Monday, October 31, 2011

Surrey Transportation Debates

I received this in my inbox and though I'd pass it along.
If you feel transportation is an important subject for Surrey come to our transportation candidates' debates during the municipal election campaign. Here are some topics up for debate:

-88 Ave. congestion
-Container levy to help fund TransLink
-Park & Rides
-Light rail/Street car vs SkyTrain
-Bike lanes and bike routes
-Legal and illegal paving of Surrey
-Transportation with "Town Centres"
-TransLink governance

NOVEMBER 5, SATURDAY - 1:30 to 4:30 p.m.
Newton Library, 13795 70 Ave.

NOVEMBER 13, SUNDAY - 1:30 to 4:30 p.m.
Fleetwood Library, 15996 84 Ave.

Hear what City Councill candidates have to say. There will also be opportunities to question these candidates.

Hosted by: Surrey CiTI (Citizens Transportation Initiative)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Langley Municipal Election - Jack Froese

As part of our 2011 municipal election coverage, we sent out a questionnaire to all the mayoral candidates running in the City and Township of Langley. We will post the responses in the order they are received. Today we will be posting the reply for Township of Langley mayoral candidate Jack Froese.

Tell me a little bit about yourself
Jack Froese has lived, worked and raised a family in Langley for 32 years.

Jack Froese demonstrates leadership and grew his local business 40 times since the first years in vegetable and nursery production, commercial egg farm, and eventually a turkey farm. JD Farms grew to wholesale distribution throughout British Columbia including retail agri-tourism on farm store. Jack was nominated in 2009 as “Business Person of the Year” awarded the TAB Board 405, “Member of the Year”.

Jack Froese completed a 19 career with the Vancouver Police Department in 2004 where he worked in patrol, community services, collision investigation and on the waterfront.

Jack Froese contributed hundreds of hours in community service. A sample of his contributions are: Served as director on the Fraser Valley and BC Egg Producers Association Special Constable with the Langley RCMP auxiliary, Soccer coach for 15 years in the Aldergrove Soccer Club, Served on the executive of the Aldergrove Soccer Club, Served on the executive of the Fraser Valley Girls Soccer Association and is a past president of that organization. Past director of the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce, currently a member, and past president of the Rotary Club of Aldergrove. Served as Director of Security for the 2010 Township of Langley BC Summer Games.

Jack Froese, both personally and through his business, contributed to the success and well being of his community by supporting various charities such as: Rotary International, The Langley Hospital Foundation, The Langley School District Foundation, The Terry Fox Foundation, The Langley Lodge, The Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce, The Salvation Army Union Gospel Mission, Wagner Hills 4H, and many others. Jack is a Rotary “Paul Harris Fellow” for his “Service Above Self”

What got you interested in politics and local government?
As is consistent with my volunteer experience, serving on council is another way I want to give back to my community. I have been considering running for local government for a long time and now the time in my personal and business life permits me to run for Mayor.

Why did you decided to run for council this election?
I have witnessed the turmoil on council over the last 3 years under the present Mayor and believe that I can bring the necessary leadership skills and more accountability to council.

What are your priorities for the next council if you are elected?
Initiate an annual strategic planning session that includes the leaders of our Langleys. Included would be school board, our MLA's, our MP, and the City of Langley.

Initiate a transportation advisory board to address the transportation issues facing Langley both within the township and regional issues that impact Langley.
Expand economic development in Langley to increase our economic base and economic activity.

Bring accountability to the office of mayor.

What are your unique skills that would be valuable on Council?
20 years as a Vancouver Policeman and over 30 years building a successful business has provided experiences in conflict resolution, negotiation, labour issues, financial management and leadership.

What is do you think is/would be the most challenging aspect for you sitting on Council?
Reaching consensus with the community on complex issues. There are many divergent points of view on many issues that can be challenging for council to appease everyone while addressing the needs of the community at large.

Why should somebody vote for you over the other candidates?
I bring a lifetime of experience from the business world, public service as a police officer, over 32 years living and volunteering in the Township of Langley.

