Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Amtrak Cascades Addition Coming Soon

Loyal SFOT blog reader Tim Vanderheide of Rosedale, BC wrote to the Minister of Public Safety recently after it was reported that the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) had denied a request to add a second Amtrak Cascades train to Seattle and on to Portland. It now appears that with the 2010 Games on the way, the Ministry and CBSA are changing some things...

"The CBSA recognizes the importance of increasing its operational capacity during the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The Agency, therefore, has advised Amtrak officials that it will provide service for a second train, without cost, for a suitable period of time immmediately before, during and for a short time after the 2010 Games. I would like to assure you that the CBSA is committed to working with all ceoncerned parties to find a permanent service delivery solution to address the needs of this additional route."
You can read the full letter by clicking this JPG image

This is agreat start, but I personally would love to see a station stop somewhere in the south Fraser along with more trains. Right now I drive my car from the border about 15 minutes to a secure lot in Fairhaven, WA, instead of driving to Vancouver. In Vancouver I would be paying more money for my train ticket, and parking at the Via Rail station near Main Street. I will do this drill again next week when I take the Amtrak Cascades to Portland, OR.

Thanks for sharing this information Tom!

Juno Fest

This weekend I was in downtown Vancouver enjoying some of the best music on the planet at Juno Fest with a friend from Winnipeg. Of course we were listening to music, but I couldn’t help myself and starting talking about urban form. :-) One observation that my friend made really quick was there was a lot of walking happening in the downtown core. She wanted to take a bus everywhere downtown, but I had to keep reminding her that it was faster just to walk. I think it is a really testament to some good urban planning (and also some luck [not having Interstate cash like the US]), that the easiest and faster form of transportation downtown is walking.

Of course this makes total sense, since the 1980’s Vancouver has committed to building mixed-use, high-density residential in the core. Since that time, there has been a doubling of population (from 40,000 to 90,000) with more to come (129,000 by 2031.) Also of note is that as the population has increased, so has transportation choice. When looking at downtown streets today, you’ll see less car lanes and more bus and bike lanes as well as sidewalks than even a decade ago. Of course this has been part of a transportation plan:
Our vision …
is for Vancouver to be the most livable city in the world.

Our transportation vision …
is for Vancouver to be the most accessible place in the region.

Livability depends in part on accessibility...
which depends on transportation choice.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Light Rail Just Makes Sense

South Fraser OnTrax has always believed that light rail is good for the environment, good for the economy, and good for our community. Last year when the housing market really began to crash, Denver saw housing pricing plummet in the auto-centric suburban areas while its urban area, served by light rail, actually saw an increase in housing prices. Communities like Grand Rapids, Portland and Seattle see the economic benefits as well. Apparently in Sydney, Australia, they are starting to see the value in building light rail:
Professor Peter Newman, a member of the Infrastructure Australia group established by the Rudd Government, has warned the city stands to lose its "competitive edge" to Melbourne and to other cities such as New York, which are removing cars from streets to make them more inviting to pedestrians…

…He said Melbourne had bounced back from being a city in decline to one that was competitive globally after a massive increase in pedestrian traffic in the 10 years to 2004.
Melbourne is one of those communities that never got rid of their light rail network and has over 245km of track.

Meanwhile in the Phoenix area, it looks like light rail has won over “bus rapid transit” again. Phoenix just recently opened up their first light rail line:
After two years of study, regional transportation planners told the City Council Thursday they want to extend light rail on Main Street through Mesa's downtown.

The long-awaited presentation said light rail is a better option than high-speed buses, and Main Street is a better route than either First Street or First Avenue.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Streetcar News Update

To follow up on last week’s post, it seems that Toronto is one more step closer to realizing their 120km light rail expansion program:
"We don't have a commitment," he said after the budget speech. "We're working closely with the province and I'm very confident that Toronto will get its fair share of the $32.5 billion in infrastructure funding that's been made available over the next two years."

Miller said the province is well aware the city's key priority is public transit, and he believes Queen's Park will come up with the money.

Carol Wilding, president and CEO of the Toronto Board of Trade, said even without details there are "signals that there is a next step and that it's coming and we would hope ... to see that in very, very short order."
Meanwhile in Salt Lake City, a community that started building light rail in 1999 and has been constantly expanding it since, is look at bus rapid transit verse streetcars:
Travis Pate, of Ogden, said at Thursday night's open house he prefers streetcars because that system could share traffic lanes with automobiles and would free up space for a dedicated bike lane.

