Monday, December 22, 2014

Looking back on 2014, and looking forward to 2015.

2014 has certainly been an exciting year for me, especially this fall. While I fell short of getting a seat on Langley City Council by 71 votes, I met some great people along the way. I feel even more strongly connected to my community. This fall also saw Leap Ahead – A transit plan for Metro Vancouver, written by Paul Hilsdon and me, become part of the transportation vision that people in our region will have a chance to vote on next spring.

Speaking about 2015, I will be working hard to get the message out about the importance of voting “Yes” in the upcoming transit plebiscite. This plebiscite will determine the future of our region. Citizens will be able to vote for a strong economy, reduced congestion, and enhanced livability; a “No” vote will be detrimental to the quality of life for every person whether in Langley, Lions Bay, or Vancouver. This is the most important campaign that I have ever been a part of; and that includes my run for City Council.

I will also be working on some exciting projects in the City of Langley which I will post about in more detail next year.

I will be taking a break from blogging until the new year, but in the meantime check out some great articles from Todd Litman at the Victoria Transport Policy Institute.

"The New Transit Safety Narrative", by Todd Litman, Journal of Public Transportation, Vol. 17, No. 4, pp. 121-141.

Public transportation is, overall, a relatively safe (low crash risk) and secure (low crime risk) transport mode. Transit travel has about one-tenth the traffic casualty (injury or death) rate as automobile travel, and residents of transit-oriented communities have about one-fifth the per capita crash casualty rate as in automobile-oriented communities. Transit also tends to have lower overall crime rates than automobile travel, and transit improvements can help reduce overall crime risk by improving surveillance and economic opportunities for at-risk populations. Despite its relative safety and security, many people consider transit travel dangerous and are reluctant to use it or support service expansions in their communities. Various factors contribute to this excessive fear, including the nature of transit travel, heavy media coverage of transit-related crashes and crimes, and conventional traffic safety messages that emphasize danger rather than safety. Transit agencies can help create a new transit safety narrative by better communicating transit’s overall safety and security impacts and providing better guidance concerning how users and communities can enhance transit safety and security.

"Playing a CRITICAL ROLE: Author And Researcher Todd Litman On The Future Of Transportation And Why So Much Of It Depends On Parking", in "The Parking Professional," the official magazine of the International Parking Institute (, November 2014. This article discusses ways that more efficient parking management can help reduce traffic problems, support compact development, increase housing affordability, support efficient economic growth, and help achieve other planning objectives.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Transit referendum, now plebiscite, ballot finalized by province

This morning, the provincial government approved the final version of the ballot that will be mailed to registered voters in Metro Vancouver this spring for funding much needed transit expansion in our region.

Provincially-approved ballot. Select image to enlarge.

The first thing apparent to me is that the province doesn’t want to be associated with this referendum which they forced upon the region. If the referendum fails, it will be the province that will have to deal with the aftermath; I believe the referendum will succeeded.

The province is calling the proposed regional 0.5% sales tax the “Metro Vancouver Congestion Improvement Tax.” I actually think it is a good name as it links the 0.5% sales tax increase directly to the transportation improvements that the tax will fund.

The referendum is now called a plebiscite.

Of course, the province also performed some “minor refinements” to the ballot question. The changes made were actually pretty major.

In the mayors’ proposed ballot, the “what” and the “why” of the transportation vision were provided. The province’s final version of the ballot removed the “why” component. This was likely to ensure that the ballot didn’t seem biased.

As an example, the mayors version of the ballot stated:

One million more people will live and work in Metro Vancouver by 2040. The region’s mayors worked together to develop a plan to reduce congestion on roads and bridge and to provide more transit to communities across the region.

The final version as approved by the province states:

The region's mayors have developed a Transportation and Transit Plan called Regional Transportation Investments -a Vision for Metro Vancouver.

Another interesting point is that the list of items included in the mayors’ version of the ballot were simplified in the provincial version. For example, the mayors’ version stated “Build light rail transit connecting Surrey Centre with Guildford, Newton, and Langley”, while the final provincial version says “Build rapid transits connecting Surrey Centre with Guildford, Newton, and Langley”.

I’m happy that the final version of the ballot contains the wording “revenue and expenditures would be subject to annual independent audits and public reporting.” People need to know that the 0.5% tax will go 100% to improving transportation in Metro Vancouver.

The province stated today that the 0.5% sales tax “would be applied as a sales tax to the majority of goods and services that are subject to the PST and are sold or delivered within the region.” This leads me to believe that more items will be exempt from the new regional sales tax than the provincial sales tax.

The plebiscite will require 50%+1 regional support to be approved.

With the ballot now finalized, the work begins to let voters in Metro Vancouver known that a small increase in tax will provide a large increase in transit service throughout all of Metro Vancouver. The South of Fraser is set to receive about half of this investment if the plebiscite is approved.

Enhanced Lighting Coming to Langley Centre Transit Exchange

The Langley Centre Transit Exchange has been the site of increased criminal activity over the last year. This is no surprise as the major tenant of the strip mall that the exchange is located by closed down, leaving the mall derelict. As a result, there are no “eyes and ears” on the street. The lighting is also poor at the transit exchange.

RCMP patrolling Langley Centre Transit Exchange

The long-term solution will be the eventual relocation of the transit exchange. You can read more about this in a previous post. The relocation will not be happening anytime soon.

This past April, Langley City Council was asked to spend $11,500 to upgrade the light bulbs at the exchange from 150 to 250 watts. Council at that time declined. Council Martin didn’t want to spend the money until a funding partnership was establish with TransLink.

An article in the Langley Times appeared earlier this month about a man who was beaten and robbed at the exchange. Since that article was publish, I’ve noticed that the RCMP and transit security have been more visible at the transit exchange.

Last Friday, funding became available from TransLink to spend $54,000 to upgrade not only the power of the lighting, but also install new lighting at the transit exchange. At Monday night’s council meet, council approved $29,000 as its contribution to this $54,000 project. TransLink will be funding the remainder.

Mayor Ted Schaffer said that he wants to “light that place up like an airport runway.”

While lighting and increased police presence will help reduce crime at the transit exchange, the root cause of the issues with the transit exchange is that the transit exchange is around a poor built environment. If the City or Translink are not moving the transit exchange anytime soon, the City needs to look at ways to encourage redevelopment of the derelict mall, bringing more positive activities to the area.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

City of Langley applying to feds for 203rd Street bridge widening and bike lanes

When I ran for Langley City Council this fall, one of the things that I heard from people in the community is that they are concerned about the volume of automobile traffic flowing through their neighbourhoods. People were resigned to the fact that 200th Street and 208th Street were major thoroughfares, but people wanted safe streets in the rest of the community: streets that are safe for pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists; streets where children could ride their bikes or walk to school; streets where seniors don’t have to worry about being mowed down.

