Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Fare changes at TransLink: Employer Pass Program to be killed

If you haven’t heard already, yesterday TransLink announced that it was changing some of its fare products. As TransLink is shifting to the Compass Card system, it makes sense that starting in 2014 FareSaver tickets will be discontinued in favour of providing purchase discounts for fares put on the Compass Card. This is similar to other transit agencies. For example in San Francisco on the BART network, when you buy $45 dollars in fare, you receive $48 on your card.

Another thing that makes sense is bringing the West Coast Express fare options in-line with the rest of the system. That means the 7 day pass for West Coast Express will be gone as will the $1 fee for bring a bike on the WCE. Also in January, the 28 day pass will be replaced with a monthly pass.

Another thing that is disappearing next year is the perk that allowed free travel for family members of monthly pass holders on Sundays and holidays. I can imagine that this was a promotion from back in the day when people didn’t do much but attend church on Sunday.

I know that TransLink says that these changes are about making fares fairer, but I think that one of the main reasons is to simplify the roll-out of the Compass Card system. It would be pretty hard for a faregate to tell when a family was going through it on Sunday for example.

The biggest shocker for me was that TransLink decided to get rid of the Employer Pass Program. The program gave a 15% discount on monthly passes for companies that could sign up 25 employees and have them commit to purchasing at least a years’ worth of transit.

I actually fought hard to get the Employer Pass Program in my workplace. When the program finally came in, it actually helped people make the choice to use transit. A co-worker of mine who loves his big truck actually switched to taking the West Coast Express from Maple Ridge to work.

In Donald Shoup's book “The High Cost of Free Parking”, he makes the case for programs like the Employer Pass Program. Since parking is a major expense and is bundled in with most employment in the region, it becomes “free”. The Employer Pass Program is similar. When you have transit as part of your paycheque deductions, it becomes bundled like parking; transit becomes “free”. Given the choice between free parking and free transit, many people will choose “free” transit especially when factoring in the cost of gas and now tolls in some areas.

I was going to actually write a post about how I didn’t think TransLink’s TravelSmart program was terribly effective. TravelSmart is basically a marketing program to get people to take transit. While marketing transit is a good idea, I don’t think that TransLink has the resources needed to promote the TravelSmart program at a scale that would really impact travel mode choice. One of the suggestions that I was going to make was for the TravelSmart program to push the Employer Pass Program more.

When people make a decision to walk, cycle, take transit, or drive, they are balancing two things: cost and convenience. Research has shown that people are actually pretty bad a making cost comparisons, only seeing upfront costs. This is why I liked the Employer Pass Program; it actually helped put transit and driving on an equal footing by embedded the cost of taking transit into your employment package. With new road infrastructure in our region making driving faster than taking transit, many people will only compare the cost of a toll to a transit ticket. They will wrongfully determine that driving is “cheaper” and decide to drive.

Sadly, the pending execution of the Employer Pass Program is just the latest victim of “service efficiencies” brought about by a Provincial government that doesn’t seem to want to give our region the ability to use new revenue sources needed to expand transit service. Let's hope the U-Pass program isn't the next program to get cut.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

More single-family housing coming to the ALR in Langley

Back in 2010 —when I published a report on the Agricultural Land Reserve— I noticed a disturbing trend of not excluding land from the ALR, but allowing urban residential development within the ALR. This makes it appear on paper that the ALR is intact while in reality, it is becoming urbanized.

The most infamous example of this is the Wall Corporation single-family housing development which is part of the controversial University District, but there are other examples in the Township of Langley.

In 1993, 2003 and 2009, attempts were made to exclude 11 acres of land along the southern edge of Murrayville from the ALR. The request was denied three times by the Agricultural Land Commission. In 2010, Alan Hendricks was granted the permission to develop this land within the ALR by the ALC under the guise that he provide a buffer between urban Murrayville and agricultural lands. Part of this development will include a 15 meter planted buffer along the south side of the project.

Site of 21 single-family houses in the ALR. Near 44th Avenue and 216th Street in Murrayville.

I remember being at the Sustainability by Design Conference back in 2009 where the topic of urban/rural buffers came up. While some planners thought that buffers like the proposed Murrayville buffer were needed, may people who actually lived at urban/rural interfaces noted that it was a solution looking for a problem. Also, many people questioned why the buffer had to be in the ALR instead of non-ALR land around the reserve. It seems like the urban/rural interface in the Murrayville project is just the excuse needed to allow for the development of 21 housing on half-acre lots within the ALR.

Last Monday night, Township Council heard the final reading of the bylaw to approve this project, and change the rural plan to make it easier to develop housing within the ALR in the future.

Section 5.8 of the Rural Plan will be renamed from “Comprehensive Rural Estates” to “Rural Residential” with the following wording removed:

Lands designated for Comprehensive Rural Estates purposes shall not be located within the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR).