"The streetcar shows a lot more promise (than bus rapid transit)," he said.
Meanwhile in Washington, DC plans are underway to build a new streetcar line:
Arlington County officials are continuing their push to build a Columbia Pike streetcar line between Pentagon City and the Skyline area of Fairfax County. Backers hope the five-mile line will aid commuters, prompt redevelopment and seed a much larger Northern Virginia streetcar network.
Now where’s our streetcar?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Fraser Valley Transit Study Update

Last month South Fraser OnTrax, as well as other stakeholders, delivered a presentation for the Fraser Valley Transit Study. I received an email from the MoT letting me know that they now have a website up and running on the progress of this report. This report "will identify and assess options for transit services within the Fraser Valley and how to best provide transit service between the Fraser Valley and Metro Vancouver." It is different than the study we thought we were getting back in early 2008 that was going to cover Delta to Chilliwack, but this should be a very comprehensive study for the Fraser Valley Regional District. Now we just have to convince the government to tie this study in with a South of Fraser Study. Anyway, check out the website. The report is due out in February 2010.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Bike Box

I think I have talked about this earlier, but Vancouver has been rolling out something called bike boxes at intersections throughout the city. As the video shows, a bike box allows cyclist to get in front of cars so that bikes can make turns without getting run over. I bring this up today because I know that motorist have no idea what to do when they see these painted boxes on the road. A few days ago, I saw vehicles stopping in the bike box and not before it. I think that the City needs to install “Stop Line” signs and education everyone on the concept. I’d love to see these bike boxes rolled out in the South Fraser.

Speaking about making life easier for the cyclist, I took a picture of a bike signal button. These are also sorely absent in Langley. I’d love see these on bike routes everywhere.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Walking in Willoughby

The Township of Langley has been working on updating neighbourhood plans in the Willoughby area for some time. One of the interest maps I came across was a walkablity map. Basically the average person will not walk no more than 5 minutes to get somewhere. I decided to mark up the map with yellow highlighter to show the currently Willoughby community plan's commercial/mixed-use areas. I also drew two corridors on 200th Street and 208th Street. I think these corridors would be prime candidates to see more mixed-use active that could be spread along the corridor instead of clustered (as it currently is) to give more walkable opportunities to people in Willoughby.

Click Image to Make Larger

I know that there was/is a major review going on in the Township of land-use in this area. I’m sure this review will further enhance the walkable areas of Willoughby.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Child and Youth Friendly Land-Use and Transport Planning

The Centre for Sustainable Transportation at the University of Winnipeg has been working on a project called Kids on the move since 2002. This project looks at the links between land-use, transportation planning, health (both physical and mental), and young people. They provided their first report for the province of Ontario in 2005, and are working on a release a final report for BC very soon. I want to touch on some of the recommendation from the March 12, 2009 draft of the BC report. You can download a copy for the project’s website.

Not surprisingly, the report concludes that land-use and transportation planning are linked at the hips. They point out the example of the disturbing trend of our sedentary lifestyle, and how low-density development plays an important role in the trend.
It's not only schools that have been centralized. Small local stores have been replaced by stores in malls, usually at a greater distance from customers, or by larger stores serving a broader catchment area. Children, who might once have learned much from running er-rands to a local store, now find themselves accompanying parents on long shopping trips by car. Density may be the most important factor influencing car use, but there are others. How land uses are mixed can be important. If schools, workplaces, and stores are near resi-dences, the result may be that residents engage in more walking and bicycling, other things being equal. If uses are clustered into nodes, transit may be viable along connect-ing corridors, even though overall urban densities are low.
According to the report some 20% of all trips are made by young people. This group is currently underrepresented to those people that make land-use and transportation planning decisions.