At the last council meeting, City Council unanimously passed a motion to apply to the Federal Build Canada fund for various projects along 203rd Street. The Build Canada fund is the major federal infrastructure funding program for local governments in Canada. This federal program could cover up to one third the cost of the projects the City has submitted.

The City of Langley will be bundling $2.6 million in projects which include:

-Upsizing Watermain - 203 Street from Grade Crescent to 49A Ave to support re-development
-Rehab and add capacity by widening 203 St Nicomekl Bridge – widen for the multi-use pathway (MUP) including bike lane
-Paving 203 Street – Grade Crescent to north approach of Nicomekl Bridge
-Adding bicycle infrastructure on 203 Street from Grade Crescent to 56 Ave/Douglas Cres
-Decommission/abandon 965m of AC Watermain
-Replace AC Sewer on 203 St from Grade Crescent to 49A Ave

While I’m excited to see that the City is working toward putting cycling infrastructure along 203rd, I’m hoping that they will be separated bike lanes. Regular curb bike lanes have not been found to be effective in encouraging the majority of people to cycle. This would be a great chance to provide a much needed north/south bikeway in the City. I hope council doesn't squander this opportunity if they get federal funding.

I’m also concerned about what widening the Nicomekl Bridge means. I’m sure people along 203rd won’t be too thrilled if their street becomes a 4-lane thoroughfare.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

New Community Garden and Dog Off-Leash Area for Linwood Park

The City of Langley Parks and Environment Advisory Committee has been advocating for adding a new community garden site to the city. Earlier this fall, the City of Langley hosted an open house to gather feedback from the community on a preferred location for a new community garden site, plus a site for an additional dog off-leash park.

130 people submitted feedback on where they though the City should build a new community garden and a dog off-leash area. Linwood Park was the top choice as a new community garden site though Douglas Park was also popular having received two less votes as the preferred community garden site.

Map of parks within the City of Langley with Linwood Park highlighted. Select map to enlarge.

Example layout of Linwood Park with dog off-leash area, community gardens, and sports field. Select image to enlarge.

The preferred park for a new dog off-leash area was Linwood.

At last night’s council meeting, the following motion was put forward by council:

That Linwood Park is chosen as the location for the new Dog Off-Leash Park and Community Garden site.

hat the City requests proposals from not for profit groups for the operation and maintenance of the new community garden site.

That a fee of $25 be established for the 16 sq.ft. garden plots and a fee of $50 established for the 32 sq.ft. plots

That the yearly fee at the Nicomekl Elementary garden plots be raised from $15/year to $25/year to be consistent with the new site.

Currently, the City of Langley subsides the cost of the current Nicomekl Elementary garden plots at a cost of $3000 per year. City of Langley staff is recommending putting out a request for proposal for a non-profit organization to look after the operation and maintenance of the new Linwood community gardens. As an example, Langley Environmental Partners Society operates some of the Township of Langley's community gardens.

There was discussion around the council table about the appropriateness of setting the plot fees before getting proposals from the RFP process. As such, Council voted to not establish the fees it would charge for plots at the new Linwood Park Site. Council also kept the the Nicomekl Elementary garden plots fee at $15 per year for now.

Work will proceed with the construction of the new community garden and the dog off-leash areas in Linwood Park in time for the 2015 growing season.

Monday, December 15, 2014

TransLink Third Quarter Stats Released

Every quarter, TransLink releases their financial and performance results. TransLink's third quarter results were recently released.

As you are probably aware, TransLink had two major service disruptions on the SkyTrain system this summer. During the first nine months of 2013, 95.4% of SkyTrains arrived within 2 minutes of their scheduled time. During the first nine months of 2014, that number dropped to 92.8%.

TransLink tracks the amount of complaints it receives per 1 million boarded passengers. Comparing the first nine months of 2014 to 2013, complains for the bus network were down 11.4%. Complaints were up 23.3% for the West Coast Express. What is really surprising is that complaints were up only 2.6% for the Expo and Millennium Lines. Complaints on the Canada Line were down 4.1%. Overall, passenger complaints were down 10.1% during the first nine months of 2014 compared to the same period in 2013.

Transit ridership continued its two-year decline. According to TransLink, “Analysis into the decline in ridership suggests that the 2013 fare increase had a longer lasting effect on ridership than expected. However, preliminary ridership estimated for quarter three indicate that ridership is beginning to recover.”

In the third quarter of 2014, ridership was down 4.6% on the West Coast Express, down .8% on the Expo and Millennium Lines, and up .4% on the Canada Line. Bus ridership was down .5% compared to the third quarter of 2013.

A drop in ridership, combined with the "free transit day" in August has resulted in a drop of transit revenue by $3.2 million or .9%. Fuel Tax revenue dropped .7% in the first nine months of 2014 compared to 2013 while other taxation revenue grew at 2-3%.

Year to date, TransLink has spent $74 million on roads and bridges, $471 million on bus service, and $118 million on rail service.

TransLink has been hammered in the media lately about its administrative costs. TransLink held the line on these costs spending $47 million on corporate services and planning in the first nine months of 2014, an increase of .1% compared to the first nine months of 2013.

More detailed information is in TransLink's third quarter report.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Transit Referendum Ballot Question: $10 per month for $7.5 billion in transit and transportation improvements

Last August, Paul Hillsdon and I released Leap Ahead, A transit plan for Metro Vancouver. In the plan, Paul and I outlined the importance of a well-functioning transit system for the economic, social, and environmental health of the region. We also proposed what transit investments would be needed, and suggested a 0.5% region sales tax to pay for these investments. Today, the Mayors’ Council voted on the ballot question that will be going to voters in mid-March 2015 around transit in Metro Vancouver.

This morning at the Mayors' Council meeting in the New Westminster Anvil Centre.

Metro Vancouver mayors approved a ballot question that asks Metro Vancouver voters to support a modest 0.5% increase of the PST to support $7.5 billion in transit and transportation improvements. This is essentially what Paul and I proposed last year.

By the way, the 0.5% increase in the PST would cost the average household in Metro Vancouver $10 per month. This is a deal if you ask me.

The Mayors’ Council has updated their website with new information about the referendum and their plan. This includes fact sheets on what transportation improvements will be delivered to each sub-region in Metro Vancouver.

The question voters in Metro Vancouver will have to answer is “Do you support a 0.5% increase to the provincial sales tax in Metro Vancouver, dedicated to these transportation and transit improvements, with independent audits and a public review of spending?”

The proposed ballot for next spring's referendum.

The preamble on the ballot includes states:

One million more people will live and work in Metro Vancouver by 2040. The region’s mayors worked together to develop a plan to reduce congestion on roads and bridge and to provide more transit to communities across the region.

