Friday, January 29, 2010

Building Green Homes

As I posted about earlier this week we can save energy and money by switching to district heating, but there are other things that we can be doing to make our buildings more efficient. These things will save energy and may even save money on the construction cost of a building. The first step is to plan a building with knowledge of the outside environment. As an example, you wouldn't want to place big glass windows facing the afternoon sun. Buildings should also include passive sources for heating, cooling, and ventilation like operable windows, window shapes, and shutters. Many office building currently do not do this. Interesting enough, heating and moving air directly around a building is very inefficient. A better way to heat and cool buildings is through radiant heating sources like pumping chilled or heated water around a building. This ties in perfectly with district heating that uses water.

With these simple changes to the way we build, we could get very close to 0 emissions buildings. Pretty exciting stuff. For more information check out Rumsey Engineers website.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Woodwards Cross

I work in Chinatown, so I’ve been watching the progress of the Woodward’s Development. The City of Vancouver has a good site on the project. Anyway, I wanted to point out a more spiritual side of the project. To my surprise, I found out the architect seems to have embedded a Christian cross in the design. It’s very obvious if you compare it to the rest of the building’s architecture on Hastings Street.

What looks different?

Yes, it's a Christian cross.

It’s good to know that religious symbols are still very much a part of urban design. In fact, church’s used to be the finest example of architecture in many older cities.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Big Time TOD in New Westminster

If you take the SkyTrain, you will have noticed over the past year or so that there is a massive development being integrated with the New Westminster SkyTrain station. The residential component is called "Azure at Plaza88" and consists of three high-rise residential towers. But beyond the tower, according to the New Westminster News Leader, there will be 200,000 square feet of commercial development. That's about the size of a Wal-Mart Supercentre.
Retailers that have recently secured long term leases include Safeway, Shoppers Drug Mart, the Royal Bank of Canada and CIBC.

In the press release issued Wednesday, the newest tenant, Landmark Cinemas of Canada, says it will build a state-of-the-art, 35,000 square foot, 10-screen multiplex cinema in Plaza 88.

The $350 million transit-linked retail-residential centre was developed by Plaza 88 Developments. Located at Eighth and Columbia streets, across from the New Westminster Quay, the master plan includes three residential towers with 600 condominium units. The developers are building out the 200,000 square feet of retail space, which is slated to open in 2011.

“This development is the way of the future with nothing like this in North America, where elevated rapid transit is fully integrated with major shopping and a large residential complex,” said Ken Hardie, spokesperson for TransLink.
If you are living in this development, you might not even need to step outside. Very exciting and scary.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

District Heating and Cooling Part 2

The largest source of CO2 emissions for the average BC household is from transportation. The second largest is from heating and cooling. Imagine not having to use any “new” energy to heat and cool our homes. Imagine what sort of large scale positive impact we could have on our environment.This is where district heating and cooling comes in. One of the great things about district heating is that it uses “waste energy” to provide useful energy. Industry, sewerage, power generation, and waste-to-end plants all create heat as a by-product. Right now, we send all this heat into the air; wasting it. Take, for example, your normal fossil-fuel power plant. Only about 40% of the input energy is turned into electricity. By connecting the plant to a district heating system, 50% of the energy output can be redirected to heating. The plant jumps from 40% efficiency to 90%! District heating also saves money and electricity. According to BC Hydro, half of a home’s energy bill is spent on heating and cooling. Imagine the saving you would see on your Hydro bill with district heating. BC Hydro wouldn’t be running out of electricity if we switch to district heating.

It is great to see that Township of Langley Council, spearheaded by Councillor Jordan Bateman, is seriously looking at creating heating districts. Check out the following slides.The Township would have access to geoexchange (which uses the relatively stable ground temperature to regulate heating and cooling), biofuels, sewage, and even heat from ice making at the Langley Events Centre as sources. Let’s take this one step further. Metro Vancouver is looking at Waste-to-Energy as a solution to our garbage issue. Why not make these combined electrical and district heating plants? District heating should be a major part in reducing our CO2 footprint in Metro Vancouver.

