Sunday, May 31, 2009

TeleWork as a Sustainable Solution

For some time now I have been in regular communication with Kate Lister, the Executive Director & Principal Investigator for the Telework Research Network - check out their informative website here. You'll be re-directed to Undress for Success which is also the title of a new book by Kate Lister and Tom Harnish. You'll be hearing much more about this in coming weeks because I'm currently reading the book and developing a series of articles for this blog. We also hope to have Kate Lister here in the Langley/Vancouver area very soon to enlighten us on the possibilities of TeleWorking.

Close to home, Kate alerted me yesterday to this Calgary article about teleworking and the City of Calgary. Federal funding was obtained for the program! Unfortunately the federal ecoMOBILITY funding that Calgary received has ended. 

Kate Lister recently gave a presentation to the San Diego Sustainability Council and was gracious to provide us with a link that you can view above. You can order the here in Canada by clicking this link for Chapters or Amazon Canada. Keep watching this blog for more information on telework and Kate Lister!

Additional Links

Canadian Federal ecoMOBILITY Grant Program links here and here

Work Shift Calgary here

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Vancouver To Seattle and Beyond - Canada Ignores The Rail


All this week, The Tyee has been doing an excellent series on high speed/higher speed passenger rail from Vancouver to Seattle. Last week I got a call from The Tyee's Investigative Editor Monte Paulsen and we chatted for some time about the rail corridor from Vancouver to Seattle and Oregon. We also talked about passenger rail in the south Fraser region and the connection potentials for both. I was very impressed with the amount of research and the depth of knowledge that Paulsen possessed on these topics.

During my conversation with Paulsen I was angered but not surprised, that the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is choosing to spend their $700M in Obama economic stimulus money the Seattle-to-Portland section of the rail alignment. Paulsen told me that WSDOT did this because they felt that Canada was not serious about passenger rail. Some 10 years ago WSDOT issued a report that highlighted upgrades and infrastructure necessary (including a replacement of the old New Westminster rail bridge), for enhanced/higher-speed rail to be supported from Vancouver to Seattle.

You can read the three installments of Monte Paulsen's series:

The Myth of High-Speed Rail for BC - click here

Obama's Billions Bypass BC - click here

Ottawa Halts Vancouver Train - click here

Rail Fix: Two Tracks to Langley (June 1, 2009) - click here

You can also read more about this interesting editor here.


Also, South Fraser OnTrax member Herb Klein provided this link to an article on TransLinks plans moving forward. Both Nathan and I have attended a recent planning session in Langley City on the TransLink 2040 plan. You can find information here on Monday's TransLink Sustainability Forum. As Herb points out, as in New York City the car in greater Vancouver is still king and people guard it with their lives. Any efforts to toll roads and bridges meet very stiff opposition. No one seems to have a big with us subsidezing roads and driving.

By the way, Herb Klein and his wife are realtors - "Spouses With Houses" and you can view ther listings around Walnut Grove and elsewhere and get a free donut to boot! Look for their signs and donut offers around town.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Golden Ears Bridge

Happy Friday! I thought I would share some good news today. As you know, the Golden Ears Bridge will be opening at midnight on June 15th, 2009. The bridge will have a profound effect on transportation on the North Fraser River and South Fraser communities. As part of the opening of the new bridge, TransLink will be introducing a new bus service that will run over the bridge from Langley Centre to Maple Ridge. Also, I’ve been told that many of the community shuttles in Langley will be improving to 30 minutes service which will be a very good thing.

As you many know I live in Langley City and work in Downtown Vancouver, so the 595 many have some use for people like me who may want to try the West Coast Express. I did some basic Math and commuting on the WCE and new 595 bus from Langley Centre will shave about 5 minutes (compare to the 502 and SkyTrain) off my commute. It will give me transit choice and possibly a more comfortable commute. People living in Willoughby and Walnut Grove should benefit more from this new access.

What will be more interesting is the effect on traffic in the area. My prediction is that there will be more traffic and congestion once the new bridge opens (travel between Langley and Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows will still be way more convenient.) There will be more on the north side of the Fraser River than the south as the Lougheed Highway is not seeing any improvements. The Golden Ears Bridge will open up Maple Ridge to major new development and it will be interesting to see how that community will grow and if it will be sustainable. The following is from the Maple Ridge News.
But [Pitt Meadows] keeping an eye on the traffic impact resulting from the new connection over the Fraser River.