The Mayors’ Transportation and Transit Plan will:

-Add more bus service to crowed routed and add new routes in growing areas
-Increase service on SkyTrain, Canada Line, SeaBus, and West Coast Express
-Add 11 new B-Line rapid bus routes, with fast and frequent service connecting town centres
-Maintain and upgrade the region’s major roads
-Build a new, earthquake-ready Pattullo Bridge
-Build light rail transit connecting Surrey Centre with Guildford, Newton, and Langley
-Extend the Millennium Line tunneled along Broadcast in Vancouver
-Improve safety for pedestrians and cyclist

Revenue raised through this referendum, together with Provincial and Federal contributions, will be dedicated to the Plan. Revenues and expenditures will be subject to annual independent audits and public reporting.

I was very proud that both Mayor Jack Froese of the Township of Langley and Mayor Ted Schaffer of the City of Langley supported the vision.

Mayor Froese noted that improved transit will be critical for the future of Langley, while Mayor Schaffer said the vision was a “great plan.”

Business, organized labour, and NGOs such as the David Suzuki Foundation have come together to support the mayors' vision. The campaign will starting in earnest after the Christmas season.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Ecosystem Services: Putting a Price on Healthy Ecosystems

People benefit from a health ecosystem; when our environment is flourishing, we all benefit. There has been a growing movement to quantify the benefits we receive from the ecosystems where we live. These benefits are now being framed in a market-based context known as “Ecosystem Services.”

The following graphic is from Ecosystems and Human Well-Being, a report created for the United Nations Environment Programme.

Linkages between ecosystem services and human well-being. Select graphic to enlarge.

Last year, the Township of Langley adopted its Agricultural Viability Strategy. This strategy commits to investing at least $135,000 per year to support farming and the services it provides for people in Langley and Metro Vancouver. One of the key parts of the Agricultural Viability Strategy is to address "key issues such as open air burning, chemical use, wildlife habitat, nutrient management, environmental farm planning, and land stewardship.”

Since a healthy ecosystem provides provides tangible benifts to people, it makes sense that a monetary price can be calculated for the services provided.

A project called the Ecological Services Initiative is setting up pilot programs to see if it makes sense to “provide incentives to maintain natural systems and the services they provide in a cost-effective manner, socially fair manner” to farmers and rural landowners. The goal of the pilot program is to evaluate the effectiveness of paying financial incentives to ensure that rural and agricultural lands provide, or continues to provide, critical ecosystem services. This project is funded by the federal government, provincial government, the University of Alberta, and NGOs.

The Township of Langley has the most land within the Agricultural Land Reserve in Metro Vancouver. The Ecological Services Initiative is looking to partner with the Township of Langley to setup a 3-year pilot program. The Township would need to invest $40,000 per year. This is within the $135,000 funding envelop of the Agricultural Viability Strategy. Information gathered from this pilot project will be used to determine the return on investment for paying landowners to maintain or enhance ecological services provided by their land.

If successful, the pilot project could become permanent or even expanded with the creation of a local conversation fund.

More information is available in the Township’s December 8th Afternoon Council Meeting Agenda.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

My Walking Tour of Ladner

When some people think about the Metro Vancouver, they might think that the City of Vancouver is the centre of our region. The reality is quite different. Our region has always contained many town centres. Development today is still based around these original town centres throughout Metro Vancouver.

Langley Prairie, now the City of Langley, and Ladner are some of the earliest colonial settlements in our region. Both communities served as some of the original business and service centres for the farming and fisheries communities. You can see this even in some of the early buildings.

For example, both Langley City and Ladner have two fairly imposing federally-constructed historic buildings.

Federal Building in the City of Langley. (Former Post Office)
Federal Building in Downtown Langley

While the City of Langley building is now an office building, the Lander building still serves as a post office.

Yesterday, I had the chance to take a walking tour of Lander, which is located in South Delta, and snap some photos. They are in the following flickr slideshow.

One of the interesting things that I noticed was that Lander went through a bit of a building boom in the mid part of the 20th Century. Unfortunately for Ladner Village, some of the pedestrianly-friendly, street-oriented buildings were replaced with strip malls. Newer buildings in the community now promote walkability.

One of the oddest developments is Harbourside Plaza in the heart of Ladner. This mixed-used building actually wraps around a historic masonic lodge. Sadly, one of the defining features of this development is its unflattering parking lot.

Ladner also has a working waterfront, though in recent years, some sections have come under hard times. The Corporation of Delta has purchased one parcel of property along the waterfront which was the home of the 7 Seas Company. Delta plans to turn it into a public amenity at some point in the future, but it seems that all residents in Lander have to show to date it a sign stating such.

Delta has also spent some effort in improving the sidewalks in some parts of Ladner Village. For example, 48th Avenue has a great public realm. Sadly, some parts of Lander are completely missing sidewalks, or the sidewalks are so narrow that people have to walk single-file. Lander has a large seniors population, so I can imagine that this is a barrier to accessibility.

Another challenging for Ladner is that the bus exchange is in the middle of nowhere. Because of this, Ladner Village doesn’t have frequent bus service.

Places like Langley City and Ladner are incubators for small business because the communities are more affordable. I saw many great local small businesses while walking around Lander yesterday.

Living in the South of Fraser, it is fun to see all the communities that make our region so special.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Province underfunding transit in BC

Over the last several years, the provincial government has put up roadblock after roadblock as Metro Vancouver local governments try to find a way to fund critically needed transit expansion in the region. The latest roadblock came mid-last week when Minister of Transportation Todd Stone said that the province “won't contribute as much money as Metro Vancouver mayors want” to fund transit expansion. He even said that the proposed taxes or vehicle levy, which would raise about $300 million per year, was too rich for the province's liking.

The provincial government has consistently said that it believes local government should jack up property tax to pay for transit. Local governments in Metro Vancouver have said no.

One of the things that I find ironic is that the BC Liberals are supposed to be party of “free enterprise”, working towards lowering the cost of doing business in BC. By advocating for transit to be paid for with property tax, they are actually advocating for placing more burden on businesses to fund transit. Business property tax is already high in many parts of Metro Vancouver.

The Canadian Urban Transit Association prepared a series of infographics about transit ridership and funding in Canada. I thought I would share the infographics from Canada’s most populated provinces.

CUTA 2012 Ridership & Fund Infographic for Alberta. Select image to enlarge.

CUTA 2012 Ridership & Fund Infographic for British Columbia. Select image to enlarge.

CUTA 2012 Ridership & Fund Infographic for Quebec. Select image to enlarge.

CUTA 2012 Ridership & Fund Infographic for Ontario. Select image to enlarge.

In BC, the provincial government has generally contributed about 1/3rd of the cost for capital transit projects. In Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec, provincial governments contribute about 2/3rds. These arrangements have been in place for over a decade.

