Thursday, October 29, 2015

Mapping industrial land use (or not) in Metro Vancouver

Back in September, I posted about the shrinking industrial land base in Metro Vancouver. Because industrial land is in short supply due to the high demands for more retail and residential space, the regional district commissioned a high-level Industrial Land Inventory in 2010.

Metro Vancouver is now in the process of completing a detailed inventory of all land-uses that are occurring in regionally-zoned industrial land. The inventory will help Metro Vancouver and municipalities gauge how successful they have been in preserving land for industrial and light-industrial purposes. This inventory will hopefully help local governments update plans and bylaws to support the protection of the industrial land based.

While the full detailed inventory is not yet complete, detailed maps for the industrial area in Newton has been released.

There is both a detailed map and a consolidated map. The detailed map show some 23 land-use designations. The consolidated map reduces those designations to seven: building-intensive industrial, natural resources, land-intensive industrial, large-scale infrastructure/transportation, retail use, other commercial use, and other land use.

As you could imagine having a large amount of land-uses that preclude industrial uses, in an industrial area, would be a concern.

Draft consolation thematic map for Newton of industrial land base. Selection map to enlarge.

Draft detailed thematic map for Newton of industrial land base. Select map to enlarge.

As you can see in the preceding maps, there is a fair amount of red on the map. This red indicates that there are retail stores operating in the central Newton industrial area. With this information, Surrey could address the proliferation of retail shops in industrial zones.

For more information, I suggest you check out the Metro Vancouver Industrial Lands Inventory Presentation that was prepared for Metro Vancouver’s Regional Planning Committee.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Langley City Homelessness Strategic Plan will need provincial and federal support to succeed

When I ran for Langley City Council last fall, one of the things that I heard from many residents in the community was that they were concerned about the increase in people who are homeless in Langley, especially in Downtown Langley.

Total counted people who are homeless in the Langleys, 2014

Shockingly, the amount of people who are homeless in Langley has increased from under 25 people in 2002, to around 100 people in 2014. 15% of people who are homeless are also Aboriginal. 16% of people are children and youth, and 15% of people are seniors. Homelessness impacts other vulnerable groups of people including people who are queer, people with disabilities, people with addictions, people with mental health issues, and new immigrants.

Last fall, Langley City launched the Langley Homelessness Task Force. The primary outcome of the task force will be to deliver a Homelessness Strategic Plan that will outline strategies and solutions to address and prevent homelessness in Langley. The draft document is currently scheduled to be released this year.

While having a strategic plan is great, implementing the action items in the plan is the only way that it will succeed. Back in 2008, the Langley Action Plan on Addressing Homelessness was released. It included 12 actionable items. I will outline the items, and what concrete progress has been made on them to date.

  1. There is a need for an adult drop-in centre. Status: United Churches of Langley offers 200th Street Drop-in
  2. There is a need for low-barrier supported housing for individuals with complex needs, such as those with mental health and/or addictions concerns, and especially those with concurrent disorders diagnosis. Status: No concrete progress
  3. There is a need for affordable sustainable housing. Status: No concrete progress
  4. There is a need for proactive prevention services for those at-risk of homeless Status: No concrete progress
  5. There is a need for more transportation options to enable the homeless to access services. Status: No concrete progress
  6. There is a need for a coordinating entity for resources to the homeless and for those at-risk of homelessness. Status: No concrete progress
  7. There is a need for a youth safe house. Status: No concrete progress
  8. There is a need for daytox services in Langley. Status: Outpatient service delivered by Fraser Health.
  9. There is a need for residential long-term support recovery housing for those who having completed alcohol/drug rehabilitation. Status: Some services are offered at Wagner Hills for men, and Campbell Valley House of Hope for women.
  10. There is a need for accommodation for clients with mental health issues and/or addiction who are waiting to access residential programs. Status: No concrete progress
  11. There is a need for outreach workers for youth and women trading sex for shelter. Status: 2 FTE homeless outreach workers provided by Stepping Stones (funded by BC Housing).
  12. There is a need for an integrated case management system for the homeless. Status: No concrete progress

I look forward to the recommendations coming out of the Langley Homelessness Task Force later this year. Looking at the list of items identified in the 2008 plan, and seeing that most of the items where not actioned, it seems to me that the challenge is around funding. The support of the provincial and federal governments will be critical for any action plan or strategic plan to succeed. The City of Langley on its own will not be able to address these complex issues.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Are you critical of TransLink? For a fresh perspective, take Toronto's TTC

TransLink —our regional transportation agency in Metro Vancouver— isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, but since I've been traveling to Toronto for work this year, I’ve come to the conclusion that some people in Metro Vancouver make mountains out of mole hills when it comes to issues with our transportation agency.

