apartment units.

The City of North Vancouver is 11 square kilometers —carved out from a larger district municipality with the same name in 1907— and has a higher percentage of its housing units which are apartments than Langley City.

Regional City Centres are meant to be nodes of higher density housing, office space, shops, and services which can be served by high-quality transit. The Langley Regional City Centre is one of the more significant centres as shown on the following table.

Dwelling Unit Growth in Metro Vancouver Urban Centres 2011-2017. Select chart to enlarge. 

The City of North Vancouver has the SeaBus which has enabled its walkable, accessible community focused along Lonsdale. With the introduction of rapid transit along Fraser Highway to Langley City, our community has a similar potential.

For more information, please read Metro Vancouver’s report titled “Metro 2040 Performance Monitoring 2011-2016.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Census results show less farmland, but more revenue from farming in Metro Vancouver

Statistics Canada has been steadily releasing results from the 2016 Census. The Metro Vancouver Regional District has been providing regional insights based on this current census data. Metro Vancouver staff have recently presented information from the Census of Agriculture.

The following infographics provide an overview of the agricultural sector in our region.

Farming in Metro Vancouver Infographic – Land and Revenue

Farming in Metro Vancouver Infographic – Crops and Livestock

Close to a billion dollars, 26% of BC gross annual farm receipts, is generated from 1.5% of the agricultural land in our province. Metro Vancouver farmland in highly productive. The following table shows gross annual farm receipts by municipality.

Gross Annual Farm Receipt, 1995 - 2015. Select table to enable.

The Township of Langley, Delta, and Surrey are responsible for 80% of farming revenue in our region which has been growing steadily over the last 15 years. Farming revenue has been declining in Maple Ridge likely due to urbanization. It is interesting to see the growth in urban agriculture in the City of Vancouver.

Gross Annual Farm Receipts per Hectare. Select table to enlarge.

Both the City of Vancouver and Burnaby have the highest revenue per hectare. While they have the highest revenue per hectare, the Township of Langley is still the farming capital of Metro Vancouver.

Of further note is that the average age of farm operators is continuing to increase while the number of farm operators continues to decrease. This shows that there is a limited number of next-generation people who will be able to continue with farming. Automation will likely be what carries farming forward in our region.

Metro Vancouver total farm area is at the lowest level in over 20 years, but the farm receipt revenue generated from that land is at its highest.

Total Farm Area, 1996 - 2016. Select table to enlarge

For more information, please view the Metro Vancouver Regional Planning Committee agenda from September 8.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

September 11, 2017 Council Meeting Notes: Crime Prevention, Developer Fees, and Project Updates

Yesterday, I posted about a development permit that was issued for a new bank in Downtown Langley at Monday night’s council meeting. I will be covering the remaining items that were on that agenda.

Metro Vancouver is increasing developer cost charges (DCC) for sewer. This fee is charged to every new development project in the region. Langley City is part of the Fraser Sewerage Area. As I posted about in August, the sewerage DDC is increasing significantly to cover some $2.6 billion in sewerage projects. This was discussed at the council table. Councillors Martin motioned that a letter be sent to all councils in the Fraser Sewerage Area informing them of the increase, and expressing concern at the sudden change. This motion passed.

On the topic of developer charges, council approved increasing our Community Amenity Contributions from $1,000 per multifamily unit to $2,000 per unit. The funds collected are used for items such as civic facilities, public art, recreational amenities, and cultural amenities.

As you can read about in a previous post, the Langley City Crime Prevention Task Group wants to increase awareness around and promote CPTED reviews, Block Watch, and Business Watch. Council approved the following motion:

  1. THAT Council direct staff to work with local media to participate in and follow the steps to set up an actual Block Watch program.
  2. THAT Council direct staff to create a major social media campaign to promote Block Watch, Business Watch, and CPTED review programs.
  3. THAT Council direct staff to work with the RCMP, Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Langley Business Association to promote Block Watch, Business Watch and CPTED review programs.
  4. THAT Council direct staff to identify a local supplier who may be able to partner with the City on motion sensor lights that may be supplied to businesses and residences at discounted prices.

