Monday, July 31, 2017

Traffic calming near Michaud Crescent & 201A Street. Borrowing ideas from New York.

Two of the key priorities for Langley City residents that I’ve heard are to slow down people who speed through our streets, and improve safety for all street users. The most visible project completed this year that addressed both priorities was 203 Street. Traffic calming was also approved along sections of 50 Avenue and 198 Street this year. You can read about some of the coming safety measures including speed tables, raised crosswalks, road narrowing, and curb extensions on a previous blog post.

There has also been a demand from residents along Michaud Crescent, near 201A Street, to implement traffic calming measures. There is a future plan to transform Michaud Crescent into a greenway, but traffic calming is needed today.

Former New York Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan transformed streets in her city by applying “paint and planters” for quick wins to improve safety. Based on the success of projects, they would be made permanent over time.

Sadik-Khan’s Department of Transportation also kept metrics on the success of these projects. For example, in the Making Safer Streets guide, it highlights how narrowing roads at crosswalks and intersections reduced crashes, injuries, and conflicts. You can view more resources on her website.

Sadik-Khan “paint and planters” style projects are showing up in cities throughout Canada and the US. Langley City is no exception. One of the risky intersections in our community is Michaud Crescent & 201A Street. Langley City is proposing to narrow the intersection with paint and bollards. This is an example from another community:

Example of interim curb narrowing design in Austin, Texas. Source: CityLab.

This is the proposed design for our community:

Proposed interim design for the Michaud Crescent and 201A Street intersection. Select image to enlarge.

This interim design will reduce the amount of time where there is walking/driving conflict. Because of the narrowing, it will make seeing a person crossing easier if you are driving, as the start of the crosswalk will now be in your field of vision.

The traffic calming proposal also includes installing speed tables as shown.

Proposed speed table locations around Linwood Park. Select image to enlarge.

If you would like to provide feedback on these proposed traffic calming measures, please visit the City’s website. Feedback is being accepted until August 10.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Double-digit transit ridership growth in the South of Fraser. 96 B-Line ridership mostly responsible.

TransLink released its 2016 Transit Service Performance Review. The review looks at ridership and other performance metrics of the SkyTrain, SeaBus, West Coast Express, and bus network.

The 2016 results are good, ridership is up on the SkyTrain and bus network which transports the vast majority of transit customers. Ridership on the West Coast Express and SeaBus declined, though to put that into perspective, more people take the 3 bus along Main Street in Vancouver than the SeaBus. Ridership was up 4.5% across the whole network in 2016.

The fastest growing ridership in Metro Vancouver is in the South of Fraser. Between 2015 and 2016, ridership grew an astounding 10%, and 5% over the last 5 years. No other part of Metro Vancouver has seen this level of growth. The numbers show that there is a pressing need for more transit service in the South of Fraser.

Annual Bus APC Boarding by Sub-Region. Select chart to enlarge.

One of the biggest drivers of ridership growth in the South of Fraser is the 96 B-Line which runs along King George Boulevard and 104 Avenue. In fact, more people took the 96 B-Line last year than the 97 B-Line which was replaced with a SkyTrain extension.

Running along Fraser Highway, the 502 is in the top 10 list for most crowed routes in the region. New to the list is the 555 which runs between Carvolth Exchange in Walnut Grove and Lougheed SkyTrain Station.

Most Crowded Routes (Annual Revenue Hours with Overcrowding). Select chart to enlarge.

In general, areas with the lowest ridership in the region are South Delta and Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows.

When looking at the SkyTrian numbers, I noticed an interesting anomaly. Most SkyTrain stations have a balanced number of people that enter and exit stations during a regular day. This is not the case for King George and Surrey Central stations.

Because of how the bus network functions in the South of Fraser, people use King George Station more in the morning. People get onto the SkyTrain system at this station because it saves around five minutes as opposed to going all the way to Surrey Central Station to get onto the SkyTrain system.

During the afternoon, most people get off the SkyTrain network at Surrey Central because most routes begin at that station. If most people are like me, it is so we don’t get passed up at King George Station.

The busiest SkyTrain stations are located in Downtown Vancouver. Metrotown is also an extremely busy station. The top five busiest stations have between 18,500 and 24,100 weekday entries on average. The least busy SkyTrain station is Sea Island Centre at YVR. It has only 700 weekday entries on average.

