Monday, August 31, 2015

The Case of the Ever Shrinking Sidewalk in the City of Langley

It is also important that the placement of features such as bus stop amenities, garbage cans, bicycle racks, and planters does not reduce sidewalk clear width to maintain accessibility. – City of Langley Master Transportation Plan

The City of Langley has been replacing the street lights around Downtown Langley over the past few years. These new street lights are a marked improvement over the various previous styles of lighting. The City of Langley is even adding new street lights in some parts of Downtown Langley.

These changes are all part of the Downtown Langley Master Plan. Of course, the Downtown Langley Master Plan and the Master Transportation Plan have clear language around enhancing the walkability of Downtown Langley. This includes having comfortable sidewalks.

City of Langley Council signed off on its Master Transportation Plan about a year ago. The plan states that “wider sidewalks (greater than 1.5m) should be concentrated in Downtown, around schools and multi-family areas where more people are and can be attracted to walking.” The plan also spells out that wider sidewalks are needed in Downtown Langley in table 3.1.

With this in mind, I was a bit shocked to see that the City of Langley was actually shrinking the sidewalk width on the north side of Fraser Highway between 208th Street and 207th Street.

New street lights are being install along Fraser Highway. Notice that the sidewalk is barely the width of one person.

The City built small sidewalk extensions into adjacent property, but even with these extensions, it is still under the 1.5 meter minimum standard. The extensions will make for tricky navigation for people using a mobility aid.

The interesting thing is that between the Langley Bypass and 208th Street, the City of Langley installed these new lights without compromising the width of the clear area of the sidewalk.

Section of sidewalk between 208th Street and the Langley Bypass. The street lights do not encroach into the sidewalk.

Besides installing the lights right next to the sidewalk, the City could move the lights and utility poles into the street. This could be done by creating a pervious strip between the road and the sidewalk. This can be done without requiring the costly relocation of the drainage system. This would greatly enhance the public realm.

Example of a pervious green strip from the NACTO Urban Street Design Guide. This could be design to accommodate street lighting and utility poles.

When I see things like the installation of lighting in the middle of the sidewalk, I have to wonder if walkability is truly a concept that is understood at City Hall.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

What the Evergreen Line will do to bus service in the Northeast Sector

The Northeast Sector, which includes Port Moody, Port Coquitlam, and Coquitlam, is a major travel destination for people who live in the South of Fraser. With the introduction of the Evergreen Line next fall, TransLink had to update its Northeast Sector Area Transit Plan, Phase 3: Near-Term Priorities. The update contains the following recommendations.

Not surprising, but with the new SkyTrain service, the 97 B-Line will be discontinued. The 190, which provides express bus service to Downtown Vancouver from Coquitlam Centre, will also be discontinued. The 160 will be upgraded to frequent transit service levels between Port Moody and Port Coquitlam. A new bus service will also be introduced between Burquitlam Station and SFU. The 169 service levels will be reduced.

The following map shows all the bus routes that will be impacted by the introduction of the new Evergreen Line service.

Map of proposed changes as a result of the introduction of the Evergreen Line. Select map to enlarge.

This map shows the complete network. It also identifies routes that TransLink wants to improve service levels for, and proposed new routes.

Full Northeast Sector Transit Map. Includes all future service level changes and proposed new routes. Select map to enlarge.

One of the things to keep in mind is that TransLink has no money to expand transit service. Beyond the changes made due to the Evergreen Line service integration, don’t expect much else to change until more funding is secured for transit in our region.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Downtown Langley and Willowbrook: Urban design that makes you walk more or walk less

This January, I purchased a Fitbit. This high-tech pedometer shows me how many steps, and therefor how many kilometers I walk in a day. The device provides me with this information which actually nudges me to walk more than I did previously.

There is a lot of good research and on-the-ground examples of how built-form —how we design streets, public spaces, and buildings— impacts the walkability of an area. The Walk Friendly Ontario project has a great resource section on their website if you want to see on-the-ground examples and read research on this.

One of the things that I’ve noticed over the past eight months is that where walking is enjoyable, I tent to walk more.

For example before I purchased my Fitbit, I would always walk to and around Downtown Langley. I would also walk from the SkyTrain station to my work in the Olympic Village area in Vancouver, and walk to grab lunch. When I went to Willowbrook Mall, I’d catch the bus from Downtown Langley.

