Thursday, May 29, 2014

Application to excluded 50 acres of farmland in Aldergrove

When it comes to getting land removed from the Agricultural Land Reserve in the Township of Langley, it appears that if you are persistent enough, you will succeed. The perfect example is the Wall Financial single-family housing project which is now part of the “University District”.

For many years, the Township of Langley has been trying to exclude land from the Agricultural Land Reserve around Aldergrove. The Township’s justification is that there currently isn’t enough space to make Aldergrove a viable town centre. In 1996, the Township applied to the Agricultural Land Commission to exclude a swath of land around Aldergrove from the Reserve, but was denied.

In the latest regional growth strategy, the Township was able to get Metro Vancouver to expand the Urban Growth Boundary around Aldergrove. While this land is now approved by Metro Vancouver for urban development, much of it remains protected within the Agricultural Land Reserve.

One land owner in Aldergrove has been trying to exclude 50 acres from the Agricultural Land Reserve for over a decade. The land is located along the southeastern edge of Aldergrove. The Agricultural Land Commission denied the application for exclusion in 2001, 2006, and 2010.

2620 272 Street, the site of an application to exclude 50 acres of land from the Agricultural Land Reserve.

The land owner is once again trying to get this land excluded from the Reserve. With supportive policies in place from the Township of Langley and Metro Vancouver, the only barrier to the conversion of farmland to housing is the Agricultural Land Commission. To sweeten the deal, the owner is proposing to apply to the Land Commission to include 26 acres of land near Dewdney in Maple Ridge, and contribute money to the Township’s Agricultural Benefit Contribution fund. It will be interesting to see what the Land Commission says about the revised proposal by the land owner.

With continued and relentless pressure to urbanize farmland in Metro Vancouver, a strong Agricultural Land Commission is needed to protect the region from itself. With the provincial government's overhaul of the Agricultural Land Reserve, I only hope that is does not open the floodgates to development of farmland in our region.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Proposed spending of Federal Gas Tax Fund by TransLink

The Government of Canada introduced the Federal Gas Tax Fund in 2005 as a way to support local infrastructure in Canada. In 2013, the fund was made permanent with funding increasing by 2% per year.

In all provinces but BC, provincial governments are responsible for the management of the funds. In BC, the Union of British Columbia Municipalities is responsible for the management of the funds. In Metro Vancouver a special agreement is in place to send 95% of the funds to TransLink. These funds can be used for roads and public transit.

In 2014, TransLink will be getting $114 million from the Gas Tax Fund. As parts of the funding agreement, TransLink must get approval from the region to spend these funds via Metro Vancouver (the coalition of local government in our region.)

TransLink uses these funds to keep our transit system in a state of good repair. Earlier this year, I posted that some mayors were grumbling that the funds weren’t being used for transit expansion. Without new, stable operation funding for TransLink, funding transit expansion with the Gas Tax Fund would be foolish as there would no funding to actually provide service.

Funding new infrastructure without funding the maintenance and replacement of existing infrastructure is bad news. It results in the degradation of existing service, increased operation expenses, and may result in the failure of existing infrastructure.

Portland used most of their funding to build light rail at the expense of their bus network. They basically ran their currently buses into the ground which increased operation costs and negativity impacted the reliability of bus service. Portland’s TriMet is finally allocating funding to start replacing their old buses.

In Chicago, the speed of its rapid transit system continued to slow due to a lack of ongoing maintenance. Chicago’s CTA is now rebuilding much of its existing rapid transit infrastructure, but has needed to shut down whole sections of their system at a time to do this.

In Metro Vancouver, we have stable funding to ensure that our current transit infrastructure is in a state of good repair. This means that the quality of both rail and bus service can be maintained while operating costs can be kept as low as possible. This leaves more money available to expand transit service in the future.

