Thursday, May 30, 2013

Latest travel mode share data for South of Fraser

Every three to five years, a survey on travel patterns in the region is done for Metro Vancouver. This survey is based on trip diaries recorded by a selected cross-section of Metro Vancouver residences and provides details on travel patterns in the region. TransLink posted basic information about the travel patterns in our region from the survey last year, but the detailed analytical report was not available at that time. I was searching TransLink’s Online Document Library and found that the analytical report based on the latest 2011 data was posted in February. A problem with TransLink’s Online Document Library is that if you don’t know what to search for, you’ll never find new information.

Transit Mode Share in Metro Vancouver

I had a look at the analytical report to see what changes there were to travel patterns in the South of Fraser.

2011 Weekday Mode Share by Sub-Region. Select image to enlarge.

Surrey, White Rock, and North Delta Trip by Mode. Select image to enlarge.

76% of weekday trips stayed within the Surrey, White Rock, and North Delta sub-region with an additional 6% of trips going to Langley. A full 82% of trips stayed within the South of Fraser. Mode share for transit and cycling increased. While the weekday average per capita vehicle kilometers travels (VKT) was stagnant in most of the region, VKT actually decreased in Surrey, White Rock, and North Delta. People are driving less, from 18.4km in 2008 to 17.8km in 2011. This is good news and is likely a reflection of Surrey's commitment to becoming more walkable, its recent investments in cycling, and an increase in transit service.

Trips by Mode (Langley). Select image to enlarge.

In Langley, 65% of weekday trips stayed within Langley with 18% of trips going to Surrey and 7% of trips going to the Fraser Valley Regional District. A full 90% of all trips starting in Langley never cross a major bridge. In Langley, mode share remained stable expect for cycling which saw a slight increase in share. Unlike Surrey, per capita weekday VKT increased from 23.6km in 2008 to 25.2km in 2011. This is no surprise as the community isn't very walkable and there has been a lack of transit investment in Langley. The Township of Langley has ramped up its efforts to promote cycling and I wonder if that is why cycling mode share has increased.

Overall transit does a good job of getting people to Vancouver. For example, a full 45% of all weekday trips from Surrey, White Rock, and North Delta to Vancouver use transit and 30% of all weekday trips to Burnaby and New Westminster. Transit also captures a higher mode share for trips that are headed north of the river for trips that originate in Langley.

When looking over these numbers, it seems that when investments are made in public transit and cycling, people will choose these modes of transportation. With all the money being spent on bridges and tunnel that don’t serve the major of trips in our region, I have to wonder if that money could have been better spent on other modes of transportation, getting people out of congestion and giving them real travel choice.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The slow suburbanization of Salmon River Uplands

One of the things that some people don’t realize about Willoughby in the Township of Langley is that it is a first generation suburban community that is being transformed into an urban community. The old Willoughby actually reminds me of another area in the Township called Salmon River Uplands. As you can see on the following map, it is a fairly large section of the Township.

Map of the Township of Langley, Salmon River Uplands in grey.

Salmon River Uplands started its path towards suburbanized before the introduction of the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) and as a result has a mix of lot sizes from small to farmable. Oddly, the only planning guidance for Salmon River Uplands is to “maintained [it] for rural residential and agricultural uses and indicates that a detailed plan for the area is required to set out policies for future growth, subdivision and agriculture.” No such detailed plan has ever been adopted since this sentence was adopted over 20 years ago. The Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) has also written off the area for the most part, and has allowed further subdivision within the ALR. Currently, the Township will allow lot sizes down to about 1 acre which is perfect for large format housing. The scaring thing about the whole process is that if this is allowed to continue, in another 20 years will Salmon River Uplands become the next Willoughby? 1 acre and smaller lots will make it impossible for agriculture.

23886 52 Avenue

On Monday, Township Council was presented with the option to recommend to the ALC to allow a 4.7 acre lot at 23886 52 Avenue to be subdivided into four 1.17 acre lots.

