Thursday, October 29, 2020

Wastewater testing holds the key to understand COVID-19 infection rates in Metro Vancouver

In the summer, there were several news articles about BC researchers sampling wastewater/sewage to see if it could help track the spread and rate of infection due to COVID-19 in Metro Vancouver.

A pilot project at the Annacis Island wastewater treatment plant was successful in finding COVID-19. As a result, the Metro Vancouver Regional District will be rapidly ramping up the sampling program at all wastewater treatment plants in our region.

Because there are five wastewater treatment plants in four distinct sewerage areas, this testing program should also be able to track COVID-19 infection rates at a sub-regional level.

Wastewater treatment plants and sewerage areas in Metro Vancouver. Select image to enlarge. Source: Metro Vancouver

More work is required to develop a testing methodology. The hope is that reporting will be available in the first quarter of next year.

Because people only get COVID-19 testing if they have cold, influenza or COVID-19-like symptoms, public health officials only see a small self-selecting portion of our region's population today. Being able to track COVID-19 infection rates via wastewater means that researchers and public health officials will be able to sample almost everyone in Metro Vancouver.

Using wastewater to test for COVID-19 will provide public health officials with a better understanding of the virus's spread at a sub-regional level in Metro Vancouver.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

“Quick win” projects to improve bus reliability in Metro Vancouver

Buses are an effective way to move people around. Private vehicles can carry approximately 600 to 1,600 people per hour. Buses mixed with private vehicles can move about 1,000 to 2,800 people per hour. Buses travelling in their own lane can carry 4,000 to 8,000 people per hour.

In most of the region, buses travel with private vehicle traffic. This means that as congestion increases, bus reliability and efficiency decreases.

Over the years, municipalities, TransLink, and the provincial government have invested in building bus priority measures such as dedicated bus lanes, bus bulbs, and traffic signal prioritization throughout the region. This year, municipalities and TransLink are delivering $1.5 million in “quick win” projects to speed up bus service.

The following map shows the top 20 busiest bus corridors in the region.

Map showing existing bus priority and quick-win projects by expected completion date

The blue lines represent bus prioritization measures that existed before this year. The green represents projects that are completed or will be completed this year. The orange represents projects that will be completed in 2021, while red projects currently do not have a timeline.

The projects this year include:

  • Robson and Main: Temporary bus bulbs (Completed)
  • Granville: Downtown northbound bus-only lanes extended to Nelson Street (Completed)
  • Fraser Highway: Bus approach lanes at 96th Avenue and 148th Street intersections (Completed)
  • Vancouver/Route 2: Eliminated some closely spaced bus stop (Completed)
  • Granville, Main, 41st, and Georgia in Vancouver: 19 km of new or extended bus priority lanes
  • 49th Ave (Van), Edmonds St (Burnaby), and Bridgeport Rd (Richmond): Tactical changes
  • 8th St (New West) and Lonsdale Ave (City of North Vancouver): Bus bulbs

There is still more work to be done on the top 20 corridors. TransLink is looking to invest $4.15 million in bus prioritization measures in 2021 with partner municipalities’ support.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a great deal of financial uncertainty. By focusing on high-impact, low-cost projects, TransLink and municipalities can quickly improve transit service without breaking the bank.

Find out more by reading the latest Mayors’ Council agenda.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Welcome Back to Langley City Recreation Facilities - Enhanced Safety Protocols

With winter weather in full force, many people will be looking to participate in recreational activities at Langley City facilities.

The following video shows how to sign-up for activities, what to do when you arrive, and how to stay within the COVID-19 safety protocols put in place.

For more information, please visit the City’s COVID-19 Updates page.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Metro Vancouver Regional District eyeing increased summer water rates to reduce peak utilization

Water and sewer charges are a large component of the municipal-controlled portion of property tax.

Most municipalities in our region, including Langley City, purchase their water from the Metro Vancouver Regional District. Municipalities pay a volume charge to the Regional District for sewer services. Municipalities are responsible for the delivery of water and sewer between business/residential properties and regional mains.

The utility fees that are included in property tax are a combination of the municipal and regional costs to provide water and sewer services.

I virtually attended the Metro Vancouver Regional District Council of Councils meeting on Saturday. Regional District staff and directors presented an overview of their proposed 2020-24 financial plan. The renewal and replacement of outdated wastewater treatment plants, and the expansion of the regional water supply system to meet increased demand, are causing significant increases to the water and sewer rates charged to municipalities.

The Regional District board has been looking for ways to provide short-term financial relief to property taxpayers. One of the major projects that will likely be deferred as a result of finding short-term relief is the Coquitlam Lake Water Supply Project. This means that the region will have to double down on water conservation efforts.

Currently, the Regional District charges a summer and winter water rate to municipalities. The Regional District is looking into increase the summer water rate charged to municipalities.

Langley City has water meters on all properties, municipalities like Surrey do not. The increase in summer water rates might encourage municipalities throughout the region to install water meters on all properties.

It might also result in municipalities charging a summer and winter water rate to property owners. In Langley City, there is a base water charge and year-round meter rate.

The idea is to nudge municipalities to invest in water conservation programs and encourage people to use less water during the summer months.

Metro Vancouver Regional District staff noted at the Council of Councils meeting that our region uses more water per capita than other large regions in North America. We can do better as a region to reduce water utilization which will help reduce increases in property tax.