Tuesday, January 31, 2017

January 30th, 2017 Council Meeting Notes: Protecting Environmentally Sensitive Areas, Water & Sewer Rate Changes, and Speeding

Last night was a short City of Langley council meeting. The meeting started with a public hearing for a proposed update to the Official Community Plan (OCP) to incorporate the results of the City’s Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESA) mapping study. The following map is proposed to be incorporated into the OCP, and is one of the deliverables of that study.

Environmentally Sensitive Areas map. Select map to enlarge.

The proposed OCP update would prohibit all development in areas with moderate to high value. Development in low to moderately-low areas would have to adhere to the proposed requirements to:

  • Locate development away from sensitive habitat and features
  • Locate and design development to protect, complement and enhance ESA values including natural areas, landforms, ecological connectivity and hydrological function
  • Require habitat compensation at 2:1 replacement levels for any development affecting ESA’s

This next map proposed to be incorporated into the OCP shows watercourses within the City, and watercourse where there are salmonids. As proposed, the OCP would prohibit development as follows:

  • Class “A” Watercourse – 30.0 metre setback
  • Class “B” Watercourse – 15.0 metres setback
  • Class “C” Watercourse – 5.0 metres setback
Watercourse classification map. Select map to enlarge.

As an alternative to the setbacks outlined, a “Qualified Environmental Professional” in accordance with the provincial “Riparian Areas Regulations” may also determine the setbacks from watercourses.

These proposed changes to the OCP are more detailed and prescriptive than the current OCP around the protection of Environmentally Sensitive Areas.

City Council received both written and oral comments at the public hearing from the Nicomekl Enhancement Society, Langley Environmental Partners Society, Langley Field Naturalists, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, and Metro Vancouver.

The three environmental societies requested that they be allowed access to review development applications in the ESA. There was also concern that using a “Qualified Environmental Professional” could results in setback reductions which would have a negative impact on the environment and salmonids.

City staff noted that “Qualified Environmental Professional” recommendations must be reviewed and accepted by the province. City staff also noted that “Qualified Environmental Professional” recommendations would be publicly available as part of any development permit application. Development permit applications must also go to council for approval which provides an opportunity for feedback.

Council gave third reading of the bylaw to amend the Official Community Plan.

Later during the meeting, the Mayor noted that the RCMP did speed enforcement for the playground zone around Brydon Park. The RCMP issued 16 tickets in that area this month. This show that there is a design problem with that section of road. Roads should be designed to encourage people to drive at a safe speed.

Traffic calming is a priority for the City of Langley; a record-level $400,000 in one year will be invested into traffic calming if the proposed budget is approved for 2017.

Council also gave first, second, and third reading to the Waterworks Regulation, and Sanity Sewer and Storm Sewer Rates and Regulation bylaws.

For most users, this means the water service rates will change as follows:

$75.00 flat-rate per dwelling unit per year, plus a consumption charge of $1.16 per cubic metre of water consumed during the previous year.

For most users, this means for sewer service the rates will change as follows:

$75.00 flat-rate per dwelling unit per year, plus a consumption charge of $1.04 per cubic metre based on 80% of the water consumption used during the previous twelve months.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Working towards a regional response to reducing homelessness in Metro Vancouver

The issue of people experiencing homelessness does not stop at the City of Langley border. It is a regional issue that is impacting every community, to various degrees, throughout Metro Vancouver. While it is good that each community develops a plan to reduce homelessness —Langley City has such a plan— it will take regional advocacy and action to move forward in a meaningful way.

If we approaching reducing homelessness from a regional level, we will have a stronger voice when requesting funding and programs from the provincial and federal governments. A regional strategy will also help ensure that one municipality’s response to reducing homelessness won’t simply shift people who are currently homeless to another community.

In fact, it is important that people have access to resources in their own community to: prevent homelessness, have emergency intervention services with the goal of getting people out of homelessness, and have access to housing.

Metro Vancouver —the regional district— launched a “Regional Homelessness Task Force” which started meeting at the beginning of December. Francis Cheung who is the Chief Administrative Officer of Langley City is on the task force.

By the end of February, the task force is to deliver the following:

  • Estimates on the number of people who are homeless in Metro Vancouver
  • Information on the frequency and volume of turnaways from Metro Vancouver shelters
  • A summary of experiences from Metro Vancouver municipalities dealing with street homelessness and encampments
  • The amount of permanent shelter and interim housing space needed immediately to address homelessness and tent cities in Metro Vancouver

With the provincial election coming up, and the upcoming National Housing Strategy to be released, the immediate goal will be to use the information gathered from the task force to advocate from the regional level for funding and resources to get people off the streets and out of tent cities.