What is really disappointing is that Township Council has a history of approving single-family housing projects within the Agricultural Land Reserve, yet compromises plans in urban parts of community that would help the Township become more accessible and sustainable.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Old BC Transit Guide on Transit and Land-Use

This weekend, I stumbled upon an old document from BC Transit —created back when it used to run the transit system in Metro Vancouver— called Transit & Land Use Planning. The document appears to have come out of the mid-1990s, and explains how even small changes to one project can have a large impact on the provisioning of transit service.

The main argument in the document is that land-use and transportation need to be more tightly integrated together. While some parts of the region and some levels of government are doing a better job of integrating land-use and transportation than others, it is interesting that +15 years since this document came out, we are still having the same discussion in Metro Vancouver. Take the following graphic for example:

Example of auto-oriented, transit-accommodating, and accessible building siting. Click image to enlarge.

It shows how the same project could be auto-oriented, or transit and pedestrian-oriented with just a simple change in siting. The guide doesn't mention that transit and pedestrian-oriented projects require less parking too, but research wasn't solidify on that point when this document was created. What is really frustrating for me is that the region has been talking about how to make development projects more accessible with simple siting changes for years, yet we still have auto-oriented developments in corridors that would be well suited for transit.

In Langley, I’ve been posting for years about how some auto-oriented projects could be made more accessible, but it still seems that even some +15 years later some planners and councillors have not received the memo on transit-oriented design.

The BC Transit document also talks about benefits of shifting back to a grid network of wide arterial streets and narrow local streets for drivers, transit-users, and pedestrians. It is good to see that the curvilinear road network that is common in areas like Walnut Grove is being replaced with tighter grid networks in newer areas like Willoughby. This is a change for the better.

The document also talks about implementing transit-priority measures on arterials to improve transit service. This includes queue bypasses and bus lanes. When this report first came out, transit priority measures were not common. Today there are bus only lanes on Highway 99 and in Vancouver, and queue bypass lanes throughout the region including in Surrey and Langley. Still, much could be done to improve reliability on corridors like Fraser Highway where a bus trip from Langley City to the SkyTrain can take between 30 minutes and an hour depending on the time of day.

One of the other interesting sections in the report is on how to stage new development projects for transit. While the section is an interesting read, I think the larger issue revolves around funding for transit today.

All in all, it is amazing how relevant this BC Transit guide is, even today, and how much positive change there has been in the region, though it is a bit disappointing to see that some municipalities are still struggling so much when it comes to making auto-oriented commercial projects more accessible.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

$50.4 million Aldergrove Community Centre

Earlier this year, I posted about the preferred concept for the Aldergrove Community Centre which had a preliminary cost of $35.5 million. The Centre included the following features:

Indoor Aquatic
-Leisure Pool
-Lap Pool, ramp entry, 6 lane 25m
-Sauna & Steam Rooms
-Hot Pool

Community and Recreation Space
-Food Services
-Fitness Room
-Two Multipurpose Rooms
-Walking Track

Single Sheet Arena
-NHL ice sheet
-Skate Shop

In April, Township of Langley Council directly Township Staff to commission an Aquatic Needs Assessment to solidify the aquatic requirements for the community centre. The assessment noted that the pool should be reduced to one four lane, 25m lap tank and a leisure pool.

In June, Council decided to maintain a six lane, 25m lap pool and a leisure pool as originally envisioned. Council than directed Staff to commission a proposed budget and financial plan for the facility.

Council received this report on Monday. The cost of the facility is now pegged at $50.4 million which is significantly more than the preliminary cost.

One of the interesting thing that I found in the Staff report on the facility was that the Township of Langley had a goal to reduce its corporate GHG emissions (from its facilities and operations) to 10% below 2000 level in 2010. The Township hasn’t succeeded in that goal and has instead seen an 8.5% increase.

In ordered to minimize GHG emissions, Staff has recommended that the proposed Aldergrove Community Centre include internal energy sharing between the ice and pool mechanical systems, geo-exchange heating and cooling, and solar thermal heating. These measures would reduce the building's GHG footprint by 93% compared to if it was built with traditional energy systems. Staff is also recommending entering a long-term agreement with FortisBC Alternative Energy Services who would provide, operate, and maintain the 100% renewable energy system for the facility.

The next step for this potential facility will be to see how and if the Township will fund it. I think the Township will be looking for funding from the Province or the Feds to help offset some of the cost of this facility.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

City of Langley Council Motions

At Monday night’s City of Langley Council meeting, there were more motions on the agenda than I can ever remember seeing.

Councillor Hall and Councillor James both had motions about councillors acting a mayor getting upgraded to the mayor’s pay scale for the period of time when a councillor acts as mayor. Councillor Hall also had another motion around adding a question period to all future council meeting.

