Tuesday, May 31, 2016

May 30, 2016 Council Meeting Notes – Refugee Youth Art Project coming to City Hall, Brydon Lagoon Park access, and award for Timms received

Monday night’s Council meeting was fairly light, and was only 45 minutes long. After adopting the agenda and approving previous minutes, Council heard a presentation about the Refugee Youth Art Project.

This project was started in 2014 as a way for youth that were refugees when they came to Canada to visually represent their life experiences. June 20th is World Refugee Day. To help bring awareness, it was requested that art from the project be displayed. Council passed a motion requesting that the art be hung at City Hall around the time of World Refugee Day.

The next presentation was from long-term Langley City citizen and Langley Field Naturalists Rhys Griffiths. There were many people in the Council Chamber who live around the Brydon Lagoon area attending in support of Griffiths’ presentation.

For over twenty years, a handful of stairs provided access to properties that back onto Brydon Lagoon Park. Recently, a gate and fence was constructed which blocked access to one of the stairs. None of this was installed by the City. The City received several complaints about the fence, gate, and stairs. During the City’s investigation, it was determined that all these items where on City property. The City sent a letter to all affected owners asking that the fence, gate, and stairs be removed.

During the presentation, it was stated that the stairs have been safely used for “over 30 years.” The big asks were for the City to reconsider its decision, and to consult with residents in the area.

At the end of the presentation, Mayor Schaffer said that senior City staff will be meeting with the residents. I hope to see a solution that maintains a level for access to residents in the area while also addressing the City’s concerns.

After the presentation, Councillor Storteboom gave his update about Metro Vancouver. I’ve post information about what’s happening at the region district on this blog.

Councillor Martin gave her update on the Fraser Valley Regional Library (FVRL). Of note, the FVRL is in the process of developing a new Strategic Plan. There will be a public engagement process to support the Strategic Plan development, and Langley City library customers will be invited to participate. Councillor Martin also noted that there is an uptick in people visiting the library since the opening of the new Timms Community Centre.

Mayor Schaffer next gave an update. Key highlights were that the City of Langley received the RFABC Bill Woycik Award “Outstanding Facility Award” for the Timms Community Centre. He also mentioned the upcoming open house for City Park on June 1st.

After the updates, Council gave third reading to a bylaw to add e-cigs and vaporizers to the City’s Smoking Regulation Bylaw.

Final reading was given to authorize the discharge of Lands Use Contract No. 23-73. I posted about this previously.

Council approved that Councillor Gayle Martin could sit on a Federation of Canadian Municipalities Standing Committee that deals with homelessness and affordable housing, and the associated travel expenses if she is selected. Council also approved the expenses for Fire Chief Rory Thompson to attend the 2016 Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs Annual Conference.

Finally, Council approved Rick Barnett and Meaghan Laycock to become members of the Public Safety Advisory Committee.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Simple Solution: Maintaining Accessible Access during Street Construction

Back in February, I posted about construction around City Hall and the new Timms Community Centre. During that time period, maintaining accessible access to both City Hall and the surrounding businesses was not happening. Even to the point where a person with limited mobility became trapped in City Hall when the access ramp was blocked during construction.

There is a large number of people who use mobility aids to get around. What might seem trivial to walk on —like gravel or a non-level curb— to someone who ability-bodied, can create a really challenge to other people. It can even lead to complete removal of access for some people.

Ensuring a smooth transition between sidewalks and the street, and between sidewalks and buildings is critically important. This is why I was happy to see the City of Langley install temporary asphalt at the end of April when they were replacing the curb letdowns at 204th Street and Douglas Crescent.

Maintaining access during curb letdown replacement. Select image to enlarge.

After the new curb letdowns were installed, they were not level with the street as paving is not complete. I noticed that some people who had mobility aids struggled navigating this area.

I was pleased to see that the City of Langley once again corrected this situation as shown in the following photo.

Creating temporary level access at the curb letdown during street reconstruction. Select image to enlarge.

Building an accessible, walkable community is something that I feel strongly about. Retrofitting our community for accessible access, and baking-in accessible access solutions into civic construction projects are keys to creating a community where there is no second-class residents.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Listen to the panel discussion on commuting in Metro Vancouver

This morning, I was on a panel on Roundhouse Radio with Mario Canseco from Insights West and Gordon Price from the SFU City Program. We were talking about commuting in Metro Vancouver, and Insights West’s research that found people in Metro Vancouver are generally happy with their commute.

