Thursday, January 18, 2018

January 15, 2018 Council Meeting Notes: Project updates, events, and activities

Over the last few days, I’ve posted some highlights about the operating budget and capital works program from the 2018 Langley City Financial Plan that was presented at Monday night’s council meeting. Today, I will cover the other remaining significant items that were on the council agenda.

Because of the mild climate in Metro Vancouver, City crews can continue working on renewing infrastructure, and enhancing our parks. Rick Bomhof provided an update on some of the projects that the departments he leads are working on.

Work continues on enhancements to Penzer Park. A new picnic shelter was recently completed.


New Penzer Park Picnic Shelter. Select image to enlarge.

Phase 1 of traffic calming has also been completed around Linwood Park, including the installation of temporary measures to make the intersection of 201 A Street & Michaud Crescent safer. Phase 2 will see a polka dot painted design added to the temporary traffic islands, as well as painted triangles on the speed tables. This will be done when the weather is dry and above 10° Celsius.

Michaud Crescent Traffic Calming. Select image to enlarge.

Other projects recently completed where water connections along 56 Avenue and 200 Street to the recently renewed watermain in the area. Also, new playground features were added to Rotary Centennial Park.

Other projects on the go include:

  • New Penzer Park washroom
  • Spray park expansion at City Park
  • 48 Avenue sewer replacement near 210 Street
  • Relining culverts along Fraser Highway, under the rail tracks at Production Way
  • Relining culverts along the Langley Bypass
  • Launch of a concept design for a renewed Fraser Highway One-Way
  • Water booster pump station decommission on 200 Street
  • Upgrade to City utilities control and monitoring system

Afterwards, Kim Hilton provided an overview of the recreation programs and events from the departments that she leads. There are a variety of activities for people of all ages in our community, please visit the City’s website for a list of recreation options, community events, and youth events & programs.

I wanted to highlight that on Family Day, there will be special events at Timms Community Centre between 11:30am and 2:30pm.

Council also gave first and second reading to a proposed apartment project located at Brydon Crescent and 199 A Street. This will allow a public hearing to be scheduled.

Rendering of proposed apartment project from the south-west corner of Brydon Crescent. Select image to enlarge.

Council also received reports on the activities completed by the Community Day Committee, Magic of Christmas Parade Committee, and Youth Committee. Council authorized the Deputy Director of Development Services & Economic Development to attend the Canadian Institute of Planners Annual Conference.

Council also passed a motion asking for 50% of the provincial share of the cannabis tax to be provided to local governments as we are responsible for local policing, and bylaw enforcement.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Langley City 2018 Proposed Budget Part 2: Capital Works

Yesterday, I posted about the operating budget component of Langley City’s proposed 2018 Financial Plan which was introduced at Monday night’s council meeting. Today, I will be highlighting certain aspects of the proposed capital works portion of the 2018 Financial Plan.

This year, the City is proposing to invest $11.8 million back into the community. The focus areas of the capital works program are enhancing the parks and recreation system, and renewing infrastructure.

Summary of 2018 Capital Improvement Plan. Select table to enlarge.

Some of the major projects proposed for funding this year include:

Parks

  • $1 million for City Park to start implementing its master plan which was adopted in 2016
  • $620,000 to upgrade playground equipment at various parks throughout the community
  • $300,000 for renewing pedestrian bridges in the floodplain

Renewing Infrastructure

  • $1.5 million to restore the Logan Creek culverts under the Langley Bypass
  • $1.3 million to replace water and sewer lines, enhance lighting, and resurface Douglas Crescent between 206 Street and 208 Street
  • $250,000 for erosion control along the Nicomekl River
  • $640,000 to resurface 56 Avenue between Production Way and 200 Street
  • $300,000 to start the process of renewing the Fraser Highway one-way section
  • $600,000 for traffic signal replacement
  • $510,000 for a new multi-use pathway along Duncan Way
  • $300,000 for street light replacement and LED lighting upgrades
  • $250,000 for a sidewalk along 46A Avenue
  • $100,000 for traffic calming

The capital works program is funded through a combination of casino revenue, property tax, developer-paid charges, and with the help of other orders of government.

