Thursday, November 30, 2017

South of Fraser transit mode share growing faster than rest of Metro Vancouver

Statistics Canada recently released information on the primary mode of transportation that people use to get to work.

Over the last decade, there has been serious investments made into public transit in Metro Vancouver, and within the South of Fraser. These investments are paying off.

Commute to work by public transit in Metro Vancouver and the South of Fraser. Select chart to enlarge. Source: 2006 Community Profiles, 2016 Census Profile.

More people are choosing transit as their primary mode of getting to work. In Metro Vancouver, transit mode share has grown by 23% in the last decade. Transit mode share has grown 35% in the South of Fraser, faster than the regional growth rate.

Commute to work by public transit in South of Fraser communities. Select chart to enlarge. Source: 2006 Community Profiles, 2016 Census Profile.

Within the South of Fraser, the Township of Langley has seen the largest growth in transit mode share of any municipality, up 40%. Interestingly, White Rock saw a 13% decline in transit mode share.

TransLink’s numbers show that transit ridership is growing faster than population growth in our region. This is corroborated by Statistics Canada census data.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Digging into Langley City crime statistics: reporting suspicious activity and opportunistic crime

Last week, I posted about the crime statistics provided by the RCMP at the latest Langley City council meeting. Langley City is a 10-square kilometre urban core. Covering Downtown Langley, the Langley Bypass, and sections of Willowbrook, we are the commercial centre of Langley. We also have very real socioeconomic challenges in our community such as people living in poverty, and people who are homeless. These aspects of our community, combined with our geography and small population, mean that our crime rates will be higher than other communities.

What kind of reported criminal code violations do we see in Langley City? I decided to dig into the most recently available Statistic Canada data. This data covers up until the end of 2016. Before I get into the details, I wanted to provide a bit of context around these statistics.

People need to report crime and suspicious activity for it to show up as a statistic. The more crime that gets reported, the higher the statistic. In Langley City, we have been actively encouraging both residents and business owners to report crime and suspicious activity. While it might inflate our statistics compared to other communities, it helps the RCMP make Langley City safer.

The first table looks at total Criminal Code violations (excluding traffic such as speeding). The three broad categories are violent violations, property crime violations, and other violations.

All Criminal Code Violations (Excluding Traffic), Langley City. Source: CANSIM Table 252-0081.

Over the last five years, total violent violations have been trending down though there was an uptick in 2016. Violent violations are crimes committed against people such as assaults. Property crime and other criminal code violations have seen a marked increase. Digging deeper, what has caused these increases?

When it comes to property crime, theft under $5,000 is the largest driver in these stats with theft from automobile seeing a significant increase. Another category that has been on the rise is shoplifting.

Total Property Crime Violations, Langley City. Source: CANSIM Table 252-0081.

For other criminal code violations “disturbing the peace” has more than doubled in the last five years.

Total Other Criminal Code Violations, Langley City. Source: CANSIM Table 252-0081.

For both shoplifting and “disturbing the peace”, I would venture to guess that this is a result of an increase in people reporting crime and suspicious activity.

I know that the RCMP are aware of the increase in opportunities crime in our community, and are working to get prolific offenders off the street. At Langley City, we are encouraging people to continue to report crime and suspicious activity. We are also actively encouraging businesses to get free crime prevention assessments from the RCMP.

We are also working to get more eyes and ears on the street which reduces the kinds of opportunistic crime that we see in our community. By enhancing our parks, and providing more evening activities in our Downtown Core, we are getting more people out in the community.

Homelessness and poverty are serious issues in our community. Langley City council is continuing to advocate to the federal and provincial governments to ensure that all people in our community can get housing and the support they need. You can read a recent blog post about some of the concrete actions that are being taken on these matters in Langley.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Start off the Christmas Season this weekend in Langley City

Langley City's Magic of Christmas - Free Family Event
Select image to enlarge.

The Christmas lights are up in Downtown Langley, and with this weekend being the first of December, Langley City has a packed schedule to help you get into the Christmas spirit.

This Friday between 5:00pm and 7:00pm, you can carol in McBurney Plaza. Sing some Christmas classics with other carolers, and enjoy some hot chocolate. You can also merrily carol on December 9th, 15th, and 23rd at the same time and location.

Breakfast with Santa runs between 9:00am and 11:00am at Douglas Recreation Centre on Saturday. This is a family event. In addition to Santa, there will be crafts, face painting, and a magic show. Breakfast includes pancakes, sausage, bacon, juice, tea, and coffee. The breakfast is $10, and you can register at Douglas Recreation Centre or by calling 604-514-2865.