The committee also asked for funding to purchase fridge magnets to promote the reporting of suspicious activates to the RCMP Non-Emergency number. There was discussion that bookmarks might already be available that could accomplish the same task. This was referred to the Crime Prevention task group for further investigation.

Councillors van den Broek also inquired about the status of the City Watch program, a program where municipal staff report suspicious activity to the RCMP. An update on the status of that program will be forthcoming.

Council also approved some housekeeping items including updating our flag policy to allow half-masting when a former member of council dies, allowing outdoor propane or natural gas fireplaces or fire pits, and updating the title of the position responsible for corporate administration.

Council received an update on capital projects that are under construction or recently completed. The Innes Plaza refresh is nearing competition with a renovated fountain and new gardens. Work is also underway at Baldi Creek. Construction is completed on replacing a section of watermain along 200 Street. Work is also progressing well on the 200 Street Nicomekl Bridge renewal and 56the Avenue renewal. For a list of streets that are being repaved, please visit the City’s website.

200th Street Bridge Renewal. Select image to enlarge.

A new picnic shelter has been installed at Portage Park, and work continues with Hunter Park redevelopment and the spray park expansion at City Park.

New picnic shelter in Portage Park. Select image to enlarge.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

September 11, 2017 Council Meeting Notes: New Scotiabank Branch at Valley Centre Mall

Last night was the first meeting of Langley City council since the August break. The first item covered on the agenda was a development permit for an in-fill project at Valley Centre Mall.

This time last year, the owner of Valley Centre was issued a development permit for an infill building along Fraser Highway. This building was to include a drive-thru restaurant. As I’ve stated in the past, drive-thrus and walkable downtowns are not the best combination. This original proposal was not built.

Last night, the owner presented a new plan to build an infill Scotiabank branch along Fraser Highway.

Rendering of new Scotiabank branch as seen from Fraser Highway. Select image to enlarge.

The Scotiabank building will have offices with windows that front Fraser Highway. This will help put more eyes and ears on the street, and build a street wall along Fraser Highway. There will be no drive-thru. This will result in a safer, more walkable, and engaging section of Fraser Highway.

Walking and cycling access will be provided directly from Fraser Highway though the main entrance faces west into the parking lot. I would have preferred to see the main entrance along Fraser Highway.

Updated site plan of Valley Centre Mall. Select image to enlarge.

The current entrance to Valley Centre Mall along Fraser Highway will also be improved to make walking safer, and will restrict turns by building a concrete median in Fraser Highway at that location.

The sidewalk along Fraser Highway fronting the mall will also be updated to modern standards, and will look similar to the sidewalk that is being built along 56 Avenue near Glover Road. A new raised crosswalk and new sidewalks will also be provided at the 201A Street entrance to the mall. Vehicle circulation will be improved too. These incremental improvements will make accessing the mall safer no matter if you walk, cycle, or drive.

I’m happy to see in-fill development along Fraser Highway that will enhance our downtown core. Council was told that construction of this project would be occurring right away.

Currently, there are two Scotiabank branches in Langley City. One along 56 Avenue near Glover Road, and another along 200 Street between the Langley Bypass and Willowbrook Drive. Even if one of the branches is relocated, it is good news as there will now be a bank that fronts Fraser Highway, our main street, in the downtown core.

Council approved issuing the development permit.

As a note, Westminster Savings is located at the eastern gateway of our downtown core. There is also an HSBC at the corner of 200th Street and the Langley Bypass.

Tomorrow, I’ll be posting about other agenda items covered at last night’s meeting.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Update and Open House for the Langley Urban Agricultural Project

Metro Vancouver, Langley City, and KPU’s Institute for Sustainable Food Systems have been working on a concept plan that could bring urban agriculture to Langley City along the BC Hydro transmission line right-of-way between 200 Street and 204 Street. Metro Vancouver is funding this project through its Sustainable Innovation Fund.

Back in May, an open house was held to get feedback from residents on proposed ideas for the concept plan. Based on the feedback received, three proposed design options are being presented for further feedback at an open house schedules for:

Date: Tuesday, September 19, 2017
Times: 6:00pm - 8:00pm
Location: Alice Brown Elementary School Gymnasium, 20011 - 44 Avenue

The three options being presented are as follows.