Is your commute pleasant or annoying in Metro Vancouver? Select graph to see the results.

According to Mario, and not surprising, people with shorter commutes are happier than people with longer commutes. It was also no surprise that people who take transit don’t mind longer commutes as much as people who drive. The Insights West research is validated by surveys done in the past by Statistics Canada.

On the panel, we also talked about what needs to be done in Metro Vancouver to ensure that people’s experience of commuting within Metro Vancouver doesn’t degrade.

We were all asked if we thought that commuting in Metro Vancouver has become better or worse than a decade ago. We all thought that it has become better, with some caveats.

You can listen to the full panel discussion at the Roundhouse Radio website.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Addressing affordable housing in Metro Vancouver

Over the last year, people in Metro Vancouver have become increasingly concerned that they are being priced out of housing, and have been calling on all orders of government to make housing more affordable.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives released a report last Wednesday that outlines their solutions for government that will create and maintain affordable housing within Metro Vancouver. Their five-point plan is below.

  1. Build new affordable housing stock
    A $1.25 to $2.5 billion per year housing program funded by the provincial and federal governments to build up to 10,000 new units of affordable housing per year. Currently in Metro Vancouver, there are 3,000 people experiencing homelessness and 145,000 households in “core housing need” (spend 30% or more of household pre-tax income on housing.)
  2. Preserve and re-invest in existing affordable housing
    The federal government must renew the current annual $200 million province-wide subsidies for affordable housing, and invest an additional $190 million to $380 million to get the current affordable housing stock into a state of good repair.
  3. Create inclusive housing in complete communities
    Push for gentler forms of density in the region such as duplexes, triplexes, laneway houses, rowhouses, and up to mid-size apartment buildings. Discourage single-family housing development. Also ensure that 20-30% of newly constructed units are affordable.
  4. Put the brakes on absentee ownership and speculative investment
    Update BC’s property transfer tax to have a more progressive rate structure, and introduce differential tax rates for the sale of housing to non-BC resident buyers and/or purchasers of non-principal residences.
  5. Make property taxes fair
    Shift to a progressive property tax system that places a surtax on high-value housing. Revenue generated could be reinvested into affordable housing programs.

It should come as no surprise that both the federal and provincial governments will need to be the champions when it comes to reforming our propriety tax system and funding the construction of affordable housing.

For local governments, we can ensure that our zoning bylaws and development policies include provisions that support inclusive housing, and support a variety of housing types. For non-single family housing, we need to ensure that their is enough housing supply.

In Langley City, it will be critically important to work with other orders of government to ensure that the current number of affordable rental units are maintained, and brought into a state of good repair.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

TransLink has contributed half a billion to road maintenance in Metro Vancouver

While TransLink is best known for the transit service it provides, and for the bridges that it owns and maintains such as the Golden Ears Bridge and the Pattullo Bridge, TransLink also is jointly responsible for maintaining 600 kilometres of roads throughout the region.

As you can see on the following map, TransLink jointly maintains a larger road network than the provincial government within Metro Vancouver. TransLink contributes $19,810 per lane kilometre for operation, maintenance and pavement rehabilitation to municipalities who have roads in the major road network. This amount in inflation adjusted each year.

Map of road network in Metro Vancouver. Major road network in blue, provincial roads in red. Select map to enlarge.

When a road is in the major road network it must be a truck route, and a municipality cannot reduce the people handling capacity of the road.