While the majority of casino revenue is invested into capital works, a small portion of it is set aside to invest into building the social capital of our community. The proposed 2018 budget includes $608,565 in community funding. The following are some of the major initiatives funded:

  • $206,140 for ice user subsidy at Twin Rinks
  • $50,000 for LEPS Summer Youth Employment program
  • $30,000 for Grade 5 swim program
  • $30,000 for parks cleanup program
  • $44,425 for McBurney Summer Series events
  • $80,000 for other special events

For a full list of projects that are proposed to be funded in 2018, please visit the City’s website. An open house on the 2018 Financial Plan is scheduled for January 31 between 6:00pm and 7:30pm at City Hall.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Langley City 2018 Proposed Budget Part 1: Operating

Monday night was the first Langley City council meeting of 2018. The first and second reading of the City’s 2018 Financial Plan was the primary item on the agenda. Today’s post will highlight some of the operating portions of the budget, and tomorrow’s post will focus on the capital works portion of the budget.

The 2018 Financial Plan is focused on four main areas: improving public safety, addressing homelessness, enhancing the parks and recreation system, and renewing infrastructure.

The operating budget is proposed to increase by $1.27 million in 2018. Around half of this increase is driven by critical public safety services, and to address homelessness in our community.

RCMP policing costs are budgeted to increase by $539,250. Fire Services wages and benefits are budgeted to increase by $279,065.

The City’s Bylaw enforcement department also grew by one person this year which required a $38,630 increase in the proposed 2018 budget. Security costs at Timms Community Centre is also proposed to increase by $32,245 to ensure that it remains a safe space.

To address on-going cleanup costs relating to homeless camps in our community, the budget for camp cleanup costs is proposed to increase by $30,000.

The new Timms Community Centre is well used. With increased programming, the budget for recreation services is proposed to increase by $84,990. The new Penzer Action Park has also been well received in the community. The budget to maintain that park is proposed to increase by $28,320.

A new Facilities Maintenance Worker position is being proposed to ensure that City facilities remain in a good state of repair.

Wages and benefits for municipal employees is budgeted to increase by $356,135, and council remuneration is budgeted to increase by $105,605. Employee wage and benefit increases are driven primarily by collective agreements, and contract requirements.

The following table provides an overview of the 2018 Financial Plan. A full list of larger changes in the proposed budget can be found on page 5 of the 2018 Financial Plan.

Langley City 2018 Consolidation Financial Plan Summary. Select table to enlarge.

At the end of the day, the proposed budget will require a 4.94% residential property tax increase. As I posted about earlier this month, this increase will not be distributed evenly due to how the BC property tax system works. Some people may see a property tax decrease while others may see a larger increase.

The following table shows the changes in property tax of an average multifamily home over the last five years.

Year Assessment Taxes Change
2014 $206,029 $1,275
2015 $200,656 $1,238 -$37
2016 $205,161 $1,209 -$29
2017 $249,849 $1,236 $27
2018 $327,350 $1,366 $130
Increase $91

The proposed operating portion of the 2018 budget will help support to improve the quality of life for people who call Langley City home. You can provide feedback on the proposed budget by visiting the City’s website. There will also be an open house at City Hall on January 31.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Park Once, Walk Everywhere: Designing Parking to Support Walkability

One of the keys to creating a successful, walkable downtown is to design the area so you only have to park your vehicle once. These types of areas generally require on-street parking, parkades, and other shared facilities to handle parking demand. On-site parking for specific sites is not prioritized, or is actively discouraged through zoning.

The Langley Bypass is an example of how providing on-site parking for each business does not create a walkable area. In contrast Downtown Langley, especially around the Fraser Highway one-way, relies more on shared parking facilities and on-street parking.

For an interesting blogpost on specific parking policies to support walkable areas, I suggest reading “Walkable Parking: How to Create Park-Once-and-Walk Districts” by Paul Barter.

This weekend, I was in Downtown Kelowna. Downtown Kelowna consists of mostly low- and mid-rise buildings. Providing on-site parking to meet all the needs for these types of buildings would have resulted in large surface parking lots. Requiring low- and mid-rise, mixed-use buildings to include underground parking would have actively discouraged redevelopment.

The City of Kelowna manages three parkades in Downtown Kelowna, on-street parking, and some surface parking lots. They also have implemented a wayfinding system to encourage long-term parking in parkades. These parkades include on-street displays which show the amount of parking available in each facility.

Memorial Parkade including green, dynamic available parking sign. Parkade includes street front office space. Select image to enlarge.

Poorly designed parkades can degrade the walkability of an area. This is not the case for the two most recent parkades built in Downtown Kelowna. They include active street fronts with parking access from the side of the structures, not the front.

The following picture shows a new restaurant that is being opened in one of the parkades nearest the central library branch in Downtown Kelowna.

Library Plaza Parkade includes ground-level retail. Select image to enlarge.

Walkable areas require people who drive to these areas to park once for the day. This means that people must be able to leave their cars parked for as long as they want. Currently, this is not possible in Downtown Langley.