Option 1: The Classroom

Concept Option 1: The Classroom. Select image to enlarge.
The Classroom is focused on education with a school garden and outdoor classroom as core amenities that will provide a variety of opportunities for learning and exploration. The classroom will be closely connected to surrounding schools providing opportunities to link curriculum activities to real life experiences in food production. There will also be an emphasis on community education with learning about production systems and environmental issues integrated through interpretive signage. The classroom will be managed in close partnership with community schools with a focus on the production of food to be used within institutions to promote healthy eating and environmental sustainability.

Option 2: The Orchard

Concept Option 2: The Orchard. Select image to enlarge.
The Orchard is designed to be a perennial food producing landscape that is seamlessly integrated with community use and habitat creation. The orchard features three distinct community production areas including a fruit trees orchard, berry patch, and a food forest. These three areas are connected to naturalized areas on the site and intertwined with new and existing pathways. The perennial landscape is designed to be productive while also enhancing the atmosphere and quality of the space as a community amenity. There will also be opportunities for passive education through the use of educational signage.

Option 3: The Farm

Concept Option 3: The Farm. Select image to enlarge.
The farm is a concept that seeks to maximize the potential for food production on the site while maintaining current uses and limiting impacts on the surrounding neighbourhood. Production will focus on human scale agriculture and feature both perennial and annual cropping systems. The farm will aim to integrate community use of the site with production and environmental restoration. This landscape will mimic small scale farming systems and be managed through community cooperation and the central coordination of a urban agriculture society in the City of Langley.

Each of the proposed three options share some common features. The gray hashed areas are buffer planting zones which will be designed to separate the proposed centre uses from surrounding residents, the hydro towers, and other utilities. The green areas are habitat areas which will be designed to enhance biodiversity, manage invasive spices, and includes the restoration of Muckle Creek. The yellow area is a pollinator garden corridor which will have plantings that will attract wild pollinators such as bees and butterflies.

For more information on the Langley Urban Agricultural Project, please visit the City’s website. I should note that this project includes the development of a preferred concept plan, but not the implementation of the plan.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Langley City proposing changes to zoning bylaw

There are two fundamental documents which guide what can be built in a community, and how development can proceed. They are the Official Community Plan and zoning bylaw. A zoning bylaw can dictate land-use including what businesses are allowed to operate, where buildings can be located, the size of buildings, landscaping, and parking requirements among other things.

Langley City staff are in the process of updating our zoning bylaw. One of the major drivers for updating the zoning bylaw is to modernize it, and make it easier to read. Some of the high-level changes being proposed include:

Multifamily Residential Zones
Revised provisions for building siting, massing, height, increased amenity space, requiring balconies, requiring 5% of apartment units to be adaptable housing, and allowing fee simple rowhouses.

Single Family Residential Zones
New or revised provisions for minimum house size so that a house can’t be smaller than 1,000 sq. ft, limiting accessory building size to no larger than 645 sq. ft. in most cases, and limiting the impervious surface area on a lot to 60%.

The proposed zoning bylaw will allow RVs to be parked or stored in a building, outside if it is to the side or back of a house, or anywhere on a lot between the beginning of May and the end of September.

Sustainable Development
New provisions to require electric vehicle parking, surface parking space shading by requiring a tree canopy, limiting impervious surface areas, and increasing landscaping soil depth.

Downtown Zone
New provisions for the downtown C1 zone to allow brew pubs, craft brewers, and vintners as permitted uses, and to limit drive-thrus.

Langley City is hosting an open house on Tuesday, September 12, 2017 at City Hall between 2pm and 4pm, and between 6pm and 8pm to get your feedback and provide more detailed information on the proposed changes.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Lessons from Iceland: Building Safer Cycling Infrastructure

As I noted yesterday, I was in Iceland for the last few weeks. While I was there, I observed what they were doing to make streets safer for children. You can see some examples of traffic calming in that post which has resulted in a reduction in collisions with injuries, and fatal collisions.

Neighbourhood streets are 30km/h zones in Iceland, and cycling on these low-volume, low-speed streets are safe. They also have streets with higher volumes of traffic and/or higher speeds. Based on the type of street, they are building out safe cycling infrastructure that matches the type of street.