“It’s really hard to know exactly where the impact will be, MacLean said.
It will be interesting to see the travel pattern 6 months after the bridge's opening. Enjoy the weekend!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Smart Growth Report

A new report came out today from the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. The report titled “Smart Growth Policies: An Evaluation of Programs and Outcomes” was a two-year study that looked at states in the US that implemented smart growth policy to see how successfully they were in meeting their goals. The report also looked at states that didn’t have smart growth policies. The report looked at the following key areas:

-Promoting compact development
-Protecting natural resources and environmental quality
-Providing and promote a variety of transportation options
-Suppling affordable housing
-Creating net positive fiscal impacts

No state did well on all performance measures, although individual states succeeded in one or more of their priority policy areas. Maryland was successful in protecting natural resources through its land preservation programs and state funding for the purchase of farmland conservation easements. New Jersey policies that responded to state supreme court decisions led to an affordable housing approach that slowed house price escalation and encouraged rental and multifamily housing production. Oregon’s commitment to establishing urban growth boundaries was able to reduce development on farmland in the Willamette Valley. The state also performed well in reducing traffic congestion growth by encouraging commuters to use transit and by systematically planning for bicyclists and pedestrians.

They also may the following recommendations when it comes to Smart Growth planning:

Program Structure and Transparency
-The design of smart growth programs and supporting regulations and incentives should be guided by a vision of sustainable and desirable development outcomes.
-Any top-down or bottom-up smart growth policies must be coordinated at the regional level to be able to achieve their desired objectives.
-Policy makers must articulate the means of achieving smart growth objectives and specify implementation mechanisms, rather than just declare objectives.

Functional Linkages for Policy Design
-The design of growth management policies should take account of interactions among policies and coordination across relevant agencies.
-Smart growth policies should make use of economic incentives, such as pricing and tax policies that have shown promise in other countries.
-Smart growth programs need to consider the income distribution consequences of their policies.

Sustainability and Monitoring of Programs
-Credible commitment from different levels of government is crucial for the successful implementation of smart growth programs.
-Improvements in measurement and collection of data, particularly related to environmental quality and public finance, are needed to better monitor program performance.
-More evidence is needed about the nature of interactions among smart growth policies—particularly those related to land use, transportation, and housing affordability.
-Clearer definition of performance indicators and measurement of their attainment would facilitate the evaluation of smart growth programs and contribute to their technical and political sustainability.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

High-Speed Rail

The Tyee has started a series on high-speed rail between Vancouver and Portland.
No key player -- not Obama, Harper, Campbell or Washington State -- is on board with high-speed rail to Vancouver. Part one of four.

Pyongyang Metro

To give you a break from the everyday, I thought I would share some information on North Korea’s Pyongyang Metro system. It was opened in the 1970’s and is said to be 22km long. Foreigners are only allowed to visit two of the system's stations, so that leads to all sorts of rumours including: the subway is only run between two stations for the few tourists the country sees, or there is a secret network military subway system. Some interesting facts about the system. The stations are named after communist ideals and not geography, so you get station names like Comrade and Red Star. Also, the system was designed as a nuclear fallout shelter. Anyway, there is a very interesting blog post I found at “Marc In North Korea: Through The Looking Glass

My friend Kirsty (a lawyer from London, England) and I were enthralled by the entire scene. The Socialist Realist murals (like me, she is a huge fan of the art form), the Soviet-retro bauble chandeliers, the archways, and the East German cars were all from some weird "Alice in Wonderland"-meets-hardline Communism' world. It was almost too much to take in.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Commercial Land Use and Transportation

This afternoon Township Council received this report on commercial properties in the Township, as it relates to land use and the new Sustainability Charter as Nathan reported yesterday. I was present for this council meeting and the presentation from Jason Chu of the Planning Department. Jason and Paul Crawford were responsible for the Sustainability Charter public engagements and works.

It was interesting to see the questions and interaction from council. The questions started in earnest with Councillor Charlie Fox who asked about the various commercial corridors, opportunity for density/mixed use and most important, transportation. Fox pointed out that we already have significant population to various centres and sometimes we need to provide the transit solutions ahead of the density. Fox went onto say that with these various plans lifting off and people needing to be moved to and from the Langley Events Centre, he would support a pilot rapid transit project.

Councillor Bateman, Richter and others spoke about the need for urban villages and creative big box stores that have large elements of residential opportunities and less paved ugly spaces. Councillor Mel Kositsky offered the usual... if the provincial government pays he will be all for a pilot project. We have to be careful he said. We agree that the provincial government should pay, but council should not preclude innovation, partnerships and creativity.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Broadway Subway to UBC Another Backward Project?

Township Councillor Charlie Fox alerted us to this Vancouver Sun article about the proposed UBC subway idea that will cost approximately $ 3 billion.

Author Miro Cernetig looked at potential ridership and financing costs and estimates this $3B line could actually cost $5 .8 billion or a cost of $58,000 per rider. In his model Cernetig says the "100,000 riders would have to ride the rails every day, seven days a week, for $5 apeice, for more than 30 years to pay down the investment."

