Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas

Nicomekl Floodplain
Just wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas! I'll be taking a blogging break, but will be back on Monday, January 3rd 2011.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Audio Files

Yesterday morning, I was on the Early Edition on CBC Radio One talking about the recently released Fraser Valley Regional District Transit Study. I've provided a link to the Player for you to have a listen. The interview starts around the 2 hour mark.

Also, be sure to check out part two of the chat Joe and I had with our friend Michael Thorne from The Real Estate Coffee Shop below.
In this week’s episode Michael Thorne continues his conversation with Joe Zaccaria and Nathan Pachal of South Fraser on Trax. They discuss the inter-urban line, light rail and sky train as well as the recent conference presented by South Fraser on Trax entitled “Sustainability on the Edge”.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Public Transportation on the Edge and Personal Choices

Driving our own personal vehicles costs more than just the gas we buy to keep it going.

I am not against the auto and we will always have it in some form, but in a lot of cases we do not have any other choice but to buy and maintain a vehicle for every member in the family. This "convenience" comes at a high price:

-Traffic jams
-Finding parking and paying for parking
-Paying extra for goods since merchants pay for huge parking lots
-Injuries and deaths caused by accidents
-Paying more for health care due to pollution, obscenity, and injuries

Walking to public transportation and riding bicycles gives us many beneficial advantages: mentally, physically, socially, and observing some drivers maybe spiritually as well.

It is interesting to me that when the Provincial government wants to put in new roads, they call this an investment. However when the public asks for better public transportation to give us transportation choice, we are told we will have to pay for this at a local level. By the way, the cost to each household a year in Metro Vancouver who be $36 extra to improve public transportation and cycling in the South of Fraser. $36 is worth it for transportation choice, but maybe if we didn't putting all our money into roads we won't even need to pay $36 extra a year in the first place.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Eliza Olson - A BC Treasure

Apart from our advocacy for better transit, smart growth and sustainability, we need to take time out to honour the hero's of change among us. Earlier this year South Fraser OnTrax was blessed to spend a couple of hours with Eliza Olson. Eliza has been the president of the Burns Bog Conservation Society for the past 22 years. Her and 19 other concerned citizens formed this society in 1988.

After spending her career was an educator, Eliza, now in her 70's, continues to be a true BC treasure in advocating for the preservation of Burns Bog. If one can ignore the delicate ecosystem of the bog and all of its, unique flora and fauna, you can't ignore the fact that these peatlands are "the Lungs of the Lower Mainland". The bog acts as an air filter and also provides oxygen. Acting as a "carbon sink", the bog turns CO2 into organic materials.

Thanks to Eliza and the others, Burns Bog is a rich outdoor classroom as kids from all over take in the numerous educational programs offered in the bog.

Eliza Olson has been selected as one of ten finalists by the CBC for their "Champions of Change" contest. You can vote for Eliza here and we very much encourage you to do so. If she wins, the Burns Bog Conservation Society will receive $25,000.

The CBC list of 10 is very impressive and all deserve recognition. We hope you will consider casting your vote for Eliza Olson who has given freely many years of her life to protect Burns Bog and our air quality.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Fraser Valley Transit Study Released - Transit Service in Abbotsford Sucks!

Without much fanfare, the Strategic Review of Transit in the Fraser Valley Report was released last Thursday. For those that remember, Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon promised in 2008 to study the Interurban from Delta to Chilliwack. This changed to a long-term study of transit in the Fraser Valley Regional District. The report does not recommend any rail based transit beyond the West Coast Express in Mission. What does the report recommend? Express Buses that connect Abbotsford to Metro Vancouver. I invite you to read the full report for the list of local community transit investments, but I wanted to point on some key findings.

First is the amount of transit service hours in the Fraser Valley. The Fraser Valley has the least amount of service hours of any large region in BC. In Kelowna and Kamloops, there is 1.75 service hours of transit per capita. In Metro Vancouver, there is 2.5 service hours per capita. The Fraser Valley has 0.4 service hours per capita. Of course, you get what you pay for. While the average taxpayer contributes $26 dollar per year to transit via property tax in Kelowna and Kamloops, in Abbotsford they pay $14 and in Chilliwack $9. Transit is cost shared almost 50/50 with the Province, so you can do that math. In Metro Vancouver where there is no help from the Province, the average taxpayer contributes $130 per year to transit. So with only $30 of transit tax per capita in Abbotsford, it's no surprise that transit sucks there.

