Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Surrey's Climate Action Plan

Yesterday, I posted about the City of Langley and its Climate Change Action Report. These reports are mandatory for local governments that participate in the provincial Climate Action Revenue Incentive Program and the BC Climate Action Charter. Today, I wanted to focus on the City of Surrey.

When it comes to combating climate change, the City of Surrey has been working on new plans and implementing existing plans to build a more sustainable community, reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Energy used for buildings and transportation are the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in Surrey. In Surrey’s municipally-owned facilities, GHG emissions peaked at 8465 tonnes of CO2e in 2010 and has been declining ever since. In 2013, GHG emissions from municipally-owned facilities was 7738 tonnes of CO2e. Surrey has been able to reduce its GHG emissions while providing new services as the community grows. The primary reason for this reduction is because the City of Surrey has been able to significantly reduce electrical usage. Unfortunately, the City of Surrey has increased its GHG emissions from natural gas usage in its facilities.

GHG emissions from the City of Surrey vehicle fleet peaked in 2011 with 10538 tonnes of CO2e. This has reduced to 7897 tonnes of CO2e in 2013.

One of the requirements of the Climate Action Revenue Incentive Program is for local governments to be “carbon neutral”. As I noted yesterday, the City of Langley achieved carbon neutrality by buy carbon offset credits. The City of Surrey is achieving carbon neutrality by “invest funding that it would otherwise spend in buying carbon offsets in City-based projects that will reduce carbon emissions in Surrey.” This is a much better way to go as Surrey will be investing in local projects that will actually reduce GHG emission in the community.

In 2013, the City of Surrey took several actions to reduce GHG emissions in the community. Some of the highlights in Surrey’s “Climate Action Revenue Incentive Program (CARIP) Public Report” include:

-Adopting the Community Energy Emission Plan and Climate Adaption Strategy.

-Working towards adopting PlanSurrey, the new Official Community Plan, which includes energy and emissions policies. PlanSurrey is increasing focused on building a compact community, supporting energy-efficient retrofits, and building energy-efficient new construction.

Two of the most exciting projects that will reduce GHG emissions in Surrey are the City’s proposed new bio-fuel facility which will begin construction shortly, and the City’s district energy system around Central Surrey.

On the transportation front, the City of Surrey has been implementing its transportation strategy which includes the continued expansion of cycling routes and the construction of 13km of new greenways; more cycling infrastructure and greenways are on the way. The City is also implementing transit priority measures, including installing “queue jumper” lanes along King George Boulevard to enhance the reliability of transit. The City is also requiring all new and renovated fuel service stations to offer alternative fuels.

To conserve water, the City of Surrey is continuing to implement its mandatory water meter program for new residential developments and is working towards voluntary meter installation in existing residences. Surrey also has implemented its organic waste collection program which is reducing landfill waste and reducing GHG emissions.

Within the City’s internal operations, Surrey is continuing to retrofit existing facilities to be more energy efficient. The City of Surrey noted two projects that is was particularly proud of that will help reduce GHG emissions and provide leadership to other communities.

The first project is the geo-exchange district energy system in Central Surrey which is currently being used at the New City Hall and City Centre Library.

The second project is Surrey’s transportation demand-management system to support sustainable transportation options for municipal workers. This includes “personalized commute planning, preferred carpool parking, end-of-trip facilities for cyclists, car sharing program with Modo Car Co-op, transit rebates on monthly passes, and introduction of pay parking at New City Hall.”

These are just a few of the many projects that the City of Surrey is working on to build a more energy efficient and sustainable community. While there is always more work to be done, it seems that the City of Surrey is committed to building a community that will support the current and future generations.

Monday, September 29, 2014

City of Langley’s lackluster Climate Change Action Report

Back last decade, the provincial government made a concerted effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in our province. At the local level, the province created the Climate Action Charter which local government could sign onto. A local government that signed on to the Charter had to:

-Achieve carbon neutral corporate operations by 2012
-Measure and report on community greenhouse emissions profiles
-Create complete, compact and more energy-efficient rural and urban communities

In exchange for signing the Charter, local governments get a grant equal to 100% of the carbon tax paid to the province. The City of Langley is part of this program. One of the requirement of the program is to provide an annual progress report. The City of Langley will be presenting its progress report at tonight’s council meeting.