What do you love about Langley?
The sense of community spirit. A good example was the 2010 summer games when thousands of people volunteered to bring the most successful games ever to Langley. The rural flavour of Langley also gives our community a unique environment.

What are some of the challenges that Langley faces and what do you plan to do to address those challenges?
Langley is growing and needs careful planning to address the future needs of the residents. New developments have to be planned to allow for sustainable and liveable neighbourhoods. Bus networks, pedestrian and bicycle friendly neighbourhoods and roads are a priority. I will work with our planning department and the businesses that develop Langley into the type of neighbourhood that we want.

How do you think that Langley can meet its Sustainability goals?
Involvement of the community and the leadership from council will keep the goals on track and moving forward. Annual reporting to council on the progress of the goals will provide direction on addressing issues as they arise. A commitment from council to achieve our goals and set new ones must continue.

How do you plan on striking a balance between keeping taxes low and improving service?
Every service has a cost and benefit. Taxpayers needs must be addressed by providing the necessary services while looking at where our tax dollars go. Setting a goal of maintaining taxes at the rate of inflation is a good place to start, but the needs of the community must come first. Langley is in a period of growth and the costs to grow put pressure on keeping taxes low. A long term, balanced approach to providing new services and improving existing services must be taken.

With TransLink now looking for long-term funding, what are some of the option that you think should be explored?
Tolling bridges that is fair and evenly distributed would alleviate congestion on bridges that are not tolled while tolled bridges are under utilized, this could also add revenue to the transit system. A funding system that does not put added pressure on residents that do not get the transit services, such as in rural Langley. Gas taxes need to be a part of the funding, but at the present levels, not increased. More emphasis should be placed on taxation systems that spread the burden more fairly, like a percentage of the sales tax or property taxes which impact everyone, not just those that must rely on their cars.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Exclusive: Langley getting more from TransLink than paying in

One of the pastimes in Langley is to complain about TransLink and the level of service it provides to the community. There is a common belief that Langley taxpayers are not getting value from the agency and are actually subsidizing Vancouver’s transportation needs. What I found interesting is no one has actually looked at the amount of money that TransLink spends in Langley.

In September, I sent a freedom of information request to TransLink asking for the 2010 annual operating cost of transit service in Langley. I received a reply:

501: $3,318,469
502: $7,484,943
590: $862,270
595: $2,440,060
C60: $342,746
C61: $342,746
C62: $790,003
C63: $294,786
C64: $337,321
Total: $16,213,343

These numbers don’t include insurance or capital costs.

At the same time in 2010, Langley City and Township contributed $15,321,538 in property tax and an estimated $16,000,000 in gas tax to TransLink. If you think that $15 million is leaving Langley for Vancouver transportation, think again.

In 2010, TransLink spent $2,295,098 on the major road network in Langley and cut a cheque for $90 million for the Golden Ears Bridge. Even when you factor in the $29 million in toll revenue from the Golden Ears Bridge, it turns out that TransLink subsidized the bridge by $61 million. So in 2010, TransLink actually contributed more to Langley in transportation (about $45 million more) than it took in. Let’s not forget that Langley citizen also use SkyTrain, the West Coast Express, and other regional transportation infrastructure.

The point of this post is to wake people up to the fact that TransLink isn’t screwing over Langley. At the end of the day, we are getting more from being in TransLink than if we went it alone. The reality is that if we want better transportation in Langley, it comes at a cost.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Langley Municipal Election - Peter Fassbender

As part of our 2011 municipal election coverage, we sent out a questionnaire to all the mayoral candidates running in the City and Township of Langley. We will post the responses in the order they are received. Today we will be posting the reply for City of Langley mayoral candidate and incumbent Peter Fassbender.