Later during the day, head to McBurney Plaza. There will be free entertainment and crafts starting at 4:00pm. At 6:00pm, the Magic of Christmas Parade starts. The parade route runs along the one-way section of Fraser Highway. The lighting of the Langley City Christmas Tree will occur at 7:00pm in McBurney Plaza, followed by carolling.

These events will occur whether the sky is clear, or it's raining. I look forward to this weekend every year. I hope you’ll get a chance to head to Downtown Langley, and rediscover the magic of Christmas!

Monday, November 27, 2017

People in Langley City drive less than people in neighbouring municipalities

Right now, there is a region-wide discussion occurring about decongestion charging, a form of mobility pricing in Metro Vancouver. This discussion is being guided by the Mobility Pricing Independent Commission which was assembled by the Mayors' Council on Regional Transportation.

One of the documents that the commission released is called “Moving around Metro Vancouver: Exploring New Approaches to Reducing Congestion.” While I was reading the report, I saw a map labelled “Average Daily Vehicle Kilometres Travelled per Household by TAZ: 2016.” This map looks at how much people generally travel by motor vehicle during an average day.

Vehicle Kilometres Travelled per Household (2016). Select map to enlarge.

North of the Nicomekl River in Langley City is Downtown Langley. Pretty much everyone in this part of our town lives in apartments and townhouses. Langley City has been working to ensure that the transportation network, and the built-form of businesses and residences, support walking and cycling. Not that I am surprised, but the following map confirms that people driving less in this area.

Vehicle Kilometres Travelled per Household (2016). Focusing on Langley City. Lighter colour means less kilometres. Select map to enlarge.

In fact, our community is very similar to New Westminster which is a walkable community with five SkyTrain stations.

Even in the single-family housing area south of the Nicomekl River in Langley City, people drive less than the people who live in the community that surrounds the City on three sides.

How we design our communities has a direct impact on how people choose to get around in them. Langley City is a perfect example of how designing a community around people will result in less driving and less traffic.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

A recap of Metro Conversations #4: Gender in Politics

Last night was the fourth in a series of Metro Conversations. This conversation was called “Nasty Women”: Gender in Politics. The M. Wright Art Gallery Room in Port Coquitlam was packed with people who came to talk about the challenges and barriers women face just become of their gender, and how we can make things better.

Last night's Metro Conversations in Port Coquitlam. Select image to enlarge.

Councillors Laura Dupont and Glenn Pollock from the City of Port Coquitlam, Bonita Zarillo from the City of Coquitlam, and Mayor Nicole Read from the City of Maple Ridge were the panel members.

The following video is of last night’s conversation. The audio is crystal clear; there should be no issue hearing all the participants.

Nasty Women: Gender in Politics

Nasty Women: Gender in Politics, featuring panelists, Mayor of Maple Ridge, Nicole Read, Councillors Laura Dupont & Glenn Pollock of Port Coquitlam, and Councillor Bonita Zarrillo of Coquitlam.

Posted by Metro Conversations on Wednesday, November 22, 2017

I’ve had a few people say some mean-spirited things about me since being elected. What’s been said about me pales in comparison to what some people have said about Mayor Nicole Read. Mayor Read read some comments from social media about her out loud last night. It was truly distributing to hear. She noted that strong women are called a host of nasty names while strong men are celebrated. Disagreeing about policy is one thing, attacking people because of their gender is another.

Council Zarillo talked about the “old boys club” in local government, giving an example. After the end of council meetings, she said that her fellow council members would go to the mayor’s office to have an after-council drink. This made her uncomfortable, and wasn’t something she wanted to do. She said that she stopped going to this after council session for awhile, but that by not going, it alienated her from the rest of council.

Councillors Pollock’s main message was how men in power can support women in politics, and women who would be interested in entering into politics. He noted that there is not enough women who put their names forward to run in the first place, and that this must be addressed. Councillors Dupont talked about the need for women to work together, and the importance of having conversations like this one to ensure that we continue to move forward to having governments that are representative of our population.

Some of the people who attended the conversation talked about the challenges of being a visible or sexual minority, and how combined with being a woman, adds additional barriers in politics.

One of the key takeaways for me from the conversation was the power of language. It can be used to build up or tear down people, and is as powerful as physical acts. Talking about people respectfully is certainly a step in the right direction. People in power also have an obligation to call out others who use language that disempowers.

I strongly recommend that you listen to last night’s conversation. It was insightful.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

November 20, 2017 Council Meeting Notes: RCMP report, council procedure update, and emergency preparedness funding

Yesterday, I posted about the development permits that were approved at Monday night’s Langley City council meeting. Today’s post will cover the remaining items that were on the agenda.