The report looks at two areas. One section of the report focuses on community-wide measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The other section looks at greenhouse gas emissions caused directly by the City’s operations.

Between 2009 and 2010 within the City's internal operations, it was able to significantly reduce GHG from electricity use. The city was also able to reduce GHG caused by diesel/biodiesel usage. At the same time, the City’s GHG emissions as a result of gasoline usage increased. Between 2010 and 2013, the City has only seen a minor reductions of GHG emissions caused by its internal operations. The City does use carbon offset credits to be “carbon neutral.”

In the annual Climate Action Revenue Incentive Program Public Report, the City of Langley is required to outline what actions it took in the reporting year, and what actions it plans to take in future years, to reduce GHG emissions both community-wide and within its operations. The City of Langley’s report is sparse.

The City noted its new Parks & Recreation Master Plan and upcoming Master Transportation Plan as measures to reduce GHG emissions. Of course, the City will need to impediment the plans for them to have any effect. When it comes to reducing GHG emissions cause by transportation, the City will need to start focusing on walking and cycling. It seems City Council is still auto-oriented. For example, the City just approved a new drive-thru Tim Hortons in heart of Downtown Langley.

The City also noted it is planning to install sidewalks on 48th Avenue between Grade Crescent and 208 Street, and has optimized the traffic signal timing at two intersections along the Langley Bypass as part of its “Climate Action”. The City planted 67 new trees.

As mandated by Metro Vancouver, the City of Langley started implementing kitchen organic waste collection in 2013. This will play a larger role in reducing GHG emissions across the region.

To reduce GHG emissions within the City’s internal operations, the City installed LED lighting as part of the new McBurney Lane. The City also replaced the lighting at Douglas Recreation Centre with LED units. The City also plans to develop an LED lighting business case study. Cities throughout North America are seeing the benefit of switching to LED lighting, hopefully the City of Langley will too.

After reviewing the annual Climate Action Revenue Incentive Program Public Report, I feel that the City hasn't taken a leadership role and been particular innovative in reducing GHG emissions within the community or its operations. This is a real shame because reducing GHG emissions means reducing energy use. Reducing energy use means saving money. While implementing programs and plans to reduce GHG emissions have upfront capital costs, they result in on-going operational savings. Savings that can be passed along to taxpayers.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

City of Langley asks province to cover partial cost of first-responder medical emergency calls

With the start of fall, comes the Union of British Columbia Municipalities annual convention. Local government officials from across the province convene to talk about issues and solutions that impact local government. One of the major outcomes of the conference is a set a passed resolutions that call on the province to take action on various issues that are important to local government.

The resolutions are divided into multiply sections. The most important resolutions are part of the “A” section. This year, a City of Langley resolution is in the “A” section.

WHEREAS the number of first responder or medical emergency service alarm (MESA) calls that the City of Langley responds to represents 78 percent of all calls received by the Langley City Fire Rescue Service (LCFRS);

AND WHEREAS the City of Langley incurs significant direct costs as a result of responding to MESA calls to compliment the services provided by BC Ambulance Service (BCAS);

AND WHEREAS the intermediate patient care can greatly enhance patient outcomes and significantly reduce short term and long term costs to the overall health care system and the City of Langley acknowledges the community will benefit from the LCFRS supporting BCAS to provide first responder services to the patient while the ambulance is en-route:

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Province of BC work with UBCM to develop a fair and equitable cost recovery model to compensate local governments for responding to medical first responder calls.

If a resolution passes, the province will responds to the resolution. Most of the time, the province politely declines to do anything. The UBCM puts past resolutions and the responses from the province online.

Fire/rescue personal attending medical emergencies is another example of how local government is providing services to fill-in the gap left by provincial government cutbacks. When it comes to compensating local government for some of the cost of fire/recuse personally attending medical emergencies, the province has said no in the past. The province suggests that local government reduce the amount of medical service calls they respond to, letting the BC Ambulance Service respond to these calls in due time. Of course, this would mean longer response times getting to people when there is a medical emergency.

