Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A review of Langley City's proposed Master Transportation Plan

The City of Langley is busy updating its Master Transportation Plan which was last updated about a decade ago. The City has retained the service of Urban Systems to update the plan with a final proposed plan ready by the end of the year. Currently, the plan update process is in phase 3 of 4. Phase 3 is focused on what network improvements should be made and where, and the final phase will work on prioritizing the improvements into short, medium, and long-term projects. The City will be hosting an open house at the end of this month to get feedback from the public. In order to facilitate discussion, the City has also released a discussion paper which can be downloaded from the City’s website.

One of the good things about the discussion paper and I assume the forthcoming updated Master Transportation Plan is that it is focusing on walking, cycling, and transit. 70% of the discussion paper talks about sustainable modes of transportation.

One of the major focuses of the plan is on improving walking infrastructure. With Langley’s aging population, the fact that walkable communities improve the livability and health outcomes for all age groups, and that improved walkability is linked to increased economic development, it is no surprise that the plan will focus on walking.

Map of sidewalk improvement priorities. Click map to enlarge.

As you can see from the map, one of the largest priorities will be to provide sidewalks throughout the whole community and fill-in any gaps where there are missing sidewalks. In fact, the only area which is not likely to get sidewalks is the Langley Bypass which is under Provincial jurisdiction.

The discussion guide also talks about creating pedestrian-oriented streets within the Downtown core, including McBurney Lane, Fraser Highway, and Douglas Crescent with links to surrounding neighbourhoods with wider, better maintained sidewalks and improved pedestrian amenities like wayfinding, benches, and better lighting.

The discussion guide also talks about improving intersections and mid-block crossings by creating curb extensions and median islands. Ironically, the road network section of the discussion guide talks about making wider intersections.

As the City of Langley has a good amount of off-street trails, the discussion guide notes that improvements including more lighting, pedestrian and bicycle separated trails, and more off-leash areas should be made, and that wayfinding should be improved to link the trail and on-street networks.

Bike Facilities Hierarchy. Most people will only use 3 left-most options.

The discussion guide spends a good amount of time talking about how the City of Langley is actually a great place for cycling due to its flat topology and current off-street network. It also spends a significant amount of time talking about how most people feel unsafe riding a bicycle on arterial roads, and that the best way to attract people to cycling is to provide off-street or separated bike ways, or put bike routes on slower residential roads with traffic calming, like in the City of Vancouver. So I was a bit shocked when I saw that the plan focuses pretty heavily on shoulder bike lanes on arterial roads and drops a bomb that the City is not likely to get separated cycling facilities; this is extremely disappointing considering the role that cycling could play for all age groups in a compact city like Langley.

There is also long-term opportunity to upgrade some facilities to protected bicycle facilities in the future. In particular, an area of opportunity for a separated bicycle facility (cycle track or multi-use pathway) exists along south 203rd Street (between Downtown and the Nicomekl trails), and is recommended for consideration in the long-term.
Map of cycling network priorities. Click map to enlarge.

One of the good things about the discussion guide is that it talks about the need for better end-of-trip cycling facilities like secure bike parking and even things like showers. The City could require improved end-of-trip facilities for commercial, industrial and institutional areas as part of the development process. I hope the City pursues this.

The discussion guide also talks about transit, but since transit is provided by TransLink, the delivery of improved service is out of the City’s hands. There are two things that the City can do which are talked about in the guide.

First, transit bus shelters and other on-street amenities are the responsibility of the City. The guide talks about providing high-quality bus shelters with customer information along all major corridors.

Also, the biggest thing that the City of Langley can do to support transit, cycling, and walking is to approve land-uses that support building an accessible community. This means City Council needs to stop approving drive thru facilities in the Downtown core and really focus on getting development that supports creating a walkable community. A walkable community by default is also a cycling-friendly and transit-friendly community.

The final part of the discussion guide talks about the road network. One of the assumptions in the guide is that traffic volumes will increase by 25% to 30% on City roads by 2031. I have to question any number that predicts traffic volume growth as recent trends show that people are driving less. Also, when you start building accessible communities, people shift modes. It is no surprise that there is less vehicle traffic in Downtown Vancouver today than in the mid-twentieth century. All in all, the road network expansion is pretty modest which is likely due to space constraints. The reality is that more people will need to walk, cycle, and take transit in the City, and that can only happen if City council focuses one creating a community that supports these modes of transportation.

Map of proposed road network expansion. Click map to enlarge.

The one major thing that is missing in this plan is a discussion about vehicle parking. As on-street parking management and off-street parking requirements play a large role in determining a community’s walkability and economic prosperity, I’m surprised that the discussion guide completely overlooks parking. As most vehicles spend 90% of their time parked, not addressing this in a master transportation plan is like trying to bake a cookie without turning on the oven.

Anyway, the City will be holding an open house on:
Wednesday, October 30 2013
4:00 pm to 7:00 pm
Langley City Hall (20399 Douglass Crescent)

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