Wednesday, March 31, 2010

No Light Rail for Toronto

I have been following the exciting development of Toronto Transit City for a few years now. Last April, the Ontario Provincial Government committed 9 billion dollars to the project. I was happy. This year, according to the Toronto Star, the “Transit City plan for above-ground light-rail lines was just kneecapped by the recent provincial budget, which indefinitely postpones $4 billion from the scheme.” This makes me sad. You can read more in the Toronto Star.

208th Street Bike Lane Update

On March 19th, I posted about how there will not be dedicated bike lanes on the upgraded section of 208th Street between 52nd Avenue to Fraser Highway due to cost; there will be wide curb lanes. I also noted that the current plan does not have any markings or signage for this section to indicate that the curb lane is for bikes and cars equally.

I had a chat with people at Langley City Hall and I am happy to report that they haven't forgotten about the bicycle in this section, but are waiting for a report on what kind of markings and/or signage would be best for this section. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Green Jobs

Looking at the last 10 year, there are only a few employment sectors that have seen a decline in BC: Forestry, Fishing, Wood Product Manufacturing, and Paper Manufacturing. Most of these jobs happen to be in rural BC. In a effort to provide employment for British Columbians outside of major centers, the government has been spending big dollars growing the oil and gas sector. Having grown up in the Interior I’ve seen the decline of the forestry sector first hand, but I have to wondering if trading forestry (which is actually sustainable) for mining, oil, and gas is a good thing. The resource sector in BC is notorious for its boom and bust cycles; mining and oil and gas extraction are not sustainable period. So what are we to do? I found a great paper called “Measuring Green Collar Jobs in British Columbia” from BCStats.

Dan Schrier (author) starts off by saying that measuring green jobs in BC is a challenge because there is no standardized way of measuring what constitutes a green job from agencies like Statistics Canada. He goes on to say that the best way to measuring green jobs today is by a direct survey. Schrier stats that is money to be had in this fast growing sector:
According to Statistics Canada, Canadian industries earned approximately $18.5 billion in revenue from sales of environmental goods and services in 2004.1

Given this burgeoning environmental sector, it would be useful to know just how many jobs it supports. Unfortunately, deriving a count of “green” jobs is not a simple matter. There is the difficulty of not only developing a definition of what comprises a green job, but also of coming up with a definition that allows for relatively easy measurement. Globally, it is estimated that the market for environmental goods and services is around US$1,370 billion per year and will double by 2020.
Now on to the stats. A green job is defined as:
Environmental employment is the performance of employment activities that seek to manage the use of, impact on, and enhance the sustainability of the environment. These activities, which could relate to the governance of environmental activities, the supply of environ-mental products and services, or the development and dissemination of environmental knowledge may be categorized in any of the following sectors:
a) environmental protection,
b) conservation & preservation of natural resources, and
c) environmental sustainability.
So how did we do in BC? We have 17.6% of all green jobs in Canada. That translates into 93,462 job which is more than double the amount of people working in the Forestry, Fishing, Mining, Oil and Gas!

Schrier goes on to say that Canada lags behind the rest of the world in the production of environmental goods and services. So where is the better place to invest money as a government to support rural BC. The unsustainable oil and gas sector or the fast growing green job sector?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Our Electrical Energy Future

One of the things that we take for granted in BC is our supply of cheap, clean energy. We are blessed in BC to have an abundance of hydroelectric power and I don’t think many British Columbia’s realize how luckily we are. Electricity generation accounts for 2% of our green house gas (GHG) emissions in BC. Nationally, 19% of our GHG emission are from electrical generation. On average 42% of GHG emissions in the USA are caused by electricity generation.

In 6 more years the BC government has committed that existing thermal generating power plants will achieve zero net greenhouse gas emissions and that 90% of our electricity will be from renewable sources (These include sources of energy that are constantly renewed by natural processes, such as large and small hydroelectric, solar, wind, tidal, geothermal, wood residue and energy from organic municipal waste.) We will see no nuclear power plants in BC. That means in BC we could only see 10% of our electricity from something called clean coal.