Tell me a little bit about yourself
My wife and I have lived in Langley City for over 35 years now and raised our two sons here and now have three Grandsons who all live in the City of Langley. Prior to running for Council 9 years ago I had a successful business career in the Advertising/Communications field. I was one of the partners in one of Canada’s most successful Advertising/Communications firms. Aside from my role on Council over the years I served as a Trustee on the Board of Education for two terms and have served on a number of other committees and volunteer groups. In the past I have served on Parks and recreation, Advisory Planning, Board of variance to name only a few. I also have been active on a number of other committees Provincially, Nationally and Internationally.

What got you interested in politics and local government?
Ever since we moved to Langley over 38 years ago I have always volunteered and served the community in many ways. Additionally I served in a number of other capacities such as a director and then President of Sport BC, the Canadian Sport federation and the COA. As such I was fortunate to be able to contribute in a variety of ways and in a number of positions. As a result people in the Community saw that I was willing to step up and be a contributor. These opportunities also helped me understand “public Service” and what that really meant. People noticed my commitment and then approached me to consider running for elected office starting as a School Trustee and then eventually City Council. I also ran for Municipal Council in the 70's but was not successful at that time. I have always been interested in the political process and worked to help make it work!

Why did you decided to run for mayor this election?
Having served for nine years on Council, six as Mayor, I believe I have demonstrated my desire to contribute to the community. I have shown a strong work ethic and have been actively engaged in every aspect of our community and the Region.

What are your priorities for the next council if you are elected?
To continue to build upon our Community Master Plan, work on Crime Reduction Strategies. Transportation for our community and our Region.

What are your unique skills that would be valuable on Council?
I think I have clearly demonstrated that I have a strong work ethic, management skills, consensus building to name only a few. I have an will continue to have an “Open Door” policy. Most importantly I believe I have proven that I have the best interests of all our Taxpayers and citizens in mind. I am not afraid to make decisions that I truly believe are based on the needs of the whole community.

What is do you think is/would be the most challenging aspect for you sitting on Council?
There is no one challenge that sticks out more than others. The role of Mayor is to work with Council and staff to make well thought out decisions that balance all the needs of the community.

Why should somebody vote for you over the other candidates?
I think they should look at my record and determine for themselves if I not only talk the talk but walk the walk.

What do you love about Langley?
There are many things, not the least of which is the great community spirit that we have and the sense of belonging to a community that cares. It is one of those intangible items that has tangible benefits for everyone.

What are some of the challenges that Langley faces and what do you plan to do to address those challenges?
Redevelopment, Transportation, Public Safety and Fiscal Management are the key challenges. I would continue to put both my skills and dedication to work to ensure that we continue to move forward in a positive and productive fashion.

How do you think that Langley can meet its Sustainability goals?
If we work hard, be willing to manage change and be proactive, we can find ways to be sustainable while balancing the needs and desires of our community in a fiscally responsible manner.

How do you plan on striking a balance between keeping taxes low and improving service?
We need to make sure we hear from our citizens and various special interest groups and determine what are the essential services they need and then balance those with our ability to pay for them. We need to work hard with our staff to always look for ways to tighten our belt. How we work with our Unions to negotiate our collective agreements will also be very important as wages are our single largest recurring costs.

With TransLink now looking for long-term funding, what are some of the option that you think should be explored?
I do not think there is one option that will meet our long term needs. We need to finds ways to raise the capital we need to expand infrastructure and then we need to find ways to fund the ongoing operations. I believe that they will be different sources. Using Carbon tax revenue, Road Pricing, and other more user pay sources are high on my priority for the future. I do not see Property Tax as the sustainable source of operating funds and as such I would eventually like to see the reduced if not eliminated as a funding source. We also need to find sources that will ensure Regional equity so no one region carries the major burden on such things as tolling bridges etc. For that reason we should explore such things as putting tolls back on all other existing structures and thereby lower the toll on all of them to a more reasonable rate.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Don't call it suburban sprawl

One of the things that people think of when you mention Surrey or Langley is suburban sprawl. I was using Google Earth's history feature and took a capture of East Clayton/200th Street in 1998 and 2008. Looking at this, you can actually see that 1st generation suburban development is being replaced by a much higher density urban footprint. Because the Agricultural Land Reserve protects Langley and Surrey's rural areas, we see a more urban development pattern. Clearly there is still many improvements that need to be made to our built form and you might even be able to call what is being built today urban sprawl, but it's not certainly not suburban!

