Thursday, April 28, 2011

LRT Recommended for rapid transit connection in Victoria

On Tuesday, BC Transit announced that light rail is the preferred technology to connect Victoria's West Shore communities to its city centre. According to the press release:
Based on extensive public consultation and detailed analysis, Light Rail Transit (LRT) has been identified as the preferred technology that will meet the goals and objectives of the Victoria Regional Rapid Transit Project.

“To meet the goals of the public and local government, LRT has been identified as the preferred technology for rapid transit,” said Manuel Achadinha, BC Transit President and CEO.

When the project first began in late 2008, local government partners and the public agreed to the project goals and objectives:
-increase market share from 7% to 12% by 2030, nearly doubling ridership to 55 million passengers per year,
-reduce greenhouse gas emissions to help achieve the Provincial Transit Plan target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other air contaminants from cars by 4.7 million tonnes by 2020,
-encourage effective land use and
-create an efficient and reliable system.
-LRT was found to have the capacity to achieve the project’s goals, deliver the most long‐term benefits for the Capital Region and had the highest level of community support.
The system is budgeted to cost $950 million to construct. Here is a news story about the project including a section about some business owners who are opposed to the plan. The clip is from A Channel.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Federal Election Series

A few weeks ago, I emailed the local candidates in the Langley riding and asked them a few questions about sustainable communities and sustainable transportation. I will post the responses I receive in the order in which they were received. Today we’ll heard from Craig Nobbs of the Pirate Party of Canada.

What will your government do to promote sustainable community design?
This question is best asked of local, municipal governments as they are responsible for planning and maintaining sustainable community designs. That being said, the Federal government gives money directly to communities in several forms; one being the "Gas Tax Fund" which is money given to municipalities directly for infrastructure on an annual basis. Federal Tax dollars that are transferred to municipal governments are spent as mandated (in cases like the Gas Tax Fund) or end up in general revenue, which are then spent as the municipal government see fit.

When municipal governments look to build large infrastructure improvements, then they seek help from provincial and (in some cases) the federal government. Recently, the building of the Golden Ears bridge and the new Port Mann bridge partnerships are created between public and private entities.

In my personal opinion, I think that private partnerships are harmful in the long run as a corporation is in business to make profit. Each of the large public and private partnerships that I can think of in the last umpteen years has ended up with the corporations making an exorbitant amount of money off of tax payers... or are going to.

What will your government do to get light rail and other forms of alternative transportation built in the South of Fraser?
As with the previous questions, this is left up to municipal governments, or more accurately in this case, the GVRD/Translink. The regional governing body charges taxes in various areas that go directly to it. There are taxes on fuel purchased at the pump, property taxes, and parking spaces for all locations located within the GVRD.

In terms of federal involvement, the federal government pitches in when large scale projects are involved and where the funds can be found. When infrastructure benefits the country as a whole, the federal government is more likely to put in a larger amount of money, but they decide on that based on a case-by-case basis.

While I believe that the Fraser Valley, from Vancouver to Abbotsford at least, could certainly make good use of light rail, it is something that Translink has failed to adequately plan for. They waste money on expansion of one of the most expensive technologies, being SkyTrain, when alternative technologies which are significantly more cost effective to license, implement, and maintain could have been used.

They also are removing the land medians East of the Fraser River in the expansion of Highway 1, when they should have kept it in place as the most direct route for a light rail option with the least amount of additional lands having to be purchased. The new Port Mann should have had two way rail lines in addition to the vehicle lanes which would have connected to this light rail and had an elevated rail continuing above Highway 1 until in was equitable to return to ground level light rail.

While there is a lot to be considered in a project like that, it would have best served all municipalities as they would all come online at the same time. Additionally, it would would have a station alongside at least one of the existing SkyTrain stations so that people could transfer onto the existing lines.