TransLink has contributed more than $500 million to maintain the major road network since 1999. In 2016, TransLink is contributing $38.5 million to the operation, maintenance, and rehabilitation of the major road network. About a third of that flows back into the South of Fraser. The following list shows the funding for South of Fraser municipalities:

Delta: $2.4 million
Langley City: $528,500
Langley Township: $2.9 million
Surrey: $6.8 million
White Rock: $67,000

In addition to helping keep the major road network in a state of good repair, TransLink also provides 50% funding for eligible costs of larger capital projects that enhance the major road network, or improve cycling infrastructure throughout the region. In 2016, TransLink is investing $9.8 million for these capital projects. Some South of Fraser projects include:

Ladner Trunk Road and 72 Street Intersection Improvements: $96,900
203 Street Protected Bike Lanes: $171,500
Fraser Highway Widening in Langley Township: $720,000
New Bikeways within Brookswood and Fernridge in Langley: $80,000
King George Boulevard Widening: $2.4 million
Fraser Heights Greenway in Surrey: $402,900

Thursday, May 19, 2016

100 ways to say no: provincial government responds to UBCM resolutions

Every fall, local government politicians throughout the province attend the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) annual conference. One of the key outcomes of the conference is the adoption of resolutions which get forwarded to the province for consideration.

As I posted about last fall, these resolutions give some insight into the challenges faced by local governments throughout the province. The provincial government reviews the resolutions, and provides its comments back to local governments. The responses for the 2015 resolutions were recently released.

Resolutions are grouped into two main categories. “A” resolutions address priority issues that are relevant to all local governments throughout the province. “B” resolutions are general resolutions. At the 2015 UBCM conference, five priority resolutions and around 100 general resolutions were adopted.

I read over many of the provincial responses. It is really interesting to see how many ways the provincial government can basically say, “We hear you, but we are not going to change our direction.” For example, just look at the responses for the five priority resolutions.

The first priority UBCM resolution called for the provincial government to dedicate 60% of the infrastructure funding it receives from the federal government’s Build Canada Fund to be allocated to local government. Right now, the province allocates 40%. The response from the province, “BC’s focus is on investments, which could include local government initiatives, which facilitate job creation and economic growth.”

The second priority resolution called on the provincial government to develop a long-term, multi-faceted strategy to help people suffering from mental health and addiction issues, and increase funding to mental health and addiction services throughout the province.

The provincial response was that it adopted the “Improving Health Service for Individuals with Severe Addiction and Mental Illness” in 2013, and since that time has allocated $20.25 million to health authorities to expand service based on their action plan.

The third priority resolution requested that the province not download the cost and responsibility onto regional districts to enforce the provincial Fire Services Act in unincorporated areas. The provincial response is “the province is committed to ensuring that public safety is addressed across BC, including the issue of compliance monitoring. The province will continue to consult with stakeholders as the process continues.”

The fourth priority resolution asked that both the provincial and federal governments expand the scope of current oil, and hazardous and noxious substance emergency response plans to include all impacts and consequences for local communities. The provincial government replied that “on June 15, 2015 the Ministry announced plans to implement a world-leading land-based spill regime by February 2017. Many of the new requirements would ensure that local governments are supported in preparedness, response and recovery for spill events.”

The final priority resolution called for an Environmental Bill of Rights which “recognizes the right of every resident to live in a healthy environment, including the right to clean air, clean water, clean food and vibrant ecosystems.” What does the province think? “An environmental bill of rights is not needed in BC because the province’s existing and continually evolving environmental and natural resource regulatory regimes protect the public interest.”

While the resolutions passed at UBCM show what issues are important to local governments, the provincial government rarely acts on the adopted resolutions.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

My tour and thoughts about Langley City’s Fire-Rescue Service

One of the things that I’ve been working towards since being elected to Langley City Council is getting a clearer understanding of the various departments within the City. I want to see what’s working well, and where there are constraints. This weekend I toured the fire hall, and went out on a call with one of the crews.

Outside Langley City Fire-Rescue.

Because Langley City is only 10 square kilometers, we only require one fire hall. It should come as no surprise, but everyone that I talked to was extremely professional and proud of the services they provide to the community.

Inside the Fire Hall.

One of the things that I’ve been noticing is, with the exception of the police department, the City of Langley staffing levels are lean. The Fire-Rescue service is no exception.

Right now, the City of Langley has enough full-time firefighters to staff one fire engine 24/7. What this means is that they can respond to only one call at a time. If there is more than one call, or if a call requires more than one engine, paid on-call firefighters or the Township of Langley must be called to assist.

Out on a call.

As I posted about in April, we have one of the busiest engines in Metro Vancouver. Only engines in Vancouver’s DTES respond to more calls. The call volume in the City of Langley has been steadily climbing over the last few years.