With the Fitbit, I found that I would easily walk 3 kilometers while going around Downtown Langley. Also, I would walk about 5 kilometers going between the SkyTrain, work, and a lunch spot. All this walking didn’t seem like a chore, it was enjoyable. The built-form in these areas are geared towards walking.

Since I’ve been wearing the Fitbit, I’ve started to walk to Willowbrook Mall. The stress of walking next to high-speed traffic, combined with the monotony of having nothing to look at but surface parking lots, makes walking from Downtown Langley to Willowbrook an unpleasant experience. I was actually shocked when I found out that it is only 3 kilometers from my house to the Willowbrook Mall area because it feels much, much longer.

An intersection along Willowbrook Drive in the Township of Langley

McBurney Lane in Downtown Langley

Looking at the preceding pictures, where would you want to walk? I know where my first choice would be.

Walking is critically important for our mental and physical health. Check out Happy City for more information about this point. Local government really needs to support community design that encourages walking. This means preserving walkability in places like Downtown Langley, and building new neighbourhoods around walking in places like Willoughby. As the Willowbrook area in the Township of Langley proves, creating a place where people want to walk requires more than just putting in sidewalks.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Strong Canadian Dollar, not fuel cost, drives travel to US in Metro Vancouver

Last December, I compiled information about US-bound person vehicles crossing the border in the Lower Mainland. You can read the full post for more details, but at the time I was trying to see if there was a strong correlation between TransLink fuel tax, and an increase in people heading to the US. I didn’t find a strong correlation.

With the declining value of the Canadian dollar this last year, I thought it would be interesting to see what impact, if any, the lower dollar value would have on US-bound person vehicles entering from the two Blaine, Lynden, and Sumas border crossings. Because I wanted to compare the most recent information, all the chart data is for the month of June between 2001 and 2015.

Border Crossing Metrics for the Lower Mainland, Month of June, 2001-2015. Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics; Statistics Canada. Table 326-0009 - Average retail prices for gasoline and fuel oil, by urban centre, monthly (cents per litre), CANSIM; CanadianForex Monthly Average Rates

Even as the cost of fuel climbed between 2001 and 2005, the amount of vehicles going into the US actually dropped. It wasn’t until the Canadian dollars’ value increased past 90¢ to a US dollar that border volumes started a steady climb. Interesting, it wasn't until the Canadian dollar dipped below the 90¢ mark this year that border volumes started to drop again.

It may seem that the cost of fuel plays a large part in US border travel from Metro Vancouver, but between 2001 and 2005, fuel prices rose while border volume dropped. Between 2008 and 2009, fuel prices dropped while border volume increased.

While the cost of fuel plays a small role in US-bound travel, having a Canadian dollar that is worth more than 90¢ US influences US border crossings the most.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Using that in-sink food grinder may lead to higher property tax

Since Metro Vancouver has started the process of banning organic waste from going to landfill, mandating that organic waste collection occur for all residential, commercial, and industrial buildings in the region, there is concern that people may start using in-sink food grinders more.

People may use in-sink food grinders because they believe that it is environmentally friendly and more convenient than using a green bin. The following picture is from an InSinkErator activity book for children which is meant to reinforce this belief.

From Market to Market: one apple’s incredible journey activity book. Select to enlarge.

So, why is using an in-sink food grinder a bad idea? When you put food down the drain, it increases Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOS) and Total Suspended Solids (TSS) in the wastewater system. To process this in the wastewater system costs $1,800 per tonne. It costs $70 per tonne if processed via the green bin organic waste collection program.

Grinding food down the drain ends up costing regional taxpayers a tonne of money. If more food scraps get put into the wastewater system, it could also trigger the need for costly treatment plant expansion. The end result is even higher property tax to pay for premature treatment planet expansion.

Right now, 80% of all BOS and TSS comes from residential sources. For the past twenty years, Metro Vancouver has only noticed a slight increase of BOS and TSS being processed. Today, 45% of all households in the region have in-sink food grinders. Of that 45%, 44% use the grinders at least every day. Metro Vancouver doesn’t want to see that number go up.