It is highly unlikely that the province will reimburse local government for providing first-response medical services.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Provincial government looking to micro-manage local government in BC

BC has a proud history of local government. In other provinces, local government has been subject to the whims of the province. In BC, the provincial government has historically recognized the important role that local government plays. It has given local government more antimony over the years, culminating with the Community Charter which was passed into law in 2003.

The Charter says that “municipalities and their councils are recognized as an order of government within their jurisdiction” and that “citizens of British Columbia are best served when, in their relationship, municipalities and the Provincial government acknowledge and respect the jurisdiction of each.” The Charter is the constitution for local government; as such, it confers rights and responsibilities that should be broadly interpreted.

Recognizing that local government is an important form of government, municipalities in BC are the only ones in Canada where the Federal Gas Tax transfer agreement is a signed by the federal, the province, and local governments (through the Union of BC Municipalities).

Over the last several decades, both the federal and provincial governments have downloaded responsibility to local government. As a result, local government has had to take on increased responsibility for funding police, affordable housing, public transit, and infrastructure projects.

With this increased responsibility, as least in BC, the provincial government gave local government tools and autonomy to deal with the increasing services that local government provides.

This seems to be changing now. The provincial government appears to be trying to micro-manage local government. The first hint of this was the introduction of a provincially appointed Auditor General for Local Government. The stated role of the AGLG is to “give advice and recommendations to local governments to help them deliver their services more efficiently, effectively and economically.” Some see this as the province meddling with local matters; a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.

Just recently, the province leaked a report call “BC Public Sector Compensation Review.Metro Vancouver has called this report “profoundly disrespectful to municipalities and their citizens.” The reports contains serious omissions. Even the authors admit this by saying “that significant data limitations were encountered in constructing this analysis” and that “it has not been possible in all cases to present findings in the manner of a consistent and integrated story.”

It is no secret that once adjusted for inflation, federal government spending has decreased, provincial spending has stayed relatively consistent, while local government spending has increased due to the downloading of service to local government. The report even notes this by saying that “after adjusting for inflation, as well as population, real per capita spending across Metro Vancouver grew by 32% between 2000-10, compared with approximately 10% in the Provincial Government.”

In Metro Vancouver, the province transferred the responsibility of transit to the region. Local government also has to renew aging core infrastructure with limited financial support from the provincial or federal governments. This all added up to huge cost increases.

One of the largest costs for municipalities is policing. The cost of policing has rapidly increased, and those costs have been imposed upon municipalities by the provincial and federal governments.

The reports seems to have been created to give the provincial government a reason to directly control the wages of all local government staff. This is micro-management, and I’m not sure what problem it will solve. It will create another level of expensive provincial bureaucracy.

BC has a diversity of local government. For example, should the Chief Administration Officer of Vancouver get the same rate of pay as the CAO of Williams Lake? Like not. It will be nearly impossible to set the “right” rate of pay for local government employees provincially.

Local government is in the best position to determine the appropriate wages and staffing levels. As the report even admits, “the services [local governments] provide are closer to the citizenry (e.g. garbage collection, recreation centres, etc.) and thus decision-makers feel enormous pressure not to disrupt these services.”

Besides a power grab, what does the provincial government gain by micro-managing local government and reducing services that citizens demand? This is not a good idea and will not benefit citizens. The provincial government should continue to respect local government and the citizens that elect local governments. This is working in BC today, and it is one of the reasons why the rest of the world looks to BC for leadership about local government.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Update: Progress report on Metro Vancouver's Regional Growth Strategy

Metro Vancouver’s Regional Growth Strategy focuses on five main goals: creating a compact urban area, supporting a sustainable economy, protecting the environment and responding to climate change impacts, developing complete communities, and supporting sustainable transportation choice. Embedded into the strategy is the requirement to report on the progress made towards meeting those goals.

