Saturday, January 31, 2009

Bateman Charms Vancouver Professional Planning Crowd

On the evening of January 21, 2009, our very own long-time Langley transportation advocate, Councillor Jordan Bateman entered the lion's den so to speak. Assembled at the SFU Vancouver Campus was a crowd of mostly Vancouver-centric planners that had gathered for PlanTalk, along with the SFU Urban Studies program.

Many (if not all) of the people presenting last Wednesday are very much against road building and cars. These folks generally practice what they preach by cycling or riding transit. One such cyclist and transit planning advocate is Gordon Price. Price is a former six term Vancouver City Councillor, and current Director of the City Program at SFU. This program trains up urban planners and is a highly successful program for SFU.  Price also severed on the GVRD and TransLink boards. Gordon Price is well-respected in urban planning circles and I have had the good fortune of hearing him speak and debate many times. I would not want to be across the table from him on an issue that we disagree on.

I gather from this post on a blog written by Gordon Price (called "Price Tags") that he was signifcantly impressed with our Councillor Bateman and his progressive ideas that Price sees as breaking the mold of politicians south of the Fraser.

"What’s refreshing about Bateman - and there’s no question of his ability to disarm with charm - is that he’s not solely a carhead. This man wants transit, particularly light rail, and he has a compelling vision of how it could transform Langley along the 200th Street corridor. Perhaps it was a strategic appeal to an urban-centred audience of planners, but Bateman seems to genuinely believe in a more transit-oriented future reflected as much in land use as in transportation"

"But perhaps, as a consequence of Jordan Batemen, there may be a light-rail line down 200th Street."

-- Gordon Price
I give Councillor Bateman a huge amount of respect and credit, as it took boat loads of courage to enter into a presentation and panel discussion with these planners and guest speakers that were present. Jordan and I had a discussion prior to his presentation and I was very impressed with the amount of research and graphic representation of facts he was able to pull together over a short period of time. There was little I could add, as he has all the bases covered regarding the south of Fraser needs and challenges.

We are fortunate to have Councillor Jordan Bateman representing us here in Langley. We are even more fortunate to have him as a vocal transportation advocate for the south Fraser region. I hear that Councillor Bateman has been asked by those in attendance to participate in another event of this type in the future. I'm certain he will represent our needs well.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Federal Taps May Flow - Mayor Green Talks Light Rail Transit



The Langley Advance just released an article by reporter Matthew Claxton who talked with Mayor Rick Green of the Township, and Mayor Peter Fassbender of the City of Langley regarding the new federal budget. Both mayors discuss infratsructure projects, but Mayor Green is talking light rail.

Although the federal government indicated that the federal infrastructure dollars will be for "shovel-ready projects", it appears that Mayor Rick Green will advocate for a project that could start in a couple of years, that project being light rail transit (LRT).

"In the Township, the top priority is a water line to Aldergrove and the Gloucester industrial area. That would complement a sewer pipe which will start construction soon. However, Township Mayor Rick Green was more cautious in his hopes for federal cash being realized." 

-- The Langley Advance

"I have heard nothing," Green said. "I'm hoping I'll hear something by the end of the week." Green said he is not sure that all the money will go to "shovel ready" projects. Some of the projects may be a couple years away from starting construction, Green said. Green said he hopes that Surrey Mayor Diane Watts has brought regional issues to the forefront. She has been lobbying for money for projects that would affect much of the south Fraser area. "We're talking light rail," Green said."

--Mayor Rick Green


Port Mann to Become Super Bridge?

Global BC news announced last night that the new Port Mann Bridge may not be twinned at all, but may be a single "super bridge" that will be the largest in Canada. The various partners are thinking along these lines because the old Port Mann is 45 years old and maintenance will be ongoing and costly. The new super structure would have up to 10 lanes and if built, would make way for the old Port Mann to be torn down.

Transportation Minister Kevin Flacon said this new design (if built) would include dedicated lanes for transit and he specifically mentioned rapid bus lanes. He also talked about this rapid bus service being able to travel from Langley to the Burnaby SkyTrain station in only 23 minutes.

A few weeks the TransLink CEO Tom Prendergast commented to a group of elected officials that building rapid bus infrastructure is bascially a waste of time, and that LRT lines would be better money spent.

Minister Falcon's comments were disappointing given the TransLink CEO's comments and also the ongoing new south of Fraser transit study that is to be completed in late 2009. Would this not have an imact on the Port Mann Bridge project? I sure hope they change their minds about rapid bus and go with LRT.

Unfortunately the Global website does not provide direct links to videos. You can go to their main website's video tab and select Thursday night's 6pm News Hour, and again at 11pm on News Hour Final.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Phoenix Light Rail Video

Awhile back, I wrote a post about Phoenix light rail. At the end of December, the system opened. I found this clips on YouTube about safety on the system. The video is a bit chessy, but points out all the at-grade feature of their system. You can find out more about the system by visiting Valley Metro’s website (the public transit agency.)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

In the News – Budget 2009

I just wanted to point out a few interesting news items from the past day. Yesterday in the Surrey leader, there was an editorial article titled "Keep the momentum".