I snapped a few pictures of examples of the different types of cycling lanes from their capital city, Reykjavík, which has the same population as the Township of Langley. As I noted yesterday, about 80% of trips in their capital region are by car.

This first example is from one of the major roads in the city. This road would be similar to 200 Street. The left side of the picture shows the driving lanes, the centre is the walking path, and the right is the cycling lanes. At traffic lights, they have vehicle, cycling, and walking signals.

An example of a 50km/h, high motor vehicle volume street.

At intersections with traffic lights, right or left turns on red are not permitted. Before the motor vehicle light turns green, the walking and cycling lights turn green. This allows venerable road users to get into the intersection before vehicles which increases visibility and improves safety.

The second example shows a protected cycling lane on a street that is similar to 53 Avenue in Langley City. People cycling are buffered from motor vehicle traffic by parked cars. One of the major risks when cycling is getting doored. If you are cycling on the example street, you stay to the right of the thick white line to avoid the “door zone.” If you look at the picture closely, you can also see the 30km/h speed limit sign for a local side street.

An example of a 50km/h, lower motor vehicle volume street.

The final example is from one of the High Streets in Reykjavík. It is a similar design to 203 Street. The cycling lane is at sidewalk level. The vehicle lanes are also narrowed to encourage people to travel at 30km/h.

An example of a High Street.

Reykjavík is a city with snow in the winter and rain in the summer. It is also a place where the majority of people drive. It is encouraging to see a mid-size city working hard to make cycling and walking safer for kids that has resulted in reduced injuries and fatalities. As they continue to build-out their safe walking and cycling network, more people will choose to walk and cycle.

Personally, I’d like to see more cycling lanes like in the second example that buffers people cycling from people driving in Langley City.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Lessons from Iceland: 30km/h zones, traffic calming, and building safe streets for kids

For the last few weeks, I have been travelling around Iceland. When I’m in different places, I like seeing how other governments tackle land-use and transportation issues, and if their solutions could be applied in Metro Vancouver and Langley City.

Iceland is very similar to BC when it comes to how people get around; driving is the primary mode of transportation. The following graph shows people's primary mode of travel. It is in Icelandic, so from left to right, the columns are auto, transit, cycling, walking. The grey is their capital region (Reykjavík), and the other bars represent the remaining regions which contain smaller towns. In their capital region, which has a similar scale and feel as Victoria, more people drive than in the smaller towns, where walking makes up the difference.

Iceland travel mode share. From left to right: driving, transit, cycling, walking.

One of the big pushes in Iceland is to reduce the speed of traffic on local roads to improve safety for children and vulnerable road users. Major roads similar to King George Boulevard or Fraser Highway have speed limits between 45km/h and 60km/h. Side streets, most streets in downtowns, and all streets near public facilities such as schools and recreation centres were capped at 30 km/h.

Iceland’s transportation department has a guide called “Umferðaröryggisáætlanir sveitarfélaga” or “The Traffic Safety Planning Guide for Local Government” which offers advice on how to building safe streets including maximum speed limits.

Since implementing 30km/h speed zones, accidents with injuries have decreased by 27% and serious accidents have decreased by 62%.

In Iceland, there is a limited number of police officers. In two weeks, I saw four police officers. All that to say, enforcement is done with road design. People certainly speed in Iceland, but in built-up areas, road design forces people to slow down.

The following pictures show some examples of traffic calming used in Iceland.

An example of a raise crosswalk at an intersection in Iceland.

A downtown street in Iceland which includes multiply mid-block raised crosswalks.

An example of a typical mid-block raise crosswalk in a residential area in Iceland.

An example of an intersection in a downtown core in Iceland.

An example of changing the road texture, and narrowing a road, when entering at 30 km/h zone.

I noticed that children of all ages biked and walked without their parents supervising them. When streets are safe for kids, they are safe for everyone.

Children of all ages use their bikes to get to school.

The traffic calming measures implemented in Iceland can be applied to communities such as Langley. 30km/h zones like in Iceland can be implemented in a similar fashion in BC. Like BC, urban roads are 50km/h unless otherwise posted. In Langley City, we are starting to build more raise crosswalks and crosswalks with curbs extensions as an example.