Earlier this month, TransLink submitted its list of projects that it would like to fund out of the Gas Tax Fund to Metro Vancouver’s Transportation Committee. The list includes:

$100.4 Million of the Gas Tax Fund for Bus Replacement
-26 Articulated hybrid buses
-52 Articulated buses (fuel technology tba)
-54 Conventional buses (fuel technology tba)

$4.7 Million of the Gas Tax Fund for Trolley Bus Overhead Power Rectifier Replacement
-Replaces equipment that provides power to trolley buses near Metrotown

$4.5 Million of the Gas Tax Fund for Automated Train Control Equipment Replacement
-Replaces 29 year old equipment that controls the Expo Line.

$4 Million of the Gas Tax Fund to Retrofit the Surrey Transit Centre
-Allows compress natural gas buses to operate in the South of Fraser.

While none of these projects are particularly sexy, they will allow the continued reliable operation of transit in Metro Vancouver.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Density not key for well-used, frequent transit service

One of the things that we are constantly told in Metro Vancouver is that transit needs density to be successful. Many people have taken this as gospel true, but I have always questioned the correlation between transit usage and density.

In my observations, transit ridership has a stronger correlation with frequency and the directness of transit routes. For example, a route that runs in a straight line with service every 15 minutes or better will have higher ridership than a route that runs every hour and loops around an area (all other things being equal.) One of the other things I’ve observed about successful transit routes is that they contain a variety of land-uses along the corridors they serve. This doesn’t mean that the corridor needs to be full of mixed-use buildings with shops on the ground-level and office or residential above (it does help), but a route must passes through residential areas and commercial areas. Finally, a transit route with strong ridership will connect to other transit routes with frequent, direct service.

In Metro Vancouver, the 502 bus that runs along Fraser Highway is the perfect example of how density doesn’t drive ridership, but the other attributes that I mentioned do. When I was in Los Angeles and Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia a few weeks ago, my observations about transit ridership were further enforced.

Sepulveda Boulevard in a major corridor that runs north/south through the Los Angeles area. This corridor is served by both local bus service and B-Line-type bus service. The southern terminus of the transit corridor is LAX and the northern terminus is UCLA. It takes about an hour to go from one end of the route to the other. Along the way, the route passes through single-family housing, walk-up apartments, a regional shopping mall, and many commercial strips. The density of along this corridor is similar to Fraser Highway, yet supports frequent local transit service and frequent express transit service.

Public transit in Middleton, Nova Scotia. Population 1,700. Bus with standing-room only. Select image to enlarge.

To take this idea even further, the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia has a population of about 123,000. The Valley is rural with small communities of between 300-2000 mostly located along the Route 1 highway, a two-lane road. It takes about 3 – 4 hours of driving 100km/h to get from one end of the Valley to the other. While at a completely different scale, there is a variety of land-use along the corridor and the transit service runs in a straight line. Every in this extremely rural area, transit services is provided at least every hour and there is even express bus service.

Saying that Surrey or Langley doesn’t have the density to support frequent transit service is just an excuses to not provide transit service to the area. I’m not going to beat-up TransLink about the lack of transit service in some parts of the South of Fraser as they are barely keeping up with demand in Vancouver. But once stable funding is found for the system, I don’t want to hear the excuse that lack of density is the reason for not providing frequent service in the South of Fraser.

I should point out that in the South of Fraser Area Transit Plan, TransLink has recognized the benefit of running direct transit routes and has been slowly straightening out routes in the sub-region.

Monday, May 26, 2014

New Cycling Facilities

Over the weekend, I received invitations to the grand opening of some new cycling facilities in Metro Vancouver. I thought I would share them with you.

Back in 2011, I posted about how the Township of Langley applied for a grant to expand the Fort to Fort Trail. With this connection now complete, you could walk or cycling along a continuous trail from Green Timbers via Tynehead, Golden Ears Way, and the Fort to Fort trail to Fort Langley.

The grand opening ceremony for this new connection will be held on International Trails Day:

Saturday, June 7, 2014
Ceremony 10:00 a.m.
Corner of 201 Street and 102 Avenue, Langley

You can get to the ceremony by cycling along the trail from Derby Reach Regional Park, taking a free shuttle from Derby Reach Regional Park, or driving and parking on the street near the ceremony site. This trail is also part of the Trans Canada Trail system.