Residents from Surrey and Delta responded, and the refrain is a familiar
one in the Lower Mainland: Improve transportation options, especially south of
the Fraser…

…A common call was for the creation of interurban light rail. “It is much
more affordable than other transit projects.”

We asked, and the people have spoken. Will the politicians deliver?

Last week really highlights the lack of transportation options for many people in the South Fraser. As an example, over 30% of the traffic on the Port Mann is between the Tri-Cities area and Surrey. Currently if you wanted to get from Guildford to Coquitlam, you would have to take a bus, two SkyTrains, and another bus…

Anyway, this leads to the second bit of news. The federal government released its budget. According to the CBC, the big city mayors had a mixed reaction to it. A look the government's website reveals:

-$1 billion over five years for a Green Infrastructure Fund.

-Increasing funding to VIA Rail by $407 million for the MontrĂ©al–Ottawa–Toronto corridor.

-Identenfied as a project that can be "expedited over the next two construction seasons." (money from the old Building Canada Fund.) is the Evergreen Line. That is good news!

-$4-billion Infrastructure Stimulus Fund that will provide funding to provincial, territorial and municipal infrastructure rehabilitation projects. Funding will be available for two years for projects that will begin construction during the 2009 and 2010 construction seasons.

-The federal government will also create a P3 coporoation, much like Partnership BC.

So all in all, it doesn’t look like there is anything too new in the 2009 budget for public transit or for buidling a sustainable Canada. And while $1 billion is a great start for a Green Infrastructure Fund, when you put Ontario and Quebec into the picture and take into account that this is over 5 years, its not very much. At least the Evergreen Line looks like it might be funding (that is if the budget passes.) Of course, if it was light rail they would have the funding already…

PS: Canada’s solution to our green house gas causing emission problem is to dump money into carbon capture and nuclear energy…

Since 2006, the Government has provided $375 million to support the development of carbon capture and storage technologies, including $250 million in Budget 2008 for a full-scale commercial demonstration of carbon capture and storage in the coal-fired electricity sector in Saskatchewan, research on the potential for carbon storage in Nova Scotia, and economic and technological issues. An additional $125 million is available for carbon capture and storage projects under the ecoENERGY Technology Initiative of Natural Resources Canada.

To further support Canada's leadership in clean energy, Budget 2009 provides $1 billion over five years to support clean energy technologies. This includes $150 million over five years for research, and $850 million over five years for the development and demonstration of promising technologies, including large-scale carbon capture and storage projects. This support is expected to generate a total investment in clean technologies of at least $2.5 billion over the next five years.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I love maps...

So a friend of mine posted on my facebook wall that he was “nerding from the past couple days.” He drew up this map of his 2040 rapid transit fantasy. I like pretty maps, so I thought I would share it. You can find more information about this on a thread at SkyscraperCity.

A brief description so far
(there was more thought behind everything, but I'll explain all that once I'm finished, as I have yet to complete the loop - something going out to the ferries and meeting up with the blue line, as well as the inclusion of the west coast express)

Generally, my plan was to have stations in the larger centres, and near universities/colleges, because people won't use transit if their destination requires too many transfers. As well, much of the development south of the fraser isn't even visible on the satellite images of google earth, so although some stations may seem useless, the present-day situation is much different. I've also elected to rename the vancouver/burnaby lines to colours, to allow for much easier recognition (i.e. in station paint schemes/maps).

Transit Money

So I'm back to working the normal 9-5 shift, which means that I got a chance to chat with people who took transit out of Langley during the Pattullo Bridge outage. Apparently the bus was crazy packed out of Langley City for the whole week. Usually the bus gets packed once you get into Surrey. Also, the SkyTrain was packed as well. I posted earlier that I almost got killed on the escalator at King George SkyTrain station during Christmas due to overcrowding. Well all last week, due to the extra riders and today, there is now a friendly voice announcement that tells people to move to away from the escalator to the edge of the platforms. It even thanks them for riding SkyTrain at King George.

All this is to say that the major bus routes and SkyTrain are already packed in Metro Vancouver during peak times, so it was no surprise to me that transit didn’t see huge gains in riders last week. There is no room. This really brings home the point that transit service is under funded. I know that I can hear people say that it’s because of SkyTrain, and that’s true. But we are stuck with the SkyTrain that we currently have, and still have to pay for it and for improved all transit service.

With the federal budget coming out, it will be interesting to see if there will be any new money for transit and other sustainable ventures. The economic crisis has given the Federal government the chance to spend like crazy. I hope that they spend money by investing in the future of a green Canada and a new green economy, and not just waste it on dying industries. As I’ve said before, the federal government needs to setup a sustainable funding program just for transit (and of course other infrastructure.) Anyway, we’ll see…

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Congratulations to TransLink and the MoT

TranLink and the MoT are to be highly commended for today's announcement that the Pattullo Bridge will re-open tomorrow (Monday) morning by 6:00am. The bridge was closed due to a fire that just occured last Sunday, exactly one week ago.