As the graph shows, the higher the speed of traffic, the more likely the chance of death when a car hits a person. In fact, road traffic crashes are the leading cause of injury death in Canada for children over the age of one year. Besides that, poor air quality (major roads are a major cause of pollution) has a detrimental effect on young people's health and may be responsible for a host of chronic illness like asthma. In-car air quality is also a cause for concern.
There appear to have been few formal studies concerning the impact of mode of travel to school on intellectual and emotional development. Common sense may suggest that walking in particular, compared with travel by car, provides a richer environment more suited to enquiry and exploration and to establishing a sense of neighbourhood identity. Furthermore, there is a growing body of research that supports the value for children and youth to increase their exposure to the natural environment.55 A U.S. author has outlined the opportunity for communities to plan for such exposure
Now enough of the doom and gloom, the report makes some recommendations on what we can do to improve the urban environment for our young people. Not surprisingly when you improve the urban environment for young people you also make it more assessable for all people in our society like the physically challenged and our seniors.

Guideline 1. In transport and land-use planning, the needs of children and youth should receive as much priority as the needs of people of other ages and the requirements of business.

Guideline 2. Within each municipality, designate a staff member or council member, or both, as responsible for bringing the perspectives of young people to consideration of transport and land-use planning issues

Guideline 3. As may be appropriate, establish or adapt one or more forums for children and youth to ensure that their perspectives are considered by land-use and transport planners.

Guideline 4. Identify where children and youth want to go or need to go and, to the extent possible, provide ways of getting there by foot.

Guideline 5. Assess pedestrian routes used or to be used by children and youth to ensure that they are as safe and suitable for them as possible.

Guideline 6. Separate sidewalks used by children and youth from heavily trafficked roads, particularly where traffic moves slowly or vehicles are stationary with engines idling for long periods.

Guideline 7. Ensure that sidewalks are always cleared of ice and snow.

Guideline 8. For older children and youth, ensure that destinations that cannot be a walk away are no more than a bicycle ride away.

Guideline 9. For younger children, ensure that sidewalks are suitable for their tricycles and bicycles.

Guideline 10. For destinations to be reached by bicycle, provide separate bicycle paths or trails or, if not possible, install bicycle lanes on regular roads.

Guideline 11. Ensure that bicycle riders are well provided for at intersections and have sufficient priority for forward movement.

Guideline 12. At destinations, provide secure, convenient bicycle parking.

Guideline 13. Ensure that every part of a transit system is safe and welcoming to young people, and affordable.

Guideline 14. Avoid transfers by routing vehicles where children and youth want to and need to go; make transfers easy where necessary.

Guideline 15. Examine every aspect of a transit system from the perspective of a parent with a child in a stroller, and make adjustments to meet such a traveller‘s needs.

Guideline 16. Act to ensure that school policies and practices favour walking and cycling to and from school and other modes of active transport, or, where appropriate and possible, regular public transport.

Guideline 17. For younger children, help arrange walking school buses and other means of supervision.

Guideline 18. Act to reduce the time children spend in school buses to a maximum of no more than 40 minutes per day.

Guideline 19. Where destinations cannot be reached by foot, bicycle or transit, arrange land uses so that in-car time is reduced.

Guideline 20. Particularly in urban areas, post and enforce much lower speed limits.

Guideline 21. Do what is possible to reduce amounts of motorized road traffic generally and reduce its impacts.

Anyway, check out the report and I’ll post an update when the final copy of the report is ready.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Newswire 502

Good morning, I bring you some you news from around Canada, starting off in Edmonton. Edmonton, like Calgary, is known for their ever expanding urban edge. It seems like whenever I visit, there is less fields and more single family house and power centres. Anyway, the region now has a plan. Much like our regional plan, not everyone is happy, but it is a great start to preserving open space. It will help the region to grow up, not out.
The report includes support for:
-Identifying farm land that needs protection from fragmentation or development, following consultations with municipalities;
-Concentrating growth in priority areas to get the most use out of infrastructure and public transit;
-Discouraging any development that compromises the extraction of natural resources such as sand, gravel and oil, and;
-Creating a regional transit committee responsible for buses between municipalities and LRT service, which could plan regional park-and-ride facilities and set up a fare system that might include smart cards.
Meanwhile, it looks like Ottawa is getting closer to replacing its bus rapid transit system with light rail.
The sooner work can start on new rapid transit projects, the more likely the City of Ottawa is to get funding for the $1.83-billion first phase of the transit plan.

On Tuesday, the city officially made its funding request to the federal and provincial governments, asking for around $610 million from each.