The author goes on to say that Metro Vancouver's population is expected to grow by 45% out to 2031. But he also points out that Vancouver is projected to grow from 607,000 (in 2006) to 709,000 by 2031, only a modest 17%. While population in Abbotsford, Coquitlam, Langley Township and Surrey was 770,000 and is projected to be 1.29 million in 2031, or a 67% increase in population!

Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon has said that rail for the south Fraser must be stidied because "we don't want to blow our brains out financially." The minister reiterated that to me just a few weeks ago face to face. At a time when TransLink is already expecting to be broke very soon financially, why would one blow their brains out with this crazy plan? It seems that the powers that be would rather blow their brains out on Vancouver than the south Fraser. Someone is clearly NOT giving Minister Falcon very good advice here.

Township of Langley Commercial Space

Township of Langley Council will receive a report on Willowbrook/Willoughby Commercial space needed in the future. The report was prepared by Coriolis Consulting Corp. The report makes some recommendation on how future commercial space needs could impact planning at the Township. I wanted to touch on some items that stuck out to me from the report.

First, the report recommends that the Carvolth Business Area, that is around 200th Street and the Highway 1, be a large format area:
The Carvolth area is attractive to subregional retail businesses due to convenient vehicular access. However, if Carvolth is permitted to develop as a regional oriented retail and service district, it should not be used to accommodate local oriented retail development. There are other locations that are attractive for local commercial development, but limited opportunities

Accommodate office users that require a high quality business park location in Carvolth and other nearby sites along 200 Street. Office uses in these areas should be limited to those:
-attached to a warehouse, distribution or sales/service function,
-requiring ground floor loading access for equipment, and
-requiring large floorplates.
Based on the recommendation of this report, Carvolth may not become very mixed-use, Smart Growth, or transit friendly. That could be of concern considering that this area has the potential to be a transit node if the Provincial bus plans come to pass, and that 200th Street will be a major transit corridor.

The report does recommend that the Willowbrook area become the office/mixed-use area over time as there is not very much space left to accommodate regional retail (aka. Big Box) use and the area is designated as a regional town centre:
Although large portions of the area are used for surface parking, it is not financially attractive to build retail space on surface parking lots if the existing parking stalls covered by the new building need to be replaced in a new parking structure as the cost of building underground or structured parking is significantly higher than retail land value. This may change over time if retail land values and retail lease rates increase, but during the foreseeable future, this will be a constraint on adding retail space.
The report also makes some recommendation on the phasing of local “major” commercial areas in the Gordon/Smith and Jericho neighbourhoods.

At the end of the day, it is up to council to determine land use for the Township. It will be interesting to see how auto-orientated/large format development will be accommodated under the lens of the Sustainability Charter. It does appear that the local commercial area will be mixed-used and pedestrian orientated from the get-go which is very encouraging.
Staff will explore with the proponent appropriate policies to make the centre a local neighbourhood centre rather than an automobile-oriented one designed to serve through traffic…

Small walkable neighbourhood convenience locations consisting of a few stores oriented to serve the immediate neighbourhood will be considered in the neighbourhood planning process. These commercial centres would consist of a few storefronts with small floorspaces, e.g. 800 to 2,400 square feet, accommodated in a stand-alone building, or preferably as part of a mixed use building.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Winnipeg Street Cars and Toronto Barriers

South Fraser OnTrax board member Bill Taylor wanted to share this website on the old Winnipeg streetcars. Light rail street cars have come a long way from these old 1950 era streetcars. The sleek looks, level boarding, and overall comfort of modern light rail is well-known.

While we are on this topic, you will note that these old streetcars were much like buses in that one is required to climb up stairs to enter or exit. Most light rail communities have instituted LRT that allows for level boarding. Most especially to facilitate an aging population and the handicapped.

Well, there are always exceptions and Toronto will be one of them. Toronto had decided to go with modern Siemens manufactured LRT cars. Then it was switched to Bombardier. This week the federal government and the province announced new funding for the system. Here's the picture and please note the stairs. Does this make any sense to you? Massive bad planning here for sure. Can you imagine designing a system like this with an aging population and handicapped access awareness? Why on earth would you ever build such barriers to inclusiveness and modern convenience? Amazing!

So once again while other provinces tap into unprecedented federal dollars for LRT of some sort, we still mess around with bus, rapid bus and other forms of dinosaur transit options in the south Fraser. With a lack of vision, the people perish. Paraphrased from a wise author.

Update Sunday, May 24, 2009

As our loyal reader Corey pointed out, in April, 2009 the staff of the Toronto Transit Commission did recommend the purchase of Bombardier low-floor light rail vehicles. These LRT cars are known as Bombardier Flex Outlook and is pictured above. The line recently announced by the feds and the province of ON that we spoke about here is an LRT line that will run for Don Mills subway station to Meadowvale Road, connecting to the Finch West LRT. You can read more about it here and here. I believed there is also another streetcar program or two that is yet to be funded.