District Heating and Cooling Part 1

Monday, January 25, 2010

District Heating (and Cooling)

The Township of Langley is seriously considering district heating, or centralized heating and cooling. This is already being done in downtown Vancouver. You can read more at Wikipedia. Also, there is a great video on district heating on YouTube looking at Denmark as an example. To sum up the video, it's a very good idea to help reduce carbon emission and save money. Good on the Township for looking at this!

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Friday, January 22, 2010

Sustainability Open House - City of Langley

I received the following in my Inbox. Have a great weekend!
The City of Langley is developing a Sustainability Framework to define our long term sustainability destination.

Date: February 4th 2010
Time: 7:00pm - 9:00pm
Place: Langley City Hall (concourse)
and Library
20399 Douglas Crescent

You are invited to help set the long term sustainability destination for the City by co-creating our community sustainability goals. A hands-on, enjoyable evening is planned to explore what sustainability means in the context of the City of Langley and to discuss specific and achievable long term goals. You will be asked to:

-Share community sustainability success stories
-Discuss sustainability issues facing our community
-Work to create specific, achievable community sustainability goals that will be used to guide future programs, plans, and initiatives

Local refreshments will be served.


Sustainability is about ensuring a high quality of life for all citizens. The challenge is to learn how to live within our collective global capacity. Every person, business and organization has a role to play. The City is committed to taking a leadership role in this challenge, but also needs our partners and residents to join in this commitment.

For Further Information and to RSVP Please Contact:
Roy Beddow, City of Langley

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Please keep our bus service...

I read a depressing story in the Globe and Mail about funding issues and TransLink. This is nothing new, but the following comment gave me a bit of a scare.
So one result of the efficiency drive and the poor economy will be a shift in bus routes "to move from less productive service to more productive service," Mr. Jarvis said. That means routes with lower ridership may end up with longer waits between buses. He said those routes haven't been identified yet.
This comment basically means that TransLink will be shifting bus service from the South Fraser and moving it to Vancouver. This really sucks. It’s true that the South Fraser has less “productive” routes than Vancouver, but there is a reason.

TransLink has added many new bus routes in our region -I’m happy about the 364 and 595- but all these new services run every hour or half-hour. To attract riders, you need to run service every 15min or better. If we want to improve transit in the South Fraser, we need to be adding more 15min routes, not taking away service.

Taking away what little transit service we have will lock the South Fraser into single modal transpiration and give us no transportation options. I’m starting to like what Councilor Collette from Oregon Metro said at our event last week. If communities in the Portland area don’t like the transit service they are getting from the regional TriMet transit agency, they can start their own agency. In Portland, some have. With over 600,000 people in the South Fraser, I’m sure we could get a decent transit system. Maybe even light rail. Calgary did it with less people. Of course the reality is that the province controls transit in our region, so it’s really up to the province to step up to the plate and fix transit.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Industrial Future of Langley

Last fall the Township of Langley hosted an economic development forum. I recently listened to some of the presentations, and will share some of interesting bits of information in a moment.

But first, the Township of Langley commissioned an Employment Lands Study which came back to Township council last week. It said there is enough land in existing urban areas for the next 20 or so years. Anyways, back to the forum.

Site Economics Ltd. gave a very interesting presentation. The presenter talked about higher density, mixed-use commercial and residential developments and how this kind of development is the future for Langley. He also said that industrial buildings will need up their densities and become more “eco-friendly”. He noted that both good road access and good transit access will be needed to attract the kind of development the Township wants. There is good road access in Langley, but we are missing good transit access. The controversial Campbell Heights Industrial Area was noted as an example of poor planning. It has poor road access, no rail access, no transit access, and is isolated. He also noted that Gloucester Industrial Estates suffers from isolation. These areas will not be as successful as areas like Port Kells which has good road and rail access, and is close to residential areas. The 200th Street corridor will be a good area for higher density mixed-use, industrial, residential, and commercial development. He said that Langley’s main area of growth is going to be with industrial uses. It was pointed out that Langley has about one job per person, but that about 60% of people are still traveling outside of Langley for work.