Because many of the paid-on call firefighters have regular full-time jobs, and the Township of Langley Fire Department’s mandate is to serve that community. While response times are excellent for the City’s full-time engine, response times are slower when more than one engine is needed. Seconds matter in an emergency.

The Fire-Rescue service responses to fire-related calls, as well as motor vehicle accidents and medical emergencies. The fire department is also responsible for fire prevention which includes building inspections. Because Langley City has a large amount of old buildings, some of which have undocumented and unsafe modifications, these building inspections are key to maintaining fire safety.

Some of the full-time firefighters that I met during my tour, plus me.

I believe that we need to have a discussion within the community about the staffing levels at Fire-Rescue. While we are not in a crises at the moment, a conversation about allocating additional resources for the Fire-Rescue service over the next five years should occur.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Presenting at the upcoming SFU City Conversations on Thursday

The City Program at SFU Vancouver sponsors City Conversations during a few lunchtimes every month. The topics covered can include anything related to the geography of how we live. These one-hour lunchtime programs start with a quick presentation about the topic at hand. After the brief presentation, the presenters and the participants engage in a conversation.

The next City Conversations is this Thursday from 12:30pm to 1:30pm, and is titled “Rising Stars: Shaping the Future of the Metro Region.” From the City Conversations Website:

Upcoming SFU City Conversations

They host public planning sessions at beer & BBQ parties. They offer residents who complain of speeding cars a choice: we can slow the traffic, but you’ll have less street parking (and a bike lane!). They supply all of Vancouver’s water, and much of its outdoor recreation.

They’re young, bright, imaginative… and elected. They’re not Vancouverites, but from neighbouring cities we don’t spend much time thinking about. We can learn from them, and have a good time doing so.

Come join a conversation with three future leaders of the region: New Westminster councillor Patrick Johnstone, North Vancouver’s councillor Mathew Bond, and Langley City’s councillor Nathan Pachal. Rising stars, helping to shape our future.

If you happen to be around Downtown Vancouver on Thursday, please consider stopping by. Registration is not required, and there is no cost to attend. Here is the location details:

Room 1600
SFU Vancouver at Harbour Centre
515 W. Hastings Street

Monday, May 16, 2016

Cash-free buses, Apple Pay, and the future of Compass Card

Last week, Apple Pay started to be rolled out in a meaningful way in Canada. This service allows your iPhone to be loaded with your Interac and credit cards, and be used in place of the cards. Android Pay is a similar to Apple Pay, but isn’t launched in Canada yet.

This got me thinking, wouldn’t it be convenient to be able to use my smart phone to pay for transit. I searched for Apple Pay and transit online; Transport for London allows you to pay for transit with your debit card, credit card, Oyster Card, and Apple Pay on all modes of transit (including buses.) Oyster Card is the equivalent of the Compass Card.

In fact, the rollout of this open payment system has been so successful that Transport for London no longer accepts cash on the bus!

Closer to home in Chicago, the Ventra system also allows people who use transit in that region to pay the same ways as you can in the UK. Want to use Apple Pay or Android Pay on the CTA? No problem.

Fare gates in the London Underground. Source: Macworld UK.

Do these fare gates look familiar? They should because they are made by the same company that made the TransLink fare gates. In fact, the technology used in London, Chicago, and here in Metro Vancouver was made by the same company. Compass Card readers throughout the TransLink system have the ability to accept contactless payment cards and Apple Pay.

Compass Card reader on TransLink bus with contactless payment symbol. Select image to enlarge.

Less than 5% of TransLink customers use cash on the bus. Handling cash is expensive for TransLink. Having exact change, or having to run out to get a Compass Card, is inconvenient for people who only use transit occasionally.

Is open payment in the future for TransLink? I certainly hope so. It would make using transit in our region more convenient, and further reduce access barriers.

On a side note, Transport for London also has daily caps for people that use Stored Value. This is something that TransLink should consider as matter of equity. You should never have to pay more than the cost of a day pass (West Coast Express excluded.)

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Turning sewage into liquid gold

Earlier this week, I posted about Metro Vancouver’s Sustainable Innovation Fund, and how Langley City may be receiving funding to put together a business case for urban farming. Metro Vancouver also has two special Sustainable Innovation Funds for the region’s sewer and water services.