The BC provincial government is actually getting a great deal because it has downloaded 1/3rd of the cost of funding transit capital projects to local governments. I’m not sure why the provincial government is crying foul at local mayors who are expecting the province to pay its fair share which the province agreed to in the 2008 Provincial Transit Plan.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Brydon Lagoon Task Force Approved

For close to a decade, it has been known that Brydon Lagoon in the Nicomekl Floodplain needs attention; Brydon has been slowly degrading. This August up to 1,000 fish died in Brydon Lagoon. You can read more about this on a previous blog post.

Earlier this fall, the City of Langley’s Parks and Environmental Advisory Committee heard from various community groups urging something be done. The Parks Committee recommended that City Council take action to form a task force that would recommend how to move forward with restoring Brydon Lagoon.

The previously City Council called on the Parks Committee to work with City Staff and other community environmental groups to develop a terms of reference for the new task force. This terms of reference was presented to Council at their November 24th meeting. The last act of the previous council was to approve the terms of reference and move forward with creation of the task force.

The task force will review the Brydon Lagoon findings and recommendations section of the Dillon Consulting Pond Management Strategies Study dated March 2013, past reports, documentation, and local knowledge. The task force will also identify information gaps and discrepancies in collected information and make recommendations to resolve issues. Finally, the task force will identify which recommendations of the Pond Management Strategy and other recommendations should be advanced.

The task force must submit its recommendations to City Council by June 2015. If Council is supportive of the recommendations, they will approve funding to restore the lagoon. The earliest this could happen would be in 2016.

The task force will be comprised of:

2 Parks, Environment Advisory Committee designates
2 designates from Langley Field Naturalists and alternate
1 designate from Langley Environmental Partners Society and alternate
1 designate from the Nicomekl Enhancement Society and alternate
1 designate from Ducks Unlimited Canada and alternate
Up to 2 members of the general public

Restoring Brydon Lagoon is something I would like to see done. Hopefully the current City Council will take action to restore Brydon Lagoon.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation, headline generation, and TransLink bashing

It seems like a month doesn’t go by without Jordan Bateman and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation either issuing a press release or “leaking” a document to the media about the evils of TransLink. The CTF’s low point was when they revealed that TransLink buys locally-roasted coffee for their staff.

This week, the media covered the fact that TransLink executives get a car allowance. It’s a good byline, TransLink Execs get Free Cars; there is some implied irony. Many people don’t realize that TransLink funds both transit and all major non-provincial roads and bridges in Metro Vancouver.

TransLink’s executives took home $2.5 million in wages and benefits, like the car allowance, in 2013. As I mentioned in a previous blog, this represents less than 0.2% of TransLink’s $1,406.9 million of operating expenses in 2013.

For comparison, it costs $1.2 million to operate the 555, $2.7 million to operate the 601, $5.2 million to operate the 502, and $9.4 million to operate the 99 B Line bus route in 2013.

The CTF’s goal is to get as much media coverage as possible. They make a lot of noise, but are devoid of providing any really solutions. TransLink executive compensation is a great example.

TransLink has no money to expand transit service. Bashing TransLink execs makes for sexy headlines. But even if TransLink had no executives, the "savings" wouldn’t even fund one frequent transit route.

So why does the CTF always target TransLink?

It should come as no surprise that many supporters of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation would consider themselves to be more on the conservative side of the political spectrum. In BC and federally, we have governments which have branded themselves as more conservatively minded. If the CTF was to go after the provincial or federal governments directly, it would risk alienating its support base.

If the CTF can’t go directly after the government to get media coverage, then it makes sense that they would go after public agencies which are firewalled from provincial and federal politicians.

If there is one CTF message that I can support, it is the message that there is a lack of accountability between TransLink and the public. It was the BC Liberals that removed TransLink from the direct control of Metro Vancouver, and put it into the hands of a private board. It was also the BC Liberals that instructed TransLink to operate like a private company.

If the CTF was truly interesting in making agencies like TransLink more accountable, they would lobby the provincial government to put arms-length agencies back into the direct control of province or local government.

Of course that would be a solution, and the CTF is only interested in generating headlines.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Expo Line station upgrades coming in 2015

In 2010, TransLink released a report which outlined the work that needs to be performed on the Expo Line to ensure that the SkyTrain system remains in a state of good repair, and is able to accommodate increasing passenger loads. The authors of the report presented $1.1 billion in upgrades which would ensure that the Expo line continues to meet the needs of Metro Vancouver. Several stations along the Expo Line were identified as needing major upgrades.

TransLink has already completed work at Scott Road Station and is in the middle of rebuilding Main Street-Science World Station. The next two major station rebuilds will be at Commercial-Broadway and Metrotown.

Commercial-Broadway and Metrotown are the busiest stations on the SkyTrain network. TransLink has their work cut out for them as they will be rebuilding these stations while maintaining service.

TransLink recently posted PDFs online which provide some information on the proposed station upgrades, and impacts to customers and area residents during the construction phase. TransLink has posted an online survey for both Metrotown Station and Commercial-Broadway Station; they want your feedback.

Summary of changes to Metrotown Station and new bus exchange. Select image to enlarge.

Summary of changes to Metrotown Station. Select image to enlarge.

TransLink held open houses earlier this year to seek feedback on the preliminary designs for these station. In the first design for Metrotown Station, the pedestrian overpass that directly links the Metrotown Mall Complex to the SkyTrain station was removed. The overpass is now back in the design.

During construction, Metrotown Station will remain open though there will be no elevator. TransLink will provide a shuttle service between Patterson Station and Metrotown to maintain accessibility. Also, the current pedestrian overpass will be demolished, so people will need to cross Central Boulevard at ground level during construction. Construction will begin in 2015.

Summary of changes to Commercial-Broadway Station. Select image to enlarge.

Cross-section of upgraded Commercial-Broadway Station.

During construction at Commercial-Broadway, the west staircase will be closed. In addition, the pedestrian bridge over the Grandview cut will be narrowed. Construction will also begin in 2015.

Monday, December 1, 2014

City of Langley’s Master Transportation Plan fails to address existing sidewalks

Last Thursday, I posted about the City of Langley’s new Master Transportation Plan. One of the great things about the plan is that, if funded by Council, it will result in sidewalk coverage on both sides of almost every street in the City. The authors of the Master Transportation plan note that:

Sidewalk clear width of less than 1.5m is generally considered quite narrow, where walking in single file may be necessary when passing other pedestrians. Sidewalk clear widths of 1.5 to 2.0m can improve pedestrian accessibility and comfort, and clear widths greater than 2.0m (i.e. what is seen in many areas of Downtown) can comfortably accommodate many pedestrians and make for a more pleasant walking experience.
Wider sidewalks (greater than 1.5m) should be concentrated in Downtown, around schools and multi-family areas where more people are and can be attracted to walking.

One of the things that I find odd about the new Master Transportation Plan is that it doesn’t include widening sidewalks on key pedestrian corridors.