At one of the previous task force meetings, the following chart was presented as part of a “Regional Homelessness Conceptual Framework.

Regional Homelessness Conceptual Framework: A Mental Model. Select chart to enlarge.

The current request from the region is to get people who are experiencing homelessness the help they need including shelter and a path to permanent housing. Going forward, it will be equally important to look at how to break the cycle of people becoming homeless in the first place.

The green arrows on the chart show people groups who are most at risk of experiencing homelessness which feeds into the “Pathways In” section of the chart. One of the things that stood out to me is that military service is a pathway into homelessness as is aging out of foster care.

The reasons why a person can come to experience homelessness is complex. A regional response with the support of the provincial and federal governments is essential to breaking the cycle of homelessness, and giving people a way out of homelessness.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

First Look at TransLink’s 10-Year Vision Dashboard

Yesterday, I posted about TransLink’s 10-Year Vision, and how it relates to transit service expansion, walking, cycling, and other road improvements in the South of Fraser.

The 10-Year Vision splits up the Mayors’ Council Regional Transportation Investments plan into manageable, fundable pieces.

Today, the Mayors’ Council will be having a public meeting. On the agenda is a report from the funding strategy committee. Included in the agenda is a slide which shows how transit service will improve over the next decade, plus what was recently approved in phase 1, and what is proposed for phase 2. It also includes the timing for other transportation improvement funding, plus the major projects such as the SkyTrain expansion and the replacement of the Pattullo Bridge.

10-Year Vision Investment Dashboard. Select dashboard to enlarge.

Phase 1 of the vision includes 50% of the proposed new bus service level increases and HandyDart service level increases which is significant. As it stands now, phase 2 will see only a modest increase in transit service levels because phase 2 will be funding the start of expanding the rapid transit expansion in Surrey and along Broadway as well as the construction of the Pattullo Bridge.

As I stated yesterday, our region’s vision for building a multi-modal transportation network is now heading in the right direction. I look forward to a finalized funding agreement for phase 2.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Surrey Light Rail, and moving forward with TransLink’s 10-Year Vision

With funding secured for phase 1 of TransLink’s 10-Year Vision for transportation in our region, work is full-steam ahead on implementing phase 1 which includes the following transit service enhancements in the South of Fraser.

Phase 1 South of Fraser transit improvements. Green is new transit service, red is new frequent transit service, and orange is new B-Line service.

It also includes $12.5 million in new regional funding for municipally-owned walking infrastructure, $29.8 million in new regional funding for cycling infrastructure, and $82.5 million for major road network upgrades, rehabilitation, and seismic retrofitting.

Phase 2 of the plan is slated to being in 2018, and will enable more transportation enhancements in the South of Fraser. One of the major enhancements will be light rail along King George Boulevard and 104th Avenue as shown in the following map.

Surrey Light Rail map including stations.

While funding is not yet secured for phase 2, from what I’ve heard, I’m confident that the feds, province, and region’s mayors will be able to come up with the funds needed to pay for the next phase. Mayor Hepner is so confident that she is on the record stating that construction of Surrey Light Rail will begin in 2018.

On the topic of Surrey Light Rail, the City of Surrey and TransLink are having a series of open houses about the project. I attended last night’s open house in Guildford.

Guildford Open House about Surrey Light Rail.

Another map of the Surrey Light Rail project including station stops.

Information and renderings of Surrey Light Rail.

One of the key takeaways for me is that Surrey and TransLink are designing the light rail system to create an accessible community. The renderings of the light rail network show that the system will not only reliably get people around Surrey, but will also create a vibrant public realm that will encourage walking and cycling. For example, if you look closely at where the light rail system will be running in the previous photos, you’ll see that grass is under the tracks to reduce the size of impervious surfaces which is good for the environment, and creates a pleasant public realm.

There are two other public open houses scheduled:

Wednesday, Jan. 25
12 to 5 p.m.
Surrey City Hall Atrium
13450 104 Avenue

Thursday, Jan. 26
4 to 8 p.m.
Newton Cultural Centre
13530 72 Avenue

You can also submit feedback online until February 13th.

While I’m happy that work is well underway to get phase 2 of TransLink’s 10-Year Vision funded and built, I concerned that progress may stall on phase 3. Phase 3 is when light rail or SkyTrain will be built along Fraser Highway to Langley. The final phase is not slated to begin until 2020, and the funding source for that phase will likely be “mobility pricing” or another new funding source.

