Monday, March 19, 2018

Two-thirds of TransLink 10-Year Investment Plan now approved in principle, plus getting to 100% funding.

On Friday afternoon, the provincial government and the Mayors' Council on Regional Transportation announced that they had come to an agreement in principle to fund phase two of the three phase 10-Year Transportation Investment Plan. The following map shows the location of the expected investments.

10-Year Investment Plan map. Select image to enlarge.

The following table shows a more detailed view of the transportation investments for our region over the life of the plan.

10-Year Investment Plan details. Select table to enlarge.

Phase one of the plan was funded by a bump in property tax, fare increases, and from TransLink internal revenue sources. Another proposed funding source was a regional development cost charge, though this was not implemented at the time phase one started moving forward.

Phase two investments are to be paid for with another increase in property tax, additional bumps in transit fares, the regional development cost charge, and an increase in parking lot sales tax. This is in addition to TransLink internal revenue sources.

New funding sources for phase two of investment plan. Estimated annual revenue.

The parking lot sales tax is charged whenever you pay for parking in a parkade or surface parking lot.

The new source of revenue is the development cost charge for transportation. This charge will be levied on new construction in our region. The original plan was to have the development cost charge set to generate about $20 million in revenue per year. The latest information states that it will generate around $7.5 million per year.

Implementing the new development cost charge will require a change in provincial legislation, as will the increase in parking lot sale tax.

This increases in revenue still doesn’t close the funding gap for the full 10-Year Investment Plan. One of the asks from the Mayors’ Council has been for the province to contribute annually to help offset the operating costs in the plan with a provincially-controlled source. This is shown in grey on the following graph.

Funding gap for 10-Year Investment Plan. Select chart to enlarge.

TransLink was originally going to replace the Pattullo Bridge. Tolling was going to be a revenue source, but it would still have to be subsidized. The Golden Ears Bridge and the Port Mann both cost more to operate than they were receiving in tolling revenue. The Pattullo Bridge would have been no different.

The 10-Year Investment Plan included the cost of the new Pattullo Bridge. Last month, the province announced that it would take over the Pattullo Bridge replacement, plus own and operate the new bridge. This helped close the “provincially-controlled source” funding gap.

At Friday’s press conference, the province said that it would further relieve financial pressure. It was mum on how, but I think that most people can take an educated guess on how.

As long as the province is able to get enabling legislation passed to fund phase two, all that remains is funding phase three. While I don’t have the exact numbers, it seems that the “provincially-controlled source” funding gap will be plugged.

By 2021/22, the Mayors’ Council wants to implement mobility pricing with $50 million per year, growing to $75 million per year, used to fund the full investment plan which includes light rail to Langley. With significant federal dollars committed to projects like Fraser Highway Light Rail, I am hopeful that all levels of government will once again be willing to work together to fund the full investment plan.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Insight into where people walk and cycle in Langley City

At the end of February, there were a few significant snow events in Langley City. One of the things that I noticed was that there were bike tracks left in the snow as it was falling. While looking at tire tracks in the snow is not a scientific way of measuring cycling lane usage, it provided me with some semi-permanent evidence of their use, even when the weather is unpleasant.

Fresh tracks on 203 Street in February. Select image to enlarge.

Fresh tracks on 53 Avenue in February. Select image to enlarge.

Earlier this week, the weather was warm and sunny. I take transit between home and work during the week; 203 Street and 53 Avenue are on my walking route to transit. I noticed along these corridors an increase in people walking, cycling, and scootering in the nice weather. Just a few years ago, these corridors were not very friendly for active modes of transportation. In fact, I used to avoid 203 Street due to its narrow sidewalks.

Strava is a social network and activity tracker used by many people who run and cycle. Strava has been in the news recently because they provide a publicly available map which shows popular routes of its users. Unfortunately, it led to some unintended disclosures of military bases.

I looked at this map years ago, but I didn’t think about it much again until the recent new stories. I decided to take a look at the map around Langley City.

Strava heatmap of popular cycling routes in Langley City. Select map to enlarge.

The map looks at two years worth of data, and is updated monthly. It is certainly not surprising that direct routes around our community such as 53 Avenue are the most popular. What is really interesting to see is cycling usage by Strava users on Grade Crescent, jutting down to 48 Avenue. 48 Avenue received bike lanes a few years back. Strava makes more detailed information available to local governments than is publicly available online.

While tire tracks in the snow and Strava maps don’t paint the full picture of everyone who walks and cycles, it provides some insight into popular routes in communities.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Metro Vancouver provides feedback to province on preserving farmland in our region

The Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) was created by the Dave Barrett NDP government in the 1970s to protect farmland in our province. It was created in response to the rapid urbanization of our limit, high-quality farmland in the province. This urbanization was particularly prevalent in the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island, and Okanagan.