Surrey/200th Street Corridor 1998. Click Image to Enlarge

Surrey/200th Street Corridor 2008. Click Image to Enlarge

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

New transit exchange for City of Langley and Township of Langley

At yesterday afternoon's Township of Langley council meeting TransLink gave a presentation on a proposal for new transit exchanges.
TransLink is proposing to initiate planning for transit exchanges in both the Willowbrook area and the City of Langley. The Transit Exchange and Area Plans will be undertaken as separate processes by one consultant due to interdependencies resulting from their close proximity and their shared role in supporting transit within the sub-region. TransLink has developed four alternative concepts to serve the Langley area:

Alternative 1 – all services terminate in the City of Langley’s downtown area;
Alternative 2 – all services terminate in Willowbrook;
Alternative 3 – services from the west and 200 Street terminate at Willowbrook and services from the east, south and 208 Street terminate in downtown Langley City, with Willowbrook and downtown Langley City connected by a circulator route;
Alternative 4- frequent services from the west serve Willowbrook and terminate in downtown Langley City; frequent services from the north terminate in downtown Langley City; services from the south, east and northeast serve downtown Langley City and then terminate in Willowbrook.

TransLink has determined Alternative 4 to be the preferred alternative in terms of meeting customer needs, supporting urban development and maximizing compatibility with future rapid transit on Fraser Highway. This option requires two exchanges, although they would be smaller than a single terminal. Buses serving Brookswood, Murrayville, Aldergrove and Fort Langley would stop at the downtown Langley City Transit Exchange prior to going to the Willowbrook Exchange. Frequent service buses on 208 Street would terminate in downtown Langley City.
TransLink is looking for $50,000 from the Township to complete the concept and area plan for the Willowbrook Transit Exchange. The whole project is being cost shared with TransLink and the City of Langley.

I was told that Mayor Green did not support this study.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Yorkson Area High Street

A few weeks ago, I posted about a new 20-acre new mixed-use development for the Yorkson area in Willoughby at 208th Street and 80th Avenue. In tonight's Township of Langley Council Agenda, there are a few renderings of the project which I've included in the post.

I think this is existing because there will finally be a mixed-use community centre in Willoughby which is sorely needed.

While the majority of this project is focused along a High Street, it is interesting that this development is turning its back at 208th Street. 208th seem to serve as the parking lot for a part of this project. I have to wonder if this is how most development are going to look in Willoughby and if 208th Street will basically be a highway.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Chicken and egg: transit service levels.

One of the classic transit chicken and egg situations is around the frequency of service. Infrequent transit service seems to be underused while frequent transit service seems to always be busy. Is infrequent service underused because it is infrequent or because there is no demand? Likewise with frequent transit service, it seems like there is never enough services once you get 15 minutes or better frequency.

I had a chat with a transportation planner and one of the things that has never been done in Metro Vancouver is to use the regional transportation model (computer software) to see what would happen if transit service was up on all routes to frequent service level. It would be an interesting experiment to do especially since TransLink now has a whack of service hours to deliver into the South of Fraser. I would be interested to see how many of the current underused transit routes in the South of Fraser become busy.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Township Mayor Green on wrong side of transit history