A new funding source for TransLink has been requested by our region to the province since the agency was created in 1999. While I’m confident that existing funding sources can be used to fund both phase 1 and 2, I’m not as sure about phase 3. That being said, 2020 is a political eternity away, so who knowns what will happen.

After several years of stagnation, transit service in Metro Vancouver is finally expending. This is good news.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

iMapBC can show you the border between Langley City and Township at Willowbrook Mall among other things

One of the things that I’ve recently discovered is iMapBC. If there is something to be said about our province, we really do love our camel case when it comes to naming things run by the provincial government.

The government of BC has published thousands of datasets online, many of these datasets are spatial or geographic data. If you are good using APIs and GIS systems, you can access the datasets to use as you wish. Of course, this creates a barrier to using this information. iMapBC lowers that barrier, and lets you quickly and easily populate a map with the geo-datasets that have been made available by the province. You can also export the maps with datasets displayed, and add some simple customizations.

As an example, the following map plots the Surrey, Township of Langley, and City of Langley municipal borders around Willowbrook Mall.

Where the City of Langley, Township of Langley, and Surrey meet. Select map to enlarge.

As another example, below is a map of the Agricultural Land Reserve in the South of Fraser.

The ALR in Metro Vancouver. Select map to enlarge.

Having access to, and being able to easily use data, is important to helping us understand the world we live in, and make informed decisions. iMapBC is a simple way to start exploring the large amount of geographic data that only used to be available to experts.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Infographic: understanding how revenue the City of Langley receives is used

From time-to-time, I receive questions from people about how the City of Langley budget works. I also know that there is some confusion out there about local government financing in general.

There is easy to understand information online about how property tax rates are set, but I haven’t found the same easy to understand information online about how revenue received by local governments is translated in delivering services and building infrastructure.

To help show how Langley City’s budget works, I created the following simplified infographic.

How revenue the City receives is used. Select infographic to enlarge.

The City collects property taxes and fees. The majority of this revenue is used for providing services to people and businesses in the community. A small portion of this revenue is put into City reserves which are sort of like savings accounts.

The City also receives revenue from the Cascades Casino, federal government, provincial government, and TransLink which are put into reserves. For every new development project, the developer must also contribute to these reserves. Money is drawn from these reserves to invest in building and renewing infrastructure.

The infographic is not meant to show the edge cases of City financing, but it should hopefully provide a clearer understanding of how revenue received is turned into making things happen in our community.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

January 16th, 2017 Council Meeting Notes: Snow & ice removal, and redeveloping Hunter Park

While the 2017 Financial Plan was front and centre at this Monday’s City of Langley council meeting, other items we also discussed.

Rick Bomhof who is the Director of Engineering, Parks and Environment gave a quick overview of the City's snow and ice removal efforts during the month of December. Some 632 metric tonnes of salt and 1,200 people hours went into making sure that our roads and city-maintained sidewalks were clear.

$179,589 has been spent on snow and ice removal this winter so far. To put that into perspective, the annual budget for snow removal was $154,000 for 2016. I work in Downtown Vancouver, and travel along Fraser Highway every day to work. City of Langley streets and sidewalks were in way better shape than the other municipalities' streets and sidewalks I used during December.

One of the things that some communities forget about is clearing the snow on sidewalk curb letdowns. For people with limited mobility, or that need mobility aids, clearing curb letdowns is critically important. I was pleased to see that for city-maintained sidewalks, our crews cleared curb letdowns.

Now it wasn’t all clear and under control in the City, some private property owners didn’t maintain their sidewalks which is required as per our municipal traffic bylaw.

Bomhof noted that due to the snow and freezing weather, construction was paused on several projects. With the warmer weather, work will now resume. Because of the weather, the 203rd Street project will now open at the end of March.

Bomhof stated the following major projects are now “in design:” the replacement of the 200 Street Bridge Deck, Baldi Creek culvert upgrade near 53 Avenue, and the 56 Avenue Utilities Project.

Kim Hilton who is the Director of Recreation, Culture and Community Services also provided an update on recreation opportunities available in our community. As a highlight, the City will be celebrating Family Day at Timms Community Centre from 11:30am to 2:30pm. All activities will be free and open for all members of the community.

Council also gave final reading to bylaws that were discussed during the last meeting of 2016 around taxi/chauffeur permits, and a development project near 53A Avenue and 201A Avenue which was discussed at the October 3, 2016 council meeting.