I think Township Council has stayed away for coming up with a detailed plan for the area as the process would open up a can of worm about addressing the future of the area and what the meaning of rural is in Langley. So as it stands now, Salmon River Uplands is being slowly transformed into a laissez-faire suburban community.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Township of Langley's Offical Community Plan Update

As I posted about last week, each municipality in Metro Vancouver has until the end of July to update its official community plan (OCP) to conform to Metro Vancouver’s Regional Growth Strategy (RGS). You can read more about the RGS in last week’s post, and can read a primer on regional districts if you want more information about the process. The Township of Langley is no exception to this requirement.

Right now, the Township is pushing through the Trinity Western University District which includes the controversially Wall Financial Corporation 67 single-family “equestrian community” in the Agricultural Land Reserve. It appears that they are pushing this through before the adoption of the proposed new OCP as the Township believes it is still legally under the old Livable Regional Strategic Plan (LRSP). The LRSP is much weaker when it comes to enforcing land-use, and the new RGS would not allow the University District/Wall proposal.

Anyway, the Township is now working on an update to its OCP to bring it in-line with Metro's RGS and the Township's own Sustainability Charter. The Township will be requesting that some regional land-use designations be changed. Some of these changes will require 2/3rds of Metro Vancouver's board to approve as well as a regional public hearing. The biggest change and most controversial change will be around the University District.

It appears that Metro Vancouver believes that the University District proposal violates both the old LRSP and the new RGS. Metro Vancouver even threatened legal action against the Township at one point last year. I guess the Township is hoping that if they push through the University District before officially adopting their new OCP, it will be too late for Metro Vancouver to do anything, and Metro will have no choice but to update the RGS to reflect the reality of the University District.

The Township has made the following map which indicates where it would like to change regional land-use designations.

Differences between Metro Vancouver's RGS and the Township's proposed land-uses in red. Click image to enlarge.

Just like the City of Langley, the Township of Langley also has the new regional mixed-employment land designation for industrial, commercial and other employment related uses. Unlike the City of Langley which is proposing to put big-box retail in their “mixed-employment” zone, the Township is still trying to limit big-box retail to the Willowbrook area. The mixed-employment zone is the regional codification of office parks and sprawl as I haven’t seen any walkable office parks in the region. Let’s hope the Township breaks that trend.

Besides the requirement of conforming its OCP to Metro's RGS, the Township’s proposed OCP has been completely rewritten under the lens of its Sustainability Charter. The OCP is now broken down into the following sub-sections: Social and Cultural Policies, Economic Policies, and Environmental Policies.

University District aside, the proposed new OCP is more inline with 21st Century thought on sustainable, walkable urban design. The OCP spends a lot of time talking about building complete communities and complete streets “that are designed and operated to enable safe, attractive, and comfortable access and travel for users of all ages and abilities, including pedestrians, cyclists, public transit users, and motorists.” The new OCP also includes a provision for adaptable housing to align with the Township’s new goal of being an “age-friendly” community.

The proposed new OCP is something that Township residences can be proud of. If followed, it will lay the groundwork for a sustainable community and walkable urban cores. Of course, it will take time before the overall goals in the OCP flow down into neighbourhood and area plans (like the rural plan) that actually drive the shape of the community.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Re-configuring Strip Malls for Walkability

One of the things that I’ve talked a bit about on this blog is how the location of parking plays a large role in the walkable of a street, even in lower-density commercial areas. A few tweaks of a plan can change a development from auto-oriented to pedestrian-oriented. One of the simplest things to do is front the "business end" of commercial buildings onto a street and put parking in the back. The street must also be pedestrian-friendly and the commercial areas need to be close to higher-density residential as well for walkable. The perfect example is Downtown Langley compared to the Langley Bypass. If you look at the actual site coverage in the walkable core of Langley to the auto-oriented Bypass, there isn’t much difference. It’s all about siting and putting a priority on the pedestrian realm.

With this in mind, it was interesting to see a commercial development proposal for the southeast corner of Fraser Highway and Highway 13 in Aldergrove.

Render of proposed development at Highway 13 and Fraser Highway in Aldergrove. Click image to enlarge.

Proposed development at Highway 13 and Fraser Highway in Aldergrove's Site Plan. Click image to enlarge.