The Langley RCMP provided their most recent report to council. In the report, the RCMP noted that they now have a “Stalker” patrol radar system which allows officers to catch speeder both in front of, and behind, a police motorcycle.

Langley City’s Bylaw Department and the RCMP are working together to target problem residences in our community. They have been working to resolve issues at three of these properties during this reporting period. The RCMP and our bylaw officers continue to monitor and address homelessness matter, and are working with local agencies that can help people get off the street.

The following pie chart shows the types of files that the RCMP worked on in the second quarter of this year. Most files where around mental health matters, assisting the public, responding to suspicious occurrences, and executing warrants.

RCMP file breakdown by type in the second quarter of 2017. Other CC offences include impaired driving. Select chart to enlarge.

The following map shows crime “hotspots”. The hotspots were focused around commercial area in the second quarter of this year.

Langley City crime map for the second quarter of 2017. Select map to enlarge.

Every municipality is required to have a Council Procedure Bylaw. This bylaw establishes how council and council committees operate. Council voted to move forward with an update to our procedure bylaw on Monday. One of the major changes is to move the inaugural council meeting to the November right after an election, as local government elections have been moved to October. Other changes include updating the notification process for closed council meetings, how motions can be brought forward at council meetings, and some other various housekeeping items.

Council also approved our Fire Chief Rory Thompson to attend the Fire Department Instructor’s Conference, and our CAO Francis Cheung to attend the Canadian Association of Municipal Administrators Annual Conference.

Council supported a grant application for $25,000 from the Community Emergency Preparedness Fund which is managed by the Union of BC Municipalities. If we are successful in getting the grant, the funding will be used to purchase supplies and equipment to set up group lodging kits. These kits would include shelter tents, cots, blankets, pillows, generators, heaters, and lighting equipment.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

November 20, 2017 Council Meeting Notes: Casino expansion, plus two apartment complexes approved

At last night’s Langley City council meeting, there were three development applications on the agenda for consideration: a 188-unit, five storey strata apartment project at Eastleigh Crescent and 56 Avenue; a 69-unit, six storey strata apartment project at Park Avenue and 204 Street, and an expansion to the Cascades Casino. At the council meeting, members of the public were also given the opportunity to comment or ask questions about the projects.

The Eastleigh Crescent project consists of two buildings that will be constructed in two phases. The project will have 10 accessible units.

Eastleigh Crescent - 56 Avenue project artist rendering. Select image to enlarge.

One of the common concerns expressed by residents is that construction crew members fill-up on-street parking, and that some developers are not good neighbours (leaving a mess on the street, or letting debris loose.)

Because this project will be built in two phases, the developer will be able to provide constructions crew parking on site. Members of council, including myself, also reminded the developer about the importance of being a good neighborhood during the construction period.

As a note, the old cenotaph park area right at the corner of Eastleigh and 56 Avenue is on a different piece of property, and isn’t part of this development project.

The next project at Park Avenue and 204 Street has one of the bolder architecture styles that I’ve seen proposed in our community. This project will use cross laminated timber which is a renewable alternative to concrete and steel. This material was used to build an 18-storey building at UBC recently. This project will also include 4 accessible units.

Park Avenue - 204 Street project artist rendering. Select image to enlare.

This project will have the underground parking completely below grade, unlike most buildings in the City. This means that ground-level units will be at street level.

Instead of asphalt, the developer is proposing to use pavers for the surface parking and other areas. I also confirmed that the sidewalk will be continuous along Park Avenue.

Two residents from an adjacent building expressed their concerns about the construction phase of the project as well as the height of the building. As with the Eastleigh Crescent project, council reminded the developer that they should have a construction management plan to ensure that they remain good neighborhoods during construction.

Around this time last year, the operators of Cascade Casino were issued a development permit for a proposed expansion of their facility. That permutation of the project didn’t move forward. The casino operation proposed a new plan that was reviewed on Monday. The new plan is a streamlined version of the original, with the architecture simplified in areas.

Casino expansion renderings. Select image to enlarge.

Last year, council requested that the operator consider making the pedestrian entrance off Fraser Highway more prominent. This was reflected in this updated plan. The landscaping will also be enhanced along Fraser Highway, and new sidewalks will be built along Fraser Highway and Glover Road around the perimeter of the property.

Casino expansion landscaping plan, focusing along Fraser Highway. Select image to enlarge.

All development applications were approved by council. Tomorrow, I will be posting about the remaining items that were addressed at the council meeting.

Monday, November 20, 2017

An update on Langley City Crime Prevention Task Group initiatives moving forward

Last Thursday, Langley City’s Crime Prevention Task Group met for the last time this year. The task group has a set of eight objectives to accomplish. The group was able to complete many of these objectives over the last eight months, but some remain incomplete. The task group will be asking council to extend the group’s mandate into 2018 to allow the group to finish off the remaining tasks.

