Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Carrall Street Greenway

If you read this blog regularly, you know that I’m a big fan of complete roads. You can read more about the concept of complete roads on a previous post that I wrote. Anyway, I now happen to be working next to a complete road. The City of Vancouver is currently constructing the Carrall Street Greenway that runs North/South from Gastown to Chinatown. You can check out the City of Vancouver website for more information on the project. The following diagram from the City’s website shows the transformation of this road from auto-oriented to people-oriented. It should be noted the right-of-way for cycling and walking is greater than the right-of-way for driving. Imagine this kind of roadway in Surrey or Langley.



Anyway, I decided to take a few pictures of the road for your view pleasure. Enjoy!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Strange Advertising on Transit

Now that I’m on transit for three hours a day, five days a week, I have become very observant of ads on the transit system. One thing that I don't understand is why Translink allows car ads on their transit system.

On the bus today I saw one ad about Translink’s service improvements which featured a parked car that said “Dust Me” right next to a car ad proclaiming how much better it is than transit. That ad was by another ad telling me that I could lease a car for less than 7 dollars a day. (Of course this doesn’t include tax, maintenance, gas, and insurance.)

I know that we are in a “free market” and car company’s are always on the list of top adverting spenders, but should we really be promoting the use of the automobile on transit?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Rather Take Rail Campaign Launch

Well, election season (both federal and local) is upon us and what better time than now to show our support for bringing passenger rail back to the Valley. To that end, we are proud to present: “I’d Rather Be Taking Rail” a multimedia, interactive campaign extravaganza! By follow the following these simple steps, you can creatively get out the word and show our politician and the world that we want rail now. Best of all, it will only take 10 minutes of your time and cost absolutely nothing (save for the cost of a sheet of paper.) OK, let’s get started.

Simple Steps

1.) Look for the link to the “I’d Rather be Taking Rail” sign. It should be on the top right side of this blog.

2.) Download either the PDF or JPEG of the sign. (Remeber to right-click and select "Save As...")

3.) Now you have some choice: you can ether print the sign or have it available in another form that can be captured. (More on this in steps 4.)

4.) Find a camera.

5.) Get you (and your friends) together with the sign from step 3.

6.) Be creative: take a picture or video of you (and your friends) with the sign.

7.) Go to: http://www.flickr.com/groups/takerail/ and post your media to our pool. (PS: you might need to sign up for a flickr account first.)

8.) That’s it, you’re done! You have now made a difference. Now tell everyone you know about this campaign.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Metro Vancouver Future of the Region Sustainability Discussions

Part Three of a Three Part Series

To pick up where we last left off, the Metro Vancouver small group participants proposed these additional solutions:

Sustainable Future Road Transport
  • Externalities need to be considered in the calculation of the benefit analysis of transit versus highway development.
  • There needs to be incentives to encourage people to do the "right thing" - and for governments to make the best choices in developing future road-based transit.
Impacts of Peak Oil & Rising Energy Costs
  • Energy costs are increasing dramatically - the price of oil has doubled in the two years that these dialogues have been ongoing.
  • Future energy impacts on the planning of the future infrastructure development need to be calculated when options are chosen.
Reducing Reliance on Road Travel
  • Many participants urged the introduction of a range of road pricing options and the use of incentives to reduce reliance on road travel.
  • Investment in transit infrastructure and extension of service was frequently raised in discussion as a key element in future models.
Environmental Impacts of Transportation
  • Transportation was widely viewed as a major environmental impact in the region that must be managed to mitigate potential harm.
  • The use of single occupant cars was viewed as a very poor business case for the economy, use of regional infrastructure and the environment. Stimulating new more efficient transportation models may be more environmentally sustainable than accommodating the current model.
  • Making communities more compact would reduce greenhouse gases by making transportation more efficient.
Role of the Region
  • Planning for the region must include strategies that extend beyond artificial political or administrative boundaries.
  • Strong leadership is needed to undertake true regional planning. The Province needs to give regions the power to truly plan their own sustainable regional strategies.
Personal Commentary

I'm not sure how many of these dialogues I have attended over the years, including several sustainability workshops the Township of Langley has held leading up to our Sustainability Charter. I do know that after putting forth some of these ideas myself, along with my fellow participants I've walked away knowing that we have assembled some worth initiatives.

Somewhere between these excellent Metro Vancouver discussions and dialogues, and the Provincial Legislature, Provincial Ministries, Parliament, Federal Ministries, etc. is a wide chasm that never seems to bridged. The will of the people never translates into much political will. Why is that? Aren't our elected officials placed in these positions of power specifically to represent us? I guess it is all just a myth of our democracy, as I never see these great ideas implemented in any major way. Maybe its time that Metro Vancouver the regional dialogues to have more teeth in the process. This is what TransLink is meant to do in the area of transportation planning, but it fails miserably because of political forces outside each region, as well as a board that is not accountable to the people.

I believe there is a good case for assertive regional planning and a structure to ensure implementation and that with all of our creativity we can find a way to create a viable and workable structure to do just that. What do you think?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Friday Musings

I remember back when the 2006 census information became available, there was a bit of a shock that the population in Langley City was down compared to the 2001 census. Well apparently Stats Canada messed up, and the City’s population when up by 188 people. I found that out, and other interesting facts in the City’s “City News” newsletter that goes out three times a year.

These newsletters are nice to get because it keeps you updated about City activities, granted it’s mostly spin, but it’s still good to get. The newsletter got me thinking about the openness in our government. With PDF’s and the Internet, many government documents are now online but sadly many more documents are not online and those that are can be hard to find. Take for example transit statistics. When I was researching Portland, OR transit mode share and ridership, I could find lots of information online. Translink? I found a report buried on their SkyTrain.info website that was meant for potential merchants at SkyTrain stations.

Anyway, I’ll make my point quick: In this day and age of anytime, anywhere information, government run agencies have no excuse for hiding information from the public they serve. Now let’s get posting that information online Translink.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Commuting - Part II

In followup to yesterday's post about commuting into Vancouver from Langley, I present the photo edition.

6:30am - My Bus Stop

6:38am - My Bus

6:39am - My Bus, 1/4 Full

6:45am - Langley Centre Bus Loop, Few Seats Left

6:50am - Standing Room Only - 64th Ave. and Fraser Highway

On the Way Back - 5:00pm (This is the 502 Line...

...and this is the line behind me!)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Commuting - Part I

Well I’ve started a new job in downtown Vancouver this week. I’m now one of the 2% of total trips from Langley that make their way into downtown Vancouver every weekday. Since this is the third day of travel, I have some observations. First, it appears that transit is barely keeping up with demand. I talked to many riders on the 502 bus, and they told me that in the last year the bus route has become packed. The 502 I took to work at 6:30am this morning was standing room only past 64th Avenue and Fraser Highway, and at 160th Street and Fraser Highway, the driver passed-by people that that was waiting at all stops west.

