Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Downtown Langley Plan needs Passenger Rail

An enthusiastic group of about 50 people resisted the opportunity to sleep in and attended a 7:30am on a February 28th breakfast meeting held in the Summit Theatre Show Lounge at Langley’s Cascades Casino.

The event was organized by the City of Langley and the Urban Development Institute (UDI) and was attended mainly by developers, city staff and local politicians as a follow-up to Langley City’s Downtown Master Plan.

The program opened with a presentation by Mayor Peter Fassbender that showed graphically in conceptual drawing format, the various Core Area, Industrial Arts, Entertainment and other districts. Fassbender made it clear that this vision for the future was not something that the city was prepared to place on a self. The city is very much seeking partner land owners and developers to turn these dreams into realities in the short-term.

As this vision is to “Concentrate mixed-used commercial, residential and cultural development and Connect the Downtown area with the surrounding community through a network of pedestrian, bicycle and transit routes…” a planned Transit Hub to be created at the corner of Glover Road and Logan Avenue should spark excitement in the souls of transit advocates in the South Fraser region.

Mayor Fassbender went on to say that as the South Fraser region is already well into a “transit deficit”, we need reliable transit now and not 30 years from now. He said that the 5 area mayors and councils are all in agreement that transit solutions are needed and he views re-activation of the old Interurban light rail, Rapid Bus Service, the Gateway Project and other proposals as a good sign.

Urban planner Michael von Hausen closed the program by speaking about the commitment on the part of Langley City’s elected officials and staff to make this dream presented in the Master Plan a reality. von Hausen readily admits that the transit hub is desperately needed for this plan to work for the people and city.

Information packets were distributed after the event and included a brochure entitled The City of Langley…our vision for the future. On the back cover is a column that details more about the Transit Hub and speaks about the Southern BC Railway spur and re-use of the old railway line as a potential “interurban train”. Family amenities like a new Children’s Museum, Art Centre, and Festival Park outlined in the brochure could greatly boost transit use.

It was good to hear the mayor advocate "light [passenger] rail” specifically and to acknowledge the need for transit solutions now and not 30 years from now. As one reviews the Master Plan materials published by the city, you get a good sense for the challenges of this plan beyond the developers and land owners. Significant old utility and related infrastructure will need to be upgraded or replaced and this requirement will soon be the subject of a study.

High-density multi-use development can greatly enhance the City of Langley’s crime prevention, public safety and livability strategies. But, this increased development will put tremendous demands on the city for parking solutions. Mayor Fassbender says that the city will have to “get creative” with parking design.

The conceptual drawings and vision present the viewer with a pleasant atmosphere that is conducive to walking, shopping and relaxing in a safe high-density environment that encourages large pedestrian-friendly zones.

It is extremely obvious that large rapid buses or ugly concrete transit structures supporting transit operating every 15 minutes will turn a pleasant stroll in the new City of Langley into a pedestrian accident waiting to happen. Let’s move those pedestrians and children on a single and enjoyable transit solution like a modern-day Interurban light rail system. Manned transit cars with large glass panels to view this amazing new city view. Wouldn’t this transit that works make the City of Langley truly The Place TO BE.

By: Joe Zaccaria

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