The west sidewalk on 203rd Street around 54th Avenue has to be one of narrowest and most dangerous sections of sidewalk in the City. It is along a major pedestrian corridor.

Yesterday, I went to return some cans to the recycling depot, and decided to take a tape measure with me.

Section of sidewalk on 203rd Street at 54th Avenue. Select image to enlarge

The tape measure shows a 2.0m length which is the recommended non-obstructed width for a downtown sidewalk. As you can see, besides the narrow width of the sidewalk, there is a 1 to 2 foot drop on one side. If you look in the background of the photo, you can see a utility pole in the middle of the sidewalk and sign posts which further constrain the usable width of that sidewalk.

While I’m happy that the Master Transportation Plan addresses adding new sidewalks, I’m surprise and disappointed that it doesn’t include recommended projects to widen sidewalks on key pedestrian corridors.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

City of Langley's New Master Transportation Plan

On November 2nd, during this last election campaign, Langley City Council adopted a new Master Transportation Plan. This plan lays out the vision for the City’s transportation network over the next decade. The previous Master Transportation Plan was adopted in 2004.

While some people think that master plans are set in stone, they are actually guiding documents. Council can choose to move forward with some of the recommendations in these plans, while ignoring others. Council can also shift priorities in these plans, funding “long-term” projects before “short-term” projects. Council could also move forward with projects that are not even in these plans. For example, the City of Langley contributed $8.4 million toward the new Fraser Highway Bridge at 208th Street even though it was not in the previous Master Transportation Plan.

City of Langley Sidewalk Priorities. Select map to enlarge.

One of the most exciting aspects of this plan is that it is heavily focused on improving accessibility for pedestrians in the City. In fact, $10.5 million of the estimated $21.4 million in capital costs in the Master Transportation Plan is to improve walking. The single largest focus of this transportation plan is to ensure that sidewalks are provided on both sides of every street in the City. The plan also suggests funding crosswalk improvements in the community.

While the new Master Transportation Plan talks about the need to widen existing sidewalks in some parts of the community, I don’t see that translated into any funded projects in the Plan.

The plan also recommends installing audible signals, countdown times, and bicycle pushbuttons for most traffic signals in the City.

City of Langley Recommended Bicycle Network. Select map to enlarge.

The proposed enhancements to cycling infrastructure in the new Master Transportation Plan are disappointing. City of Langley Council has a poor track record of improving cycling infrastructure in the community. While the majority of new road projects include bike lanes, Council has consistently denied funding to fill in the cycling network, leaving a patchwork of bike lanes. A network is needed in order for people to actually consider cycling. In order for the majority of people to consider cycling, off-street trails and separated bike lanes are a must. The Master Transportation Plan sets aside $3.7 million for cycling improvements, though most of it is relegated to the “long-term” funding category which is code for “not going to happen anytime soon.”

There is some good news though, the Master Transportation Plan has identified 203rd Street and Michaud Crescent as short-term priorities for bike lanes. I hope that City Council will show some vision and put bike lanes on these corridors as it will allow for at least one north/south cycling corridor and an east/west corridor.

Bike lanes don’t feel safe for seniors, children, or women. To make cycling safer, and to attract more people to cycle in the City, building separated bike lanes is a must, but there are none proposed in the Master Transportation Plan.

The Master Transportation Plan proposes to spend $5.2 million on changes to the road network. Short-term priorities included reconfiguring keys intersection in the City to improve traffic flow for automobiles.

City of Langley Proposed Road Network Changes. Select map to enlarge.

Longer-term projects including spending $1.7 million to widen 200th Street between the Langley Bypass and Fraser Highway. The Plan also suggests advocating for the province to widen the Langley Bypass to six-lanes between 200th Street and Fraser Highway.

One of the more interesting long-term road projects is to realign Grade Crescent for $1.26 million. One of the proposed options would see the City bulldoze people’s homes for this realignment.

50th Avenue/Grade Crescent Realignment Options.

While the City has very little control over transit, as it is the responsibility of TransLink, the Master Transportation Plan identifies $2.0 million in projects. These projects include moving towards making 100% of the City’s 121 bus stops fully accessible for people with disabilities. These projects also include improving bus stop lighting and improving or installing new bus shelters.

If you want to see the full details of the new Master Transportation Plan, the City of Langley has posted it online.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

2014 Residential Development in Surrey

The City of Surrey posts large amounts of data on their website. Sometimes that data can be a bit tricky to find, or needs to be changed into a different format to be better interpreted. Today, I thought I would share new residential development approval stats from January to October of this year. It might surprise you which Surrey neighbourhoods saw more single-family development approvals issued, and which neighbourhoods saw more multi-family development approvals issued. These numbers don’t included previously issued approval, even if those units haven’t been constructed yet.

Total Surrey residential development approvals January thru October, 2014. Select graph to enlarge.

Continue on for more development graphs.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Who will lead the campaign for more transit funding?

With the upcoming referendum on transit funding (in theory) set to occur before June 30, 2015, things are starting to heat up in the campaign to have voters approve a ballot question which will seek more funding to maintain and improve transit in our region.

The first hurtle that must be crossed is actually coming up with a ballot question for the upcoming referendum. Elections BC needs to know the ballot question by mid-December. This means that both Metro Vancouver mayors and the province have only a few more weeks to agree on the ballot question and potential new funding source for transit. The next Mayors’ Council meeting is on December 11th.

Ballot measures asking to increase taxes to fund transit have succeeded in the US when government, business, and labour come together. In BC, it looks like local government leaders will be supporting more transit funding, but the province has so far tried to distance itself from transit in Metro Vancouver.

Since the province forced a referendum on transit in our region, it is a real shame that they are abdicating responsibility to either fund, or advocate for more transit funding. It is really interesting that both former BC Liberal Transportation Minsters Kevin Falcon and Blair Lekstrom do not support a referendum on transit funding.

According to Lekstrom, “Governing by referendum I think is always a difficult position. I'm a believer if you cast your ballot for someone, whether it's for a three or four year term, I'm giving them the ability to make decisions on my behalf and I'll judge their results later. I'm not a huge supporter of governing by referendum.”

While the provincial government is currently non-committal in its support of transit in Metro Vancouver, proponent groups are starting to come together.

The first organization is Moving in a Livable Region. This group is aiming to provide fact-based information about the importance of funding transit in Metro Vancouver. It is a coalition of business, labour, advocacy organizations, and SFU.

Another organization, the Metro Vancouver Alliance, is comprised of 51 faith groups, organized labour, and community groups. It is supported by the BCTF, Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver, IBEW, and Vancity. According to the Alliance they “consider the current regional transit issues as one of the most important topics of concern.” They are calling on all their members to “support the referendum and to rally the people with in each group to then carry that message forward to the communities to seek their support for a successful referendum.”