We aren't sure why the Prime Minister and the Premier did their announcement and photo op on a step-down train, instead of a modern low-level light rail car. Obviously the organizers of this photo op are clueless with regards to transit and as they probably drive a gas guzzler to work every day, would understand why we transportation advocates would gasp at this step-down car. It was red and sparkled as the politicians stepped off, so perhaps that's all that mattered? Thanks for pointing this out Corey!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Grants and Fundraising

So, I have a bit of exciting news today. We received a $2,500 grant from the Township of Langley for community engagement to support sustainable transportation and communities. Thanks Township of Langley! To that end, we will be working hard on an exciting event in the fall of this year. I would like to put out a challenge to everyone to see if we can match the Township grant of $2,500 to allow us to do even more.

Right now, when you donate $10 or more, we will send you a beautiful limited-edition South Fraser OnTrax Sensation Gel Pen as our gift to you (while supplies last).

Rediscovery how fun writing on a piece of paper can really be with this fine gel pen. So, what are you waiting for? Donate today, and let’s support sustainable communities and transportation together!

Donate $10.00:

Donate Any Amount:

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Light Rail in Alberta

During the last municipal elections, the mayors of both Calgary and Edmonton ran on campaigns to expand light rail in their cities. Calgary is busy building a new West Light Rail Line and expanding their existing lines. On Tuesday, Calgary received $90 million from the feds, $90 million from the provinces, with the city paying $90 million for a total of $270 million. In addition to all the expansion going on they will now be able to:

-Upgrade their downtown light rail stations and streetscape
-Building transit priority signalling and transit lanes
-Install real-time bus and train information systems
-Install a new smartcard fare system
-Expand one of the C-Train routes to handle four-car (think new SkyTrain cars x4) trains

Meanwhile in Edmonton, in a similar 1/3 funding agreement, the city has $300 million to expand their light rail system. Also, they are now thinking about going more Portland-style with their planned West Edmonton Light Rail.
The advantages of a low-floor system may include lower infrastructure and development costs, since they require no more than the slight raise of a sidewalk for platforms, and perhaps more stops in the downtown and university areas.
With all this light rail expansion going on and all this federal money, you’d think there would be more light rail in BC, but we have SkyTrain that is only used in North America for people movers and airport shuttles. Did you know that a full 1/3 of all SkyTrain track miles are in Metro Vancouver?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Poll: One half of Americans Who Live or Work in the Suburbs Wish Their Environment Offered More

Here is an interesting Poll from Ipsos Reid:
Of the one in three (32%) Americans who reportedly live in a suburban environment, a majority (51%) wishes their community had more of a wide variety of offerings.
The top items where:
-Better public transportation (23%),
-More housing options (townhouse, condos, etc.)(22%),
-A walkable commnunity (22%)
-More culture and entertainment options (21%)

These are things that we have been saying all along...

News Updates

Good morning, I thought I would update you on some of the light rail stories that I have been following on this blog. The first article is from the Ottawa Citizen which talks about how light rail can be used as a development tool (which we’ve blogged about in the past), and how it makes more sense to put it on the street instead of underground or on a freeway (Ottawa River Parkway in their case) if you want to attract development around light rail stations.

In Houston for example, Reliant Energy built a 36-storey building next to the surface light-rail line down that city's main street, a road that had seen better times. Reliant's construction of the tower was a testimony to its commitment to the light-rail line and to the neighbourhood. In fact, businesses contributed to a nearby fountain that the trains travel through on that same main street.

Meanwhile Phoenix, where their first light rail line opened just 5 month ago, is adding another 5km to the line:

Construction for the extension up to Mesa Drive is still tentatively scheduled to begin in 2012, but because of the economic downturn, and a dramatic sales tax revenue shortfall, the opening date might be pushed back about a year. The extended portion was previously estimated to start running late 2015.

Friday, May 15, 2009

City of Surrey Sustainability Charter

Last night we had the pleasure to hear from Mark Allison, Senior Policy Planner at the City of Surrey. He delivered a presentation about Surrey’s new sustainability charter which was adopted in September 2008. Surrey took a bit of a different approach to their sustainability charter compared to the Township of Langley. The Langley charter is a framework or principles that must be applied to all Township actions moving forward. I was told that the Township is very busy reviewing their operations through the lens of the charter. Surrey’s charter contains principle as well as action items. For example, this year they are working on setting up a Sustainability Office and working on metrics to track sustainability. The Surrey plan is based on a 50 year vision of the community. Also, Surrey uses something called a “Sustainability Cube” (which you can see in the presentation below.) It lays out Surrey’s short, mid, and long term goals in the areas of social/cultural, environment, and economy.
Having heard presentations on both the Township and Surrey’s sustainability charter, I am very excited to see how this will impact community design in the South Fraser region. Langley and Surrey have the chance to be real sustainability leaders and set an example for other communities. My hope is that out of these charters, we will start building communities around people (and not cars) once again. Of course transit is a very important part of the puzzle and the Township of Langley and City of Surrey will need help from TransLink, the Province, and the Federal government to provide the transit needed to build truly sustainable communities.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Meeting Tonight: Surrey Sustainability Charter

