Thursday, November 16, 2017

TransLink looking at building better B-Lines

TransLink uses the B-Line brand for its limited stop, high frequency bus service in our region. This service is successful. The 99 B-Line, which operates along the Broadway corridor, has higher ridership than many rail rapid transit systems in North America.

Unfortunate, on-street customer amenities are non-existent. Things like on-street fare validation and all-door boarding become critical to ensuring that these routes remain reliable as they become busier. Better amenities also attract new customers to transit service.

A 99 B-Line stop. Select image to enlarge. Source: Wikimedia Commons

As our streets become more congested, bus priority measures must be implemented to ensure that bus service stays on schedule and travel times don’t increase for riders. For example, Surrey recently added queue jumper lanes on King George Boulevard to speed bus service through major intersections. On Broadway in Vancouver, the parking lanes are converted to bus lanes during peak travel periods.

As part of the 10-Year Vision for Metro Vancouver Transit & Transportation, 11 new B-Line routes are in the works. The current customer amenities and bus priority measure planned for these routes were to be similar to the 96 B-Line which is to say, limited. This might be changing.

As TransLink has been planning for the implementation of these new B-Line routes, they’ve heard from the public and other stakeholders (like local government) that bare-bones B-Line won't cut it for a quality, speedy, frequent bus service. The Mayors’ Council will now be discussing making new B-Line service better. The following slide is from the latest Mayors’ Council agenda package.

Options for making a better B-Line. Select image to enlarge.

The consensus is that people want to see “Better 2” service across all B-Line routes. This includes all door boarding, information kiosks, shelters, read-time info, and bus lanes and/or other priority measures along major corridors.

In order to help fund these improvements, TransLink is proposing to match municipal contributions for “Better 2”. This of course needs to be confirmed, and it is expected that there will be a final discussion on whether to build better B-Line service in early 2018.

This is what better B-Line service could look like. The examples are of RapidRide bus service in Seattle.

A RapidRide information kiosk with real-time information and off-bus fare payment. Select image to enlarge. Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/sounderbruce/

A RapidRide bus stop which includes enhanced customer amenities. Select image to enlarge. Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/sounderbruce/

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Metro Conversations presents “Nasty Women”: Gender in Politics

Trump’s now infamous remark calling Hillary Clinton a “nasty woman” has become a rallying cry for women across the political spectrum to take a stand against the sexism and misogyny they face in politics because of their gender.

On Wednesday November 22nd, the fourth Metro Conversations will be addressing this topic. Metro Conversations was started by a group of four like-minded elected officials from across Metro Vancouver. Rather than a lecture format, panelists will speak about their experiences and audience members will be encouraged to add their voice to help shape the conversation.

“Most people outside of politics aren’t aware of the blatant misogyny women have to contend with in their role as elected officials” says Councillor Kiersten Duncan from the City of Maple Ridge who is the main organizer of this event. “It creates an unsafe working environment which inherently discourages women from getting involved in politics”. Councillor Duncan credits her colleagues Councillors Nathan Pachal from the City of Langley, Patrick Johnstone of New Westminster, and Mathew Bond from the District of North Vancouver for coming up with the idea.

“It’s surprising how normalized misogyny is, many people don’t even realize they’re being inappropriate,” says Councillor Pachal.

“What was acceptable 20 years ago isn’t acceptable today, times have changed,” notes Councillor Johnstone. “Many older elected officials have a hard time adjusting to this.”

Councillor Bond hopes that women interested in running in next fall’s municipal elections will consider attending, hoping that this event will give them insight into some of the challenges they will face. Panelists include Councillors Laura Dupont and Glenn Pollock from the City of Port Coquitlam, Bonita Zarillo from the City of Coquitlam, and Mayor Nicole Read from the City of Maple Ridge.

This free event will take place:
November 22nd at 7:00pm (Doors open at 6:30p)
M. Wright Art Gallery Room at the Gathering Place
200 - 2253 Leigh Square Place, Port Coquitlam

Everyone is welcome. Seating is limited, and it is recommended to register to reserve your seat.

Reserve your seat at Eventbrite

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Metro Vancouver looking to study single-use coffee cup deposit system

Would you be willing to pay a small deposit on single-use cups or food containers? Most single-use cups and containers are recyclable, but they still end up in the garbage or discarded onto the street.

Light-weight foodware which includes cups and containers make up 10.7% of the material that ends up in street bins by weight in Metro Vancouver based on 2016 data. The City of Vancouver found that this translates into 50% of material by volume in their street bins. This is significant.