In most of North America power is generated by coal or natural gas, and switching to clean energy is more of a challenge than in BC. One of the solution proposed is something called clean coal. The idea is that instead of pumping the emission from thermal generation plants into the air, we pump it into the ground. It’s called carbon sequestration. FYI: This is how we mine coal today.

You can read about how they remove mountains to mine coal in North America. There are some major ecological concerns about this kind of mining. There are also some concerns with carbon sequestration. Geo-sequestration (storing carbon in the ground) presents some major risk. The major concern is that the carbon storage in the ground could leak back into the atmospheres or could cause groundwater acidification. There have even been documented causes of naturally occurring carbon leaks killing people who happen to be in the area where it leaked. Acidified groundwater is no fun either.

The future of power generation, in most parts of North America, will be with the distribution of our power system from big central power generation stations to micro-generation. Imagine if a place like the Los Angeles started installing solar panels on building and all these building could feed back into the system. We have the technology to manage this kind of system today. This is the future...

Friday, March 26, 2010

Followup to SFOT Meeting with Port of Vancouver

Back in November 2009, we had Peter Xotta from Port Metro Vancouver at our monthly meeting. We had some questions for the port which Peter did not have the answer to at the time. We have received the following reply to our questions:

1. Payment In Lieu Information for the Township and City of Langley: How does the Port “pay” for externalities in communities like Langley?
As a federal agency, PMV does not pay property tax. If Port lands are occupied by a tenant, then that tenant pays full municipal taxes. In full recognition of the benefits afforded to us by municipal governments, the Port Authority elects to make payments in lieu of taxes (PILT) on lands that are vacant.

Recently the three area port authorities amalgamated to continue as Port Metro Vancouver. Following port amalgamation in 2008, we recognized there are some differences in approaches that need integration, including to payments in lieu of taxes. We are currently developing a new integrated and consistent PILT policy following amalgamation, and will be advising municipalities of those changes.

In terms of externalities paid to communities such as Langley, contributions are also made through various infrastructure improvements such as the Roberts Bank Rail Corridor. This $300 million project brings together public and private partnership. Port Metro Vancouver will be contributing $50 million towards the overall project which will prove to be beneficial in the following ways:

o Reduced traffic congestion during rail operations;
o Reduced congestion on key road corridors;
o Reduced idling at level crossings and congestion on some parallel facilities;
o Reduced emissions and contributions to greenhouse gas;
o Reduced direct exposure of road users and trains, with corresponding safety benefits;
o Increased agriculture productivity through improved vehicle movements;
o Enhanced bicycle network congestions;
o Enhanced access to emergency service providers (police, fire, ambulance); and
o Reduced sound pollution as train whistling would no longer be required for extended stretches on the corridor.

For more information on the Roberts Bank Rail Corridor please see the following website:

2. There is no example in the world of road expansion in major urban areas that provide long term congestion relief without other measures being put in place (road price, etc.). With that in mind, how will the Port work to ensure that goods movement has priority once the roads fill up again, and protect this “generational investment” so we don’t have to go through all this again?
The best way to ensure that goods movement has priority is to make sure that we share an open communication network with all of the organizations involved. By developing a clear agenda between the Gateway Program, the BC Transit Plan, the Provincial Government, the Federal Government, Port Metro Vancouver, Translink, BC Trucking, the Gateway Council as well as many of the surrounding municipalities, we will be able to set logistical goals and develop solutions for any challenges we may face in the future. Through our open communication channels we will be able to work proactively to ensure the prompt and efficient movement of goods in order to protect this “generational investment”.