Langley's own Surespan Construction played a key role in this quick re-opening, after it was discovered that the Langley-based company had 18 metre gap replacement sitting in their works yard.

With another Langley connection, Township of Langley Councillilor and Get Moving BC spokesman Jordan Bateman appeared on Global BC News this evening to recommend the federal and provincial governments establish a fund for our aging infrastructure and to help tackle emergencies like this.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Dirt on the Port Mann

The Vancouver Sun has a very detailed article about the state of P3’s (Public Private Partnerships) in BC. As you know, the Port Mann/Highway 1 expansion project is having a hard time securing funding due to the financial meltdown. Well, I saw this quote in the article and I just had to comment:

Doherty wonders what will happen if fewer people than anticipated pay tolls to use the Port Mann expansion.
This summer, before the financial meltdown hit it mainstream, I had the chance to look at a confidential document shown to me by a source at a well respected firm involved in operating and building P3 projects. This document did an analysis on the financial viability of the Port Mann project. The document stated that the revenue projections from the BC government were higher than their number. It concluded that this project was not worth bidding on.

It comes as no surprise that the government is having a hard time finding a funding partner. If the revenue projections from this project didn’t make sense before the meltdown, it certainly doesn’t make sense now. Rumour on the street is that the province might be funding the Port Mann project 100%. I’m scared that the Evergreen Line is going to get lost with all the P3 funding issues. Given the choice between the Evergreen Line and the Port Mann expansion, well, I’d go for the Evergreen Line.

Quick Bridge Update

As you know, I’ve been following the Pattullo Bridge and the affect it is having on traffic in the region. As I wrote in an earlier post, traffic is like air. People will adjust their habits as road space expands or constricts. Anyway, the following quote is from the Vancouver Sun. Is our traffic normalizing, is traffic “disappearing”?

Meanwhile, the Thursday morning was generally better than the three previous work days this week, according to AM 730.

ALR Update

As a follow-up to my post last week about ALR inclusions and exclusions in the South Fraser, I sent in a request to the Agricultural Land Commission to get by municipality stats. I received the following email back, so it looks like I might have to do some more digging. I hope I don’t have to do a Freedom of Information request, ek…. I'll keep you posted.
Mr. Pachal:

The Commission does not have the capacity to provide you with information regarding ALR inclusions and exclusions by municipality. The information is tracked by regional district. You may wish to refer to the ALC website or the Commission's Annual Report for the information we publish.

Fraser Valley Transit Study

Well, it’s been a busy morning today. I woke up to a call from the Ministry of Transportation re: the Fraser Valley Transit Study that was announced in August of 2008. As we blogged about last year and as was reported in the local press, we were concerned that this was the Interurban study that Kevin Falcon promised back in January 2008 at the Langley Chamber of Commerce meeting. Well, Joe received the following email in his inbox today from an inquiry he placed last August when this study was announced:
Dear Joe:

Thank you for your e-mail of August 27, 2008, regarding the Strategic Review of Transit in the Fraser Valley. Please accept my apologies for the lateness of my reply.

The Strategic Review of Transit in the Fraser Valley will help the Fraser Valley Regional District, TransLink, BC Transit and my ministry develops a long-range transit vision for South Fraser communities. We intend for it to be a comprehensive analysis with public and stakeholder consultation on all the public transit options for the future of this region. As such, my ministry isn't currently developing other studies on this topic. We recently issued the request for proposals, and it's our expectation that the final report should be ready for review in December 2009.

Thank you again for taking the time to write.

Best regards,

Kevin Falcon
So, it looks like the Interurban study (all of the South Fraser) has become the Fraser Valley transit study. During my call with the MoT today, I was told that they are looking at how to tie the Fraser Valley communities into all the South Fraser communities like Surrey and Langley.

Anyway, it is disappointing that this study will not be from the reference point of all the communities in the South Fraser, but instead will be from the reference point of Abbotsford and Chilliwack. I think this has the potential to weaken the case for light rail in our sub-region. South Fraser OnTrax believes in a phased approach that would look at Surrey to Langley first, as we believe that is where the highest potential for ridership exists. I just hope that this study doesn’t turn into a “the demand between Abbotsford and Chilliwack for light rail doesn’t make sense for the next 50 years”. We would then be back a square one waiting for an Interurban study.

We will be giving a 30 minute presentation to the MoT folks near the end of February. Keep your fingers crossed that the scope of this study will expand to look at transit for the perspective of Surrey (or even Vancouver with a new Fraser River Bridge).

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Code of Ethics

I just wanted to let you know that South Fraser OnTrax has now posted a Code of Ethics to our Document Archive. You can download a copy from that site. The Code of Ethics came as a result of the many grant applications that we have been written lately. To give you an idea of the exciting things we have planned:

In the City of Langley
-A series of design charrettes and educational workshops about making the single-family home areas of Langley City more sustainable. We are still working out the details, but it will include thinks like making homes more energy efficient to infill redevelopment ideas.

In the Township of Langley
-An educational workshop on sustainable practices including urban village and transit connection educational and hands-on application of the principles through table top exercises.

