Thursday, March 31, 2016

Major bus route changes starting April 11 in the South of Fraser

Update: I have learned that South of Fraser route changes will not occur until later this year or early 2017.

Last fall, I posted about proposed changes that TransLink was contemplating for the bus network in the South of Fraser. These changes are part of a larger program to adjust transit service in the region to match changing travel patterns.

With no new money to expand transit service, TransLink has taken a hard look at the services it provides. Over the past several years, it has been maximizing the efficiency of the transit network by shift service hours around.

While it is good that TransLink has gone through these efficiency exercises, the fact still remains that there is not enough transit service hours to meet the needs of our growing region. Only new funding to provide improved service will help.

Over the fall, TransLink got feedback from people that live near the proposed bus route changes. Based on that feedback, TransLink will be making the following changes to bus routes in the South of Fraser. Along with the changes, the level of support has been included. These changes outlined will start taking place on April 11th.

Bus route changes in Cloverdale and Panorama.

Bus route changes along King George Boulevard.

Transit service will finally be provided along 208th Street in the fast-growing Willoughby community. The 509 route that serves Walnut Grove will now go to Lougheed SkyTrain instead of Surrey Central to relieve crowding on the 555.

Bus route changes in Willoughby.

Bus route changes for Walnut Grove.

In Langley City and Brookswood, the 502 will no longer go to Brookswood and the 590 service will be deleted. The 531 will now go to Langley Centre, and the C63 routing has been adjusted.

Bus route changes in Brookswood and Langley City.

TransLink proposed a series of changes in White Rock/South Surrey that raised a number of concerns with people in the area. TransLink will be working on refining the following option before putting any changes into effect in that part of the South of Fraser.

Proposed bus route changes in South Surrey and White Rock

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

A brief history of the federal Gas Tax Fund and why it goes to TransLink

As I’ve posted about many times, local governments in our country are responsible for most of the public infrastructure that is used in your daily life even though the combined revenue collected by local governments is an order of magnitude smaller than what is collected by the provincial and federal governments.

Starting in the 1990s, there was a recognition that there was a fiscal imbalance. Pressure was mounting for the federal government to provide some sort of stable funding to support municipal infrastructure. By the early 2000s, the federal government launched the Caucus Task Force on Urban Issues to explore ways in which the federal government could support local governments. The Task Force recommended that the federal government provide financial support to local governments.

After some delay, the federal government settled on a gas tax transfer. In 2005, money started flowing to local governments for capital projects; $5 billion over five years.

In Metro Vancouver, the region’s municipalities agreed to pass the gas tax transfer directly onto TransLink. This made sense as at the time TransLink was controlled by local government. The provincial government removed direct control of TransLink from local government in 2008.

In the 2013 budget, the federal government announced that the Gas Tax Fund would increase to $2 billion dollar per year, and would grow at a rate of 2% per year. The goal was to provide long-term, predicable funding to local governments.

The previous gas tax transfer was going to TransLink carte-blanche. Money earmarked for local government now going directly to a provincial agency didn’t sit well with many local government politicians.

While some called for TransLink to stop getting any of the Gas Tax Fund, this would have had a deviating impact on the ability of TransLink to keep Metro Vancouver’s transportation network in a state-of-good repair.

Understanding that stripping the Gas Tax Fund away from TransLink would not improve the quality of life for people in the region, a decision was made to have Metro Vancouver approve the projects that TransLink could use the Gas Tax Fund for. The thought was that local governments could get a bargaining chip, and some limited control of infrastructure projects, at TransLink.

A new agreement was signed with the federal government in 2014 which gave control of the gas tax fund back to local governments in our region.

Metro Vancouver has posted a new draft framework for how Gas Tax Fund money will be allocated to TransLink projects.

Metro Vancouver will ask TransLink to submit a list of projects for funding. These projects need to support a multi-modal transportation network, support the Regional Growth Strategy, improve air quality, reduce GHG emissions, and support a strong local economy. The Metro Vancouver board will choose projects to approve from the list provided by TransLink.

The proposed framework will likely be approved by the Metro Vancouver board in the coming months. While the new framework will give local governments more control of how TransLink uses the Gas Tax Fund, I don’t expect to see any drastic changes to the kinds of capital projects coming out of that agency.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Public Art is important. Examples from Sound Transit in Seattle

Back in 2008, I co-authored a letter to the Township of Langley to provide feedback on the municipality's 2007 Annual Report. We noted that many infrastructure projects have an “ugly industrial/utilitarian concrete designs that ruin the beauty of the surrounding area and neighbourhoods.”

Public infrastructure including streets, transit stations, parks, and buildings should be both functional and beautiful.

I know that some people think that public art and aesthetically pleasing design is frivolous, but that isn’t the case.

Public art helps create a sense of place for neighbourhoods and communities. It also draws positive activity to an area which boast economic prosperity while reducing crimes.

