Friday, February 26, 2010

US EPA and Climate Change

Well things are getting a bit interesting in the US with greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction regulation. Since 1955, the US has had a clean air act in some form to regulate air pollution. The task of enforcing this act falls into the hands of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In April 2007, the US Supreme Court found that greenhouse gases are air pollutants covered by the Clean Air Act and that the EPA had an obligation to regulate GHG. In December 2009, the EPA signed two findings:
-Endangerment Finding: The Administrator finds that the current and projected concentrations of the six key well-mixed greenhouse gases--carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6)--in the atmosphere threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations.

-Cause or Contribute Finding: The Administrator finds that the combined emissions of these well-mixed greenhouse gases from new motor vehicles and new motor vehicle engines contribute to the greenhouse gas pollution which threatens public health and welfare.
So now the EPA has developed a set of regulations that will be phased in over the next few years. Starting in 2011 larger stationary emitters (like power plants, factories, etc.) will be regulated. In 2016, smaller stationary emitter will start being regulated. On the automobile front, the EPA will regulate GHG emissions starting with 2012 model year light-duty vehicles. You can read more about this in a letter on the EPA’s website.

Of course this has thrown some groups into a tizzy. Many are claiming that jobs will be lost, and the US will go without electricity, etc. Here is a snip-it from the Politico.
In the House, Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.) has introduced legislation amending the Clean Air Act to exclude greenhouse gases — a radical revision of the country’s pollution regulations.

Another powerful lobbying coalition led by the National Association of Manufacturers and including the American Petroleum Institute and the National Association of Home Builders submitted a separate filing.

“These costly burdens and uncertainty will stifle job creation and harm our competiveness in a global economy,” John Engler, NAM president, said in a statement.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Permanently close the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts?

As we've been saying for some time on this blog, traffic (whether transit, cars, or cycling) is like a gas and will expend to fill the resources provided. Well according to the Vancouver Sun, there has been a 30% reduction in vehicle traffic since the beginning of the Olympic Games. Roads have been closed and transit has increased, this makes total sense. There is now a request to study closing the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts and replacing them with local roads.
Coun. Geoff Meggs said the swarms of people walking, cycling and taking transit downtown during the Games is proof they can live without the viaducts, which he suggests should be knocked down and replaced with local traffic connector roads.

The city, which has agreed to study Meggs' proposal, is expected to issue a request for proposals after the Games, likely in April, he said.
Of course we will need improved transit, but sadly TransLink will be cutting services after the games.

At that time, the system will revert to its previous service levels, meaning West Coast Express will no longer run on weekends, the third SeaBus won't be in service and TransLink will retire the extra 180 buses that have been used to help ease overcrowding and waits.

Robertson said as transit service reverts to previous levels, "the case-building starts for more funding for TransLink."

Climate Change makes my Allergies Worse

Over the past month, I’ve been listening to lectures on sustainability on iTunes U from the University of New Hampshire. A few days ago, I was listening to Paul R. Epstein talking about human health and climate change. His research appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Not surprising, climate change is not good for human health. Extreme weather events will increase with climate change. Extreme precipitation increases the risk of waterborne disease while droughts can cause a food shortages. It will be the poorer countries that will sufferer the most of course.
Mosquitoes, which can carry many diseases, are very sensitive to temperature changes. Warming of their environment - within their viable range - boosts their rates of reproduction and the number of blood meals they take, prolongs their breeding season, and shortens the maturation period for the microbes they disperse.
West Nile virus' rapid spread, according to Epstein, is attributed to climate change. On the positive side, the crow population has seen a large reduction in numbers which has actually increased biodiversity with other song-birds coming back.

The most interesting piece of information was the connection between climate change and allergies.
But even more subtle, gradual climatic changes can damage human health. During the past two decades, the prevalence of asthma in the United States has quadrupled, in part because of climate-related factors. For Caribbean islanders, respiratory irritants come in dust clouds that emanate from Africa's expanding deserts and are then swept across the Atlantic by trade winds accelerated by the widening pressure gradients over warming oceans. Increased levels of plant pollen and soil fungi may also be involved. When ragweed is grown in conditions with twice the ambient level of carbon dioxide, the stalks sprout 10 percent taller than controls but produce 60 percent more pollen. Elevated carbon dioxide levels also promote the growth and sporulation of some soil fungi, and diesel particles help to deliver these aeroallergens deep into our alveoli and present them to immune cells along the way.
I guess me and my inhaler are going to become better friends in the future. Check out the full article in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Scientific Consensus - Climate Change is real and we did it.