-We are still working out the details with the Township of Langley, but we have been given the opportunity by Township Council to work with Township Staff (and the public) to revision a part of Aldergrove (non-binding). We will have more details shortly, but this event will probably be the highlight of the year for us as South Fraser OnTrax.

Now just cross your fingers and hope we get funding. :-)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Pattullo Bridge - Update 1

Traffic is still pretty heavy since the Pattullo Bridge closed last weekend. Apparently the bridge might now be open in two weeks time due to some spare bridge structures that were used during the Canada Line construction. It is good to see that this work will be done sooner than later, but I wonder if two weeks is enough time for people to adjust their mobility habits as I blogged about yesturday.

I have been working evening shifts this week and I take transit in Vancouver from Langley, so I haven’t been able to see what the rush hour is like on-the-ground. According to my co-workers, SkyTrain has been busier then normal. Also, it is take 50% longer to go through the George Massey Tunnel. According to an article in the Vancouver Sun, there is still major congestion on the roads that lead to Highway 1 in Surrey. Traffic was in better shape on Tuesday and there was some evidence that people are changing their habits.

But Nichole Williams, dispatcher with Surdel Taxi, said rush hour was quieter than expected. "It was chaotic on Monday as everyone panicked, but today people seemed to get over it, figure things out and traffic was moving much better," Williams said.
It also appears that the peak demand is moving earlier in the morning as people start adjusting. It might be a better idea for some people to leave home later to avoid the earlier peak.

The New Westminster News Leader has an article about the changes in that community. It was good to hear that the City of New Westminster was flexible with their work schedule.

New West's manager of engineering operations told me it took two hours to get to ork from Newton on Monday morning. He opted for the Alex Fraser; others get the joy of the Port Mann. That's perhaps contributed to his decision to give fellow south Fraser-living employees in his department the opportunity to work a 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. shift "when we can accommodate them." Some staff are being shuttled from the SkyTrain station to the works yard, and Jon said he's basing one crews at Queensborough so they don't have to worry about traversing the bridge during the day in all this mess.
This kind of scheduling is something that all employers should consider all the time. Staggering start time, by even 15min, can make a huge difference for traffic load. Anyway, I will continue to monitor this situation...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Busses on the Port Mann Today

...and they say you can't put busses on the Port Mann. ;-P

N19 (late night service) will continue to reroute via: the Port Mann bridge until further notice due to the closure of the Pattulo Bridge.
From TransLink's website

Pattullo Bridge

Well, I’m sure by now you are aware that a section of the Pattullo Bridge burned down on Sunday. If not, do a quick search on Google. Anyway, the short of it is that the bridge will be out of service for over four weeks. I have to say that this must have really sucked for people stuck in traffic this morning and this evening. It was so foggy this morning that I couldn't get a good look at the bridge from the SkyTrain bridge. I’m sure there will be traffic issues for the remainer of this week. What will be interesting to see is what happens once people adjust to the reduction of this bridge in our transportation network.

In late 2007, the Interstate 35W bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis collapsed. The bridge opened again in late 2008. There was lots of data collected about the change in traffic patterns and traffic equilibrium before and after the bridge collapse. Studies form the University of Minnesota found that there was there was there was “not disastrous disrupt[ion of] the overall traffic of the Twin Cities network as initially predicted by the mass media. Travelers exhibited great flexibility in dealing with the changed traffic pattern, although some encountered more inconvenience than others.” The report found that most traffic either made changes to travel time (to the shoulders of peak travel times), or changed their routes. The report did not find that there was an increase in transit ridership, instead drivers used the excess capacity on other roads and traveled slightly off-peak. Also, since the open of the new bridge (which is light rail ready BTW) it now has 1/3 less trips now then the old bridge had.

Back in the day (and even still today), planners and people tended to look at travel demand as a liquid. If you plug-up the pipe, that travel would spill over and you would have a big miss. The current thinking on travel demand is that it’s more like a gas. It will expand or contract depending on the diameter of the pipe.

Again, the closure of the Pattullo Bridge will have an effective on travel in our region. It will also have a short-term negative economic impact. There is will be longer commutes, but I think that we will all be surprised at how people’s travel will adjust to the loss of the bridge. Unlike Minneapolis, we don't have excess peak road (or really even transit) capacity. It will be interesting to see if we experience the disappearing traffic phenomena. Some people may try transit for the first time (hopefully they don’t have a negative experience), some people might car pool, others will decide that their trip is not worth taking.

I think the whole bridge fire highlights the need for a replacement bridge that must combine road/bike/light rail/rail (the Fraser River rail bridge almost rusting apart.) I also think that the bridge fire will show how flexible traffic really is.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Interurban Passenger Rail Good For Environment & Productivity

Today's Globe and Mail says that the federal budget's stimulus package should include a major investment in interurban passenger rail to improve the environment and productitivity. Most of the major media understand the significance and common sense need for interurban passenger rail to connect our communities. So why don't our public officials see the light? They just don't seem to get it!

The Globe and Mail thinks these federal infrastructure projects should go beyond simply replacing what we already have (aging infrastructure), and also that this stimulus spending should contribute to our environment and productivity growth.