There are two types of buses in the South Fraser, packed buses and empty buses. Buses that run every 15min or better seem packed all the time, buses that run worse than every 15min seem to run almost empty at times. Now this makes total sense, but not in the way you might be thinking; Translink putting better service on already busy routes. This may be the case sometimes, but when transit service runs at 15min or better, you start attracting riders. Light Rail, of course, attracts even more choice riders in ways that buses can’t, but that another post. :-) When buses run every 30 min or every hour, only people that can’t (afford to) drive or environmentalist will take transit. So, when you start running frequent transit service, you attract more riders that compel even more frequent service. This is what is happening on the 502 today. Translink needs more service on packed routes like the 502, and needs to improve frequency on community shuttle route to make them more viable. This all of course requires money that apparently Translink does not have at the moment.

My second observation is that SkyTrain is packed at King George Station in the morning; it seems like the SkyTrain system is not keeping up with demand ether. At Waterfront station people ride the train into the holding area westbound, so that it's already standing room eastbound at Waterfront.

With the rise in the cost of fuel, people are discovering transit. It would be a shame if after riding an over-packed system for a week, people decide to go back to the car. If our governments are really serious about going green, they will need to put green $ into transit.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Metro Vancouver Future of the Region Sustainability Discussions

Part Two of a Three Part Series

The following are key messages that the participants came up with after working out the scenarios and discussions:

Integrating Transportation & The Economy
  • Initial discussions tended to focus on specific issues relating to transportation or the regional economy as seperate themes - it appears that participants did not initially preceive a strong link between the two themes as an integrated package.
  • Many participants expressed the view that the regional economy should embrace a flow of services, ideas and capital.
  • The region has assumed the role of a gateway city to North America because it is in a unique geographical position for goods arriving from and departing for China and the Orient.
Seeing Ourselves as part of a Larger Economic Entity
  • The region is not seen as a closed-off system that can operate seperately from the rest of the continent or global economy.
  • Many forces impacting the region cannot be successfully dealt with at the municipal level in isolation from neighbours. A coordinated common approach for the whole economic region would work better.
  • Acting as a region may require tax base sharing.
  • Utilizing regional growth management as a tool to reduce impact on the climate should be a significant goal.
Providing & Paying For Infrastructure
  • There was a strong sentiment that perhaps some of the current infrastructure proposals for the region's transportation network were now inappropriate as we enter a post-peak oil economy.
  • It was suggested that building the "right" infrastructure for the future regional community requires a "re-thinking" of the current infrastructure proposals.
  • Ensuring that there is affordable housing for people was seen as an important element in building a sustainable regional economy.
Compact & Sustainable Communities
  • All sectors in the region need to work to make communities more compact - and more efficient. This should be encouraged through stronger regional growth management planning.
  • There are successful initiatives in other jurisdictions. Our plans need to reflect that we are implementing evidence of success from other sources.
  • Since housing costs can drive the "sprawl" it was suggested that ensuring the availability of affordable housing was one method of slowing undesirable attributes of growth.
Accepting Density
  • Increases in density concerned many of the participants. There is a need to work to find a densification formula that is acceptable to a significant regional constituency.
  • New approaches - such as the introduction of nodes of densification - were deemed by some to be more acceptable.
  • At the same time we need to be able to accommodate population growth which continues as a result of the booming economy.
Innovative Land Use Planning
  • The region is very livable - but it may not be fully sustainable in its current form.
  • The protection of agricultural land, transportation corridors, and industrial lands for their highest and best use should be a planning and zoning priority.
  • Managing current conflicts between agricultural and urban land use demands will be critical to future food security.
  • Incorporating new research into our planning to support the decision-making process was seen as an important consideration.
Goods Movement
  • There is still a need to move goods to and through the region from the port and airport in today's economy, but those needs may be in transition and require different infrastructure in the future.
  • It was suggested that the region's future will be bound up with the whole Cascadia - perhaps with only one international airport for that region.
More to come! Stay tuned!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A Survey of Surrey - or - How We Got Into the Mess We Now Find Ourselves In

I was catching up on my transit and development blog reading last night and see where SFU's City Program was asked to submit a paper to this week's Surrey Economic Summit. The City Program is a brilliant one that I hope one day to attend and obtain a certificate from. It has to be one of the best urban planning /sustainable design / urban issues program anywhere for the common man to dive into.

There were so many good nuggets of gold in this article that I will have to stop myself from quoting it too much. But here are two such nuggets from this exceptional paper.

"Inside those one-mile squares are collector roads, and then, if a subdivision plat was laid down after the Second World War, most likely a squiggle of cul-de-sacs and curves. Disrupting the right angles of the grid are major historic routes - Old Yale Road, the Fraser Highway and the Trans-Canada. Main-line railway tracks and the interurban right-of-way now angle across the agricultural lands and the sprawl of suburbia that long ago absorbed once-isolated country stations."

"However, even without a working model of success, transportation planners and engineers continue to build and widen roads and to build more bridges in every drivable direction. Our dependence on cars is extended wherever we accommodate growth, mainly because there seems to be no acceptable alternative. This is the ‘psychology of the previous investment’ - or path dependence. Decisions today are limited by decisions made in the past, even though past circumstances may no longer apply. We keep on doing it because that’s the way we’ve done it."

Sound familiar? Much like our greater Vancouver SkyTrain system that we just keep on building and expanding on. Its 30 year old metro technology that is used in a handful of locations around the world, but our decisions today remain limited by the decisions made in the past. We could use Light Rail Transit (LRT) at grade, and build minimalist bus stop LRT stations such as those in Portland, OR. These stations would be no more than perhaps $10K each to build? But we would much rather continue our use of SkyTrain and build $40M concrete stations in the sky, along with the extensive elevated guideways that go along with it.

But hey, let's not get creative now! 70 communities across North America (including several Canadian cities) are in some stage of LRT system implementation, but we will continue to choose SkyTrain because it is what we always do.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Langley Advance Article

Matthew Claxton at the Langley Advance wrote an article about Get Moving BC’s Bridges Report, you can read the full article on the Advance’s website. He also made reference to our blog post earlier this week about that report.
Nathan Pachal of South Fraser OnTrax said building more bridges won't help get people out of their cars, and it won't help most commuters.

"It doesn't help the majority of people who stay in the South Fraser," said Pachal.

He noted that any new bridge is likely to cost about $1 billion - the Golden Ears Bridge is budgeted at more than $800 million - and that the money could also easily give Langley a community rail link to Surrey, with plenty left over for more buses.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Healthy Dose of Clean Air

South Fraser OnTrax Board Member Bill Taylor just returned from a trip to Alaska. Bill was able to use several modes of transportation during his journey that including a cruise ship, aircraft, and the White Pass passenger train to name a few. Bill shares his thoughts and photographs here with us. Enjoy!