Step one is for the local government to bite the bullet and pay for their fair share of transit. We can talk about the rest of the recommendation if that happens.

Also interesting are the travel patterns. There is a strong link between Langley and Abbotsford. In fact, it is stronger than the link between Vancouver and Langley.

Click Image to Enlarge

Click Image to Enlarge

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Lanes of Langley

The following pictures where taken today on my walk to the Langley Centre Bus Loop through Downtown Langley. McBurney Lane and Fenton Lane provide a pedestrian corridor between Douglas Park and the Bus Loop.

Douglas Park and Spirit Square

New Condos on Douglas Crescent by Douglas Park

McBurney Lane

Fenton Lane

Thursday, December 16, 2010

From the Field

As I was talking about yesterday, community building is always better when you involve the community. Our very own Joe Zaccaria is currently helping out with a project to redevelop 1941 era social housing at Waterman Gardens in San Bernardino, CA. The following video is of Joe facilitating a design charrette residents group.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Public Consultation

I was thinking about what makes a successful community plan and came to the conclusion that it takes the community, duh! For example, the Aldergrove Community Plan started with asking people what they liked about their community and what they would like to see changed. It also educated the community members involved on tools to get the community that they want. Not surprising, they ended up with a mix of housing types and a mixed-used downtown core. Of course you will always have people who object to change when you start implementing a plan, but you can feel confident because you have the support of the majority of the community.

I contrast this to the infill option that the City of Langley was exploring for the single family residential area south of the Nicomekl River. Instead of asking people what they liked and want to improve in the neighbourhood, they said “we want to increase density in your neighbourhood.” Of course this got killed before it even started. I’m sure if the City started with the basic questions and involved the community from day one, everyone would have arrived at the same point. When a local government goes out and says, “we are building high-rises on 200th Street”, you end up with emotional, irrational knee-jerk reaction. When a local government goes out and says, “how can we make a great community?”, you get a great community that might even include high-rises.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Transit Facts

I thought I would share some fun facts that I learned about TransLink and the cost of providing service. TransLink has been working on their service optimization plan and their most recent schedule changes reflects this. The good thing is that in this optimization process they kept some routes that would be considered underperforming like the new 364 and 388 routes as TransLink wants to give the routes time to mature. If they went solely on performance metrics, I’m certain that many more routes would have been cut back in the South of Fraser. BTW: the 502 route (which I take) is the most over-crowded bus in the South of Fraser.

If you were wondering, it costs $118 an hour to keep a regular bus running and $48 an hour to keep a community shuttle running. In total, a regular bus costs on average costs $646,000 per year to operate. For a route like the 502, it costs something like $4 million a year to run! This is good to remember when you hear people say silly things like “all TransLink needs to do is use their old buses to improve service.”

Another interesting fact is that the cost of operating a bus is 80% labour. That includes the driver and the mechanics that keep the buses in working order.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Stats on Energy Use

I was roaming across the Internet and found a blog that was talking about how buses are less efficient than cars because they are always empty. The author suggested that transit was therefore pointless, a waste of money, and the private auto was the solution. Yeah, anyway... I thought I'd do a little research of my own. The US Department of Energy has a 385 page book called "Transportation Energy Data Book". On page 64, there is a chart on vehicle energy efficiency. BTU's per vehicle mile for an "average" car in 2008 was 5,465 and 6,830 for a light-truck. An average bus is 39,906 BTU's per vehicle mile. I talked to TransLink and they told me that "our research and analysis found that the average system-wide capacity utilization over a 24 hour period is approximately 84% i.e. over a given time period 84% of the seats we supply are being used by customers." Let's be very conservative and use the number of 44 seats per bus. The does not include the longer articulated buses. So that's 36 seats on every bus on average being filled. Do some quick math and we get the number of 1109 BTU's per passenger mile on a bus.

Metro Vancouver BTU's per Passenger Mile
SOV Car: 5,465
SOV Light Truck: 6,830
Transit Bus: 1,109

So maybe in a small town cars many be more efficient, but in large region like our there really is no comparison.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Picture of the Week - Surrey Central City

This building is the symbol of the change that Surrey (heck, it's even in the City's logo) is undergoing from low-density Dullsville to a true urban centre in the region.