Council also received the annual reports from our Community Day Committee, Magic of Christmas Parade Committee, and Youth Committee.

Due to laminated root rot, trees in Hunter Park were removed. Now that the removal has finished, work will begin to restore Hunter Park. I’ve been appointed to the new Hunter Park Task Group. The task group will also include City staff, one person from the local school PAC Committee, and 4 people from the local neighbourhood. There will be a public open house about the future of the park in the next little while. The task group will review the input from the public open house, the Parks, Recreation and Culture Master Plan and will consider both passive and active uses within the park to make a recommendation on how to redevelop the park.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Langley City Budget 2017 Part 2: Investing in our community’s infrastructure

Yesterday, I posted about the operating budget portion of the City of Langley’s 2017 Financial Plan. Today, I will be posting about the capital budget portion. The key objects of this year’s plan are to invest in public safety, address homelessness, improve our parks and public spaces, renew our infrastructure, and bring more positive activities to the community.

The capital budget is used to invest in longer-term infrastructure, and to pay for one-time projects. Every year, a portion of property tax revenue is placed into reserve accounts which are used to pay for capital projects in current or future years. If you live in a strata, this is like a contingency reserve fund. Like a strata, the City should know when certain infrastructure items need to be replaced. If the City hasn’t saved up enough money by the time an infrastructure item needs to be replaced, the City either needs to go into debt to pay for that replacement, or that piece of infrastructure fails and/or deteriorates.

This is not a good situation to be in. I certainly don’t want to live in a community with broken water and sewer lines, potholed-filled roads, broken sidewalks, and parks that are past their prime.

While the City has enough funds over the next few years, we don’t have enough money in the bank to replace what needs to be replaced in the medium- and long-term. A 0.5% infrastructure levy, which will generate $122,500 this year, has been added to the tax bill to help get us closer to being able to maintain and replace end-of-life infrastructure.

Besides a portion of property tax revenue that is placed into reserve accounts, the capital budget is also paid for with money from the casino, the federal government, the provincial government, TransLink, and developer cost charges.

To improve public safety, the plan proposes to invest signification dollars to make walking and cycling safer. $400,000 —the single-largest investment ever in one year— will go into traffic calming.

Around $850,000 will be invested to make walking safer and more enjoyable. Some of the key walking infrastructure items that are proposed to be funded include a new sidewalk on 46 A Avenue, and enhanced crosswalks at 208 Street/50A Avenue and 204 Street/54 Avenue.

The City will also be starting a large-scale upgrade of all streetlights to LED. In total, $300,000 will be invested for streetlights.

$200,000 will be invested into making cycling safer. In total, $9 million will be invested to make our streets better.

The 2017 financial plan will also see a record $4 million dollars be invested into improving our parks and public spaces. A few highlights include investing $1.3 million for a new youth-focused section of Penzer Park, $700,000 to upgrade the sports field at Rotary Centennial Park, and $40,000 to upgrade the lighting in Douglas Park. Our trail system will receive $430,000 worth of upgrades including new walking bridges in the floodplain. The streetscape at the front of City Hall at the corner of 204 Street and Douglas Crescent will also be receiving a $350,000 upgrade.

Around $4 million will be invested in keeping our sewer and drainage lines in a state of good repair. Around $3 million will be invested into our waterworks.

In total, City of Langley council is proposing to invest about $22 million into capital infrastructure in 2017.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Langley City Budget 2017 Part 1: Service Level Improvements

Yesterday was the first City of Langley council meeting of the new year. With the new year, also comes a new budget. The 2017 Financial Plan was given first and second reading at last night’s meeting which now enables people to provide feedback on the proposed plan.

There are two major components of the financial plan, the capital budget and the operating budget. The operating budget pays for on-going services that the City provides while the capital budget pays for building long-term assets like roads, sewer lines, and facilities such as Timms Community Centre.

This post will focus mainly on the operating budget. Tomorrow, I’ll post about the capital budget.

What I’ve heard from people is that they want to see the City invest in improving their quality of life, and invest in our community’s infrastructure. Council via the financial plan is proposing to invest in five key areas: public safety, addressing homelessness, improving our parks and public spaces, renewing our infrastructure, and bringing more positive activities to the community. The following highlights some of the ways that the operating budget portion of the plan invests in these key areas.

The largest expenditure for the City is the RCMP. One of the things that I’m leery about is increasing the number of police officers due to the high cost. As per the financial plan, policing costs will be increasing by around $700,000 even with no increase in police strength. Besides determining the number of police officers in our community, the City has very little control over the police budget.

