Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Parking, roads, and density in Willoughby

Last month, there was an article in the Langley Times about residents in Willoughby who went to the Township Hall because of the removal of “temporary” parking along 80th Avenue, which is designated as a major thoroughfare, and the increased speed of traffic as a result of the widening. To me, this brings up several issues which need to be addressed.

People like the idea of high-speed roads that get them quickly from point A to point B, but they only like those high-speed roads when they don’t go through their own neighbourhoods. And who really would want a high-speed road going through their community? Would you really want to have your yard fronting 200th Street or Highway 10? High-speed roads create noise pollution, air pollution, and vibration which reduce the quality of life of people living near these high-speed roads, and also increases the risk of chronic health conditions. Furthermore, high-speed roads increase the risk of fatalities of all roads users: motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians. How many parent wouldn’t have issues allowing a child to cross 200th Street? That fact that no one wants a high-speed road through their neighbourhood really points to the fact that we understand, deep-down, that an auto-oriented community is not a good thing. I am sure people in Willoughby will not be impressed when some sections of 208th Street are widened to 6-lanes.

On the flip side, people are willing to pay a premium to live in a walkable community. Think of Fort Langley. There are no high-speed roads through that community, and the removal of the Albion Ferry and its associated traffic improved the livability of that community. Walkable communities also support transit and cycling, and it’s no surprise that people are willing to pay a premium to live near high-quality transit.

One of the other issues in Willoughby is parking. It is interesting that people blame density as the root cause of parking problems, but the root cause is that driving is the only transportation option in Willoughby. Of course single-family home residents like blaming townhouse residents for parking problems. Just as townhouse residents like blaming apartment residents for parking problems. Having lived in all three types of housing in Langley, it is likely illegal secondary suites in single family homes that are causing parking problems in a number of cases, as well as people converting their garages in single-family housing and townhouses into habitable space or storage. In fact, apartment residents are the best behaved because it is virtually impossible to transform assigned, shared parking into anything else. The point is that everyone is part of the parking problem, but there is a solution.

People like an even playing field, and the Township of Langley will never be able to remove all the illegal conversion of garage space and secondary suites in the community. Many communities with limited parking in residential areas introduce permit parking. As I’ve said in the past, the Township of Langley needs to seriously consider the introduction of permit parking systems in residential areas with parking difficulties. The system should be funding on a cost-recovery basis which each household being able to purchase 1 or 2 annual permits from the Township for their area. If people don’t need the permits they could sell or give them to people that do. It would be like cap and trade, but for parking. Of course, even with permit parking, short-term visitor parking would be allowed without a permit. This is nothing new and has been used successfully in community throughout North America.

The challenge in Willoughby today is that up until a few years ago, it was designed as an auto-oriented community. With the introduction of the transit village around the new park and ride, and walkable nodes at key intersections, the Township has a chance to correct this mistake. These nodes will also support increased transit which Willoughby desperately needs. Many people see density as the problem in Willoughby, but the really problem is that it is an auto-oriented community. While residential areas in Willoughby can support transit, the commercial areas are still very much auto-oriented. Building walkable nodes that support a multi-modal transportation system throughout Willoughby is the solution, I can only hope that Township Council understands this and doesn’t make any knee-jerk decisions.

1 comment:

eric said...

Here in Sydney it is a positive thing that cycling is one of the famous mode of transportation. Not only is it cost-effective, it promotes healthy living too. People take cycling seriously here and not just as a form of exercise. Commuters use bicycles for their daily work routine and it has become a norm here. Most companies have implemented cyclist-friendly facilities like shower rooms and bike storage areas to better cater to the crowd.