Speaker: Mark Allison, Senior Policy Planner – City of Surrey
Topic: Institutionalizing Sustainability at the Municipal Level – Surrey’s Sustainability Charter

Time: 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 - 7:15pm Introduction of Mr. Mark Allison
7:15pm – 8:15pm "Institutionalizing Sustainability at the Municipal Level – Surrey’s Sustainability Charter" - Mark Allison
8:15pm – 8:30pm Q & A - Mark Allison
8:30pm – 8:40pm Short Break
8:40pm – 8:50pm Reports
-Finance Report
-State of Advertising / Promotion / Website & Blog/ Help Needed/
8:50pm – 9:00pm New Business
Meeting Adjourned

Metro Vancouver Workshops

Metro Vancouver is in the process of hosting a series of 20 public workshops over the next little while to get community feedback on the new 2040 Regional Plan. The results of these workshops will be presented to the Metro Vancouver board in the fall. I’ve posted about this plan in the past and the green zone, so my comments can be found there. One of the major chances compared to the previous regional plan (LRSP) is the introduction of an urban growth boundary, defining an industrial land reserve, and finding different ways to protect natural areas from development in our region. I hope one of the end results will be less reliance on the ALR as a defacto urban growth boundary. I had the chance to attend one of these workshops last night at the Douglas Park Rec. Centre in the City of Langley. We heard presentations about the key areas that the regional plan tries to address: Create a Compact Urban Area, Support a Sustainable Economy, Protect the Region’s Natural Assets, Development Complete and Resilient Communities, and Support Sustainable Transportation Choices. We had to talk about how well we thought the plan addressed these goals, provide our feedback, vote on how we felt.

The LRSP had very little teeth and that can be seen in the fact the region’s plan of keeping office jobs in town centre and transit corridors (like Langley City and 200th Street) was not met. We had the option to vote on how much teeth we thought the new plan should have. The results are in the following picture.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Good morning, with the election over I thought I would share some interesting articles I found on the Internet. The first article is from The Oregonian, it talks about car-free suburbs in Germany and a test community that is being built in the San Francisco Bay Area. On Germany:
Street parking, driveways and home garages are generally forbidden in this experimental new district on the outskirts of Freiburg, near the French and Swiss borders. Vauban's streets are completely "car-free" -- except the main thoroughfare, where the tram to downtown Freiburg runs, and a few streets on one edge of the community.
On the Bay Area:
Nothing that bold, that we know of, is in the works in the Portland area. But in California, the Hayward Area Planning Association is developing a Vauban-like community called Quarry Village, just outside Oakland. Residents will be able to access the Bay Area Rapid Transit system on foot or bike. California State University's campus in Hayward also will be nearby.
In other news, I posted earlier about the service reduction on San Francisco’s Muni Transit system; the San Francisco Bay Guardian has an article on fixing transit.
For this to work, public transit must be not just a little bit better, it must be a great deal better. It must remain affordable for families and serve the whole city efficiently, at all hours of the day. Residents should need cars so rarely that transit costs, plus occasional car-sharing and car rentals, are cheaper alternatives than car ownership.

With a higher gas tax and tolls on freeways (measures a recent San Francisco Planning and Urban Research analysis shows to be among the most cost-effective policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions), we can make public transit work better. SFMTA should implement its proposed rapid network on the routes that carry 80 percent of Muni's passengers, speeding up the vehicles by at least 20 percent. That will cost car drivers some time: mixed traffic lanes will have to be converted to bus lanes. Turns will have to be restricted and parking will have to be removed.
And speaking of transit in San Francisco, they have a system being rolled out to their bus stops and Muni Metro stations that gives you real-time information. Muni bus stop now tell you when the next two buses will come in real-time. This is like the 98 B-Line, but for the entire bus system. I wonder when TransLink will role out a system like this here? Also, you get to see the following at Muni Metro stations that let you see where every train is in the system. Pretty cool…

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Meeting this Thursday - Mark Allison

Happy Election Day and TransLink AGM Day! Anyway, our next meeting is this Thursday, May 14, 2009 from 7:00pm - 9:00pm in the Township of Langley Municipal Facility: 4th Floor, Nicomekl Meeting Room, 20338 - 65 Avenue.

We will have a presentation by Mark Allison, Senior Policy Planner at the City of Surrey. He will be speaking on “Institutionalizing Sustainability at the Municipal Level – Surrey’s Sustainability Charter”. We hope you can join us and learn about sustainability on-the-ground in Surrey.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Election Series Recap

With just one more sleep until election day (which means a long day for me at the TV station tomorrow.) I present to you a recap of the local Langley candidates that took the time to respond to our questions. Thanks!