Last year, there was a wild frenzy in November called Climategate when email messages from two climate researchers were hacked conveniently before the Copenhagen Summit. Because of these emails, some people decided that all we know on climate change is a lie and part of a large global conspiracy, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) front and centre, to force us to clean up the earth. This of course caused me some concern, so I decided to do some research.

First many people think that the IPCC is some big government organization. This is not the case. The IPCC is an organization that compiles all the research from climate scientist on climate change every few years. In fact, the IPCC has a small staff of about 10 people. The IPCC has working groups of volunteers who compile the research. This is basically how most standards bodies work like ANSI, ISO, and SMPTE. On the topic of IPCC reports, the last IPCC Fourth Assessment Report had “450 scientists from 130 countries served as Lead Authors. Another 800 served as contributing authors. More than 2500 experts provided over 90,000 review comments.” That is what I would call a pretty thorough report!

On the topic of thorough, some people would have you believe that there is no scientific consensus on human-caused climate change. While only half of the general population believes that climate change is caused by humans, research by Peter T . Doran and Maggie Kendall Zimmerman in the Earth and Environmental Sciences department at the University of Illinois at Chicago found that 97.4% of people that research and publish on climate believe it is human caused. That sounds like scientific consensus to me. Download the research from our document archive.

Questions: 1. When compared with pre-1800s levels, do you think that mean global temperatures have generally risen, fallen, or remained relatively constant? 2. Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?

The time for debate on climate change is over, we need to start acting today. It’s not all doom and gloom either. Greening our planet is good for our pocketbooks. Green jobs pay more than traditional jobs, and we’ve barely tapped into market for green. Just think of how many photovoltaic cells (solar panels), sustainably managed forest products, sustainability engineers, green building experts, and the list goes on, that the world needs.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Climate Change Adaptation

I’ve talked about climate change and what we can do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) on this blog. While it is important that we continue to reduce GHG, the reality is that climate change is happening and reducing GHG will only affect the severity of the change and not stop it. The European Union target of reducing GHG to have temperature rise 2°C above the pre-industrial temperature will still result in major changes to our environment. Increased storms and rising sea levels are some of the things that we will have to deal with. Natural Resources Canada has a great website on climate change adaptation. A section of their site called Adaptation 101 already points out the changes happening in our ecosystem. Here’s a fun fact:
The economic costs resulting from extreme weather events in Canada in the past decade (since 1996) have been greater than for all previous years combined.
Climate Change will impact how we live in Canada, but we are a rich country and will be able to adapt. Many countries will not. In Metro Vancouver, we will have to adapt. A report from Metro Vancouver identifies the following list of changes.
1. Rising Sea Levels – Sea levels are expected to rise at a rate of 2 to 9 mm per year in the Greater Vancouver Regional District. This translates to a 10 to 45 centimetres rise by 2050 and 20 to 90 centimetres by 2100. Thermal expansion of the top ocean layer combined with subsidence in the Lower Mainland by a tectonic effect and/or compaction of the delta sediment pile will be the main cause of this sea level rise. Erosion of cliffs by wave action in areas such as Point Grey will be exacerbated by such a sea level rise. Drainage and sewerage systems could also be negatively impacted in the Lower Mainland. Recreation beaches will be more costly to maintain as a result of rising seas.

2. Spring Flooding – Increased winter and early spring precipitation in the Greater Vancouver Regional District and its watersheds may mean that existing flood protection works would no longer be adequate and flood damage could be more severe and frequent near rivers and streams. Increased precipitation would also increase the load on the Lower Mainland regional sewerage and drainage system.

3. Summer Drought - Summer soil moisture will diminish in the lower Fraser Valley as temperatures rise, leading to higher summer demand for agricultural and domestic water. Stream flow in late summer and fall will likely decrease in the GVRD and its watersheds, while stream temperatures will rise. This would reduce fish survivability.