How Can We Have Cleaner Air?

I am sure that with just a little thought we can clean up a little of that clean air that we have left for breathing. The blue sky and fresh air is not everywhere, as my wife and I found when we went on a cruise and then took a land tour to Alaska. We found it was sometimes very absent.

We visited Juneau, Ketchikan and Skagway. In Skagway we boarded the White Pass passenger train that picked us up close to our cruise ship. When we arrived in Whittier not too far from Anchorage, the Alaska Passenger Rail picked up passengers right near our ship, as their tracks were just on the other side of the dock.

While spending time in Denali National Park we were told that the forest rangers limit the total number of passenger cars into the park. It was a pleasant surprise that despite there being so few people living in such a vast track of land, they are still very concerned with our carbon impact in this area of the world. In Alaska even though we saw a lot of clouds, we never saw the blue skies we see here in Langley when we came home again.

Our vacation to Alaska ended on September 16th when we flew from Fairbanks, Alaska to Seattle, WA while enroute back home to BC. During the approach into SEATAC airport we could not help but notice the dense blue air that was even far more prevalent than in BC.

We flew over lots of residential homes and neighbourhoods and I couldn't help notice that the streets (even though they were pleasantly laid out) were impractical for walkability, in my opinion. My objections were:

(1) Streets were not in a straight line so it lengthened the distance you would have to walk.
(2) I saw no grocery stores or shops close to these neighbourhoods. Just lots of urban sprawl.
(3) There were no passenger trains operating that I could see.
(4) I did not see any form of public transit on the roads, just lots of big trucks and cars.

In greater Vancouver we do have some SkyTrain service and other public transportation like buses. We are also spending a lot of money on improving our roads. There is another form of transportation we seem to be overlooking, and that is modern Light Interurban Passenger Rail.
I believe we can have cleaner air for our own health and welfare, including the wildlife that lives around us. I cannot see how we can get out of our vehicles altogether, but we can have improved air quality and better air to breathe if we build sustainable transit options such as Light Rail Transit.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Sustainability by Design

Back in 2006, the region came together at an event called Sustainability by Design that took place during the World Urban Forum. Anyway, the following presentation was passed onto me by Jason Chu at the Township of Langley. This presentation, by Patrick Condon from UBC, shows the principles of sustainability and applied them to the Township of Langley’s 200th Street corridor. I was actually at the original 2006 presentation, and commented on how it was everything that I hoped and dreamed for on 200th Street. At that time, gas stations and strip malls where popping up along the corridor and I asked how they where to achieve this vision of a mixed-use 200th Street. I think one of the planners smirked and said that it was looonngg term. I was disappointed back then, but now I am extremely encouraged about this corridor. With the Township of Langley’s new sustainability charter, new “high-rise” mixed-use building opportunities recently allowed by Township council, and the recent decision to turn down a non-mixed-use development along the corridor; the Township has come a long way to achieve this vision set forth in 2006. While there is much work to be done, I applaud both Council and Staff at the Township for now taking sustainability and Smart Growth principles seriously.

200th Street Nodes
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Monday Council Meeting

I’m still recovering from Monday’s Special Council Meeting that was followed by a Public Hearing that ran until after 11:00pm. As a transit advocate it was great to see all the new high-density or transit-oriented development bylaws and development permits come into public view in greater detail. One development in particular will be one of the greenest projects since the Township Hall. The developer hired a consultant to incorporate some great green solutions and will even provide a couple of hybrid vehicles to form a car co-op within this mixed-use strata property. We are still waiting to hear back from the developer group with permission and photos so that we can reveal it to Langley readers here.

What was very disappointing to see, and something that I see often as I attend each and every Township Council Meeting and Public Hearing, is the off-based opposition to such developments. Much of the opposition usually includes people who are concern that the value of their property will go down (which is rarely/never does) if anything but strip malls and large lot home are built near their lot. Last night was no exception.

First I saw a Township Council candidate fight a Yorkson neighbourhood single family home development on the basis that it would offer higher density “skinny homes”. In her opinion this higher density land use was not in keeping with the “higher-end” new homes like hers. It should be pointed out that this proposed development was consistent with the neighbourhood plan, and the hearing was only to talk about the form, character and sighting of the project.

It seemed to me that the message from the opponents was this: higher-densities and transit-oriented developments are great as long as it’s not in MY neighbourhood.

Despite many hearing notices being mailed by Township staff, public notices printed in both local newspapers and Township website, and a large sign that is required to be posted on the proposed sign (and admittedly viewed by a neighbour that spoke), Township Council was accused of forcing this development through without proper notice and called “dodgy” several times. The fact the homes in the area were under construction at the time of notification was not emphasized much by the opponents. Council unanimously voted to hold further readings to allow this neighbourhood to meet with the developer to express their development concerns.

Next there was a lawyer openly threaten excessive amounts of legal action, while he arrogantly bullied council over what will be one of the high-density, transit-oriented, mixed-use, and greenest development that we have ever seen. Did this lawyer and his client realize that in the process of his council antics they assailed and insulted the good citizens of the Township of Langley?

Finally, there was a Walnut Grove application that would add medium-density townhouses to what was previously a low-density neighbourhood some 15-18 years ago. As if land was that plentiful, the opponent wanted to see single family homes on large lots again.

While these public hearings are made to allow for input, it would be nice to see citizens that represent what is good for Langley and not themselves. From time to time (and including last night), a few do come forward to support these developments in light of the over-arching good of the Township of Langley. For those of us that advocate for quality sustainable development and transit options from a purely social-good motivation, we do hope that more will join the cause and think more about their neighbours in the process.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Get Moving BC

Get Moving BC was able to get on the front pages of The Province and Sun today. The headline: Metro Vancouver Lags in Bridges. You can download the full report from their website.

The report tries to compare the amount of bridge lanes in Metro Vancouver to other cities in western Canada and comes to the conclusion that we lag far behind. Unfortunately, this report is not really comparing apples to apples.

The Fraser River, because it is a federal waterway, needs to have high-level bridges for navigation. These bridges, if the Port Mann and Golden Ears Bridges are any indication, cost about a billion dollars a piece to build.

The report uses Portland, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, and Saskatoon as comparisons to Metro Vancouver. While I can’t speak to Winnipeg or Saskatoon, I’ve lived in Calgary and traveled extensively in Portland and Edmonton. What I can tell you about Calgary and Edmonton is that all of their bridges are low-level bridges that are an order of magnitude less to build (the exception is the High Level Bridge in Edmonton which is a Streetcar/Road/Cycling Bridge.) Also, both the Bow River and North Saskatchewan River are nowhere near the width of the Fraser River. Low-level bridge with small spans = relatively cheap to build.