3. What percentage of GHG emissions are reduced by a.) Shore Power and b.) The tiered Harbour Dues System?
a) The impact of shore power on GHG emissions does depend on how long ships are connected while in port. In 2009, PMV completed 11 test connections, meaning that the ships were not connected for the entire duration of their visit. During this time, there was an average in 48% reduction in all emissions, including GHGs.

Based on these tests, and on how quickly each ship connects and disconnects, emission reductions could potentially be in the range of 90% per call. At PMV this means a potential reduction of 90% of all engine emissions per cruise ship connected to shore power, per call.

b) The Harbour Dues Program was not designed to target GHG emissions in particular, but focused on incentives for reducing criteria air contaminants, particular sulphur oxides and particulate matter. However, one of the purposes of this program was to encourage early adoption of lower emissions alternatives ahead of international shipping regulations. The Program therefore also incents the reduction of GHG emissions as co-benefits by offering reduced harbour dues for shore power, use of natural gas and use of biodiesel.

4. Is any of the modeling for Rail Traffic available publicly?
Rail is regulated by Transport Canada who are currently leading a rail service review. For more information about this review and to access publically available information, please follow this link.

5. Is any information on the Patullo Bridge Rail/ Road available publicly?
After assessing the existing bridge, Translink has came to the conclusion that it will build an entirely new bridge rather than invest more money into the existing structure. Maintenance will continue on the existing structure while this 10 year project takes place.

6. Do you have any information or a report about the need for replacing the New Westminster Rail Bridge?
The New Westminster Rail Bridge will be replaced as it was built in 1904. It now accommodates 30 million tonnes of cargo to and from the Burrard Inlet. The estimated replacement cost is $110 million.

More information can be found on the Greater Vancouver Gateway Council website located under the 2030 visions

7. What is the Port doing to protect environmentally sensitive areas in which it operates?
There are many environmental initiatives that take place in areas where the Port operates. Some examples of these are Northwest Ports Clean Air Strategy, Differentiated Harbour Dues Program, Land Conservation, habitat mapping, and much more.

We are also involved with the Fraser River Estuary Management Program (FREMP) and the Burrard Inlet Environmental Action Plan (BIEAP) in order to ensure proper management of these two significant aquatic ecosystems in the Lower Mainland.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

TransLink in the South Fraser

So I received a sheet from TransLink outlining the transit services improvements since 2008 in the South Fraser. This includes:
  • A 20% increase in the number of buses since the plan was implemented, and a 35% increase in the annual total hours of service.
  • A new Community Shuttle in Clayton Height
  • A new Aldergrove to Abbotsford route
  • Increased service on routes connecting South Surrey, Delta, White Rock to the Canada Line
  • New east-west route on 64th Ave
  • New east-west route on 88th Ave
  • New north-south route on 152nd
  • New route between Langley Centre, the West Coast Express, and Maple Ridge via the Golden Ears Bridge
  • Improved minimum 15 minute service, 7 days a week on King George Highway (Boulevard), Fraser Highway, Scott Road, 72nd Ave, and 104th Ave.
As a transit users, I have seen the great improvements in service out here, but we still have a huge service gap when compared to communities in the Burrard Peninsula.

On the topic of transit in the South Fraser, Editor Frank Bucholtz of the Langley Times wrote an article about the Surrey Rapid Transit study:
The regional transportation authority is asking the public for input into what type of rapid transit would best serve the south of the Fraser region, including Langley.

Advocates for the restoration of interurban service along the BC Hydro rail corridor, including VALTAC and South Fraser OnTrax, will now have an opportunity to advocate for that service. Those who rode the streetcar on the line to Granville Island during the Winter Olympics and recently-completed Paralympics got a glimpse of what a modern interurban rail car would be like — and it’s impressive
The Olympic Line Streetcar has really opened up people’s eye to what modern light rail can look like. It has also excited people once again about the prospect of light rail in the South Fraser.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

