Friday, August 15, 2008

Meeting Last Night - A recap

Last night we had special guest speaker Paul Cordeiro, Manager of Transportation Engineering for the Township of Langley, at our meeting. He delivered a presentation about the many transportation plans that are currently in the work that will affect Langley. This included everything from Community Rail to the Gateway Program. Here is his presentation.Paul brought up some concerns about getting the Interurban activated through Langley. While most of the line would be easy to reactivate, due to the freight rail volumes and road traffic on 200th Street, Fraser Highway, and the Langley Bypass, the 10.4km section through Langley presents some challenges. Of course, these challenges could all be overcome with political will. As is on the SFOT website:
On the most difficult stretch of the Interurban rail, the link between Pratt and Livingstone, where heavy rail shares the route from west of Fort Langley to Cloverdale, BC Hyrdo has retained passenger rights and the right to assign them. Passenger rail doesn’t pay cost until it reaches 33% of wheelage which is a lot of passenger trains. CP has already agreed to sharing their rights with passenger service.
SFOT has always believed that the 200th Street corridor would be a prime candidate for a streetcar system. This system would be able to feed right into the Interurban rail line. While Paul said it would take more studying to see if streetcars or a quality bus system would be the best for 200th Street, he strongly believes that the street should be a high-quality, frequent transit corridor.

He also believed that the Township should be building Transit Oriented Development (TOD) along the 200th Street corridor. We couldn’t agree more.

Speaking about 200th Street, Paul told us that the street will have a greenway (bike/walking network), proper on-street bike lanes (hopefully with some separation), four lanes of auto traffic, and two lanes only for transit (hopefully streetcars) when complete. It seems to me that 200th Street might actually become a complete road that would allow for and support equal access to all modes of transportation such as walking, cycling, transit/trains, and driving. Of course this road will only truly be complete if we build TOD in that corridor.

Paul also believes that the Township of Langley should slowly and gradually reduce its parking requirements. Reduce parking encourages people to think about walking, biking, and taking transit before using their car. Downtown Calgary has been reducing its parking slowly since the early 1980’s. Because of this, today the vast majority of trips into its downtown are by transit. Of course this is all dependent on getting quality transit. Also as urban Langley develops into a TOD community, large surface parking lots becomes increasingly unnecessary.

Paul talked about how transportation and land use planning must go hand-in-hand. IE: One cannot build a freeway and expect TOD. Luckily, the Township is working on a suitability charter. As I said in a previous post:
I was chatting with a planner at the Township and he told me that the Sustainability Charter, once approved, should have a ripple down effect on every procedure and policy in the community. This would be truly exciting. Imagine a road built for sustainability modes of transportation like walk, biking, and streetcars. Or a storm water collection system that filters water back into the earth on site. Or neighborhoods that can sustain a person from birth to death. These are all possible today. I truly hope that we are moving out of the lip service to sustainability stage, and into putting sustainable principles into practice.
Finally, we talked about roadway design. From what I could tell, Paul seems to support complete roadways as is evident in some parts of Willoughby. He said that the Township designs road for their posted speed to improve safety for all users. IE: the Township wouldn’t build freeway style roads for a 70km/h roadway. As an example, 200th Street has about 10 foot lanes with bike lanes on the side. Some residential streets are even narrower. Compare this to Ministry of Transportation road that are all designed to freeway dimensions. Our municipal transportation planners are light-years ahead of the Province. Again from a previous blog post:
The Ministry of Transportation builds ALL new roads to have 12-foot width lanes and big shoulders. What's the matter with 12-foot lanes? Not much from the perspective of a semi, but from everywhere there is much.

12-foot lanes are the standard of the Interstate highway system in the US, being able to handle traffic at speed in excess of 100km/h. Do you ever wonder why its so easy to go 130km/h on a freeway and not realize it, yet going 50km/h on a side street in Vancouver seems like the suicide mission? It’s all about the geometric design (lane width, parking, trees, etc.) of the road. Narrower road tend to lead to lower speeds while wider road lead to higher speeds.

Wider roads are less people and less city friendly. The City of Surrey along with many of municipalities in North America want to keep traffic moving, but not at the expense of livability. The current City of Surrey Transportation Plan calls for roads with narrow lanes, bike lanes, sidewalks, and trees. This keeps the speed of vehicles reasonable while allow other users to take advantage of the road. While talking about good streetscape is beyond this post, these pictures speak more than I could type.
I encourage everyone to download the audio from our meeting.

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