Back in June, I posted about some of the preliminary data Metro Vancouver staff had complied comparing 2011 baseline information with 2013 information. This September, Metro Vancouver has released more data comparing 2011 to 2013.

Map of regional and municipal centres in Metro Vancouver. Source: Metro Vancouver

One of our region's goals is to cluster jobs and housing in larger regional centres, local municipal town centres, and along transit corridors. This helps create an accessible region, giving people transportation choice. It also helps protect farmland and reduces urban sprawl. Between 2011 and 2013, 42% of new office development occurred in urban centres. In total, a full 85% off all office development is in centres, and along rapid or frequent transit corridors.

2013 Office Inventory in Metro Vancouver. Source: Metro Vancouver

As I mentioned in June, 29 hectares of additional land was protected for agricultural use. In 2011, about 50% of total agricultural land was farmed, while 25% more had the potential to being farmed. One of the interesting things is that 25% of agricultural land cannot be farmed. This can be due to the land being used for “non-farm use” such as roads, golf courses, and even housing. Other land is just not suitable for farming. One of the big questions that needs to be answer in our region is what do we do with non-farmable land that is in the agricultural land reserve.

One of the things I hear from some people is that housing is unaffordable in our region because of the regional growth strategy. When looking at following table, this doesn’t appear to be the case. Calgary, which has a huge geographical footprint, has higher total housing costs than Vancouver. Toronto also has higher housing costs. It seems that higher housing costs have more to do with economic prosperity than anything else.

Comparison of housing affordability between Metro Vancouver, Toronto, and Calgary. Source: Metro Vancouver. Select graph to enlarge.

Between 2011 and 2013, 68% of all new housing units were apartments or row houses in Metro Vancouver.

There is other information that provides feedback on the progress towards the other goals contained in Metro Vancouver's Regional Growth Strategy in the presentation made earlier this month. Metro Vancouver staff is still working on complying more information. They are also looking into the best ways to make this information broadly available.

Looking at both the data released in June and the data released this month, it appears that our region is on track to meeting its goal of being a livable region.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Watch my official campaign launch speech

Last Thursday, I officially launched my campaign for election to Langley City Council. I held a media event at the Coast Langley City Hotel & Convention Centre. I’ve posted a video below which outlines why I’m running, and what I’d like to accomplish if elected.

There is a glitch in the video at the very beginning, but nothing important is missing.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Gil Peñalosa on creating vibrant cities

The SFU City Program along with TransLink hosted two talks earlier this week call “Rethinking Transportation: New Voices, New Ideas”. Last night, I had the chance to listen to Gil Peñalosa. Peñalosa is the Executive Director of 8-80 Cities, a non-profit that supports the creation of cities “where people can walk, bike, access public transit and visit vibrant parks and public places.” He was also the former Commissioner of Parks, Sport and Recreation for Bogota, Colombia. Bogota is well known for its TransMilenio bus rapid transit system.

Peñalosa covered a wide range of topics at his talk last night called “Future Livability: Boast of Bust?” I wanted to touch on a few things really spoke to me.

One of the things that Peñalosa talked about is how people that advocate for walkable, accessible cities really like getting into the details of how to design these types of places, but sometimes forget to go into detail about why building walkable cities is important. Answering the “why?” questions are what the general public cares about.

For Peñalosa, we should be creating vibrant and healthy cities with public spaces that people will enjoy to be in. The benefits of creating this type of city for people are numerous including:

Cleaner air
Improved mobility for everyone
Better health with lower rates of obesity and medially health conditions such as depression.
Strong economic development
Attracting the best and brightest

One of the things that Peñalosa spoke about is the importance of investing in streets. Streets are the largest public space in cities; they should serve all people, using all modes of transportation equally. They should also be great public spaces, destinations in and of themselves.

In our North American cities, Peñalosa noted that we’ve spent too many resources making it easy to drive. This has degraded streets as a high-quality public spaces and made people who walk, cycle, or take public transit second class citizens.