IBM on congestion

It seems that IBM has been pushing sustainability and the city as of late. They have an interesting page on what they call Smarter Cities and it's worth checking out. Also of interests is the following ad from IBM about how you can't building your way out of congestion with more road, but by intelligently managing traffic you can, with IBM of course, reduce congestion. IBM built the system used for Stockholm Road Pricing System.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Anthem Properties Development Update

I have to make a bit of a clarification about our letter and earlier post on the Anthem Properties development at Glover Road and the Langley Bypass. We were under the impression that the Gateway Street component of the Downtown Langley Master Plan went to the Langley Bypass in all directions. It turns out that the North Gateway is Duncan Way, the South Gateway is 54A Ave, the East Gateway is 206th Street, and the West Gateway is 201A St.

Most of the pedestrian access is through a new internal road that, rather ironically, has the same features as the City of Langley's "Gateway Street".

Internal Road of New Development

I'm happy to report that the development will include bike parking throughout the development and in highly visible areas. Our fear that the building "turns its back" from Glover Road is partially mitigated by using glass features instead of a blank wall, but there is no pedestrian access directly off Glover Road which was our main concern. Anyhow, the 70,000sq. ft (30,000sq. ft for office use) development is going for a LEED Gold rating and was approved at the March 22, 2010 City of Langley Council Meeting.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Amenities are important

Why do people move to downtown Vancouver? What drives people to pay a quarter-million dollars for 400 square feet? It not to be close to work: recent trends show that more people now live in Vancouver than work in Vancouver. The city’s downtown core experiences a reverse commute. It’s good public space. People want to be close to cultural amenities, great shopping, and beautiful parks. How many times have you heard someone say that they want to live in Vancouver, but can’t afford to?

What does this mean for Langley? Well as you know, both the City and the Township have plans to up the densities in their communities (Downtown Langley and 200th Street). For these plans to be successful, good public space needs to be part of the package. The fact is that people will give up private space (the back yard) if the public space if appealing.

The Township of Langley has gone through great lengths to provide great green space within the community. With ample parks and greenways, the Township gets an A+. The Langley Events Centre is another example of investing in public space. I know that some criticize when governments invest in amenities. I remember the fuss about the band shell in Douglas Park and even the Langley Events Centre. But the fact is that in order for Langley to become the place to be, governments will have to take the lead in providing good public space. How the public space is setup is also important. People clearly prefer the walkability of areas like Downtown Langley and Fort Langley. If not, Langley will become a place where people live because they can’t afford to live elsewhere.

Friday, March 19, 2010

208th Street Bike Lanes

The friendly staff at the City of Langley forwarded me the drawings for the 208th Street project which you can see in this post.

208th Street between 52nd Avenue and 48th Avenue. Click image to enlarge.

208th Street between 52nd Avenue and Fraser Highway. Click image to enlarge.

I wanted to highlight some information from the drawings. The bike lanes run from 52nd Avenue to 48th Avenue. From 52nd Avenue to Fraser Highway, due to cost saving measures, the City decided to go with wide curb lanes.

Wide Curb Lanes

What is interesting about the drawings is that they make no mention of marking the wide curb lanes with a bike symbol. Marking the lanes is a notice to motorist that they are using shared space. Besides adding bike lanes, there are many other good changes happening.

208th Street Cross-Profile. Click image to Enlarge

The lighting is moving to the middle of the road. This will get the lamp standards out of the sidewalk and out of pedestrian’s way. They are adding a raised median which will improve safety. If the median is planeted with strong vertical shapes (like trees) it can actually lower speeds. The City has also gone with 10 foot lanes which are just as safe as 12 foot Ministry of Transpiration size lanes without taking up an additional 8 feet of right-of-way.

Letter to City of Langley on Anthem Properties Development

You can download a copy of the letter that South Fraser OnTrax is sending to the City of Langley regarding the Anthem Properties development that I blogged about on Wednesday.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

New Proposed Development at Glover Road and Langley Bypass

As you man be aware Anthem Properties is planning to develop a office/retail complex at the corner of Glover Road and the Langley Bypass.