There are other groups that are supporting a successful referendum outcome to increase transit funding.

My main concern is that there is no leader or group that people can stand behind to support transit. A strong organization to ensure that all the proponents of the upcoming transit referendum are working together will be key for a successful outcome of the referendum.

Monday, November 24, 2014

City of Langley seeks input on parks

The City of Langley is hosting an open house to gather feedback for two parks in the community: Buckley Park and Penzer Park.

City of Langley Parks Map. Select image to enlarge.

The City’s 2013 Parks, Recreation and Culture Master Plan recommends that these parks be upgraded.

Buckley Park – this low-use park has a small play area and two gravel fields under the powerlines, supported by washrooms and a soccer meeting room. The challenges are the low level of the lights due to the powerlines. Options to consider include an improved playground, community gathering space and a perimeter trail.
Penzer Park – this park contains a mountain bike skills park and a sports field, both of which are rarely used. There are significant opportunities to revitalize the bike park through working with user groups such as local youth and the Langley Mountain Bike Association, organizing programs and events at the facility, and placing recreation staff at the bike park.
Options for the sports field need to be identified with input from the community, and could include a sport court, basketball court or other facilities for youth, and a gathering space for youth.

Open House Information:
Date: Wednesday, November 26
Time: 3:30pm to 6:30pm
Location: Simonds Elementary School, 20190 48 Avenue

Coffee, tea and cookies will be provided. Call the City of Langley at 604-514-2997 for more information.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Recycling rates could drop in Metro Vancouver due to provincial meddling

Early this year, I posted about changes to household recycling in BC. In short, recycling used to be managed by municipalities and will now be handled by the private sector. This is part of the province’s Extended Producer Responsibility Program. This program is meant to put the cost of recycling on the companies that produce the things we recycle. Of course producers will just past the cost back to consumers.

Because of this change, recycling for single-family household may actually get better as the new privately run program accepts more items. Sadly, recycling for people that live in apartments, condos, and townhouses could get much worse. This is alarming as the majority of people in Metro Vancouver don’t live in single-family housing.

I live in a condo in the City of Langley. As of this January, if our strata doesn’t purchase “enhanced” recycling service from Multi-Material BC, we will shift from weekly recycling collection to collection every two-weeks. We also won’t be able to recycle glass. If the recycling driver needs to exit his vehicle, “enhanced” service must also be purchased.

I could see some stratas telling people to throw recyclables in the garbage. Metro Vancouver bans recyclables in garbage. Waste haulers could face large fees if recycling is found in their collected garbage.

Some unsavory waste haulers are bypassing this ban by paying other municipalities outside of Metro Vancouver to accept their waste. Some are even sending waste to the US. Metro Vancouver passed Bylaw 280 to prevent this, but it was overturned by the province due to extreme lobbying by some waste haulers.

It would be a shame if close to a quarter-century of efficient recycling is unraveled by provincial meddling in this local issue.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Independent review of this summer's SkyTrain service disruptions released

Yesterday, TransLink released an independent review of SkyTrain operations by McNeil Management Services. TransLink ordered the review after two major shutdowns of the SkyTrain system this summer left thousands of passengers stranded for up to 6 hours at a time.

McNeil noted that while the SkyTrain system's size, staffing, and operating budget has doubled since the system went online in 1986, the number of passengers served per day has quadrupled. According to McNeil, “SkyTrain needs more operating dollars to serve their growing passenger base.” There is not enough staff to deal with evacuating the system during a major service interruption nor is there enough staff to provide good customer service to SkyTrain passengers.

McNeil also looked at the on-time performance of the SkyTrain system. They found that about 50% of delays on the SkyTrain system are due to “false alarms” from its guideway intrusion detection system.

Many of these intrusions were “false” in nature, as they were related to such non-descript activities as birds flying through, or a section of newspaper blowing past, optical sensors.

One of McNeil's major recommendations was to overhaul the guideway intrusion detection system. This overhaul will cost $10 million and take 24 months to complete.

When there is a major disruption to SkyTrain service, TransLink implements bus bridges to get people between SkyTrain stations. Over the past several years, TransLink has been on a provincially mandated quest to become more efficient. During this summer’s SkyTrain shutdown, TransLink only had 20 “road-ready” space buses across the region with little to no staff to operate them. This is a result of becoming more “efficient.”

SkyTrain is a fully automatic system. It uses the SELTRAC control system. When the SkyTrain system was upgraded in 1994, an additional feature was not purchased. This feature allows the SELTRAC system to automatically get the system up and running when there is a major loss of communication.

The current feature set requires the system to be brought manually back online. If TransLink had the auto-restore feature on the SkyTrain system this summer, the service interruptions would have been significantly reduced. It can take up to 5 hours to manually bring the system back online. McNeil recommended that TransLink spend $5 million to add the auto-restore feature to the SkyTrain system.

McNeil recommended 20 changes that would create a more resilient SkyTrain system, with less service interruptions, while also improving customer information during service interruptions.

McNeil recommended investing $15 million over the next several years to enhance the redundancy of the SkyTrain system. McNeil also recommended spending $5 million to install a new CCTV system to allow SkyTrain Control to have viability over the entire SkyTrain network, not just at stations.

McNeil also noted that many of the SkyTrain operating and maintenance procedures are not written down; it is held in the minds of their senior staff. McNeil recommended spending $2 million to transfer this knowledge to paper.

New SkyTrain Bus Bridge Sign at Surrey Central

The most costly recommendations deal with improving customer communications. McNeil recommended spending $15 million over the next 5 years to improve the PA system at stations and on the trains. They also recommended spending $15 million over the next 4 years to enhance information signage at stations.

There are several other recommendations in the review which deal with improving workflow and communication between TransLink operating companies and even local government.

McNeil details the events that led up to the major service interruptions on July 17th and July 21st.

As you may be aware, TransLink has a funding issue. Last night, the Minister of Transportation was asked if he would provide funding to support the recommendations of this independent review. His answer was that it was up to TransLink to figure out how to fund this.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Transit promises made during this election cycle, and the upcoming referendum

During this year’s municipal election campaigns, public transit was one of the major issues being discussed in BC's two largest cities: Vancouver and Surrey.

In Vancouver, the winning Vision Vancouver team promised to make the construction of a Millennium line extension, under Broadway to Arbutus, a priority. They also promised to support the upcoming transit referendum with everything they got.

In Surrey, the winning Surrey First team was even bolder in their promise to deliver rapid transit to the residents of that community.

Mayor Elect Linda Hepner promised light rail on King George and 104th by 2018. Light rail on Fraser Highway would follow. While Surrey First is committed to advocating for a positive outcome for the transit referendum, they have promised to build light rail in the community either way.