The SkyTrain has become less reliable, there is no arguing about that, but TransLink is also replacing many of the core components of the system to improve its reliability. Along the Expo Line, TransLink is almost finished replacing all of the power rails. They are also replacing many sections of worn-out running rail along the Expo Line. TransLink is refurbishing all of the original SkyTrain cars. All combined, this should result in SkyTrain reliable going back to near perfection.

Toronto's transit system, the TTC, is less reliable than Metro Vancouver's. Breakdowns on the subway and on the streets, and buses that just don’t show up are a fact of life in Toronto.

Toronto's current streetcar fleet went into service between 1977 and 1987; and is at the end of life. The TTC signed a contract with Bombardier in 2009 to replace the fleet, unfortunately due to a host of problems, the streetcars aren’t being delivered on-time.

Speaking about on-time, back in 2004 the federal government, Province of Ontario, and City of Toronto announced that the Presto Card would replace all the various forms of payment on the TTC. It will also be an accepted form of payment for other transit agencies throughout Ontario.

Unlike Metro Vancouver where TransLink delivers all transit service, if you live in the Greater Toronto Area, you are likely going to have to use more than one transit agency during your commute. For example, you might use GO Transit commuter trains and the TTC subway system. This means that you may have to carry around multiply fare products, and become an expert on the fare structures of the various transit agencies in the regoin.

The Presto Card will increase the ease of use when taking transit in Toronto. All people need to do is make sure they have enough money on their card, and the Presto system will figure out the rest. The Presto system was first announced in 2004. The TTC was originally going to be fully converted to the system by this year, it is now being promised to be fully deployed by the end of 2016. Assuming that they actually complete the roll-out in 2016, that will have been about 12 year!

The TransLink Compass Card was launched back in 2009 and was originally planned to be in service by the spring of 2013. TransLink wasn’t able to make that target, but the system did go live in October. The Compass Card roll-out took 6 years.

Unlike the TTC which charges one price no matter where you travel, TransLink is a multi-zone system and is moving towards a distance-based fare system. Even though the Compass Card roll-out was delayed, TransLink rolled-out a system that is handling a more complex fare structure, in a short time than it is taking the TTC to roll-out the Presto system with its simpler fare structures.

Now even though the TTC has a simple fare structure, it is actually more complex to use the system. With TransLink it is easy to use your credit card, debit card, or cash to get a new Compass Card, load up a Compass Card with cash or a pass, get a single-use ticket, or buy a day pass.

Example of a TTC pass product, and adult fare tokens.

While you can use cash on the TTC with no issue, using debit or credit isn’t as simple. Three different webpages are required to explain how to purchase tokens or passes for use on the TTC with debit or credit.

The TTC isn’t a horrible system, but when I use Toronto’s transit system, it reminds me of how good the transit system in Metro Vancouver really is.

Monday, October 26, 2015

TransLink's South of Fraser Performance Review Released

TransLink created a transit plan for the South of Fraser back in 2007 focusing up to the year 2013. The plan outlined how TransLink will deliver and enhance transit service in the South of Fraser.

One of the problems with many transit plans, and planning visions in general, is that they don’t have any required monitoring or follow-up. Without monitoring, it is difficult to keep organizations accountable on their plan’s deliverables. It is also difficult for organizations to gauge the success of their plans, so they can find where they did well, what constraints they ran into, and how they can improve.

For example, the City of Langley has a great plan for it Downtown Core. Unfortunately, there is no monitoring or follow-up for the plan. The City has not made any public documents available on the success of its implementation.

TransLink, on the other hand, follows up on its area transportation plans. So how did TransLink do in delivering what it outlined in its 2007 South of Fraser Area Transit Plan?

TransLink recently released a report which outlined the progress made towards implementing the plan. The report covered the period from 2007 through 2013.