Inside new secure parking at Main Street-Science World SkyTrain station. Source: TransLink Buzzer Blog.

In other cycling news, TransLink has been busy upgrading Main Street-Science World Station. As part of the upgrades, TransLink has installed a large, secure bike parking room. The fee for use is $1 per day to a maximum of $8 per month. Access and billing is via an access card. TransLink has a page on their website where you can sign up for an access card and find more information about parking your bike at Main Street-Science World SkyTrain Station.

City of Langley Street of the Year Nominations

When I've walked through Langley City, I’ve seen various “Street of the Year” signs along some streets in the community. I honestly didn’t think that this award still existed, but I received a news release for 2014 Street of the Year nominations last week.

You can nominate a street by emailing or mailing: Langley City Hall at 20399 Douglas Crescent, City of Langley, BC, V3A 4B3. You must include:

-The name of the street
-A photo of the street
-A 50-word or less description of what makes the street special
-Nominator’s name and contact information

The winning street will be announced at the City of Langley Community Day Celebration on June 21. A “Street of the Year” must:

-Looks clean and well-kept
The street is free from litter, has well-maintained boulevards (including grass or other plantings) and conveys an overall feeling of ownership and pride.

-Demonstrates a sense of community
A sense of community may be evidenced in any number of ways, including through organized block parties and neighbourhood watch groups, or by having extra helpful neighbours.

-Displays unique features
Unique features may include both physical and non-physical features that make a street stand out as a special place.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Township Staff endorse grade-separated rail rapid transit for Langley

About a month ago, South of Fraser municipalities released a report call “South of Fraser LRT & Transit Investment Needs: Moving Towards the Regional Transit Average.” I posted about this report at the end of April.

The City of Surrey has been advocating for light rail as the preferred technology for rapid transit in the South of Fraser. Traditionally light rail is operated by humans and as a result, it can run at-grade with at-grade intersection crossings. It can also be grade-separated like SkyTrain. Because SkyTrain is automated, it must be grade-separated. Grade-separation is costly and is one of the reasons why SkyTrain costs more to build than traditional light rail.

Township of Langley Council received this report at their last council meeting to endorse and submit to the TransLink Mayors’ Council. As it currently stands, rail rapid transit is not being planned for the Township of Langley.

Given the higher cost of grade-separation and the fact that rail rapid transit is not currently being considered for the Township of Langley, I was surprised that Township of Langley staff “indicated that the portions of rail rapid transit within Langley should be grade-separated.” Township’s staff reasoning is that it should be grade-separated because rail rapid transit has to cross “several Major Road Network (MRN) roads, Provincial Highway 10 and the Canadian Pacific (CP) rail line.”

Rail rapid transit is being considered for the City of Langley. While it certainly makes sense that some rail rapid transit crossings would need to be grade-separated, does that mean that the whole section of system that will run through the City of Langley needs to be grade-separated? Without detailed Engineering work, it is too early to know, but grade-separated rail is a costly prospect.

The Province has given the TransLink Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation until the end of June to come up with an investment plan and funding solution for the upcoming transit referendum. Based on a primary map, it looks like the investment plan is going to be very similar to the “Leap Ahead” transit plan that Paul Hillsdon and I released in the fall. Paul posted the following map which I am sharing. As you can see, bus rapid transit is currently being planned for the Township of Langley.

Mayors Transit Plan includes 14 B-Lines, upgrading routes 9, 20, 41, 100, 106, 130, 135, 228, 239, 319, 430, 595, 701. Source: Paul Hillsdon, 1:29 PM on May 2nd, 2014

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Vancouver’s fantastic transit network

This time last week, Global BC posted a video of Premier Christy Clark and her views on transit and the Massey tunnel. Anyone who has taken the 99 B-Line along the Broadway Corridor, the 502 along Fraser Highway, or even the SkyTrain during rush hour can attest to being passed up or seeing people being passed due to transit congestion. If you are the single occupant of a vehicle driving the opposite direction of peak travel through the Massey Tunnel, you will also experience congestion.