The good thing about this proposal is that it fronts some of its buildings to the street, and some parking is "hidden" within the development. Though the proposed development is in a lower-density residential area, the project could be more pedestrian-friendly if access to some of the shop were off the sidewalk along Fraser Highway. To be clear, this isn’t an ideal commercial development for walkability as it is at Highway 13 and Fraser Highway near lower-density residential, but this is a better design than many of the other strip mall proposals I’ve seen lately in some of the Township's more walkable areas.

Example of lane configuration.

With simple tweaks to a plan, you can make an auto-oriented development into a pedestrian-oriented development without having to change site coverage or even reduce parking. If an area was truly going to be pedestrian-oriented, reintroducing commercial lanes would go a long way as all auto-oriented access (expect for on-street parking) would be from the shared lanes and all pedestrian access and storefronts would face the streets. This would also ensure the creation of a retail wall which is so critical to walkability.

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Township of Langley and Building Age-Friendly Communities

In 2007, Township of Langley council endorsed the idea of becoming an age-friendly community. The idea of an age-friendly community according to the Township is “a community for all ages and where policies, services and structures of the physical and social environment are designed to support older community residents in making choices that will enhance their health and well-being and reduce reliance on more costly alternatives.” At the last Council Priorities meeting, the Seniors Advisory Committee was endorsed to also become the “Age-Friendly Advisory Steering Committee”. Also, Council recommended that age-friendly planning and design be incorporated into the Carvolth and Brookswood Neighbourhood Plans.

What I find interesting in the discussion about building an age-friendly community is that it there isn’t much talk about the very young or those with disabilities. An age-friendly community should be a community that is accessible to all. And a community that is accessible to all really has to be a walkable community.

Anyway back in 2010, the Township of Langley’s commissioned a report on age-friendly communities titled “The Voice of Older Citizens” which was a fact finding report about what concerns seniors had about their communities. The board themes of the report where around:

Increased awareness, knowledge, and communication about services and activities for seniors was a strong desire in all communities

Transportation and accessibility came up in each dialogue although the community’s specific needs differed.

The loss of the Langley Seniors Centre funding for Volunteer Outreach drivers has been noticed and felt by each of the four communities engaged in these dialogues.

Health services and overall well-being was discussed in all dialogues but has been uniquely named by each community.

As I read the report, the thing that stood out to me as the overall theme was that seniors wanted an accessible community. The Township of Langley is designed around vehicular mobility and unless you are a perfectly healthy young to middle-aged adult, the Township is not an accessible place. Because most of the built-form in the Township is single-use and auto-oriented due to zoning, most seniors live far away from shops, services (including medical), and social activities. They need to rely on other people to drive them around which means a loss of independence and a loss of dignity. In fact, the whole built form of the Township is designed to create a community of shut-in seniors and forced “soccer moms”.

One of the recommendations in the report is to create an action plan on making the Township more age-friend which also includes developing a framework and recommendations for age-friendly land-use policies. From what I can gather, no board framework was ever developed by the Township.

I’ve talked a lot about building walkable community, but the reality is that an accessible community has to be walkable. It’s no surprise that there is a large number of seniors who choose to live in Downtown Langley were they can walk or scooter independently to shops, services, and social activities. Right now, I can only think of three places in the Township that are age-friendly: Fort Langley, Downtown Aldergrove, and Murrayville around 222nd Street. Walnut Grove, Willoughby, and Willowbrook (which have the largest populations and are the highest-growth areas) are currently not accessible and are certainly not walkable.

While there are other important things to look at when building an age-friend community like building adaptable housing, creating an accessible public realm, and providing community services that are accessible to the very young, people with disabilities, and seniors, if Township Council is serious about building age-friendly communities, they need to get serious about building walkable communities. Walkable communities lay the groundwork for a transit-friendly city.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

A Performing Arts & Cultural Centre for Langley?

Both the City and Township of Langley have been talking about building a Performing Arts & Cultural Centre for as long as I can remember. From what I’ve been told, many projects have come forward, but all have died even before hitting the planning stage. It seems that building a space for artists has not been a priority for either municipality.

The latest attempts to start the process of getting a performance arts and cultural space started in 2007 when the City of Langley adopted its Cultural Master Plan. In 2011, the Township of Langley Council received an Arts & Cultural Services Plan. Both plans pointed towards building a space for artists in the greater community. Of course nothing happened at the time, and it seemed that once again an arts space was put on the back burner.