For example, the City of Abbotsford supports public art because it “creates safety, by putting eyes, and people onto the streets where it is located. It also attracts tourists, skilled workers, and businesses that desire to visit and work in an environment that places a high value on aesthetics and place making.”

People travel to Chemainus on Vancouver Islands to explore the large collection of murals that have been installed throughout that community. This helps support the local economy in that community.

Two weekend ago, I was in Seattle during the opening of a new extension to Sound Transit’s Link Light Rail system.

A picture of me waiting for Link Light Rail at the new Capital Hill Link Light Rail Station.

Sound Transit ensures that public art is funded and integrated into the facilities that it builds and maintains. I snapped the following pictures of the public art installations, and high-quality design of their recently opened light rail stations.

Public Art at Capital Hill Light Rail Station.

Highlighting the high-quality design at the Link Light Rail University Station in Seattle.

LED wall installation at the Link Light Rail University Station in Seattle.

Public art and aesthetically pleasing design improve people’s quality of life. Walking through the new light rail stations in Seattle highlighted to me how good urban design can transform a space.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Survey Says: TransLink's Q4 Customer Service Performance

TransLink recently released the results of its 2015 fourth quarter customer service performance survey. The survey was conducted by Ipsos Reid.

Survey participants were asked how they feel about the overall bus service provided by TransLink. As you can see in the following chart, overall bus performance scores have been fairly consistent over the past three years.

Bus Overall Service Quality Measures. Select chart to enlarge.

There are some regional differences though. Over the past three years, the overall performance score for bus service that originates out of West Vancouver (WVT) and North Vancouver (NVT) has slightly decreased. The overall performance score for bus service based out of Vancouver (VTC) and Surrey (STC) has slightly improved.

When it comes to rail transit, survey participants rated the overall service quality of the Canada Line 10 points higher than the Expo and Millennium Lines. The overall service quality has been consistent over the last three years.

SkyTrain Overall Service Quality Measures. Select chart to enlarge.

TransLink made the Compass Card available to all transit users in Q4 of last year. Ipsos Reid asked survey participants how they were paying transit fares. TransLink has now discontinued all legacy fare products, so the vast majority of transit riders will have to migrate to using the Compass Card. It will be interesting to see if the amount of people that pay will cash (red), which is still a valid form of payment, will shrink in Q1 and Q2 of this year. It would be useful to know the breakdown of people paying with cash on the bus as compared to at SkyTrain and SeaBus stations, as bus transfers no longer work on SkyTrain or SeaBus.

Fare Payment Methods. Select chart to enlarge.

The final survey result I wanted to highlight looks at the reasons why people take transit. The cost and provisioning of parking plays a significant role in determining transit usage.

Reasons for Taking Transit Rather than Another Mode. Select chart to enlarge.

The full survey results can be downloaded from TransLink’s website.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Federal government delivers big dollars to support local infrastructure

The federal government released its 2016 budget yesterday, and I was eager to see how the budget would support local government infrastructure. Local governments in Canada are responsible for maintaining around 60% of publicly-owned infrastructure in this country, yet only 10% of total taxation revenue is collected by local governments.

Local governments need the support of other levels of government to ensure that clean drink water is available, wastewater is properly treated, roads are in a state of good repair, transit service is running smooth, and park and recreation facilities are meeting the needs of residents.

In Metro Vancouver, there has been a loud call for more to be done to address affordable housing in the region.

When it comes to infrastructure spending, the federal government really does support local governments.

The federal government is still committed to the current $9 billion National and Regional Project Fund. This fund can be used for the following items:

  • Highways and major roads
  • Public transit
  • Connectivity and broadband
  • Drinking water
  • Wastewater
  • Solid waste management
  • Green energy
  • Innovation
  • Brownfield redevelopment
  • Disaster mitigation infrastructure
  • Local and regional airports
  • Short-line rail
  • Short-sea shipping

$1.1 billion of this $9 billion fund is allocated for projects in BC.

Other current federal infrastructure programs will be rolled into the Gas Tax Fund. In Metro Vancouver that fund is dedicated to TransLink projects.

City of Langley Council just approved a request on Monday for City Staff to apply for funding under the federal Small Community Fund. I wonder if this program will still be available, or if it will be rolling into the Gas Tax Fund.

The federal government also announced $11.9 billion in new funding as noted on the following chart.

Chart of funding available in Phase 1 of Canada's New Infrastructure Plan. Select chart to enlarge.

About $3.4 billion has been set aside for new transit funding over the next few years. Up to $460 million will be available for public transit projects in BC. The federal government will pay for up to 50% of the cost of transit projects in BC via the National and Regional Project Fund and the new Public Transit Fund.

$1.5 billion will also be invested into affordable housing which includes a special fund to reduce homelessness, and another fund for seniors housing. Both of these funds will be useful for the City of Langley.