With renewed investment in transit service thanks to the funding of phase 1 of the Mayors’ 10-Year Transportation Vision, transit ridership will only continue to grow. TransLink is expecting even higher ridership growth this year compared to 2016. In the first quarter of this year, ridership has already increase 6.3% compared to the same period in 2016.

For more information, please check out the 2016 Transit Service Performance Review page on TransLink’s website.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

July 24, 2017 Council Meeting Notes: Additional $21,658 in community grants approved, development along 198 Street moves forward

In BC, local governments receive 10 percent of the net revenue from a casino that is hosted in their community. Cascades Casino is located in the heart of Downtown Langley. Langley City’s policy is to use the revenue we receive from the casino to invest into capital improvement projects and community grants. $168,000 per year is distributed to organizations through our community grant program.

Grant policy information and an application form is available on the City’s website. Grants are allocated at the beginning of the year. Earlier this year, I posted a list of organizations that received a community grant. The full $168,000 was not distributed at that time, so a second intake was opened.

Of the second intake grant applications received, Langley City council approved grants for the following organizations:

  • Big Brothers Big Sisters of Langley: $1,250.00
  • Boys and Girls Club of Langley: $730.00
  • Children’s Wish Foundation: $1,000.00
  • Langley Animal Protection Society: $3,500.00
  • Langley Baseball Association: $5,000.00
  • Langley Community Services Society: $ 1,378.00
  • Langley Division of Family Practise – Youth HUB: $5,300.00
  • Langley School District Foundation – HD Stafford: $2,200.00
  • Moving Forward Family Service: $1,300.00

These organizations received a total of $21,658 in grants. In 2017, the City distributed $144,999.05 in community grants.

On July 10, there was a public hearing for a proposed development at the corner of 198 Street and 55A Avenue. You can read about the public hearing and the development proposal on a previous blog post. Council gave final reading to the rezoning bylaw for this proposal and approved its development permit.

View of proposed development from 198 Street. Select image to enlarge.

As I posted about yesterday, this was the last public council meeting until September.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

July 24, 2017 Council Meeting Notes: Expense policy changed, corporate fitness discount program launched, and new radio network for our first responders approved

Last night was the last Langley City council meeting before the August break. Council’s next public meeting will be on September 11, 2017. In previous years, this last meeting is usually jam-packed, but this was not the case last night. Even so, there were some important policies that were adopted at the meeting.

The first policy to be adopted was to change the Travel & Expense Policy for the City. This policy was updated to increase the allowable expenses that council members can incur on an annual basis without requiring the approval of the mayor. The mayor may now incur up to $7,000 per year in expense while other council members can now incur up to $5,000 per year in allowed expenses.

This change will allow council members to attend one or two conferences a year such as the Lower Mainland Local Government Association Conference, Union of BC Municipalities Conference, or Federation of Canadian Municipality Conference.

The second change was to increase the per diem amount by $5 to $75 for both council and City staff when travelling out of town. The per diem covers meals and other incidental costs. This change was made to reflect the increase in the cost of meals.

As always, any incurred expenses are publicly reported. You can review last year’s council remuneration and expenses on a previous blog post.

To help promote a happy, health community, and support active lifestyles, Langley City council adopted a new Corporate Fitness Membership Program. This program will grant a 25% discount for three, six, or one year admission packages to our community’s recreation facilities. A business or non-profit agency must have at least three employees who are willing to commit to an admission package to be eligible for the program. Those employees will then receive the discount.

As I noted a few weeks ago, Langley City Fire-Rescue Service in joining the E-Comm radio network. As the Langley RCMP and BC Ambulance Service use the same radio network, this will facilitate better inter-agency communication during emergency events. This radio network will also have better coverage than our current radio network. Council gave final reading to the bylaw to authorize our Fire-Rescue Service to join the radio network.

Tomorrow, I’ll be posting about community grants, and a rezoning plus development permit that was approved.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Delta Mayor pitches light rail to justify Massey Bridge

Up until a few months ago, it seemed that a 10-lane Massey Tunnel replacement bridge was going to be built. The Massey Bridge is a bad idea. It was a bad idea in 1955 when a bridge was first considered, and is still a bad idea today.