One of the targets set in the area transit plan was to see transit mode share in the South of Fraser increase to 7% by 2011. Transit mode share increased from 4.5% in 2004 to 8.5% in 2011. This is a marked increase, and really shows how TransLink has been investing in transit service in the South of Fraser.

One of the key priorities in the area transit plan was to introduce B-Line service along Fraser Highways, along 200th Street, and along the King George/104th corridor between White Rock, Downtown Surrey, and Guildford. Unfortunately, TransLink was only able to implement B-Line service between Newton Exchange and Guildford along King George/104th due to funding constraints.

TransLink also planned on implementing frequent, all-day transit service along Highway 1 between Carvolth, Guildford, Lougheed Town Centre, and Coquitlam Town Centre. Due to funding constraints, TransLink was only able to implement the 555 express bus service.

While not as sexy as B-Line service or light rail, transit service that runs every 15 minutes or better all day, is key to increasing transit mode share. While TransLink wasn’t able to fully implement its envisioned frequent transit network due to funding constraints, it was able to build out most of the vision. This is one of the main reasons why transit mode share has increased sharply in the South of Fraser. During the reporting period, TransLink was able to almost double the amount of people and businesses within a short walk of the frequent transit network.

One of the areas where TransLink wasn’t successful in implementing, between 2007 through 2013, was building-out transit service in new, growing communities. For example, transit service is lacking in areas like Clayton, South Surrey, and Willoughby. Not to sound like a broken record, but the only reason why TransLink wasn’t able to delivery these planned improvements was because of a lack of funding from the province/local governments.

The following tables show that TransLink was able to increase ridership during the reporting period, while keeping the cost of delivering that service stable.

2010-2013 South of Fraser transit performance statistics. Select tables to enlarge.

If you want to dive into more details, I suggest you check out the full monitoring report. While TransLink wasn’t really able to deliver rapid transit service in the South of Fraser, it was able to build-out the frequent transit network which has shifted more people onto transit.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

More proof that the province is underfunding transit in Metro Vancouver

This summer, I posted a series of blog posts call “The Story of TransLink”. The series investigated the history of how the BC Liberals ended up downloading the responsibility to fund transit from the province to local government. In the series, I posted graphs which showed how the province has underfund transit in Metro Vancouver, and how the rest of BC receives a higher level of provincial support for transit funding.

At the last Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation meeting, Mike Buda who is Interim Executive Director of the Mayors’ Council, presented on “Closing the Funding and Accountability Gaps”.

In his presentation, he came to the same conclusion that I did: the province's share of funding for transit in Metro Vancouver has dropped over the last decade, while funding for transit in the rest of the province has remained higher.

Comparing transit subsidies in Metro Vancouver to Victoria and the rest of the province. Select chart to enlarge.

One of the excuses used by the province when questioned about their underfunding of transit in the region is to say that other regions pay Hospital Tax. The province says that because there is no Hospital Tax in Metro Vancouver, property tax should be higher. As you can see in the following slide, Metro Vancouver taxpayers are tied with the Capital Regional District (Victoria) in paying the highest property taxes per capita in the province.

Per capita hospital tax and transit property taxes paid in Metro Vancouver, Victoria, Kelowna, Kamloops, and the rest of the province. Select chart to enlarge.

Metro Vancouver has the highest per capita amount of local taxes funding transit in the province.

Per capita total local taxes paid for transit in Metro Vancouver, Victoria, Kelowna, Kamloops, and the rest of the province. Select chart to enlarge.

While the province may claim that there is room to jack up property tax to pay for transit in Metro Vancouver, this is simply not true. If more taxpayers in Metro Vancouver knew about the bum deal for transit they are getting from the province, they would be demanding that the provincial government pay its fair share for transit services in Metro Vancouver.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Sprawling under the radar in Langley

When people think of sprawl, the image of acres of farmland being destroyed to accommodate massive housing development projects likely comes to mind. While Langley has certainly seen projects like this, there is another form of sprawl happening in Langley that is insidious and just as destructive.

Areas around most of the urban edge of the Township of Langley are zoned RU-1. This zoning allows for up to two dwellings per lot. Allowing two dwellings per lot on a farm within the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) makes sense as it supports farming, but allowing this on rural land outside of the ALR is a different story.