"...these undertakings should contribute to productivity growth.

To be sure, some humdrum repair of infrastructure is called for. In many places, basics such as roads and water mains are showing their age. Often, the federal government will be best positioned to pay for the renovation of its own properties, so that it can see the work through.

But there are much more ambitious forms of infrastructure that go beyond replacing what we already have. The electricity grid, for example, should be much more resilient and flexible than it is now. In September, 2007, for instance, a storm in the U.S. Midwest deprived two-thirds of Saskatchewan of electricity. It can hardly be beyond modern technology to deploy alternative transmission routes quickly. 

Quite apart from the fact that improved access to electricity would also reduce dependence on carbon-emitting fossil fuels, reliable electric power enables people and businesses to produce more economic value.

Similarly, major investments in urban public transit and interurban passenger rail would be beneficial for both the environment and productivity."

Friday, January 16, 2009

Light Rail Transit For Families, Elderly and Handicapped in Any Weather

The latest issue of the Langley Advance printed this letter from South Fraser OnTrax Board Member Bill Taylor. In his letter Bill makes the case for reliable and sustainable transit solutions for families. He'd also like to see these solutions work in any kind of weather including the recent snow storms.

"Some couples with young children have to spend a fortune to keep up with all the activities of their young family and the necessities of life. We need public transportation that is affordable, sustainable, reliable (even when it snows), and safe.

It would be great if this public transportation could be interurban, going past universities, airports, shopping centres, workplaces, and needless to say, be close to homes. Then we would have a choice in transportation most of the time.

We would also be cutting down on air pollution and be less stressed out when going from one place to another. The best public transportation has already been suggested by a great number of people, and that is light, modern, interurban passenger rail."

                                                             -- Bill Taylor

I would only add to Bill's fine letter that street level (at grade) LRT also makes good sense for the elderly and handicapped that would not have to navigate to a platform or station in the sky. They could safely board the light rail car straight on with level boarding and no steps to climb. 

Bill mentions the Interurban which is an old alignment that ran through several communities from the turn of the century until the 1950's. While this alignment serves some universities and centres as Bill points out, it may not serve the current and future densification plans for communities such as Abbotsford and Langley. For example, a transit select committee concluded in late 2008 that because of their densification patterns and the YXX airport location (along with future airport area growth expected to top over 260%), a horseshoe alignment would better serve their needs as this and other densification would be far from the old Interurban alignment in their community.

All this to say we need to remain open to what the experts are telling us and consider all options for an alignment that serves the density patterns of all the communities involved and connects them efficiently. Building an LRT system in this manner will ensure ridership numbers are kept UP and the system can support iteself financially and otherwise, making it a viable and reliable part of the communities of Abbotsford, Langley City and Township, and Surrey.

SkyTrain vs. Light Rail

Nick Wright is a Community Relations Office with the Ministry of Transportation. His blog post supports all transit and he appears to like SkyTrain, but believes it is OK to have both! Nick reports that there will be a debate next Wednesday, January 21, 2009 at the Alice Mackay Room of the Vancouver Public Library from 7:30pm - 9:00pm. 

Thursday, January 15, 2009

State of the ALR

I was doing some research on Agricultural Land Reserve stats in the Province of BC. If you look at the bottom line number from when the ALR was started until today, we’ve actually seen an increase in lands added into the reserve: From 4,716,516 hectares in 1974 to 4,759,682 hectares in 2008. This seems really good on the surface, but if you look a little closer there is another story to be told.

The ALR Commission has a classification system for ARL lands, Class One being the best and Class Seven being unable to sustain agriculture. The majority of the best land (Class One) for agriculture is in the South Coast, Southern Vancouver Island, and Okanagan which also happens to be where the vast major of our population lives. More on that. Theses regions are also the areas where there is the most pressure to remove land for the ALR. The following table tells the story (click the table to expand).

Are you can see, the regional districts with the most productive land in the province have all seen major losses in ALR land. This land has been replaced with land that is located in the north (above Williams Lake) where soils are of poorer quality. In fact about 81% of ALR land lies outside the highly futile Coast Coast, South Vancouver Island, Okanagan, and Kootenay areas. Only 5% of BC is ALR land and only about .95% is prime ALR land, land that is worth protecting. Smart Growth BC has a great website about the benefits of having food close to population. To sum it up, it’s better to be able to get food that’s 50km away instead of 1000km.

There is one other stats that I found interesting: 65% of all land being included into the ALR since it formation has been from private landowners. A full 70% of land excluded from the ALR is from the Provincial government. This would include things such as the South Fraser Perimeter Road and Highway 91 through Richmond.

Anyway, I have placed a call into the ALR Commission to get by municipality stats for land included and excluded from the ALR in the South Fraser/Fraser Valley region. I’ll keep you posted.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Money for Infrastructure

Well as you as well aware, the Province and Federal government launched the South Fraser Perimeter Road yesterday. I was looking at a map of the project and found it interesting that once the SFPR is completed Burns Bog will be completely surrounded by freeways. Anyways, the $401 million 2001 dollar project is now $1 billion dollars or more. Just think about how much light rail that would build…

Meanwhile, the $1.2 billion dollar Evergreen Line might actually be getting built. According to an article in the Tri-City News, a project office has been setup outside the Coquitlam transit centre. These projects are all P3, so construction is dependent on private dollars to get started.