Fort Langley-Aldergrove
Liberals: Rich Coleman
NDP: Gail Chaddock-Costello

Greens: Ron Abgrall
Liberals: Mary Polak
NDP: Kathleen Stephany

West Coast Photos - Part 1

Due to the monthly upload limits on Flickr, I present to you part one of the photos I took on my recent trip to Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco. This pictures include the Fraser River Rail Bridge, Seattle, and Portland. I'll post up San Francisco when my upload limit resets. Enjoy! (You can get more information on the photos by visiting Flickr.)

Friday, May 8, 2009

Election Series – Part Five

Good morning, this is part five of our election series. You can read part four from our post on April 28th. Today we will be hearing from the NDP’s Fort Langley-Aldergrove candidate Gail Chaddock-Costello.

What will your government do to promote sustainable community design?
The NDP will be supporting sustainable community designs by working with communities to complete these designs, rather than have designs imposed on the communities. We will repeal the Significant Projects Streamlining Act and the Liberal's requirement that all projects over $50 million be public / private partnerships and restore local oversight of local power generation. We will realign government priorties to ensure all regions of the province receive investments for community projects, to increase job opportunities while addressing community needs, based on community proposals - local solutions for local problems.

What will your government do to get light rail and other forms of alternative transportation built in the South of Fraser?
The NDP are firmly committed to seeing light rail move forward in the valley. We are working with government at the Municipal and Federal levels to put funding in place to review designs and establish a plan for how and when to move forward. We are committed to increasing transit options, multiple use roads and light rail as greener, more environmentally friendly and affordable options for the growing population south of the Fraser. This is not a long term plan, this is a plan we will be working on once elected to see implementation in the shortest time possible.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Walkability Map

I emailed Andrew Devlin this morning and he kindly provided me with the walkability map and comments that he used in his presentation last night.
Click the Map to Enlarge

"Note that each dot on the map corresponds to a postal code in the region. We base our measure of walkability around four built environment characteristics known to relate with walking: net residential density, commercial density, land use mix, street pattern. We measure these characteristics within a 1-km street buffer radiating from each postal code.

As you would expect, the more walkable places in the region are characterized as being more compact, having a diverse and functional mix of land uses close by, and more of a gridded street pattern. Least walkable areas are less compact, single use neighbourhoods with an irregular street pattern that makes walking unattractive..."

UBC Forum

Last night, I had the change to attend a forum called “Travel by Design: Local Transportation Research and Implications for Surrey” that was hosted by the UBC Alumni Association at the Guildford Sheraton Hotel. There were two presentations followed by a brief question and answer period.

This first presentation was by Andrew Devlin, BES (Pl.) , MA Candidate in the Institute for Resources, Environment, & Sustainability at UBC. He spoke about walkability and how the built environment affects our quality of life. He presented the idea that our quality of life in urban areas has at its base, our built environment that affects our behavior (will we drive, walk, or bike?), that affects environmental quality (the air we breathe), that finally affects our quality of life (bad health, obesity).

Andrew has been working on a Travel Lab for Metro Vancouver because of the lack of local Canadian research on walkability. One on the interesting things to come out of the lab is a walkability map for the Metro Vancouver region. This lab is lead by Dr. Lank Frank at UBC. We posted this data last June.

Some Interesting Facts:
-Adults in the top 25% of the most walkable neighbourhoods drive approximately 58% less than those in more auto-oriented areas.

-Access to grocery stores is very important for walkable communities.

-Whaley, Fleetwood Town Centre, Guildford, Newton, Cloverdale, White Rock, and Crescent Beach are the most walkable areas in Surrey while South Surrey, Fraser Heights, and Port Kells are the least.

The second presentation was delivered by Clark Lim, P.Eng and PhD Candidate in Civil Engineering at UBC, titled “A Hodge-Podge of Transportation Planning Fact and Fiction”. Clark previously worked for TransLink and on the Evergreen Line planning process. His main emphasis was on the fact that there is not enough good data about transportation in Metro Vancouver, and that policies and plans need good data to support them.

Most of the data we use is based on TransLink/Ministry of Transportation trip surveys that are don every 4 years. Usually they have a sample size of 0.5% of our totally population. He seemed excited about the fact that the 2008 survey used a sample size of 2%.

Some More Interesting Facts:
-Average growth rate is 10.6% in the region. Baby Boomers are aging and need alternative transportation.

-10.5% car added from 1994 to 1999.

-18.5% transit growth in same period 1994 to 1999.

-Richmond, Surrey, Langley, North East Sector are the highest growth areas.

-$1billion in transit spending is needed to change transit mode share in the region by 1%.