Both senior levels of government have reconfirmed the $200 million committed to the previous LRT plan and are suggesting that some of the Phase One projects should be put forward for economic stimulus funding, if they can be ready on time.
Finally, intercity rail service is getting a boast in Eastern Canada.
The federal government has plans to boost passenger rail service to Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto, Transport Minister John Baird announced Tuesday.

Baird made the announcement that track improvements are coming down the line after riding into Ottawa's Via Rail station by train.
Too bad the federal government doesn’t see the importance of getting intercity services up between Portland, OR and Vancouver, BC.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Scrap It

So, I was at a friend house last night and was waiting for him to get ready before we went out. Anyway, I was flipping through the 300 channel universe of nothing that is called TV. I happened flip on CHEK news and they were airing a piece about the BC Scarp-It program. Basically if you get rid of your 1995 or older car, they will give you what they call “incentives.” The new s story was on how, now in Victoria, you can now get two years of free transit when you trade-in your old car. I was talking to a friend today, and he told me that he used the program about 5 years ago and that the choice have improved greatly since then. In Vancouver you can get the following: money off a new car, a year of more of free TransLink, TransLink + a new bike, West Coast, cash to join a car share program or Jack Bell Ride Share, or cold hard cash.

This is a great program, but won’t it be neat if the provincial government supported this program even more, and gave you perks if you got rid of any car. That would surely help the government Carbon Reduction Plan. Anyway, the program is run by the Clean Air Foundation which is a Canadian wide non-profit society.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


I snapped these photos in Vancouver last weekend.

Work is coming along with the completion of the updated Granville Street in the Downtown core. The City of Vancouver decided to refresh the street being that the Canada Line dug a large part of it up. Anyway, the two pictures I selected are of the sidewalk, which may seem a bit odd. I just had to chuckle at the fancy concrete design though because I was at a lecture a few years ago when a Vancouver City staffer was lamenting how, in Canada, we don’t invest in quality building material for our special areas. She said, "All we can seem to do is put rocks in the concrete and change its colour." She went on to say that granite was once used extensively as a street building material in Vancouver, and that it is one of those things that made Vancouver special. I have to agree. I really love the use of granite in Vancouver. You can see it mostly on the curbs of streets in old areas of Vancouver, like Chinatown, that haven’t been updated in a while.

These photos highlight two very different building in Vancouver. Guess which one I like. :-)

City Program

As I’m sure you already know, SFU has a program called the City Program. It focuses on sustainable community design. Anyway you can read more on their website, but I wanted to highlight a course that peaked my interest that they have coming up from April 17-18, 2009.
This course provides participants with an appreciation of the important role urban transportation plays in community development and understanding of the principles, concepts, techniques and holistic approaches for achieving sustainable transport.
They have a great video about "Active Transportation in Copenhagen". Be sure to check out the resource page.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Progressive Light Rail City

Coming soon to greater Norfolk, Virginia

The Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) is a region of Virginia in the US that encompasses Norfolk, Virginia Beach and several other communities. Despite the region servicing a population of only 1.3 million people, this progressive region is investing US$ 288M to extend light rail transit some 7.4 miles. That is $31M per mile compared to building roads in this area that would cost $100M per mile. The system is projected to carry 12,000 riders daily.

Norfolk like several US cities provides free bus service in their downtown core. Portland, OR provides free streetcars in their downtown core. Norfolk's system will include double-tracking as you can see in this great simulation video here.

Like most US cities, the HRT project team has done their homework. We have stated the benefits of LRT many, many times, but look at these impressive numbers and data from HRT here. These are just a few, but make sure to check them all out from the like previously provided:

Reduces Traffic Congestion. Light rail can move as many people as four to six lanes of interstate highway.

