Thursday, June 21, 2018

426 hectares of sensitive ecosystem lost in Metro Vancouver core over last five years.

Metro Vancouver completed a sensitive ecosystem inventory in 2013. Sensitive ecosystems include areas such as old and mature forests, waterways, estuaries, and wetlands. The following map shows these sensitive ecosystems.

A map of ecosystems in Metro Vancouver. Select map to enlarge. Source: Metro Vancouver.

This ecosystem inventory was recently updated with an eye to see what loss has occurred in these ecosystems. The update looked at both losses in the regional core, and throughout the whole region. The regional core is the area that is hashed in the following map.

A map showing the Metro Vancouver Regional Core which is hashed. Select map to enlarge. Source: Metro Vancouver.

The three sensitive ecosystem types with the greatest loss in the regional core were mature forests where 223 hectares (2.9%) has been lost, 122 hectares (1.8%) of wetlands has been lost, and 74 hectares (0.9%) of riparian river bank area has been lost to development. To put this into perspective, the loss is three times the size of all parkland in Langley City. The following pictures show an example of this loss.

An example of riparian loss. Select image to enlarge. Source: Metro Vancouver.

Not all areas where loss occurred provided the same ecosystem services; some areas have higher value than others. Metro Vancouver will be performing further analysis to quantify the loss based on ecosystem quality, and by sub-region.

An example of a high-quality ecosystem. Select image to enlarge. Source: Metro Vancouver.

An example of a low-quality ecosystem. Select image to enlarge. Source: Metro Vancouver.

This further analysis will be extremely useful for governments throughout our region, allowing them to focus on protecting and enhancing high-quality, sensitive ecosystems to prevent further loss.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

New Richmond, Tsawwassen First Nation, Delta Transit Plan includes direct connection to Langley

TransLink staff have been working on an updated transportation plan for Richmond, Tsawwassen First Nation, and Delta, known as the Southwest Area Transport Plan. Each sub-region within Metro Vancouver has an area plan. For example, the South of Fraser Area Transit Plan covers Surrey, White Rock, and Langley. These plans are updated every decade.

One of the features of the Southwest Area Transport Plan is that it not only covers transit service, but also regionally-significant cycling corridors, walking access to transit, and the Major Road Network. This new plan is being presented at the TransLink board meeting tomorrow.

With new funding available for bus service improvements, the Southwest Area Transport Plan contains some significant increases in transit service levels. The plan places these proposed set of recommendations into three tiers. Tier One recommendations would be implemented first. Tier Two and Tier Three recommendations would be implemented as opportunities present themselves.

The following map shows all the changes proposed during the life of the plan.

Map of recommended transit changes from the Southwest Area Transport Plan. Select map to enlarge.

As a transit rider, I know first hand that getting between Langley and Delta on transit is not convenient at all. While it is in the third tier, TransLink is recommending providing direct transit access between all regional urban centres, including between Langley and Ladner.

Map of Metro Vancouver Urban Centres. Select map to enlarge.

The transit system was originally setup to move people between Downtown Vancouver/Surrey Central and everywhere else. This is changing. As an example, TransLink introduced transit service between Langley and White Rock in 2012. This service has doubled in ridership since its introduction. I also use this route; it is extremely convenient.

The following tables outline the recommended changes to transit service.

Tier One transit recommendations from the Southwest Area Transport Plan. Select table to enlarge.

Tier Two transit recommendations from the Southwest Area Transport Plan. Select table to enlarge.

Tier Three transit recommendations from the Southwest Area Transport Plan. Select table to enlarge.

As noted earlier, the plan includes recommendations for other modes of travel as well. You can read the whole plan starting on page 137 of the June 21 TransLink Open Board Meeting Report.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The number of seniors who live in poverty is increasing, and not where you’d expect

Recently, SPARC BC and the United Way of the Lower Mainland released a report on Seniors’ Poverty in BC. The report found that 8.8% of people over the age of 65 in BC were living under the low-income measure in 2015.