Translink has another large failing, in that Langley receives significantly less serveries that other municipalities while paying full pull. This glaring and obvious lack of concern for the residents of Langley has brought up the topic of Langley City and Township leaving the GVRD and creating their own solution to the problem. However, it was not financially possible as it required a large amount of initial funding which was not available.

Unfortunately, since the GVRD is wholly a provincial mandate, there is nothing that can be done at the federal level about these issues.

What will your government do to support stable funding for green, municipal infrastructure and public transit?

If elected, I would look to remove tax incentives from the oil and petroleum industries and instead offer similar incentives to companies who research, develop, or produce green technologies that are wholly sustainable, reusable, and can be recycled with an minimal amount of relative effort. This would make these technologies available sooner and at cheaper costs than they would otherwise be made available.

Additionally, although only a dream at the moment, would be to create a law that would outlaw the sale, import, and production of combustion engine based passenger vehicles while also limiting commercial vehicles to use diesel fuel only. The exception would be that existing (used) vehicles could be sold within the country so long as they meet strict emission controls and maintained in proper working order. This would be set some 15 - 20 years into the future, giving people ample time to switch over to newer technologies, allow for existing green technologies to advance further and become even more efficient, and for new technologies to be introduced as additional alternatives to existing technologies.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Ministry of Transportation Presentation

The following is the slides from the presentation that was delivered at our last OnTrax meeting. It focused on the Fraser Valley Transit Study, Surrey Rapid Transit Study, and UBC Rapid Transit Study by John Schnablegger and Ed Storm from the Ministry of Transportation.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Portland to Lake Oswego

Like many North American cities, Portland had an extensive streetcar network until the 1950's when they tore up the tracks and literally burned the streetcars for scrap metal because the auto was the future. This was probably one of the biggest blunders in the modern history of transportation. 25 years later, in 1986, they started construction of the MAX light rail system and in 2001 rebuilt a downtown streetcar.

Current and future rail transit in Portland region. Click image to enlarge.
Portland Streetcar Loop. Extension under construction in Blue. Click image to enlarge.
Both systems are currently being expanded with a new recommendation to build a streetcar between Downtown Portland and Lake Oswego.

In 1988 local government purchased the right-of-way from then Southern Pacific of the Willamette Shore Trolley and in 1990 started a tourist tram. In 2005, Metro (Portland's elected regional government) started studying options for improving transit and trail corridors between Portland and Lake Oswego. Bus Rapid Transit or a streetcar was considered as potential transit options in 2007 and in 2009 both options we studied. In 2010, a Draft Environmental Impact Statement was complete and went out for public comment. On February 28, 2011, a streetcar system was recommended as the way forward. If all goes according to plan, by 2015 construction could begin with streetcar service starting in 2017. The Lake Oswego streetcar would be an extension to the existing Portland Streetcar.

Lake Oswego to Portland Transit Project Steering Committee's preferred alternative. Click image to enlarge.
At the rate Portland is going by 2058 they may have rebuilt their streetcar network back to pre-1950's levels which would certainly be the irony of the century!

Thursday, April 21, 2011


Statistics Canada has released a new report called EnviroStats with the help of Environment Canada. According to their research there has been "an increase in mean temperature of 1.4 C over the 62 years in the record." They're even broken it down based on regions. Not surprising, it is Canada's North that has seen the largest increase in temperature. Here is a sample:

Mean temperature departures from 1961 to 1990 normal and linear trend, Canada

Mean temperature departures from 1961 to 1990 normal and linear trend, BC

Mean temperature departures from 1961 to 1990 normal and linear trend, North
Also the same report notes that in 2009, 63.1% of our total electrical generation came from Hydro-electric, 14.8% from nuclear, and 22.1% from fossil fuel and other fuel combustion. Between 2004 and 2009, Canada saw a 4.3% reduction in the use of fossil fuel for electrical generation. In that same time period there was a 1.2% reduction in GHG emission.