To better address parking enforcement, dog off-leash issues, and homeliness matters, the financial plan includes $79,800 to add a new bylaw officer.

The financial plan also includes $10,000 to add to a previously approved $20,000 to hire a part-time Community Liaison Coordinator. This person will work with social service agencies, the RCMP and the business community to address critical social issues in our community. They will also oversee the implementation of the Homelessness Strategic Plan and the Community Crime Prevention Strategic Plan.

$90,000 has been added to the operating budget for the new Corridor Improvement Program. This funding will be used to improve the maintenance of walkways, boulevards, sidewalks and medians.

The new Timms Community Centre is a much larger facility than its predecessor. An additional $124,550 has been added to the operating budget for increased staffing at Timms.

Bringing more positive activity to Langley City including free, family-friendly events such as the McBurney Plaza Summer Series is something that our community strongly supports. The financial plan includes $63,650 for more of these events.

In total, the financial plan will result in a $883,595 net increase over last years’ budget which requires a 3.61% tax increase to balance it. This number includes regular wage and benefits increases, and other items which you can read about on page 5 of the financial plan.

Hearing from the community about the financial plan is important. There will be an informal open house on February 1st between 6:00pm and 7:30pm at City Hall where you can ask questions and provide feedback on the plan. There will also be an opportunity to comment on the plan at the February 6th council meeting.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Vehicle kilometres travelled flat between 2009 and 2015 in Metro Vancouver

Over the weekend, I can across an interesting study from Pacific Analytics Inc. when doing some research on the Internet about transportation in our region. The name of the study is “‘Greenest City’ Vehicle GHG Emissions: An Assessment.

The study looks at vehicle kilometres travelled within the City of Vancouver and Metro Vancouver. Vehicle kilometres travelled (VKT) is a good indicator of how many people are driving on our roads. The higher the VKT, the more vehicle traffic there is.

The author of the study points out that the VKT/GHG Forecasting Model that Pacific Analytics used was developed over the last decade for the Ministry of Transportation, Ministry of Environment, and TransLink. The author of the report calls into question some of the City of Vancouver VKT data as seen in the following chart. Pacific Analytics’ model is the grey and yellow lines while the City of Vancouver’s data is the hashed black line.

Average VKT in Metro Vancouver and the City of Vancouver. Select chart to enlarge.

What is interesting to me is that their model shows that VKT in Metro Vancouver has been essentially flat since 2009. While VKT has remained flat, the regions population has grown by 9% or 212,907 between 2009 and 2015.

To put this into perspective, Metro Vancouver has absorbed the population of Abbotsford and Chilliwack combined without a real increase in VKT. This means that people were not travelling as must and/or walking, cycling, and taking transit more. There has been an increase in transit ridership between 2009 and 2015.

In 2016 and beyond, will VKT increase, stay the same, or decline. While the price of fuel plays a factor in how people get around, so does how we design our communities, and the diversity of transportation options available.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

CAA’s Congestion Index measures 20th century legacy mobility. 21st century regions measure accessibility.

Yesterday, the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) released a report on congestion in Canadian cities. This report builds on the data from the TomTom Traffic Index, and takes a more nuanced approach to defining congestion and bottlenecks.

Even with the CAA report's updated methodology, it should come as not surprise that the bigger the region, the higher the level of congestion for single-occupancy vehicles. In fact, any economically prosperous region will have congestion.

In Metro Vancouver, the George Massey Tunnel was rated number 20 of 20 on the list of top bottlenecks in the country; barely squeaking its way onto the CAA’s list.

While these reports can provide useful information where traffic congestion frequently occurs, I find these types of reports problematic.

There is an underlying assumption that if a bottleneck exists for single-occupancy vehicles, the solution is to expand capacity. Of course, we know that building more capacity simply leads to even worse congestion and/or a shift of the bottleneck to another area.

In the case of the George Massey/Highway 99 corridor, building an un-tolled, ten-lane bridge would simply shift the bottleneck to local roads, and other upstream bridges such as the Oak and Knight as noted in the provincial government’s own documents. In the same document, it shows that a tolled Massey Bridge will have traffic volumes not seen since the 1980’s with reduced congestion. The traffic volumes are so low that the Massey Tunnel would have reduced congestion; no mega-bridge needed.

The new Port Mann Bridge is another local example of how tolling reduced congestion. In fact, that new bridge still has less traffic on it today than the old Port Mann Bridge did.