The real comparison should be made to Portland, and if we are talking apples to apples, it would be Portland's two Columbia River bridges. Portland’s version of the Port Mann is called the Interstate Bridge. They are in the processes of planning for the replacement of that bridge. You can check out the Columbia River Crossing website for more information. The really exciting thing about that bridge replacement project is that is will include variable tolling, cycling, walk, and light rail that will be built at the same time as the bridge, allowing people from Vancouver, WA to take light rail all the way into downtown Portland. (This is not happening in BC.) That’s the right way to be building bridges in this day and age. I would also like to point out that the low-level bridges in downtown Portland are currently being expanded to handle streetcars. You can check out Metro Portland’s regional government website for more information.

Anyway, Get Moving BC’s top action items are as followed:

-Fast Track the twinning of the Port Mann Bridge: The twinned Port Mann Bridge will be part of the Rapid Bus network which will link to and extend the reach of the region’s expanding SkyTrain system.

-Fast Track the replacement of the Deadly Pattullo Bridge: The accident-prone Pattullo Bridge was opened in 1937 and it fails to meet the present-day standards for a four lane roadway.

-Construct the Tree Island Bridge: To provide Alex Fraser Bridge traffic with a direct route to Marine Way in Burnaby and reduce pressure on the Queensborough Bridge and its northern approaches.

-Construct the Stormont Connector: A cut-and-cover route through New Westminster and Burnaby connecting the Pattullo Bridge directly with Highway 1.

-Replace the George Massey Tunnel with a new eight-lane bridge: the Massey Tunnel represents one of the worst traffic bottlenecks in the Lower Mainland.

-Construct an entirely new eight-lane Fraser River crossing between the Port Mann and Pattullo bridges: Connecting the King George Highway and the South Fraser Perimeter Road in Surrey to Highway 1 and the Lougheed Highway in Coquitlam.

-Begin planning for a new eight-lane crossing between Vancouver and Richmond.

That is probably way over $5 billion dollars in urban freeway/road projects, and it does very little to help the over 80% of trips that stay within the South Fraser. The second part of Get Moving BC’s report talks about traffic congestion.
He also said he was “really impressed” by the generous paved shoulders on both sides of most of Portland’s highways and freeways and the fact that there were usually a minimum of three lanes in each direction, with more lanes, sometimes up to five lanes, at on and off ramps. Portland’s on and off ramps, he said, also tended to be long and smooth and extended for a considerable distance (often with two full lanes available), which stands in stark contrast to the dangerously short stretches of road allocated for merging on and off of the Trans Canada Highway. “Now that’s infrastructure,” he wrote in one email with reference to Portland.
Now traffic congestion is a real concern and dangerous infrastructure like the Pattullo Bridge needs to be replaced, but we know the following: gas is going up in price, 30% of green house causing gases come from transportation, people are looking for alternatives to the auto, cities are trying to building around people and transit. A far more reasonable approach would be to build transportation alternatives out in the South Fraser which currently don't exist. Restore the Interurban, build light rail on King George Highway and 104th Avenue, build streetcars, build complete roads, and implement congestion tolling. After doing all that, let's revisit the new bridges question.

As Premier Gordon Campbell said when he was Mayor of Vancouver, “You can’t build your way out of congestion.” But, you sure can do things to provide people alternatives to congestion. You can't expect people to take transit if the service sucks... building more bridge lanes into Vancouver doesn't get people into transit and doesn't help the over 80% of trips that stay within the South Fraser.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Metro Vancouver Future of the Region Sustainability Discussions

Part One of a Two Part Series (maybe three) :-)

I thought I would provide a recap of some important regional discussions that have taken place this year in Metro Vancouver. I have personally participated in several of the Metro Vancouver South of Fraser regional dialogues that have been focused on sustainable land use, transportation and the economy. You can check out further background information on the website. A hat tip to Councillor Jordan Bateman who provided me with a copy of the Metro Vancouver report that was sent to Township Mayor and Council. Videos of the various sessions are also posted to the Metro website.

Information from the sub-regional sessions is being provided by Metro Vancouver to the Land Use and Transportation, and the Sustainable Region Initiative Committees. The sub-regions included: Vancouver, South of Fraser, Central/Northeast, and the North Shore. The scenario was meant to generate discussion on the link between transportation and the economy, and how the region balances the requirements of both. However, the participants tended to address these as separate themes and issues. The group participants were given several scenarios and questions:

“The rapidly expanding global economy is forcing us to make decisions. How do we balance the requirements of a regional transportation network, environmental improvement and livability while supporting the demand for goods movement for the continent? How do we ensure a robust economy for the future? What’s Metro Vancouver’s role?”

South of the Fraser

The following is a summary of the discussions put forth by the South of Fraser participants.

“Discussions focused more on the linkages between the regional economy and transportation than in the previous Dialogue. Even here it was observed that to make the gateway work would require links across the “silos” and a concerted effort at integration. Participants tended to agree that more modes of transportation needed to be encouraged – such as moving goods by water. Transportation, industry, agriculture – all need lands dedicated to make them more efficient and effective, and to link them more closely to their customers and other shippers. To gain an inter-modal yard might require consumption of some agricultural land that feeds the yard. Other participants expressed concern that the consumption of agricultural land for other purposes was not acceptable – even if demands were strong for changing dedicated uses. Railways are not currently set up to service the port appropriately – and the airport relies on trucking through the city to move its goods.”

“Much discussion of the role of rail in the region explored potential but no consistent view on this development through all the discussions. The use of light rail for movement of commuters south of the Fraser was raised and there was support for using a different model here than in other areas. Concerns about developing transportation infrastructure that will become obsolete or “ghost towned” were expressed – and a desire to “stop the digging” to create them until we are sure that they are appropriate in a post-peak oil economy. Using successful examples of techniques for integrating transportation infrastructure from other jurisdictions was raised – using current research or success stories to inspire the regional vision was raised by several speakers. Separating trucks from commuters was raised several times in different contexts but there was a consistent theme of wanting to make better use of existing capacity so that new infrastructure did not encourage more car commuting. Making compact communities with affordable housing will be better served by mass transportation – and preventing the sprawl that is encouraged by high housing prices.”

“The need to have more sectors and governments working cooperatively was raised as a formula for greater success. The region and the agencies that serve it are felt to be made up of entities that do not work closely enough to bring enough critical mass to the planning outcomes. The regional needs to work to achieve more widespread agreement on strategies, vision and plans if success in making them more sustainable is to be achieved. The view of the area that effectively comprises the region may in fact be larger that the administrative boundaries of the political region and require partnerships with neighbours to become more effective. There was a suggestion that Province needs to give the region more autonomy to plan its future – and teeth to ensure implementation of the plans.”