$4.2 billion in new infrastructure investment in the federal government’s plans is set aside to ensure that we have clean water, and that wastewater is properly treated. For example, the federal government will make $212 million available to upgrade the Lions Gate Wastewater Treatment Plant.

No new money was announced to fund highway projects such as the Massey Bridge. It seems that the federal government is committed to investing in building a Canada with lower GHG-emissions.

When it comes to our province, I hope that the provincial government can get its act together, so that we can take advantage of the significant funding from both the old and new federal infrastructure programs to support public transit in our region.

Update: I had a look at the 2016-17 Report on Plans and Priorities for Infrastructure Canada. The Small Communities Fund is still active.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

March 21, 2016 Council Meeting Notes

Yesterday was my inaugural Council meeting. It was great to see friends and supporters at the meeting last night. Mayor Ted Schaffer briefly introduced me. After the introduction, I took the oath of office. We then launched straight into business.

My council seat name tag. Select image to enlarge.

Throughout the duration of my term on Council, I will be posting about the previous night’s Council meeting on this blog. Minutes of Council meetings can take several weeks to get posted, and local media coverage of meetings can be limited at times.

Council and members of the public first heard from the proponent of a development application to expand an existing warehouse along Production Way. The application was for CKF Inc which is the largest employer in the community. CKF produces food service packaging.

This City of Langley's Master Transportation Plan calls for sidewalks along Production Way. The City of Langley’s recently released Industrial Business Attraction & Expansion Study found that high-quality sidewalks, streetlights, and landscaping was key to retaining businesses in the community.

A payment in lieu of having CKF build a tiny section of sidewalk was requested. Once the City has completed the planning for sidewalks along Production Way, CKF’s payment will be applied to the construction of sidewalks in that area.

The development application was approved by Council. Afterwards, there was a delegation by Shea Ryan about homeless in Langley..

There were several bylaws up for final reading. Final reading means that Council can vote for or against adopting a bylaw, but can't discussion the bylaw. Discussion happens at earlier readings of a bylaw.

Council approved a bylaw to update the Official Community Plan to include updates from the recently approved Master Transportation Plan, and Parks, Recreation and Culture Master Plan.

Council also approved a bylaw to repeal the old 1969 Fireworks Regulation Bylaw, and approved an updated Water Shortage Response Plan Bylaw which is in line with the updated Metro Vancouver Water Shortage Response Plan.

An update to the film production fee schedule, for productions that use public property in the City, was also approved.

Council approved City staff submitting an application to the federal government’s Small Communities Fund. If successfully, the City of Langley could receive $2.3 million from the federal government for a $3.62 million project for replacing the water and sewer lines under 56th Avenue between the Langley Bypass and Glover Road. The project would also include installing new traffic signals, lighting, sidewalks, and pavement along the corridor.

Lafarge Canada was approved by Council to receive a contract to resurface various sections of roadway.

Map of approved road repaving and speed hump installations for 2016. Select map to enlarge.

Finally, Council received a report about the by-election results.

This was a fairly short Council meeting, lasting 30 minutes.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Compass Card and Voting No: Looking to Seattle for Solutions

In the Puget Sound region, where Seattle is located, transit service is provided by counties, municipalities, and the regional transportation agency Sound Transit.

Sound Transit's creation came out of a decades long desire to build a regional transit network. Washington State passed legislation which allowed local taxes to pay for regional transit, but only with voter approval of these taxes.

In 1995, voters in Snohomish, Pierce, and King rejected the first $6.7 billion transportation plan with a 53.5% No vote. The Sound Transit board worked on a pared-down $3.9 billion plan which voters approved by 56.5% in 1996. This enabled the construction of a regional bus network, commuter rail, and the start of a light rail network.

In 2007, the Sound Transit board prepared another package of transit improvements for voter approval. It was rejected. The board proposed a different set of improvements in 2008. That $7.8 billion dollar plan passed with 58% support.

People in Metro Vancouver voted no last year to the transportation package put forward by mayors in our region. Just because people voted no in 2015, doesn’t mean that people will vote no forever. Both of Sound Transit’s transportation plans were rejected, tweaked, and then approved.

If voter approval for transit funding is the new normal in Metro Vancouver, perhaps our region needs to look to our neighbours in the south for guidance on how to pass transportation funding packages.

Besides funding transit project, and delivering regional bus, train, and light rail service, Sound Transit also runs the ORCA Card program. This smart card, which is similar to TransLink’s Compass Card, allows people in the Puget Sound region to have one-card access to all the transit systems in that region.

Sound Transit’s rail services requires you to tap on and tap off, just like TransLink. Unlike TransLink, Sound Transit has designed a barrier-free system; there are no fare gates. If you forget to tap out in Seattle, you get charged the maximum fare.