Councillor Schaffer won the award for most motions as he had seven on the table:

THAT Council include improvement and expansions of the walkway/trail system in the Nicomekl Floodplain in the Parks, Recreation and Culture Master Plan.
THAT Council investigate connecting the bike paths from the floodplain to the downtown in the Master Transportation Plan.
THAT Council direct staff to investigate and draft a bylaw regarding boarded-up houses.
THAT Council direct staff to partner with TransLink and ICBC to introduce an incentive for bicycles.
THAT Council direct staff to investigate and report back to Council on the creation of a community garden on Michaud Crescent behind the West Country Hotel.
THAT Council direct staff to investigate creating a small dog off-leash area around Michaud Crescent and 201A Street.
THAT Council direct staff to investigate adding additional resources for downtown/city maintenance as part of the 2014 budget process around the McBurney Lane area.

I strongly support adding bike paths from the Nicomekl Floodplain to Downtown Langley. The Floodplain provides a great option for east/west off-street cycling, but the City doesn’t have a north/south bike path.

I’ve been advocating for better pedestrian and cycling infrastructure in the City for some time. The City’s Parks and Environment Committee, which I sit on, passed a motion to get council to study separated bike lanes a while ago. I was told that separated bike lanes would be addressed in the Master Transportation Plan. A separated bike lane between the Floodplain and Downtown would make perfect sense to me, and could be the start of a proper bike network. Improving the trail system in the Floodplain would also benefit pedestrians and cyclists.

One of the other priorities of the Parks and Environment Committee is to establish more community gardens in the City, and it is good to see that there is a motion addressing adding more community gardens.

I’m happy to see motions that promote the creation of pedestrian and cycling infrastructure, but even if these motions get adopted, the real test will be if they get backed up with funding in 2014.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Final Plan for North East Gordon Neighbourhood

Over the last little while, the Township of Langley had been reviewing the original Willoughby neighbourhood plans with the overall goal of making the community more accessible. Examples of changed neighbourhood plans include the recently adopted Carvolth Plan and the pending North East Gordon Neighbourhood update which I’ve posted about in the past.

Original land-use plan for North East Gordon Neighbourhood. Click image to enlarge.

With all the talk about 200th Street being the main urban corridor, it may actually be 208th Street that will become the multi-modal boulevard in Willoughby. In Yorkson —the northern most area along the 208th Street corridor— a higher-density, mixed-use node is being built around 80th Avenue at 208th Street. In North East Gordon, the Township is proposing to allow a higher-density, mixed-used nodes at 72nd Avenue/208th Street and 68th Avenue/207th Street.

These nodes and the surround areas in North East Gordon will include a verity of building types including mixed-use, apartments, townhouses, row houses, live/work townhouses, and even some single-family houses. Along the 208th Street corridor outside of the nodes, the Township will allow townhouses and apartments with densities that range from 16 to 22 units per acre. These densities are more than enough to support a frequent transit network in the area. There is one area of concern in this plan around the 72nd Avenue/208th Street node.

Proposed land-use plan for North East Gordon Neighbourhood, including mixed-use along 72nd Avenue. Click image to enlarge.

One of the lessons that I hope the Township has learned is that allowing the construction of single-family houses in a new area before proposing higher-density development is a recipe for conflict. While allowing mixed-use nodes will benefit all residents in an area, some single-family residents are initially fearful of proposed changes. In the Township, this usually ends up with very long, very impassioned public hearings.

The 72nd Avenue/208th Street node suffered at a public hearing this April. As a result of the public hearing, Township Council asked staff to modify the 72nd Avenue/208th Street node. This resulted in the node's density being dramatically reduced, and land-use designations changed.

The scariest parts is that the original plan called for mixed-use along 72nd Avenue. The new plan now has a “commercial” zone on the southeast side of 72nd Avenue, then apartment, and then steps down to townhouses.

Final land-use plan for North East Gordon Neighbourhood, including reduction in density. Click image to enlarge.

I looked at the definition of “commercial” in the proposed North East Gordon plan. While the rest of the plan talks about mixed-use commercial areas that give pedestrians priority, require buildings to front the street, and do not permit parking between the sidewalk and the front of buildings; all the commercial land-use designation talks about is requiring a three-storey building. It does not need to be mixed-use and could likely results in nothing more than a glorified auto-oriented strip mall or office park.

I have to wonder if this “commercial” zone and reduction in density in the 72nd Avenue/208th Street node will compromise the original vision of creating a walkable and transit-friendly 208th Street corridor. Overall, I’m impressed with the updated North East Gordon, but I’m disappointed that Township Council requested a change to the 72nd Avenue/208th Street node.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Final Concept for New Willowbrook Mall Bus Exchange

Last year, I posted about how TransLink is planning for a new Downtown Langley and Willowbrook Mall bus exchange. TransLink’s vision is to have most bus service pass through both of the proposed transit exchanges as a way to encourage transit-oriented development in the area.

TransLink is thinking about moving the Downtown Langley bus exchange to Fraser Highway and 203rd Street, and combining it with a transit/pedestrian-oriented development. The final details for new Downtown Langley bus exchange will come out later this year.

In the meantime, TransLink has finalized the design for the Willowbrook Mall bus exchange and surrounding area. The plan calls for creating three new public roads in the mall’s western parking lot, and includes a pedestrian-only walkway to connect to future rapid transit along Fraser Highway.