4. Landslides - Landslides and debris torrents could become more common in steep and unstable terrain in northern areas of the Greater Vancouver Regional District as winter precipitation rises. Water quality in reservoirs, fish and wildlife habitat, as well as roads and other man-made structures could be at increased risk.

5. Coastal ecosystems - Increased organic material, increased sedimentation, coastal flooding and permanent inundation of natural ecosystems will occur in low gradient, intertidal areas of the Greater Vancouver Regional District as a result of increased precipitation in winter and rising seas. Some sensitive intertidal ecosystems may not be able to migrate inland as sea levels rise due to the presence of man-made dykes. Sea level rise will also cause salt water to penetrate further inland in the Fraser River and other estuaries, resulting in changes in natural estuarine communities.

6. Forest fire and pests – Drier summer conditions in forested areas of the Greater Vancouver Regional District would increase the risk of fire. Milder winters would allow more forest pests to survive and multiply.

7. Coastal infrastructure threats - Low-lying homes, docks and port facilities may be frequently flooded at high tide in exposed areas of the Greater Vancouver Regional District during severe storms if the sea level rises significantly. Upgrading of existing dykes in low lying areas such as Richmond, Delta and Surrey could be necessary.

8. Groundwater Impacts - Sea level rise will raise groundwater levels in low-lying areas of the Fraser Valley, forcing additional expenditures on water pumping. Salt water intrusion will affect some wells.

9. Air Quality Degradation - In conjunction with the rapid urbanization, air quality may become seriously degraded in the Lower Fraser Valley and the Okanagan Valley as stagnant summer conditions conducive to poor air quality become more common.

10. Agriculture Improvement - Agriculture could expand in the lower Fraser Valley and new, higher value crops could be introduced.

11. Human Health Risks - Some parasites, such as Giardia, thrive in a warmer climate. Also, fleas and mites that are now killed off completely each winter in the lower Fraser Valley will flourish in a warmer climate.

12. Recreation – Winter recreation in the shore mountains will be affected if warmer temperatures reduce the length of the ski season.

Monday, February 22, 2010

20th Century Development in the 21st Century

A friend of mine is currently living in Regina and posted a status update about a development that is called Harbour Landing. I’m sure you are thinking the same think I am. "Wait, there’s no ocean in Regina." And you’re right, this development is right beside an airport (hence the "landing" part of the name.)

The Habour?

With a name like that in an area like Regina, I had to dig deeper. This development is your textbook single-family house suburban sprawl development complete with big box power centre. The development does include some multi-family which appears to act as a buffer between the single-family houses and the airport. There appears to be no mixed-use. It also has something called an urban village that is anything but. This “urban village” is in an island of 4,500+ stall parking lot ironically called the Grasslands.

As you can see, this development places the auto way ahead of the cyclist or pedestrian. Looking at the following drawing, you can see how hard it is for people in some parts of the development to access the major roads or the “urban village” power centre. This is how they could have made it better. The red lines are an example of possible cyclist/pedestrian corridors. Oddly enough, there is on section of the development that is actually done right.

Anyway, I find it interesting that developers realize that people increasingly want to living in urban areas with a sense of place and strong centre. If you look at the developer’s website for this project, you would think that you are moving into a New Westminster or Langley City type place. Why not just build a real mixed-use urban centre then?

Friday, February 19, 2010

TransLink and the Road Network

Over at the Surrey Leader, Jeff Nagel talked to City of Langley Mayor Peter Fassbender who chairs the mayors' council. The mayors' council supports having all communities at the table in TransLink 3.0. They also support the idea of the province being at the table, so that regional planners and provincial planners can work together and not against each other.
"Having all of the communities there is a positive," he said. "It ensures that we all see the big picture, that the regional issues are looked at by everyone and that we hold ourselves accountable.”
Meanwhile at the Congress of New Urban, there is a great presentation on the change of the North American street network since the big freeway push of the 1950’s. Not surprising, fatalities rates have increased for pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists. Also not shocking is the older style street grid system promotes more sustainable modes of transportation.