One of the major criticisms of the Compass Card in Metro Vancouver, and one of the reasons for its delay, was that people were forgetting to tap out.

People in the Puget Sound region have figured out how to tap on and off when using transit in their region. Now that the Compass Card has been in service for a few months in Metro Vancouver, TransLink riders also seem to understand how to tap on and off as well.

Now one of the things that TransLink wants to do is have people tap on and off when using the bus. While this is easy at most stops, on most routes, a bottleneck would be created at busy stops and along busy bus routes if people are required to tap off.

In King County, ORCA Card readers have been installed at busy bus stops, and along B-Line style bus routes. If TransLink wants to have people tap on and tap off of buses, they should look installing curb-side Compass Card readers at busy stops in our region.

I took these pictures when I was in Seattle last week.

A RapidRide bus stop in Seattle. RapidRide service is similar to B-Line service in Metro Vancouver. Select image to enlarge.

Tap your ORCA Card at the curb. An ORCA Card reader in Seattle. Select image to enlarge.

While there are some real issues around transit funding and service in Metro Vancouver, it is encouraging to see that other regions have gone through similar situations, and have come out better.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

How to create accessible, affordable, and adaptable housing for people of all ages

Yesterday, I posted some of the key findings from a recently released survey about the current state of seniors housing in Langley. The survey was created by the Triple A Seniors Housing Workgroup. This workgroup includes members from the Langley Seniors Community Action Table, Langley Seniors Resource Centre, and the local chapter of CARP.

The workgroup also put on a seniors housing summit in the fall of 2014. They hosted speakers from organizations such as BC Housing, SPARC, CMHC, and local municipalities. Insights gleaned from the summit; recommendations on how to deliver affordable, accessible, and adaptable housing; plus case studies of the recommendations have been complied into a newly released report.

The list of recommendations from the Triple A Seniors Housing Workgroup report are as follows:


  1. Hire a social planner who, in consultation with a Seniors Advisory Committee, will advise and make recommendations for age-friendly policy, with the explicit goal of increasing affordable, accessible, and adaptable housing options for seniors and other members of the community. Among other duties, the social planner should also function as the dedicated Affordable Housing Coordinator to guide all affordable (and subsidized) housing projects to completion.
  2. Adopt Abbotsford’s Harmony Flex-housing model: adaptable and accessible low-income home ownership through housing agreements, with accessible secondary suites for seniors and persons-with-disability. Require minimum 10-25% of housing developments to subscribe to this policy.
  3. Pursue Demonstration Housing Projects through partnerships with the Provincial Government, BC Housing, CMHC, and developers, as a means to create affordable, accessible, and appropriate senior housing.
  4. Engage with Metro Vancouver Housing Corporation with a view to taking advantage of its recently expanded role in increasing the supply of mixed-income housing regionally, especially for seniors in The Langleys.
  5. Conduct an audit of existing purpose-built rental stock, and existing subsidized housing with reference to housing which is accessible and adaptable for senior occupants (following Burnaby’s profile), and flagging economic end of life to facilitate planning for maintenance, renovation, or potential redevelopment.
  6. Collaborate actively with senior levels of government to evaluate, maintain, and preserve existing affordable housing stock that meets the needs of low-income seniors.
  7. Establish comprehensive development zone guides which specify Inclusionary Zoning Policies, prescribing a percentage of affordable, accessible, and appropriate senior housing within market developments.
  8. Create an Affordable Housing Reserve Fund for development, maintenance, and preservation of affordable senior housing stock.
  9. Conduct a municipal land audit to flag land which might be made available (donated, sold below-market, leased) or utilized for affordable, accessible and appropriate senior housing (i.e. decommissioned or unused or surplus school sites, church property).
  10. Educate developers and citizens demonstrating innovative below-market rental and home ownership models to encourage early adoption and implementation.
  11. Monitor progress of affordable and adaptable housing policies, specifying senior housing options, and publishing in the annual report.
  12. Encourage and support developers and builders to include adaptable/inclusive features in new home construction.
  13. Institute or revise Adaptable Housing Policy to reflect future need due to the projected increase of aging residents and consequent mobility challenges.


  1. Take steps to support the preservation and enhancement of existing Manufactured Home Parks by conducting an economic and social analysis in order to create baseline information.
  2. As a Municipal member of the SAFERhome Standards Society, collaborate with prospective developers, SAFERhome Standards Society, and the Homeowner Protection Office (a Branch of BC Housing), to initiate a universal design pilot project.

The recommendations in the report primarily deal with affordable, accessible, and adaptable housing. Missing from the list of recommendations from the Triple A Seniors Housing Summit was about what to do outside of the home. An affordable, accessible, and adaptable home is great, but the built-form of Langley must also be accessible for people of all ages and abilities. This is why building a walkable community is so critical to ensuring that people can have fulfilling lives no matter their means or abilities. It’s no surprise that Downtown Langley has a higher than average seniors population because of its walkability.

