Thursday, October 17, 2019

Langley SkyTrain extension update. Where do federal parties stand on getting it built?

One of the things that people ask me regularly is what is the status of getting SkyTrain built to Langley. I’ve also noticed that there is some confusion about extending SkyTrain in general.

The cost to build a SkyTrain extension from King George Station to Downtown Langley is pegged at $3.12 billion. Currently, $1.6 billion is available to build the extension. This means that the extension as of today would need to be built in two stages. Stage one would go to 166th Street, and stage two would extend the line to Langley.

Map of proposed SkyTrain extension to Langley including station stops, and phasing. Select map to enlarge.

TransLink’s cost benefit analysis found that the extension of SkyTrain delivers the highest cost-benefit ratio if it is built to Langley. Currently, TransLink is working on a full business case for the extension to Langley. The business case is due to be released in January.

As per a report in the TransLink Board’s most recent agenda package “upon securing confirmation of funding and approval by the federal and provincial governments as well as the TransLink Board and Mayors’ Council through a project enabling Investment Plan, a procurement process (approximately 18 months in duration) would be launched, followed by construction then testing and commissioning (approximately 4 years in duration).”

In order to build the line all the way to Langley, TransLink and the Mayors’ Council are looking for a commitment from the federal government to provide stable long-term funding for transit projects. If this occurs, the SkyTrain extension to Langley will not need to be built in two stages, it could be built in one go.

We are nearing election day federally, and the various political parties have made different promises when it comes to funding transit projects in Metro Vancouver. Not all parties are on the record for supporting stable long-term funding for transit. Depending on which parties hold power federally in parliament after October 21 will determine if we get SkyTrain to Fleetwood in five year, or to Langley in five years.

For more information, please read the Mayors’ Council Voters’ Guide that summarizing each federal party’s position on funding public transit projects for our region.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Naming Metro Vancouver Regional Parks with both Indigenous and Anglicized Names

Current Metro Vancouver park sign. Select image to enlarge.

Knowing the history of where we live, and the names of places, is important as it helps ground us. Knowing about the past helps us understand the context of the present by allowing us to acknowledging past successes and mistakes. This helps us make better decision in the present, which helps support more positive outcomes in the future.

Recently Langley City council passed a motion to acknowledge that our municipality is in the traditional unceded territory of the Katzie, Kwantlen, Matsqui and Semiahmoo First Nation.

I have posted about the importance of historic place name, and how Langley City is prominently highlighting the names of our original lanes in Downtown Langley.

One of the mistakes of the past was to erase the names of places that were well known by Indigenous people who have lived in what we now call Metro Vancouver for time immemorial. This was part of the cultural genocide of Indigenous people when the Canadian government worked to erase their history and identity.

One of the steps on the journey of reconciliation is to restore Indigenous place names. The Metro Vancouver Regional District is considering a policy of dual naming “places of significance for local Indigenous communities.” This includes the name of regional parks or features within regional parks.

The dual name would include both the Indigenous name and anglicized name.

The details of the policy are:

Any proposal for naming, renaming, and dual naming that includes an Indigenous name requires the support of the local First Nation(s) whose traditional territory(ies) upon which the regional park is located. If a regional park or park feature has significance to two or more First Nations and a consensus on the name or spelling cannot be reached, an interim name will be determined by the MVRD Board, until the time consensus can be reached and a new name is approved by the MVRD Board.

The names of places link us to the past. Being able to recognize both the Indigenous and anglicized names of places is critically important to our understanding of the history of where we live. I hope that the Metro Vancouver Board moves forward with this dual naming policy.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Toxic Politics: A Cautionary Tale for Langley City

A few weeks ago, I was chairing a special general meeting for my strata building. The meeting was about some routine repairs, but surprisingly, it turned ugly. Later that week, I was at Langley City Hall to check my mail. I received two pieces of hate mail that targeted two different segments of people who live in our community. During the last local election campaign, I had someone yell at me for a good long while because they didn’t agree with an action that the City took.

I tell you these things, not because I believe Langley City is a hate-filled community, but because in our community, we respect people.

In Langley City, you can have a passionate discussion with someone who holds a different view than you without yelling over top of each other, or dehumanizing the other person.

Since being elected, I can say that 95% of the interactions I’ve had with people in Langley City has been positive, even if we don’t agree on an idea.

During the most recent election campaign, I knocked on the door of a resident who was not pleased with a change that the City made to a street. We had a 45-minute-long conversation about why I supported the change. The resident explained why they didn’t support the change. At the end of the conversation, we both understood each other’s view. We were even able to chat about how we could make that kind of change better in the future.

Langley City and the Metro Vancouver Regional District were studying an “urban farm” proposal for the BC Hydro right-of-way during my first term in council. The residents in the area did not want to see the plan proceed. They started a petition, they appeared at a council meeting, and they talked to members of council. No one was dehumanized, and no one was yelling; city council killed the “urban farm” plan.

One of the things that I’ve noticed is that local politics has become ugly in some communities. I don’t want to see this happen in Langley City.

As someone who is elected, I’ve worked hard to focus on issues and ideas. If someone doesn’t agree with my point-of-view, I don’t make it personal. This is important because as someone who is elected, I play a role in setting the tone of politics in Langley City.

I also try to ensure that discussion can occur online in a way that treats people as people.

As citizens of Langley City, we all have a choice in how we engage with others. We can also talk with our close friends and family when they say things that are dehumanizing, to help them understand how this creates a toxic political culture.

I’m proud of Langley City and our strong spirit of community, though I have seen some cracks recently. We must all work together to ensure that our community remains a place where we can have healthy civic discourse.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Sustainable transportation usage up in the South of Fraser. Walking way up.

TransLink recently released the results of its 2017 trip diary. This is a region-wide survey that has occurred for decades measuring how people get around in our region. These trip diaries were completed in 1994, 1999, 2004, 2008, 2011, and most recently in 2017.

These diaries are surveys, so they are based on a representative sampling of people in our region. For the 2017, TransLink adjusted the way it determined this sampling of people to “reduce transit bias due to the oversampling of transit users.” While TransLink adjusted the 2011 data as a result, data from previous years cannot be used in an “apples-to-apples” comparison.

While TransLink provides information by municipality, this is a regional survey. This means that municipalities like Langley City and White Rock have a small sampling of people which means that the accuracy for these municipalities is not as robust as at the regional or sub-regional level. This is why I only want to share information from the sub-regional level.

The South of Fraser which includes Surrey, Langley, and White Rock has seen an increase in sustainable transportation modes. These modes include walking, cycling, and transit. In 2017, 17.3% of all trips used sustainable modes.

Trips by mode in the South of Fraser (percent). Select chart to enlarge. 

Cars take up a lot of space. As our population continues to grow, we don’t have the space to widen or build more roads and parking lots in our region. Municipalities must invest in sustainable modes of travel. It is encouraging to see that sustainable transportation mode share is increasing in the South of Fraser.

It is also interesting to look at why people are travelling. While much attention is placed on commuting, the fastest growing reasons why people travel are for escorting and shopping. Escorting includes things like getting kids to soccer practice, and getting a parent to the doctor’s office.

Trips by purpose in the South of Fraser (total number). Select chart to enlarge.

One of the things we need to do as local governments is design our communities so that it is easier for people to do these personal trips via sustainable modes of travel. We need to design our communities to make walking to shopping easy, and our streets and parks in ways that parents feel safe letting their children bike to soccer practice on their own.

While many people believe that a majority of trips cross the Fraser River, they simply don’t. Around 90% of trips that start in the South of Fraser, stay in the South of Fraser.

For more information, please look at TransLink’s Tableau visualizations.