One of the pilot projects that got my attention was $4 million dollars for a hydrothermal processing facility. This facility would be built at the Annacis Island Waste Water Treatment Planet.

Right now sewer sludge is turn into biosolids that must be deposed of, or used as fertilizer. About 50% of carbon is lost in the process which contributes to GHG emissions.

Hydrothermal processing turns sludge into biocrude, methane gas, and carbon dioxide. The CO2 released into the air is significant less than the current way sewer sludge is treated. You can read a presentation from the US Department of Energy for more information about this process. Biocrude can be used at refineries instead of regular crude oil, and the methane gas can be used as a fuel for heating. This process reduces the use of fossil fuels. It also save Metro Vancouver money as biosolids no longer have to be transported around.

Top: sewage sludge. Bottom: biocrude. Select images to enlarge.

If $4 million from the Liquid Waste Sustainable Innovation Fund is approved by the Metro Vancouver board, and $1 million is secured form the Federation of Canada Municipalities, this pilot project will be able to proceed. It will bring a whole new meaning to the term liquid gold.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Allowing temporary shelters for people to sleep in parks is not a solution

Reducing the amount of people experiencing homelessness in Langley has been a top-of-mind desire for people in the community, including myself. Reducing the number of people experiencing homelessness has also become a priority for local governments throughout BC.

In the past, some local governments “eliminated” people experiencing homelessness by strong-arming people out of a community. The end result was that people experiencing homelessness were shifted to other communities. This can't happen anymore.

Last fall, the BC Supreme Court released the decision Abbotsford (City) v Shantz, 2015 BCSC 1909 (“Shantz”). Fulton & Company LLP provides a good overview of the case, and what its means for local governments in BC.

In a nutshell, local governments in BC must allow people experiencing homelessness to setup temporary shelters somewhere on municipality-owned public land between 7:00pm and 9:00am. These shelters must be taken down during the day. Local government must also likely ensure that these temporary shelter locations are sanitary and secure. All combined, this puts a strain on limited local government resources.

Temporary shelters must be allowed until there is enough shelter beds in a community for people experiencing homelessness.

The fact that the number of people experiencing homelessness is on the rise is a symptom of chronic issues with our health care system and social safety net.

For example, when the provincial government decided to close-down most of Riverview Hospital, people at the hospital were supposed to be transitioned to smaller, community-based facilities. Successive provincial governments failed to provide adequate beds, or build the required number of facilities. Some people with mental health issues end up on the street because of inadequate provincial support.

Local governments receives about 10% of all taxation collected. The provincial and federal government have the mandate to ensure that people’s health needs are being met, and that permanent housing is available to every Canadian.

Local governments, like the City of Langley, have a role to play as facilitators and advocates for people experiencing homelessness to get permanent housing. Local governments must also ensure that affordable housing policies are embedded into official community plans, zoning, and the development permitting process.

But when it comes to funding health care, supportive housing, and some types of affordable housing, the provincial and federal governments need to show leadership.

I’m happy that the federal government has decided to become a larger partner in providing funding for supportive and affordable housing. Will the provincial government play a larger role in funding mental healthcare, supportive housing, and affordable housing?

We can do better as a province and a country than allowing people to camp out in municipal parks as a “solution”.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

May 9, 2016 Council Meeting Notes - Financial plan and property tax change approved

Last night’s Council meeting started off as a Committee of the Whole. A Committee of the Whole allows for a more open discussion between members of Council and the public. The City was seeking feedback on Bylaw 2986. This is a financial housekeeping bylaw which reconciles the proposed 2015-2019 Financial Plan with the actual results.

2015-19 Financial Plan actual results. Select image to enlarge.

There was no comments from the public nor was there comments from Council. Council then moved into the regular meeting. Bylaw 2986 was given final reading and approved at the beginning of the meeting.

Next, Councillor Storteboom gave a presentation about Local Government Awareness Day which was held on Wednesday, April 20th. Grade 4 and 5 students from local Langley schools went on a tour of some of the City of Langley’s facilities, and learned about the various City departments. Councillor Storteboom thanked staff members for their help throughout the day. Councillor Storteboom also awarded Sophia Saria a certificate for winning the “Energy is Awesome” drawing contest. Beside the certificate, Mayor Schaffer will be delivering a free lunch to her class.