The grid system also allows for faster and more efficient responses from emergency services. Recently the Township of Langley and even the City of Surrey are returning to the grid system.

Hartford, Connecticut

Before Freeway System

After Freeway System

Thursday, February 18, 2010

More Cycling Improvements in Portland

Portland is all about giving people transportation choice. On February 11th, Portland passed their 2030 Bike Network plan. As I blogged about earlier, the goals of the plan are:
-Plan and design for people who are not yet riding by developing safe and comfortable low-stress bikeways (such as bicycle boulevards and trails) that reduce conflicts between people riding bicycles and people driving. 25% of all trips by cycling in 2030.

-Adopt policy changes outlined in the Plan, including a new bicycle transportation policy of making bicycling more attractive than driving for short trips.

-Expand the network of bikeways in Portland to achieve a fine-grained system that offers riders an array of route choices. Up to 1,496km will be added.

-Implement measures to satisfy the growing demand for bike parking.

-Expand established programs, and develop new programs, to encourage and support bicycling.

-Pursue multiple strategies to increase funding for bicycle facilities and other green transportation modes.
The next step in Portland's continued transportation revolution is the formation of a Finance Task Force to ensure a sound funding strategy that will ensure achievement of the plan's objectives.

I find the next graphic the most powerful. It shows how much value you get when building cycling infrastructure. One mile of freeway costs the same as 300 miles of cycling improvement! I suggest that you check out the slide presentation and also the full report.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

BC Scrap-it Program and Cycling

As many people know, there is a good scrap-it program in place to get rid of old vehicles. My wife and I decided to participate. There are three options when you take your old vehicle in and we chose the bicycle option. The dealer deducts a hundred dollars from the price and the scrap-it program gives up to six hundred dollars in a cheque that gets mailed out.

I did not want to get rid of our 1988 Pontiac Sunbird, but the transmission began to leak and the steering would go into manual without warning. The turn signal only worked when it felt like it.

We obtained a new bike, seeing how sustainable it will be. I am pleased to see more bike lanes in the City of Langley though I wish there would be more secure parking for bicycles. Kwantlen University, for example, has a complete chain link enclosure for every bicycle. You just have to bring your own lock and it's free (unlike their car parking.) I am almost sixty eight years old and riding a bicycle still feels great.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Transit Update

According to the Aldergrove Star, TransLink has been breaking ridership records during the Olympic Games. I have to say that I’m glad that TransLink’s prediction of 1 to 2 hour waits have not come to fruition.
The Canada Line carried a record 210,000 people Saturday – twice as many as ever rode the line in a single day before.

More than 500,000 rode the Expo and Millennium SkyTrain lines Sunday and 133,000 took the SeaBus over the weekend.

The longest lineups have seen passengers wait 35 to 40 minutes at downtown Canada Line stations before they could board trains.
In other Olympic related transit news, the Seattle Times has written a piece about our transit system. They point out the lack of park and ride spaces in Surrey. This is one of the beefs that I have with transit out here. Park and Ride lots are a good interim step to attract riders to rapid transit as density builds.
Except for parking, everything went well. We're using the King George Station of the SkyTrain light rail system. It was very difficult to find parking; it took longer to find parking than it did to ride the train in to the city.
Finally in Detroit, they are changing from motor city to transit city. According to CNN:
Along Detroit's Woodward Avenue, a downtown stretch that seems permanently stuck in the "emerging" phase of business development, community leaders are hoping a new light rail system will help spark a renaissance. The city plans to break ground this year on stage one of a $420 million project: the first modern, mass-transit initiative in a city long synonymous with automobiles.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Climate change still happening

According to NASA, 2009 was the second warmest year in modern times.

Climate scientists agree that rising levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases trap incoming heat near the surface of the Earth and are the key factors causing the rise in temperatures since 1880, but these gases are not the only factors that can impact global temperatures.

Three others key factors -- including changes in the sun’s irradiance, oscillations of sea surface temperature in the tropics, and changes in aerosol levels -- can also cause slight increases or decreases in the planet's temperature. Overall, the evidence suggests that these effects are not enough to account for the global warming observed since 1880.
It's frustrating that the media still entertains the notion of a global scientific climate change conspiracy. This doesn't do anyone any good. But I guess it makes sense, considering the media also promoted the idea that smoking didn't cause cancer back in the day. More doctors smoke camels, right?