As I posted about earlier this summer, some people are creating two strata lots out of one fee-simple lot in rural Langley outside of the ALR. This essentially allows people to get away with subdividing a lot, without actually subdividing a lot. This tactic would not be allowed within the ALR.

The end result of this process is the creations of insidious sprawl, and the conversion of rural areas into suburban areas. One option Township of Langley Council could take is to examine if two dwellings on rural lots outside of the ALR should be removed from the current zoning bylaws.

Unfortunately, Township Council has decided to go in the opposite direction in some parts of Langley; they formally allow subdivisions.

For example, Township Council approved the following change to their Rural Plan in April 2014.

“Subdivision in the area immediately adjacent to the eastern boundary of Walnut Grove, south of 88 Avenue and not located in the ALR may be permitted, provided the current permitted density of two dwelling units per fee simple lot is maintained. Rezoning of properties in the area shall be considered provided:

The proposed zoning allows only two lots for each existing fee simple lot and only one single family dwelling per lot;
The lot is serviced by municipal water and sanitary sewer services; and
Access to lots fronting 216 Street and 88 Avenue is provided by new roads connecting to 217A Street or 86A Avenue.”

Not surprisingly, some landowners in the area are taking advantage of this new provision. The most recent example was presented two days ago at a Council meeting.

Area where the Township of Langley's Rural Plan allows subdivision at the border of Walnut Grove. Section image to enlarge.

While this is just one small suburban incursion into rural Langley, this is one of many other small incursions into rural Langley. While it might not cause the same controversy, or a quick change in the landscape, the end result is the same. Areas of rural Langley which are not protected by the Agricultural Land Commission, are being slowly turning into suburban sprawl.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Federal Election Results and New Ridings

Last night was a truly historic federal election. The governing Conservatives, who had a majority, were replaced with the Liberals who will be forming a majority government. At the beginning of the campaign, people weren’t even thinking that the Liberals would become the official opposition. This is almost a mirror of the election in Alberta this spring when the NDP, who no one thought would ever form government, swept into power.

While I will save the federal political pontification for others, I wanted to share maps of the 2011 and 2015 election results in Metro Vancouver.

2011 election results in Metro Vancouver from Elections Canada's map of official results for the 41st general election (2011). Select map to enlarge

2015 election result in Metro Vancouver from Elections Canada's map of the unofficial results for the 42nd general election (2015). Select map to enlarge.

New ridings were added for the 2015 election throughout Metro Vancouver. In the South of Fraser, Cloverdale and the City of Langley were put together to form a new riding. Other ridings in the South of Fraser were completely redrawn.

As a general rule of thumb, urban ridings tend to vote more progressive while suburban/edge ridings in city-regions tend to vote more conservative.

The updated ridings in the South of Fraser were split between urban and suburban/rural in 2015; more so than in 2011. At the same time, the South of Fraser has become more urban over the last four year. I have to wonder if the changes made to riding boundaries, and the urbanization of the South of Fraser, are some of the reasons why the South of Fraser’s political map is so different.

In Langley, I never thought I’d see a progress party get a seat. Langley Township and the City used to be one riding. But with Langley City now separated from the Township of Langley, it happened. As Willoughby becomes more urban, will the Township end up with progressive politicians in the future too? Only time will tell.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Slowing down traffic by Nicomekl Elementary School

53rd Avenue in the City of Langley was originally designed to be a Langley Bypass of sorts when it was built back before I was alive. When the actual Langley Bypass was built, the plan to make 53rd Avenue into a major thoroughfare was drop. Of course, the sections of 53rd Avenue that were built are wide enough to support a 4-lane highway; it is no surprise that people regularly drive with speeds that far exceed the 50km/h speed limit along the corridor. I live along 53rd Avenue, and can attest to the high speed of motor vehicles along that road.

Nicomekl Elementary School fronts 53rd Avenue at the corner of 200th Street. At 201A Street, there is a marked zebra-striped crosswalk. People driving regularly ignore the crosswalk, and routinely disregard the 30km/h school zone and playground zone. The City of Langley recently installed a speed limit sign that tells you when you're driving too fast, but this has had minimal impact on vehicle speeds.