Clearly the missing link needed for Langley is good transit.

Update: STANTEC gave the employment lands study presentation to the Township of Langley.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

News Update

First off, I wanted to point you to the Georgia Straight Online where an op-ed by Joe and me was published.
How is it that “unsustainable” Calgary has more sustainable transportation choices than the most livable region in the world? Well, there are many reasons. One obvious reason is that the province of B.C. decided to build the SkyTrain, which cost six times more than light rail would have cost us over the last three decades. This is only a symptom of a much larger issue in our region—a disconnect between land-use planning and transportation planning.
In other news… South Fraser OnTrax has always believed that building streetcars and light rail is about more than getting people from Point A to Point B. It is a community building tool that brings people together as well as brings increased economic activity. The US Federal government is now changing its rules for rapid transit funding to recognizes this fact.
In a major departure from Bush administration practice that could make it easier for Portland to grow its light rail and streetcar systems, the Obama administration said it will change the rules for funding mass transit projects.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced new funding guidelines for major transit projects will be based on livability issues such as economic development and environmental benefits – in addition to cost and fighting congestion.
You can read more at The Oregonian.

Monday, January 18, 2010

BC Ferries

Last week, I was in Victoria for work. I happened to get on the new Coastal Celebration. I snapped a few pictures to share on the blog.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Productive Day in Vancouver

Joe Zaccaria Co-Founder SFOT (left) and BC Premier Gordon Campbell

As an organization we are a non-partisan organization as all of you regulars know. Our recent forum was attended by NDP as well as BC Liberal folks. So, I trust this post will be taken at face value and see it as a progress report that I mean for it to be.

Today I attended the Lower Mainland Regional Forum in Vancouver to discuss neighbourhood issues. I had received a special invitation back in December and decided to attend. After lunch with Premier Gordon Campbell and some Cabinet Ministers and MLA's, it was a packed agenda.

Hon. Mary McNeil, Minister of State for the Olympics and ACTNOW BC spoke about the world on our doorstep and the opportunity the next few weeks will bring to BC. We also heard what our provincial government will be doing during the Games to reach 15,000 world business and political leaders that will be in our province and what the government is doing to promote BC opportunities to live, work, invest and play in here.

Hon. Colin Hansen, Deputy Premier & Minister of Finance introduced Premier Campbell who offered a frank discussion about the challenges, opportunities and what the future holds for BC out to 2030. He spoke from what I believe to be from his heart and thoughts of a legacy for his grandchildren when he told the crowd "We have to be willing to do things we've never done before".

The Premier went on to speak about specifics related to such topics as:
  • The environment and the need for BC to be leaders in green industry
  • Early childhood development & learning
  • Programs and encouragement for families with young children and to have kids
  • Letting students pursue their individual strengths in sports, arts, music, technology, etc. by way of "Magnet Schools" that help nurture this type of learning.
  • Walkable communities and 50cents of every BC tax dollar now going to health care and how we must promote healthy living and better lifestyle choices.
  • He offered a solution of "Walking School Buses" where people are paid to walk kids to school and protecting them instead of paying people to drive them to school.
He offered some fresh ideas and thoughts, then opened the floor for a healthy dose of opinion and debate. While the participants were generally BC Liberal supporters, people stepped up to the microphone and let the Premier know what was on their minds, what recent cuts they didn't like and why. There was give and take, but Premier Campbell offered no lame excuses.

I stepped up to the microphone and was able to ask the last question of this portion of the session. I said that the Premier asked us to be willing to do new things, so why can't we try doing Light Rail Transit (LRT) for a change, instead of just SkyTrain? Why we can't offer a RANGE of transportation options, and how this LRT program could give us the density and ridership we desire and hear much about.