According to both the agenda from the latest City and Township of Langley council meeting, earlier this year “Mayor Froese, Mayor Fassbender, School Board Chair Johnson, and senior staff from the Township of Langley, City of Langley, School District #35, Trinity Western University, and Kwantlen Polytechnic University have held three informal meetings” to get the process started again on building a performance arts and cultural space.

It appears that the City of Langley, Township of Langley, Langley School Board, TWU, and Kwantlen will be jointly funding a task force which will report back on the following objectives by the end of this year:

a) Identify the need for the development of a Performing Arts & Cultural Centre in the Langleys.
b) Research and develop recommendations concerning the space needs for the Performing Arts & Cultural Centre.
c) Research and develop the pro-forma for the Performing Arts & Cultural Centre.
d) Research and recommend the preferred form of governance for the new Performing Arts & Cultural Centre.
e) Research and recommend to participating partners and their respective Council/Board the best location for a Performing Arts & Cultural Centre.
f) Research and recommend a proposed timeline for completion of the Performing Arts & Cultural Centre building.

Of course the next step after this would be to sort out how much a Performing Arts & Cultural Centre would cost, and how and when it would be paid for. In a best case scenario, it might be at least 4 years before ground was broken on this proposed Centre if all parties can agree on funding and location, and that might be big “ifs”.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Primer on Regional Districts in British Columbia

BC is unique in Canada when it comes to regional governance because we have regional districts. Because regional districts are a BC invention, sometimes there is confusion about what services regional districts provide and how they fit into the local governance framework. I think this confusion gets some people upset about Metro Vancouver and its role our region.

I came across a great document from the Local Government Department at the Province called “A Primer on Regional Districts in British Columbia”. This 13-page gem is worth the read if you want to know the context behind the creation of regional district in the 1960’s, what they do, and how they operate today. Briefly, the primer explains that:

Regional districts have three basic roles. First, regional districts provide regional governance and services for the region as a whole.

Second, regional districts provide a political and administrative framework for inter-municipal or sub-regional service partnerships through the creation of "benefiting areas".

Third, regional districts are, in the absence of municipalities, the "local" government for rural areas.

Anyway, I highly recommend reading this document if you care about regional issues in Metro Vancouver.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Metro Vancouver's Regional Growth Strategy, Langley City, and Sprawl

In the summer of 2011, Metro Vancouver adopted a new Regional Growth Strategy for the region. As part of the process, all communities in Metro Vancouver have two years to make sure that their Official Community Plan lines up with the Regional Growth Strategy, and the Official Community Plans must be accepted by Metro Vancouver. This means that all municipalities in Metro Vancouver have until July to get their Official Community Plan aligned with the Regional Growth Strategy.

Each Municipalities’ Official Community Plan must contain a regional context statement which explains the relationship between the Regional Growth Strategy and the Official Community Plan, how the Official Community Plan aligns with the objectives of the Regional Growth Strategy, and how any inconsistency in the Official Community Plan will conform to the Regional Growth Strategy over time.

In Metro Vancouver, the Regional Growth Strategy contains the following goals which all municipalities must conform to:
Goal 1: Create a Compact Urban Area
Goal 2: Support a Sustainable Economy
Goal 3: Protect the Environment and respond to Climate Change Impacts
Goal 4: Develop Complete Communities
Goal 5: Support Sustainable Transportation Choices

The Regional Growth Strategy also contains high-level regional zoning and includes a parcel based map of the regional zoning which all municipalities must conform to.

The City of Langley is currently in the process of updating its Official Community Plan to bring it in line with Metro Vancouver Regional Growth Strategy. One of the minor difference between Metro Vancouver’s zoning map and the City’s is an adjustment of the regional agricultural zone which is a result of the Clemas property (21024 Old Yale Road) being removed from the Agricultural Land Reserve in 2011. The City is requesting that Metro Vancouver update its Regional Growth Strategy to reflect this change which will require a regional public hearing and a 2/3rds weighted vote approval by Metro Vancouver’s board which is made up of politicians from each municipality in the region elected by their peers in their respective councils.