The regional district is now looking into banning in-sink food grinders in the commercial sector. It is also looking at setting up an education program for people living in the region to let them know about the high cost of using in-sink food grinders.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Banks leaving Downtown Langley leave seniors will limited financial options

Since I’ve lived in Downtown Langley, I’ve seen several banks leave the downtown core. The first bank to go was CIBC. The next to go was Coast Capital Savings. These were both several years back. Just this year, Envision Financial closed its branch in Downtown Langley. TD is now the next bank to be leaving. Willowbrook is where people will need to go to access these financial institutions. This leaves Scotiabank and Westminster Savings in the downtown core for now.

One of the things about Downtown Langley is that it has a higher than average population of seniors, many of whom have limited mobility. Walking or scootering is a primary mode of transportation. People that live around Downtown Langley, such as seniors on fixed pensions, have a lower than average income level compared to the rest of the City of Langley and Metro Vancouver.

When a bank leaves Downtown Langley, it really reduces options for people in the area with limited mobility and/or limited means.

Right now, Scotiabank and Westminster Savings are still options in the community, but if these banks leave too, people living around Downtown Langley will loose access to banking services. Without access to banking services, many people with limited means and mobile won't be able to do simple things like cash a cheque, deposit, or withdraw money.

These people may have to turn to places like cheque cashing shops that have a reputation for taking advantage of people. In the worst case, a senior cashing their pension cheque will be charged a larger fee than a bank, and keep that cash in their wallet or purse. When every penny counts, a large cheque cashing fee could be the difference between having a meal or not. Also, the risk of losing money increases when large amounts of it is carried around in cash form.

For credit unions and TD which market themselves are customer service, community-based businesses, leaving seniors out in the cold doesn’t seem to fit with their marketing messaging.

Banks are moving to Willowbrook because it is more central to a larger population, and is a regional destination for shopping. Unfortunately Willowbrook, the Langley Regional Town Centre, happens to be the least walking in Metro Vancouver. This means that even for people with the means and mobility options, going to the bank changes for a walk to a drive.

Banks originally located in Downtown Langley because it was a regional retail centre. This is no longer the case. But does this mean Downtown Langley is down and out? Not at all, but I will talk about that in a future post.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Amtrak says moving service from Pacific Central to Surrey would cause ridership drop, WSDOT doesn't.

On Monday, I posted about Amtrak Cascade rail service in Metro Vancouver, and the pending introduction of a preclearance facility at Pacific Central Station. This facility will speed up Amtrak rail service by 10 to 20 minutes.

I also mentioned that $503 million to $1,067 million would be needed by 2023 to ensure four daily round-trip trains to service Metro Vancouver. Right now, there are two daily round-trip trains. The lower price option is if Amtrak service terminated at a yet-to-be built station near Scott Road SkyTrain. The pricier option would be to keep the terminus at Pacific Central.

I received feedback from people stating strongly that moving the terminus station from Downtown Vancouver to Surrey would be a bad idea.

One of the reasons why rail is an attractive service is that it can get you from one downtown to another easily, in comfort, and with a predictable schedule. This is important for both business travellers and tourists. This is why trains are popular in several corridor in North America.

For example, by the time you get to an airport, check in, wait for a flight, fly, land, pick up baggage, and get to your final destination, taking a train might actually be faster. It is certainly less stressful. This is why Amtrak Cascade Service, VIA Rail in Ontario and Quebec, and Amtrak service in the Northeastern US are popular.

Moving the terminus station to Scott Road would require people to transfer to the SkyTrain to access downtown (which would actually get you to Downtown Vancouver faster than current Amtrak service), but would remove that downtown-to-downtown convince. It is a well known fact that making people transfer services causes a drop in ridership.

On the other hand if the terminus was moved near Scott Road SkyTrain, it would make accessing the rest of the region more convenient. The station would also be served by the SkyTrain.

The best solution would be to keep the Pacific Central terminus while introducing a new Scott Road station in Surrey. Of course, I doubt that this would ever happen.