Willowbrook Exchange Final Concept. Click image to see details.

It appears that one of the long-term goals of Willowbrook Mall is to transform their parking lots into a mixed-use community. It will be interesting to see if the Willowbrook Mall site will become like other mall sites in the region that are now mixed-use and high-density. The major limiting factor I see is that rapid transit will likely be required to attract the kind of transformative development envisioned.

I am excited to see the plan for in-fill development and a new bus exchange in Willowbrook though right now, it doesn’t appear that there is a timeline on when this project will actually break ground.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Impaired driving and community design

Every so often, I get an email from ICBC asking if I can help them spread the word that drinking and driving is a bad idea, and that they are working will police to increase roadside checks for impaired drivers during the summer.

At its worst, impaired driving results in death. According to ICBC, 31 percent of all crashes are related to impaired driving; 31 percent of all crashes are preventable. If you get caught driving while impaired, the consequences can include losing your licence, getting a fine, and getting your vehicle impounded, and could lead to you being criminally charged. BC’s impaired driving laws are strict, and even having a pint of beer could put you over the legal limit if you have a full class 5 licence. You can’t drink at all if you are in the graduated licensing program.

ICBC recommends using a designated driver, taxi, or transit to get you around after having a drink. If you are hosting an event, ICBC has a free Special Occasion Support Kit they will send you which includes posters, tent cards, and designated driver tickets to help educate people about impaired driving and safe travel options.

ICBC advises against cycling and walking when impaired. It is interesting that ICBC is pro-transit and anti-walking. All transit trips (especially if you’ve been drinking) start with walking to transit, and end by walking to a particular destination after leaving the transit system.

One of the things that I’ve been thinking about lately is how auto-oriented built environments are bad for human health and society. When it comes to impaired driving, auto-oriented design seems to set people up to make poor choices.

Municipalities approve licensed restaurants, pubs, clubs and bars, and require large parking lots around them. Some of these establishments are also located in areas with poor or no transit service. Since just two drinks could make you an impaired driver under BC laws, does this auto-oriented community design actually encourage impaired driving?

When I’m taking transit home on a Friday or Saturday night, I get off the bus at Fraser Highway and 203rd. There is a club next to that stop. The club itself is smaller than its parking lot. The parking lot is always full on Friday and Saturday nights and usually empty by the next morning. I wonder how many of those people make a choice to drive when they shouldn’t have. Should municipalities require large parking lots at drinking establishment?

I think that one way municipalities can help reduce impaired driving, is to support the location of restaurants, pubs, clubs and bars in walkable centre with frequent transit service. Municipalities might also want to review minimum parking requirement for these establishment and develop design guidelines that give cues that walking, transit, or taxi service is a preferred way to get to and from these establishments.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Metro Vancouver sues Township of Langley over University District

Last year I posted that Metro Vancouver was going to sue the Township of Langley over its proposed Trinity Western University District if it was approved by Township Council. Metro Vancouver believed that the University District violated the Regional Growth Strategy (RGS) that all member municipalities in the region (included the Township of Langley) signed off on in 2011. Metro Vancouver also believed the University District violated the older Livable Region Strategic Plan (LRSP) as well. The Township has maintained that it is doing nothing wrong, that the decision to approve the University District is legal, and that the University District does not violate the old LRSP (which the Township believes the University District approval falls under.)

Interesting enough, the University District area that the Township has approved for urban development is a Special Study Area in the RGS. As such, it would have only required a simple weighted majority vote to get its land-use changed and would have been considered a minor amendment. If this type of change —from agricultural/rural land-use to urban land-use— was outside a Special Study Area, it would need a two-thirds weighted vote and a regional public hearing. In either case, the land could not be in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR).

I think that one of reasons the Township got into hot water with Metro Vancouver is because the municipality decided to enlarge the University District from the 67 single-family housing development on 13.5 acres, and 23.4 acres of land located just west of the current Trinity Western University —which the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) approved for development— to 375.6 acres with land that is still in the ALR. The ALC has stated that it does not currently support the University District beyond what it has already approved.

Metro Vancouver's RGS says the region will "not amend the Agricultural or Rural land use designation of a site if it is still part of the Agricultural Land Reserve, except to change it to an Agricultural land use designation."

The Township of Langley might have avoided this whole mess if it just made the University District the ALC-approved 36.9 acres, and had not moved forward with the inclusion of 338.7 acres of ALR land into the University District.

Now that the Township of Langley has approved the University District, the Vancouver Sun is reporting that Metro Vancouver has filed a petition in BC Supreme Court to quash the Township's enlarged University District.

Metro argues the township is attempting to arbitrarily amend the designated green zone for intensive uses, when it is required to put the proposed changes to the regional board for a vote under the new regional growth strategy.

But Langley Township Mayor Jack Froese maintains his council has a lawful right to rezone the property, which has been earmarked for development for more than two decades and is intended to “provide educational, employment, and residential opportunities for future generations.”