View Larger Map

Thursday, December 9, 2010

How Donald Shoup Will Find You a Parking Spot

One of the interesting things I hear when talking about road pricing is that it is part of some pinko communist conspiracy to get them our of their cars. This couldn't be further from the truth. Road pricing is about making best use of the limited resource called the road. In fact, our current transportation system is the result of heavy government intervention from zoning and mortgage insurance to "free" highways. Of course nothing is free, with roads we pay with our time. The following video is on pricing parking and is from the Reason Foundation who's slogan is free minds and free markets. Shoup talks about how "free" parking is hidden into the cost of everything we do and how it should be brought out into the open. Here is a great quote from the video, "The cost we pay for free parking is somewhere between MediCare and National Defence".

Conversations That Drive You Buggy - Engineers

Sometimes in our own little professional worlds we use jargon or alphabet soup that we fully understand, but that confuses the masses. My friend Dan Burden shared this one this week and I just had to post it. Have you ever had a discussion with an engineer?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Fraser River Rail Bridge - Congestion

As I've blogged about before, one of the priorities for goods movement in this region is the replacement of the 1904 Fraser River Rail Bridge. This has been identified by many groups like the Gateway Council and Port Metro Vancouver as an A1 priority, yet the federal government has done nothing about it. Besides freight, it also prevents the expansion of passenger rail service. BNSF, CN, CP, and Southern Rail's tracks all converge on this single tracked bridge that must be taken at a speed of 15km/h for fear of the thing failing and falling into the river. On top of that river traffic has priority over rail traffic, so whenever a barge comes to the bridge, it must be open. On Sunday, I personally experienced how bad the congestion is.

The Amtrak train I was on pulled up to the bridge and had to stop to let a CN train pass. After that, the bridge had to be opened for river traffic. As two barges went under the bridge another CN train cued on the opposite side of the bridge. Luckily after the two barges were clear of the bridge and it was put back into service, the Amtrak train was let through. All this took about 35min.

With all the money the federal government has put into the Asia-Pacific Gateway and Corridor Initiative, I don't understand why this A1 priority has not been dealt with. This bridge is owned by the federal government, so they are the only ones that can fix this serious issue.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Cincinnati Excitment Part II

The Cincinnati Streetcar documents spoke about 18 hour of service per day. I thought I would post the exact projections and budgets for capital and operating costs directly from their feasibility study.

Here are a few more quality videos that explain the drivers for this streetcar project and related quality of life issues.

Economic Development - Growing A Smart Workforce

Connecting Communities Within The City

A Vibrant City Life

Monday, December 6, 2010

Excitment Abounds in Cincinnati

Since 2006/2007, the City of Cincinnati began seriously looking at streetcars as a solution to vacant commercial space, areas in need of redevelopment, connecting neighbourhoods and bringing a vibrancy to their downtown core. Yesterday I shared a video on streetcars for Los Angeles. Over the next couple of days I'd like to share some very well done videos on the Cincinnati Streetcar Proposal.

You should know that the question went to the taxpayers in a referendum and was approved. The city has been working on funding for a phase one project and eventually a phase two expansion. You can read all the details here at Wikipedia, including links to press reports, the feasibility study, etc.

Capital Costs

The entire system with uptown expansion would equal about 4 miles of track, the cars, etc. will cost US$ 185M, with the first phase at US$102M and phase two at $83M.

Operating Costs

'The system assumes about 4,600 weekday trips daily (year one) at $.50 fare and 6,400 daily weekday trips at $.50. The system would receive additional revenue through advertising, private partners, funding from economic growth the city would experience from this system which is estimated to be at least almost $2B within 10 years.

Some good videos were produced that highlight the benefits of a streetcar program and today and tomorrow you can watch them right here. As always, we are very interested in your feedback. So, watch the videos, post your comments and join the discussion.

Here is one of the videos from the city manager that explains the benefits. More to come, stay tuned and join the discussion!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Streetcars Connect Neighbourhoods and More

I was catching up on all my news reading and subjects of interest today and found this great video from a group that hopes to revive the streetcar in Los Angeles. This great little video talks about the streetcar as a connection and economic development tool.