  • Positive Economic Impact. A report commissioned by the Federal Transit Administration to understand the economic impact of public transportation found that there was a significant positive economic impact on jobs and business revenues. The study found that in the year following the transit investment, 314 jobs are created for each $10 million invested in transit capital funding. In addition, transit operations spending provides for a direct infusion to the local economy with more than 570 jobs created for each $10 million invested in the short term.
  • Business Attractor. Almost half of the nation's Fortune 500 companies, representing over $2 trillion in annual revenues, are headquartered in America's transit-intensive metropolitan areas.
  • Business Sales Gains. Businesses would realize a gain in sales of three times the public sector investment in transit capital - a $10 million investment results in a $30 million gain in sales. Regarding transit operations spending, businesses would see a $32 million increase in business sales for each $10 million in transit operations spending.
  • Economic Development Generator. Rail lines are fixed, high-value assets. Developers are more comfortable investing capital into a system that will continue. Since 1977, when the first Metrorail station opened in Virginia, Metrorail has generated substantial economic benefits for the Commonwealth. By 2010, Metrorail will generate: $2.1 billion in additional Commonwealth revenues and net revenues of $1.2 billion (in excess of the Commonwealth contributions to Metrorail).
I must say that with a few rare exceptions, the USA is far more progressive with creating eye appeal for their infrastructure such as bridges, transit stations, etc. Instead of advertising only (like the Greater Vancouver SkyTrain), the USA uses impressive Art-in-Transit programs to beautify their systems. Check that out here.

Yes, Transit Oriented Development (TOD) has been planned for (see above and below). Of course TOD is planned! You can check this and much more out on the project website. Just click the navigation bars on the left of this page here and you will find lots of goodies.

Here is the kicker for us south of Fraser folks that think transit systems can take forever to build. The final project design for HRT was completed in 2007 and civil works began in 2008. The system is scheduled to open in 2010!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Permeable Asphalt

If you look at any urban area, you will find that a large portion of it is covered with asphalt. All that asphalt basically acts as a seal, preventing rain water from getting filtered into groundwater. As it stands now, rain water gets turned into storm water, which ends up in our streams unfiltered. It gets zipped away into the ocean. What if I told you there was a solution to paving that was better for the environment and safer for all road users? There is and it called: Permeable Asphalt. I like what Wikipedia has to say on the topic:
Permeable paving surfaces keep the pollutants in place in the soil or other material underlying the roadway, and allow water seepage to groundwater recharge while preventing the stream erosion problems. They capture the heavy metals that fall on them, preventing them from washing downstream and accumulating inadvertently in the environment. In the void spaces, naturally occurring micro-organisms digest car oils, leaving little but carbon dioxide and water; the oil ceases to exist as a pollutant. Rainwater infiltration its built-in stormwater management, is usually less than that of an impervious pavement with a separate stormwater management facility somewhere downstream.
Also with permeable paving, the water literally gets sucked out of the road, providing a dry road when it rains. This technology is really a win/win for everyone, but from what I can tell it costs a bit more to maintain. Oh, and the news gets even better. I’ve learned that the Township of Langley is testing out permeable asphalt. Let’s hope that the tests are a success!

Example of water flow through permeable asphalt.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Meeting Media

We had a very good meeting last night where Nichole Marples from the Langley Environmental Partners Society (LEPS) gave a presentation on the many programs they provide in the Township of Langley. I have posted up the presentation and a link to the audio minutes of our meeting to listen along. Her presentation starts 24 minutes in.

Download the Audio from our Meeting


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Meeting Tonight: Langley Environmental Partners Society (LEPS)

Speaker: Nichole Marples, Executive Director of the Langley Environmental Partners Society (LEPS)
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
7:00pm – 7:10pm Quick Group introductions
7:10pm – 7:25pm Reports
-Finance Report
-Update ToL meeting facility
-Update City of Langley Community Grant Application
-Update on VanCity Grant Application
-State of Advertising / Promotion / Website & Blog/ Help Needed/
7:25pm – 7:30pm Short pause in room during guest speaker set-up
7:30pm – 7:30pm Introduction of Guest Speaker
7:30pm - 8:30pm Nichole Marples - LEPS Presentation
8:30pm – 8:45pm Q & A
8:45pm – 9:00pm New Business
Meeting Adjourned

We Need Some "Shovel Men"

Nathan did a great post yesterday on the history of the Green Zone, so I thought I would save this for today. 

I found this Vancouver Courier article by Lisa Smedman to be awesome! It talks about our rail history and how the excavation moved half a million yards of soil and created the Grandview cut. This was before the days of massive amounts of heavy equipment being deployed on projects of this sort. They had a giant steam shovel apparently, but much had to be done before that equipment could move in. The "shovel men" did all the work, followed by some blasting. Look at this quote:

"On Dec. 5, 1908, the Vancouver Daily Province reported that gangs of "shovel men" were hard at work along the Great Northern tracks between False Creek and Still Creek, removing "half [a] million yards of gravel" in order to reduce the grade of the railway to approximately half of one per cent. Work along the 1.75-mile stretch of track was proceeding "slowly but steadily."