As a frequent Metro participant, I want to offer some criticism here. I am appreciative of the dialogues and the forum that Metro affords us. I’m not sure if the facilitators can do more to encourage fairness, but for me It’s sad to see that some people with special interests (personal or organizational) tend to use the video coverage to promote their own agenda or stroke their egos. I have personally witnessed at many of these Metro Events.

I have always limited my group and microphone time to legitimate questions and short relevant comments. I’ve seen instances where people turn up with copious speaking notes and grandstand as soon as a camera makes their way to their group. Many times their comments are totally unrelated to the topic the group was previously speaking to.

Individuals with strong personalities will also wrestle their thoughts and ideas in the group discussions and force these “solutions” onto the whiteboards. There are usually two to three of these types in each group. I gather that their strong narcissistic displays never allowed their consciousness to see that others with opinions were present around them. These folks never seem to yield to others in the group, therefore some were unable to offer an opinion. It often becomes a debate among two participants, to the exclusion of the other eight. Each time I leave these sessions, I wonder what some of the bright people I spoke with off-line would have said about the issues, if these grandstanders hadn’t been so overpowering. Regardless, the final report offers us some very relevant guidelines that represent a broad consensus of sorts.

Now that we have provided the summary, Part 2 of this series will look at specific key messages that came forward from this exchange.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Sustainability Charter Resources

Last night we had the pleasure to hear Jason Chu, MCIP, Strategic Planner for the Township of Langley speak about the Township of Langley’s Sustainability Charter. Jason had a cold, but was still able to deliver a very enlightening presentation. I would suggest that you download our meeting’s audio to learn more. I’ve posted the presentation slides below to go along with the audio. I’ve also include some links of interest that relate to his presentation.


Township of Langley's Sustainability Page
Sustainability Charter in PDF Form
Sustainability Charter in Interactive Form

Photos from Meeting

Download September 11th Meeting Audio

Our September 11th, 2008 meeting audio minutes are available for downloading.

Download the MP3 Audio File

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Meeting Tonight - The Sustainability Charter

“The Sustainability Charter – How Will It Impact Our Community?”
Presented By Jason Chu, Strategic Planner - Township of Langley
7:00pm – 9:00pm

Township of Langley Municipal Facility
4th Floor, Nicomekl River Meeting Room
20338 – 65 Avenue, Langley

Download a Copy of the Agenda


6:45pm - 7:00pm Self-Registration /Greeting (NP)

7:00pm - 7:10pm Group introductions (all)
-Name, Place of Residence, Occupation

7:10pm - 7:25pm Reports
-Financial Report (JZ)
-Abbotsford IRTSC (JZ & NP)
-Help Needed – Workers (NP)
-Advertising Budget/Fundraising Ideas (JZ)

7:25pm - 7:30pm Introduction of Jason Chu, Strategic Planner - TOL (NP)

7:30pm - 8:30pm “The Sustainability Charter – How Will It Impact Our Community?” (Jason Chu)

8:30pm - 8:45pm Q & A / Feedback (participants)

8:45pm - 8:50pm MoT Study Update & Closing Items (NP)
-Blog & Website (NP)
-Help Needed Workers – Volweb (JZ)
-Correspondence from David Leavers - TOL
-Elector Organizations / Campaign Organizers (JZ)
-New Business (NP)
-October 9, 2008 Meeting with Mayor Peter Fassbender (JZ)

Meeting Adjourned

Bio Post

Last night I had that chance to attend an event called Nightmare Bio-fuels? As you have probably heard, people talk about bio-fuel or bio-energy as a green alternative to fossil fuel. Bio-fuel is said to: “reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce fossil fuel use, increase national energy security, increase rural development and a sustainable fuel supply for the future.

There are many problems though. The first, and probably the most importation, is that food like corn and soy is being diverted away from people's tables and being put into gas tanks. Bio-fuel has caused the prices of certain crops to go up. This is being directly link to world-wide food storage. I heard that some 35% of all the corn grown in Canada would be used for bio-fuel is we wanted to have all gas in Canada contain only 10% ethanol (which is derived from corn.) This is something that the government is currently proposing. If we want to grown more crops for fuel, it will take a lot more land and of course that would have a negative effect on biodiversity, lead to more destruction of forest, and force third-world farmer to grow fuel not food.

The second importation problem is that the bio-fuel we’ve talked about so far is not carbon-neutral. Bio-fuel can be worse than conventional fossil fuel when you factor in the petrochemicals needs for growing and processing, plus transportation of the crops.

Third, these bio-fuels all come from genetically modified and/or engineered corn, soy, and even trees! You can check out the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network to read up on that, but I remember a story on CBC’s The Fifth Estate about how farmers in Canada were having a host of issues with GM/GE product. Google “roundup ready lawsuit” and put the coffee on.

Finally while moving from fossil fuel to bio-fuel MAY help secure our energy future, it seems like it would have absolutely zero benefit to the environment and might even be worse for it.

It’s not all bad though. There are certain bio-diesel fuels that are made from waste oil (IE: from restaurants) that are truly carbon-neutral. Instead of having it rot away, releasing CO2 or Methane, we can put it to good use. At the moment though, this doesn’t seem to be where things are headed on a global scale. I would also have questions if the world supply of waste could keep up with the world demand for energy.

I believe that we are going to have to reduce the amount of energy we are currently using and use a variety of different energy sources to secure our energy future. Right now about 30% of our energy is used in transportation and another 40% is used in our builds. One of the biggest challenges facing North Americans will be to reduce these numbers. Getting people out of their cars in mass and into quality transit is a major part of that puzzle. Looking at creative ways to save energy in our home with the use of solar and geothermal is another piece.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

2008-2009 SFOT Meeting Schedule

All Meetings:
Place: Township of Langley Civic Facility, 4th Floor
20338-65 Avenue, Langley
Time: 7:00pm - 9:00pm
Room: Nicomekl River Meeting Room

Meeting Dates:
September 11, 2008
October 9, 2008
November 13, 2008
December 11, 2008

January 8, 2009
February 12, 2009
March 12, 2009
April 9, 2009
May 14, 2009
June 11, 2009
July 9, 2009
August 13, 2009

Further 2009 dates to follow next year.

You can download a PDF schedule from the Document Archive.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Tuesday Trauma

Sorry for the late post! My Tuesday has been a train wreck (pun intended). It started with the usual long day and evening sessions of Township of Langley Council meetings, and then I punished myself further with a late-night online currency trading (FOREX) session that entered into the wee hours of the morning. But it was all very rewarding. Such sessions will allow me to continue to advocate for light rail (my real full-time job), while at the same time being able to keep my house.

Lots of news and interesting tidbits, so let's dig in...

The Abbotsford Times carries a letter from a bright UFV student. The writer talks about the need for new leaders with vision (or at least old leaders with a renewed vision). I sense the writer's frustration with the system, lack of financial commitments, political will and fortitude to get moving on LRT transit in the South Fraser. Daniel van der Kroon says, "

The old Interurban corridor connects all the major urban centres (the Valley was settled around the Interurban) as well as many of the post-secondary institutions.