Peñalosa noted that for safety, physically separating pedestrians, cyclists, and motorist is a must. He believes cities should be building streets were both seniors and children are safe to walk, wheel, or cycle; if streets are safe and inviting for seniors and child, they will be safer and more enjoyable for everyone.

Peñalosa believes that public transit is the best way to connect these walkable places together.

Sometimes politicians use the excuse of a lack of funding or lack of users to create walkable, high-quality streets. Peñalosa noted that this is simply an issues of political will. He said that building for walking and cycling is the most cost effective way a city can improve the mobility of its residents.

Another key point that Peñalosa made was that for there to be a critical mass of cyclists and pedestrians, there needs to be a basic network in place. Building a basic network of separated bike lanes will dramatically increase the amount of people the bike.

Many cities building disconnected cyclist and walking infrastructure then wonder why there is a low amount of cyclists or pedestrians using that infrastructure. He gave a few example to drive that point home. You wouldn’t expect an arena to be used until construction is complete, and you won’t build a bridge based on the number of people swimming across a river.

These are only a few of the things that Gil Peñalosa talked about. It was great listening to this engaging speaker.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Brydon Lagoon Update

Last week, I posted about Brydon Lagoon in the Nicomekl Floodplain. The lagoon is a popular location for both people and waterfowl, but due to limited investment in its upkeep, the lagoon is rapidly deteriorating. This came to light this summer as a resulted of a massive fish kill in the lagoon.

The City of Langley has known for some time that investment is needed to ensure the long-term viability of Brydon Lagoon. They even commissioned a study by Dillon Consulting. The consultants made some recommendations about what could be done to prevent the further deterioration of the lagoon.

As I mentioned last week, many citizens and community groups expressed their concerns about the state of Brydon Lagoon at the last Parks and Environment Advisory Committee (PEAC) meeting. Many even questioned the recommendation in the Dillon report.

The Parks and Environment Advisory Committee had two concerns. The first concern was that investing in the long-term success of Brydon Lagoon didn’t seem to be a council priority. The second concern was that people at our last meeting, several whom are biologist, questioned the recommendation made in the Dillion report.

To find a way forward, we passed the following motion.

THAT the Parks & Environment Advisory Committee form a task group with select members from the Langley Field Naturalists, the Langley Environmental Partners Society, the Nicomekl Enhancement Society, Ducks Unlimited Canada, and City staff to review the original Dillon Pond Management Study and collect concerns to provide feedback to the committee

The committee’s hope was to be able to present a cost-out action plan to City Council in a timely fashion.

This motion came before City Council on Monday night. Council in general seemed concerned about the state of Brydon Lagoon, but seemed more concerned about how much it would cost to restore. The motion that we passed at the PEAC meeting earlier this month was defeated in a tie. In its place, a new motion was passed.

This new motion appears to require the PEAC taskforce to submit a terms of reference to City Council before getting to the business of developing an action plan for Brydon Lagoon. I will get more clarification at the next PEAC meeting in a few weeks’ time. Hopefully this doesn’t cause major delays in getting an action plan together for City Council.

While there are more projects than money available for the City of Langley to complete, Brydon Lagoon is an important assets to the community. Preserving Brydon Lagoon should be a priority for Langley City Council.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Langley Bypass, Auto Dealerships, and the City of Langley’s "Vision in Action"

One of the least accessible places in the South of Fraser is the Langley Bypass. East of 196th Street, the Bypass is entirely in the City of Langley; development on the north and south side of the Bypass are in the City. I’ve walked and cycled to many places in the City of Langley, but try to avoid the Bypass. This last weekend, I decided to walk the Bypass.

One of the first things that I noticed about the Langley Bypass is that the road actually isn’t that wide. The Bypass is about the same width as Glover Road or Fraser Highway, but because of its wide shoulders, lack of sidewalks in most sections, drainage culverts, and building setbacks, it seems much wider. Because the Bypass seems wider than other roads, motorist travel at higher speeds. In fact many motorist travel faster than the posted speed limit.

Most of the Bypass is a pedestrian no-go zone. When I legally crossed one intersection, I was almost struck by a motorist doing at least 50km/h while doing a left-hand turn. He was not looking for people in the intersection. I had to run out of the intersection.