Council next heard from Shannon Todd-Booth from Langley Hospice Society. She gave a presentation that outlined the history of the society which started in 1983, and their mandate for providing end-of-life care and bereavement support.

The Hospice Society’s Residence is located at the Langley Memorial Hospital. The current facility can accommodate 10 people, and is in need of an upgrade. Todd-Booth said that the society has been working with Fraser Health to secure a new site for a hospice residence that could accommodate 15 people. They currently have 50% of the funding in place, and are hopeful that the province will partner with them to ensure full funding for the new facility.

The Langley Hospice Society runs their other programs through their Langley City facility. Todd-Booth stressed that it was important to keep their bereavement support programs physical separated from the palliative care residence. Some 5,400 people accessed their services over the last year. More information on the services offered is available on their website. Langley Hospice Society won the Langley Chamber of Commerce Community Impact award in 2014.

Councillor Storteboom followed with his update on the Metro Vancouver Board. Many of the topics he covered have been posted about on this blog. Councillor Albrecht asked some following up questions to the update from Councillor Storteboom. Councillor Storteboom promised to email him with the answers.

Councillor Martin gave a update about Tourism Langley. She noted that the hotel tax must now be renewed which requires the approval of hotel owners both in the City and Township of Langley. If the renewal is approved, it will be forwarded to Council no later than the end of September for final approval.

Rick Bomhof provided an Engineering, Parks & Environment update. He noted the new 2016 Lawn Sprinkling Restrictions. He also explained that the City of Langley is currently working on renewing water mains in Salt Lane and along 203rd Street. The City is also busy replacing sewer lines along 201A Street and 203rd Street. Bomhof said that the City is continuing with the roll-out of new street name signs which have a higher visibility. He explained some of the other spring maintenance tasks that keep City streets working.

One of the projects that I’m excited about is the City of Langley’s LED streetlight pilot program. 12 new LED lights were recently installed along 200th Street. I asked Bomhof what the total life-cycle cost savings were for LED streetlights. He said that the City is working on a report of the pilot, and will be presenting a business case this summer to replace all City streetlights with LEDs. Included in the business case will be the cost saving analysis.

Kim Hilton gave the Recreation Update. You can learn more about the various events and recreation opportunities available from the City’s website.

Next council gave final reading and approved Bylaw 2985 which sets the property tax rate for 2016. This was based on the 2016-2020 Financial Plan. Property Tax is increasing 3.75%. This works out to an average $71 increase for single family house owners, and an average reduction of $39 for strata lot owners.

Council gave final reading and approved Bylaw 2987 which restricts animals, with the exception of service and guide animals, from being within public facilities such as Timms Community Centre.

Council gave first and second reading to Bylaw 2989 which, if approved, will authorize the removal of a land-use contract from a property to allow a legal secondary suite. Land-use contracts are an old-style regulation tool that is no longer used. In fact by 2024, the province has said they will move forward with discharging all land-use contracts.

What land-use contracts were used for back in the day is now handled through zoning and developer cost charges.

Council finally approved three motions. One motion appointed me as Deputy Mayor from June 1st until July 31st. The second appointed Dan Millsip to the Parks, Recreation and Environment Advisory Committee filling the seat that I vacated when elected. Councillor Storteboom was appointed to the Langley Refugee Immigrant Advisory Committee.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Metro Vancouver proposes study of urban agriculture in Langley City

Metro Vancouver created a Sustainable Innovation Fund back in 2004. The $17.8 million fund has an annual contribution of $347,000. This contribution is part of the Metro Vancouver budget which is funding by a portion of property tax that landowners in the region contribute to.

Annually, Metro Vancouver internally vets projects and presents them to the Metro board for approval. The projects must support Metro Vancouver’s mandate, and “result in a positive contribution, in the form of tangible results and/or measurable benefits to the sustainability of the region.” The categories include: air quality management, regional parks, regional planning, housing policy, ecological health, climate change mitigation, and climate change adaption.