TransLink holds steady with new CEO

In a smart move TransLink has decided to keep interim CEO Ian Jarvis as the permanent CEO. With the recent announcement in the thrown speech to “fix TransLink and get on with the Evergreen Line”, it makes sense to stay-the-course and not do anything too drastic.
The Board appointed Jarvis interim CEO last November and, according to Chair Dale Parker, the decision to forego an executive search for a permanent replacement for Tom Prendergast was based on Jarvis’ ‘deep and long experience’ in the organization and the strong endorsement he received within TransLink and from its stakeholders.
Any bets on what TransLink 3.0 will look like?

Friday, February 12, 2010

How to engage the public and change the world

Lately I have been spending time with iTunes U and UC Davis (University of California) online lectures. I was listening to Tom Bowman who was talking on marketing sustainability and getting real change in how people act. The following stats are from the US, but apply to Canada as we are similar to our southern neighbours.

84% of the population thinks that climate change is bad and 60% are very concerned about it. There is also 11% of the population who doesn’t care about climate change, sustainability, or the environment (Fox News types). Bowman suggested that it’s high time that we stop fighting with this minority and focus on the 30% of the population on the fence. Another interesting fact is that 18% of the population is actively involved with promoting sustainability. This is the third largest group right after pro-life/pro-choice. This next fact is what I found the most interesting.

Bowman said that humans say one thing and do the other. A study looking at environmentalist and neoconservative types found that while they have very different view about the environment, sustainability, and climate change; when it came to action both groups were the same. There is a disconnect between what we say and what we do. On that note, he listed some of the reasons why people aren’t acting on sustainability and climate change including: life is good today, we can’t solve it, change is uncomfortable, it’s confusing, and “I recycle already”.

Many older people think back to the 1970’s fuel crises when they were told that the future would be uncomfortable and unpleasant if they reduced energy use. Today this is not the case. We can live comfortably and sustainability. Bowman gave some suggestions on how to frame the issue of sustainability and climate change.

-Focus on threats to society, not individual
-Link the threat to opportunities and the efficacy of action
-Create a clear, concise framework of understanding
-Focus on changing social norms
-Demonstrate the efficacy of personal-scale, family-scale, and business scale action

Going back to practicing what we preach, it is more important to change people's behavior than it is to change their ideas. Point in case: a mega-church in the US wanted to improve energy efficiency in their operations. They didn’t tell their church membership at first as the membership didn’t want to be labeled as environmental socialist, and would have likely opposed becoming environmentally friendly. After the church finish their energy saving program, they told their membership who were shocked to find that you could be good to the environment while not giving up on comfort. The church saved millions of dollars.

Bowman gave some ideas on how to better engage the public with the message of sustainability. Mass media is good at targeting lots of people, but the message gets lost in the noise. Getting people involved in an interactive setting is the most effective way of engaging the public and effecting change, but normally these kinds of events have a limited amount of attendance. He suggests that we need something in the middle like a traveling Sustainability Expo that can engaged many people in an interactive setting. Check out the Bowman's website for more information.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

SkyTrain is Easy

One of the benefits of the Olympics Games is the improvement to wayfinding on the SkyTrain network. While many regular users of SkyTrain find the network easy to use, many first time riders can get very confused. You would not believe the amount of times that I’ve seen people at King George SkyTrain station unsure of what train to get onto (there is only one train and it only goes one direction). Anyway, one of the barriers to transit use is the perception that it is confusing. TransLink has made the following types of improvement in the downtown core as pictured. It would be great to see this rolled out across the whole network. Whatever can be done to make transit easier to use is a good thing.

New Larger Signage at Station Entrances

Clear System Map

Easy to Read Bus Map

Platform Number Maps with all the Stations along the Route

Platform Numbers

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Half a billion dollars for Amtrak Cascades

In case you haven’t heard, as part of the US federal government’s high-speed rail corridor program, Washington State has received $590 million for passenger rail improvement along the Cascades’ corridor in its state on January 28th. What does this mean? Major service improvements for the Amtrak Cascades service.