Some of the joint recommendations would be more relevant to the Township of Langley, especially around new development. In the City of Langley, emphases needs to be placed on ensuring that the existing affordable housing stock remains affordable, is made more accessible, and is in a state of good repair.

Both the City and Township of Langley need to consider the recommendations in this report. Please check out the full report for more information.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Langley Seniors Housing Survey Released

Back in 2013, the Langley Seniors Community Action Table, Langley Seniors Resource Centre, and the local chapter of CARP came together to develop solutions that provide affordable, accessible, and appropriate housing for older people in Langley. The Triple A Seniors Housing workgroup was formed. Langley has a large population of seniors which is growing rapidly.

People would like to age in place; maintaining relationships with friends and family, and retaining access to shops, services, recreation, and entertainment. The Township of Langley developed an Age-Friend Strategy which attempted to present solutions to allow people to age in place with dignity. I thought that the strategy didn’t go far enough.

Gross household income of people surveyed. Select graph to enlarge.

The Triple A Seniors Housing workgroup also wanted more to be done. Between October 2013 and 2014, the workgroup surveyed 514 seniors in the community. The survey looked at demographic, housings, and income. The results of the survey were recently released. The findings of the survey are:

  1. Affordability is a large concern for the majority of respondents in the low-income range. 52 percent of all respondents indicated that they spent more than 30 percent of their gross household income on housing costs. 75 percent of those in the $30,000 or less income range spend over 30 percent of their household income on accommodations. In the $0-$40,000.00 group, 67 percent find themselves in the same boat.
  2. Seniors in our community are ‘making ends meet’ by cutting back on the necessities of life. 215 people overall indicated they cut back on living costs such as food and prescriptions giving housing a spending priority, perhaps to avoid eviction and homelessness. 34 percent of those with income of $30,000 or less cut back on these expenses.
  3. The need for accessible housing is a priority of many residents as they look forward to aging in place and their health and mobility changes. 37 percent of survey respondents indicated personal limitations that might affect where they live, the majority being mobility related.
  4. Seniors in our community are not accessing financial supports designed to assist low-income renters and homeowners to provide for their housing needs. Only 42 out of 517 reported receiving government assistance for housing with approximately half naming SAFER as the source. None reported receiving HAFI. A recent study by the Seniors Advocate found that many seniors are not aware of these programs.
  5. Most senior respondents would prefer to remain in their present community as they age and regardless of income, they are hoping to move to assisted living when they are no longer able to live independently. Recent research by BC’s Seniors Advocate raises concern about admission regulation that restrict the provision of service that would support aging –in-place and avoid or delay referral to residential care (i.e. nursing home).
  6. Safety, a vital aspect of appropriate housing, was a concern to 20 Langley City respondents who felt unsafe in their home. Current reports indicated that while violent crimes, including home invasions are decreasing, property theft (mail, auto, business break-and-enters) are increasing substantially.
  7. Secondary suites are not a popular housing option for seniors.
    Preferred housing types of people surveyed by income bracket. Select graph to enlarge.
  8. The majority of seniors who plan to move in the next 5 years would choose to own, and 47 percent expressed a preference for rental housing, often for reasons of affordability.

For more details, please check out the full report. The workgroup also developed another report which presents solutions to providing triple A housing for older people in Langley. I’ll post about that tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

My Inaugural Council Meeting on March 21st

It has been a little over two weeks since I was elected to Langley City Council. The outcome of the election has now been made official, and the 9 day period after general voting day to request a judicial recount, has passed.

Monday, March 21st will be my first Council Meeting. I will be saying the Oath of Office at the beginning of the meeting which starts at 7pm. If you would like to attend, here are the details:

Council Chambers
Langley City Hall
20399 Douglas Crescent

After saying the Oath of Office, the real work begins. If you want to get in touch with me, my new Councillor email is You can also call me at 604-345-8717. My other contact information is still valid as well.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Local government authority and autonomy in BC

In Canada, the federal and provincial governments get their authority from the Crown. What provincial governments and the federal government have jurisdiction over is defined in the Canadian Constitution.

Local governments, on the other hand, are created by acts of provincial legislatures. So while the provincial and federal governments have to respect each other’s authority and jurisdiction, provincial governments can pretty much do what they want to local governments in Canada.

The forced amalgamation of Toronto in the 1990s is a classic example of a provincial government imposing its will onto local government.

BC is a bit different than the rest of the Canada. We have a strong system of local government, and for the most part, the provincial government respects local government autonomy. For example, a forced amalgamation on municipalities would likely never happen in BC.

This respect for local government was codified when the provincial government adopted the Community Charter in 2003. The Charter recognizes municipal governments as “democratically elected, autonomous, responsible and accountable.” It also notes that “the citizens of British Columbia are best served when, in their relationship, municipalities and the Provincial government acknowledge and respect the jurisdiction of each.”