On October 6th, Mayor Rick Green of the Township of Langley found himself on the wrong side of history. He issued a press release opposing TransLink’s Moving Forward plan and in the process opposed having RapidBus service at the Walnut Grove Park and Ride, improved service in Walnut Grove, improved service in Willoughby, and improved service in Brookswood. Besides opposing the plan, the real issue is the adversarial tone with the Province. People being people, when the Province comes to town with a cheque will the Township be first in line? Another issue I had with the press release was the twisting of facts.
Gloucester Industrial Estates, a 700 acre industrial park with 8,000 to 10,000 employees a day going in and out of the park. Property owners in Gloucester submit $1.4 million per year for absolutely nothing. It is indefensible.
Beside a large vacancy rate and the fact that a large number of employees come from Abbotsford (which is not part of TransLink), the real issue with Gloucester is that it’s a business park literally in the middle of nowhere and is probably the least transit friendly development in our whole region. Conventional bus service would be a real challenge. For example, the $1.4 million that Green speaks of would provide about 2 to 4 buses a day into the business park which is not meaningful transit. A better option would be to work with TransLink on van-pooling.
Our residents are penalized by tolls on the Golden Ears, the Port Mann and the Patullo when it is re-built, with absolutely no rapid transit, unlike that on the north side of the river. Our rail corridor comes at no charge while north of the River costs around $8 million per year.
On the matter of the Golden Ears Bridge, the option was a new bridge that gets you across the river in 2 minutes or waiting up to an hour for a tiny ferry. I hardly call that being penalized. Also the Port Mann project will see transit service. We are building the widest bridge in North America! Without the toll, there would be no Port Mann. Let's not forget that TransLink has nothing to do with the Port Mann bridge anyway.

Of course the Interurban comes up as a “no charge” solution for the Township. That is a lie. Besides having to work out a deal with BC Hydro, the whole corridor would need to have the tracks replaced, trains purchased, and staff hired. Even with complete track replacement, there would only be 20 minute service which is not rapid. While I’d love the Interurban as I live in the City, the Interurban would not service Walnut Grove or Willoughby effectively.

TransLink’s Moving Forward plan did pass and that is a good thing. With the Evergreen Line out of the way, the region can now focus on finding a long-term funding solution which will allow for rapid transit in the South of Fraser. Mayor Dianne Watts and Mayor Peter Fassbender supported the plan because they know the next round of rapid transit projects will be in the South of Fraser.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

SkyTrain Tour

On Friday, I had the chance to tour the SkyTrain control and maintenance yard. I've posted some pictures below that I thought where interesting.

Some quick facts about SkyTrain. During the busiest parts of the day, there are only 51 staff that are in the control room or out in the field. The big feature of SkyTrain is that you can have as little or as many trains as you like, but the staffing level can stays the same. Also, SkyTrain is the fastest rapid transit services in Canada with an average speed of 43.5km/h. Calgary's CTrain runs an average speed of 34km/h, while Toronto's street run on average speed of 15km/h.

Another interested fact about SkyTrain is that they run a special train that only goes from the inbound platform of Broadway-Commercial to Waterfront during rush-hour due to crowding.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Scenes From Portland

If you want to see cutting edge local government at work, turn to Portland, Oregon. On all of the municipal vehicles it says, "City of Portland - A City That Works.

On the cusp of extremely efficient transit service delivery and a free downtown streetcar program, Portland makes greater Vancouver look sick. Add the massive bicycle infrastructure and huge amount of people that commute by bike, and you truly have a city that WORKS. I love Portland, can you tell?

Here are some photos I took in Portland during my few days here on business. I'll try to post more as the week progresses. Hope you enjoy an unusual glimpse into the City of Portland.

Need to drive a car?

Tired of crazy large recycling bins in Langley, if you can find one? These are everywhere in Portland...

Looking for a way to harness some energy from the roof of your commercial building?

In Portland, even Starbucks Isn't "normal". You can buy beer and wine in a Portland Starbucks.

"Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.
-- Steve Jobs

Friday, October 7, 2011

Election Caution

I sent the following letter to the local newspapers. I don't know if it will be published, but one of the things that has been bugging me lately is candidates that go into the election promising things that can't be delivered. I wish people would stop believing their nonsense.

Dear Editor,

With the municipal elections around the corner, many people will put their name in the hat to run for council. While it’s great to see people involved in local politics, when it comes time to put an “X” on the ballet we should be electing people that will make a positive impact in our community. Running for council is not an easy task and we should be voting for outstanding members of our community that are active in making our neighbourhoods better. It is easy to be swept away by candidates, both new and incumbent, that promise lower taxes, improved service, and sun in the winter. We need to be voting for people that have a vision for our community that is grounded in reality.