Cycling is also risky. I wonder how many people would feel safe cycling in the same lane as motorist.

Share the Road sign at rail crossing on the Langley Bypass

The City of Langley posted a sign at an auto-dealership that is under construction at the corner of the Langley Bypass and Glover Road that reads “Our vision in action. Building for the future.”

City of Langley's “Our vision in action. Building for the future.” sign in front of under-construction high-end auto dealership.

This sign seem to say that the City of Langley is happy to build auto-orient, non-accessible development that is hostile to pedestrians and cyclists; development that is hard to serve by transit. This is certainly not my vision for the City of Langley.

I want the City of Langley to be a place where all people can travel safely around their community as first-class citizens. Their mode of transportation or level of physical mobility should not matter.

The City has installed sidewalk in some sections of the Bypass. There are other ways to make the Bypass more accessible while recognizing its important role as a trade corridor, though it will be many years before the Langley Bypass can be fully redeveloped.

In the meantime, it will be important to ensure that the build-form in the rest of the City of Langley redevelops in an accessible manner that puts people first. Sadly, it seems that many of the newer retail development projects, even off the Bypass, don’t put people first in the City of Langley.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Meet local City of Langley council candidate Nathan Pachal, get a free cupcake

This coming Saturday near Douglas Park in Downtown Langley, some of my election campaign volunteers and I will be giving away free cupcakes from a gourmet Downtown Langley bakery. Please stop by and say hello. Besides getting a tasty cupcake, I will be there to answer any questions you may have about my campaign or my vision for the City of Langley.

Here are the details:

When: Saturday, September 20th from 1:00pm to 3:00pm
Where: Around Douglas Park at Douglas Crescent

More information is on Facebook. We’ll be there rain or shine.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Brydon Lagoon should not be left to disappear

When people talk about what they love about their communities, they talk about its people, and its people-friendly and natural places. The City of Langley has many of the right ingredients to be the jewel of the South of Fraser, but due to limited investment in enhancing people-friendly and natural places, isn’t living up to its full potential. In some case, the City might even be letting some of these ingredients fall by the wayside.

The City of Langley is cut in half by the Nicomekl Floodplain. Not many cities are as fortunate as Langley to have this sort of natural asset in the heart of their community. Someone ask me why enhancing our park system was one of my priorities if I was elected to City Council.

Brydon Lagoon, located in the Floodplain, is a popular location for both people and wildlife thought it has been slowly filling-in over the years. The Langley Field Naturalists have mentioned that over the last 25 years, the depth of Brydon Lagoon been halved.

The Field Naturalist have noted their concerns about Brydon Lagoon for some time; I have a City of Langley memo that shows this has been happening since at least 2000. Unfortunately addressing Brydon Lagoon has not been a top priority for council. With this in mind, it is no surprise that the fish kill happening this summer.

While Brydon Lagoon is a popular destination for both people and waterfowl today, if the City does not invest in the preservation of the Lagoon, only mosquitos with be interested in Brydon Lagoon in the near future.

As I mention in a previous post about the pond, the City of Langley commissioned a study by Dillon Consulting. The consultants made some recommendations about what could be done to prevent the further deterioration of the Lagoon.

Normally we have no members of the public at Park and Environment Advisory Committee meetings. Last Thursday night, the meeting was packed with people concerned about the Lagoon. Many had concerns about the Dillon report recommendations as they believed it would not address the conditions that lead to this summer’s fish kill. Even with the recommendations fully implemented, they believe that further kills could occur due to the shallowness of the Lagoon.

I put forward a motion that was adopted by the committee to form a workgroup with select members from community groups like the Langley Environmental Partners, the Langley Field Naturalists, Ducks Unlimited, plus Langley City staff and Dillon Consulting to find a path forward.

Brydon Lagoon is an important part of the Nicomekl Floodplain Park System, it is a part that I believe needs to be invested in. This is one of the reasons why I’m running for City Council.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Surrey Leading the Way on Pedestrian Safety

Last December, I posted about the book Urban Street Design Guide by the National Association of City Transportation Officials. This book is a highly graphical, paint-by-numbers guide to designing streets for 21st century cities. Along with the book, there is also an accompanying website which presents the same information.