It is a practical solution for residents of the Fraser Valley that would provide an alternative to driving and yet authorities continue to pussyfoot around the issue.

A study on transit options for the South Fraser region is promised, but not to be delivered until after the provincial election.

Abbotsford council will be issued with a report on the feasibility of passenger rail in October. Let's make sure this issue doesn't get stalled any longer and use the upcoming elections, municipal and provincial, to elect politicians with vision. Vote for people who understand the long term and immediate benefits of re-activating the Interurban corridor."

Why is it that the average person on the street that I speak with all the time, fully understands that light rail transit is exploding across North America as a development magnet and people-mover? Yet after almost 70 years of preserving the interurban right-of-way and running a little freight traffic on this line, our leaders are still talking about expensive studies, outdated bus speak, and rapid bus in the very distant future. A rapid bus system that would see us creating massive and expensive tunnel infrastructure for, but has already failed TODAY to attract "choice riders" in 13 communities across North America.

The Province Newspaper
recently said in an opinion piece that the thinking of the people with regards to transit solutions have now advanced further than that of our political leaders. How sad and how true. Is it the Peter Principle at work here? That our transportation planners and leaders have reached such a high level of incompetence that they cannot consider the obvious? Mr. van der Kroon's letter has re-sparked my anger today. Let's get passed the smokescreen study mode, and into the action mode. If we need to, let's replace the stale-thinking transportation planners with our local planning and transport students. I think we would gather more creative and modern plans here. Brent Graham, our LRT expert in Melbourne, Australia said that when planning their systems they tapped into the local student base instead of hiring the expensive consultants. He commented that the results were amazing and were promptly put to use! I'd better stop here because I have little tolerance for leaders that fail to lead.

Traffic Concerns

At last yesterday's Special Meeting of Township of Langley Council, council voted to receive this report from Paul Cordeiro, Manager of Transportation Engineering related to resident traffic concerns in the area of 62A Crescent and 240 Street. Paul spoke last month at our South Fraser OnTrax meeting and I'm greatly impressed with his qualifications and the tight ship he runs at TOL.

I include this report because I believe it provides great insight to the average resident as to how the Township staff and Council deal with traffic concerns. Most encouraging is that there is actually a specific process or guidelines for dealing with such cases. As the Executive Summary states, the Township has adopted a "Three E's" approach, which includes Enforcement, Engineering, and Education. The report goes on to outline what has been done in this neighbourhood in all of these Three "E" areas. Paul's office will also research accident and crash data as part of their due diligence process.

The Township transportation engineers have concluded that collision history and other factors do not warrant major re-engineering of the area traffic patterns. So, the neighbourhood can now organize a petition the Township to install some sort of traffic calming solution, if they so desire. Other action items were also provided to the residents. Again, its great to see the process here and how it works.

Councillor Jordan Bateman on Shared Energy/Heating

As reported yesterday, Township Councillor Jordan Bateman presented his Notice of Motion in the Special Council meeting related to shared energy or more specifically, shared heating. As there is public hearing next Monday, this motion will be discussed in the afternoon Special Council meeting. We do hope that council will see the value of this program and embrace it.

Councillor Kim Richter on the Exclusion of Elizabeth May From the TV Debates

Also in yesterday's Special TOL Council meeting, Councillor Kim Richter presented a Notice of Motion that will also be discussed at next Monday's Special Council meeting. Although a copy of the exact wording is unavailable to me, Councillor Richter is requesting that Township Council write a letter to the consortium of Canadian broadcasters expressing displeasure for the consortium's decision to exclude the Green Party candidate (Elizabeth May) from the televised federal debates. I found this interesting Wikipedia profile on May as well.

Although South Fraser OnTrax is a non-partisan society, we do believe strongly in the democratic process and as a group, we have opened our meetings up to people we may agree or disagree with, in the interest of maintaining a health dialogue. So at our meeting this Thursday, our membership will discuss whether or not as a group we also want to write to the consortium and the leadership of the Conservative, NDP, and the Bloc Quebecois to express our joint displeasure at te decision. If for any other reason, we have a very intelligent and informed person here that has a huge degree of environmental expertise. I personally would like to hear what she as to say about transit/transportation and infrastructure here in Canada. How do you feel? Please write comments here and let us know!

Township Transportation Roundtable

With th Federal election campaigns underway and more officials being added to the list of participants, it has now become an impossibility for this roundtable to move forward, as it would be inappropriate for the MP to comment. After the Federal election their is the municiple and then yet another inappropriate situation. Last night Township Council voted to postpone the roundtable until after the municple election. It will now be up to the new council to deal with. This vote was prompted after mayor and council received correspondence regarding this Township event. The writer also stated that South Fraser OnTrax had agreed to not participate in the roundtable.

South Fraser OnTrax would like to publically state that we never said we did no wish to be involved in what is essentially a Township (mayor and council) event, as a motion was passed earlier this year by council. Our thanks to Councillors Fox, Vickberg, Richter and Ferguson for publically stating that any roundtable should be "inclussive". Of course this is only proper and rational.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Energy Sharing/Community Heating Makes Good Common Sense

At today's Township of Langley Special Council Meeting, Councillor Jordan Bateman will introduce a Notice of Motion related to energy sharing. The motion says:

"Whereas the Township of Langley has signed the Climate Action Charter, produced a Sustainability Charter, and continues to pursue ways of reducing Greenhouse Gas emissions, and

Whereas the heating of homes is a significant source of Greenhouse Gas emissions, and

Whereas increasing heating costs are a growing burden on Township residents, therefore

Be it resolved that Township of Langley staff or consultants develop a report for Council investigating the feasibility and suitability of implementing geothermal district heating in new neighbourhoods, and further

Be it resolved that the Township of Langley consider the possibility of operating the heating district through either a utility or private-public partnership model, and further

Be it resolved that the Township of Langley look at possible developments in Willoughby where a district heating project could be piloted.

People in the Township have been buying up heat pumps for some time now. Heat pumps make your heating system more efficient, reduce energy consumption and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Wouldn't it make good sense to tap into the earth's heat and provide a system of shared neighbourhood heating? This is the heart of the Bateman proposal. You can read about the Clover Creek community system, the first in British Columbia! You can also find a wealth of information on heating our communities on this resource website.

Councillor Bateman has made it clear that this program would fall in line with Township guidelines that this be a user-pay initiative, so construction and operations of such a system would not be paid for by taxpayer dollars. In my private discussions with Councillor Bateman related to the 200th Street corridor and future development, I know that he has been researching energy sharing/CHP/Geothermal for some time now.