The Cascade corridor runs between Eugene, OR and Vancouver, BC with major stops in Seattle and Portland. I have taken the train to Portland and Seattle, and now it’s the only way I travel to these places. I-5 sucks! The service is so popular that during peak times you can’t get a seat on the trains. These improvements couldn’t be timelier.

Since 1994, $331 million has been invested in improving the Cascades corridor. Today there are two daily trains between Vancouver, BC and Seattle, four between Seattle and Portland (five if you count the Coast Starlight), and the service has a 62 percent on-schedule performance. As a side note if Canada Border Services Agency doesn’t get their act together, BC may only see one train a day after the Olympics.

With the new US federal money, the Amtrak Cascades service will see up to 6 (7 w/ Coast Starlight) Seattle to Portland and 2 Seattle to Vancouver, B.C. daily round trips with 97 percent on-time performance. The Amtrak Cascade service will have more daily train then our West Coast Express! Anyway, it’s exciting times to be an American in the Cascades corridor. Let’s hope that the Canadian government allows us to be part of it. Check out the full mid-range plan for this service from Washington State.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

ALC - Hopefully the second to last update

In January 2009, I sent a request to the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) requesting information about inclusion and exclusion data for the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) in South Fraser communities. At that time, I was told that “the Commission does not have the capacity to provide you with information regarding ALR inclusions and exclusions by municipality.” I knew something was fishy as many of the planners I talked to in Surrey, Delta, and Langley told me that the ALC does provide this type of information. This lead me to filing a Freedom of Information Request in July 2009. In August 2009 the ALC provided me with a breakdown of ALR land by municipality as of October 2008, but wanted $1381 to fulfill my request for specific inclusion/exclusion data for the last 10 years. I wrote the ALC and told them that charging a fee for viewing public decision wasn’t fair. They wrote back and said that I could view the documents in their office, but if I wanted any copies they would charge a fee. I complained to the Office of the Information & Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia.

Yesterday I heard from the ALC and OIPC that I would be allowed to view the documents at the ALC office and the ALC would waive any fees for copies of decision I request. You can view the letter at our document archive. I was told that I can expect to view the decisions in March. I’m happy that I will be able to complete my research on the ALC, but I find it wrong that it takes one year and four months to get information that I believe should be freely available. I can’t believe people put up with this lack of transparency in our government. In this day and age, there is no reason for this kind of hassle.

One that note, I’m happy to hear that the Township of Langley is working on an e-government project to provide even more information online including podcasts of council meetings.

Monday, February 8, 2010

No Meeting this Month

Due to the Olympic Games, we will not be having our monthly meeting. We will be back in March. Enjoy the games!

Burns Bog Conservation Society

I received the following in my Inbox:

What? Delta Council Meeting (click here for agenda)
Where? Delta Municipal Hall, 4500 Clarence Taylor Crescent, Delta, BC
When? Monday, February 8 at 7PM
Why? Delta wants to redesignate three parcels of land from Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA) to Industrial and Heavy Industrial to accomodate the South Fraser Perimeter Road (SFPR).

A third reading (of four) will be given to Bylaws 6827 and 6828, removing Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA) designation from three parcels of Burns Bog land at 8348 River Way and 7480 80th Street, to accomodate the SFPR.

They could pass the bylaws at this meeting.

Please attend to show them you will not sit back and let them destroy our precious bog.

Burns Bog filters our water, keeps our air clean, and provides land to grow the food that nourishes us.It is a sacred place, and one of the very few magificent green spaces we have left to enjoy. Don't let them destroy it.

Your efforts make a difference. At the Public Hearing in January, the Mayor and Councillors were moved to consider the bylaws in greater depth thanks to your questioning. Read the responses given by clicking here.

Stay informed and stay active in protesting Bylaws 6827 and 6828. We can stop this.