Residents along 53rd Avenue submitted numerous requests to have the City of Langley traffic calm the area around the school, and improve the visibility of the crosswalk at 201A Street.

The City sent out ballots to residents in the area, and found that 79% of them supported traffic calming. Because of this, City staff hosted an open house in September to present serval traffic calming options for people to choose.

Option 1:
Speed Tables
Curb Extensions
Raised Crosswalk
Cost: $49,000

Option 2
Speed Tables
Curb Extensions
Raised Crosswalk
Bike Lane
Cost: $52,000

Option 3
Speed Tables
Cost: $9,000

Option 4
Speed Tables
Raid Crosswalk
Cost: $18,000

Proposed traffic calming option that received the most support from residents near 53 Avenue by Nicomekl Elementary School. Select image to enlarge.

The majority of the residents picked option 2 which includes bike lanes. One of the side benefits of bike lanes is that their painted lines actually cause people driving to slow down further as people driving perceive the vehicle travel lane to be narrower than it actually is.

I’ve been advocating for a community where people can feel safe walking and cycling. Looking at the results of this open house, it seems that I am not alone. I hope that Langley City Council supports option 2 for the section of 53rd Avenue between 200th Street and 201A Street at tonight's council meeting.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

New visualization project maps Stats Canada data

The visualization of statistics can help us comprehend complex information. The Statistics Canada Census and National Household Survey contain a wealth of information. Unfortunately, most of that information is only available in data tables. On their own, these data tables can seem like just a jumble of numbers, but visualized, that data comes to life.

Jens von Bergmann and Alejandro Cervantes started a data visualization project called Census Mapper. This project represents various Census and National Household Survey data sets onto an interactive map. Right now, there is a little more than a dozen different maps available for all of Canada on the site.

One of the interesting map for Metro Vancouver is the combined commuting cost plus median value of housing by census track. The results are similar to the Metro Vancouver study that I posted about earlier this year. With the exception of the super-rich single-family housing areas in Vancouver and West Vancouver, the closer you are to transit, the more affordable it is to live in Metro Vancouver.

Map of Combined Commuting Cost and Dwelling Value based on data from Stats Canada. Select map to enlarge.

What is really neat about the Census Mapper project, is that you can drill into more detailed maps from the overall maps. For example, the follow map shows the direct commute cost which data was fed into the overall combined commuting cost and dwelling value map.

Map of Direct Commute Cost. Select map to enlarge.

New maps a being added to the Census Mapper site regularly.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Mobility pricing may replace zone-based transit fare system

With TransLink’s decision to switch from a 3-zones to 1-zone fare system on buses to accommodate the launch of the Compass Card, there has been many questions about how this will impact transit ridership and the agency's bottom line.

While there will certainly be some impact, it will only be temporary as the 1-zone fare system on buses is temporary. TransLink is actually in the process of starting a complete review of its fare system.

The current zone-based fare system was introduced back in 1984, and according to TransLink, it is no longer a fair way to collect fares due to changes in travel patterns in Metro Vancouver over the years.

The long-term goal of our region's local governments and agencies is to shift away from zone-based fares and gas tax, to mobility pricing. Mobility price results in people being charged for the distances they travel with a direct user fee.

When it comes to driving, some might consider gas tax a form of mobility pricing; the more you drive generally translates into the use of more fuel. The challenge is that different vehicles uses different amounts and types of fuel. This means that two people driving two different vehicles, would pay different amounts of gas tax. Gas tax is also hidden. For mobility pricing to work, people need to see the direct relationship between how far they travel, and how much they pay.

While the switch from gas tax to mobility pricing for our road network is likely a decade away, mobility pricing on our transit network may be coming as early as 2017.

By mid-2016, TransLink plans to have a list of possible options for an updated fare system for the transit network. Mobility pricing will be on the table.

If TransLink moves forward will mobility pricing for the entire transit network, the outstanding issues with Compass Card readers on buses will need to be resolved.

With mobility pricing and a distance-based fare structure, some people will pay more than they do today while other will pay less to use transit. Making such a large-scale change to the transit fare system will confuse and/or upset some people. TransLink’s did a poor job of managing people’s expectations during the roll out of the Compass Card. During the failed transit referendum, TransLink came into the discussion a day late, and a dollar short.