"During the past two or three weeks the men [were] engaged in clearing out the big cut which, when completed, will have a maximum depth of about 40 feet," the paper reported. It added that work had been slowed after crews encountered "refractory" (difficult to work) rock."

Even the old interurban rail line is briefly discussed in this great article on our rail history. What a read!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Green Zone: Past and Future

The history of the Green Zone, which is also the history of our Livable Region Plan (LRSP), goes back to the 1960’s. Back then it was realized that there needed to be some form of regional planning for the fast growing region. Some work was done, but the provincial government at the time didn’t like what they were hearing. Goodbye regional planning. In the late 1970's, as the story goes, people driving over the Port Mann Bridge noticed that their pristine mountain view where turning into a view of boxes on the hillside. At the same time, farmland was disappearing at an alarming rate. It was at this time that our province’s regional districts were formed, the Agricultural Land Reserves was started, and the famous drawing (which I don’t have) of our region being a compact region in a sea of green was produced. All precursors to the LRSP. This was not enough. While the regional district had the able to provide land use planning for areas outside of municipal boundaries, they were setup to be regional service delivery organizations (Parks, water, etc.) controlled by their member municipalities more than anything. By the 1990’s, our region's planners where asking for a regional plan. The GVRD , as it was then called, got back into the regional planning business and started work on the LRSP. Under the law, the region didn’t have any authority to enforce the plan on any municipality that didn’t want it. It was a plan of consensus. The Green Zone was part of this plan. It included ALR land, parks, our watershed, and what I’ll call special environmental areas. The idea was that municipal governments would have to do everything in their power to protect this Green Zone for future generations. A map was included in the LRSP that showed the general area of what was considered green. There were some errors on the document but from what I understand, since it was conceptual, it didn’t really matter.

Now to today and what I posted yesterday. Though not its original intent, the Green Zone is now a de facto urban growth boundary. Metro Vancouver is looking at mapping out the Green Zone (land protected from urban development) right down to the parcel. I think this is a good idea to accurately document our Green Zone (aka regional regulations) and therefore remove any doubt as to what is in the zone and what isn’t. There also needs to be some checks and balances. First, the ALR land should be automatically included and removed from the Green Zone to stay consistent with the Agricultural Land Commission. Second, there needs to be an easy way (not going to the Metro Vancouver board) to correct errors in the green zone to remove land that accidentally got included and include land that was accidentally left out. Basic housekeeping stuff.

The larger issue is how to protect open space that is neither truly farmland or “special”. Also, how do we provide a clear boundary between urban and rural? This is an issue that really only affects communities east of the Fraser/Pitt River. In the Township of Langley, they have been working on an arbor (park) ribbon that would provide a buffer between the urban and rural for over 10 years. I think that is a good idea for all communities with a rural/urban interface. Another idea might be to create a land trust of open space. With money from the province, it could be used to purchase land and leasing it out with certain provisions to keep it rural. The purchase of Burns Bog is a great example of all governments coming together to purchase land that was going to be developed. This is just a start; there are many other creative solutions to protect open space that is a win for us as a region and the owner whose land becomes protected.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Metro Vancouver Planning

There has also been an us-verse-them thing when it comes to the communities in Metro Vancouver for a long time. Usually it goes the Burrard Peninsula municipalities verse the South of the Fraser municipalities. When it comes to land use planning it usually goes that the people in the South Fraser accuse those on “the other side of the bridge” of trying to limit development for their own gain, while people that “never go over the bridge” accuse the South Fraser of having no other plan but to see every inch of land turned into big box stores, single family homes, and freeways. There is truth to everything, but these arguments seem to be political more than anything else. My favourite one-liner between a South Fraser politician and a Vancouver politician is “How is preserving your ALR and Industrial Land going?” With that background in mind, I want to take a look at what’s new in Metro Vancouver planning.

As you may know, Metro Vancouver is working on updating our regional growth policy. As part of that review, they are looking at tools to play a stronger role in regional planning. Two of the new tools they are looking at are regional zoning and a more accurate mapping system for this new zoning.

