Monday, January 27, 2020

RapidBus Review: Rapid riding the R4 from UBC to Joyce-Collingwood SkyTrain

Earlier this month, my friend Paul Hillsdon and I spent a Saturday riding all of TransLink’s new RapidBus routes. You can read my reviews of the R3 Lougheed Highway, R5 Hasting Street and R1 King George Boulevard routes in previous posts.

Paul and I taking a selfie with a RapidBus sign. Select image to enlarge.

The R4 was created from the previous 43 bus route. Besides the standard RapidBus features such as green articulated buses and iconic real-time info bus stop signs, the R4 has significantly more service. Compared to the previous route which only provided frequent transit service during the weekdays, the new R4 has even more frequent service for longer periods of the weekday, and the weekend.

R4 Bus Stop at the UBC Bus Exchange. Select image to enlarge.

Like the R3 Lougheed Highway, significant improvements were made to get buses out of congestion. A majority of the R4 route on the UBC campus and in the City of Vancouver travels within dedicated bus lanes; these bus lanes speeds up service. Considering that around 50% of people travelling along 41st Avenue during the busiest times of the day use public transit, it was good to be able to zoom past congestion.

Bus lane on the UBC campus. Select image to enlarge.

Bus lane along 41st Avenue in the City of Vancouver. Select image to enlarge.

There were some areas where service slowed down. The bus needed to travel in general travel lanes which were congested in the Kerrisdale Neighbourhood commercial area. This section of 41st Avenue currently has on-street parking on both sides of the street, two eastbound travel lanes, and one westbound travel lane.

The City of Vancouver and TransLink may want to consider adjusting the layout of this section of street to ensure that transit service remains fast and reliable through this section. Re-configuring road layouts is never a simple task through commercial areas, but there are potential solutions. For example, a peak-only bus counterflow lane in the centre of 41st Avenue in Kerrisdale could be considered. This would not impact parking.

R4 layover at Joyce-Collingwood Station. Select image to enlarge.

All things considered, the R4 is a clear improvement over the previous 43 route due to the implementation of bus priority measures along 41st Avenue, and an increase in frequent service.

There is one more RapidBus route in the works for this year, the R2 Marine Drive on the North Shore. I’m sure that Paul and I will be doing a review of this route once it is in service.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Metro Vancouver eyeing turning trash into heat and hot water

District energy systems are a more efficient way to heat and cool buildings than the traditional method of each building having its own heating and cooling systems. This results in cost saving for building owners and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Many people may be unaware that there is an extensive district energy system in Downtown Vancouver that has existed since the late 1960s.

There is also a newer district energy system in Downtown Surrey.

The City of Surrey's West Village Energy Centre is a component of the district energy system, Surrey City Energy. It's part of a plan for improving energy efficiency, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and providing more competitive energy pricing for Surrey residents and businesses in City Centre.

To further lower greenhouse gas emissions caused by heating buildings, district energy systems can derive heat from waste energy.

Vancouver’s Olympic Village district energy system uses the heat created by the sewer system.

As I posted about earlier this week, around 10% of solid waste in our region is sent to Metro Vancouver’s waste-to-energy facility in Burnaby. While electricity is created, there is a significant amount of heat created which is wasted. If this heat could be used in a district energy system, it would be put to good use, reducing energy requirements and reducing greenhouse gas emissions as a result.

The Metro Vancouver Regional District is eyeing building a new district energy system in Burnaby and has applied to the federal government for funding via its Canada Infrastructure Program — Green Infrastructure program.

As per a region district report on the proposed project:

Greenhouse gas emission reductions for a district energy project could be up to 70,000 tonnes of CO2e per year, depending on the size of the project. The system would include an energy centre located at or near the Waste-to-Energy Facility as well as the heat distribution network delivering hot water to energy users.

The project is estimated to cost around $30 million to build.

As we look towards reduce our carbon footprint, district energy systems provide a means to accomplish this.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Over 320 units of new affordable housing moving forward in Langley

Housing affordability is a top of mind for concern for most people in Metro Vancouver. The federal government, provincial government, and local governments have recognized that something had to be done. Over the last several years, new funding has been made available to build more affordable housing units throughout our region.

Affordable housing includes everything from emergency shelters to home ownership. The following chart shows how the provincial government supports affordable housing.

BC Housing support along the housing continuum. Select image to enlarge. Source: BC Housing.

The provincial government recently created a map of the affordable housing projects that are currently under construction in BC.

As shown in the map, there are four projects in Langley that are under construction: three in the Township and one in the City. There are 322 units in total which would be considered traditional social housing for low income families and seniors.

These units are in addition to recently open projects like the 49-unit Creek Stone Supportive Housing facility.

322 units of new affordable housing is a good start, but it is only a start. We will need both the federal and provincial governments to continue to invest in affordable housing for Langley.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Metro Vancouver’s progress in managing garbage, recycling, and organics.

One of the goals of our region is to reduce the amount of solid waste that is generated, and the amount of that waste that ends up in landfill or sent to our region’s waste-to-energy facility. The Metro Vancouver Regional District has released a new report which shows how we as a region as progressing towards meeting these targets.

In 2018, the most recent year for which data is available, 64% of solid waste was diverted from landfill or waste-to-energy.

Overall regional waste diversion. Select chart to enlarge.

This is following a quarter-century trend of increasing the amount of solid waste that is being diverted.

Regional waste diversion rate. From 1994 to 2018. Select chart to enlarge.

When it comes to waste diversion, not all things are equal. Our building industry is a leader in preventing waste from being burned or land-filled. Almost 2/3rd of waste from single-family housing is also diverted. There is significant room for improvement with only 37% of waste from multi-family housing being diverted, and 46% of waste diverted from offices and shops.

2018 waste diversion by sectors. Select chart to enlarge.

In order to increase the amount of waste diverted from multi-family housing, the regional district will be working on a recycling toolkit for property managers. The district will also be working to develop new programs to encourage offices and shops to increase their recycling rates.

The regional district is also planning to work with its “member municipalities to examine regional approaches to reducing single-use items, many of which are plastic.”

Reducing the amount of waste generated is important. The following graph shows that per capita waste generation peaked in 2007, and has been relatively flat since 2010. There is room for improvement.

Per capita waste generation, recycling, and disposal. From 1994 to 2018. Select chart to enlarge.

The regional district plans to continue promoting its “Think Thrice” campaign which encourages residents to reduce clothing purchases, and repair or reuse clothes. Clothing creates a significant amount of waste in our region.