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.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Exclusive: Township’s secret meeting with Agricultural Land Commission to redraw the ALR in Langley

Township of Langley proposed redrawing of the ALR would see around 200 acres of landed added to the reserve if approved by the Agricultural Land Commission. Select map to enlarge.

It is no secret that the Township of Langley has been looking at ways to get certain parcels of land out of the Agricultural Land Reserve for some time.

Going back to when the Agricultural Land Reserve was founded, there are two sections of the Township where land pretty much gets auto-excluded from the ALR: Gloucester Industrial Estates and Salmon River/Upland. The Salmon River/Upland area contained many small lots before the ALR came into effect. It was noted early on by the Agricultural Land Commission that even though the area was within the ALR, the size of the lots were too small for most farm uses.

Beside these two areas, the Township has been looking to remove about 480 acres of land from the ALR around Aldergrove since the mid-1990s. The Township believes that this removal of land from the ALR is required for the long-term viability of the community.

Recently the Township has moved forward with its proposed University District. The University District is similar in size to Fort Langley. While the Township may have won its court case with Metro Vancouver to allow the District, the majority of the land for the District is still within the ALR. As I posted in 2012, the ALC did not support removing this land from the ALR.

Earlier this year, I got wind that Township Council and Staff had a meeting with the Agricultural Land Commission to talk about redrawing the lines of the ALR. I submitted a Freedom of Information request about this meeting. I received the meeting minutes from that meeting and a presentation that the Township delivered. I have posted this to the Document Archive of this blog. I suggest that you check out the presentation.

In the presentation, the Township outlines the history of the ALR within Langley. It also outlines significant plans and exclusion applications within the ALR.

The really interesting slides show what the Township would like to see for the ALR in that community.

The Township of Langley proposed to remove land near Trinity Western University to support the University District. It also proposed to remove land in the Brookswood/Fernridge area to support development in that community.

The Township also proposed to remove the parcel of land that would be automatically excluded anyway in Salmon River/Uplands and in Gloucester. Finally, the Township proposed to remove land from the ALR around Aldergrove.

In exchange the Township would put other parcels of land within the ALR. The Township’s plan would actually see a net increase of 200 acres into the ALR. The Township of Langley would also create a new zone for all land within the ALR and require a minimum lot size of 8 hectares.

The presentation and meeting minutes contain more information.