Regional zoning map as approved by Metro Vancouver. Grey: General Urban, Purple: Industrial, Salmon: Mixed Employment, Light Green: Agricultural, Dark Green: Conservation.

Regional zoning map as proposed by the City of Langley. Grey: General Urban, Purple: Industrial, Salmon: Mixed Employment, Light Green: Agricultural, Dark Green: Conservation.

Another major change for the City of Langley is the replacement of some Industrial zoned land in the City with “Mixed Employment” zoned land. The “Mixed Employment” zone is “industrial, commercial and other employment related uses to help meet the needs of the regional economy” according to the Regional Growth Strategy. Basically this zone bans residential housing, but it also appears to codify office parks and other unsustainable forms of development as it puts places where people work away from where they live. The City of Langley proposes to allow anything in this new zone except for residential, and explicitly allows big-box retail. What really disturbs me is that the built-form along the Langley Bypass which does not support sustainable, compact communities, and is a hostile pedestrian environment, will be allowed in other parts of the City.

The irony of Metro Vancouver’s Regional Growth Strategy is that it is actually promoting more sprawl in the City of Langley and other municipalities because of the “Mixed Employment” zone. I talked with some people at Metro Vancouver and was told that the Mixed Employment zone was something that was requested by member municipalities to get the Regional Growth Strategy approved. As Metro Vancouver is a federation of municipalities, it needs buy-ins from all municipalities to get the Regional Growth Strategy adopted. I guess the feeling was, all the good from the Strategy more than makes up for the bad “Mixed Employment” zone, or as I’ll call it, the sprawl zone.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Walkability is all about shopping

Two things are needed to build a successful walkable neighbourhood. People and places from them to go. As I’ve been travelling across North America over the years, I’ve noticed how communities have succeeded and failed at building walkable neighbourhoods.

One of the things that many communities thought and still think is that sprucing up the sidewalks, installing fancy lighting, placing elegant street furniture, and putting up flower baskets and banner will build walkable neighbourhoods. Some planner call this: bricks, baskets, banners, and benches. I’ve now seen dozens of examples of communities that have tried this and failed. The other thing I noticed is that residential-only buildings and office-only buildings (whether high-rises or suburban) do not create walkable communities. While sprucing up an area with the four B’s is something worth doing, it really should take a back seat to several thing which I've observed that seem to be key in creating a walkable neighbourhoods.

The first key thing is that people must feel safe. If a neighbourhood has a real or perceived crime problem, the first order of business is to make the neighbourhood feel safe. There are many examples of how to do this including having a visible police presence, making sure that perceived signs of crime like graffiti and tagging are removed, and removing or renovating run-down buildings.

The second key is creating a ground-level retail wall along some key corridors. When you look at any successful walkable neighbourhood, there is always a shopping street within an easy 10 minute walk. The important thing about these shopping streets are that they need to pretty much be a continuous line of retail shops, services, coffee shops, and restaurants. Too many surface parking lots, empty lots, office-only or residential-only buildings, and blank wall and walkability will be killed in the area. I've seen this first-hand.

The third key is that there needs to be a sufficient density of people who live within walking distance of the shopping corridors. I’ve seen a few ways of doing this, but they all seem to be a combination of having apartments (and offices) above the shops in the corridors (anything 4 storeys and up seems to work), and apartments on the side streets around the retails corridors. Between the retail corridors, there should also be a mix of all housing types (including single-family homes), parks, and schools as long as there is a critical mass of potential walkers.

The fourth key is to make sure that the retail corridors are filled with shops and services that people want to go to. It seems that getting the right mix of residential housing types is easy, but much harder to build and retain is ground-level retail. Municipalities must play a role in helping a walkable neighbourhood become established by incentivizing business to locate along the retail corridors. This could mean working with the development community to making it economically advantageous to build ground-level retail. It could also mean subsidizing lease rates or taxes rates to lower the cost of business for retailers in the corridors until the area becomes established. Communities throughout North America have done this successfully, including Vancouver where they basically gave away retail space in the Woodward's Building in the Downtown Eastside that has now attracted other businesses to locate in the area and uplift the whole community economically.