Normally transit projects in Metro Vancouver have been funded a third by the region, third by the province, and third by the federal government. With former Surrey First Mayor Dianne Watts moving on to federal politics, I wouldn’t be surprised if the feds would pitch in a billion dollars to fund Surrey light rail. That would leave $1.1 billion to be paid directly by Surrey taxpayers.

As Surrey is in good financial health, I’m certain that the City would be able to absorb the cost of funding the construction of light rail with a long-term loan. The annual operation cost of a Surrey Light Rail system would be $23.2 million per year. If Surrey was to go-it-alone, it would have to come up with an agreement to have a seamless fare system between TransLink buses and SkyTrain, and City of Surrey light rail. Technically this would be possible. For example, the Canada Line works like this as it is operated by a private company. Another example is the Portland Streetcar which is owned by the City of Portland, but is operated by TriMet, its regional transit agency. Politically, TransLink would have to give Surrey its blessing as this is required under current provincial legislation.

All the regions mayors, including Surrey’s, are opposed to using property tax to pay for increased transit service under TransLink. Surrey First’s go-it-alone light rail plan would require $10 to $15 million in additional annual property tax revenue to pay for the operating costs of the system. Surrey has around $600 million in annual operating expenses.

Surrey First’s go-it-alone light rail plan would do nothing to expand bus service in the community. While less sexy than light rail, buses are desperately needed and would still serve the majority of transit users in the city.

Last night, Ministry of Transportation Todd Stone was asked about Surrey’s go-it-alone light rail plan.

Has the province been negotiating with the City of Surrey to build a light rail line? The province is looking forward to working with Mayor elect Hepner and the Mayor's Council

Transit plays an important role in our region. I am happy transit became an election issue in Metro Vancouver’s two largest communities. Both Visions Vancouver and Surrey First politicians need to work hard to ensure our region gets the funding tools need to build transit which will be required to maintain the livability of our region.

Monday, November 17, 2014

I lost the Langley City election, but moving forward with renewed focus to build a better Langley

Two years ago, I decided I would run for Langley City Council. Building an accessible community is something that I’m passionate about. I thought that by being on council, I could be a stronger voice to make my community better.

Running for council is one of the most demanding things that I’ve done in my life; I have a new respect for anyone who make a serious run for local government office.

What I want for Langley and our region are strong downtowns, great parks, and streets that work for people. This is a core part of my identity and is what gets me up in the morning. If you talk to any of my friends, they all know something about sustainable community design whether they wanted to or not.

Running for council, I laid out my vision of what I’d like Langley City to become, I became vulnerable. Would voters in Langley share my visions for the community?

As you many know, I missed getting a seat on Langley City Council by 71 votes. That is a good first run for a 31 year old in Langley City. It wouldn’t have been possible without the help of the over 40 people that donated money to support my campaign, and the 15 people who contributed hundreds of hours of their time to get me this far.

Three incumbents put their names forward for six council seats: Jack Arnold, Dave Hall, and Gayle Martin. Running against an incumbent is a fool’s errand; I didn’t run to unseat any of these people. That left three seats available.

Rudy Storteboom, a previous councillor, narrowly missed retaining his seat on council in 2011. He decided to run for council again. Rudy is well known in the community and I knew he would have no trouble getting back on council again. This left two seats available.

Paul Albrecht, who ran in 2011, got a seat on Saturday. The rest of us running for council where first-timers. Val van den Broek, who worked in the Langley City Community Policing Office and was a running mate with Rudy, also got a seat.

There are two new voices on the council table. I’m excited to see what new perspectives they will bring to the council table.

Missing getting on council by only 71 votes means that there are many people in the community that share my vision. Over the weekend, my phone rang off the hook with people expressing their support and regret that I didn’t get on City Council. I’ve been humbled by the outpouring of support via email and on Facebook. It is because of this support that I feel compelled to run again in 2018. I know with the support of the community, I will close that gap of 71 votes and get a seat on council.

In the meantime, I will be focused on keeping council accountable and working towards building an accessible and walkable community. Sometimes they haven’t. I will work to support Downtown Langley any way that I can. I will also do all that I can to make sure that Brydon Lagoon is restored and we start investing more in our park system.

Regionally, I will do what I can do support a “Yes” result in the upcoming transit referendum. A “Yes” is needed to ensure the liveability of Metro Vancouver.

This will be my last post about the Langley City election, and starting tomorrow the blog will return to regularly scheduled programing.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Vote Nathan Pachal to Langley City Council this Saturday

While all elections are important, this Saturday’s election of a new Langley City Council is particularly special. This will be the first time that citizens will be voting for a council that will serve a four-year term. Also, with only three incumbents running, there will be new voices at the council table.

When I decided to run for Langley City Council last year, it was because I wanted to help make Langley City a better place by bringing fresh, practical ideas to the council table. These ideas are focused on three points: supporting a strong local economy, building an accessible and safe community for all people, and enhancing our park system.

Over the past several months, I have had the chance to talk with many people in our community. I’ve talked with Downtown business owners that want to work with City Hall to make our core an inviting place during the day and during the evening. I will work to form new partnerships with Downtown Langley businesses that support initiatives to enhance our core.

I’ve heard from people that live near Downtown that want to make sure it remains a walkable destination. I will work to support projects and development proposals that will enhance the walkability of Downtown Langley. I will also work to remove barriers that are limiting walkable redevelopment.

I’ve talked with seniors that want safer streets. Slips, trips, and falls are a very real and serious risk for our aging population. I will work to ensure that our sidewalks and walkways are widen and lighting enhanced where needed. I will make sure that our sidewalks remain accessible (even after it snows) and are in a state of great repair.

I’ve talked with families that want streets where they can let their kids walk or ride their bikes to school or to a park. There are some parts of our community where sidewalks are missing, I will work to put a funded program in place to fill in these missing links. The City of Langley has been talking about building safe bike lanes and greenways since I’ve lived in the community. I will work to make this a reality.

I’ve talked with people in the community that are concerned that our streets are turning into speedways. I will work to make sure that our streets truly benefit the whole community whether you live, walk, cycle, or drive on those streets.

Everyone that I’ve talked to wants to see our parks enhanced and their safety improved. I will work to make sure we restore Brydon Lagoon. I will also work to make sure that we install coordinated wayfinding in our park system. I will work to put a funded program in place to enhance the lighting and infrastructure in our parks.

One of the concerns I’ve heard from parents is that they sometimes don’t feel safe in our parks. We must take back our parks for all people. This means ensuring that the City is removing unsafe items that may be discarded in our parks. I will work to form partnerships with the RCMP and volunteer organizations to bring eyes and ears into our parks; criminal activity doesn’t like visibility.

I have been advocating for a better Langley, South of Fraser, and Metro Vancouver for close to a decade. If elected to Langley City Council, I will work with the community, others on council, and city staff to build streets that work, a community that's strong.