Metro Portland, Portland's elected regional government, is involved in land use planning. It looks like Metro Vancouver is basing their regional zoning on the Portland model. Metro Vancouver would like to see an Urban Zone, Industrial Zone, Rural Zone, and Green Zone. Defining and mapping Green Zone Land will be the topic of another post, but having a Green Zone of ALR land and protected areas doesn’t seem to be an issue. Protecting industrial land from business parks and/or residential development doesn’t seem to be an issue either. Of course (almost) everything else would be in the Urban Zone, so that's not much of an issue either. The major issue comes from the proposed rural zone. The rural zone would define a set development standards that would be different from the urban zone. This would basically take away land use planning from the municipalities and place it into the hands of Metro Vancouver. The rural zoning would really only affect communities like Surrey, Langley Township, and Maple Ridge that have rural land that is not in the ALR. This seems unfair. The major fear that is Metro Vancouver could arbitrarily define the areas that are rural and urban, and arbitrarily define what is urban and rural. There is much work to be done, and I’m sure this policy will be refined as it comes closer to completion. I believe that we need to protect open space that is neither ALR nor environmental sensitive, and I’ll be talking about that on my next post.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Next Meeting this Thursday

Our next meeting is this Thursday, March 12th from 7:00pm - 9:00pm in the Township of Langley Municipal Facility: 4th Floor, Nicomekl Meeting Room, 20338 - 65 Avenue.

This month we will be hearing from Langley Environmental Partners Society (LEPS). LEPS is a non-profit, partnership driven organization founded in 1993, to achieve the mission of "protecting and restoring the natural environment through education, cooperation and action." LEPS works with a diverse variety of partners to achieve common environmental goals focusing on:
-Environmental education and awareness.
-Inventory and mapping of local fisheries and wildlife resources.
-Fisheries and wildlife habitat protection and restoration.
-Watershed stewardship coordination and technical training.

Nichole Marples will provide a one-hour overview presentation of LEPS and what they are doing today here in Langley. If you care about our environment and the local ecosystem, you won't want to miss this FREE event.

Hope to see you there!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Rumour - Improved Service

If this turns out to be true, you heard it first on this blog. Anyway, I've been told that there will be service improvements in April on the bus network in the South Fraser. Of interest was the 502 Langley Centre/Surrey Central bus route. Currently it runs every 10 minutes during peak and every 15min the rest of the day until 9pm. Anyway, I heard that the service may be improving to 7 minutes. This is good, because the buses can get "a bit full". What remains to be seen is how TransLink plans to fund the transit system after they run out of money in the next year or two. Cutting service would not be the way to go. Maybe the province will help out TransLink’s operating costs just like it is helping out the Evergreen Line and Gateway Program's capital costs?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Waterfront Station Open House

On my way back home from work, I happened to stumble upon the Waterfront Station Area redevelopment plan open house. The City of Vancouver calls it "The Hub." The plan is to transform the area into "a world-class transportation interchange to integrate the many transportation modes which converge in the area, connect the City of Vancouver with the waterfront in this part of Downtown, and introduce high quality new development integrated with the transportation hub." The main areas of focus are the integration of a multimodal street network, transit-oriented land use, build heights and views, and the interface with transit, rail, and marine transportation network. You can read more at the City of Vancouver website on this plan. The plan is going to Vancouver City council for a vote in April and redevelopment isn't expected to happen for the next 10 years.

Of course TransLink is part of this planning process as this area is a major transit hub. TransLink is looking at redeveloping the whole station complex to better integrate SkyTrain, the Canada Line, West Coast Express, and SeaBus. It was interesting to note the comments on the following photo on Intercity Passenger Rail Service:

While not currently on the horizon, consideration will be given to providing passenger and track capacity for future intercity passenger rail service (e.g. to Seattle and Portland) within the facility given its strategically central location and lack of alternatives

Now when are we going to fix that Fraser River Rail Bridge!

Transit Police

I took these about 10 minutes ago.