The bridge would have a negative impact on farmland, shift congestion to other crossings, and because of the soil conditions in the area, be cost prohibitive to build.

The current provincial government does not appear to be interested in moving forward with the bridge as it is currently being proposed. Because of this, Delta has been lobbying hard to get a Massey replacement bridge back on the table.

The TransLink Mayors’ Council is meeting this week, and Delta’s Mayor Jackson has the following motion that she will be putting forward:

“That in year five of the TransLink Mayors Council’s 10 year plan, a preliminary study be undertaken formulating a comprehensive plan which would see the construction of a light rapid transit rail line from Brickhouse Station, in Richmond, and subsequently run southward over the new bridge, crossing the Fraser River. This new transit line would then travel through Delta, South Surrey/White Rock, and on through Langley township, culminating in Chilliwack.”

Back in the 1980s when SkyTrain was first built, there were plans to extend the system to South Delta. The idea of building rapid transit to the area isn’t without merit. However, our region is more polycentric today than it was back then.

South Surrey and White Rock warrant rapid transit due to their population and status as a regional centre. The current plan to serve this area is to extend light rail along King George Boulevard. This would give people an alternative to driving for most trips in that sub-region.

Map and table of South of Fraser travel patterns. Source: 2011 Metro Vancouver Regional Trip Diary Survey.

Building light rail from Richmond to Chilliwack via Delta and Langley would cause extreme pressure to develop the Agricultural Land Reserve.

This pitch for light rail appears to be a hail Mary attempt to justify building a Massey Tunnel replacement bridge which is no longer a priority for the provincial government, and has never been a priority for the region. It will be interesting to see if the Mayors’ Council passes her motion on Thursday.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Building affordable, walkable, and transit-friendly neighbourhoods a priority for Metro Vancouver residents.

The Metro Vancouver Regional District recently released the results of their survey “Shaping Our Communities.” They surveyed a representative sample of people throughout the region to see what people thought about their neighbourhoods, and what attributes people think are important when selecting a neighbourhood to live in.

Even though there are 21 municipalities in our region, the survey results did not vary significantly from one municipality to the other. In Metro Vancouver, we have shared values when it comes to our neighbourhoods.

There was a difference in values between people who live in urban centres such as Langley City compared to people that live outside of urban centres.

In urban centres, walking, cycling, transit, and car sharing are more of a factor than outside of urban centres where driving is the transportation mode of choice.

What was interesting to see is that people in urban centres generally felt that their neighbourhoods were getting better over the last five to ten years, while people living outside of urban centres thought their neighbourhoods has not changed or had gotten worse over the last five to ten years.

Survey participants were asked what they considered important if they were moving to a new neighbourhood. The following chart ranks these attributes in order of importance:

Results of survey question: What do Metro Vancouver residents prioritize in their community? Select chart to enlarge.

It’s not surprising that housing affordability is the number one factor that people would consider. People also placed a high value on being close to daily essentials like grocery stores, pharmacies, and restaurants. People ranked being able to walk to shops, services, and amenities as more important than driving. In fact, driving and transit access were almost tied as important factors.

Building walkable, transit-friendly neighbourhoods is desired by people who live in Metro Vancouver. Local governments should ensure that their land-use plans and transportation networks support these kinds of neighbourhoods.

One of the interesting things about the survey is that it shows a cognitive dissonance among residents in our region. For example, survey participants prioritized affordable housing, but placed a low value on having different types of housing in a neighbourhood. A variety of housing types supports affordability.

There was also a disconnect between how improving cycling infrastructure is related to giving people a way out of congestion.

You can read the full survey results by looking at the July 14 Metro Vancouver Regional District Planning Committee agenda.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

TransLink accelerates purchase of 28 additional SkyTrain cars to meet demand

People like taking SkyTrain in Metro Vancouver. It is fast, efficient, and gives people a way out of congestion. So many people are using the Expo Line and Millennium Line with Evergreen Extension that more SkyTrain cars are needed sooner than later.

Forecasted Expo Line passenger volumes, and provided capacity. Select chart to enlarge.

As part of phase one of TransLink’s 10 Year Vision, 28 new SkyTrain cars were purchased. As I posted about earlier, phase two of the plan calls for the procurement of 86 additional SkyTrain cars.