This year three projects will be submitted to the Metro Vancouver board for approval for funding in 2017. $100,000 for a Transit-Orient Affordable Housing Funding will assesses if it makes sense to start a fund to support building affordable rental housing near frequency transit. Another $100,000 has been allocated for a Regional Park Solar-Powered Conversion Project. This project will evaluate whether solar power can replace gas powered generators used in regional parks.

The third project is for a City of Langley Urban Agricultural Demonstration Project. Metro Vancouver will be allocation $50,000 to the project. The City of Langley and Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Institute for Sustainable Horticulture will be partners in this project.

BC Hydro power line right-of-way through the City of Langley. Select image to enlarge.

A ten hectare power line right-of-way travels through the southern part of the City of Langley. Some of the land in the right-of-way contains parks, but other sections do not. The $50,000 contribution will be used to develop a business case for using these sections of the right-of-way for urban agriculture. The business case will include creating detailed site and conception plans, plus an implementation and operation plan.

To the best of my knowledge, there is no funding allocated for actually constructing an urban farm at this time. My hope would be that meaningful public consultation is part of the development of the Urban Agricultural Demonstration Project Business Case.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Farming for a property tax break

Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley is home to the best farmland in BC, and some of the best farmland in Canada. Our region also has the highest overall population density in the province, and some of the most valuable land.

In order to encourage farming throughout BC, the provincial government provides a reduction of property tax for land that is used for farming. Municipalities can also provide a reduction in property tax.

Examples of differences in property taxes with and without Farm class. Select table to enlarge.

In order to qualify for the farm property classification, certain requirements must be met. One of the requirements that is evaluated is the amount of revenue generated by farming. The evaluation is based on the following formula:

For farms under 2 acres, $10,000 in sales must be generation from farming. For a farm between 2 acres and 10 acres, $2,500 in sales must be generated from farming to qualify for farm status. For farms larger than 10 acres, minimum sales must be $2,500 plus 5% of the farmland value.

In Metro Vancouver, there are people who own large lots with large estate housing that have “hobby farms”. These farms qualify the large lot, large house owners for a massive reduction on their property tax bill. The thought is that these small scale farming operations do not providing the same sociality benefit as larger scale farming operations. In Metro Vancouver, the $2,500 threshold for land between 2 and 10 acres could be too low.

Metro Vancouver recently released a study it commissioned called “Farm Tax Class: Income Threshold Investigation.” Based on their investigation of farming in Metro Vancouver, the authors of the study suggested the following three items for potential action:

  1. Increase Farm Income Thresholds, and Set a Single Threshold for all Parcel Sizes in Metro Vancouver: This value should be between $3,700 and $7,500.
  2. Consider a Multi-Level Taxation Tool to Further Distinguish between Hobby Farms and Commercial Operations: Commercial and Hobby Farms would be assigned different farm classes, and would quality for different property tax rates and reductions.
  3. Expand the Farm Income Threshold Policy Discussion.

While it is great that Metro Vancouver commissioned this report, the provincial government would be the only order of government that could act on these recommendations.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

More Compass Card Stats and Opinion

Last month, I posted some statistics about the Compass Card roll-out. I wanted to provide a brief update on those statistics. As of mid-April:

-800,000 customers using a Compass Card on a regular basis.
-94% of journeys on our system are made with a Compass Card or Ticket.
-More than 1.3 million taps are recorded every weekday.
-149,000 people loaded an April Monthly Pass to their Compass Card.
-Approximately 363,000 Compass Cards are registered (46%).
-Approximately 91,000 customers have signed up for AutoLoad.

The Compass Card rollout has been rapid, and having only 6% of all trips using other forms of payment in such a short time is impressive. The remaining 6% of trips are using cash on the bus, or old FareSaver tickets on the bus.

One of the original concerns I had was that people wouldn’t have as rapidly adopted the Compass Card, and would run into issues transferring between bus and SkyTrain. In the US, similar transit cards have taken longer to roll out. This could be due to the fact that other transit agencies tried to maintain compatibility with their older fare media during the transition. TransLink didn't maintain backwards compatibility at the faregates. TransLink’s marketing on buses, at bus fare boxes, and at transit exchanges really helped. The clear message was you need a Compass Card if you want to use the SkyTrain.

There are two goals for the Compass Card: making it easier to use transit, and allowing the operation of faregates to reduce fare evasion.

A tweet about TransLink revenue since the introduction of Compass.