Nathan Pachal

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Township Council Update

At Monday afternoon’s Township council meeting, there was more talk about TransLink’s moving forward plan. Grant Ward supports this plan and it will be interesting to see how the vote for this goes regionally.

In other Township news, the Department of National Defence will be spending $7 million to build a skills training facility at the Aldergrove Base which I’m sure will be welcome news to that community. Also Langley Youth for the Fallen, an initiative set up by Langley students Michael and Elizabeth Pratt, wants to build a memorial to the 157 soldiers who died in World Wars I and II at the proposed Derek Doubleday Arbouretum. Speaking about parks, the new park in Willoughby is going to be named after a Willoughby pioneer. Finally, the old Willoughby hall on 208th has a leaky roof.

On a regional note, between 2012 and 2016 there will be a 33% increase in the tax we pay to Metro Vancouver to replace aging infrastructure. What people don’t know is that most of the infrastructure for water and sewer was installed in the mid-20th century. Back then, they only built things to last 50 years and its time is up. While not very “sexy” without water and sewer service our region would grind to a halt.

At Monday evening’s meeting, council gave finally reading to a very exciting 20-acre new mixed-use development for the Yorkson area in Willoughby at 208th Street and 80th Avenue.

Site concept plan. Click image to enlarge.
Primary land uses proposed for Phase One of the QC Holdings development include seven mixed commercial / residential buildings consisting of retail units at grade with three stories of residential apartments above, two larger format retail anchors (grocery store and pharmacy), a two story office building, a restaurant and a number of smaller retail units. In total, Phase One is proposed to have approximately 10,219 m2 (110, 000 ft2) of commercial floor space and 192 residential units over a gross site area of 4.98 ha (12.31 acres).

Phase Two of the project is envisioned to consist of higher density residential uses, including towers up to 12 storeys in height, (subject to design and engineering requirements outlined in the Yorkson Neighbourhood Plan,) with a combination of street fronting townhouse and commercial podiums. Phase Two will have approximately 750 residential units and a yet to be determined amount of commercial space. Staff supports the land uses proposed as they comply with the land use policies outlined in the Yorkson Neighbourhood Plan for the Town Centre area.

Monday, October 3, 2011

City of Langley Council Update

At the September 19 City of Langley council meeting, council heard a delegation from the merchants in McBurney Lane that oppose the City's plan to give the areas a much needed update.

According to the latest council minutes Anita Ference and Terry Smith, who stated that they where speaking on behalf of the surrounding merchants, opposed the plan because parking will be removed in the lane even though they will be getting a net increase of six parking spots because of changes on Douglas Crescent. Ms. Ference and Mr. Smith where of the opinion that the removal of parking in McBurney Lane will increase drug use and vandalism. This is interesting because it is not cars that keep areas safe, it's having eyes and ears on the ground. By converting McBurney Lane into a more pedestrian friendly areas, you attract more people to the areas and actually make the place safer.

Also interesting was the fact that Ms. Ference and Mr. Smith believe that transit access is inadequate in downtown Langley. As a transit user, I can say that downtown Langley is the only place in Langley with adequate transit access. There are buses all day long. Heck, the 502 which is only one of a dozen bus in downtown Langley runs even seven minutes during peak periods and every 15 minutes the rest of the day.

I have to give credit to the City of Langley for sticking to their plan to make downtown Langley into a more pedestrian friendly area. Making downtown Langley pedestrian friend is the key for it's future success. If people want parking lots, they'll go to the Langley Bypass.

Since I'm on the topic of downtown Langley, just south of McBurney Lane is Douglas Park. According to tonight's Committee of the Whole agenda, the new cenotaph project originally budgeted at $160,000 is now going to cost $56,500 more to build. The City has applied to Veteran Affairs Canada for a $50,000 grant to cover the change in cost. Here's hoping they get the grant and proceed with this project as the current memorial site in the City is lacking in certain areas.