Farmland in Metro Vancouver. Source: Stephanie Vacher

While most people are aware that ALR exclusions permanently remove land from being farmed again, there are other things that happen within the ALR that also prevent land from being farmed. These non-farm uses can range from highways being built within the ALR, to illegal fill dumping, to people “farming” to take advantage of a lower tax rate for their mini-mansions and country estates.

The current provincial government has launched a review of the ALR with the following goals:

  1. Preserve the productive capacity of land in the ALR.
  2. Encourage farming of land in the ALR for uses related to agriculture and food production.
  3. Strengthen the administration and governance of the ALR and ALC to both increase public confidence and to ensure that land use regulation and land use decisions are preserving agricultural land and encouraging farming and ranching in the ALR.

Farming in an important industry in Metro Vancouver. Our region has the highest gross farm receipts per hectare in Canada. Our region is also home to half the population of BC. This means that farmland is under constant threat of urbanization. The Metro Vancouver Regional District believes that the following key initiatives will help perverse farmland in our region.

  • Strengthen the ALC legislative framework to prevent non‐farm activities in the ALR.
  • Create financial disincentives for non‐farm uses in the ALR.
  • Modernize requirements for the classification of farm for assessment purposes.
  • Encourage more agriculture economic development and value‐added enterprises.
  • Expand avenues to maintain ecological services on agricultural land.
  • Implement policy reform specific to the Metro Vancouver region.

The provincial government will be seeking input from the public and other stakeholders until the end of April. Recommendations resulting from this review will be put forward during Winter 2018/19.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Positive events and activities in Langley City on the rise; Timms Community Centre continues to see massive growth in usage

One of the big pushes for Langley City Council is to bring more positive activities into our community. Programming more events and activities benefits our community in three broad ways. It gives people somethings to do, builds a sense of community, and reduces crime.

One of the things that I hear from people regularly is that there is traditionally nothing to do in our community. By providing more positive activities in the community, it gives people a chance to get out and discover their community. Because city-supported activities are subsidized, it also provides opportunity for people who might otherwise not have the funds to pay for other entertainment options like seeing a movie, or going into Vancouver to see a show.

When people get out and about in their community, they start to get to know their neighbourhoods. This builds a sense of ownership in a community. There is a rise in loneliness among Canada’s seniors. Providing opportunities for more social interaction improves seniors’ quality of life. When young people have positive activities they can take part in, they are less likely to take part in negative activities.

Negative elements don’t like being visible. More positive activities draws more people out into the community. This means that there are more eyes and ears in our Downtown, our neighbourhoods, and our parks. This results in less negative activities in our community.

Langley City has been ramping up the number of events, tournaments, and other activities in our community. The following table shows the significant increase over the last three years.

Events 2017 2016 2015
Events - City Free 37 24 21
Events - City Paid 7 7 5
Events - Outside Organizations 40 35 25
Tournaments 12 8 7
Seasonal Programming 88 37 45

The following list shows some of the events and activities directly run by the City in 2017. This list doesn’t include events that the City supported, but didn’t run such as the Arts Alive Festival or the McBurney Plaza Summer Series.

  • Bike to Work Week
  • Canada 150 - Canada in our Backyard
  • Canada 150 - Canadian Mosaic Project
  • Canada 150 - Canadian National Film Day
  • Caroling in the Plaza - 4 dates
  • City Walks - 32 sessions
  • Community Concerts at the Spirit Square - 2 dates
  • Community Day
  • Creative Kids - 18 sessions
  • Family Day
  • Family Fun Day
  • Food Truck Festival
  • Holiday Chaos
  • Langley Walk
  • Local Government Day
  • Lunch & Lounge in McBurney Plaza - 18 sessions
  • Magic of Christmas Festival
  • Move for Health Day
  • Movie in the Park - 3 dates
  • Penzer Youth Action Park Grand Opening
  • Pitch-In Day
  • Push Play - 20 sessions
  • Seniors Week
  • Sounds of Summer Concert Series - 9 dates
  • Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day
  • Youth Halloween Party
  • Youth Ugly Christmas Sweater Party
  • Youth Week

Another huge success has been the new Timms Community Centre. The following table shows the massive 33% growth in usage between 2016 and 2017.

Drop-ins (with pass) 2017 2016 2015
Seniors 36,539 26,380 9,532
Adults 53,029 40,022 29,116
Students 5,011 2,212 12
Youth 17,377 12,630 5,045
Children 5,741 6,499 985
Family 2,862 1,335 n/a
Total - All Ages 120,612 89,078 44,690

The recently adopted 2018 Langley City budget continues the trend of increasing investment in events and activities in our community. Based on the response seen so far, I’m excited for the coming year.