Given the successful transformation of Downtown Kelowna over the last decade, I believe that a parkade would be beneficial in Downtown Langley. Building a parkade would not only support the park-once model, but it would also facilitate more ground-level retail redevelopment projects in our downtown core.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Removal of tolls having minor impact on transit ridership growth

Earlier this week, I posted about how the removal of the tolls on Fraser River crossings has resulted in increased commute times for people that travel along the Highway 1 corridor.

The 555 which runs between Carvolth Exchange at 202 Street along the freeway, and Lougheed Town Centre SkyTrain Station, is an extremely successful route. The route is experiencing double-digit growth in ridership. TransLink continues to increase service frequency on that route.

Earlier this month, TransLink increased service to every 5 to 6 minutes between 6am and 7am; every 5 minutes between 7am and 8am; and, every 5 to 10 minutes between 8am and 9am for 555 trips heading westbound.

With the removal of the tolls, a shift in mode from transit to driving for some commuters was expected. TransLink staff looked at several routes to see if there was an impact. The following map shows the routes that were studied.

Five bus routes and the Expo SkyTrain cross the Fraser River (George Massey Tunnel excluded). Select map to enlarge.

TransLink staff found that before the removal of the tolls, transit routes were growing at a slightly faster rate. Overall, there has only been a small impact on transit ridership growth since the removal of the tolls.

Ridership growth impacts due to the removal of tolling on Fraser Rivers crossings. Select slide to enlarge.

The 595 which crosses the Golden Ears, and 555 which crosses the Port Mann, are still seeing double digit ridership growth. SkyTrain ridership growth continues at the same pace.

Given the choice between being stuck in congestion or taking transit, people are choosing to take transit.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Working together delivers high-quality, cost-effective services in Metro Vancouver

I was having lunch with a friend and his family last week. His family lives on the North Shore, and the topic of amalgamation came up. The “A” word is well known in Langley, so I thought I would give his family my thoughts on the matter.

The short of it is that throughout Canada, with Toronto and Montreal being the classic examples, amalgamation has resulted in a loss of voice for residents on local matters, higher taxes, and more bureaucracy with no increase in services. In my books, this is not good.

What I believe people want when they talk about amalgamation is local governments working together to deliver services where economies of scale matter; delivering better service for less money than if one municipality did it alone. This is shared service delivery.

Water service is a great example of this in our region. Most Metro Vancouver municipalities are part of the Greater Vancouver Water District. Because of this, we have the highest-quality drinking water of any region in Canada, delivered at a great price to residents.

It may come as a surprise to some Langley residents, but Langley City is in the top third of largest municipalities in the province. Langley City also participates in the shared service delivery model. About half of our operating expenditures use shared service delivery models.

As an example, policing services are delivered in partnership with the Township of Langley and the federal government. The Langley Emergency Program and animal control are delivered in partnership with the Township of Langley. 911 services are delivered regionally.

Langley City’s library is part of the Fraser Valley Regional Library system which serves 14 local governments, and is the largest library system in the province.

Water, sewer, and garbage services are delivered in partnership with the Metro Vancouver regional district.

TransLink provides funding for regional roads, and delivers transit service.

In Langley City, this has created a win-win. We have local autonomy, but also take advantage of high-quality services that are delivered at scale.

On Vancouver Island, amalgamation has been a hot topic in the capital region. The provincial government issued a report last year that recommended service integration, not amalgamation.

The following table is from that report:

Table 6.1: Opportunities for Further Integration of Existing Services. Source: Capital Integrated Services and Governance Initiative.

The shared service model works well in Langley City and Metro Vancouver. Could more services be delivered using a shared model? For sure, and I believe we are on that path in our region.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Number of significant SkyTrain delays increased in 2017

The Expo Line is over 30 years old. The original SkyTrain cars that were purchased back in the 1980s are still in active service today. It is no surprise that over the years, the number of significant delays on the SkyTrain system has increased.

For its part, TransLink is activity working on replacing worn sections of track, electrical systems, communications systems, and track switches. These significant, complex maintenance projects can also cause unexpected delays on the SkyTrain system.

As I stated, the original SkyTrain cars are old. Many of them have already exceeded their 25-year design life. These original cars were supposed to be replaced which new vehicles, but in a cost-cutting measure implemented in 2013, TransLink decided to refurbish the original SkyTrain car fleet instead. This was done in a period when the provincial government was showing no love for public transit in Metro Vancouver.

The following charts shows the increase in significant delays between 2016 and 2017.

Number of significant SkyTrain delays in 2016 and 2017 as of November 25, 2017. Select chart to enlarge.