Watch the great map of LA that appears and shows potential new streetcar lines. I've been to LA and love the city, but it is tiring with all the driving and car focus. Can you imaging an LA that is served by modern street cars and non-car connectivity to the various neighbourhoods? That would be awesome. Anyway, enjoy this great little video. Check out the LA streetcar group at this URL.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

SFU & City of Surrey Transportation Lecture Program: Tough Choices

Over the past two months, I had the pleasure of attending the SFU & City of Surrey Transportation Lecture Program. The program was based on a similar program that has been running in Portland for the last 20 years to engage the local community. The Surrey Program provided us “with a comprehensive introduction to Transportation in the Lower Mainland with a particular focus on Surrey. You will learn about a wide range of transportation issues from regional planning of development and land use through to the day-to-day operation and management of our transportation systems.” We heard lectures from professional in the field from the City of Surrey to TransLink to the Province. The program built up to a final presentation that we had to prepare for the class on transportation.

I did a presentation with Brandon Yan on Complete Streets which you can download from the Course Materials section of the program’s site. While all the presentation where great, there was one that stuck in my mind called “Tough Choices to Enhance Sustainable Mobility Within Surrey and Metro Vancouver.” It struck me because this presentation basically outlines everything that the little voice deep-down tell us we need to do, but we haven't. Bill Lambert, David Walters, and Zaira Hernandez pointed out the following objectives for a sustainable transportation system and the “tough choices” to obtain the goals.

Objective 1 ‐ Travel Options (Light Rail, Frequent Bus, Cycling,etc)
Tough Choices
-Build transit priority lanes, queue jumpers, & transit signals in order to provide timely and reliable transit services with time advantage over autos.
-Require municipalities to TDM and parking policies (unbundled parking, high rates, parking for carpools, limit supply, parking maximums, removal of parking on arterial roads in peak periods) and TOD plans for funding for transit enhancements.
-Above requirements would be prerequisites for federal/provincial/regional funding of rapid transit services in a municipality.

-More expensive to travel in car alone –vehicle levies, tolls, parking charges distance related insurance, gas tax etc.
-Faster by transit than car in many corridors.
-Households able to save ‐$10,000 minimum annually.
-Reduce energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, auto property insurance costs and roadway infrastructure build/maintenance costs.
-Provide any more attractive choices for travel and opportunities to workand live closer together–fewer trips.

Objective 2-Sustainable Funding for Sustainable Travel and Land Options
Tough Choices
-All day tolls on new and old main bridges adjusted for time periods generating $2.5 billion annually.
-Toll funds dedicated to special fund only for improvements to regional and local sustainable modes‐transit and active modes‐pedestrian and cycling improvements.
-Formation of regional economic agency to pool tax funds from regional industrial/business parks in order to invest in sustainable areas for employment.

-Reduce congestion and its $1.5 billion travel delay costs in Metro.
-Reduce auto trips and greenhouse gas emissions.
-Increase reliability/reduce time of auto travel.
-More expensive to travel in car alone.
-Provides more attractive options for travel throughout region by transit and other active modes.
-Able to more effectively market Metro Vancouver to world for job growth.

Objective 3 ‐ Growth Limits and Municipal Changes
Tough Choices
-Designate hard lines for new growth and auto transportation infrastructure, and reduce growth nodes in Metro Regional Growth Plan to be strictly enforced by a combined regional/provincial body.
-Provide regional funding from bridge tolls to fund preparation of Transit ‐Oriented Plans on at least 50% of stations on BRT and RT lines receiving federal/provincial or regional funding, and use value capture taxes as part of their implementation.
-Approve a provincially negotiated plan to reduce the number of municipalities in Metro Vancouver from 21 to 4.

-Much easier to implement land use and TDM measures, and plan/build transit network and transit priority measures.
-Will facilitate getting TOD plans prepared along new BRT/RT facilities and implemented.
-Provide more sustainable limits to growth than proposed Metro Vancouver Growth Plan.

While you may not agree with everything they propose, the key point is this: We can complain all we want about the lack of transportation choice in our region, but until we send our politicians the signal that we are ready to change how we price transportation, nothing will change.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Picture of the Week

To celebrate the first day of December, here is a picture that I took during last week's "snowstorm". Even in the winter, the tress on the left help build the outdoor room and sense of place on this street.

206th Street, looking North towards Douglas Crescent