Kristine Krynitzki
Communications Coordinator
Burns Bog Conservation Society
4-7953 120th Street, Delta, BC V4C 6P6
ph 604 572 0373 fax 604 572 0374

Friday, February 5, 2010

Sustainability In The City of Langley

Last night I attended the City of Langley's Sustainability Open House. As a Township resident, I fully participated for several years in the ToL Sustainability Charter workshops and public consultation process. As a property owner in the City of Langley, I felt it was my civic duty to get involved in this work. There was a few empty chairs (see pic below) when we started, but this corner of the library filled up quickly.

The Sustainability Open House was designed to help the City develop a Sustainability Framework that will help define Langley City's long-term sustainability "destination". About 30 people gathers and by the end of the two hours, about 40 people were present. Roy Beddow, Deputy Director of Development Services and Economic Development for the City of Langley hosted the event, along with two consultants from STANTEC Consulting that helped facilitate the night. I volunteered to help collect ideas related to TRANSPORTATION. The focus areas were numerous. This list of Focus Areas consisted of:
  1. Arts, Culture & Heritage
  2. Energy, Climate Change & Air Quality
  3. Healthy Living, Food & Well-being
  4. Land Use and Housing
  5. Local Economy
  6. Natural Areas, Parks and Recreation
  7. Solid Waste
  8. Water
  9. Transportation
  10. Municipal Leadership
  11. Community Leadership
Participants were first asked three questions:


After a short discussions on the answers the group had to these questions, people were instructed to circulate to the focus area tables and answer these questions for the focus topics at hand (specifically). The group had an opportunity to visit up to 5 tables.

Our Transportation Cafe focused on what we CAN do. I kept my mouth shut regarding light rail and allowed the cafe participants to put forth their ideas while I simply recorded. As I recall, the group said these are things we should do now:

Build transit to get more density (developer incentive to build)
Build more bike lanes
Build secure bike storage
Reduce transit travel times
Clear snow from bus stops and sidewalks
Build Light Rail NOW - Put it on the board! (not me, their suggestion)
Arrange for ride share/more Jack Bell participation in Langley
Solve empty HOV lanes through incentives to take transit
Implement car share in Langley
Build Personal Travel Pods/Personal Rapid Transit (click here to see and here)
Get $ to get mass transit and these other things

I love the look of those personal rapid transit vehicles. But from a practicality standpoint, all that required infrastructure (and in some cases air tubes and systems that support them), I just don't see where its cheaper than light rail. I didn't have to say a word, as the 7 people around the table spoke strongly about light rail and getting it now. I was very pleased to see the enthusiasm without prompting.

I'm sorry that I can't comment on the solutions the other groups came up with, but we were assured that the information would soon be posted to the City of Langley's website.

During the wrap-up a lady asked why if sustainability is all about planning and changing things for the future, why was the youngest person here last night 30 years old? Indeed most of us present were 40-65 and some well into their 70's and 80's. It is a sad reality and one that South Fraser OnTrax has come up against time and again. Each time we reached out to youth (or at least people in their 20's) to get involved in our meetings and events, it was like banging our heads against the wall.

One participant joked that our youth are busy talking on their iPhones. Maybe Apple could help us by releasing an iShake? It's time our youth shake out of their complacency - and sometimes self focus - OUCH! It's time they help shape their future an not abdicate that role to the older folks. It's time for multi-generational cooperation and sharing.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Smart Growth = Lower VMT

Lately I have been listening to the University of New Hampshire Office of Sustainability podcast series which can be downloaded on iTunes. I recommend that you check it out. I was listening to a podcast with Reid Ewing, a Research Professor at the National Center for Smart Growth. I thought I’d share some interesting facts from the podcast.

Smart growth, pedestrian friendly, new urbanism, transit oriented, or whatever-you-want-to-call-it development is key to reducing vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in a metropolitan region. Reducing VMT is important as the largest green house gas emission sector is transportation at 36% in BC.

While the new BC laws on reducing vehicle emissions are a good start, and will result in greener vehicles, this only gets us part way. With the steady increase in VMT -expanded Port Mann/Highway One, South Fraser Perimeter Road Freeway, and population growth- we become no better off in the future as far as green house gas emissions are concerned. So with this in mind, how do we get lower VMT?

As the price of gas goes up, VMT goes down. The market will play its part in reducing VMT. Carbon tax and road pricing will allow for the full cost of vehicle travel to be captured. This will further lower VMT.