While TransLink plans to host a series of public consultations about new fare system options for the transit network, the agency will need to do a much better job of engaging with the region if it wants people to understand and support a new fare system.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Survey says provincal policy driving truck traffic to Pattullo Bridge

Transportation Canada, the BC Ministry of Transportation, and TransLink recently released their 2014 “Metro Vancouver Truck Classification and Dangerous Goods Survey.” This comprehensive survey examined select truck routes throughout the region to find out the volume of truck traffic along those routes. The study also quantified how many of those trucks are carrying dangerous good, and what the classification of those dangerous goods were along the surveyed routes.

The survey report is over 320 pages long; page 18 examines truck volumes across Fraser River and Pitt River crossings with survey results from 2008 and 2014.

Total Truck Volumes Across Major River Crossings, 2008-2014. Select table or chart to enlarge.

While not surprising, the survey confirms that the toll on the Port Mann Bridge has caused a major diversion of truck traffic onto the Pattullo Bridge. Trucks using the Port Mann Bridge pay either a $6.30 or $9.45 toll depending on the size of the truck.

The Port Mann Bridge saw a massive 20.9% plunge in truck traffic while the Pattullo Bridge saw a massive 15.1% increase in truck volumes between 2008 and 2014. Unfortunately, the failing Pattullo Bridge had the largest increase in both percentage and absolute volume of all the bridges surveyed.

This is bad news for a number of reasons. Heavy truck traffic causes more wear to transportation infrastructure than cars. This is why the toll in higher for trucks crossing the Port Mann Bridge. Driving heavy truck traffic onto the Pattullo Bridge causes further stress to a bridge that is already about to fall into the Fraser River.

The provincial tolling policy of only tolling new crossings like the Port Mann Bridge shifts heavy truck traffic from provincial to local roads and crossings. This not only increases congestion on local roads, but also shifts the damage caused by trucks from provincially funded roads to locally funded roads. The tolling policy indirectly allows the provincial government to further download transportation costs to the region.

While removing the toll from the Port Mann Bridge would be a bad idea, it is time for TransLink to toll all its major crossings. For example, TransLink could put a nominal toll on the Pattullo Bridge for light-duty vehicles such as cars, vans, and pickups. It could also places a toll on heavy trucks similar to the tolls paid to cross the Port Mann Bridge. This sort of tolling policy would drive heavy truck traffic back to provincial roads and crossings. Not only would this help extend the life of the Pattullo Bridge, but it would also allow TransLink to start banking money for the eventual replacement of the bridge. The policy would reduce truck volumes through New Westminster, giving residents in that community a better quality of life.

Whether it is transit or roads, it seems that provincial transportation policy is designed to offload the cost of funding the transportation system in Metro Vancouver from the provincial government to local governments.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Future SkyTrain Map Released

Curious about what the new SkyTrain network will look like once the Evergreen Line opens? The following map is from the September 25, 2015 Open Board Meeting Reports. It seems like there won’t actually be an “Evergreen Line”, but it will become an extension of the Millennium Line. The Expo Line will have two branches, just like the Canada Line.

Future Metro Vancouver Rail Transit Network. Select map to enlarge.

Major changes proposed for South of Fraser transit network

Since TransLink has no money to expand transit service in any meaningful way, for every new bus route or increase in service along one route, another route has to have its service reduced or eliminated. TransLink is proposing some major changes to transit service for the South of Fraser in the coming year. For every enhancement made to the South of Fraser network, service was reduced elsewhere. These proposed changes are outlined in the September 25, 2015 Open Board Meeting Reports.

For example if TransLink moves forward with its plans in Langley City and Brookswood, the 590 and 502 Brookswood services will be eliminated. I’m actually losing access to the 502 right next to where I live; this will increase my commute time in the morning. Update: People in Brookswood will have to take the 531 or C63, then transfer at Langley Centre. TransLink is proposing to loop the 531 thru the Langley Centre bus exchange. This will actually improve access for people heading toward Campbell Heights Business Park and South Surrey/White Rock.

Proposed changes to 502/590 in Langley City and Brookswood. Select map to enlarge.

TransLink is also proposing to move the 595 route from 200th Street to 208th Street. This proposed change will finally give people in Willoughby better access to transit services. It will be interesting to see if these routes will stay running every 30 minutes with higher frequent during peak hours, or if one of the routes might be upgraded to be part of the frequent transit network.