The Community Charter grants municipalities board jurisdiction over:

  • municipal services
  • public places
  • trees
  • firecrackers, fireworks and explosives
  • bows and arrows, knives and other weapons
  • cemeteries, crematoriums, columbariums and mausoleums and the interment or other disposition of the dead
  • the health, safety or protection of persons or property
  • the protection and enhancement of the well-being of its community
  • public health
  • protection of the natural environment
  • animals
  • buildings and other structures
  • the removal of soil and the deposit of soil or other material.

There are some limits to the jurisdiction for some of the powers listed. Generally, if a provincial law and local by-law conflict, the more stringent requirement prevails.

Besides the Community Charter, the Local Government Act also outlines the powers and responsibilities for municipalities. This Act is more prescriptive than the Community Charter with a focus on elections, land-use planning, and heritage conservation.

The Local Government Act also spells out the role Regional Districts and Improvement Districts play in the province.

Because the Local Government Act was heavily amended, it was really hard to read. The act was reformatted, and is now easier to read.

Understanding the roles and responsibilities of local government in BC can be a daunting task. To help, the Union of BC Municipalities created fact sheets which explain how local government works in our province.

While there is tension between the province and local governments, I’m happy that we have a framework and tradition in BC which respects the important role that local government plays in the lives of people.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

A healthy urban forest is one of the keys to addressing the impacts of climate change

It should come as no surprise that urban trees are important to the economic, social, and environmental success of a community. While urban trees have been an important part of most municipality for a long time, there benefits are now only starting to be quantified.

For example, the City of Surrey is working on a draft Shade Tree Management Plan. They found that for every $1.00 invested into urban trees, $3.18 is returned in benefits such as energy savings, carbon sequestration, air quality improvement, storm water management, and increased business. Urban trees are also important in mitigating the impacts from climate change.

Metro Vancouver has recently released a new design guide for municipalities called “Design Guidebook – Maximizing Climate Adaption Benefit with Trees”.

Urban trees help regulate temperature which reduces the urban heat island effect, and the variability in temperate due to climate change.

As weather events become more common, a robust urban forest will help manage storm water while improving water quality. Trees also provide a wind buffer, and help control erosion.

Of course, a healthy urban forest also improves air quality and removes carbon from the atmosphere.

The guidebook contains examples on how to manage a health urban forest. The follow examples are from the guide.

Example planting of urban trees along a major road. Select image to enlarge.

Example planting of urban trees along a minor road. Select image to enlarge.

Example planting of urban trees in a surface parking lot. Select image to enlarge.

While almost all municipalities have been planting trees for years, many of those trees planted have not been ideal. Some trees planted were of the wrong type, or were planted in such a way that they won’t be able to adapt to the changing climate.

It is good that Metro Vancouver has put out this document to help municipalities in the region plant a healthy urban forest that will deliver the most benefit to the region.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

City of Langley updates Strategic Investment Plan

Because of revenue from the casino, the City of Langley has been able to invest in major infrastructure projects over the last decade.

For example, the City of Langley has contributed $8.3 million towards the 192nd Street/54th Avenue/196th Street overpass project, $8.45 million towards the 204th Street overpass, $8.4 million towards the Fraser Highway Bridge, and $14.3 million for the Timms Community Centre. This is in addition to other major capital projects such as repaving roads, replacing water and sewer lines, and upgrade park equipment.

With these “marquee” project complete, the City of Langley is updating its 5-year Strategic Investment Plan. The following is a list of projects that are included in the updated plan:

  • Trail System Improvement & Expansion: $500,000
  • Bicycle Facilities Improvement & Expansion: $800,000
  • Pedestrian Facilities Improvement & Expansion: $1,500,000
  • Langley Bypass Culvert Replacement/Logan Creek: $1,000,000
  • Fraser Highway Watermain Replacement Project: $1,150,000
  • 56th Avenue Reconstruction Project: $1,900,000
  • Douglas Crescent Reconstruction Project: $1,968,000
  • Production Way Road Improvement: $3,200,000
  • 200th Street Reconstruction Project: $3,952,000
  • Grade Crescent Reconstruction Project: $5,786,000
  • Linwood Park Improvements: $650,000
  • Brydon Park Improvements: $600,000
  • Rotary Centennial Park Improvements: $680,000
  • Penzer Park Sports Field, Playground & Youth Amenities: $800,000
  • Buckley Park Improvements: $1,200,000
  • City Park Improvements & Artificial Turf: $2,400,000

I’m happy to see that most of these projects are about ensuring that core infrastructure remains in a good state of repair. Over the coming decade, much of our hidden infrastructure, such as water and sewer lines, will need to be replaced as it is reaching end-of-life. This is reflected in the plan.

I’m also happy to see that the City is working on expanding its active transportation network, including the trail system; getting back to the basics.