Back in the fall of 2012, TransLink stated it would begin “optimizing” transit service. With no funding to expand existing transit service, TransLink has been redistributed transit service hours around the region. This means that some parts of the region are getting less service to help manage transit congestion in other parts of the region. It really is a zero-sum game as transit success is dependent on frequency, and while TransLink might be able to keep up with demand on some transit routes, the overall quality of the system is suffering. This is reflected in the latest ridership stats from TransLink.

As I pointed out in 2012 for road users, delay and maximized road usage is considered a bad thing; delay+utiliziation=cost. For transit users, delay and maximized transit usage is considered a good thing; delay+utilization=efficiency. Not being able to go at least 10km/h over the posted speed limit is seen as congestion on highway, yet the same people will complain if every square meter of a bus isn’t packed.

It seem this view is also the view of our Premier:

“Vancouver has a fantastic transit network, it has room to grow, it’s not perfect, I understand that. But boy, for anyone that sits in that Massey Tunnel, it feels a lot less perfect than Vancouver’s system.”

I have to wonder if the Premier has even taken transit during rush hour. I would invite her to take transit from UBC to Downtown Langley at 4:30pm any weekday, I wonder if her views on our “fantastic” transit network would change?

We certainly do have a great transit system, but it is becoming increasingly congested. There are also major service gaps in the South of Fraser. While highways certainly play an important role in our transportation system, they only go so far. In order to enable the continued economic growth of Metro Vancouver, accommodate population growth, and give people a way out of congestion, transit combined with investing in walking and cycling infrastructure is the only solution. When places like car-loving Los Angles are embracing transit, it means investing in transit is important.

Major urban regions are the economic engines of the 21st Century and transit opens up economic development. Since the provincial government has effectively dropped the ball on transit in Metro Vancouver, I fear for the continued livability and economic productivity of our region. I just hope the province stops playing games with transit in our region.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

City of Langley on the hook $1 million for overpass. $16.75 million spent to date on overpasses.

If you’ve been along the Langley Bypass, you’ll have noticed that a series of overpasses has been built. These overpasses have been built in response to increased rail traffic along the Roberts Bank Rail Corridors which links Port Metro Vancouver’s facilities in Delta/Tsawwassen with the main CN and CP rail network.

The first overpass built was the 204th Street Overpass. Announced in 2005, the overpass opened in May 2007. The $36.9 million project was mostly funded by TransLink with the City of Langley contributing $8.45 million to the project.

In June 2007, the Roberts Bank Rail Corridor Program was announced. This program would fund more overpass construction as a way to mitigate the congestion caused by rail traffic. The program was funded by the federal government, the province, Port Metro Vancouver, TransLink, municipal government, and railway companies.

As part of the Program, the City of Langley contributed $8.3 million to the $121.5 million “Combo Project” (a series of overpasses at 192nd Street, 54th Avenue and 196th Street.) This project is about 2/3 complete.

In total, the City of Langley has contributed $16.75 million to building overpasses. Combined with the new Fraser Highway Bridge near the Langley Bypass/208th Street which the City contributed $8.4 million towards, the City of Langley’s largest projects in recent memory have been overpasses and bridges. To put thing into context, the City of Langley normal spend about $10 million per year on capital projects.

In fact only the proposed $14.3 million Timm Community Centre replacement, of which little is known, will exceed the cost of a single overpass or bridge. With this kind of spending, other projects like improving sidewalks, cycling facilities, and cleaning up the public realm have been deferred.

These overpasses may not even result in reduced congestion due to rail traffic. Right now about 22 trains per day go through Langley. With proposed port expansion plans, the number of train per day could increase to 60. This would effectively cut off Fraser Highway, 200th Street, and sections of the Langley Bypass to through traffic.