Proposed change to move 595 from 200th Street to 208th Street in Langley. Select map to enlarge.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The whole Compass Card shemozzle is the province’s fault

Yesterday was the first weekday for TransLink‘s new “one zone fare, bus anywhere” fare structure. Why did TransLink have to create a flat fare structure for its bus network?

With the huge political pressure to get the Compass Card/fare gate system launched, especially after the failed referendum, I’m sure that an edict came from on high to launch the Compass Card/fares gate system now! What has been holding up the full launch of the system to this point was the requirement for people to tap-off when leaving buses.

Because some people do not wait for the readers to process their cards and/or the readers do not validate their cards properly on the first try, some people would be charged for a three-zone fare even if they only travelled one-zone. While it is easy to blame TransLink, it is actually Cubic Transportation Systems that committed to delivering a system with working “tap-off” bus functionality, and the provincial government that wanted the system in the first place.

TransLink never wanted the Compass Card/fare gate system. In “December 2007, Premier Gordon Campbell’s former deputy minister and former special adviser Ken Dobell visited TransLink on behalf of Cubic Transportation Systems. Dobell, a former TransLink CEO, registered to lobby Falcon on behalf of Cubic Transportation Systems Inc. Approximately two weeks after [the lobbying], Falcon announced he wanted to see TransLink bring in controlled-access gates to SkyTrain.”

The whole Compass Card/fate gate program was provincially mandated.

A City of Burnaby Staff report from 2011 presents a timeline on how the Compass Card/fare gate program came to be. Here are some excerpts from that report:

2002 June: TransLink rejected the use of faregates on the SkyTrain system. A report to the TransLink Board estimated SkyTrain fare evasion at 8.7%, amounting to $3.3 million per annum loss to the system. The capital cost for faregates (then on only two SkyTrain lines) was estimated at $83 million, with incremental operating costs of $22 million per year.

2005 December: The TransLink Board again rejected faregates. SkyTrain fare evasion was estimated at this time at 6.3% of passengers, or $4 million per annum… the annualized cost (capital and operating) for faregates was estimated at $25 million.

2007 November: In a surprise announcement, the then-Minister of Transportation, the Honourable Kevin Falcon, announced that the Province would pay the capital cost of installing faregates on the SkyTrain system.

2009 April: Senior governments committed $70 million ($40 million provincial and $30 million federal) for faregates, about 41 % of the estimated capital costs of faregates.

2009 December: The TransLink Board decided to implement smart cards and faregates, based on a Business Case that they received [which was co-authored by the provincial government.]

2010 December 8: The TransLink Board awarded a ten-year contract to Cubic Transportation Systems (with IBM Canada) to design, build, and operate the smart card and faregate system.

Even as TransLink is rolling out the Compass Card/fare gate system today with the one-zone bus policy, the endgame for TransLink is to move to a distance-based fare system. This is only possible if you can tap-on and tap-off of every form of public transportation that TransLink provides. The question is, will Cubic be able to delivery on their original commitment?

The whole Compass Card/fare gate program was driven by the whims of a former provincial Transportation Minister. It amazes me that time and time again, the provincial government can muck around with Metro Vancouver's transit system, yet somehow deflect the blame for their mess-ups onto local governments and agencies.

Monday, October 5, 2015

When a Shared Pathway is not in the Township of Langley

Back in August, I posted on transportation infrastructure that enhances the visibility and safety of those who cycle in a rural context. What is required in a rural setting is different than what is needed in an urban setting.

In rural areas, one of the most important things that can be done to improve the visibility around cycling is to install signage and pavement markings on cycling routes. I shared two photos from my friend and cycling advocate John Evanochko on how the Township of Langley has been trying to enhance rural roads to support cycling.

I posted that installing “Share the Road” signs was a good way to promote cycling safety and visibility. It turns out that “Share the Road” signs can cause confusion for people who are driving and for people who are cycling. There is a great post by Bike Delaware titled “Why ‘Share the Road’ Is Gone in Delaware” which explains why that state is changing its signage.

Acceptable and unacceptable cycling signage in Delaware.