I found Premier Campbell to be very open and frank. He said that I was right and we could use some LRT to provide options and help us to build density. He offered that he felt we've not done enough to build density along the Canada Line and even the new Evergreen Line that he promised the crowd will be built. He said we could do a much better job with land use planning and zoning and that Light Rail could be a tool to help us to achieve these results.

I had joked about a study that Township Councillor Jordan Bateman had told me about. In the USA a study was done related to ridership and political beliefs. The study (not me!) concluded that Socialists like buses, but Free Market Capitalists like rail. The Premier joked back and said he always wondered why he liked trains. It was a hit with the crowd. His answer to my Light Rail question was the longest he offered today and I believe it was one he enjoyed responding to. Langley MLA Mary Polak was present and spoke with me about the question and reply. She liked it and felt this dialogue was healthy and showed a willingness for the government to do some new things.

Hon Colin Hanson offered some details of his take on the economy and what the government plans to do about it. The group was given some questions to provide feedback. Many were presented by the forum participants.

The day wrapped up with an emotional presentation by Langley MLA Hon. Rich Coleman, Minister of Housing & Social Development. After speaking on the depth of his portfolio, Coleman spoke about what direction his Ministry has taken to address social issues, along with some real life everyday examples of some of the outcomes. I've heard Rich speak at many a rubber chicken BBQ and anyone that has knows that his passion spills over during these times. Today was no exception as Coleman spoke about these outcomes and what is being accomplished. I have a great deal of respect for this man and I believe his heart is clear.

I know that the comments may roll in here from people that will find fault with what I have said or disagree. But SFOT is not a protest group and our firm belief is that if we LISTEN, engage, ask respectful questions and concede that no government or Ministry is perfect, we will win more battles using sugar that we will with lemons. I take Premier Campbell at his word when he says we need to be willing to do things we've never done before.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Sustainability on the Edge Audio

You can now download the audio from our Sustainability on the Edge Event. I would also recommend that you view the presentations as your are listening to the audio to bring context to what you are hearing.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Sustainability on the Edge Photos

Photos Updated January 14, 2010

Sustainability on the Edge Presentations

Here are the presentations from last night's Sustainability on the Edge event. You can download the audio from last night which will give a bit more context to the presentations posted here. Now in order of appearance last night:

Mr. Moreno Rossi - TransLink Presentation on Transit Oriented Development

Mr. Gordon Price - Motordom Presentation
View more presentations from sfot.

Oregon Metro Councilor Collette - Building Sustainable Communities: Urban Planning in the Portland Metro Region Presentation

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

From Grey to Green

South Fraser OnTrax is a big supporter of the Downtown Langley Master Plan. Last night Joe Zaccaria and I attended a presentation on phase three of the plan called “Public Realm Plan: From Grey to Green” which is basically the new look for Downtown Langley. Highlights of the plan include making pedestrians a priority in the downtown core. They will do this by improving sidewalks and introducing greenway streets that will contain multi-use trails. Also, the City is ditching 90's aqua as the colour of choice and will change all street lighting and furniture to black. Downtown lighting will be LED and Dark Sky compliant. Recycling will also be included on-street. One of the biggest changes will be the increase in plantings on the street. You can check out the whole phase three plan on the City’s website.

From Left to Right: Nathan Pachal, Councilor Collette, Mayor Fassbender, Joe Zaccaria

Also at last night’s presentation was Councilor Collette from Oregon Metro. Before becoming a Metro Councilor, she was a Councilor for the City of Milwaukie in the Portland area which is about the same size of Langley and had a similar downtown. She was very impressed with the Downtown Langley Plan and said that is was an ambitious plan. One thing she did note was the apparent lack of cycling integration in the plan; something I agree with. Anyway, I hope to see you all tonight at our Sustainability on the Edge Event.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Sustainability on the Edge

Good afternoon. Our agenda for tomorrow's Sustainability on the Edge event is now complete. You can download a copy from our document archive, or view it below.