Check out the Spring 2011 EnviroStats for a more detailed look at some of the stats that I outlined.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Walnut Grove Park and Ride

Way back on March 8th, TransLink hosted an open house for the new Walnut Grove Park and Ride. You can check out the FAQ and Information Board PDF that they posted on their website. I wanted to point out a few interesting things.

One of the big transit features of the Gateway Program is RapidBus. For Langley, that means bus service from at least the new Walnut Grove Park and Ride to Lougheed in 25 minutes running every 15 minutes. The interesting thing is that according to page two of the information board PDF, there will be no RapidBus on opening day. This is probably due to the fact that while the province will be paying for the new buses, they aren't paying for the cost of operating the service which would be millions a year. It like buying your friend a cell phone and sticking them with the contract and monthly bill.

Also interesting to note is that the Township of Langley was hoping for a vanpool/bus only underpass between Walnut Grove and the new park and ride. Apparently, it will now be your standard two or more passenger HOV lane. On the bright side there will be a multi-use trail as part of the underpass and there will also be bike parking.

The Walnut Grove park and ride has actually gotten many people excited about mixed-use and TOD development, and I know that there are a few developments in the pipe for this area since the announcement of the park and ride. What remains to be seen is if the region's mayors will come up with a funding formula before the civic election this fall to pay for this and other transit improvements like the Evergreen Line, and future Surrey and UBC rapid transit lines. Don't hold your breath.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Last OnTrax Meeting Ever is Tonight

If you have never been to a South Fraser OnTrax meeting and always wanted to check it out, today is your last chance. Tonight will we be hosting the very last monthly meeting of South Fraser OnTrax.

Date: Tuesday, April 19
Time: 7:00pm - 9:00pm
Place: Township of Langley Civic Facility, 4th Floor
20338-65 Avenue, Langley
Yorkson Creek Meeting Room

We have the pleasure of hosting John Schnablegger and Ed Storm from the Ministry of Transportation who will be speaking on the current and future public transit and active transportation plans for Metro Vancouver. Once construction is complete on the South Fraser Perimeter Road and Port Mann/Highway One, the Ministry will basically become a public transportation agency in our region. I have been looking forward to hearing from the Ministry of Transportation for eight months, so you will not want to miss this. I hope you can make it to our last meeting.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Coquitlam - Metro Vancouver Stand-off

Things have been heating up over the adoption of Metro Vancouver's new regional growth strategy which is meant to replace the 15 year old Livable Region Strategic Plan. To date all local governments, TransLink, and the Tsawwassen First Nation have accepted the plan. The only hold out is Coquitlam. One of the more controversial parts of the new growth strategy is the new urban growth boundary. You would have thought that Surrey, the Township of Langley, Pitt Meadows or Maple Ridge would have been the ones to reject the plan. These municipalities have land outside the urban growth boundary that is not also in the agricultural land reserve. They are giving up some local autonomy and managed to pass the plan even if they had to hold their noses. I'm trying to figure out why Coquitlam is not being a team player. According to Metro Vancouver:
After years of discussion, negotiation and accommodation, the City of Coquitlam has resolved to not accept the Regional Growth Strategy. It is evident from the history of the process, including the many adjustments to drafts of the Strategy made to accommodate Coquitlam’s requests and the nature of the reasons given by Coquitlam for non-acceptance, that the nature of the dispute is not technical or related to any of the specific provisions. Rather, it is a fundamental rejection of the regional growth strategy legislation.
The only thing I can think of is that they are upset that Surrey is the second downtown and not them because they don't have to submit to any regional governance on land use as all their land is within the urban growth boundary.

It looks like the provincial government will have to get involved with this local government issue which is an embarrassment for the region and local governance in the province.
The Metro Vancouver Board must notify the Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development of Coquitlam’s non-acceptance of the Regional Growth Strategy and can advise the Minister of the Board’s view that a non-binding dispute resolution process is extremely unlikely to resolve the dispute and that the Board requests the Minister to direct the parties to proceed directly to binding arbitration.
The following chart shows how the new regional growth strategy will be enforced. I think that the plan finds the right balanced between local autonomy and the bigger picture.