Election Day Information

November 15, 2014
Voting from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm
Nicomekl Elementary School
20050 53rd Avenue

Remember to bring your voter card and ID. For more information, please visit the City of Langley’s election FAQ page.

If you have any questions, please email me at or call 778-288-8270.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Remembrance Day at Douglas Park

“Lest we forgot” is a phase that I hear often around Remembrance Day. As time goes on, memories fade away; will people forgot the huge sacrifices made —lives lost and families torn apart— by World War I, II, and other conflicts?

People starting to gather for the Remembrance Day Ceremony at Douglas Park

Yesterday, I attended the Remembrance Day Ceremony at Douglas Park. Downtown Langley is the core of our community, a place where we can celebrate and a place where we can remember.

There was an air flyover, the signing of hymns and our National Anthem, and the laying of wreaths. The most powerful moment for me was the long period of silence, hearing nothing but the wind blowing through the trees and flags while looking at the cenotaph.

I saw people from all walks of life and all ages —parents walking with their children— gathered in the heart of our community. In Langley, we did not forget.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Article on transit in Metro Vancouver, and why I co-authored Lead Ahead

Back in the fall of 2013, Paul Hillsdon and I released Leap Ahead, a transit plan for Metro Vancouver. It got the attention of our local governments, the province, and the media. It also caught the attention of Chris Lane.

Chris was completing his masters in journalism at the time. He decided to do his master’s thesis —a feature length article— on the plight of public transit in Metro Vancouver. He recently complete his thesis and it is now available online.

Pachal isn’t a politician or an urban planner, but a 30-year-old broadcast engineer who decided to do what noncommittal politicians were too timid to do, by putting together his own regional transit plan – in his spare time. It’s a fully costed plan to pay for 38 kilometres of SkyTrain and light rail lines, eight new express bus routes, a gondola, and upgrades to the existing network – which he says are all sorely needed.

Chris interviewed me several times between when Leap Ahead was launched, and when his article was completed in April.

In the article, Chris talked about the leadership vacuum in our region when it comes to improving public transit. He also outlined proposed rapid transit lines, and several ways to pay for them. Chris noted the important benefits of transit. He also explained how the transit referendum came into existence due to “one rarely-mentioned part of the election campaign of Christy Clark’s BC Liberals.”

TransLink has an image problem. Chris interviewed anti-TransLink crusader Jordan Bateman, and talked about how the TransLink brand may end up hurting the effort to expand transit in Metro Vancouver.

Chris also outlined how I got involved in advocating for better transit in our region.

Pachal traces his interest in urban planning a few years back to a trip to Portland’s world-famous Powell’s bookstore, which is large enough to have an entire section on urban planning. He was fascinated.

Chris interviewed me and completed a video called “Doing something about it.”

The article is well worth the read; it gives a great overview of the history and present state of transit in Metro Vancouver, and what the future may hold.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The transit ballot measure in Seattle, and the upcoming transit referendum in Metro Vancouver

Last night, I was on Global BC 1 talking about transit funding in Seattle and what it could mean for Metro Vancouver.

In Seattle, like most parts of the US, citizens vote for everything. When Americans go to the polls, they are greeted with a booklet. What we call a referendum in Canada is a ballot measure in the US. Referendums in Canada are a big deal while ballot measures in the US are as routine as voting for a City Councillor.

As ballot measures are routine in the US, there is a strong system in place to advocate for or against a measure. In Canada, we don’t this system in place for referendums which are rare events.

Transit ballot measures overwhelming succeed in the US. The Center for Transportation Excellence tracks transportation ballot measure outcomes. Over the last few years, transit ballot measures have had a 71% to 79% success rate.

In Seattle, Metro Transit was looking at reducing transit service even as transit ridership grew. This was due to a drop in tax revenue as a result of the economic recession.

Washington State has “transportation benefit districts.” These districts allow citizens to vote for vehicle registration levies to pay for transportation systems. Local governments are also allowed to have a voter-approved local sales tax.

A few nights ago, Seattle citizens voted in favour of a 0.1% local sales tax increase plus a $60 per year vehicle levy to fund not only maintaining existing bus service, but to increase bus service in the city.

A group “Yes for Buses!” was formed and had the backing of local government officials, corporations, community organizations, and small business in support of the ballot measure. The US a history of direct democracy and systems in place to inform citizens and “get out the vote.”

In Metro Vancouver, the provincial government has forced a referendum on transit funding upon Metro Vancouver. I have three concerns about the provincially imposed referendum.

We don’t have the systems in place nor the experience in running a pro-transit funding campaign. In Canada, we let our elected officials make the hard decisions. If we don’t like their choices, we vote them out.

In the US, transit ballot measures are usually championed at the local government level. This isn’t the case in Metro Vancouver, it is being imposed on the region. Mayors don’t want a referendum and now even former Transportation Minster Kevin Falcon is hinting that a transit referendum is a bad idea.

What happens if the Metro Vancouver transit referendum fails? In Seattle and King County, voter rejected funding Metro Transit in April. Local leaders went back to the drawing board; Seattle voted to increase transit funding on November 4th.

While I believe our region supports improving transit, a referendum on transit is a bad idea. In the US, there are systems in place for ballots measures. In Canada, we don’t have these systems in place. If the referendum fails in Metro Vancouver what is plan B?

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Building a pedestrian network in the City of Langley

Over the last few weeks, I have visited many parts of the City of Langley knocking on doors and handing out postcards in my bid for a spot at the Langley City Council table. As someone who has always lived north of the Nickomekl Floodplain, I don’t frequently walk in many of the areas south of the floodplain.

One of the reason why I’m running for council is because I want to see Langley become a more walkable community. In order for people to feel safe walking, our sidewalks and trail system needs to be continuous and in a state of good repair. One thing that I’ve noticed is the sidewalks don’t exist at all, or abruptly end, in some parts of the City. In order for people to feel safe walking, the City will need to invest in adding sidewalks in some areas, and repair or even widen sidewalks in others parts of the community.

Walking must be convenient. I snapped the follow picture of one of the many pedestrian access ways throughout Langley City.

One of the many unmarked pedestrian/cycling access ways in the City of Langley

There are many access ways and trails throughout the City that actually make it easy to get around without driving. Sadly wayfinding is poor to non-existent, and some access ways and trails feel unsafe.

Comprehensive wayfinding is needed to help guide people to schools, parks, the Nickomekl Floodplain, and Downtown Langley. Over time, a maintenance schedule should be developed to keep these access ways and trails clear. Unsafe trails and access ways need to be identified, with recommendation made on how to improve safety.

Focusing on enhancing the safety and accessibility of the Nickomekl Floodplain trail system is a priority for me, but focus must also be put on all access ways and trails in the City.

While it won’t happen overnight, my vision for Langley includes a complete, safe, and accessible pedestrian network. Dollar for dollar investing in walking is the most cost effective way to improve transportation in a community.