TransLink’s new CEO Kevin Desmond says that transit revenue is up 7%. It will be interesting to see the full financial breakdown of this in TransLink's financial update later this year. For example, is the new one zone fare on buses encouraging people to use more transit? It will also be interesting to see if the combined capital and on-going operational costs of the Compass Card/faregate program will have a financially positive or negative impact on TransLink’s bottom line.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

TransLink Ridership from 1999 to Present

TransLink recently compiled annual ridership statistics from the inception of the agency until the end of 2015 for its conventional transit service.

I have created two charts based on this information. The majority of TransLink’s ridership is generated by its extensive bus network. In 2015, around 65% of all boarded passenger trips were by bus. While rail and SeaBus gets lots of media attention, the bus network is really the backbone for transit in Metro Vancouver.

There was a massive dip in ridership in 2001 due to a transit strike. Bus ridership dipped in 2013 and 2014, but is now higher than ever.

TransLink Bus Boarded Passengers, 1999-2015. Select table to enlarge.

Last month, several newspapers ran a story about SeaBus ridership being at an all-time low. These story were not actually based on ridership data. The actual data shows that while SeaBus ridership peaked in 2010, and declined between 2011 and 2014, ridership was up in 2015.

TransLink Boarded Passenger, 1999-2015: SkyTrain, SeaBus, West Coast Express, Canada Line. Select table to enlarge.

West Coast Express ridership which includes TrainBus peaked in 2012. Ridership dipped in 2013 and 2014, but was back on the rise in 2015.

Expo & Millennium Line ridership peak in 2011, with a dip in ridership between 2012 and 2013. Ridership started climbing again in 2014. Ridership on the Canada Line dipped in 2013 and 2014, but was at an all-time high in 2015.

Monday, May 2, 2016

More than 90% of people surveyed do not want to see increased parking at City Park

The City of Langley is updating the master plan for City Park. City Park borders Blacklock Fine Art School in the north, 207th Street in the east, and 48th Avenue in the south.

Map of City Park including current parking. Select map to enlarge.

The two proposed options for the park presented for people to comment on back in February had a substantial increasing in parking within the park. Taking away greenspace in a park for parking vehicles didn’t seem right. The lyrics to the song “Big Yellow Taxi” about putting up a parking lot came to my mind. City Park is a community park, and should serve the needs of people that live in the area.

I was interested in knowing if my thoughts about parking were shared by other people in Langley City, so I conducted a survey.

I sent out a request via Facebook targeting people that live within or near Langley City to ask them to answer a few brief questions. This is what people said who lived in the V3A postal code.

Survey responses. Select chart to enlarge.

179 of the 234 people who completed the survey though that City Park has the right amount of parking inside the park today.

39 people thought that City Park needs less parking inside the park which would create more greenspace in the park. And 16 people though that City Park needs more parking inside the park, even though that means there will be less greenspace in the park.

185 of the 234 people who completed the survey, or 79.1%, visited City Park within the last month.

Some of the comments people submitted include:

I walk through Blacklock and City Park everyday and I don't think there is a parking issue. Speeding in the park zone and on 51B is a major issue though.

I am strongly opposed to increasing parking in city park and putting a through road through the park.

What is the point of creating more parking if you take some of the park away....bad idea!!! It's a diverse ecosystem that needs complete protection and that means every bit of it left as it is....

My backyard backs onto City Park so I have a vested interest into which design the city chooses to adopt. I have yet to see any of the parking lots at City Park full so I question why more parking is even an option for council. Removing greenspace for asphalt and concrete should not be considered an option.

Please don't remove greenspace from this beautiful park. This park is so well loved and used by many of us in this area. It's a gem.

I've never seen the parking lots completely full - The neighborhood doesn't need more traffic either.

Love that park it does have a lot of parking and it is never full. I have lived beside that park for 25 years.

I would not be against more parking as long as it would be secure and locked up at night. As a neighbor of City Park there is already a great deal of drug deals in the lot and cars speeding and doing doughnuts in the lot. It is very noisy at night and not always safe to walk by.

A full 93.2% of the people who completed the survey did not want to see additional parking added to City Park. I will be advocating strongly at the Council table to ensure that additional parking is not added to City Park.