The low-income measure has different values for different household sizes. As an example, a one-person household after-tax income of less than $22,133 would be considered below the low-income measure in 2015. A two-person household would be considered below the low-income measure if they had an after-tax income of less than $31,301.

The report contains maps that show the percentage of seniors who live below the low-income threshold in 2015. The darker the colour, the larger the percentage.

Percent of seniors in low income in Metro Vancouver based on census tracks, 2015. Select map to enlarge.

The largest percentage of seniors who live in poverty also live in the largest communities in Metro Vancouver. In the South of Fraser, 16.5% of seniors in Surrey, 8.9% of seniors in Delta, 5.0% of seniors in Langley, and 4.5% of seniors in White Rock live below the low-income threshold.

Percent of seniors in low income in Langley based on census tracks, 2015. Select image to enlarge.

Langley City has a higher percent of lower-income seniors in the Douglas Neighbourhood. As seen on the following map, 10.2% of seniors in that area are living in poverty. A higher percentage of seniors in Willoughby and Aldergrove live below the low-income measure in 2015 than Langley City.

Housing is considered affordable if people are spending less than 30% of their income on shelter costs which include rent or mortgage, utilities, and property tax. For a single-person household, the total monthly costs could be no higher than $640 per month, or $902.10 per month for a two-person household, to be considered affordable in 2015. Langley City has traditionally had some of the lowest rents in the region. Poverty is exacerbated for people living in an area with higher rents.

As the report used data from 2015, I would image that the number of seniors living in poverty has only increased.

By tackling housing affordability, government can provide relief for low-income seniors. Local government can create rental-only zoning to encourage more rental units to be built in urban cores, near shops, services, and transit.

The provincial government must continue to strengthen the Shelter Aid For Elderly Renters (SAFER) rent-suplement program by creating a more granular and nimble program to ensure that seniors never pay more than 30% of their income for basic accommodation.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Help shape the Fraser Highway One-Way redesign

Fraser Highway was one of the first highways in our region, following the path of the Yale wagon road, connecting New Westminster to the interior of the province. Where the Fraser Highway One-Way begins has always been a significant intersection. It provided a connection to Fort Langley and the Hudson’s Bay Company Farm. All this to says, there are some really old pieces of infrastructure underneath Fraser Highway.

Langley City will be renewing the underground infrastructure such as water and sewer lines on the section of Fraser Highway between 204 Street and 206 Street. Because of the legacy of Fraser Highway, this whole section of road must be dug-up for the renewal. This makes it an ideal time to reimage the One-Way section which is the heart of our community.

The City is currently seeking ideas and feedback on what people would like to see for the new One-Way. At Community Day this weekend, I stopped by a booth that the project team setup to gather people’s thoughts.

People had the chance to indicate what objectives were priorities for them. Select image to enlarge.

One of the ways that the project team gathered input was by asking people to drop marbles into jars for objectives that they would like to see the One-Way redesign achieve. One of the big things that I noticed was that creating a great outdoor space, such as by incorporating room for patios and trees in the public ream, was important for the people who took part in the exercise.

Gather public feedback about the Fraser Highway One-Way redesign at Community Day. Select image to enlarge.

People were also asked to place “leafs” on a tree to let the project team know what they needed to keep in mind. Again, there were many comments about creating a pedestrian-focused, green street that serves as a gather place. Providing a nightlife was also a recurring theme on the “leafs” which is something that we critically need in Downtown. Having more eyes and ears on the street will reduce negative activity in the evening, and help build a stronger sense of community.

Community Day wasn’t the last day to provide input, you can also share your ideas for the One-Way by completing an online survey which will be up until July 16. If you haven’t already, please consider taking some time to complete this survey.

Launch the Survey

As a note, the City is working with BC Hydro to see what would be involved to get the utility poles removed from the One-Way. If all goes well, the project could start construction next year.