The key to building a walkable region, starts with building walkable neighbourhoods. And from my first-hand observations from going to regions throughout North America, having ground-level retail corridors that front the street seems to be the key.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Strong regional governance is key to developing a livable region

Yesterday, I posted my thoughts on local government and how it seems that having more municipalities may be better for building a walkable region than a smaller number of municipalities. Having multiply municipalities is only one part of the equation to building a walkable region, the other part is to have a governance body that has a mandate to protect green space and promote a walkable, sustainable region.

All municipalities are interested in new development, redevelopment and growth. If you look locally at the South of Fraser, it is a very rare thing to see a council turn down a development proposal. While most municipal governments talk about sustainability and preserving green space, when push comes to shove those ideals usually fall by the wayside. Left to their own devices, municipal governments will allow sprawl until they reach a physical limit like a mountain or a political limit like a border. I’ve seen this in regions like Calgary, Edmonton, Seattle, Chicago, Ottawa, Los Angles, Toronto, and Montreal (to name a few.) Having a pro-development municipalities isn’t a bad thing, but there needs to be checks and balances in place to make sure that a region develops sustainability to preserve green space and promote walkability. Beside the accessibility, health and environmental benefits that come from creating a sustainable region, there are also economic benefits. One of the key benefits is that it attracts knowledge workers and innovators who play key roles in creating a successful regional economy.

In our region, we have Metro Vancouver with its regional growth strategy that aims to focus development in town centres and transit nodes. The growth strategy has enforcement mechanisms to ensure that municipal governments stick to the plan. We also have the Agricultural Land Commission which protects farmland, but also acts as the de facto preserver of green space.

The Portland region has a regional government with similar objectives, and that region has been successful in building sustainably. In order to limit sprawl in Toronto, the Provincial government their installed a massive green built around that region. I was just looking at a regional planning document for the Chicago area as they started towards the path of regional government to promote the development of a sustainable region only a few years ago.

A healthy region should have tension between municipalities that want to develop and a regional governance body with the mandate to limit development.

Another plus with a regional governance body is that it can take care of the things that make sense to be controlled by a larger organization like regional water, sewer, garage, and transportation services and planning.

Compared to most other regions I’ve been to in North America, Metro Vancouver really is the example of how to build a livable region. Other regions still look to our region as a model to emulate. While in Metro Vancouver, it’s easy to see everything that’s wrong in the region, but whenever I come back after a trip, I’m always reminded of all the things that we’ve gotten right.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Multiple municipalities in Metro Vancouver is a good thing

For the last ten days, I’ve been on a bit of a whirlwind train trip across North America. My trip took me to Seattle, Chicago, New York, Montreal, and Ottawa. Besides taking a holiday, I was also interested in seeing the development patterns of regions that I stop at to compare them with Metro Vancouver.

One of the things that I noticed about many of the regions was that they all looked similar at the edge. Power centres, business parks, single-family homes, and even apartments, all surrounded by surface parking. The sad thing was that none of these areas were walkable. You could pick the edge of the Chicago, Seattle, Montreal, and even Ottawa region, and be hard pressed to tell the difference. My first impression when coming into the Montreal region via the South Shore was that I was coming into a French version of Calgary. The only exception seemed to be the New York region, likely due to the fact that the region was defined and is still defined rail transportation. Metro Vancouver also seems to be an exception.

One of the things that makes Metro Vancouver different is that it has walkable centres all over the region. Within our 22 municipalities, you could live in many walkable areas that are connected by transit.

I’ve been thinking about what makes Metro Vancouver one of the most livable places in the world. The skeleton of our region was built by interurbans and streetcars. This played an important role in building walkable nodes that are still with us today. Of course the ALR, US border, and mountains play a large role in keeping our region compact, but I have to wonder if having 22 municipalities plays a role too.

One of the things that I’ve noticed is that most cities have walkable cores that become less so, the further out you get from the centre. I’ve spend time in Calgary, Edmonton, and Ottawa which are all regional cities. Even some municipalities in the Montreal region were merged together to form a larger city.