While the 204th Street Overpass was the first to open in 2007, the City is still paying for that project. The City expropriated land for the project and one of the land owners challenged this in court. The court decided that the City of Langley must now pay an additional $2,026,360 including legal costs to the land owner. The province will pick up half the tab, but the City must pay an additional $1 million. This is $1 million that now can’t be spent on other capital projects.

Whether you think that building overpasses are a good thing or bad, one thing for sure is that they are costly and have diverted funds from other projects.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Accessible City Design: Request-to-Cross Buttons

Back last fall, I posted how little things can have a big impact on the walkability and the promotion of active transportation. In Downtown Surrey, I noted the introduction of a controlled, mid-block pedestrian/cyclist crossing along King George Boulevard.

In the South of Fraser, when you pull up to an intersection with a traffic light, in a car, the light automatically changes; there is no need to get out of your car to push a request-to-cross button. As a cyclist, even in areas with bike lanes, you usually have to go onto the sidewalk to push the pedestrian request-to-cross button. Besides being an inconvenience, it sends a message that cycling is a second-class mode of transportation. Vancouver puts cyclist request-to-cross buttons near the street for easy access and I’m even starting to see this in Downtown Surrey. These cyclist request-to-cross buttons are completely missing in both the City and Township of Langley. This is interesting because even people who ride horses have specially installed push-to-cross buttons in South Langley.

You would think that pedestrian request-to-cross buttons would be conveniently located for pedestrians, but this isn’t always the case. In many areas in Downtown Langley, the buttons are located on the main traffic light pole which can be some distance from the actual intersection crosswalk. Sometime due to the orientation of the intersection and the traffic light pole, there can even be confusion as to which button requests what crosswalk (i.e. at non-perpendicular intersections). While this is inconvenient for even a fully able-bodied person, it is a major hassle for people with mobility issues. It also sends a message that walking isn’t an important mode of transportation.

Easy to access request-to-cross button in Los Angeles.

When I was in Los Angeles, I was pleasantly surprised that most intersections provided easy access to the request-to-cross button. While walkability and Los Angeles aren’t normally top of mind, it seems that the City has put thought into improving accessibility within the community. If Los Angeles can improve the pedestrians and cyclist experience at intersections, surely we can do this in places like Downtown Langley.

While it may seem silly to be focusing on request-to-cross buttons, it really is little things that can make active transportation more appealing and send the signal that active transportation is a priority for a municipality.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Winning the Transit Referendum: Notes from Toronto

Like Vancouver, Toronto needs improved public transit in the region. Metrolinx, the agency responsible for building major transit projects and running the regional GO Transit network, has a $50 billion plan called The Big Move to improve transportation in the region. It is heavily focused on expanding transit. So far about 1/3 of the plan is funded.

A coalition called Move the GTHA which includes business, government, and NGOs is avocation for long-term, stable funding to be put in place by the provincial government to allow the full realization of the Big Move vision. This group is similar to the Moving in a Livable Region Coalition in Metro Vancouver.

While the Ontario provincial government is not having a referendum, the type of information that Move the GTHA provides to the general public should be the same kind of material that is provided to the general public in Metro Vancouver as we lead up to the referendum.

When looking at the information material, you’ll notices a few things. The material focuses on the need for new funding for transit and its benefits. Most important, it centres around how transit will improve the quality of life for people in Greater Toronto. One of the things you’ll notices missing is lines on a map or a focus on specific transit projects.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Westwood Village: from free to paid parking

Yesterday I posted about Old Pasadena, a historic district that was on the decline in the Greater Los Angeles area. As noted in the book “The High Cost of Free Parking” by Donald Shoup, businesses and the City of Pasadena developed a parking policy that transformed the area for the better.

In his book Shoup compared Old Pasadena to Westwood Village, a walkable historic district just south of UCLA and bordered by Wilshire Boulevard. Wilshire is a major transit corridor in LA. Shoup used Westwood Village as an example of how parking policy can have a negative effect on an area.