Tolling/road pricing/mobility pricing is the only real way to reduce congestion for single-occupancy vehicles in a growing, prosperous region.

Dealing only with reducing congestion —getting people quickly from point a to point b— is the wrong way to provide access to people in a region. We need to stop thinking about vehicle movement exclusively, be it cars, transit, or bicycling. We need to start thinking about people, and how our cities and regions can provide better access to employment, services, and all the things that make life enjoyable.

For example, when it comes to employment and services, our Regional Growth Strategy is focused on placing employment, services, and shopping close to people within walkable urban centres that are connected by high-quality transit.

Metro Vancouver's Urban Centres. Select map into enlarge.

This Christmas, I read the Global Street Design Guide, which is fundamentally about making streets that “make the most of the public space available on streets, enhancing places and fostering economic activity while promoting traffic safety and efficient movement of all modes of transport.”

What Is Possible. Building street for people. From: Global Street Design Guide. Select image to enlarge.

In 2017, looking at streets as traffic conduits, building new freeways, and prioritizing congestion reduction for single-occupancy vehicles just doesn’t make sense anymore. Instead of a Congestion Index, it would be far more useful to have an Accessibility Index to see where in Canadian regions there are successes and challenges with getting people access to employment, services, and other opportunities no matter their age, ability, or mode of travel.

PS: Metro Vancouver, which according to the CAA report has the least amount of highway kilometers of any major Canadian region, also has the most stable round-trip commute times.

The time it takes to get to work and back. Source: Statistics Canada 89-622-XIE and 11-008-X.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

BC Housing's Affordable Rental Housing Program funds project in Willoughby

Late last year, the provincial government announced that they would make $500 million dollars available to build 2,900 affordable rental units throughout the province. This is an extension of the provincial government’s “Non-Profit Asset Transfer Program” which started in 2014.

The province is selling land and assets directly owned by BC Housing to non-profit housing societies. The end result of this will be that BC Housing will be a funding and policies agency for housing, but will no longer directly own or operate housing in the province. The province is hoping to get $505 million from the sale of the land and assets. $355 million of the proceeds will go towards building those 2,900 new affordable rental units.

There is a housing continuum as shown in the following graphic from Metro Vancouver’s recent Regional Affordable Housing Strategy.

The housing continuum. Select graphic to enlarge.

Household income categories in Metro Vancouver. Select graphic to enlarge.

The Gateway of Hope in the City of Langley would fall into the “with support” category. People living in this type of housing are unable to live fully independent. Some of the services provide could be addition recovery programs, support for mental or physical health conditions, and assisted living. BC Housing has a full list of supportive housing options. The province’s $500 million program is focused on providing “no support” non-market rental for people that have a low to moderate income who can live independently.

The provincial government recently announced that it would be providing $4 million to help build an 82-unit non-market rental building in partnership with Catalyst Community Developments Society and Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church.

The province’s press release states that the rental units will be for seniors and low to moderate income families. The project will be built at the corner of 72nd Avenue and 200th Street on unused church property.

One of the things to consider when building affordable housing is access to services and employment. How easy is it for someone to get around without having to own a car. Metro Vancouver's Regional Affordable Housing Strategy states that “transit-oriented development is viewed as one of the top policy approaches for making land available for affordable housing 'at the right location'; for example, where access to public transit links residents to employment and services. Good locations for affordable housing should include access to transit.”

This new housing project is being built next to 200th Street, and residents will have access to the 501 which currently operates every 30 minutes. The 200th Street corridor is slated to have B-Line service in the next three or four years. The housing project will start construction in 2018.

It is great to see new affordable housing being built in Langley as there is a huge need. I look forward to also seeing more “with support” housing options in Langley.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Local governments responsible for 60% of infrastructure, but receive smallest share of revenue in BC

The provincial Ministry of Community, Sport, & Cultural Development recently released financial statistics about local governments in our province. These statistics are for 2015. Local governments in BC include both regional districts and municipalities.

Local governments provide critical services to people, and you can see some of those services by looking at an infographic that I created a few years ago. Local governments are also responsible for about 60% of all infrastructure in Canada, but only receive a fraction of taxation revenue.

In 2015-16 the BC provincial government received $47 billion in revenue which included $7.6 billion in federal government contributions. The province had $46 billion in expenses, and $65 billion in long-term debt.

In 2015, local governments in BC received $11 billion in revenue which included $84 million in federal government contributions, and $451 million in provincial government contributions. Local governments had $8.9 billion in expenses, and $4.2 billion in long-term debt.