Sustainability on the Edge Agenda
Fraser River Presentation Theatre
Township of Langley Municipal Hall
Tuesday, January 12th, from 7-9pm

Start at 7:00pm

Introduction - Joe Zaccaria, South Fraser OnTrax (2 minutes)

Introduction - Mayor Green, Township of Langley (2 minutes)

Introduction of Mr. Moreno Rossi - Councillor Jordan Bateman (2minutes)

TransLink Presentation on Transit Oriented Development (15 minutes)

Introduction of Mr. Gordon Price - Councillor Jordan Bateman (2minutes)

Gordon Price Presentation on Sustainable Transportation Options (15 minutes)

Introduction of Councilor Collette - Councillor Jordan Bateman (2minutes)

Councilor Collette Presentation on Sustainability on the Edge (30 minutes)

Time should be 8:10pm – At this time Councillor Jordan Bateman becomes moderator

Formation of Panel for Question and Answer time, Introduction of Additional Panel Members, Explanation of QA to Audience - Councillor Jordan Bateman (5 minutes)

Question and Answer Time (40 minutes)

Closing Comments - Nathan Pachal, South Fraser OnTrax (5 minutes)

End at 9:00pm

Friday, January 8, 2010

Texting Transit Police

Last February we hosted Chief Officer Ward Clapham of the South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority Police Service (TransLink Police). It was a great presentation and you can look at it in an earlier post, but I wanted to highlight something very exciting. During our discussion with Chief Officer Clapham I mentioned that when people are breaking the law, drinking beer, or causing general trouble on transit, I don’t feel comfortable getting up and pressing the “Alarm Strip”, calling 911, or using an emergency phone. We talked about how texting would be a great, discrete way to alert the authorities. Well imagine my surprise when I read the following from Jeff Nagel at Black Press:
Transit riders intimidated by a SkyTrain car full of hooligans now have a new, more discreet way of summoning help.

Passengers can now text from their cellphones to BCTIP 274637 to alert Transit Police.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Road good to a point, but better transit needed

Todd Litman at the Victoria Transport Policy Institute has written an interesting report on the economy and transportation. It's a 97 page report that I encourage you to read. He made the following conclusion:
-Parking subsidies are generally an inefficient way to support downtown economic development. More efficient parking management is generally more cost effective and beneficial overall.

-High quality interregional highways support economic development, but once this basic highway system exists, expanding its capacity to reduce congestion has negative as well as positive impacts. By stimulating automobile dependency (fewer travel options) and sprawl it tends to reduce transportation system efficiency and increase external costs such as parking costs, accident risk, and pollution damages.

-Mobility management strategies tend to increase transport system efficiency and
economic productivity, reduce specific costs such as traffic congestion, accidents and consumer costs, and provide basic mobility for non-drivers. Such strategies tend to be particularly beneficial if implemented as an integrated program. Many of these strategies reflect basic market and planning principles, and so tend to increase productivity and economic development.

-High quality public transportation provides many economic benefits and so can be cost effective, provided there is sufficient consumer demand and supportive transport and land use policies.
So what does this mean for our region? One could argue that with our current/in-construction highway network that we have more than a basic highway network, and any further projects will have a diminishing return on investment. It would also appear that we should be looking into things like congestion pricing, HOT lanes, and other traffic demand management strategies. In the South of Fraser, we need improved public transportation full stop. On the topic of parking management, the City of Langley may want to look at metered parking instead of 3 hour free parking to promote economic activity in downtown Langley. In the City of Vernon (about 30,000-40,000 at the time) when I was growing up, we had meter parking downtown plus a paid four-story parkade.

Passenger Rights

There is an article in today's Province about passenger rights along the Interurban corridor. You can check it out on their website. It also mentioned our upcoming sustainability event.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Farming in the City

Back in the 1960's, people starting exiting the the core of Detroit, Michigan due to suburbanization and "White Flight". This left a devastated city core.