There is some legal ambiguity in BC around where in a general travel lane someone cycling should be. When you are cycling, you must stay “as near as practicable to the right side of [a] highway”, but you can take up the full lane for safety reasons. This includes if there is no shoulder or if the lane is narrow.

Speaking about cycling safety, the Township of Langley recently updated the pavement markings and signage of the two sites that I posted about in August. The new photos are from John as well.

Before: Cycling route signage in a rural section of the Township of Langley.

After: Shared Path signage and pavement marking installed.

Before: Share the Road sign and pavement marking at Murray Creek ravine on 48th Avenue.
After: Shared Path signage and pavement marking at Murray Creek ravine on 48th Avenue.

Is this really a "Shared Path"?

When municipalities create shared pathways for cycling and walking, there is normally a sufficient width to allow someone cycling to be able to comfortablely pass someone walking. This is not the case with the recent changes in the Township.

In fact, these new “Shared Pathways” are not wide enough for a person walking to feel safe; they're certainly not practical for cycling.

Creating these “Shared Pathways”, and removing the former signage, suggests that people cycling shouldn’t be in a general travel lane. If someone is cycling in the general travel lane, this can create a “get off the road” conflict. When on the “Shared Pathway”, it might not be practical to cycle at a reasonable speed; there is no way someone walking and cycling could actually share the pathway.

I’ve come to realize that much care and attention to detail is needed when installing signage to protect vulnerable road users.

In rural areas, the Surrey-style “Share the Road” signage without the wording “Share the Road”, combine with the green bike route signage that is current used in the Township will enhance cycling visibility and safety.

“Shared Pathway” signage and markings should only be used when a path is at least 3 meters wide; anything less is a sidewalk. Permitting cycling on a sidewalk decreases the safety and comfort of people walking.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Failed transit referendum post-mortem released

Moving in a Livable Region was a project supported by the Real Estate Foundation of British Columbia, the Vancouver Foundation, and the North Growth Foundation. It was run out of the SFU Centre for Dialogue. Started in 2012, the project’s aim was to provide a common ground for the business community, labour, advocates, local government, and academics to discuss how to improve sustainable transportation options in Metro Vancouver.

When the province announced the transit referendum, the project added the role of providing non-biased, credible information about the Mayors’ Transportation Vision for the region.

As we all know, the referendum fail. The Moving in a Livable Region project is now shut down. The final report produced by the project titled “Moving in a Livable Region: Dialogue for Complexity” was released last week. The report is a post-mortem for the referendum and the overall project. I suggest that you check out the full 16 page report; it provides some context on what happened behind the scenes.

The Moving in a Livable Region project team suggested the following as “lessons learned.”

  1. Sustainable funding for transportation is an issue that cuts across every jurisdiction and every sector in Metro Vancouver. Through professionally facilitated dialogue and a common basis of unity, diverse groups with varied interests can come together to develop a vision for working together to address sustainable funding for regional transportation.
  2. Early on in the referendum process, MLR provided evidence-based research on past ballot initiatives and referenda that highlighted three main points (i) the political process requires a lead time of at least 18 months from the development of the question and revenue tool to host a well-organized transportation referendum; (ii) there needs to be strong political leadership that supports a favourable outcome; and, (iii) there needs to be both a strong advocacy campaign and a strong educational campaign from a trusted source.
  3. Despite making this research widely available, the recommendations from this research were not followed, and a reasonable period for both the Yes and No campaigns to inform voters were not established.
  4. The economic, health, and environmental impacts of traffic congestion that were apparent to diverse business and community organizations did not resonate with or were not communicated well to citizens prior to the vote. Citizens did not have an opportunity to meaningfully engage on the transportation vision, referendum question, or funding sources; despite broad consensus on the need for sustainable funding for regional transportation, regional leaders focused their efforts too narrowly on diverse but representational stakeholders groups. Given a longer timeline, the province, Mayors’ Council, and TransLink could have developed an engagement strategy to ensure that citizens had a voice in developing the region’s transportation vision.
  5. The sector representatives who participated in MLR valued the opportunity to expand their networks, their understanding of transportation, and their capacity to bridge to new communities and across sectoral cleavages. Such a process can provide a model for other complex cross-sector negotiation.

The Moving in a Livable Region website will remain online, but will not be updated.