It is common knowledge that you rarely ever see Transit Police out during peak travel times checking ticket. I was a bit shocked when I stepped into King George Station to find police at the bottom and the top of the escalator handing out tickets. Is this one of the Transit Police's new initiatives? Are we going to see more police during peak?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

HOT Lane

On yesterday’s post, there was a comment made about how the Port Mann/Highway One Project will be expanding the HOV system into Langley from the bridge. This got me thinking about a presentation I heard a few years back about MnPass. MnPass is an on-going project of the Minnesota Department of Transportation to convert their HOV system to high occupancy/toll lanes or HOT lanes. According to the US Federal Highway Administration HOT lanes are:
Limited-access, normally barrier-separated highway lanes that provide free or reduced cost access to qualifying HOVs, and also provide access to other paying vehicles not meeting passenger occupancy requirements.

By using price and occupancy restrictions to manage the number of vehicles traveling on them, HOT lanes maintain volumes consistent with uncongested levels of service even during peak travel periods.
Why did Minnesota switch to HOT lanes?
-HOV lanes for carpool/transit are successful, but operating at less than full potential.
-During peak, HOV lanes are typically moving more people per lane than general-purpose lanes.

HOT lanes allow them to maintain free flow speeds for transit and carpools while improving highway and transit in their corridors and generating revenue. Variable tolling is the key. The more demand there is for the lanes, the more it costs. The following photos show how it works. Click them to make them bigger.

Variable tolling is really, combined with Transit improvements, the only sustainable way to shape traffic and reduce peak congestion. HOT lanes allow this to be politically possible in North America. People don’t seem to mine being tolled for new infrastructure. But as the lack of road pricing in Vancouver today shows (there should have been by now), there is no appetite for road pricing on old infrastructure. People don't see the value, right or wrong.

Now the Port Mann/ Highway One Project would seem like the perfect place to implement HOT lanes. The project could convert the proposed HOV lanes and the two new general-purpose lanes to HOT lanes. The revenue could be used to build transportation choices in our region. One of the major concerns of the public when Minnesota did HOT lanes was the perception that they were building “Lexus Lanes” or roads for the rich. Their data shows that all demographic are represented in the HOT lanes. Check out this Wikipedia article to see where HOT lanes are or are being planned in the US. The Washington State Department of Transportation also has a great study on their brand new, successful HOT lane project.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Portland Bridge

I’ve blogged about the Columbia River Crossing at the border of Washington and Oregon State in Metro Portland before. It is basically like our Port Mann Bridge project except that instead of an all road project with 37km of highway expansion and a new bridge, the Portland project includes a new bridge, a much needed light rail line across the Columbia river, and 16km "of moving or improving highway connections, adding add/drop lanes and lengthening on-and off-ramps."
Light rail would extend from the Expo Center MAX Station in Portland to a station and park and ride at Clark College in Vancouver. Pedestrians and bicyclists would travel along a wider and safer path than exists today. Light rail and the pedestrian and bicycle path could be on a third bridge or located beneath the decks of the new highway bridges.

Light rail would fit within the future express and local bus systems to expand access between Vancouver and Portland. Express buses would continue to serve long distance commuter markets by providing direct access between Clark County and downtown Portland during peak commute hours. Local bus service in Vancouver would connect to light rail and continue to serve Vancouver.

Anyway in recent news, the project is now in the design phase of the light rail component of this multimodal project.
TriMet on March 10 will hold a neighborhood workshop to hear input about the design of a new light-rail station that would be constructed in downtown Vancouver, Wash., as part of the Columbia River Crossing project.
On a side note, our Port Mann/Highway 1 project will cost about $3 billion. This is what $3 billion of light rail would buy. The map is from Patrick Condon at the UBC School of Architecture + Landscape Architecture. Click the map to make it bigger.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Transit Adventure

On Saturday, a friend of mine wanted some moral support, so she took me on a bit of an adventure to the Guildford 108th Avenue area of Surrey to get a body piercing. All went well, but there were some interesting things I noticed on the trip. First off, work is coming along on the Golden Ears Bridge. They are working on street landscaping right now. If only provincially controlled road did the same thing, but I’ve talked enough about that. They actually already have green directions signs pointing people to the not-yet-build South Fraser Perimeter Road. Hope no one gets lost. *cough*

Anyway, we made it to Guildford in one piece. I actually have never walked through the Guildford area, but I snapped these few pictures of the area around 108th. As you may know, the 104th/108th will be/is a major transit corridor. Also this is an older neighbourhood, so there are many redevelopment opportunities as the following pictures show.

On the way back, I ran into fellow blogger Paul Hillsdon on the 320. Go Transit!