Metro Vancouver with a population of 2.51 million was home to 54% of British Columbians in 2015. Local governments in Metro Vancouver received $5.5 billion in revenue which included $13.4 million in federal government contributions, and $131.9 million in provincial government contributions. Metro Vancouver local governments collected around 50% of the total revenue collected by all local governments in BC. Our region only received 15% of federal contributions and 30% of provincial government contributions. I should point out that in Metro Vancouver the federal government contributes around $123 million a year to TransLink via the Federal Gas Tax Fund.

When it comes to expenses, local governments in Metro Vancouver were responsible for $4.9 billion or 55% of all local government expenses in the province. Metro Vancouver local governments also held $2.4 billion or 57% of the total local government long-term debt in BC. The City of Vancouver was responsible for $988 million (41%) of that long-term debt though only has 25% of Metro Vancouver's population. With the exception of the City of Vancouver, Metro Vancouver local governments carry a smaller overall debt than the rest of the province's local governments.

Throughout BC, local governments receive about a quarter of the revenue of the provincial government, but have a large amount of infrastructure to maintain, and services to provide. Local government also have a smaller overall debt both in real dollars, and as a percentage of revenue. Outside of Metro Vancouver, local governments get more direct funding contributions from the federal and provincial governments thought Metro Vancouver is unique as transit is provided by TransLink, and not as a partnership between local governments and the province.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Provincial document shows that transit and tolling will reduce congestion along Highway 99 corridor to 1980s levels, not 10-lane bridge

The Massey Tunnel Replacement Project is one head-scratcher of a project. While the goal of reducing congestion along the Highway 99 corridor is laudable, the construction of the estimated $3.5 billion bridge won’t in and of itself reduce congestion.

There will be some serous geotechnical challenges with the construction of this bridge, so I’m unsure if the $3.5 billion will be the final price tag. Back in November 2015, I posted about why a tunnel was chosen over a bridge back in 1955.

Among [George Massey’s] arguments in favour of a tunnel instead of a bridge were that the approaches for a bridge would be so long as to be wasteful form a land use point of view, and very expense to build.

Back in 1955, the estimated cost of a bridge was 41% higher than the cost of building a tunnel.

This summer, I found some information in the environmental assessment application for the replacement bridge. The information showed that the new proposed tolled bridge would drive more traffic to the Alex Fraser Bridge. There was some media coverage about this.

Recently, I noticed that there was a new document about the replacement bridge project put on the Environmental Assessment Office’s website titled “Response to information requests regarding the Traffic Assessment for the George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project.

In the memo, the author notes that an increase in traffic on the Alex Fraser Bridge (AFB) “represent traffic diverting from the newly tolled bridge, during evening and weekends, over and above the forecast increase in overall regional traffic levels. In addition, based on the Port Mann experience, diversion from the new bridge to AFB will be primarily during off-peak times, during times when there is available capacity on AFB.”

Two-way Annual Average and Daily Traffic Volumes at the George Massey Tunnel Crossing and on Adjacent Fraser River Crossings, With and Without the Project. Select table to view.

The document’s author states that “tolling of the new bridge will result in lower traffic volumes.” The author further acknowledges “the role of the Canada Line in decreasing traffic levels along the Oak Street corridor since its opening.”

It’s no secret that tolling reduces congestion. This is why the regions’ mayors have been calling for a regional tolling strategy. In fact, if all major crossing in the region were tolled, there would be a significant reduction in congestion in Metro Vancouver. It is no secret that building transit also reduces congestion.

Given the facts: a new tolled Massey Replacement Bridge will have less traffic volume on it in 2045 than in 1984, an un-tolled Alex Fraser Bridge will see an increase in traffic volume, and transit and tolling have been shown to reduce congestion, it appears that $3.5 billion would be better invested in improving transit in our region.

At the same time, we need regional tolling or road pricing to reduce congestion. The money raised could be used to maintain our transportation network in Metro Vancouver.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Great streets have 3.0 to 3.3 meter lanes, anything else is bad news

Over the holiday season, I read several books about cities and public space. One of those books was the Global Street Design Guide. I’ll save the review of this valuable resource for a future post, but the book focuses on how to design great streets that create a sense of place, are for people, improve public health, increase quality of live, enhance the environment, support economic productivity, and create social benefits.

The book shows how to allocate street space for different uses and goals. When it comes to general vehicle travel lanes, the book is very clear that travel lanes on most urban streets are too wide. These wide lanes encourage speeding and other unsafe behavior, and is counter to creating a great street.