Glover Road facing part of development

The Downtown Langley Master Plan – Phase III states that Glover Road is a Gateway Street into Downtown Langley. This is the first development that could put the Gateway Streets plan into practice. As it currently stand, this development does not have any pedestrian access off Glover Road and essentially “turns its back to the road.” A current example of this is on 208th Street and Fraser Highway. It creates a hostel pedestrian environment and goes against CPTED standards. Having the retail units with pedestrian access off Glover Road will create a safe, welcoming, and pedestrian friendly entrance to the City and this development. The Glover Road facing part of this development should get the full “Gateway Street” treatment as outlined in the Downtown Langley Master Plan. Given the proximity of Kwantlen University and major residential developments on Duncan Way, it will be worth the while.

Gateway Street Design from Downtown Langley Master Plan

Monday, March 15, 2010

Surrey Rapid Transit Study

This morning I had the chance to attend a preliminary meeting for the Surrey Rapid Transit Study. Calling it a Surrey study is a bit of a misnomer, it should real be called the South Fraser Rapid Transit Study as it includes Surrey, Delta, White Rock, and Langley (though only Willowbrook and the City of Langley). One thing that is special about this study is that the Province, TransLink, and municipalities are working together. In the past, TransLink has released plans only to have them trumped by the Province at later dates. Also, this study will take into account the results of the Fraser Valley Transit Study.

Today's meeting was mostly a planning/feedback meeting for the public consultations that will be taking place later this year. TransLink will look at all corridors and all technologies during this study including the Interurban. Rail for the Valley blogger zweisystem should be happy that TransLink called SkyTrain a metro system on their slide presentation. Public consultation will begin later this spring with a final report scheduled to come out around this time next year.

At today’s meeting we focused on four main questions:
  1. How does transit currently support your community’s strengths?
  2. What are the main transportation issues that affect your organization and the people your serve?
  3. How do you think expanded rapid transit would affect your organization and the people you server?
  4. How can we best engage with people you represent during this ongoing consultation?
One of the big items that came out of today’s meeting was that TransLink should look at the 200th Street Corridor as this will be a major growth area in Langley. Also, everyone noted how much of a transit deficiency there is in the South Fraser and that over 80% of all trip stay in the South Fraser. Another clear message was that bus service simple won’t cut it, we will need light rail.

Anyway it was a very interesting first meeting and I look forward to getting involved as the public consultation process begins.

Update: Actually, the public consultation begins this fall and will continue until the end of the study. Check out TransLink's website for the timeline.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Bike Lanes on 208th Street

In some good news, the City of Langley is currently repaving 208th Street from Fraser Highway to 48th Avenue. Initial there was going to be no improvement to the awful bike path on the west site of the road. Due to Infrastructure Stimulus Funding, the old bike path will be replaced with proper bike lanes from at least 52nd Avenue to 48th Avenue. I’m checking to see if the bike lanes will extend to Fraser Highway and the Langley Bypass, as it could tie into the bike lanes being built on the new bridge in that area.

It is good to see bike lanes being added as new road projects are being built in the City. Today Langley City is a patchwork of cycling infrastructure, and it will take a financial commitment from City Council to see any continuous bike lanes through the City.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Meeting Last Night - Burns Bog

We had a great meeting last night with Eliza Olson who is the Founding President of the Burns Bog Conservation Society. Olson has a laundry list of awards including: Queen’s Jubilee Medal, Canada125 Medal, Canadian Geographic Silver Award for Conservation, Earthday Canada’s Hometown Hero, and Delta Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year for 2006 to name a few for her work on preserving Burns Bog.