TransLink is now proposing to move forward the purchase of an additional 28 SkyTrain cars, getting them into service two to three years earlier than planned.

This acceleration will be funded by moving some of the original phase one projects into phase two.

Phase One - Phase Two project swap to enable accelerated purchase of SkyTrain cars. Select table to enlarge.

These changes will be voted on at the next Mayors’ Council meeting which is scheduled for July 27th.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

A photo tour of some Langley City parks, plus a first look Hunter Park restoration work

This year Langley City is investing around $3.9 million to upgrade our parks system, and around $2.0 million to maintain the system. This level of investment hasn't been seen for many years.

Last night, Langley City council was given a tour of select parks by City staff who highlighted some of the recent investments made, and enhanced maintenance performed, due to increased funding for our parks system.

I thought I would share a few pictures from the tour. If you haven’t visited a Langley City park recently, I’m hopeful that these pictures will prompt you to rediscover (or discover for the first time) our parks system.

I’ve also included some pictures of Hunter Park which is currently being restored.

Douglas Park

New outdoor fitness equipment at Douglas Park. Select image to enlarge.

Hunter Park

New path being graded at Hunter Park. Select image to enlarge.

Hunter Park, looking west. Select image to enlarge.

Hunter Park, looking east. Select image to enlarge.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Pastoral Capitalism, Business Parks, and Metro Vancouver. Why are we protecting suburbia?

A lot has been said about the spread of suburbia in Canada and the United States, both about the residential development and the accompanying retail development that followed. There have been strong critiques about suburbanization and sprawl. New Urbanism, the antidote to suburbia, is a direct result of these critiques about suburbia. New Urbanism is about building walkable, human-scale communities.

In Metro Vancouver, you can see how New Urbanism principles have been incorporated into the planning ethos. While not always ideally executed, new residential and retail development in South Surrey and in Willoughby in the Township of Langley are rooted in New Urbanism ideals.

One of the areas where there has been a gap in the suburbia critique is around the business park. While we are all about building walkable communities in our region, business parks seem to be the exception.

Farrell Estates - Campbell Heights Commerce Centre. A typical building in a business park in Metro Vancouver. Select image to enlarge.

The one vestiges of mid-twentieth century suburbia that is alive and well in Metro Vancouver is the business park. In fact, our regional growth strategy which is otherwise about building walkable, complete communities, protects and promotes the “mixed-employment” zone; business park suburbia.

Annacis Island is the prototypical mid-twentieth century industrial park. Campbell Heights in Surrey represents the twenty-first century iteration of the industrial, now business park.

Why are business parks and industrial parks even a thing, and why is it the only form of suburbia that we are actively protecting and promoting in Metro Vancouver? One reason is because there has been a lack of critical discourse about business parks, industrial parks, and lesser known research parks.

Earlier last month, I stumbled upon a book call “Pastoral Capitalism” by Louise A. Mozingo who is a professor in the Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning at the University of California, Berkeley. In her book, Mozingo provides a brief history of pastoral capitalism. Pastoral Capitalism has its root in the Garden City Movement and the believe that plopping buildings in the middle of green grass with a pond surrounded by some trees, was good for the soul. Cities were thought to promote moral decay.

The Garden City Movement was a response to the polluted, industrial city. Mozingo noted that while pastoral capitalism is rooted in the morality of green grass, there are other insidious undertones behind pastoral capitalism.

Racial and class tensions in the US resulted in white people leaving urban centres; some of the first business parks were in the Southern US and New York. The design of the business park, with no access to public transit, no sidewalks and far from urban cores, ensured that only white, middle- and upper-income people could work in these places.

In the US, there was also a federal mandate to hollow out central business districts because of the fear of nuclear Armageddon.

Mozingo notes three suburban landscapes of pastoral capitalism: the corporate campus, the corporate estate, and the business park. In Canada, there aren’t too many examples of the corporate campus or estate, but we certainly have the business park.

Interestingly enough, the Academic Quadrangle building at SFU’s Burnaby campus is an excellent example of the corporate campus, and has been used as such in movies and TV shows.

The business park in America is different than the business park in Canada. One of the big differences is lot coverage and access. In the US, business parks usually have 25% lot coverage. In Canada, lot coverage is higher. For example in Campbell Heights, lot coverage is 40% to 60%. Sidewalks and transit access are also included in Canadian business parks which are not in American business parks.