One of my concerns is pedestrian safety. When it comes to signalized intersections, left and right hand turns create the most of risk collision.

With most currently signalized intersections, pedestrians and motorist get the “go” signal at the same time. Because of this, some motorists do not see pedestrians who have just started walking into an intersection. Other motorists try to make turns on a fresh green light to beat other traffic. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve almost been mowed down as a pedestrians crossing at these intersections.

One of the recommendations in the Urban Street Design Guide is to create “Leading Pedestrian Interval” timing.

A Leading Pedestrian Interval (LPI) typically gives pedestrians a 3–7 second head start when entering an intersection with a corresponding green signal in the same direction of travel.

LPIs enhance the visibility of pedestrians in the intersection and reinforce their right-of-way over turning vehicles, especially in locations with a history of conflict.

Surrey recently changed the operation of one of their traffic signals at University Drive and Old Yale Road in their Downtown. The City has installed signs at that intersection reminding motorist to yield to pedestrians, and also introduced a LPI to give pedestrians a head start into the intersection.

I hope that this spreads to other intersections in Surrey, and communities in the South of Fraser and Metro Vancouver where there is a history of pedestrian/motorist conflict.

Over the last little while, Surrey has really started to put a concerted effort into making roads more accessible for all users. I commend the City for trying out new ideas. With the municipal election coming up, I hope the citizens of Surrey will vote for councilors and a mayor that will continue to supports Surrey's quest to become a more accessible community. It wasn't always this way.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Township’s Age-Friendly Strategy misses the forest for the tress

One of the major shifts happening in the demographics of Canadian cities is that populations are aging. Over the next few decades, Canadian cities will not only see an absolute increase in the amount of older people, but those older people will represent a larger slice of the overall population. This means that municipalities need to rethink everything from how they are designed to the services they deliver.

Successful cities will need to need to look at everything they do through the lens of accessibility.

Today most cities are designed around mobility. These cities are designed to get people in cars quickly from point a to point b.

A city designed around accessibility tries to connect people with the things they want to do. This could be going to working, school, shopping, or to a park. It’s a subtle, but important difference. An accessible city is designed to give people who are full mobility and people with limited mobility equal access. People with limited mobility can include children, teenagers, people with disabilities, seniors, and people with limited income.

As we age, our mobility becomes increasingly limited. In a mobility-focused city, this means that as we age, our opportunities to participate in society decreases.

Most of the Township of Langley’s built-form is mobility-focused. If you don’t own a car or are able to drive, you’re ability to thrive in the Township of Langley is limited. Recognising this, the Township of Langley commissioned an Age-Friendly Community Strategy Plan. The draft was presented to Township Council yesterday.

The Strategy focuses on:
Outdoor Spaces & Building
Respect & Social Inclusion
Social Participation
Community & Information
Civic Participation & Employment
Community Support & Heath Service

When I was reviewing this strategy, it struck me as odd that the authors seemed to brush over the fact that accessible communities need mixed-use town centres. Communities built around mixed-use centres are 80% of the way to becoming fully accessible. This is why, for example, Downtown Langley has a large population of older people.

Some of the recommendations made in the Age-Friendly Strategy would be hard to implement without having mixed-use centres, or would have their effectiveness reduced.

For example, if the Township increased the amount of age-friend programming at its community centres, but people still needed to drive to the centres, the effectiveness of that programming would be limited.

The strategy recommends encouraging active living. Mixed-use centre, which tend to be walkable, naturally allow people to live a more active life. Communities designed for driving reduce active living.

How age-friendly is a park with age-friend elements such as benches, washrooms, and wide paths if there are barriers to get to that park? For example, it might take an hour to get there by any other mode than driving.

The Age-Friendly Strategy is a good plan, but it is the icing on the cake. The Township really needs to bake the cake first. This means building accessibly-designed communities with mixed-use centre that can incorporate the great recommendation contained in this strategy.