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), in their long-term plan for Amtrak Cascade service, shared a pros/cons list of the various terminus options as follows:

Advantages of keeping the Amtrak Cascades northern terminus at Pacific Central Station
-Proximity to downtown
-Well-established transportation hub with popular amenities

Disadvantages of keeping the Amtrak Cascades northern terminus at Pacific Central Station
-Cost eight times more than moving station to Scott Road
-WSDOT indicates that a suburban terminal would support greater ridership

Advantages of moving the Amtrak Cascades northern terminus to near Scott Road
-Avoid using the 111 year-old Fraser River Rail Bridge which could become out-of-service due to its age
-Better regional access and increased ridership

Disadvantages of moving the Amtrak Cascades northern terminus to near Scott Road
-Amtrak suggests ridership can drop 50% when switching from a downtown to non-downtown station though WSDOT doesn’t believe this will be the case in Metro Vancouver.

More details can be found in Appendix E of the Washington State Long-Range Plan for Amtrak Cascades.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Bring visibility to cycling on rural roads

When talking about how to make our roads safe and inviting for all modes of travel –walking, cycling, driving– it is normally in the context of an urban or suburban settings. The focus doesn’t tend to go to rural areas.

One of the interesting things about South of Fraser communities like Surrey and the Township of Langley is that large areas of them are rural. When I was working on cycling advocacy through the Greater Langley Cycling Coalition (cycling advocacy in Langley is now done by HUB), we recognized that we needed to address improving cycling infrastructure in both the urban and rural context.

The rural areas of Surrey and the Township of Langley are popular places for both sports and recreational cycling. The terrain, variety of cycling opportunities, and beauty of the area draws people to these communities to cycle. While Surrey, the Township, and Metro Vancouver have been busy improving cycling infrastructure within parks and along greenways, it is a bit of a different story on-road.

One of the things to recognize is that some tools used in the urban context may not work in a rural context. While off-road paths work in both a rural and urban context, separated bike lanes would likely not be built on rural roads. Due to lower volumes of traffic on rural roads and the Agricultural Land Reserve, even multi-use paths on the side of a road could only be built for the busiest of rural roads. Many people also want to ride on a road. In the rural context, one of the first things that local governments can do to make cycling safe and inviting is to improve the visibility of people who are cycling on-road.

One of the easier ways to do this is with signage and pavement markings. My friend John Evanochko, who I’ve worked with on cycling advocacy in Langley, snapped a few pictures the other day. These pictures show the very different ways that the Township of Langley tries to bring visibility to cycling.

Typical marked cycling route in a rural section of the Township of Langley.

Share the Road sign and pavement marker at Murray Creek ravine on 48th Avenue.

I would suggest that the picture with the “Share the Road” sign is more effective at bring visibility to cycling. Of course signage and pavement marking cost money, and Township of Langley Council only allocates a pittance for retrofitting roads for cycling. Surrey is doing much better, and is expanding cycling infrastructure throughout the community. Township of Langley Council should take a cue from Surrey and invest more in making roads better for all people, no matter the mode they choose to use.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Amtrak service improvement coming to Metro Vancouver

Amtrak Cascade passenger rail service runs between Vancouver, BC and Eugene, Oregon. Major stops along the route include Seattle and Portland. Earlier this spring, I posted about how the US federal government pulled funding from Amtrak Cascade service.

Back in 2012, the BC, Washington State, and Oregon governments signed a Memo of Understanding to jointly manage the rail service. Not surprising, but the BC government hasn't kept up their end of the deal. Right now there are two daily round-trip trains that serve Metro Vancouver. A long-term plan for the Amtrak Cascade service, created by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) in 2006, envisioned four daily round-trip trains for Metro Vancouver. In order to get to this point, the BC government would have needed to spend $98 to $662 million by now, and $503 to $1,067 million by 2023.

There is a range in pricing because the long-term plan notes that Amtrak Cascade service could terminate at Scott Road SkyTrian station in Surrey. This would be the most cost effective option as it wouldn’t require the replacement of the 111 year old Fraser River Rail Bridge. It would also improve access to Amtrak Cascade service for more people in Metro Vancouver.

Since the BC government isn’t even interested in solving local transit issues in Metro Vancouver, I don’t think the provincial government will help fund improvements to the Amtrak Cascade rail service in the province.

With the US federal and provincial governments' lack of support for the on-going operation of the rail service, Washington State has become the major funder of the service. Luckily, Washington State is working to grow ridership and revenue. By 2017, rail service between Portland and Vancouver will be expanded from four daily round-trip trains to six daily round trips trains. Travel times will also be reduced by about 10 minutes.