Click Table to Enlarge

Friday, April 15, 2011

East Fraserlands Development

On January 2010, the City of Vancouver approved zoning changes to allow 126 acres of former industrial land south of Marine Way to be transformed into a new urbanism community with parks, a community centre, schools, childcare facilities, a riverfront walk, and other public amenities, to be built out over the next 25 years.

The following press release landed in my inbox about the development:
River District neighbourhood set to launch this spring

Vancouver, B.C. (April 13, 2011) ParkLane Homes is commencing development of the River District a new community of 130 acres located in southeast Vancouver on the Fraser River. The property, formerly known as East Fraserlands, was formerly the Canadian White Pine Mill and is one of the last pieces of undeveloped waterfront land in the city.

The River District development plan is based on the principles of New Urbanism and features a well-planned mix of townhomes, low- and mid-rise apartments and high-rise towers The future phases of the community will also include shops, a grocery and small format retail, a community plaza, two new schools, a community centre, park space and a waterfront pier.

ParkLane is also announcing that it will partner on the first phase of the project with veteran homebuilder Polygon Homes.

We are pleased to be working with a reputable company like Polygon, says ParkLane President Peeter Wesik. They are industry leaders and we are confident the homes they build will live up to the high standards that we have set for this leading-edge, sustainable new community.

Polygon will be starting construction shortly on the first group of homes New Water and sales will launch next month.

We believe the River District will be an important community for Vancouver and we are very pleased to partner with ParkLane to build the first homes there, says Neil Chrystal, President and CEO of Polygon Homes.

The River District development has been a model of community consultation. Since 2004, ParkLane has been involved in an extensive consultation process with local residents and the City of Vancouver. In 2007, the East Fraserlands Official Development Plan won the Canadian Institute of Planners Award for Excellence in the neighbourhood planning category, as well as the BC Smarty Award for Best Process/Proposal.

ParkLane Homes has built more than 6,000 homes in over 100 communities since 1980. Recognized with over 250 provincial and national awards for building excellence, ParkLane has also been named the Best Builder in BC and Best Builder in Canada.

Polygon is one of the most well established and highly respected home builders in British Columbia. Locally-owned and operated since 1980, the company has built more than 19,000 homes throughout the Lower Mainland, ranging from concrete high rises to wood-frame condominiums, townhomes and single family communities.

For more information visit and

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Last OnTrax Meeting Ever

Next Tuesday, April 19th will be the last meeting of South Fraser OnTrax. The board of directors of South Fraser OnTrax met and has decided that moving forward, we wish to change our approach to advocacy. We have chosen to focus almost exclusively on online public engagement. Our work has been greatly advanced by social networking and other technology mediums. We plan to focus our attention, efforts and volunteer efforts on this online presence. To that end, we are hoping you will be able to join us on:

Date: Tuesday, April 19
Time: 7:00pm - 9:00pm
Place: Township of Langley Civic Facility, 4th Floor
20338-65 Avenue, Langley
Yorkson Creek Meeting Room

We have the pleasure of hosting John Schnablegger from the Ministry of Transportation who will be speaking on the current and future public transit plans for Metro Vancouver. Once construction is complete on the South Fraser Perimeter Road and Port Mann/Highway One, the Ministry will be almost exclusively working on public transportation projects in our region.

I hope you can make it to our last meeting.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Las Vegas

I'm currently in Las Vegas for work, and I thought I'd snap a picture of the intersection of Tropicana and Las Vegas Boulevard. Las Vegas has major urban issues as it is a low-density city with a small hyper-dense strip. It completely gets scale wrong.

You can't cross this intersection at street level.