Why we promote the business park in Canada and Metro Vancouver is a mystery to me. The pastoral qualities of business parks in Canada are dubious at best. Business parks were designed to isolate people from other people whether by class, race, employer, or union status. Is this really a form of development that is worth protecting?

Pastoral Capitalism” is right up there with the “High Cost of Free Parking” and “The Death and Life of Great American Cities” as must-read books for anyone that cares about placemaking.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

July 10, 2017 Council Meeting Notes: Rezoning application at 198 Street and 55A Avenue. Being good neighbours during construction.

On Monday night, there was a public hearing for a proposed rezoning of property located at the corner of 198 Street and 55A Avenue. The following renderings show what the proposed development would look like if the rezoning application was approved.

View of proposed development from 55A Avenue. Select image to enlarge.

View of proposed development from 198 Street. Select image to enlarge.

At the public hearing, one resident presented to council in support of the rezoning. This individual has provided critical feedback at other public hearings about other rezoning applications. The issues he identified at those public hearings were around construction such as poor crew parking management, poor traffic management, and lack of respect in the neighbourhood by construction crews (for example, littering.)

This individual noted that the proponent of this rezoning listened to his feedback when they completed a previous project in the neighbourhood.

After the public hearing, I asked the proponent if they had a parking plan in place as well as other measures to ensure that they would respect the neighbourhood. The proponent explained their parking management plan for construction crews, and how they will minimize impacts to current residents in the area during construction.

Other important aspects of the proposed development project include enhancements to the pubic realm: streets and sidewalks.

Parking plan, visitor parking yellow. Proposed changes to road dimensions. Select image to enlarge.

The proposed development hides parking which will be accessed via an internal laneway, meaning that both 198 Street and 55A Avenue will be fronted by ground-level windows and pedestrian entrances that will enhance walkability in the area. This will also form a street-wall which will make 198 Street a more inviting place.

198 Street will be narrowed and 1.8-metre sidewalks will be built in the proposed project area. At the 198/55A intersection, curb extensions will be built to improve safety and ensure that people are not parking too close to the intersection.

New street trees will be planted as part of the proposed development, and lighting will be reviewed along the section of 198 Street fronting the proposed project to ensure that lighting levels meet current Langley City standard.

Secure bike parking is also included in the proposed development. The proposed rezoning was given third reading by council.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

July 10, 2017 Council Meeting Notes: Fire Service crews extremely busy, drug overdoes up, updates on park improvements, events, and other projects in the community.

With Langley City council adjourning for the month of August, and with only one more meeting left, Monday’s council meeting was packed with updates from our municipal departments, and the RCMP. You can read about the RCMP update on yesterday’s post.

Fire Chief Rory Thompson provided an update about our Langley City Fire-Rescue Service. The service continues to be extremely busy. In the first half of 2016, Langley City Fire-Rescue Service crews responded to 1,573 calls. This has grown to 1,667 calls responded to in the first half of 2017. Around 80% of all call are medical-related, or vehicle collision-related.

Throughout British Columbia, there is a fentanyl and stronger carfentinil drug crises; people are dying due to overdoses at levels unseen in our province. Langley City is not immune to this crises. As shown in the following image, the number of drug overdoses in our community has increase by 3.5 time since 2015.

Number of drug overdoses in Langley City from 2015 to date. Select image to enlarge.

Some people think that this crises is only impacting people that are living on the street. According to Fire Chief Thompson, the clear majority of people that are being treated for overdoses have a home.

On a different topic, our Fire-Rescue Service is moving to a new, next-generation communication system by joining E-Comm. E-Comm is best known for taking 911 calls, but it also operates a wide-area radio network in Metro Vancouver that is used by police, fire, and ambulance services.

By moving to the E-Comm radio network, our Fire-Rescue Service will be on a multi-agency network that facilitates easier communication between police, fire, and ambulance services in our community as well as between Langley City, Township, and Surrey Fire-Rescue Services. During emergencies, having this kind of communication is key. Langley City council approved the budget to move to the E-Comm radio network in our 2017 budget.

Langley City is investing record-level dollars into our parks system and road network. During our Engineering, Parks, and Environment Update, the new Penzer Action Park was highlighted. The $1.3 million Penzer Action Park is home to the largest parkour course in Canada.