She gave us a general overview of the eco-logical importance and the history of the bog. I invite you to listen to the audio and view the presentation below. For example: approximately 4% of the world’s ice free land area is bog, however bogs are estimated to contain between one quarter and one third of the world’s pool of soil carbon. Also about 98% of a bog is water. The Burns Bog is basically the great filter of Metro Vancouver. Right now public access is not allowed on the main part of the bog. Olson would like to see controlled public access so people can see first-hand what the bog is and contains. Burns Bog is also a treasure trove of ecological diversity. Unfortunate, the Bog is under threat from the South Fraser Perimeter Road which I’ve blogged about in the past.

To date the road is causing the introduction of common grass into the delicate ecosystem of the bog, wiping the Red-backed Vole off the face of the planet, goes through breeding grounds in the Pacific Flyway, and is affecting the sensitive hydrology of the bog due to pre-loading of the ground. You can check out a full list of issues on the Burns Bog Conservation Society's website. I should point out that the society doesn’t oppose the road, just the alignment of the road. On the human front, over 70 homes have been bulldozed over in Annieville and Sunbury; wiping out a century of history. According to Olson, the brief submitted on the SFPR to the BC Environmental Assessment Office states that the road will help the economy by providing more jobs in the health profession due to pollution from the road. On the bright side, the Bog has the ability to regenerate over time in the right conditions.


Meeting Photos

Update: 3% of the earth's surface that is covered with peatlands not 4%. International Mires Conservation Group's website is a great resource for information on bogs.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

SFOT Meeting Tonight

Tonight South Fraser OnTrax will be hosting our monthly meeting. We will have special guest Eliza Olson who is the founding president of the Burns Bog Conservation Society. She will be speaking on the importance of Burns Bog for the ecosystem in Metro Vancouver and some of the challenges that it currently faces. This is sure to be an informative night. See you tonight!

Wed, March 10, 7pm – 9pm
Yorkson Creek Meeting Room
Township of Langley Civic Facility, 4th Floor 20338-65 Avenue, Langley, BC

6:45pm – 7:00pm Self-Registration /Greeting
7:00pm – 7:10pm Quick Group introductions
7:10PM Introduction of Ms. Eliza Olson
7:15pm – 8:15pm “Importance of Burns Bog in our Ecosystem” – Ms. Eliza Olson
8:15pm – 8:30pm Q & A – Eliza Olson
8:30pm – 8:40pm Short Break
8:40pm – 8:50pm Reports (Finance Report, Update on Grants, State of Advertising/Promotion/Website & Blog/Help Needed/Fundraising)
8:50pm – 9:00pm New Business
Meeting Adjourned

Download a copy of the agenda from the document archive.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Child and Youth Friendly Land-Use and Transport Planning - Part 2

Last year we posted about Child and Youth Friendly Land-Use and Transport Planning. Anyway, we received the following in our South Fraser OnTrax Mailbox:
Over the last few years, the Centre for Sustainable Transportation at the University of Winnipeg has been developing ‘Child- and Youth-Friendly Guidelines for Land-use and Transport Planning.’ The Guidelines are primarily for the use of municipalities, specifically councillors, their planning staff and consultants. This work is funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada, whose interest is in fostering environments in which children and youth are more active.

The aim is to have one set of Guidelines for all of Canada, but a different Guidelines document for each province, reflecting particular circumstances and legislative contexts. Each provincial document is being developed through a process of consultation, including numerous meetings with officials, sharing of drafts, and one or more workshops.

This is a note to let you and your colleagues know that a new, near-final draft (Draft 5) of the British Columbia version of Child- and Youth Friendly Land-Use and Transport Planning Guidelines can be downloaded from the project’s Web site at (click on BC in the list on the right of the home page). There is more information about the project at the Web site. If there is difficulty in downloading the document, contact me at and I will be pleased to email the document.

Our deadline for producing all the provincial documents is March 31, 2010, and so we would appreciate receiving comments by March 12.

Our last task will be to produce a brief bilingual document entitled ‘Canadian Guidelines for Child- and Youth-Friendly Land-use and Transport Planning.’