-33% of trips in the region are for work/school, but 50% of trips are for social/recreational/personal reasons. We needs to start looking at moving people beyond the peak travel periods.

-Peak travel periods are saturated and therefore the peak periods are expanding in duration. Mid-day trips auto trips are also on the rise. We are not as bad as Toronto which is saturated most of the day.

-Transit has seen major growth during peak travel, but a 10.6% reduction during the mid-day in the 90's. This was due to the removal of the mid-day discount by TransLink.

-Pattullo Bridge traffic has dropped since 1994 because of the HOV lane added to the Port Mann Bridge in 1999. This shows the interconnectivity of our bridge system. We have no idea what effect the Golden Ears Bridge/Pitt River Bridge will have on Port Mann Traffic.

-HOV lanes on Highway 1 travel at an average speed of 74km/km while general travel lanes travel at an average speed of 53km/h.

-When he was working on the Evergreen Line, they looked at light rail because it would stop at more location and serve the over 70% of trip in that area that remain local. As we all know, it has turned into SkyTrain.

He added that we need to stop thinking about moving vehicles, and start thinking about how we move people. He used the quote “today’s problems are yesterday’s solutions.”

I will a link to the audio of the presentation hopefully later today.

-Link to Walkability Presentation
-Link to Podcast of Forum

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Breaking News: Community Rail -- A Piece of The Puzzle Uncovered

Thanks to Langley Politics and the Langley Advance for the tip. Let's hope that this agreement gets renewed.


Information relating to the history and protection of the old Interurban passenger and freight rail corridor through the Township of Langley and the City of Langley is being released today.

A great deal has been said about what can and cannot be done on this corridor, and the Township recently received a legal opinion reviewing the various existing historical agreements. However, one further agreement - which had gotten lost through time - was recently discovered: a Master Agreement between BC Hydro and the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), concerning the sale of the tracks and equipment in the Pratt-Livingstone Corridor from BC Hydro to the CPR. The Master Agreement linked other agreements between BC Hydro and the CPR, one of which reserved certain rights to BC Hydro to operate trains, including passenger trains, over the Pratt-Livingstone Corridor; a joint section which runs through the Township and City of Langley.

Our provincial government of the day deserves an abundance of credit in its effort to protect the public's right to passenger transportation on the Pratt-Livingston Corridor, a right previously thought not to exist. But it is clear that when the Province, through BC Hydro, concluded the agreement with the CPR they did so with the foresight of safeguarding a public asset for generations.

However, the agreement between BC Hydro and the CPR reserving BC Hydro's right to operate passenger trains on the Pratt-Livingstone Corridor is a twenty-one (21) year agreement that was signed August 29, 1988, with a renewal clause for twenty-one (21) years at either partyĆ¢€™s option. This agreement expires on August 29, 2009.

Township Council agreed on May 4 to send a letter to BC Hydro requesting its immediate response, and the assurance that Hydro will renew the agreement in question prior to August 29, 2009. Letters will also be sent to all municipalities and cities south of the Fraser, requesting support for the renewal.

Township Council will also send a letter to the City of Surrey and the Board of Directors of the Fraser Valley Heritage Railway Society, asking for their consideration for inclusion of the Township of Langley in their plans for the 2010 Heritage Rail Demonstration Project. This project is currently planned to run from Sullivan Station to Cloverdale. Township of Langley Mayor Rick Green is suggesting it run into Milner, as there is much interest in building a heritage rail replica station at the Milner site.


For further details contact Mayor Rick Green at 604.533.6000 or

Light rail coming, Bus rapid transit ending

As I posted last year, the end is near for what was once called the prime example of bus rapid transit in North America. In yesterday's Ottawa Citizen:

The tunnel is to anchor the planned multibillion-dollar rapid-transit, light-rail network, which was approved by a 22-to-2 council vote last year.

Construction of the network is to start with the tunnel, which would be 3.2 kilometres long, and an east-west, 12.5-kilometre transit line from Blair Road to Tunney’s Pasture along the current transitway and through the tunnel at an estimated cost of $1.4 billion.

All-candidates Debate

I had the chance to attend last night’s all-candidates debate for the riding of Fort Langley –Aldergrove at the Township Municipal Hall. The event was hosted by the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce and the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board. There was some lively debate, and I wanted to highlight some of the key messages from the candidates. So, in the order of their seating last night:

Jordan Braun, BC REFED

-Wants to change the system of government in BC with a new constitution based on the Swiss government system. (Direct Democracy based on having referendums four times a year.)
-Believes that MLA are unaccountable most of the year, and are only accountable to their parties.
-Wants to change how taxes are collect by the federal government. Wants BC to take care of its own taxes.
-Supports Income Tax, not Consumption Tax.
-Support light rail for the Valley.