Cigarette butts are the number one thing that I see people throw onto the street. Not only is this littering, but it can cause fires. Langley City has installed 5 pole-mounted ashtrays as a pilot to see if this will help address this problem in high-demand areas in our Downtown core.

Example of new pole-mounted ashtray. Select image to enlarge.

Other projects currently under construction include:

  • Spray park expansion at City Park
  • Hunter Park redevelopment
  • New Portage Park picnic shelter
  • New Douglas Park outdoor fitness equipment
  • Baldi Creek culvert replacement
  • Newland Drive/210 Street renewal
  • 56 Avenue renewal
  • 200 Street Bridge rehabilitation
  • 200 Street watermain replacement

As a note, during the 200 Street Bridge rehabilitation, traffic will be reduce to one-lane in each direction. Pedestrian access across the bridge will be maintained.

One of the other significant areas of focus for Langley City is bringing more positive, family-friendly activity to our community. To see a list of all the events that are coming up, please check out the City’s website. There is always something going on. For example, there is an upcoming movie night in Douglas Park.

Finally, Langley City has launched a new “spotlight” video series. This series will highlight some of the reasons why our community is the place to be. These short videos will be posted online and on social media over the next year.

Tomorrow, I’ll be posting about the public hearing and rezoning application for two properties located along 198 Street that was one Monday night's agenda.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

July 10, 2017 Council Meeting Notes: RCMP update on key objectives plus addressing homelessness matters and reducing crime in the community

Yesterday was the penultimate Langley City council meeting before our summer break in August. As such, it was packed with updates about our various city departments, plus the first quarter update from the Langley RCMP by Officer in Charge, Superintendent Murray Power.

The RCMP have introduced a new format of reporting to improve their transparency to both council and the community, to provide more information about their objectives, to show enhanced crime statistics, and to highlight significant law enforcement operations. Traditionally, quarterly updates from the RCMP almost exclusively focused on crime statistics.

The Langley RCMP is jointly funded by Langley City, the Township of Langley, and the federal government.

In Langley City, the RCMP’s key goals and objectives are addressing homelessness in our community, and working with Langley City to review our crime reduction strategy. RCMP members sit on our Crime Prevention Task Group which I am currently chairing. To accomplish these goals, RCMP Community Liaison Officers are collaborating with Langley City staff including our bylaw department.

Getting out into the community is also a focus area for the Langley RCMP. Over the summer, more police are on bike patrols as an example. The RCMP has also been involved in community outreach including hosting town hall meetings, and connecting with new immigrant groups where police are not seen as looking after the best interests of residents and communities in their home countries.

Other key goals of the RCMP, according to Power, are to address domestic violence, modernize operations, target crime hot spots to reduce crime, and enhance road safety.

Distracted driving is a serious issue in our community. Power highlighted that the Langley RCMP recently purchased long-range observation equipment. This equipment allows RCMP members to take photos of people in vehicles up to 2km away who are holding electronic devices and driving. This should help enforce distracted driving laws in Langley City.

Power also took time to review crime statistics in Langley City. There are two broad categories of crime statistics: person related offences and property related offences.

As shown in the following chart, property offences were slightly above average until May, when they dropped to below the 5-year rolling average. This drop was due to proactive policing that targeted prolific offenders.

Property related offences in Langley City over the last eight months, including 5-year rolling average.

Person related offences are extremely low in Langley City though there has been one homicide this year. Power explained that the RCMP is working with the restaurant community around the Langley Bypass to help discourage people who are involved in organized crime from frequenting these restaurants.

At the end of Power’s presentation, I asked him what options are available for people if they want to ensure that their home is safe. Power noted that the Langley RCMP provides safety assessments of both homes and businesses at no charge. All people need to do is call the RCMP non-emergency line at 604-532-3200. People should never feel awaked about calling the non-emergency line. The police are here to help, and provide many services that help prevent crime in our community.

I will be posting about other items covered at last night’s council meeting tomorrow and Thursday.

Monday, July 10, 2017

More details on transit expansion plan for Metro Vancouver. Moving forward will require province to provide long-term, stable funding.