Even with the lack of provincial support, Amtrak rail service in Metro Vancouver will be improving. Right now you have to go through a two-step inspection process to be cleared for entry into the US, once at Pacific Central Station, and once at the US border. This slows down service by 10 to 20 minutes. Work has been underway to remove the border inspection by making Pacific Central Station a preclearance facility. This is similar to YVR; you clear US Customs at the airport.

In June of this year, Transport Canada, WSDOT, and Amtrak met a Pacific Central Station. Transport Canada informed WSDOT and Amtrak that the station is now ready to be a preclearance facility. It is now up to US Congress and the Canadian Parliament to official sign-off on a preclearance agreement.

It is good to see that Washington State is continuing to support passenger rail service, it is unfortunate that BC has not kept up its end of the agreement as we could have had much better passenger rail service in Metro Vancouver.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Safety first: proposals to enhance three crosswalks and one park in the City of Langley

One of the things that I’ve been trying to advocate for in the City of Langley is for safer streets for walking and cycling. Making streets safer for people to walk or cycle will attract even more people to these modes, further enhancing safety. There is safety in numbers. Besides the health, social, and environmental benefits that comes from walking or cycling, active modes of transportation are the most cost effective ways to get around for both residents and government.

One of the ways to create safer streets is to enhance crosswalks. The City of Langley’s Public Safety Advisory Committee recently made a recommendation to improve crosswalks at three locations in the city:

  • 54 Avenue and 203 Street;
  • 54 Avenue and 204 Street; and
  • Michaud Crescent at 201 Street.

Improving these crosswalks was researched by both City of Langley and ICBC staff. This three locations are being proposed to be included in the 2016 capital budget. ICBC noted at the Public Safety Advisory Committee meeting that they will help fund improving the 54 Avenue crosswalks if City Council approves the budget for these projects.

The two 54 Avenue crosswalks currently have unlit, overhead crosswalks signs and zebra stripes. Even so, people usually blow through them when they are driving. I experience near-misses of being hit when crossing at 54 Avenue and 203 Street weekly. ICBC has recommended flash lights that can be activated when crossing plus overhead lighting.

Michaud Crescent at 201 Street is currently an unmarked crossing. Most people in BC don’t know that any intersection is a legal crosswalk. Marking the crosswalk would clarify this for people driving at Michaud and 201.

ICBC has recommended that curb extensions, narrowing the road at a crosswalks to improve visibility of people walking, should be part of enhancing all three crossing locations. Hopefully City Council will approve the budget for this, and doesn’t cheap out.

On another safety topic, Rotary Centennial Park is located behind the Fraser Crossing Mall at Fraser Highway and the Langley Bypass. The park has no viability from any street, and is very isolated.

Location of Rotary Centennial Park. Select image to enlarge.

Because there is limited visibility into the park, the park's facilities have become frequent targets of vandalism. In addition, it has become a prime location for illegal activity. Recently, the park has also become an illegal campsite. The City is looking to complete a “Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) Review be commissioned to identify potential immediate and long term solutions to address the current undesirable environment at Rotary Centennial Park.” It will be interesting to see the recommendations of this review which I hope that City Council will act on.

For more information about the crosswalks and proposed CPTED study, check out the latest City of Langley Council agenda.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Take the BC Climate Action Leadership Survey

The BC government is working towards the creation of a “Climate Leadership Plan”. This plan will supersede the earlier 2008 “Climate Action Plan” which included the carbon tax. Since the introduction of the carbon tax, the provincial government hasn’t really done much else to reduce GHG emissions or adapt to our changing climate. BC’s carbon tax was effective in reducing GHG emissions, but GHG emissions have actually started to increase again.

BC’s Historic GHG emissions, GDP and future targets. From Climate Leadership Discussion Guide. Select chart to enlarge.

Earlier this year, the province put together a “Climate Leadership Team” which includes members of the provincial government, academia, local government, environmental groups, First Nations, and resource-based businesses. They have been tasked with creating a new plan to address climate change in BC.

Since the province seems to be fixated with creating a LNG industry which will dwarf all other GHG emissions in this province, it will be interesting to see if the new “Climate Leadership Plan” will actually do anything meaningful.