What happens when you have too many pedestrians and a poorly designed road.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Onehunga Branch

To finish off Auckland week, I thought I’d share a video of the newly opened Onehunga Branch rail line. If this doesn’t scream, “This looks just like something that would work in Surrey!”, I don’t know what else will. Enjoy.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Quote of the Day - Freeway

I like the following quote I found in the Auckland Rail Development Plan.
Won’t the new motorway [freeway] construction relieve the traffic congestion?

The Government is making a huge investment in roads.

The expanded motorway network will undoubtedly improve off-peak travel speeds and road safety in the short term. These roads will also reduce truck travel times and freight costs in the short term. However, motorway expansion is much less effective than good-quality Passenger Transport systems at moving the huge number of people who wish to travel at peak periods. Moreover, current projections show that by the time Transit NZ’s 10-year programme is complete, traffic growth will have outstripped the increased roading capacity. Average morning peak travel speeds will reduce. In other words, roads alone will not provide long-term sustainable solutions to Auckland’s congestion. Passenger Transport enhancements are required as well.

It needs to be recognised that a single lane of motorway will only move around 2,000 vehicles per hour, or around 2,400 people per hour. In contrast, a single lane of busway can carry around 12,000 people per hour and a single line of rail can carry over 20,000 people per hour.

In the few major cities which have attempted a private car/motorway transport solution, such as Los Angeles, the huge scale of motorways has caused major urban blight. Traffic congestion is far worse in Los Angeles than in New York or Chicago, both of which use good-quality rail transport as well as roads.
Couldn't have said it better myself.

Auckland Cycle Network

One of the interesting things about Auckland is that it grew cycling mode share from 0% in 2003 to 1% in 2009 which is pretty close to cycling mode share in Metro Vancouver. This is a really low number and Auckland has a plan to growth cycling by completing a 900km regional cycling network.
Auckland Transport in conjunction with Auckland Council and the New Zealand Transport Agency is working towards achieving the target in the Regional Land Transport Strategy 2010-2040 to build at least half of the regional cycle network by 2016 and to complete it by 2026.

Red is the current cycle network. All other colours are proposed expansion to network.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Auckland Rail System

In the 1980s, New Zealand embarked in a zealous plan to deregulate anything and everything. New Zealand's rail network became a victim of privatization in 1993. The rail system entered a 10 year period of "deferred maintenance" with the private corporation running the system into the ground. See the lack of investment in rail, New Zealand's central government bought back the rail network infrastructure in 2004 and in 2008 basically re-nationalized rail under the name KiwiRail. This is important to note because Auckland's public transit rail network infrastructure is owned and maintained by KiwiRail.

Current Rapid Transit Network: Solid Red
Proposed Rapid Transit Network: Hashed Black
Future Rapid Transit Network: Hashed Red
Seeing the sorry state of public transit usage in Auckland, the regional and central government embarked on a 1.6 billion dollar upgrade of the rail network in the region. The upgrades includes $500m to electrify the network, $500m for new electric trains (EMUs), and $600m for Project DART which include:

-The redevelopment of Newmarket Station and Junction completed in January 2010
-The double-tracking of Western line from Newmarket to Swanson completed in June 2010
-The re-opening of the Onehunga branch line in September 2010
-The new Manukau rail link which will be completed in 2011

The suite of projects will be completed by 2013. The next major rail project is a 3 kilometre double tracked rail tunnel in Auckland's Central Business District which is estimated to cost between $1.99b and $2.38b and proposed to open in 2021. Auckland has certainly embraced rail as an essential part of growing transit usage in the region and it is already starting to pay off.
Almost five million extra journeys were made on public transport during the last calendar year, with big increases in passengers pushing numbers to the highs of the 1950s.

Auckland Transport released a patronage report today that shows total passenger numbers reached 64.07 million in the 12 months to the end of February, an increase of 8.3 per cent on last year.