Gail Chaddock-Costello, BC NDP
-Outlined her role on the BCTF and working in Langley Schools.
-Concerned about the BC Liberals Record. Claims that under the BC Liberals, BC now has the highest rate of child poverty, homelessness, and crime.
-Supports policies that look at reducing child poverty, homelessness, and increasing minimum wage.
-Does don't support Carbon Tax.
-Supports light rail for the Valley.

Rich Coleman, BC Liberals
-Talked about government's track record on infrastructure project spending ($14 billion dollars for the next several years).
-Supports improvements to heath care, education, social programs, and public safety.
-Supports lowering income tax.
-Support small business by lowering industrial and small business taxes.
-Supports working with the federal government on capital gain rollover. (This is good for Smart Growth and affordable housing.)
-Supports the new Port Mann Bridge
-Supports light rail based on the results of the Fraser Valley Rail Study.

Travis Erbacher, BC Green Party
-19 year old student at UFV.
-Talked about global warming and the effects on the environment and what the BC Green Party will do about it.
-Supports transit services improvement to reduce emissions that cause global warming.
-Doesn’t support the Gateway Program or Port Mann Bridge. Money better spent on improving transit instead of putting more cars on the road.
-Support a new, green economy.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Smart Cards and TransLink

In case you didn’t already know, TransLink will be spending $100+ million to replace our fare collection system with a new smart card/turnstile based system. While there has been a bit of controversy over replacing the only eight year old system (and a pretty good one at that), there is another TransLink rolling out a smart card system in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Bay Area currently has over 25 agencies that provide transit services in the region. The smart card system they are rolling out has been in the works for over a decade.

I had the chance to see how the system works when I was down in San Francisco last week. It is pretty impressive. BART, the regional metro system, uses fare gates and distance based fares. CalTrain, the commuter rail system, and VTA Light Rail are based on the honour system (like SkyTrain). Of course, the normal fare boxes are used on buses and Muni Metro trains. The smart card system can handle it all.

The smart card has an e-purse and a transit pass storage section. You can load it up with passes from any agency in the region and add money. It takes care of sorting out the fare you pay on each system. You simply tag a reader when you get on transit, and tag it again when you get off.

I can see the value in a smart card system in a place like the Bay Area with so many agencies. In fact, I had to carry BART, CalTrain, and Muni tickets everywhere. This was a big pain in my pocket. What we are doing in Vancouver seems more like a "cool thing to do" than anything else in comparison. Did you know the MTA in New York is based on the same system that we currently use in Metro Vancouver?

Anyway, this gets to my second point on turnstiles/fare gates. Many people have said that fare gate can make you feel safer because it keeps the criminals off the system. I can tell you that fare gates didn’t make me feel safer on BART. In fact the dark, underground stations made me feel less safe than on SkyTrain. I believe that the two most important thing you can do to make a station feel safer is a.) have uniformed employees at the station and b.) make sure that it uses Crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED). On the plus side with fare gates comes staff to man them...

Muni Metro

Monday, May 4, 2009

More on Transit

I’m back from holidaying along the west coast of the US and back to the routine of life. I got some great pictures that I will be sharing shortly, but I wanted to expand on my earlier post about Dublin/Pleasanton area in the San Francisco Bay Area. But first, transit agencies all over North America are dealing with a funding crises; from our TransLink to Portland’s TriMet to San Francisco’s Muni. Muni is facing a $129 million deficit this year, so on April 20th they decided to cut service and raise fares. Their adult fare is going from $1.50 to $2.00 which is a pretty big jump. As Joe blogged about earlier, Portland’s TriMet system is going to have to make some hard choices too. What is truly amazing is that in a period of record transit usage, systems are having to cut service. Something is very broken with the funding model for transit in North America.

Anyway, back to the Dublin/Pleasanton area in the East Bay. The communities have a combined population of about 110,588 and are about 52km from San Francisco. (Sounds a lot like Langley and Vancouver, eh?) It’s even separated by about 10 minutes of green space and mountain. Anyway, they are currently served by one BART metro rapid transit station (pictures below) that opened in 1997.

They are in the process of building another BART station that will open later this year and is funded by a property deal/transit-oriented development (TOD) project on adjacent BART-owned property. Again, all this is to point out that lack of density is a lame excuses for not building rail transit. Even our worst sprawl in Metro Vancouver is nothing compared to the sprawl in the Bay Area. So, let’s get building light rail to Langley.

Friday, May 1, 2009

San Francisco Bay Area

I'll be back blogging full steam next week, and I've got some great pictures to share. But, I took the Bay Area's BART rapid transit metro system out to the middle of nowhere today. This is important because you always hear that we don't have the density for transit. Well, I rode a very pricey, deluxe metro system over a mountain range and into suburbia. I'll post some photos next week, but if the Bay Area can build metro to an area with the same populations as the Langley, surely we can build affordable light rail.