In contrast, containers with a deposit make up 4.4% of the material that ends up in street bins by weight. 2.4% of that is glass which is heavy. Our deposit system is helping to effectively recover certain types of containers. Our region has a binners community whose members collect containers that have deposits from our street bins and other public spaces.

Tides Canada is a national charity which supports initiatives across the country that support positive environmental and social change. In our region, one of their initiatives is the Coffee Cup Revolution where a pop-up coffee cup recycling depot at Victory Square is setup for a few hours.

Slide from Binners’ Project presentation delivered to Metro Vancouver’s Zero Waste Committee. Select image to enlarge.

In 2016, 175 binners collected 50,000 coffee cups to receive 5 cents per cup in a few hours. 210 binners collected 53,783 coffee cups within three hours on October 16, 2017.

One of the major goals in the Metro Vancouver Regional District Integrated Solid Waste and Resource Management Plan is to reduce waste. As such, the regional district is looking to support the Coffee Cup Revolution initiative with $6,000 annually for three years. This funding would be used to improved data collection, develop a waste characterization study, support round-table discussions, and provide a portion of the coffee cup refunds and pop-up recycling depot costs.

63% of waste was diverted from going to a landfill, or ending up in a waste-to-energy facility in our region in 2016. The street bin diversion rate was only 40% in 2016. There is still much more work to be done.

Considering the contribution of single-use cups and containers to our region’s waste, I could see the regional district advocating to the provincial government for an expanded deposit refund system for containers in Metro Vancouver.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Langley City Traffic Calming Progress. Making Streets Safer.

Earlier this year, Langley City council approved funding to implement traffic calming measures in three areas of our community. Based on neighbourhood feedback received this summer, traffic calming measures will be moving forward as noted in the following images.

Traffic calming around Condor Park. Select image for more details.

Traffic calming around Brydon Park and along 198 Street. Select image for more details.

Traffic calming around Linwood Park. Select image for more details.

Work will now begin to implement these traffic calming measures. Over the next week, speed bumps will be installed. The remaining traffic calming measures such as curb extensions, signage, bollards, painting, and fencing will be completed by the end of this winter. These projects are weather dependent and traffic delays are expected.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

November 6, 2017 Council Meeting Notes: Fire-Rescue Service call volume increasing. Crime prevention review for Langley businesses.

Monday night’s Langley City council meeting was chockablock with reports and information. I posted about some of the items covered yesterday. Today, I will be posting about the remaining significant items that were on the agenda.

Langley City Fire-Rescue Service continues to be extremely busy. Fire Chief Rory Thompson provided an overview of the overall trend in the number of calls that the Service responds too.

Langley Fire-Rescue Service call growth since 2011. Select image to enlarge. 

The opioid overdose crisis that is hitting all BC communities is resulting in increased call volume, but there are other factors at play at well. Chief Thompson noted that more investigation will be necessary to find what other factors, such a population grow, are contributing to increased call volume.

The following table shows more details about the types of calls Langley City Fire-Rescue Service has responded to over the last seven quarters. Medical emergency and motor vehicle crash calls are the largest category of calls. One of the areas where there has been an almost double of calls is for hazmat response.

Langley Fire-Rescue Service call statistics (2016-2017). Select image to enlarge.

Considering the large amount of medical emergencies and motor vehicle crashes that Langley City Fire-Rescue Service responds to, could anything be done to reduce these types of calls while maintaining the same level of service?

The opioid overdose crisis response is lead by Fraser Health and the provincial government. It will take their leadership to reduce the number of overdose incidents in our community.

The City has a direct roll to play in decreasing the amount and severity of motor vehicle crashes and incidents. Speed, impairment, and distraction are contributing factors to around 85% of crashes in BC.

Introducing traffic calming and narrowing streets will slow down traffic. Langley City is working to change the geometry of some streets in our community. By making our community more accessible via non-motor vehicle modes of transportation, we can give people safer ways to get home if they have a drink or must check social media. The City is working to build a mixed-use downtown, and is investing in enhancing sidewalks throughout the community.

Crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED) works. One of the recommendations of Langley City’s Crime Prevention Task Group is to promote CPTED reviews in our business community. The RCMP provides free CPTED business assessments. As part of the upcoming business license renewal process, Langley City will be distributing the following brochure.

New crime prevention brochure for businesses - outside. Select image to enlarge.  

New crime prevention brochure for businesses - inside. Select image to enlarge.

I am hopefully that businesses in our community will take advantage of this free program to help reduce crime.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

November 6, 2017 Council Meeting Notes: More evening events coming to Downtown Langley. Improving Langley City streets and parks

While no decisions were made a last night’s Langley City council meeting, the agenda was dense with updates from community organizations and our municipality’s departments.