Right now, the province has released a decision guide and is looking for feedback via an online survey which will be up until August 17th. The decision guide talks very generally on how we live, travel, work, and what we value, and how that impacts climate change. The guide also looks at some tools that can be used to reduce GHG emissions and adapt to climate change. The online survey is looking to gauge how people feel about ways to reduce GHG and adapted to climate change.

I completed the survey in about 10 minutes. If you have time, I suggest that you complete the survey too.

A draft “Climate Leadership Plan” is suppose to be released around Christmas. There will be a chance for public feedback on the draft plan. The final plan is expected to be released in March 2016.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

After reading this report, you’ll think twice about going over the Pattullo Bridge

A few weekends ago, I was walking on Columbia Street with some friends. We were walking from Downtown New Westminster to the Brewery District near Sapperton SkyTrain station. We walked underneath the Pattullo Bridge.

Now, it is generally known that the Pattullo Bridge is in rough shape, but what I saw was shocking. There was netting installing under the bridge to prevent chunks of the bridge from hitting people walking, cycling, or driving along Columbia. I wish I took a picture. Clearly TransLink has been monitoring the condition of the bridge because where there was sections of cracked concrete, or exposed rebar, there was orange spray paint. I am not exaggeration when I say that the section of bridge deck above Columbia Street was covered in spray paint. Beyond the cracks and sections of missing concrete, the bridge is also rusting away.

Sometimes when governments say something needs to be replaced due to age, there is an ulterior motive. For example, both the old Port Mann Bridge and the current Massey Tunnel were/are in a state of good repair, but one was replaced to build a massive toll highway and the other is being replaced to enable better access for Port Metro Vancouver.

The Pattullo Bridge needs to be replaced because it is falling into the Fraser River, but how bad is it in need of replacement?

I found a June 17, 2014 report on the bridge deep within TransLink’s website. The bridge has the following overall issues:

  • susceptibility to collapse from a moderate earthquake;
  • river scour threat to the stability of the bridge foundations;
  • a delaminating bridge deck [concrete and rebar seperating;
  • concrete and steel structural elements reaching the end of their functional life;
  • spalling concrete from the underside of the deck and from the piers creating a falling debris hazard;
  • narrow travel lanes;
  • no median barrier;
  • the bridge has not been designed to withstand a vessel impact;
  • poor pedestrian/cycling facilities, including an absence of suicide prevention measures.

Overall it is in rough shape, but some of the details really make you think twice about using the bridge. For example, the report states:

The inspected deck areas varied between fair and poor, with considerable areas of delamination (disconnection of the concrete from the steel), localized patching, and surface spalls. While deck patching and repaving have been undertaken in recent years, these repairs are considered viable in the short-term only. It is expected that the corrosion and its related damage will occur at an increasing rate, requiring bridge maintenance closures to occur at increasing frequency and for longer durations.

There have been several instances during the current and previous deck repair programs where removal of the deteriorated concrete from the top surface of the deck resulted in small holes through the deck, usually less than approximately 100 mm in diameter. The frequency and size of these full-thickness damage events should be expected to increase over time. At this time, the possibility of a localized full thickness deck failure (a small or large but deep pothole that could cause damage to vehicles) cannot be ruled out.

With this is mind, it is no surprise that TransLink is planning massive closures for the bridge to complete a $100 million repair job in 2016. Of course, there will still be fundamental issues with the bridge. Even with the repairs, the bridge’s life will only be extended by about decade. The repairs will only “reduce the magnitude of the prevailing risks” of having the Pattullo Bridge remain in service.

It is interesting that the provincial government is committed to replacing the safe Massey Tunnel, but expects local government to come up with the majority of the funds to replace the Pattullo Bridge which is crumbling into the Fraser River.

Monday, August 10, 2015

What to do about Langley City's Brydon Lagoon

Around this time last year, there was a lot of pressure to do something with Brydon Lagoon in the City of Langley. The lagoon is located in the Nicomekl Floodplain near 53rd Avenue at the Surrey/Langley border. This old sewage treatment facility was transformed to a “wildlife sanctuary” in the mid-1980s.

Over the years, the lagoon has been slowly filling in due to siltation. Hot weather combined with the slow infilling of the lagoon culminated with between 500-1000 fish dying in the lagoon last August. There was a real push from City of Langley citizens to preserve Brydon Lagoon at that time. Being an election year, City of Langley Council struck up a Brydon Lagoon Task Force to study the issue.