It looks like transit is being taken more seriously at the federal level. The federal government now requires that all new buses that have federal dollars attached have “Canada Building Transit Together” stickers on the fare box. Winds of change I tells ya… What we really need is a stable transit funding program in Canada and a shift away from the various one-off infrastructure funding programs.

With that, I was pleasantly surprised to find an article in the Surrey Leader about municipal funding wish-lists.

From the Township of Langley:
-Expansion of lateral road network reaching from Surrey to South Langley, on to Abbotsford Airport and to Chilliwack.
-Light rail following those routes.

Today's post is brought to you by the phase: "shovel-ready."

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Coming Soon

Good evening, it’s been a busy few days for us at South Fraser OnTrax as we work away on securing grant money to help us engage the community and our local governments on the issues of sustainability. To that end, our co-founder Joe Zaccaria made a delegation last night to Township of Langley Council and it looks like the Township may be involved at some level at a sustainability event we are planning for later this year. We are also working on getting other governments and agencies on board. The details are being hashed out and hopefully we will have more information in the next few weeks. This is really exciting stuff.

Speaking about stuff, we will also be launching a fundraising campaign shortly to help support all the events we have planned for the year. If you would like to give us some of your money in the meantime, you can us the Paypal donation buttons located on the right side of this blog. :-)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Music at SkyTrain Platforms

This came in my email...

Results indicate that most SkyTrain riders are in favour of music being played at SkyTrain stations for a trial program in which either seasonal music or general softer music, or both, would be played over station speakers on the SkyTrain Platforms (but not inside SkyTrain cars). The most preferred types of music are Classical, Traditional Christian Seasonal music and Soft Rock. Other preferred types of music include Rhythm and Blues, Blues, and Jazz.
I got to say, I heard this during the Christmas season and it was a bit weird. People were trying to figure out where the music was coming from. Sadly, I’m in the minority but my demographic (under +35) preferred to have no music at SkyTrain platforms more so than the older folks.

Find out more.

Ottawa Transit Strike

As you may be aware, workers for the City of Ottawa’s transit system have been on strike since the end of December. According to an article at, the strike and the lack of transit service is costing the local Ottawa economy $4 million dollars a week just in commuting costs alone. It has also played havoc with businesses and work schedules. The situation is such that the City of Ottawa is looking at opening up their busway (which I blogged about earlier) to general traffic and removing parking restrictions in their downtown. This, of course, is not good for businesses that requires a flow of traffic aka costumers. You hear some people say that transit is a waste of money. Clearly it is not in Ottawa. Transit helps connect communities in social, economical, and environmentally friendly ways that the car can't. Imagine Metro Vancouver with no public transit, or Downtown Vancouver if it was all parking lots. (I know there was a bus strike a few years back, but I believe the SkyTrain still ran), not good.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

US$ 11.7 Billion for Light Rail Inter-Urban

While we fight locally for our politicians to see the light (no pun intended), Guangdong, China just said they would invest US$ 11.7b...yes, BILLION for only an initial phase of inter-urban LRT linking Guangzhou to other cities in the region. You can read the China Daily coverage here.

The Guangdong governor said last week that the provincial government would invest 350 billion yuan before 2050 in building a 1,900 kilometre rail network in the Pearl River Delta Region. By the end of 2012, the government there says that 1,100 kilometres of railway will have already been built. The goal is to connect Guangzhou to all other cities in the region in less than one hour.

Over the 10 years that I lived in Asia as a senior expat executive I witnessed the transformation of Bangkok people-moving with the Siemens built Skytrain, expansion of light rail in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, or Manila, Philippines, and elsewhere. I loved visiting Singapore and each time I flew in for R&R, the Singapore government was adding more MRT stations to their very efficient rail system. I rode the rails for 18-20 hours each way from Bangkok to Hat Yai, Thailand and on to Penang, Malaysia too many times to count and enjoyed the 2nd Class aircon rail cars, but didn't appreciate the rats that would scurry under your bunk at night, nor the large Asia water bugs (cockroaches) that would crawl on you while you try to sleep.

In all ways transit and by necessity, governments in Asia have had to look to light rail transit and other alternatives to ease traffic congestion. Building new roadways and highways never worked for them. When I lived in Bangkok and prior to the completion of Skytrain and subway, it could take you up to 3 hours or more to travel only 3 miles from your home. I lived in the city of perpetual traffic jams day and night. I've never seen a roadway ease congestion. I have to chuckle at people that see roads as a legitimate solution. I'm content to have them proceed with their exercises in futility, provided that they allow our communities to get light rail. Once we get the rail I will be content to look out the window of the train and smile back as they sit in traffic congestion.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Download the Audio of our Meeting

Our January 8th, 2009 meeting audio minutes are available for downloading.