With many thanks in advance for your cooperation,

Richard Gilbert
Research Associate
Centre for Sustainable Transportation
University of Winnipeg

Monday, March 8, 2010

Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure Service Plan

I read the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure Service Plan for the next few years and wanted to share some highlights. The first highlight is the almost schizophrenic messaging in the service plan. On one hand it talks about the need to reduce carbon emissions, improve transit, and reduce single-occupancy vehicle usage:
Transportation accounts for about 40 per cent of the greenhouse gas emissions in the province; automobiles alone account for 16 per cent and provincial strategies for reducing emissions must entail significant investment in transit infrastructure and services and cycling facilities.
On the other hand, the Ministry of Transportation primary mandate is to “builds highway infrastructure to fulfill the economic and social needs of British Columbians.” This is evident by the list of projects that the Ministry’s plans for the next few years.

If we look at the operating budget spending, $103m will go to transit (up from 2009), $169m for BC Ferries (down from 2009), and $459 (down from 2009) for highways. I have to give credit to the fact the transit operating spending is one of the few areas in the Ministry's budget that will be increasing.

On the capital side of the budget:
Oil and Gas Rural Road Improvement Program – Rehabilitating the existing public road infrastructure in the Northeast region of the province to help eliminate seasonal road restrictions and extend the winter drilling season for oil and gas exploration, thereby attracting new investment and creating jobs. This rehabilitation is being done in partnership with the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources. An investment of $51 million will be made in 2010/11.
It seems like the province wants to reduce carbon emission and increase carbon emission sources at the same time.
Bike BC – Identifying and building cycling facilities of regional and provincial significance while continuing to assist local governments to develop their local networks. Bike BC is a comprehensive provincial cycling investment plan, which will complement the Provincial Transit Plan in reducing traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions by providing convenient and attractive alternatives to car travel. Bike BC will also improve public health and fitness by promoting physical activity. The Ministry will be investing $18 million over three years to help make cycling a safe and attractive alternative transportation option for commuters. This investment will be further leveraged through cost-sharing agreements with local governments. Additionally, the Gateway Program includes a $50 million investment to construct cycling facilities on the Gateway corridors, and the Provincial Transit Plan will establish up to 1,000 new bike lockers at key locations by 2020.
As I pointed out before, $863m of spending will go to roads and $173m to transit or about 16% of spending on transit in 2010/11. If we want to dramatically increase transit usage it only follows that funding will also need to increase. BC is a big province and a large chunk of money in the transportation budget is going into keeping roads from falling apart in the interior, but if the province truly wants to increase transit usage in major urban centres, transit spending will need to increase.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Next SFOT Meeting

Next Wednesday, March 10 at 7:00pm South Fraser OnTrax will be hosting our monthly meeting. We will have special guest Eliza Olson who is the founding president of the Burns Bog Conservation Society. She will be speaking on the importance of Burns Bog for the ecosystem in Metro Vancouver and some of the challenges that it currently faces. This is sure to be an informative night. See you next week!

Wed, March 10, 7pm – 9pm
Yorkson Creek Meeting Room
Township of Langley Civic Facility, 4th Floor 20338-65 Avenue, Langley, BC

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

BC Budget Transportation Overview

Well, I had a look at the Provincial 2010/2011 budget and wanted to point out some of the transportation highlights and spending. You can also view a copy of the budget for yourself.

First let’s look at transportation capital projects over $50 that have been approved by the Treasury Board (basically projects being built right now).

For Transit: $0
For Roads: $4.5 billion
-Port Mann Bridge and Highway 1 Expansion: $3.3 billion
-South Fraser Perimeter Road: $1.1 billion
-Sierra Yoyo-Desan Road (Northern BC): $187 million

Things look bleak for transit.

Now if we look at “in-the-works”, smaller spending, and operating costs for the next three years:

For roads there is $1.8 billion
26% for rehabilitation, 40% for interior and northern roads, 18% for the Gateway Program, and 16% for other road projects.