In 2013, a pond management study was produced by Dillion Consulting. Brydon Lagoon was one of the ponds that was included in the study. The consulting team made a number of recommendations about Brydon Lagoon which members of the Park and Environment Advisory Committee, Langley Field Naturalist, and Langley Environmental Partners Society questioned.

For example, the consultants recommended creating a fish passage between Brydon Lagoon and the Nicomekl River. As Brydon Lagoon is populated with invasive fish and provides limited habitat value for local wild salmon, this was a recommendation from the pond study that the Brydon Lagoon Task Force did not support. The consultants also recommended putting lighting into Brydon Lagoon, the task force did not support this recommendation either.

The task force reviewed the Dillion Consulting Pond Management Strategies Study, past reports and documentation, and local knowledge. The task force ended up making the following recommendations with an eye on maintaining the water quality of the lagoon.

Short Term (1-3 years) action items listed by recommended priority:

  • Keep and maintain fountain and aeration system
  • Cover the concrete overflow structure on the southwestern corner
  • Enhanced signage
  • Direct groundwater to Lagoon
  • Repair/improve the outlet structure from the pond
  • Diversify Lagoon shoreline and deepen (further investigation needed)
  • Maintain the current trail system

Mid Term (3-5 years) action items listed by recommended priority:

  • Create habitat features in Lagoon
  • Divert run-off from adjacent catchment areas
  • Develop viewing platform
  • Provide pre-treatment of storm sewer outflows

Long Term (5-10 years) action items listed by recommended priority:

  • Replace invasive with native species
  • Incorporate CPTED security design elements
  • Enhanced public features

Replacing the outlet structure for Brydon Lagoon has already been budgeted for. It will be interesting to see if council will move forward with some of the other short-term recommendations from the task force such as directing groundwater to the lagoon, and diversifying the shoreline and depth of the lagoon. These two items will likely have a significant financial cost. Hopefully, it won’t take until the next election cycle for the full list of short-term action items to be addressed.

The full recommendations of the task force are located in the latest council agenda package starting on page 18.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Commuting by car is making me fat and grumpy

Over the past several weeks, I’ve been working from 4:30am to 1:00pm to cover a shift for one of my co-workers who is taking a holiday. This means that I have been leaving my home around 3:35am, so I’m not late for work. At this time in the morning, there is no transit service between Langley and Vancouver's Olympic Village. I’ve been taking a company vehicle between home and work.

I haven’t owned a car for a long time, and have never regularly commuted between Langley and Vancouver in a car. After commuting by car for about two weeks, I can tell you that I’m looking forward to getting back to taking transit. Why?

Well, one of the first thing that I've noticed is that while my time commuting has dropped from 1 hour and 20 minutes by transit to 45 minutes by driving, door-to-door, I actually have less time in my day to accomplish what I want to do.

For example, I normally write on this blog on my way to work in the morning. The time I spend on transit is productive time. One the way back from work, I normally catch up on email, social media, and reading. These are things that I cannot do while driving. By driving, I’m actually losing about an hour a day because I can't do anything when I'm driving.

Driving is also somehow concurrently stressful and boring. When I get home or get to work, I have to decompress before getting on with my day. It really isn’t nice coming to work or coming home cranky. Driving really isn’t good for my mental health, and speaking of health...

I got a Fitbit this Christmas and have been using it to track how many kilometers I go in a day. I’ve gone from walking about 10km per day, to about 8km per day. That is a pretty large drop in kilometers. Over time that means less exercise, less calories burned, and more weight gain.

There has been recent research showing that driving it bad for both mental health and physical health. After two weeks of driving to work, I can attest to this fact. Driving is actually making me less happy.

I’m looking forward to getting back to working a shift where I can take transit to work. If frequent, reliable transit was available to more people in Metro Vancouver, I have to wonder if we would live in a happier, healthier region.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Surrey to bring transportation equity to 105A Avenue in Whalley

Over the last several years, the City of Surrey has become very serious about building a community where people have the ability to walk or cycling safely and with dignity.