For example, may urban streets have freeway-sized lane that can be up to 3.7 meters wide. We certainly have some travel lanes like this in Langley.

The Global Street Design Guide which is based on real-world examples recommends that general vehicle travel lanes be no wider than 3 meters. Lanes can be 3.3 meters wide if they support public transit or are truck routes.

It’s not only the Global Street Design Guide that recommends narrower lanes, new research by Dewan Masud Karim, P.Eng., PTOE who works at the City of Toronto also supports narrower lanes. He found that 3.0 to 3.3 meter lanes have lower crash rates, can handle more traffic volume, and encourage a higher rate of walking and cycling. A win, win, win.

Karim's recommended lane widths. Select image to enlarge.

The Global Street Design Guide also recommends that intersections be narrowed as well.

From Urban Street Design Guide: Example of wide intersection. Select image to enlarge.

From Urban Street Design Guide: Example of narrowed intersection. Select image to enlarge.

With the snow in Langley City, you can see how people use the streets. The following pictures show that there is excess travel lane width on many Langley City streets. This excess wide could be used for building wider sidewalks, bike lanes, parking, and green/planted areas.

Unused street space on 204th Street at Park Avenue. Select image to enlarge.

Unused right-turn lane on 203rd Street at Douglas Crescent. Select image to enlarge.

203rd Street to Douglas Crescent slip lane. Half the lane underutilized. Select image to enlarge.

Snow and ice act to narrow this intersection. Select image to enlarge.

203rd Street is one of the first streets in Langley City to have its street space reallocated, and 56th Avenue between Glover Road and the Langley Bypass is in the works. Based on research and real-world examples from cities around the world, Langley City is on the right course. As my pictures show, there is much work to be done.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Affordable and market housing demand over the next decade in Metro Vancouver's slow-growth municipalities

The lack of affordable housing is a front and centre issue in our region. Metro Vancouver —our regional district— and local governments have been working together to quantify the gap in affordable housing throughout the region. With this information, and in partnership with the development community, federal and provincial governments, housing for people from all walks of life, and in all stages of life, can be provided.

One of the first steps has been to update the housing demands based on household income, and tenure in our regional growth strategy. These estimates can be used to help municipalities plan for the types of housing required in their communities.

I decided to plot the housing demand for some of the slower growth communities in our region. These radar charts help clearly show the demand for each type of housing. The municipalities plotted are estimated to require between 1,000 to 3,000 units of housing between 2016 and 2026.

Ownership Demand Estimates (2016-2926). Select chart to enlarge.

Rental Demand Estimates, By Household Income (2016-2026). Select chart to enlarge.

Municipalities on the left side of the charts have a higher overall growth than municipalities on the right side. One of the interesting things to note is the higher ratio of affordable housing to market housing that will be required in urban core communities such as Langley City and the City of North Vancouver, compared to other slow-growth communities. This makes sense because these core communities have better transportation options, and more access to services and amenities. Overall, there is a low demand for high-end rental units.

Full details can be viewed in the Metro Vancouver October 28, 2016 Board of Directors meeting agenda.

Note: Household incomes in charts: Very Low Income <$30,000/year, Low Income <$30,000-50,000/year, Moderate Income $50,000-75,000/year, Above Moderate Income $75,000-$100,000/year, High Income $100,000/year+.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A comparison of enrollment numbers for Langley City schools

While School District No. 35, its Trustees, and the provincial Ministry of Education are responsible for schools in the City of Langley, it is something that I get questions about from time-to-time from residents in the community.

The City of Langley is in redevelopment mode, and how our population changes is something that the School District considers when allocating resources. Using the most recent enrollments numbers, I thought I would plot the enrollment numbers for the 2015 and 2016 school years for schools that primary serve City of Langley residents.

Blacklock Elementary School, Douglas Park Elementary School, Nicomekl Elementary School, Simonds Elementary School, and Uplands Elementary School feed into H D Stafford Middle School which feeds into Langley Secondary School.

Alice Brown Elementary School feeds into Brookswood Secondary School. I didn’t included Brookswood Secondary on the map as it serves primary the Township.

As you can see, enrollment for schools that serve primarily City of Langley residents was flat. For comparison, schools that feed into and including R E Mountain Secondary School in Willoughby had an 8% increase in enrollment between 2015 and 2016. Willoughby elementary schools also had around double the enrollment as Langley City schools.

The numbers in this post include both Ministry-funded and international students.