Download the MP3 Audio File

(Remember to select "Save As" if you want to save it to your desktop, otherwise it will play in your browser.)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Meeting Tonight - Portland: A Sense of Place

"Movie Night – Portland: A Sense of Place"
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 Group introductions (All)
7:10pm – 7:30pm Reports (Financial Report, Advertising/Promotion/Fundraising Report)
7:30pm – 7:52pm Movie - Portland: A Sense of Place
7:52pm – 8:30pm Movie Discussion
8:30pm – 9:00pm
-Blog & Website
-Help Needed
-Grant Application Status
-New Business

Meeting Adjourned

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A Brief History of the South Fraser Perimeter Road

In March 1992, a study called "South Fraser Perimeter Road Study" concluded that a new route from Highway 1/15 to Highway 91 would be needed for commercial traffic. This was reflected in Metro Vancouver's Transport 2021 and the Livable Region Strategic Plan at the time. Between 1995 and 1998, various reports and projects were completed by Delta and Surrey to facilitate this new regional road. South Fraser Way in Surrey reflects some of this early work. Meanwhile the Province worked on a study in 1995 that determined:
-The SFPR has an unmistakable provincial function and serves as an important element in the long term inter-regional network.

-The SFPR would function as a major truck corridor serving inter- and intraregional truck trips.

-The SFPR supports the regional growth management strategy outlined in the “Livable Region Strategic Plan” and is compatible with the policies and system concept of “Transport 2021”.

-The SFPR should be a four-lane expressway with the highest standard of access control in order to fulfill its role and function as a major east-west connector and major truck route.
They also determined that the work done to date by Surrey and Delta didn’t meet the expressway standards that the province wanted.
Previous designs prepared for the City of Surrey generally meet the 80 km/h standard. Although generally in conformance with the MoTH standard, the Surrey designs are inconsistent in typical section along the length, particularly the median. Previous work by both Surrey and Delta provided for significant access control but intersection spacing is well below the 800 metres minimum required for an expressway.
In 2001 the Ministry of Transportation released its own report on what it thought the South Fraser Perimeter Road should be, and the SFPR as we know it was started. At that time, the Province was only looking at Highway 91 to Highway 1/15. The section of the SFPR through Burns Bog was a phase two future plan. As you know since 2003 this project scope is now from Deltaport all the way to Highway 1/15.

I was reading one report that was discussing how designing the SFPR as a road like Fraser Highway or 200th Street (an urban arterial) would have similar benefits to designing it as an expressway. I’m not sure why, but it then just recommended that is be an expressway.

Anyways, the point of all this relates to my earlier post that when the Ministry of Transportation builds a road is always turns into an expressway. I’m convinced expressways are the only kind of road they are allowed to build. Compare Fraser Highway or 200th Street to the Highway 10 Widening Project. All three are major regional roads. Fraser Highway and 200th Street are designed to a standard that fits their urban context with paths, bike lanes, planted medians, and wide sidewalks. Highway 10 rips through Surrey with noise walls, narrow sidewalks, and concrete barriers. Not a good way to connect communities and build with Smart Growth principles.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Quote of the Day

I recommend that you read the book The World is Flat. It is about globalization in the 21st century. Anyway, there was one quote in the book that really stood out.
Congress has a long history of wasting money on pork barrel highway projects. From now on, let's waste our money on test tube projects instead - just in case.
This was referring to the lack of funding in education in the US, and how governments make the mistake of trying to prop up dying industries instead of investing in new. (aka auto industry) He also makes the point that we should be investing in the green economy to help keep good paying jobs in North America.

Public Transportation for British Columbia to cut down on clogged roads and road rage

I have, as have the majority of people I have talked to, longed for better public transportation for a number of years.

It costs around $4,000 to $6,000 (based on 24,000km) a year to operate a vehicle according to a BCAA study. This does not include lease, insurance, or finance payments. Some couples with young children have to spend a fortune to keep up with all the activities of their young family and the necessities of life.

We need Public Transportation that is Affordable, Sustainable, Reliable, (even when it snows) and Safe. It would be great if this Public Transportation could be Interurban going past Universities, Airports, Shopping Centers, Work Places and needless to say be close to Homes. Then we would have a choice in transportation most of the time. We would also be cutting down on air pollution and be less stressed out when going from one place to another.

The best Public Transportation has already been suggested by a great number of people and that is Light, Modern, Interurban, Passenger Rail. Instead of spending Billions for SkyTrain and having to spend Billions more on more roads and Bridges, Passenger Rail Would be in the Millions. Yes we would need a few more roads and Bridges but not as many and we would cut down on road rage and clogged roads.

From experience I learned that if you do things in the same way all the time you will more than likely get the same results. Again needless to say Passenger Rail would be great for the South Fraser Valley.

Monday, January 5, 2009

What I Learn Today about Road Safety

Good day, so I just got out of a driver’s training class that was put on by the British Columbia Safety Council at my work. It covers all the basics of safe driving, plus the environmental impact of driving. Anyway, I got talking with the instructor of the course (he used to work at ICBC and has friends in the Ministry of Transportation).