Before council heard the updates, two long service awards were presented to Langley City staff members.

Mayor presenting long service awards to Langley City staff members. Select image to enlarge.

The first presentation heard by council was for Canuck Place Children’s Hospice. Katrine Chow, who represented the organization, outlined the services they provide, and the number of families they help. As an example, in 2016, 715 families were helped by their programs with 44% of families coming from the Fraser Valley. 20 families lived in Langley. Most children are in their programs for 3 years. Chow also invited council to attend their Gift of Love Gala which is schedule for Saturday, February 17, 2018.

The next update from the Downtown Langley Business Association/Discover Langley City was presented by Teri James. She reviewed the 2017 McBurney Summer Series and Duelling Pianos Evening events. Both the daytime events and evening event were successful. Duelling Pianos in the Plaza, a 19+ event, was sold out within four days.

For 2018, James outlined that they will be focusing on bringing high-quality entertainment for families during the day, and will be hosting an additional 19+ evening event with high-quality entertainment. Bringing positive evening activities to our downtown core is something that I believe is critically important. Not only does it help build community, but it also reduces negative activities in the evening.

Between the McBurney Plaza Summer Series and other events, there will be something going on pretty much every weekend next summer in our community’s core.

June 23: McBurney Plaza Summer Series — Day
July 7: McBurney Plaza Summer Series — Day
July 14: McBurney Plaza Summer Series — Evening
July 28: McBurney Plaza Summer Series — Day
August 11: McBurney Plaza Summer Series — Evening
August 18: 25th Annual Arts Alive Festival
August 25: Fork and Finger Event

As was reported this summer, planning for a night market is still in the works for 2018 which will bring even more positive activity to our downtown in the evening.

Later in the presentation, James introduced Melissa Phillips who is heading up Discover Langley City, our new destination marketing organization. Phillips comes from Richmond Tourism.

Rick Bomhof, Director of Engineering, Parks & Environment, updated council on the activities in his departments.

In 2017, council approved additional funding for an on-going corridor improvement program. Bomhof shared some pictures of the enhancements that were funded via the program.

Example of street improvement on 53 Avenue near 203 Street. Select image to enlarge.

Example of enhanced sidewalk maintenance in Downtown Langley. Select image to enlarge.

Bomhof also noted that work is almost completed in Hunter Park. For more information, please visit the City’s website.

Another major project is the 200th Street Bridge deck replacement. This project is scheduled to be completed in the next few weeks.

Other projects on-the-go include:

  • New Baldi Creek corrugated steel culverts for better fish passage
  • 53/51B Avenue bike lanes
  • Ongoing road patching and repaving
  • Spray park expansion at City Park
  • 56 Avenue Project: Glover Rd to Langley Bypass
  • 48 Avenue sewer replacement
  • Culvert relining on Fraser Highway near Production Way
  • Langley Bypass culvert replacement
  • Rotary Park sports field upgrades
  • New Penzer Park washroom & picnic shelter

Our City crews have been, and continue to be, extremely busy making our community awesome.

Tomorrow, I will be posting about the remaining topics covered at Monday night’s council meeting.

Monday, November 6, 2017

GHG Emissions Down in Metro Vancouver. Air Quality Improving.

Earlier this summer, Metro Vancouver released its annual “Caring for the Air” report based on its extensive network of air quality monitoring stations. This report showed that over the last decade most air pollutants have been decreasing except for ground-level ozone. More information on this report is available in a previous blog post.

Metro Vancouver has now completed another report on air pollution in our region with information that goes back to 1995. This report, used for looking at longer-term trends, is completed every five years using emission inventory data. The good news is our air quality is getting better.

Greenhouse gas emissions are down in our region after peaking in the 1990s. A reduction in industrial activity, power generation (Burrard Thermal), and fuel consumption have helped lower GHG emissions even as the population grows. Even with this decrease, GHG emissions from motor vehicles are increasing.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the Lower Fraser Valley Airshed. Select chart to enlarge.

As I posted about previously, fine particulate matter emissions are also down across the region except for residential wood burning. This is why the regional district is looking at introducing regulations to encourage people to stop using wood-burning appliances.

Fine Particulate Matter in the Lower Fraser Valley Airshed. Select chart to enlarge.

Smog forming pollutants are also down over the last 20 years. This is mainly due to improved engine emissions standards and the former AirCare program.

Smog Forming Pollutants in the Lower Fraser Valley Airshed. Select chart to enlarge.