Highlights include:

Northern Express bus passenger numbers for February increased 20.7 per cent on February 2010. Total Northern Express for the past 12 months reached 1.97 million passengers

Total bus patronage exceeded 50 million. An increase of 3.36 million boardings or 7.5 per cent growth

Rail patronage reached 9.2 million for the past 12 months with passenger numbers for the month of February up 17.9 per cent on February 2010. For the first time one million journeys were reached on rail in one month.

Rail patronage on the Western Line for the month of February increased 25.6 per cent on February 2010 to reach 305,208.

Ferry patronage totalled 4.6 million for the 12 months to February, with passenger numbers for the month up 12.6 per cent on February 2010

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Auckland Bus System

One of the big pushes in Auckland in recent years is to improve the public transit (transport) system. Just like in the UK in the 1980s, the public transit bus system was deregulated allowing anyone to run buses anywhere they liked leaving regional councils (aka the taxpayer) to foot the bill and provide service for non-profitable routes. Each bus operator set their own fares and things that we take for granted like transfers are non-existent. Today there are 10 bus transit operators with just as many fare structures. This lead to transit ridership crashing and with Auckland only having a transit mode share of 4% in 2006. Realizing the mess that deregulation left, in 2008 New Zealand’s central government passed the Public Transport Management Act which allows regional councils to:

(a)confers powers on regional councils to set standards for commercial public transport services provided in their regions; and
(b) provides for and regulates the registration of commercial public transport services; and
(c) confers powers on regional councils to require all or any public transport services in their regions to be provided under contract with them, and consequently to discontinue any commercial public transport services provided in their regions that are subject to such a requirement; and
(d) helps regional councils and the Agency obtain the best value for money in achieving an affordable, integrated, safe, responsive, and sustainable public transport system, having regard to the desirability of encouraging fair competition and a competitive and efficient market for public transport services.

Basically, it allows public transit to be managed by the regions much like it is done in most North America cities. In Auckland, this has resulted in the launch of a smart card system and fare integration project. There is now common branding, timetables, and real-time information for the bus network. According to the Auckland Plan:

The transport system is one of the key shapers of the urban environment. If we don’t understand how the transport system works in connecting settlements across Auckland nor how it works with the development around it, we get poor quality places for people to live and work. Most international cities that have reinvented themselves well have been endowed with a roading and transport system that is very well networked because it was not originally based on the car. Rather than adapt to the car, these cities have been able to adapt old traditional networks to manage concentrated populations, with a range of transport modes – trains, buses, cars, taxis, trams, ferries, cycles and walkways for pedestrians - that produce fabulous places to live. Below are examples of the city form of places such as Vancouver, Paris, Barcelona, Melbourne and Sydney. If you look at them carefully you will see that their roading and transport systems are highly inter-connected.

An integrated bus system is the first step to getting the transit system needed to support the goals of this plan. Next time, I’ll talk about the rail network.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Auckland Plan

Auckland is New Zealand's largest region with a population of close to 1.5 million, home to a full 1/3 of Kiwis, and 35% of the country's GDP. Up until the end of 2010, the region had seven municipalities and one regional district. The central government of New Zealand thought that this many local governments were hindering Auckland's progress, and form a Royal Commission which recommend the formation of a Toronto-style megacity. While this might be a mistake if Tornoto is any indication and most livable regions in the world have many local governments and a strong regional government (think our region or Portland), it has allowed the region to embark on a new regional growth strategy.

The Auckland Plan will be a bold 30-year vision and strategy for Auckland underpinned by the Mayor's vision of making it the world's most livable city.

This is a triple bottom line plan and I'll be going over it in more details in the next little while. The following video is posted on their website and give some context to the challenges the region must overcome.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Smarter Cities - Developing The City

IBM has a whole section of their website dedicated to the "A Smarter Planet" marketing campaign they launched a few years ago. There is good information posted about sustainability and I really like the section on Smarter Cities. Anyway, the following video is on building and retrofitting commercial office space to be more energy efficient and is worth a watch.