Monday, July 4, 2016

Metro Vancouver + Fraser Valley Regional District = Better Together

With the whole Brexit situation in Europe right now, I’ve been thinking about regional districts in the Lower Mainland. Regional districts in British Columbia are sort of like a mini version of the EU. A collection of autonomous governments come together in a federation to work for the mutual benefit of everyone in the regional district.

For example, the region pools its resources together to provide clean drinking water, 911 services, public housing, sewer treatment, solid waste management, air quality management, and large parks/conservation services. These are things that each municipality in regions couldn’t do efficiently on their own.

Langley City would certainly be in a pickle if we weren’t part of a regional district; we certainly wouldn’t be able to go it alone.

I’ve also been thinking a bit about what if the Lower Mainland was one regional district. This would include what is currently “Metro Vancouver” plus Abbotsford, Mission, and Chilliwack. We share the same watershed and air shed. Abbotsford is already a part of the Metro Vancouver parks system, and could likely benefit from Metro Vancouver's water services.

We are also are completely economically linked. For example, the West Coast Express already goes to Missions. There are also two transit routes that connect Abbotsford to Metro Vancouver, and one transit route that connects Chilliwack to Metro Vancouver.

Trips leaving the Abbotsford. Source: Fraser Valley Travel Patterns - Findings from the 2008 Trip Diary Survey

Trips leaving Chilliwack. Source: Fraser Valley Travel Patterns - Findings from the 2008 Trip Diary Survey

Trip leaving Mission. Source: Fraser Valley Travel Patterns - Findings from the 2008 Trip Diary Survey

More people from Abbotsford travel to Metro Vancouver than to Mission and Chilliwack combined on a daily bases. In Mission, about the same about of people travel to Metro Vancouver as to Abbotsford. There is a good amount of people that travel from Chilliwack to Metro Vancouver daily too.

Trips leaving the Northeast Sector. Source: 2011 Metro Vancouver Regional Trip Diary Survey

The same goes for Metro Vancouver. People that live in the Northeast Sector are just as likely to travel to Langley as to Mission, Abbotsford, and Chilliwack.

Of course, there are some negatives when you are part of a federation such as Metro Vancouver. You don’t always get exactly what you want, but the benefits of working together far outweigh the negatives.

Likely the biggest concern that most municipalities have about being in a regional district is regional land use planning. Regional land use planning is required by the province to prevent sprawl as historically municipalities haven't done a good job of limiting sprawl.

The Metro Vancouver Regional Growth Strategy seems draconian to municipalities that have a significant amount of farmland and rural land. Having Mission, Abbotsford, and Chilliwack at the table would certainly give the more rural municipalities a stronger combined voice.

The Lower Mainland has a world-leading form of local government. Municipalities can be small enough to have a deep understanding of local issues, and a passion to implement solutions in their community. At the same time, regional districts take care of all the big things that should be addressed at a larger scale.

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