While Old Pasadena went from “free” on-street parking to pay parking and built parkades with ground-level retail, using parking revenue to improve the public realm, Westwood Village did the opposite.

Businesses in Westwood Village thought that the lack of “free” on-street parking was the primary reason for the area’s decline. In the 1990s, they lobbied the City to reduce on-street parking pricing from $1 per hour to $0.50 per hour. Also, there was no charge for parking after 6pm and on Sunday. This did not improve the situation and made matters worse. Shoup pointed out that the underpricing of on-street parking caused massive congestion in the area and lead people to believe there was no parking in Westwood Village. Off-street parking lots cost more than on-street parking, so while people thought that there was no place to park in Westwood Village, off-street lots had excess capacity.

At the same time, the public realm in Westwood Village was falling apart with broken sidewalks and dirty streets. When Shoup published his book in 2005, things were not looking good for the area, but things changed.

In 2011, businesses in the area formed the Westwood Village Improvement Association. The association assesses a levy on property in the area and uses the revenue to improve the public realm. For example, the association has rebuilt 10,000 square feet of sidewalk and has implemented a program, like in Old Pasadena, to clean up the streets.

The City of LA owns a public parkade in the heart of Westwood Village. The first two-hours of parking is free, with fees kicking in after that. This was not well known. The Westwood Village Improvement Association is implementing a wayfinding plan to point people to the City’s parkade. At the same time, the City has increased the price of on-street parking in the area to $1 per hour and extended the hours that parking is enforced with a focus on Friday and Saturday evenings.

The City of Los Angeles has been piloting a demand-based parking system in Downtown LA called LA Express Park. It uses intelligent meters which allows people to go online and find were on-street parking is available. It also allows the City to adjust the price of parking to ensure there is about 1 or 2 available parking spaces in each block.

The Westwood Village Improvement Association advocated to the City of Los Angeles to expand this program to Westwood Village. They were successful and this pilot program is coming to Westwood Village.

It is interesting to see that merchants went from wanting to have free on-street parking to lobbying for demand-based priced parking.

I had a chance to walk around Westwood Village when I was in LA last week. I noticed that things were improving in the area with many new stores opening. I still noticed that on-street parking was a bit of a mess, but the demand-based parking system should improve things.

Looking at Westwood Village and Old Pasadena it appears that a successful, walkable town centre needs to get a few things right. One is to make sure that its built form promotes walking, this means having mixed-use buildings and shops that front the street. It also mean building a great public realm with well-kept sidewalks and “clean streets.” The second is to get parking right.

On-street parking should be priced to ensure that some spaces are always available. Also an off-street public parking facility (that includes ground-level retail that front the street) with incentivise for people to use it is required.

If these policy can work in Greater Los Angeles, they can certainly work in places in Metro Vancouver.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Old Pasadena

Over the past week, I was in the Los Angeles area and Nova Scotia. I will be posting about some of my observations over the next little while. Today, I want to talk about Old Pasadena.

Last year I read the book “The High Cost of Free Parking” by Donald Shoup, Professor of Urban Planning at UCLA. This book transformed how I thought about parking and parking policy. I’ve talked about his book on previous posts. One of the case studies that Shoup used in his book is Old Pasadena.

Pasadena is about 16km east of downtown Los Angeles. Originally an agricultural community, the arrival of the railway and streetcars at the turn of the 20th century helped created a bustling town centre. Like many downtowns and town centres, by the 1980s, the area was in serious decline. Many of the businesses in what is now called Old Pasadena were marginal and Old Pasadena was not the place most people wanted to live or shop.

Starting in the 1980s, there was a movement to preserve Old Pasadena’s historic buildings and redevelop the community into a vibrant, walkable centre. One of the challenges in Old Pasadena was a perceived lack of parking. Like many areas with “free”, time limited parking, employees and business owners played musical car parking to ensure they could park for free all day at the expense of potential customers. According to Shoup, the City of Pasadena and local businesses came up with a solution that would help relieve the parking issue and pay for sprucing up Old Pasadena.