When it comes to cycling infrastructure, for the most part cities have been building on-street bike lanes. These lanes only appeal to a small subset of the population: younger, able-bodied males. Cycling infrastructure that is safe and attractive for people of all-ages and all-abilities needs to be separated from high-speed vehicular traffic.

In Surrey, a large component of their accessibility cycling network is based on the build-out of an extensive off-street greenway network. While the greenway network will blanket most of the city, there are areas where accessibility cycling infrastructure must be built right next to the high-speed traffic. One of these areas is Whalley/Downtown Surrey.

2013 City of Surrey greenway concept map. Select map to enlarge.

Last February, the City of Surrey received a $214,328 matching grant from the province to improve 105A Avenue between University Drive and Whalley Boulevard, making it safer and easier to walk or cycle in the Surrey’s emerging downtown core.

Proposed pedestrian and cycling improvements for 105A Avenue in Whalley. Select map to enlarge.

This 600 meter stretch of road will receive the following improvements:

  • New traffic signal at 105A Avenue and University Drive, to help improve traffic flow, reduce collisions, and provide safer crossing opportunities for pedestrians.
  • New traffic signal at 105A Avenue and Whalley Boulevard.
  • New left-turn bays on 105A Avenue at the existing signalized intersection of King George Boulevard.
  • New pedestrian letdowns on 105A Avenue at the intersection of University Drive, 134A Street, 135A Street, and Whalley Boulevard, to increase accessibility for scooters, wheelchairs, people with visual impairment, strollers, and other sidewalk users.
  • New marked crosswalks at the existing all-way stop of 105A Avenue and City Parkway.
  • New separated bike lanes on 105A Avenue between University Drive and Whalley Boulevard, which will feature a buffer between cyclists and moving traffic.
  • Repaving 105A Avenue between University Drive and Whalley Boulevard.

Surrey also has several other cycling projects on the books for this year.

While Surrey still continues to build conventional bike lanes, I hope they will put more focus on building cycling infrastructure that will appeal to the largest possible amount of people.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

KPU researcher studying the future of food security in Metro Vancouver

When you go grocery shopping, the food you buy can come from all parts of the world. If you buy a package of cookies, the ingredients listed could come from multiply continents. Climate change, the cost of transportation, and the degradation of the environment are destabilizing how our current food system functions.

There is a growing recognition that in the near future food production will have to be more localized. This means that food will need to be grown, raised, and processed locally. We will not be able to rely on the availability of affordable Californian lettuce and tomatoes to feed people in Metro Vancouver.

Some regions will be in a better position than others as food production becomes more localized. In Metro Vancouver, we currently have an advantage as we are surrounded by high-quality agricultural land, have milder temperatures, and have access to water. There are, of course, threats to our ability to produce food locally. The biggest threat is from urban development of farmland.

Beyond food security, localized food production will also contribute to a stronger local economy.

Map of the Southwest BC Bio-Region. Select map to enlarge.

To quantify what our future may look like, researchers at Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Institute for Sustainable Food Systems are in the middle of a three-year research project that is studying what they call the Bio-Region of Southwest BC. The researcher define a Bio-Region as “areas that share similar topography, plant and animal life, and human culture.”

The food system includes all processes and infrastructure involved in feeding a population and includes the following key elements: pre-production, farming and wild harvest, processing and storage, distribution and marketing, consumption and waste management. Select graphic to enlarge.

The objects of the research project are to deliver insight in the following areas:

  1. How to increase self-reliance in agricultural production including land, water, and processing facility requirements
  2. How to minimize external inputs and optimize soil, water and air quality from agricultural production
  3. How to reduce and remove greenhouse gas emission from agricultural production
  4. How to increase biodiversity of crops and livestock types as well as how agricultural land can support wildlife habitat
  5. How to reduce the ecological footprint of the food system
  6. How to strengthen and enhance local farm and ancillary business
  7. How local agricultural production contributes to the local economy

The research project’s major funding partners are the Real Estate Foundation of British Columbia, R. Howard Webster Foundation, and VanCity. The project has received the support of the Agricultural Land Commission and many local governments. The Township of Langley has contributed $12,000 to the project and the City of Langley has contributed $6,000 to the project for example. The project team is looking for the support of Metro Vancouver as well.

When this project is completed, a policy framework will be produced that can guide all levels of government in supporting local food production in Southwest BC.