Whatever the outcome of this court action, the results will set a precedent about the authority municipalities and regional districts have when it comes to land-use planning.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Update: Township's Agricultural Viability Strategy

Back in March, Township of Langley Council was presented with a draft version of its proposed Agricultural Viability Strategy (AVS). The $2.7 million, 20-year plan lays out a framework for supporting the agricultural sector in the Township. If fully funded, the strategy would cost $135,000 annually to implement.

Agricultural is an important part of Langley’s economy and as noted in the strategy, the “Township of Langley is one of the richest agricultural areas in Canada containing high quality soils and a favourable climate for farming.” The agricultural sector in Langley is also growing. In 2006, 55% of land within the Agricultural Land Reserve was farmed. In 2011, that jumped to 65% or 14,978 hectares. Gross farm receipts have also increased in that same time period from $228 million to $274 million. Some of the highest growth areas in farming are turkeys, greenhouse growing, mushrooms, and blueberries. Predictions from the Ministry of Agriculture say that farming will only increase in Langley. This means that the preservation of farmland is key in the Township (food for thought as farmland gets turned into housing and "districts.")

In March, Township Council authorized its staff to bring the AVS to open house to get final feedback on the strategy. Not surprisingly, the AVS received strong support in the community. Feedback from the Ministry of Agriculture was also incorporated into the final draft of the strategy. The AVS was endorsed by the Township’s Economic Development Advisory Committee and the Agricultural Advisory Committee. Yesterday, Township Council had the opportunity to adopt and fully fund the strategy.

Some of the short-term goals in the AVS are to bring more awareness about farming and farming practices in Langley, and support agri-tourism. Other shorts-term goals include assessing the services needed to support farming in the Township. Another short-term goal is to develop a water and drainage management plan. Of course the largest short-term goal is to protect farmland by reviewing rural zoning, and reviewing bylaws and regulations to make them consistent with provincial standards for farming.

The AVS lays out a good framework to support farming in Langley, but I wonder if the pressure to turn farmland into general urban development will trump this plan. Only time will tell.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Shifting demographics means less people are driving

Recently, there has been several studies that have noted a shift in driving patterns in the United States. One of these reports in called “A New Direction: Our Changing Relationship with Driving and the Implications for America’s Future.

In the report, the authors note that there has been a continuing decline in vehicle miles travelled (VMT) over the last decade. For example in 2012, absolute VMT was at 2004 level, and per capita VMT was at 1996 levels. The authors also found that those in the Millennial Generation are less likely to get a driver’s license, and those that do drive substantially less than previous generations.

Another major shift is that those in the Baby Boomer Generation are moving out of their peak driving years.

While this report focused on the US, I was wondering if this same trend was happening in BC.

TransLink is currently updating its long-range Regional Transportation Strategy, and as part of the process published “BACKGROUNDER #3: Trends & Challenges” which contains the following chart.

Licensed drivers as a percentage of age group population in BC. Source: 2011 Census of Population (Statistics Canada) and ICBC data analyzed by TransLink in September 2012. Click graph to enlarge.

This chart shows a few things. It shows that those in the Baby Boomer Generation in BC are moving out of their peak driving year. The chart also shows that the Millennial Generation in BC has a substantially lower percentage of licensed drivers than past generations. Historically, the percentage of people with driver’s licenses would rapidly increase in their early twenties. This is not happening today. As this data is for all of BC, I can only imagine that this change is even more pronounced in Metro Vancouver which has move transportation options than other parts of our province.

BC is following the same US trend of less people driving. This means that our transportation system needs to shift away from an auto-centric system to a people-centric, accessible system if we are to respond to the needs of the Millennial and Baby Boomer Generations.

In BC, it appears that the population is ready for a transportation system that focuses on walking, cycling, and transit, but it seems our governments have been slow to respond to this shift.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Township of Langley seeks approval for changes to regoinal land use

As I’ve said in the past, one of the good things about our region is that we have a regional government whose goal it is to protect green space, an Agricultural Land Commission whose goal it is to preserve farmland, and municipal governments whose goal it is to promote development. This creates a natural tension, but also is the reason why Metro Vancouver is one of the, if not the most, livable places in the world.

Speaking of tension, the Township of Langley wants to expand its urban containment boundary to allow development in former rural/agricultural areas. As part of the new Regional Growth Strategy, the Township of Langley must get approval from the Metro Vancouver Board (which is made up of elected municipal politicians) for any changes to the urban containment boundary or regional zones.

At the last Metro Vancouver Regional Planning and Agricultural Committee meeting on July 5th, the Township of Langley submitted a request to change regional zoning and its urban containment boundary. The Township has asked for land in northern Murrayville to be re-designated from "Agricultural" to "General Urban", and to move the urban containment boundary. The Agricultural Land Commission does not support this amendment, so this change is likely a no-go. The second similar amendment is for 4 acres of land in southern Murrayville to allow for the development of 21 single-family houses. This application is supported by the Agricultural Land Commission, but this change will need the approval of Metro Vancouver with a 2/3rds weighted vote by its Board.