I first wanted to know his thoughts about road geometry, speed, and safety. As you might know, I have some issues with the way the Ministry of Transportation builds roads as do local transportation engineers. If you build a road like a freeway it doesn’t matter what posted speed you have, human nature is such that people will drive at what they think is comfortable. He agreed with this statement and added that people in the MoT know how to build roads with modern standards like narrower lanes to slow traffic to a safe level, but it is political interference that prevents the ministry from being truly innovative. He also said that Europe is light years ahead in traffic safety and road design. The South Fraser Perimeter Road is a perfect example of a project that turned from a 4 lane road to a freeway due to the political process. As it stands, the Ministry of Transportation's mandate is to get as many car, as fast a possible, through an area with little regard to context (urban compared to rural.) If we want to see a modern Ministry of Transportation that treats all modes of travel equally and understands the complexity of the urban environment, it will have to come direct from the BC Minister of Transportation. Anyway, here is an interesting chart about pedestrian fatalities. It is no wonder that the City of Vancouver is lobbying for 40km/h speeds on local streets. These reasons are why I’m a firm believer of the complete road concept.

Pedestrian Collisions

At 30km/hour only 2.5% of pedestrians are killed
At 50km/hour about 20% of pedestrians are killed
At 55km/hour about 50% of pedestrians are killed
At 65km/hour about 90% of pedestrians are killed

Source: Ashton and Mackay 1979, European Traffic Safety Commission 1995, Department of Transport (UK) – New directions in speed management: a review of policy

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Heavy Rail Traffic Relief Needed

Langley Times Editor Frank Bucholtz is keenly aware of the heavy rail situation in Langley. Frank offers this opinion piece for us and also provides a balanced view on the proposed Mufford/Glover overpass.

In the recent past we have stated that both are needed. We need to complete an overpass and we need to do what we can to get heavy rail traffic reduced in Langley as much as possible. The replacement of the New Westminster rail bridge is also something we have discussed. Like us, Frank also identifies a case for emergency vehicles as well. We agree with you Frank and we hope our leaders consider this advice.

Lengthy freight trains through Langley Township are not likely to disappear anytime soon, and if the recent kerfuffle over the Langley Events Centre illustrates anything, it is how hard it is to get funds from the federal government.

Yet extensive work over the past four years by previous Mayor Kurt Alberts and the previous council has secured funding of $300 million from various partners — including TransLink, the port authority and the rail companies, the province and Ottawa — for a rail overpass solution to the safety concerns (particularly for emergency vehicles) at the Mufford/Glover intersection and several other locations along the rail line.

This funding could be in jeopardy, since Green and some of his supporters are questioning the road route through the ALR lands near Milner that is proposed, along with overpass plans.

The overpass plan announced by former federal cabinet minister David Emerson in June, 2007 includes $75 million in federal funds for projects in Delta, Surrey, Langley City and Langley Township.

If the Township decides it does not want an overpass at Mufford and Glover, then the funds for that project, which is arguably one of the most complex and expensive of the nine proposed, will go to other projects.

None of the other municipalities appears ready to look this particular gift horse in the mouth. Thus it is likely they will get the funds Ottawa and the other partners have set aside for overpasses.

Critics of the Mufford overpass plan have some legitimate concerns, notably alienation of farm land and the funneling of traffic onto 216 Street and 64 Avenue, east of 216. However, the Township should not throw out the baby with the bath water, and should make every effort to work with the senior governments to ensure an overpass is built at or near Mufford Crescent.

This community needs relief from heavy rail traffic.

— Frank Bucholtz

Thursday, January 1, 2009

No Gas Tax?

Happy New Year! I hope you had a safe and fun New Year’s Eve. Anyway, I saw a link from the Price Tags blog to an article in Crosscut and the Albany Democrat-Herald about the governor of Oregon's plan to move away from gas tax in 2009 and replace it with a distance based tax. The makes total sense as people are driving less and driving more fuel efficient vehicles. Gas tax is not a sustainable funding source to pay for transportation. Our own Translink is seeing a decline in gas tax revenue. It’s ironic that as more people drive less, less money is going into transit.

The Oregon plan is to have GPS receivers track the distance people go and bill them accordingly. For the people that have privacy concerns, the government would still allow the old gas tax system. Road pricing is coming to North America. User fees are really the only sustainable way to fund transportation and help manage congestion.

Let's take this one step further, why not have distance based transit fares. This is happening in many cities all over the world like the BART rail system in San Francisco. In Metro Vancouver, we could apply this to our whole system. Our Minister of Transportation, Kevin Falcon, wants to see smart cards replace the current fare system on our buses and trains. This technology allows for a very flexible payment system. All our buses now have GPS systems installed. Whether we like it or not, we are getting turnstiles on SkyTrain. Hook all theses systems up together, and we could have a fair distance based transit system. The zone based system really isn’t fair, and I hear people complain about it. North Road is one of those areas where people have to unfairly pay for two zones even if they’re just going a few blocks.

With a distance based road and transit system, we would be able to fund a fair, sustainable transportation system. Those people in Oregon are really on to something.