Well it appears that some Investors are looking to convert all this underused land in the middle of the city into a large scale commercial farm. According to the LA Times:
Cottonwood trees grow through the collapsed roofs of homes stripped clean for scrap metal. Wild grasses carpet the rusty shells of empty factories, now home to pheasants and wild turkeys.

This green veil is proof of how far this city has fallen from its industrial heyday and, to a small group of investors, a clear sign. Detroit, they say, needs to get back to what it was before Henry Ford moved to town: farmland.

"There's so much land available and it's begging to be used," said Michael Score, president of the Hantz Farms, which is buying up abandoned sections of the city's 139-square-mile landscape and plans to transform them into a large-scale commercial farm enterprise.

"Farming is how Detroit started," Score said, "and farming is how Detroit can be saved."

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Interesting Transit News in Portland

Since 1975 people in Portland could take all forms of transit for free in the city’s downtown core in what was called the Fareless Square. This came to an end on January 3rd and now only rail transit is free in their downtown core. This was changed because now 95% of all trip downtown can be taken on streetcar or light rail. That’s pretty impressive. Providing free transit in the downtown core is meant to give people in the downtown core incentive to move around the downtown without using a car. Also, it helps with “air quality issues—specifically, reducing carbon monoxide.

New Free Rail Area

Monday, January 4, 2010

South Fraser OnTrax Presents Sustainability on the Edge

South Fraser OnTrax presents Sustainability on the Edge, an event combining the knowledge and expertise of professionals in a number of areas including Translink, Metro Portland, the Township of Langley, and The City Program at SFU. This is a rare opportunity to come and see this many experts on transportation and sustainability in one place, presenting on cutting edge ideas and answering questions.

South Fraser OnTrax is proud to present an opportunity for everyone interested in sustainable communities and transportation options to hear from a number of experts in these fields, including representatives from Metro Portland, Simon Fraser University, the Township of Langley, and Translink. Residents of the Fraser Valley will find this event to be particularly enlightening as presenters will focus on issues relating to communities on the edge of Metro Vancouver.

South Fraser OnTrax advocates for the growth and improvement of communities through sustainable transportation and transit oriented development. In this spirit with the help of a grant from the Township of Langley, OnTrax will be hosting Sustainability on the Edge at the Fraser River Presentation Theatre at the Township Municipal Hall on Tuesday, January 12th, from 7-9pm. On hand for presentations and a question and answer session will be representatives from Metro Portland, Translink, the Township of Langley, and Simon Fraser University, with Councillor Jordan Bateman moderating.

Councilor Collette, keynote speaker from Metro Portland, chairs Metro's Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation, which determines priorities and projects slated for funding with federal transportation dollars in the region. Collette also is council lead on the High Capacity Transit System Plan, planning for the region's next 30 years of investments in light rail, commuter rail, regional streetcars and bus rapid transit. She serves on the Lake Oswego to Portland Transit Project Steering Committee, the Sunrise Project Policy Review Committee, and previously served on the Portland to Milwaukie Light Rail Project Steering Committee.

Mr. Gordon Price, Director of The City Program at Simon Fraser University, is also a regular lecturer on transportation and land use for the City of Portland, Oregon and Portland State University. In 2003, he received the Plan Canada Award for Article of the Year - "Land Use and Transportation: The View from '56" - from the Canadian Institute of Planners. In 2007, he was the winner of the “Smartie” People Award from Smart Growth B.C. In 2009 he was made an honorary member of the Planning Institute of B.C. He sits on the Boards of the Sightline Institute and the International Centre for Sustainable Cities.

Translink will also be participating, providing a planner with expertise in Transit Oriented Development to speak and to sit on the panel for questions.

Councillor Jordan Bateman from Langley Township will be moderating the events. Councillor Bateman has served on Langley Township Council since 2005.

South Fraser OnTrax (SFOT) is a non-partisan group of local people who have a passion for making great communities even better with the introduction of sustainable transportation options that are made available to all. SFOT is particularly excited about this event, and the effects that the presentations will have on local development and sustainability initiatives in areas such as the 200th Street Corridor and the Interurban.