The City initially took out a $5 million loan to pay for improving the public realm. They also used the loan to help literally clean up the streets. All the money collected from the parking meters would be used to improve Old Pasadena. Today, the Old Pasadena Management District receives funding from parking revenue to help with the upkeep of Old Pasadena.

Part of the plan was to also build parkades in Old Pasadena for longer-term parking and to reduce the need for on-site parking which can destroy walkability by creating surface parking lots and preventing reuse of older building. In Old Pasadena today, parking is free for the first 90 minutes in its public parkades and $2 for each additional hour to a $6 daily maximum. Monthly parking is also available. On-street parking is $0.75 to $1.25 per hour with no time limit.

Shoup credits Old Pasadena’s parking policy as the primary reason for the revitalization of that community. Old Pasadena is also on the MTA Gold Light Rail Line.

Me at a parking meter in Old Pasadena. Click image to enlarge. Meter text notes that money collected is used to improve the area.

During my trip to LA, I had the chance to visit a friend who lives in South Pasadena. We decided to go to Old Pasadena for lunch. I wanted to see with my own eyes what Shoup talked about in his book. I meet at my friend’s house and we drove into Old Pasadena. One of the interesting things I noted was that like most people parking, we went straight to one of the parkades. There was no cruising for on-street parking. This is important because cruising for on-street parking is a major source of congestion.

One of the other things I notices was that all the parkades actually looked nice and they all had ground-level retail. From my observations, it seems that Old Pasadena’s parking policy is working. On top of that, the public realm in Old Pasadena was in great shape.

So what lessons from Old Pasadena can be used in places like Downtown Langley? For one, it is critical that money be invested in the public realm to attract redevelopment. Pasadena was able to do this by installing parking meters in Old Pasadena and leveraging that funding to improve the area.

Secondly, where there is perceived lack of parking, pricing parking should be considered. For on-street parking Shoup recommends that parking should be priced to ensure about 1 or 2 empty parking spaces per block. Many of the same issues in Old Pasadena can be seen in places like Downtown Langley. The current on-site parking requirements in Downtown Langley limit redevelopment potential.

Finally, to help with redevelopment and improve walkability, a central parkade following the example of places like Old Pasadena should be built.

Old Pasadena is a great example of how smart parking policy can transform a community for the better.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Vacation Alert

I am on holiday this week in Los Angeles and then Nova Scotia. I will be back posting on May 12th.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Southlands in Delta

Just as the Township of Langley has its controversial University District, the Corporation of Delta has its controversial Southlands project. But unlike the Township of Langley which fought the regional planning process, Delta is following regional process to change land use from agricultural to urban.

Proposed Regional Growth Strategy Land Use Designation Changes. Select map to enlarge.

The Southlands development proposal encompasses 217.5 hectares of land that is currently designated agricultural under regional zoning. The proponent is seeking to designated 59.7 hectares for urban use, 42.2 hectares for conservation and recreation use, with the reaming 115.6 hectares remaining agricultural. In total, 950 residential units varying from single family to three storey apartments are proposed to be built along 80,000 square feet of commercial (including a mixed-use village.)

Proposed Land Uses for the Southlands Site. Select map to enlarge.

The interesting thing about the Southlands project is that the land was removed from the Agricultural Land Reserve in the 1980s, but was a third-rail issue in Delta politics. Projects in the past have been proposed, but none have moved forward.

What convinced Delta to support this proposal was that the proponent of Southlands plans to give 172 hectares, about 80% of the project area, to Delta for agriculture, natural habitat, public open space and greenways. The proponent also plans to provide $9 million to Delta for improving agricultural drainage and irrigation for the agricultural land in Southlands.

Metro Vancouver is holding a public hearing on the Southlands development proposal at 11am this morning. More information on the public hearing and the Southlands proposal can be found on their website. The proponent of Southlands also has a website on the proposal.

At the end of the day will agricultural be improved in Delta because of this project? Delta thinks so, but will the region?