One of the things that I’m not keen on is the $2.4 million that has been allocated for City Park which includes a new artificial turf. I believe that our community does not need an expensive artificial field, and that the money could be used to further enhance our trail network and other aspects of our parks system.

The Strategic Investment Program is rolling plan, so it can be updated more frequently than every five years. This plan is certainly going in the right direction, and will help support a good quality of life for City residents.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

City of Langley presents 203rd Street preliminary options, receives feedback from community

The City of Langley recently hosted an open house regarding proposed changes along 203rd Street between Grade Crescent and Michaud Crescent. The $5.6 million dollar project is co-funded via the federal New Build Canada Fund, and the provincial Bike BC program.

You can read my thoughts about the project on a posted I put up last month. People attending the open house were able to provide feedback on the following two options.

Option 1: Sidewalks and On-Street Bike Lanes. Select image to enlarge.

Option 2: Sidewalks and Off-street Bike Lanes. Select image to enlarge.

As you might notice, there is no parking along the south section of 203rd Street.

People that attended the open house were given the chance to provide feedback on the project. They were also asked to rank what they would like to see accomplished by the reconstruction of 203rd Street.

The City made available the following results from the Open House questionnaire.

Survey Results from 203rd Street Open House. Select graph to enlarge.

If you look at what people chose as their top priorities for the reconstruction of 203rd, the ranked order would be:

  1. Traffic Calming
  2. Improved Pedestrian Facilities
  3. Limit Impact to Existing Trees & Landscaping
  4. Maintain Street Parking
  5. Improved Cycling Facilities
  6. Street Beautification
  7. Other Priority

A modified version of option 2 would address the top three priorities while improving cycling and beautifying the street. What I’ve heard from people in the south section of 203rd is that their needs to be some parking. Option 2 would actually fit closely into the existing footprint of 203rd. The challenge will be to incorporate parking into the plan while preserving the existing trees and landscaping. I look forward to seeing an updated plan, and I know that people living along 203rd Street will be too.

It is important that people in the community get another chance to review the updated plan, and provide input, before it goes to Council for approval.

Monday, March 7, 2016

City of Langley's Community Crime Prevention Strategic Plan Released

People in Langley City have seen an increase in garbage, vandalism, and tagging around the community in the last several years. At the same time, there has been an increase of people living on the streets and in City parks. An increase in substance abuse and drug addiction has been observed by many residents.

In the Downtown core, there has been an increase of methadone dispensary, e-cigarette stores, and thrift stores.

These things have caused people to become increasingly concerned about the future of Langley City. Some people no longer feel safe visiting our parks or going Downtown.

Early last year, the City of Langley launched a Community Crime Prevention Task Force to come up with solutions to move the community in a positive direction.

The Task Force submitted a Community Crime Prevention Strategic Plan which is before Council today for endorsement.

I will not be sworn into Council until March 21st, but I support endorsing the Strategic Plan.

The plan focuses on three key objectives: Crime Prevention, Reduction & Public Safety; Partnership & Advocacy; and Social Change.

I want to highlight some of the high-level action items under each of these objectives.

Crime Prevention, Reduction & Public Safety

  1. City to consider and introduce zoning and business regulations to address public safe and nuisance concerns: This includes regulating the number of methadone dispensaries and e-cigarette stores, and introducing shopping cart regulations.
  2. Develop a sustainable program to target “crime” hot spots: This includes working with the RCMP to get more members out of their cars and walking the beat. This also includes implementing CPTED on public and private property.
  3. Adhere to the principles and philosophy of the ‘Broken Window Theory’: This includes making sure that both public and private property is in a state of good repair with increased city maintenance, and more enforcement of the Community Standards Bylaw.

Partnership & Advocacy

  1. Advocate to senior levels of government to provide the necessary programs and resources to address justice, crime prevention and public safety issues: This includes working with the province and health authority to get proper mental health and addiction treatment programs setup for people in the community.
  2. Develop partnership opportunities with various stakeholders to prevent and reduce crime: This includes partnering with the Downtown Langley Business Association and Chamber of Commerce, as well as social service agencies, citizen groups, and faith-based organizations.

Social Change

  1. Adjust the demographic makeup of the City: This includes working to adjust the mix of affordable, social, and market housing in the community.
  2. Explore a Family Based Crime Prevention Program: This included more in-school programs, community gardens, and Adopt-a-Parks/Streets.
  3. Create an identity for Downtown: This includes working with the Downtown Langley Business Association to bring more family-oriented events to the core.

I’m happy that there are actionable items in the Community Crime Prevention Strategic Plan. One of the challenges in Langley City is that we’ve developed many plans, but a lot of them just end up on a shelf. It will be important to make sure that this strategic plan becomes a document which is acted on at City Hall.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

TransLink’s provincial puppet-master speaks, fare gates and accessible transit.