Township of Langley's proposed changes to the urban containment boundary and regional land use designations. Click map to enlarge.

The final submission is to re-designate a section of land near the northwest corner of the Highway 1/200th Street interchange from mixed-employment to general urban. As this is a minor amendment, it will only need a simple weighed majority approval by the Metro Vancouver Board. The regional mixed-employment zone does nothing but support single-use office parks and is essentially a “sprawl zone”, so I hope Metro Vancouver approves this minor amendment.

While not included in this round of submissions, it will be interesting to see what happens when/if the Township submits a request to Metro Vancouver for approval of the Trinity Western University District.

It may seem to some people that having two organizations whose goal it is to preserve our rural areas is a bit much, but I’m certain that our region would end up sprawling like Calgary —dealing with out-of-control taxes and debt to pay for a large amount of municipal infrastructure that serves a low density of people— without the checks and balances we have in place.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Off-Street Parking Requirements in Metro Vancouver

TransLink has put together a series of backgrounders as part of the process of updating its long-term Regional Transportation Plan (RTP). Since I’ve been talking about parking lately and how it impacts urban forum, I was happy to see that TransLink has included a research paper on parking in the region as part of the RTP update process.

As you may know, I’ve been talking about the abundance of surface parking in the City of Langley lately and how I believe the City can dial-down the minimum parking requirements in some areas. The following table shows that the City of Langley is the leader in surface parking lots with 8.6% of its urbanized land dedicated to non-residential parking. This is really interesting considering that other similar-sized community like White Rock, New Westminster, and Port Moody dedicate way less land as a percentage of their overall urbanized areas to parking. Urbanized land does not included the Agricultural Land Reserve.

Percentage of the total municipal urbanized area that is off-street non-residential parking. The urbanized area is calculated from the urban containment boundary as adopted in the Regional Growth Strategy. Source: TransLink Parking Stall Tax Database, Metro Vancouver Regional Growth Strategy. Click graph to enlarge.

I should point out that when it comes to absolute numbers, Langley City has a small number of non-residential parking spaces (20,000 spaces compared to about 130,000 in Vancouver and 190,000 in Surrey), but these communities have more parking underground and/or in structures; and are just bigger.

Another interesting graph shows the minimum (and in New Westminster/Vancouver maximum) off-street parking requirements for retail land use.

Parking requirements for general retail land uses. Click graph to enlarge.

Looking at this table, both Langleys are leaders when it comes to the provisioning of parking. The Township of Langley requires 150 square meters of parking for every 100 square meters of retail floor space according to the graph. This means that the Township of Langley dedicates more space to cars than people! While some people might think that parking requirements are higher in Langley because of poor transit service, I should point out that Maple Ridge (which also has poor transit service) has more flexible parking requirements.

While parking for commercial-uses varies widely in the region, residential parking seems to be more uniform.

Parking requirements for multi-unit residential land uses. Vancouver parking requirements vary based on size of dwelling unit. Click graph to enlarge.

While I think residential parking requirements are not an issue in the region, I believe that some communities have over-provisioned off-street, non-residential parking and need to reevaluate their off-street parking policies.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

A Tale of Two Downtowns: Minimum Parking Requirements

Mixed-use development in Goldstream Village - Downtown Langford. Source:The Metro & The Lotus Condos

This weekend, I found myself in Langford which is one of the Western Communities in Greater Victoria. Langford and the City of Langley share some similarities. Both communities are at the edge of their respective regions, have similar populations, have similar municipal revenue & expenditures (see Langford's and Langley's 2012 Annual Reports), and even get casino revenue. Another important similarity is that both communities are trying to revitalize their downtown cores into people-oriented, accessible centres.

While I was only briefly in Langford, I was impressed with the amount of new pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use projects that have been built in Goldstream Village, Langford's downtown core. While the City of Langley has been successfully getting new condos in its Downtown core, it has not been as successful at attracting pedestrian-friendly commercial and mixed-use projects. As I posted about earlier, my theory is that the City of Langley’s minimum parking requirements are limited the potential of Downtown Langley due to the high cost of providing parking in a form other than surface parking. Right now, the City requires the same amount of parking in Downtown Langley as the Langley Bypass. When I was in Langford —which appears to be more successful at attracting pedestrian-oriented, mixed-use projects— I wondered if the minimum parking requirements for Goldstream Village were less than the minimum parking requirements for Downtown Langley. They are.

The City of Langley and Langford have similar minimum parking requirements for areas outside of their downtown cores, but the similarities end when it comes to their downtowns. For example, while Langley requires 2 parking spaces for apartments with more than one bedroom, in Langford's downtown core, the requirement is reduced to 1 parking space.