During the recent provincial election campaign, the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation —responsible for approving TransLink’s plans, funding, and major projects— launched a #CureCongestion 90-Day Action Plan to get the provincial government to confirm stable, long-term funding for transit expansion and other regional transportation priorities in Metro Vancouver.

The key items that the Mayors’ Council wants to see action on by the province are:

  1. Formal approval of funding for Pattullo Bridge Replacement Project by the end of July
  2. Formal approval of 40% provincial funding for 10-Year Vision by September
  3. Formal elimination of referendum requirement for regional transportation funding by September
  4. New Development Levy for transportation approved in the fall 2017 legislative session
  5. Develop fair regional funding strategy to provide long-term stability for regional transportation projects by the end of September

Transportation and transit was one of the major issues during the last election campaign, and I expect that the top four action items will occur. The big question is will the NDP government approve a long-term funding strategy to pay for regional transportation projects in Metro Vancouver, or will history repeat itself? Previous NDP and Liberal governments have not approved long-term, stable funding.

TransLink’s 10-Year Vision is being delivered in three-phases. Phase one is currently underway, and phase two is currently in development. The Mayors’ Council has recently released more information about the proposed phase two transit service expansion plan.

The following table shows an outline of transit service expansion as currently being delivered and planned.

10-Year Vision Transit Expansion Plan. Select table to enlarge.

In the currently funded phase one, TransLink is delivering 210,000 new hours of bus service in 2017, 36,000 additional hours in 2018, and 148,000 additional hours in 2019. As part of phase two, the plan is for TransLink to deliver 139,000 more bus service hours in 2020 and 80,000 in 2021. This is a significant increase in bus service for Metro Vancouver.

Around 25% of those additional bus service hours are just to deal with increased congestion in our region. These hours will help maintain existing bus schedules. This shows a real example of the cost of congestion in Metro Vancouver.

HandyDART service will also see increased service. This year, HandyDART trips expanded by 85,500 or 8% over 2016. This will increase an additional 4% in 2017, followed by an additional 3% ever year. Phase two will ensure HandyDART expansion continues until at least 2021.

The SkyTrain system is aging and needs to be modernized. Phase two continues the work required to keep the system in a state of good repair. In phase one, 28 Expo/Millennium Line car have been purchased. 22 Canada Line car will be purchased in phase one, increasing the size of the fleet by 1.5 times. A new West Coast Express train-set will also be procured.

Phase two will see an additional 86 Expo/Millennium Line SkyTrain cars being purchased which will support the proposed Millennium Line expansion to Arbutus.

Our region has been promised long-term, stable transit and transportation funding for almost two decades. By the end of this year, we will know if this provincial government intends to keep its promise to help improve transit service in our region.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

TransLink statistics on mental health and suicide, plus new statistics on fare evasion released

TransLink recently held an open board meeting on June 23 where the Transit Police presented a report. Two areas in the report stood out to me, information about vulnerable persons and violation tickets issues.

In our province, the number of people who need metal health services, and are not getting those services is increasing. This is one of the reasons why the current provincial government is proposing a Ministry of Mental Health and Addiction. Because people can’t get access to the health services they need, police throughout the province have had to pick up the slack and do what they can to help people who need mental health care. This is not a good situation.

As noted in the Transit Police report, “dealing with the full range of suicidal behaviour and crisis-related incidents places significant demands on police resources as well as trigger the need for critical incident defusing.”

The following chart shows the number of mental health related files.

Mental health related files handled by Transit Police. Select chart to enlarge.

Another area of sombre statistics is around suicides and the transit system. In the first quarter of this year, three people committed suicide. As shown in the following chart, the majority of suicide attempts were not completed. In BC, suicide is one of the leading causes of death.

Statistics on disturbed persons and suicides on the transit system handled by Transit Police. Select chart to enlarge.

In some transit systems, suicide-prevention glass and doors are installed along rail station platforms. In Metro Vancouver, suicide-prevention barriers have been installed on some bridges to reduce the likelihood of someone taking their life. It may be time for physical suicide-prevention systems to be considered at rail stations to also reduce the likelihood of someone being able to take their life.

On a different note, in March, Transit Police were given the ability to issue tickets to people who tamper with, or avoid using, a fare gate on the transit system. A ticket comes with a $173 price tag.

Number of violation tickets issued in the first quarter of 2017 by Transit Police. Select chart to enlarge.