A free heat source that is already in the ground, which we can tap into. Efficient home heating at a lower cost to the consmer, while reducing greenhouse gases at the same time. User pay, but the government is helping us to reduce our heating budgets. So while our citizens gripe about the government having a hand in our pockets, why would anyone complain about this plan? Still, you can read the comments for yourself on Councillor Bateman's blog.

Once again, Europe leads the way in this field. When will we in North America get switched on? We sincerely hope that next Monday Township Council will show leadership and a progressive spirit by approving this motion. We also hope that a previous motion (put forth by Councillor Kim Richter and seconded by Councillor Bateman) move forward. That motion asked for local multi-family building developments be required to (at a minimum) provide raceways for the eventual wiring that would facilitate the charging of electric vehicles. The subject was sent t staff for further research. We do hope there will be an implementation very soon.

Friday, September 5, 2008

News From IRTSC Abbotsford - A Highway 1 Rail Line?

Last night I attended the City of Abbotsford's Inter-Regional Transportation Select Committee (IRTSC) meeting as an alternate for Nathan who was attending the City of Langley's Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission. This committee has been formed to advise Abbotsford City Council on a transportation plan for the city, and tasked to provide a final report to council by September or October, 2008.

A good portion of this meeting featured a presentation by a city planner, which looked at current and future densification efforts in relation to the Official Community Plan (OCP) and growth and development patterns. Carl Johannsen, Senior Planner for the City is very switched on and spoke of the dramatic need for transit-supportive policies and transit-oriented mixed-use development. This plan has been moving along in Abby and this includes lots of local job growth. Its all good news as the City of Abbotsford sees the need for transit planning to be tied to land use planning, as witnessed in the 2005 OCP.

Johannsen spoke of pursuing transit via the 3 D's or Density - Diversity - Design. Diversity is just another name for mixed land use. As we mentioned many times, frequent rapid transit must be supported by the creation of pedestrian-friendly streets and development. Transit users start and end every journey with a walk, unless they use ugly park and ride lots that remain empty for many hours per day/evening and are a waste of valuable land.

Then presentation included some "beads on a string", or a link of areas and amenities that Abbotsford residents need to get to. Johannsen listed several beads as the City Hall/Civic Precinct, Historic District, Abbotsford Airport (YXX), and University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) which has 10,000 enrolled students, as reported by the city. It was mentioned that the population of Abbotsford will exceed 200,000 people in 25 years and the airport area will see job growth of a projected 260%. The City Hall to Historic District is projected to see +60% new or re-developed residential density.

The presentation made a case for Abbotsford's need for East-West travel and concluded that the IRTSC would be wise to present Abbotsford City Council with a presentation and an eventual final report that endorses the use of Provincial Highway 1 as a transit corridor to advance as far as 216th Street, where it could connect to an eventual revived Interurban rail line near Trinity Western University. The presentation would seek council's approval for meeting with the Provincial Ministry of Transportation for this new alignment along Highway 1, with a loop around these other city areas that could connect to the airport.

Interurban proponents that were present at the meeting were asked to consider the Abbotsford needs with this plan (East-West travel), and that this plan is viewed as a compliment to the Interurban, and would not preclude Interurban use.

The Johannsen discussion mentioned the mode of transit in Abbotsford being "Buses - More Buses - Rapid Bus - LRT". Johannsen suggested that busways cost about $15-25M per Km.. The committee decided to include a projected LRT budget for the Highway 1 portion of the plan. The committee approved the endorsement of this plan with a unanimous vote of confidence.

Interesting Comments of the Evening:
Stephen Rees - "Transit must come before development and rail works best in this instance. You should also be prepared to run the system empty for a time."

Right on Stephen, we couldn't agree more! - SFOT

Regina Dalton - "The federal government is giving $4B to Quebec City and another $4B to Ottawa (including matching provincial funds) to those that ask."

Good point. So why aren't we demanding this money yesterday? - SFOT

Bryan Vogler - "Why not bring the West Coast Express into Abbotsford?"

While the West Coast Express serves the needs of residents across the Fraser River to get to Vancouver for work and such, the South Fraser travel patterns demand a system that moves people within their community and within the South Fraser Region. That's why Bryan, with all due respect to you. - SFOT

Abbotsford Councillor Lynne Harris (on the committee-endorsed plan)- "This plan will give us a reason to connect to the region."

The IRTSC has set a tentative date of October 6, 2008 for a formal presentation of this plan to council.

Final Thoughts

As regular readers of this blog know, South Fraser OnTrax has supported a proposed 200th Street Streetcar system in the Township of Langley and possibly connecting to Langley City, in order to serve our growing (and anticipated exploding future) transportation needs. Much of the need will be North-South. So, just as Abbotsford is looking at providing a new alignment (East-West) for them based on local need, these plans will not scrap the Interurban alignment or its use. If anything, I believe these local-service lines will only build the case larger for a revived Interurban that serves the regional transportation needs of the South Fraser.

The bottom line is that we must be open and progressive in our planning. Build transit nodes and build development around those nodes. Think local, but with the greater region in mind. Don't be a one trick pony or a one issue thinker.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Light Rail Safety

The California Department of Motor Vehicles has a whole series of safety video/tips about road use and sharing on YouTube. I wanted to highlight this video on light rail safety. The video focuses on the Sacramento light rail system that has a large mixed-use lane section running in the city's downtown core. This is different that systems like Portland or Calgary that has light-rail only lanes. In Sacramento, apparently normal vehicles can travel in the same lane as light rail. Anyway, it’s an interesting watch.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Light (Rail) Reading

In Toronto it looks like things are heating up on the transportation front. Metrolinx (Greater Toronto Transportation Authority), the agency that is responsible for coordination, planning, financing and development of all transportations, and will be responsible for the region's GO transit system, is working on their transportation plan which the Globe and Mail had a look at. You can read the whole article at the Globe and Mail website, but one thing I wanted to point out was the debate between subway and light rail. It would seem that the City of Toronto wants Light Rail, but the Province (through Metrolinx) wants subway. Sounds kind of like Vancouver…
Adam Giambrone, the city councillor who chairs the TTC and also sits on the Metrolinx board, said yesterday he had not seen a copy of the plan. But he reiterated the TTC's objection to a subway along Eglinton, which he said is not warranted given the projected ridership numbers and would cost as much as $10-billion compared with a light-rail line with an estimated $2.2-billion price tag.

He warned it would also take much longer to build, meaning it might not happen at all - the fate met by the last subway planned for Eglinton, upon which construction had already begun before it was cancelled in 1995 by the newly elected provincial Progressive Conservative government of Mike Harris.
It looks like the full report of Toronto’s transportation future will be released this month for public consultation.

Flood the Papers

Good Morning. I’ve been up since 5:00am this morning, so I feel like my day is already half over. Anyway, I’ll spare you the detail… If you’re looking for something to do this morning, I suggest that you write a letter to your local newspaper about the need for restoring the Interurban to the South Fraser. Rail for the Valley, with a strong base of support in Abbotsford and Chilliwack, is having their first anniversary “Flood the Papers” event today.