Over the last five years, many of these reductions have slowed. Further action will be required to ensure that air quality and GHG emissions continue to decrease in Metro Vancouver and the Lower Fraser Valley airshed, even as the population and economy continue to grow.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

New Study: Rent subsidies a way to make apartments affordable near transit

In May 2016, the Metro Vancouver Regional District adopted a Regional Affordable Housing Strategy. One of the goals in the strategy is to increase the “rental housing supply along the Frequent Transit Network.” The regional district recently released a report called “Analysis of the Financial Viability of New Purpose-Built Rental Housing at Transit-Oriented Locations in Metro Vancouver.

Map of case study sites used in the report.

This new report looks a several sites along the Frequent Transit Network in Metro Vancouver, comparing the sale price for condos, market rental value, and what the upper limit would be for these units to be affordable. Affordable studio and 1-bedroom units mean that a household making $30,000 would spend a third of their income on rent. Affordable 2-bedroom units mean a household making $50,000 would spend a third of their income on rent. The proceeding graphs show that there is a gap between affordable and market rental rates for both concrete and wood-frame apartments in Metro Vancouver.

Key Numbers in the Development of New Concrete Apartment Units (Strata Titled and Rental). Select chart to enlarge.

Key Numbers in the Development of New Wood Frame Apartment Units (Strata Titled and Rental). Select chart to enlarge.

The reports authors note that units can only be affordable if one or more of the following conditions are met:

  • The construction costs are reduced.
  • The land must be free or very low value
  • The housing developer is content to earn a project management fee and the investor is content to earn a relatively low return on investment, but they are not compensated for risk to the extent the private sector normally expects.
  • The rent is topped up by a subsidy

When it comes to building new affordable rental units, the authors of the report note that there are really three approaches that are viable in our current system.

One approach is that affordable rentals are funded by government. This could be done, but this would be a slow and costly process that would take a decade for enough affordable housing units to be built.

The second approach is to allow increased density for projects if a developer builds a certain percent of affordable rental units. This is a tool that is already used today, and is limited in its effectiveness given the severe shortage of affordable housing in our region.

The final option is to provide people a rent subsidy. Providing a rent subsidy for apartments would likely be the most expedient way to make housing affordable in our region. Local governments need to zone areas around the Frequent Transit Network for higher density. Currently, local government cannot zone based on tenure. The province could also consider allowing local governments to have “rental zones” near frequent transit to ensure that affordable housing is build near the Frequent Transit Network.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

New safer bike lanes, additional parking, and a loading zoning along 53/51B Avenue

If you’ve walked, cycled, or driven along 53 Avenue/51B Avenue over the last few days, you’ve likely seem some changes along that corridor.

53 Avenue near 204 Street, Before. Select image to enlarge.

53 Avenue near 204 Street, After. Select image to enlarge.

When I first moved to Langley City, I wondered why 53/51B Avenue was so wide, and looked like a highway in some sections. This corridor was originally supposed to be a Langley Bypass-style road, but due to the Langley Bypass, became redundant. Today, this corridor has very low motor vehicle traffic volume, and doesn’t require four lanes.

One of the goals of Langley City is to make our streets multi-modal, making walking and cycling safer and more convenient. Early this year, the City received funding from the provincial government to add bike lanes along the 53 Avenue/51B Avenue corridor.

Comparing the safety, comfort, space, and cost of bike lanes. Select image to enlarge. Source: Global Designing Cities Initiative

With this funding, the City installed buffered bike lanes along much of the corridor. A buffered bike lane is safer than a conventional bike lane, and has the following benefits according to the National Association of City Transportation Officials:

  • Provides greater shy distance between motor vehicles and bicyclists.
  • Provides space for bicyclists to pass another bicyclist without encroaching into the adjacent motor vehicle travel lane.
  • Encourages bicyclists to ride outside of the door zone when buffer is between parked cars and bike lane.
  • Provides a greater space for bicycling without making the bike lane appear so wide that it might be mistaken for a travel lane or a parking lane.
  • Appeals to a wider cross-section of bicycle users.
  • Encourages bicycling by contributing to the perception of safety among users of the bicycle network.

The safest bike lanes are protected bike lanes, similar to what is along 203 Street.

Besides installing safer bike lanes, the City was able to install 26 on-street parking spots along 51B Avenue near the Seniors Centre, and a new loading zone near 204 Street. Some parking was remove between 203 and 204 Street, but overall there is a net gain in parking along the corridor.

There is still some work to be done including adjusting some of the traffic lights and installing some flexible bollards at intersections.

With the installation of safer cycling infrastructure complete along 203 Street and 53/51B Avenue, Langley City now has a basic connected, usable bike network that can get you to all quadrants of our community.