Monday, September 8, 2014

$1,000 Raised, $4,000 to Go. Support Nathan's Run for Langley City Council

Last week, I launched a fundraiser to support my bid for election to City of Langley Council. The response has been phenomenal. Because of the support of people like you, together we’ve raised close to $1,000 with online and offline donations toward building streets that work, a community that's strong.

$1,000 is an impressive amount, but I still require your support. It costs close to $1,700 to mail a simple postcard to select households in Langley; I need to send at least two postcards to these households. This is key to let citizens know that I’m running for council, and that I support building an accessible and safe community for all people.

We have 29 days to go and $4,000 left to raise, I know with your support we will meet this goal. If you haven’t donated already, please visit https://fundrazr.com/campaigns/7p9ib where you can also claim great perks.

You may also donate by cheque. Information is available at http://www.nathanpachal.com/p/donate-now.html

With your support, I know we can truly make Langley the place to be.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

TransLink Executive Compensation Reality Check

It seems that a month doesn’t go by without our favorite anti-tax group trying to bring down TransLink. With their relentless attacks against transit in our region, I believe this group won’t be satisfied until we are all stuck in traffic with no transit service.

The latest attack against TransLink was around its 2013 executive and board compensation. It’s always easy to get people upset about executive compensation because the numbers appear large.

By attacking top-level compensation, it is implied that vast sums of money are going to pay for executives and board members, while other service suffers. Is this really the case?

TransLink 2013 Total Expenses with a Focus on Executive and Board Member Compensation. Select graph to enlarge.

TransLink’s 2013 executive and board member compensation was $3.1 million. TransLink is a $1.4 billion organization. $3.1 million represents 0.2% of its total operation expenses. To put that into context, $3.1 million dollar is about how much it costs to run the 320 bus route for one year.

So even if you got rid of all executives and boards (which you wouldn’t do), the money save would be insignificant.

While it is good to ensure that compensation at TransLink is in line with other billion dollar plus agencies, attacking executive compensation really distracts from the main issue. Our transit system does not have the revenue to meet existing demand or expand service in areas like the South of Fraser.

City of Langley Community Gardens Open House

One of the priorities of the City of Langley Parks and Environment Advisory Committee is to see more community gardens in our neighbourhoods. Right now, there is only one community garden in the City which is located at the Nicomekl Elementary School near 53rd Avenue and 200th Street.

Community gardens enhance the quality of life not only for those that have a community garden plot, but also the neighbourhood where the community garden is located.

Gardening provides physical activity and can help relieve stress for those who participate. Gardens also provides access to fresh vegetables which may be hard to come-by for some people.

Community gardens can also help beautify an area and create a sense of place. They also provide a good excuse for neighbours to get to know each other. There are many other benefits.

The City of Langley is now planning to install a community garden. On Thursday, September 18 from 4pm to 7pm at Nicomekl Elementary School, the City of Langley is having an open house to solicit feedback from residents about the preferred location and design for a community garden.

Locations being considered are in Michaud Park, Douglas Park, Linwood Park and Dumais Park. For more information, visit the City of Langley’s website.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Support Nathan's Run for Langley City Council

It is amazing how fast time flies. Earlier this year, I announced that I am running for Langley City Council. With the November 15th election only a few short weeks away, I require your support.

I’m running because I believe City Council needs to support a strong local economy by renewing Downtown Langley. We must also build an accessible and safe community for all people.

As the longest currently serving member on the City of Langley Parks and Environment Advisory Committee, I will advocate to promote and enhance the Nicomekl floodplain.

If you share my vision of building streets that work, a community that's strong, I require your support.

Today, I’ve launch an exciting fundraising campaign. I need to raise $5,000 to make this vision of Langley possible, with your help.

If you donate online, there are great perks available including an exclusive artisan wine from a local Langley vineyard and high tea with me.

While visiting my online fundraising page at https://fundrazr.com/campaigns/7p9ib, be sure to check out my new video and share it with your friends.

Donate online today, and with your support, we can truly make Langley the place to be.