When TransLink was created back it 1999, a new deal was struck between the provincial government and local governments in Metro Vancouver. Our region would be responsible for funding the operation of the transportation network in our region, but would have the authority to manage that network.

Unfortunately, the provincial government only seems to recognize the independence of TransLink when it serves their best interest. For example, both the NDP and BC Liberal governments have proven that they have no desire to approve the funding required to expand the base bus transit network which serves the majority of transit customers.

The provincial government has put up successive roadblocks to adequately funding transit service in Metro Vancouver. Want more bus service? Have a referendum!

When the province does want TransLink to do something, it will get TransLink to do it. The province is able to do what it pleases with TransLink even though it has no legislative direct control over the agency.

The region wanted to build the Evergreen Line before the Canada Line. The provincial government ensured the Canada Line was built first.

The Evergreen Line was supposed to be light rail. The provincial government did a business case, which the BC Auditor General later found some issues with, that said SkyTrain should be built. The province proceeded to take over the construction of the Evergreen Line with SkyTrain.

TransLink said time-and-time again that fare gates were a bad idea. The provincial government got fare gates installed.

Fare gates create a barrier to accessing transit service. For some people with limited-mobility, fare gates create a barrier to accessing transit period.

Currently, people with limited-mobility can request SkyTrain staff to provide assistance. TransLink was proposing to expand this service in time for the complete fare gates closure next month. The key will be to ensure that people with limited-mobility don’t have to wait a long periods of time to get help. More SkyTrain staff is being hired to deal with the fare gates, and as a result of the SkyTrain meltdown a few summers ago.

You can read Access Transit’s Guide to Getting Around Metro Vancouver for more information about accessible transit options.

Peter Fassbender, Minister Responsible for TransLink, said yesterday that the agency could not close all the fare gates until there is “unfettered access to every person no matter what their circumstance.” While Fassbender technically has no authority to order TransLink to do anything, I’m sure the agency will leave the gates open.

Since the provincial government ordered TransLink to install the fare gates, the provincial government should also pay for the cost of providing “unfettered access”.

If the provincial government can’t keep its hands off TransLink, it should just make TransLink a provincial agency. Of course this won’t happen as the provincial government doesn’t want to take responsibility for funding the system nor for the difficult decisions that must be made when running a large transportation agency.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Fare gates fully close in April; what to do about cash-only customers

One of the reasons why TransLink delayed the launch of the Compass Card was due to lower than expected successful read rates, and the time it took to read Compass Cards on the machines installed on buses. Some people were not properly “tapping out” of buses which would cause people to be over-charged. To get things moving, TransLink switched to a one zone bus network last fall.

When people started using the Compass Card, I noticed a lot of read problems on the bus. People would wildly wave their Compass Cards at the reader, or only hold their cards for a microsecond at the reader. As people have been getting used to using the Compass Card, I've noticed that people now hold the cards steady at the reader until they get a successful green check.

I have to wonder if the original reason for delaying the Compass Card, due to lower than expected successful read rates, was more of a user training issue than a technical issue.

By most accounts, the Compass Card launch has been successful. On April 4th, TransLink will start the process of closing all the fare gates at SkyTrain stations and SeaBus terminals. According to TransLink, around 12% of the population in Metro Vancouver uses a Compass Card on average during a week.

One of the concerns brought up recently was how would people will limited mobility be able to use fare gates. In respond, TransLink will be introducing “a station assistance service to help these customers at fare gates, including elevators.” This may be an improvement for people as before, there was no assistance available for people that needed to use an elevator.

I'm still concerned about people that pay with cash on the bus. Starting in April if you pay with cash on the bus, the transfer you get will not open fare gates.

Retrofitting all the buses to dispense Compass Tickets would likely have a low return on investment. Also, paper fare media creates a lot of litter.

TransLink has already made it easier to get a Compass Card by selling pre-loaded cards through its extensive FareDealer network.

Map of TransLink's FareDealer network in the South of Fraser. Select image to enlarge.

Many people are used to going to these same FareDealers to top-up their pre-paid phone accounts. To further enhance the ease-of-use while also reducing the need to pay with cash on a bus, TransLink should allow FareDealers to top-up Compass Cards. It is technically possible, and would ensure that there are no second-class transit customers.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The City of Langley Solutions Tracker is Online

Today, I've posted a new page on this blog where I will keep track of the progress made towards implementing the solutions that I proposed during the recent by-election.

You can find it under the Get Up to Speed tab, on the left sidebar of this blog, under "City of Langley Solutions Tracker". Some of the solutions are ongoing in nature such as improving sidewalks and lighting. Other solutions will have a concrete end date such as implementing a 203rd Street Greenway.

I believe that people elected to political office should be transparent and accountable to the people in their community. The Solutions Tracker is one of the ways that I plan to accomplish this as a Councillor in the City of Langley.