When it comes to commercial uses, Langford requires about 4 parking spaces per 1,000 square feet of usable business space and the City of Langley requires about 3 parking spaces per 1,000 square feet for areas outside of their downtowns. In Langford's downtown, the minimum parking requirement is reduced to about 2.5 parking spots per 1,000 square feet of usable business space, and this is just a starting point. Langford allows developers to cash-out of its minimum parking requirements.

Recognizing that shared parking is more efficient and promotes walkability (as less space is used for parking), Langford allows developers to pay $11,000 per parking space not provided under the minimum parking requirements if a project is within 492 feet of a municipal parking facilities. For example, if a project needs 50 parking spaces according to the minimum parking requirements, and the developer only wanted to provide 45, she could pay the city $22,000. If the project is not within 492 feet of a municipal parking facilities, a developer could pay $7,500 per parking space not provided if the parking provided is at least 90% of the minimum parking requirements. A developer could also pay $11,000 per spot not provided if the parking provided is at least 75% of the minimum parking requirements. The city could use this money to fund shared parking, cycling, transit or pedestrians facilities.

Another good thing that Langford does (and the City of Langley does not do) in its downtown core is require that all parking access be provided from a lane. Langford's zoning also prohibits surface parking lots in new projects in its downtown.

With its flexible parking requirements, I’m not surprised that Langford has been successful in attracting new projects. The City of Langley should consider adopting parking policies like Langford's policies considering that the City of Langley's downtown core is along the frequent transit network and easy walking distance from higher-density residential areas.

As I believe Gordon Price said, “I can show you what a city will look like by looking at its parking regulations.” With that in mind, will Downtown Langley be able to become a revitalize pedestrian-friendly core without a change to its parking requirements?

Information on Langford's parking requirement as found in its zoning bylaw.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Township of Langley's Official Community Plan and Public Hearing

As I posted about in May, the Township of Langley is updating its Official Community Plan (OCP) in order to: incorporate the Township’s Sustainability Charter “to build a legacy for future generations by leading and committing the community to a lifestyle that is socially, culturally, economically, and environmentally balanced”, and to incorporate regional context statements that explain how the OCP is aligned and compliant with the objectives of Metro Vancouver’s Regional Growth Strategy. This must be completed by July 29th as required under the Local Government Act.

Tonight, the Township will be holding a public hearing on the proposed updated OCP.

As part of the process of updating the OCP, the Township solicited and received comments from other governments and agencies. The Township has incorporated the University District and changes in land-use designations in Aldergrove; both of which propose to remove land from the Agricultural Land Reserve for urban development.

Township of Langley proposed land-use map. Click map to enlarge.

The Agricultural Land Commission has allowed for a housing development on the Wall Financial Corporation land within the ALR south of Trinity Western University (TWU), and the exclusion of land that fronts Glover Road from the ALR for TWU expansion. For the remainder of the proposed University District, the Agricultural Land Commission wrote that:

The Commission has previously advised that it consider that the proposal to extend the Urban Contain Boundary [UCB] and General Urban designation over the entire area proposed as a "University district" conflicts with the requirement for consistency with the Agriculture Land Commission Act, the regulation and the orders of the Commission. The Commission therefore endorses the extension of the UCB and General Urban designation within the Special Study area only to those parcels of land directly fronting the northwest side of Glover Road.

When it comes to the proposed expansion of Aldergrove's urban footprint which is in Metro Vancouver’s Regional Growth Strategy and the Township’s proposed OCP, the Commission said that the Township could designate the areas as urban within the OCP, but the designation will not change the fact that the Agricultural Land Commission still has the final say on land-use, as the land is still within the ALR.

The Township of Langley designated a section of 8th Avenue between 264th Street and Abbotsford as an arterial road and truck route in the proposed OCP. The Agricultural Land Commission noted that it may not allow the widening of this road.

Metro Vancouver also commented on the proposed OCP. One of the general themes seemed to be to requesting that the Township provide more details on how its OCP will align with the Regional Growth Strategy. Metro Vancouver also noted that the Township’s proposed land-uses do not align with the current Regional Growth Strategy. Metro Vancouver noted that any land-uses that do not align with the current Regional Growth Strategy will need the approval of the Metro Vancouver board.

After the public hearing tonight, Township council will likely approve the third reading of the proposed OCP. The OCP will then be forward to Metro Vancouver for possible approval.

As both Metro Vancouver and the Agricultural Land Commission have some concerns about the OCP, and serious concerns about the University District, the Township's proposed OCP is not likely to be the finally OCP. At this point, I would be surprised if the University District will be allowed as it is currently envisioned by the Township.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Map of Regional Daily Trips 1999/2011

About a month ago, I posted some information about transportation mode share and travel patterns from the latest Metro Vancouver regional trip survey from 2011 which was released this year.

I was recently digging around TransLink's Regional Transportation Strategy web pages, and found a backgrounder call "How and Why People Travel". The backgrounder contains a great map that summarizes some of the key information from the 2011 region trip survey and compares it to 1999 data.

Sub-regional mode share, 1999 and 2011. Click to enlarge map.