From their Facebook group:


For those of you who are new to this, it's really simple. On WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 3 we're going to FLOOD our newspapers across the Fraser Valley with Letters to the Editor, regarding the need for passenger rail service for the Fraser Valley NOW!

-Your letter doesn't need to be pretty. Short is good. Let them know what's on your mind! If you wish, you can read other people's letters to get some ideas for your own.

-Email addresses of newspapers are listed below. Simply copy and paste a few of them to send to (local letters have the highest chance of being published), write your letter, and sign your name and address. Send it away on SEPTEMBER 3. You can also post it to facebook if you wish.

Email addresses for Letters to the editor (pick a few):

Abbotsford News: editor@abbynews.com
Abbotsford Times: editorial@abbotsfordtimes.com
Agassiz-Harrison Observer: news@ahobserver.com
Aldergrove Star: newsroom@aldergrovestar.com
BurnabyNewsLeader: newsroom@burnabynewsleader.com
Burnaby Now: editorial@burnabynow.com
Chilliwack Progress: editor@theprogress.com
Chilliwack Times: editorial@chilliwacktimes.com
Delta Optimist: editor@delta-optimist.com
Hope Standard: news@hopestandard.com
Langley Advance: editorial@langleyadvance.com
Langley Times: newsroom@langleytimes.com
Maple Ridge News: editor@mapleridgenews.com
Maple Ridge Times: editorial@mrtimes.com
Mission City Record: news@missioncityrecord.com
Peace Arch News: lpeverley@peacearchnews.com
Richmond Review: news@richmondreview.com
Royal City Record: editorial@royalcityrecord.com
South Delta Leader: editor@southdeltaleader.com
Surrey Leader: newsroom@surreyleader.com
Surrey Now: tzillich@thenownewspaper.com
TriCity News: newsroom@tricitynews.com
Vancouver Courier: mmaloney@vancourier.com

Vancouver Sun: sunletters@png.canwest.com
Vancouver Province: provletters@png.canwest.com
-Sun and Province require name/address/phone.


Have Fun!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Turn gas fears into transit dreams, say advocates

Here's a story that turned up on the Canwest News Service about the need for transit and the huge surge of riders. Read the whole story on canada.com.

"We're seeing all-time records in transit ridership already, at 1.8 billion trips a year," said Steve New, who chairs the Canadian Urban Transit Association. The survey showed:
- There's massive support (81 per cent) for using more of the federal gasoline tax revenue for public transit.
- Four in 10 Canadians believe cars and trucks are the country's main source of greenhouse gases.
- Twenty-one per cent said gasoline prices are their biggest financial worry. That's the top personal finance issue in the country, followed by the cost of housing and food.

The New Year has Begun

To me New Years is the day after Labour Day. It seems that more things change and more “new leaves” get turned over at this time of year compared to January. I work in TV as my day job, so September is really the start of the year for my business. Also, school is back in sessions: a New Year for students. This, of course, translates into more people on transit and improved transit service. In fact today, the amount of people taking the 341 bus I was one seemed to triple. The mean age also dropped. While I was on the bus, I happened to get a copy of The Buzzer. Apparently, the Trolley bus system is 60 years old. Well, I must get back to work…

Happy New Year!

Monday, September 1, 2008

The City of Langley - The Place to be for Opportunity

Last week I had a private meeting with City of Langley Mayor Peter Fassbender. For some time now I have been attending meetings and watching Langley City's redevelopment Master Plan with excitement and enthusiasm. I watch such events as a person that is interested in smart development, a transit and density advocate, a long-time real estate investor, a property owner (both City and Township), and engaged citizen.

The face of our Langleys are in the midst of change and progressive leadership is vital to ensuring that our communities grow properly and smartly. I am personally encouraged and excited by the vision for a new City of Langley and the political leaders that have gone out on a limb to bring that vision forward. Its bold and its the right thing to do. While South Fraser OnTrax is a non-partisan society, we can acknowledge, appreciate and respect the initiatives of our current elected officials. South Fraser OnTrax therefore wishes to thank Mayor Fassbender, Francis Cheung, Chief Administrative Officer, the sitting City Council, Gerald Minchuk, Director of Development Services & Economic Development and City Staff for their efforts.

I cannot over-emphasize the importance of good smart growth strategies and creation of walkable neighbourhoods to the building of communities around people, and for the ultimate provision of transportation solutions that serve the people. I’m pleased to report what I already knew and that is that Mayor Fassbender understands these concepts. International travel goes a long way in educating people and opening new schools of thought. I’ve always said that my many years of living and working overseas have allowed me a perspective and vision that is not always apparent to my North American friends and family. Mayor Fassbender is well-traveled and I was excited to hear about his take on Transit Oriented Development, densification, mixed-use and creative mixed-use. He mentioned that mixed-use need not always be a storefront per say, but could be a London style townhouse unit with what could be a public access workroom on the ground floor with an internal staircase to living accommodations above. In Asia they would be known as shop houses. The point is that the mayor has traveled extensively Europe and Asia, and is allowing himself to be open to these possibilities in Langley City. This adds a whole new dimension to the City of Langley’s Master Plan.

Is this plan all roses? Of course not. There are significant challenges to overcome. Things like aging infrastructure, willingness of landowners to sell or redevelop, developer will to invest in the city, and the list goes on. But the mayor and his staff are proactively engaging in meetings and calls to developers and land owners every week. I like that. We like that as a group! This is progressive leadership.

I encourage each and every one of you to look at the City of Langley brochure and full Master Plan. Read it, get excited about it, and most importantly please let these local leaders know that you fully support their efforts. For our part at South Fraser OnTrax, we will keep you updated on all the happenings with these plans. We will also continue o write letters and encourage the city to keep the mixed-use, TOD strategies in the forefront of all that they do. I invited Mayor Fassbender to speak at the South Fraser OnTrax October 9th meeting that will take place in the Township’s Nicomekl River Meeting Room (4th Floor). The mayor will speak on his view and vision for Langley and Langley transportation, with an eye on the region and how Langley fits into that region. I very much look forward to the mayor’s wit and wisdom.

Lastly, our municipalities are full of many unsung heroes that work diligently each day for our benefit. One such trooper is Debra Joyal, Administrative Assistant in the Mayor’s Office at the City of Langley. I am in regular contact with Debra as she helps me distribute research reports to mayor and council. I enjoy the same ultra-professional assistance from Cindy Savoy over that Mayor Kurt Alberts office in the Township of Langley. Exceptional people like Debra Joyal and Cindy Savoy will rise to the top of any organization they work in, as their skills and professionalism shine bright. On this Labour Day I'd like to thank you ladies for all that you do for us and our community.