While all cities invest in building livable, walkable cores today, it seems that they are also quite happy to allow auto-oriented sprawl along their edges. I even see this in Metro Vancouver within all its municipalities. The big difference is that most all of the Metro Vancouver municipalities are also trying to build walkable cores at the same time. These walkable cores give a unique identity and soul to each community which is why I think that most municipalities still try to protect their walkable cores. The Portland region is very similar to Metro Vancouver; with multiple cities and multiple walkable cores.

I have to wonder if Metro Vancouver had less municipalities, would we see more sprawl. Would someone in the Commercial Drive area really care about walkability in Langley City? Would they fight to building walkable nodes in the South of Fraser or focuse on petty "us vs. them" politics like in Toronto?

Besides having 22 municipalities building walkable cores, one of the results of a large amount of municipalities in a region is usually the formation of a regional governance body which is also key to building a livable region. I’ll talk more about that tomorrow.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Vacation Alert

This weekend, I’ll be heading on a Amtrak rail adventure through North America. This adventure will take me from Metro Vancouver to Seattle, than onward to Chicago, New York, and finally Montreal. Taking the train is one of the last ways to truly enjoy land travel (you'll want sleeper class), and is one of few ways to appreciate the beauty, scale, and diversity of North America.

During this period, I’ll be taking a break from blogging. I’ll be posting again on this site starting May 15th.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

McBurney Lane and Parking

McBurney Lane under reconstruction.

I was walking along Douglas Crescent and noticed that work has now begun on the renovation of McBurney Lane. The old configuration of the lane had a north pedestrian plaza, and a south parking lot. The future vision for the lane was to see it fully pedestrianized, serving as an extension of Douglas Park.

Unfortunately, some business owners and councillors did not share the vision for a walkable Downtown Langley, and instead fought to keep the south side of the lane as a parking lot. As a member of the City of Langley's Park and Environment Advisory Committee, I helped pass a resolution calling for the full pedestrianization of the lane as originally envisioned. In the end, the City desided to keep some limited amount of parking in McBurney Lane.

Council approved design concept for McBurney Lane

Anyway now that construction is in full swing with the parking lot is closed, I have to wonder if the loss of those parking spaces will be felt by the merchants along Fraser Highway and Douglas Crescent. While it seems to some people that there is never enough parking in Downtown Langley, I think that there is enough parking, but the current parking supply is poorly managed.

The one-way section of Fraser Highway is prime parking, but yet it is 2 hour "free" parking. In reality, the City and the Downtown Langley merchants should be working to make sure that there is always some parking spaces along that corridor available. This could be accomplished through a mix of short-term parking and/or paid parking. The one thing that really turns off customers is a lack of available parking, not a lack of “free” parking. Long-term parking for people that work in the area should be encouraged in the City’s off-street parking lot because I know that many employees and business owners actually park in the prime parking spots in Downtown Langley today.

While I know that smart parking management plans have been successful in cities across North America (including my hometown of Vernon), I have a feeling that there are still too many people in power that believe Downtown Langley should be a “free” parking lot and not a pedestrian-friendly Downtown core.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Live Stream: Langley’s Media Power Panel All-Candidates Debate

This evening, South Fraser OnTrax and South Fraser CARP will be hosting Langley’s Media Power Panel All-Candidates Debate for the BC Provincial Election. The debate will be moderated by Frank Bucholtz (Langley Times Editor), Bob Groeneveld (Langley Advance Editor), and Mark Forsythe (CBC Radio Anchor for BC Almanac). The debate will feature candidates:

For the Fort Langley-Aldergrove riding:
Rich Coleman, BC Liberal
Lisa David, BC Green
Shane Dyson, BC NDP
Rick Manuel, BC Conservative
Kevin Mitchell, Independent

For the Langley riding:
John Cummins, BC Conservative
Wally Martin, BC Green
Andrew Mercier, BC NDP
Mary Polak, BC Liberal

The event will start at 6pm with a meet and great with the candidates, and the debate will run from 7pm to 9pm.

You can attend tonight for free by heading to:
Langley Township Civic Facility
20338 – 65 Avenue, Langley,
4th Floor, Fraser River Presentation Theatre

You can also watch a live stream of the debate that will be posted here later today.

Before and during the debate, you can tweet your questions for the candidates with the hashtag #langleydebate.