This April, the number of violation tickets issued more than doubled. It was reported in the media that the number of fare evasion tickets were down 29% in the period between April 2016 and 2017, compared to the same period in 2015-16. With the Transit Police now able to issue tickets for people that try to get around using a fare gate correctly, and if the April 2017 numbers are any indication, the number of tickets issued should markedly increase this year.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Langley City Water Quality and Usage Report Released

Continuing with my mini-series on some questions I’ve received from residents in Langley City, today’s topic will be on water quality. I received an email a few weeks ago inquiring about the quality of water in our community, the frequency of water testing, and if those testing results are made available to the public.

Langley City like most municipalities in our region receives its water from Metro Vancouver. Our water comes from the Coquitlam reservoir. Water is treated at the reservoir, and is also treated again in the Clayton area of Surrey, before arriving in Langley City.

The City also has its own reservoir to store water and provide water pressure in the southern part of our community. There are also interconnects to the Township of Langley’s water system in the event there is an issue with the one connection to the Metro Vancouver water system.

Langley City Water System Map. Select image to enlarge.

In addition to the water quality tests done by Metro Vancouver, Langley City also tests our water weekly. There are 14 water quality sampling stations located throughout the community. You can see the results of 714 drinking water samples tested in the City’s 2016 Water Quality Report. The short of it is that in 2016 all water samples met Provincial Drinking Water Protection Regulation standards.

The specific question I received was about lead in the water system. Federal guidelines say there should be no more than 10 μg/L of lead in drinking water. The samples taken in Langley City were around 1μg/L or less. I should note that your building’s pipes can also impact water quality; this is something that the City can't test.

On a different note, the City keeps track of the amount of water used in our municipality. While our community is growing, the amount of water we use is shrinking. We are doing our part to conserve water in the region.

Langley City Water Consumption ‐ 10 Year Comparison. Select chart to enlarge.

In Langley City, we have some of the highest quality drinking water in the world. As the recent results show, our water is safe to drink.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Green Waves, Traffic Signal Synchronization, and the 200 Street Corridor

A traffic signal along 200th Street.

One of the questions that I receive from residents in Langley is if the traffic signals along the 200th Street corridor can be synchronized to promote both speed limit compliance, and the efficient movement of people and goods. Some people refer to this as a “green wave.”

The go-to reference guides for me are put out by the National Association of City Transportation Officials. This organization provides transportation guides based on best-practices, and real-world examples from urban areas with a focus on North American cities. Their Urban Street Design Guide states the following about the synchronizing of traffic signals:

Coordinated signal timing is typically applied on corridors with closely spaced intersections (1/4 mile or less) [400 meters or less], and where there is evidence of a desire for “platooning”—the seamless flow of a given street user or set progression speed. Where applied, coordinated signal timing should meet the specific goals and parameters of the surrounding context.

One of the key requirements is a close spacing of traffic signals. The greater the distance between traffic signals, the less likely that traffic can stay “platooned” together. If the platoon of traffic starts to disperse, traffic signal synchronization becomes ineffective.

If you want to get into the details of this, I found a presentation called, “Arterial Traffic Analysis: Coordination of Fixed Time Traffic Signals” by Dr. Gang-Len Chang.

Based on the 400 meter or less rule-of-thumb, the only section of 200 Street that could be coordinated would be between Fraser Highway and 66th Avenue. This area contains traffic signals that are owned and operated by Langley City, the BC Ministry of Transportation, and the Township of Langley.

To synchronize this section of road, all three agencies would have to have compatible traffic signal software and hardware that could be coordinated together. This is not impossible, but would require funding and political will. The BC Ministry of Transportation would also have to be convinced to prioritize this section of 200th Street over their provincial highway. Fraser Highway and other “side streets” would not be prioritized in this section of corridor.

The biggest challenge would be the rail crossing between Logan Avenue/Production Way and the Langley Bypass. Rail traffic overrides all traffic coordination, and would be the likely fly in the ointment to signal coordination.

Traffic signal coordination makes sense in areas where there is a close spacing of traffic signals, and can be an effective tool to nudge people into keeping the speed limit. Today along 200 Street, there is one section where signal synchronized could be applied if synchronization could be maintained even with unpredictable rail traffic.