As you can see, problems with SkyTrain cars were responsible for about half of the 16 to 30-minute delays in 2017. I have to wonder if the cost-cutting measure from 5-year ago is playing a role in these increased delays.

In the summer, TransLink did announce that it is looking at accelerating the purchase of new SkyTrain cars. Hopefully, the agency will also be able to start retiring some of the original SkyTrain fleet.

Unlike some other transit agencies with older rail systems, TransLink is being proactive with maintenance. As the system is renewed, and as original SkyTrain cars get replaced, the number of delays should decrease.

Even with the increased number of delay events, the SkyTrain system still had an on-time performance of over 95% in 2017.

Monday, January 8, 2018

New map shows removal of tolls increased congestion in Langley, Surrey, Maple Ridge, and Pitt Meadows

In December, TransLink released data about the increase in vehicle traffic across the Port Mann Bridge and Golden Ears Bridge since the provincial government removed tolls on those crossing.

As I posted about in December, traffic was up about 30% on both the Port Mann and Golden Ears. Traffic was down on the Pattullo Bridge, Alex Fraser Bridge, and George Massey Tunnel. Overall, there was an 8% increase in traffic across all river crossings. This is significantly higher than normal growth in traffic.

What does this mean for commuters in Langley and Surrey? More time stuck in traffic. The following map from TransLink shows the impact of the toll removal on the major road network in our region in the peak afternoon travel period.

Toll removal has mixed effects on peak pm period speeds. Red = Slower; Green = Faster; Grey = Minimal Change. Select map to enlarge.

Along the Highway 1 corridor, traffic congestion has increased in both the Burnaby Lake area and through Langley. Congestion has also increased on Highway 15 and 152 Street which connect to Highway 1.

While congestion has reduced on the Alex Fraser Bridge, congestion has increased in the peak travel direction on approaches to the bridge. While congestion has decreased along the north section of the SFPR, it has increased along the south section.

Interesting enough, the Highway 99 corridor has seen a significant reduction in congestion which further calls into question the need for a replacement crossing.

Another positive is that traffic is down through New Westminster which should be a welcome relief for residents in that community.

While people are no longer paying a cash toll on the Port Mann or Golden Ears, they are now being tolled with longer commutes and increased fuel costs due to stop and go traffic.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Mayors’ Council investigating more bus service for region, big boost in South of Fraser

As part of the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation Vision, 11 new B-Line routes are in the works that will be deployed throughout Metro Vancouver. While the original plan would provide frequent, express bus service, it didn’t include upgraded customer amenities such as custom bus shelters, real-time information at stops, ticket purchasing at stops, and the implementation of transit priority measures on the road network.

In mid-November, I posted about how the Mayors’ Council was investigating working with municipalities to fund these enhancements. At the December Mayors’ Council meeting, TransLink staff noted that providing some of the customer amenities and limited transit priority measures would requires $6 million per year in cost-sharing with municipalities over eight years. This is their recommendation for moving forward.

The Mayors’ Council Transportation Vision is split into three phases. Phase one is already funded and being implemented. Phase two will hopefully have funding in place this year.

Phase two bus expansion will see a 6% increase in service by 2020/21. The Mayors’ Council is investigating moving some of the proposed phase three bus service improvements into phase two. This would deliver a total 8% increase in bus service by 2020/21.

The following map shows where the proposed enhanced phase two bus service will be delivered.

Map of Phase 2 Bus Service Package – Minimum and Moderate Scope Combined. Select map to enlarge.

Some of the proposed service enhancements include:

  • New service to Harbourside in North Vancouver
  • New service to East Fraser Lands in Vancouver
  • New service to East Fraser Heights in Surrey
  • Improved integration with the West Coast Express and 2019 Lougheed B-Line
  • Improved service in Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge
  • New service on 68 Avenue in Surrey
  • Langley shuttle bus network re-structuring

The South of Fraser will see a large increase in bus service if this enhanced phase two plan moves forward.

Proposed distribution of new bus service hours in Phase One and Phase Two. Select chart to enlarge.

For a long time, transit service in the South of Fraser was not keeping up with population growth. If this enhanced phase two plan moves forward, South of Fraser transit will start to catch up with growth.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

What you need to know about your 2018 property assessment notice, property tax, and affordability in Langley City

The BC Assessment Authority has mailed out 2018 property assessment notices to people and corporations that own property in the Fraser Valley. The assessed value of property is based on the market value on July 1, 2017.

Historically in Langley City, the price of single family housing has increased in value at a faster rate than townhouses or apartments. The following table shows the change between 2016 and 2018.