For transit there is $822 million
-Evergreen Line: $302 million
-Rapid Transit Projects (Rapid Bus on Highway 1, 7, 99, and in Kelowna; Faregates and Smartcards on SkyTrain): $224 million
-News Buses and Other Projects: $216 million

For cycling there is $9 million which could build about 450km of bike lanes.

About 30% of the BC Budget's 3-Year Plan and 13% in total is committed to sustainable transportation. This isn't very good. The South Fraser gets more buses and no light rail. Also, no way to pay for operating these new buses as TransLink is broke. Cycling funding is very minimal. Maybe the 2011 budget will have money for light rail given the success of the Olympic Line Streetcar?

From Transportation Minister Shirley Bond in the Vancouver Sun:
"We have an incredible incentive after seeing the success of the Canada Line, in particular, during the Winter Games," Bond said. "The transportation system worked exceptionally well."

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Transit saves you money

When looking at the benefits of a transportation project, planning types usually use the value of time as an indicator of economic benefit. Example:

Let’s say that time is worth $20 an hour or 33₵ per minute. If 200,000 people-a-day save 5 minutes-a-day for a year, you can say that Project G has an economic benefit of $120 million a year. (PS: this is what was done for the Gateway Program.)

Sadly time savings may not be as important to people as we think. (Otherwise people would be living closers to where they work and commuting less which is not the case save for Vancouver) Todd Litman from the Victoria Transport Policy Institute looked a the real economic benefit of providing high-quality transit. First off, there are two kinds of transit users: captive users (travelers who lack alternatives) and discretionary users. Basic transit does not attract discretionary users. He found that:
This report uses data from U.S. cities to investigate the incremental costs and benefits of high quality transit service. It indicates that high quality public transit typically requires about $268 in additional subsidies and $104 in additional fares annually per capita, but provides vehicle, parking and road cost savings averaging $1,040 per capita, plus other benefits including congestion reductions, increased traffic safety, pollution reductions, improved mobility for non-drivers, improved fitness and health.
Click table to enlarge

So high-quality transit saves $664 per capita annually in actual cash that you can put back in your pocket. Remind me again why we aren’t building more transit?

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Transit Games

I have to say that the last two weeks have been lots of fun. Working downtown, I was able to catch some of the party of these games during the weekday. And of course, I went downtown on the weekend. Even Langley shared in the spirit. I regularly saw the 502 from Aldergrove half-full of Olympic volunteers. If I could say anything about these games, it really was the transit games.

From the beginning of our Olympic bid, the plan was to get people throughout our region on transit and it worked! Sure there were some lineups and even some hot tempers, but all in all it was a very good experience. I have to thank the people of TransLink (and all the operating companies) for a job well done. In fact, I actually got home in better time on transit during the games than regularly due to the added transit service (even on the 502.) It’s sad that these enhanced services are going away. If there was one transit gem during the games, it would be the Olympic Line streetcar that ran between Granville Island and the Olympic Village Canada Line station. Talk about traveling in style: leather seats, wood paneling, and even leather straps to hold onto when standing. The Olympic Line streetcar really opened people’s eyes to what transit can be. You don’t have to break the bank to have good quality services. I hope people's experience on the streetcar will translate into more streetcars being built in our region and the South Fraser. It will be interesting to see how this factors into the transit funding issue currently facing our region. Will people be willing to pay more money for improved service and expansion? Vancouver actually closed down major roads and things worked great. Getting around in a car wasn’t even that bad. I had to drive around for work during the games and experienced very little delay. So let’s get on with building transit, as the games proved, it's worth every penny.

Many have called this Olympics the friendliest games ever and commented on the party atmosphere downtown. This is not chance, but almost by design. Vancouver has a strong sense of place and downtown is all about the pedestrian. Even without the games, downtown Vancouver draws you in. This should be a reminder to our politicians in the South Fraser that building around people is better than building around the car.