Making areas more walkable will reduce VMT. A doubling of density will result in a 5% reduction of VMT. This is a huge! A mixed-use, high density 200th Street could easily see a 20 to 30% reduction in VMT in Langley. Of course improving transit between these density pocket in our region will bring VMT even lower.

We have the tools to reduce VMT today and I would argue that people will see a better quality of life as a result. All we are missing is the political will at some levels of government. The world is shifting to smart growth development. If Langley is not on board, it risks becoming a has-been community that will get passed by.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Where would you rather live?

I thought I would compare two different modes of transportation. Both these systems can handle about the same amount of people per hour. Where would you rather live by?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Bike lanes good

I am sick at home today which gave me a chance to catch up on some reading. This morning I had a look at the report, “The impact of transportation infrastructure on bicycling injuries and crashes: a review of the literature”. The report looks at bicycle safety, but first it talks about the health benefit to society. As you are well aware, Canadians are becoming more unhealthy every year. Obesity is having a very real impact on our society.
There are significant economic costs of physical inactivity, and benefit-cost analyses suggest that the benefits of increased cycling are worth approximately four to five times the costs of investing in new cycling infrastructure.
So, what can we do to improve cycling safety? It’s really quite simple, build well-lit, marked bike lanes (whether on-street or off-street) and provide separated cycle tracks through roundabouts. Following these suggestions will reduce cycling crashes by 50%.
The principal trend that emerges from the papers reviewed here is that clearly-marked, bike-specific facilities (i.e. cycle tracks at roundabouts, bike routes, bike lanes, and bike paths) were consistently shown to provide improved safety for cyclists compared to on-road cycling with traffic or off-road with pedestrians and other users.
Interesting enough cycling on the sidewalk can carry a higher risk then riding on a road; also, mixing cycling and walking without separation is not a good idea.

Since cycling infrastructure pays for itself, why aren't we building more?

Monday, February 1, 2010

When politics goes bad

Later this year, the City of Toronto will be having an election. The election is some nine months away, but it seems that one of the major election issues will be fought over transit and bike lanes. Now some history.

In Metro Toronto 27% of the population bikes or takes transit to work, in the City of Toronto 43%; numbers that put Metro Vancouver to shame. Just like our NDP got out of funding transit operating costs in the 1990’s, Ontario’s Conservative government stopped funding transit operating costs in Toronto. Both TransLink and the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) have been a mess ever since. With the lack of investment to keep up the TTC network, there has been service delays, strikes, and even some accidents. These issues are at the top of people’s minds. While there has been good news for Canada’s largest urban region with Toronto Transit City and other programs, it seems that some politicians are trying to capitalize on people emissions instead of suggestion real solutions to the TTC’s problem. It seems to me that these politicians are throwing out the baby with the bath water. I’m hoping that the general public in Toronto is smart enough to not vote for these politicians. According to the Toronto Star:
That includes cancelling Transit City, removing politicians from the TTC board, and if there were any lingering doubt left about where he stands, keeping the fifth lane on Jarvis St. exactly as it is – for vehicles, not cyclists.

That Transit City would provide those living in Toronto's former suburbs with an alternative to the car only compounds the irony. The voters Rossi wants to attract are precisely those who would benefit most from the new LRT lines.

Rossi isn't the first wannabe politician to try to harness suburban resentment to his own ends, but for the city the timing could be disastrous. Experts tell us that Toronto is already 20 years behind the most advanced transit cities.
In the National Post:
Selley It's almost like Rossi's idea is to mollify the War on the Car folks by declaring War on Bikes. And notwithstanding some serious questions about basic transit-delivery competency, his stance on Transit City likewise seems both hasty and reactionary.
I’m thankful that in Metro Vancouver, and Langley, we have politicians that value public transit. We would never get someone so outright anti-transit elected in our region. We all know that transit’s funding model is broken. The solution isn’t to cut back on transit, it’s to solve the funding problem.

Last year the mayor's council promised to come back to the table to solve TransLink’s funding issue this year. Let’s hope they keep their word and don’t do anything as silly as mayoral candidates in Toronto.