Municipality 2016 Assessment Typical Change in Value 2017 Assessment Typical Change in Value 2018 Assessment
City of Langley (Example 1) $540,000.00 34.00% $725,000.00 8.00% $788,700.00
City of Langley (Example 2) $528,000.00 35.00% $711,000.00 10.00% $783,500.00
City of Langley- Strata Condo N/A N/A $242,000.00 36.00% $329,000.00

This has changed between 2017 and 2018. While single family housing have continued to increase in value, there has been a significant increase in the value of condos in Langley City. This rapid increase in condo values is concerning as it further limits the availability of affordable housing in our community. This spike in condo values is likely a spillover from the housing affordability crises in other communities west of the Fraser River.

As I posted about earlier in the fall, the federal and provincial governments have a large role to play in providing affordable housing options to people. In Langley City, the municipality has essentially zoned the area north of the Nicomekl for apartments and townhouses to support more affordable housing options, but we still need the help of the province and federal governments to ensure there is affordable housing for all.

One of the common misconceptions is how property tax and property value is linked. Hopefully, I can clear this up.

At the beginning of the year, council approves a budget for the municipality. Operating expenditures increase yearly. This means that a revenue increase is required as municipalities must have balanced budgets.

In this simplified example, a municipality that only has residential properties determined that a 4% property tax increase was required to balance the budget. How would that impact people’s property tax?

2017 Property Value Property Value Change 2018 Property Value 2017 Property Tax 2018 Property Tax Property Tax Change
Single Family House A $750,000.00 7.00% $802,500.00 $3,750.00 $3,490.88 -6.91%
Single Family House B $600,000.00 10.00% $660,000.00 $3,000.00 $2,871.00 -4.30%
Condo A $200,000.00 30.00% $260,000.00 $1,000.00 $1,131.00 13.10%
Condo B $300,000.00 35.00% $405,000.00 $1,500.00 $1,761.75 17.45%
Average Property Value Increase 20.50%
Property Tax Collected $9,250.00 $9,254.63 4%

The preceding table showed an example change in property values that averaged out to 20.5%.

If property values increased faster than the average, you will see an increase in your property tax that is relative to the change in value. Likewise, if property values increases slower than the average, you will see a decrease that is relative to the change in value.

The current property tax system creates this imbalance. This is why Langley City council has been calling for the provincial government to fix the system. We would like to have a system where property tax can be applied at different rates for single-family and multi-family properties to ensure a more balanced property tax distribution. You can read more about this in a previous post.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Transit investments pay off with increased ridership in 2017. 2018 will be a critical year for transit’s future.

For many major transit agencies in North America, 2017 was a year of modest or no growth in ridership. In Ottawa, Edmonton, and Calgary, transit ridership was on-track to slightly decline. In Toronto, TTC ridership was essentially flat. Transit ridership in Montreal was on-track to increase by around 2%.

2016 2017 Change
Boardings: January 1 to November 30
355.05 M 377.41 M 6.30%
Boardings by Mode in November
Bus 20.70 M 21.27 M 2.80%
Expo/Millennium 8.03 M 8.93 M 11.20%
Canada Line 3.62 M 3.79 M 4.90%
SeaBus .41 M .44 M 7.20%
West Coast Express .23 M .21 M -6.60%
All modes 32.98 M 34.65 M 5.10%

Metro Vancouver ridership is on-track to increase by 6% in 2017. With the introduction of the Evergreen Extension to the Tri-Cities area, Expo/Millennium ridership has skyrocketed. Overall transit ridership has seen massive gains in the Tri-Cities with 25% growth during the weekdays, and 50% growth during the weekends. The introduction of SkyTrian service to this part of Metro Vancouver has had a profound impact on how people get around.

Bus ridership, Canada Line ridership, and SeaBus ridership also increased which was due to the implementation of new or enhanced transit service as part of the Mayors’ Council’s 10-Year Vision.

West Coast Express ridership has seen a decline which is no surprise given the introduction of SkyTrain service in the Tri-Cities area.

2018 should continue to see increased transit ridership as the Mayors’ Vision continues to be rolled out. More new bus service hours will be added this year.

The last year was an overall positive year for transit service improvements in Metro Vancouver. With the recent shake-up at the Mayors’ Council, I hope that moving forward with transit improvements including light rail along King George Boulevard, 104 Avenue, and Fraser Highway isn’t delayed. It would be a shame to see all the good work in developing the Mayors’ Council’s plan, and its implementation, be unravelled.

2018 will be a critical year for the future of transit service improvements in our region because the provincial government will have to enable new funding, including a regional developer cost charge, and another regionally-sourced, provincially-controlled revenue source. If the province does not, transit expansion, including light rail in the South of Fraser, will grind to a halt.