The map shows the growth in total trips, and also transportation mode share changes by sub-region. Orange represents auto trips, light green represents transit trips, yellow represents walking, and dark green represents cycling trips. What stands out is that in all parts of the region, more people are choosing to use sustainable transportation options, with the exception of Pitt Meadows/Maple Ridge, now than in 1999. Also, the largest growth in sustainable transportation mode share has been in the Burrard Peninsula. What I found really interesting was that total trip seem to have declined in Richmond/South Delta.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Regional Goods Movement Strategy

I was recently looking over Metro Vancouver’s Transportation Committee Agenda for June 20th, and noticed that TransLink is working on a Goods Movement Strategy update as part of TransLink’s larger update of its regional transportation plan.

Port Metro Vancouver is the largest port in Canada, and some 21% of the region’s workforce is directly employed by the goods movement sector. The efficient movement of goods in important for the economic prosperity of our region.

How goods are moved in the region. Source: Port Metro Vancouver

When it comes to actually moving goods, about 2/3 of goods are directly loaded onto train. 1/5 of goods are sent by trucks to transload facilities where they are resorted and put onto trains. The remaining 1/10 of goods are directly shipped by truck. It would seem that rail is one of the key modes of transportation to ensure efficient goods movement in the region, though it also seems the focus on goods movement to date has been on expanding roads.

TransLink has a tricky job ahead of it as the Goods Movement Strategy will be multi-jurisdictional. It will include stakeholders like Port Metro Vancouver, the Province, the railways, TransLink, Metro Vancouver, and municipal government; some of which aren’t required to work together.

Map of Metro Vancouver goods movement transportation infrastructure that highlights current project priorities. Click map to enlarge.

So far, TransLink has identified the replacement of the George Massey Tunnel, Pattullo Bridge, and (I’m sure to the displeasure of people in New Westminster) the proposed North Fraser Perimeter Road as regional goods movement priorities. It is still early in the process, as the Good Movement Strategy will not be completed until sometime in 2014, but it seems that rail is missing from the plan.

I wonder, since TransLink has no jurisdiction over rail or Provincial highways, how effective this strategy will be. On a positive note, TransLink and Metro Vancouver are talking about road pricing as a way to manage our goods movement network.

Metro Vancouver is also planning to hold a Goods Movement Forum in fall to talk about goods movement in our region and how it can fit with the Regional Growth Strategy’s goal of creating a sustainable region.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Parking and the City of Langley's Master Transportation Plan

If you read this blog regularly, you’ve probably gather that I’m not a big fan of surface parking lots. I would rather see parking provided underground or in a parking structure with ground level retail. Surface parking lots destroy the walkability of our communities as they spread out businesses, workplaces, and our homes. This results in congestion due to increased automobile use, a degradation of the environment, and the promotion of a lifestyle that is making us unhealthy which increases the cost of providing health care.

In fact the City of Langley's own Master Transportation Plan notes that “experience has shown that areas with an abundance of parking or with free parking tend to encourage solo travel by automobile.” Parking for vehicles can have more of an impact on travel choice than roads themselves. With this in mind, it is not surprising that the City's Master Transportation Plan spends a considerable amount of time talking about bicycling parking and end-of-trip facilities to encourage cycling.

The City’s current Master Transportation Plan also spend a great deal of time talking about adding, removing, and relocating on-street parking, but it misses the mark as it doesn't address the economic, environmental, and social benefits that comes from managing on-street parking, and how on-street parking influences off-street (surface parking lots, underground, parkade) parking requirements. This is interesting as the Plan notes that “Langley is characterized by an abundance of free, unlimited-use parking, even in the downtown area” and that “in areas near transit services or within walking proximity of employment and shopping areas, the City may wish to decrease parking requirements for new or existing sites.” The reason we have minimum off-street parking requirements is because cities are concerned that without minimum-requirements, parking will be chaos on the street. Maybe that lack of a clear on-street parking policy in the Master Transportation, and the City's concern with parking chaos, is why to-date the City of Langley has not reduce minimum parking requirements in the City’s Downtown Core, even though it is on the frequent transit network.

On-street parking should be variably priced to ensure that there are always a few free parking spaces available in any give block. Research shows that when on-street parking is managed to ensure a few space are free in each block, it will encourage more shoppers to come to an area. Pricing on-street parking persuades long-term parkers like employees and commuters who use prime on-street parking to find other parking or travel arrangements. If you are interested in knowing more about this, I suggest you read the book “The High Cost of Free Parking”, and look at the case study about how the once-dying Old Passadena in California turned itself around with the help of managed on-street parking.

Once on-street parking is managed, cities then have the opportunity to reevaluate minimum off-street parking requirements, and make chances that will promote business growth and support walkable community design.

The City of Langley is currently in the process of updating its Master Transportation Plan. The updating of the plan is a great opportunity to include specific parking policies that will help the City of Langley become a walkable, compact community that will encourage business to locate in its Downtown Core.