One of the initiatives of the task group is to provide stickers for residents which would include RCMP non-emergency contact information, and a space for people to write their own address. These stickers would be targeted for distribution to seniors in our community. The stickers would help people remember their address in a pinch, and would remind people to call the RCMP to report all suspicious activity. City staff are working on the final details for these stickers, and I expect a final design to come to council for possible approval early in the new year.

On the topic of reporting suspicious activity to the RCMP, I’ve heard from some people in our community that they don’t feel their information is used, or that it is worthwhile to call in. One of the questions from the task group to the RCMP was how does the police let people know that information provided is useful. Inspector Shawn Boudreau noted that RCMP members will get back to people if more information is needed after they call in suspicious activity. Even if the information doesn't appear to be used, it is used to plot crime trends in neighbourhoods. If a crime analysts does notice a trend, the RCMP can adjust policing accordingly.

Boudreau did note that a recent phone call by a resident, reporting suspicious activity, led to the arrest of robbery suspects. More information about this can be found in a recent RCMP press release.

One of the mandates of the task group is to partner with the Downtown Langley Business Association and Chamber of Commerce to introduce an incentive program for property owners to implement crime prevention strategies. The task group has representatives from the Downtown Langley Business Association and Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce. These representatives were able to secure a discount for businesses that want to install a monitored alarm system and/or motion sensor lights. The representatives will now be working on promoting this incentive program though the local business community.

On November 6, Langley City council was informed that a brochure will be included as part of the business license renewal process, informing business owners about the free crime prevention assessment available through the RCMP. This brochure was an initiative of the task group, and the group was informed that the brochures have now be distributed.

New crime prevention brochure for businesses - outside. Select image to enlarge.

Another initiative of the task group was to have the City launch “a crime prevention campaign to encourage residents and businesses to share information and reduce crime by signing up for existing RCMP community programs such as Block Watch, Business Link and Crime-Free Multi-Housing.” This campaign launched on November 1 for Crime Prevention Week.

The task group will not be meeting in December, but if council approves an extended term, will be meeting in the new year.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

TransLink looking at building better B-Lines

TransLink uses the B-Line brand for its limited stop, high frequency bus service in our region. This service is successful. The 99 B-Line, which operates along the Broadway corridor, has higher ridership than many rail rapid transit systems in North America.

Unfortunate, on-street customer amenities are non-existent. Things like on-street fare validation and all-door boarding become critical to ensuring that these routes remain reliable as they become busier. Better amenities also attract new customers to transit service.

A 99 B-Line stop. Select image to enlarge. Source: Wikimedia Commons

As our streets become more congested, bus priority measures must be implemented to ensure that bus service stays on schedule and travel times don’t increase for riders. For example, Surrey recently added queue jumper lanes on King George Boulevard to speed bus service through major intersections. On Broadway in Vancouver, the parking lanes are converted to bus lanes during peak travel periods.

As part of the 10-Year Vision for Metro Vancouver Transit & Transportation, 11 new B-Line routes are in the works. The current customer amenities and bus priority measure planned for these routes were to be similar to the 96 B-Line which is to say, limited. This might be changing.

As TransLink has been planning for the implementation of these new B-Line routes, they’ve heard from the public and other stakeholders (like local government) that bare-bones B-Line won't cut it for a quality, speedy, frequent bus service. The Mayors’ Council will now be discussing making new B-Line service better. The following slide is from the latest Mayors’ Council agenda package.

Options for making a better B-Line. Select image to enlarge.

The consensus is that people want to see “Better 2” service across all B-Line routes. This includes all door boarding, information kiosks, shelters, read-time info, and bus lanes and/or other priority measures along major corridors.

In order to help fund these improvements, TransLink is proposing to match municipal contributions for “Better 2”. This of course needs to be confirmed, and it is expected that there will be a final discussion on whether to build better B-Line service in early 2018.

This is what better B-Line service could look like. The examples are of RapidRide bus service in Seattle.

A RapidRide information kiosk with real-time information and off-bus fare payment. Select image to enlarge. Source:

A RapidRide bus stop which includes enhanced customer amenities. Select image to enlarge. Source:

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Metro Conversations presents “Nasty Women”: Gender in Politics

Trump’s now infamous remark calling Hillary Clinton a “nasty woman” has become a rallying cry for women across the political spectrum to take a stand against the sexism and misogyny they face in politics because of their gender.

On Wednesday November 22nd, the fourth Metro Conversations will be addressing this topic. Metro Conversations was started by a group of four like-minded elected officials from across Metro Vancouver. Rather than a lecture format, panelists will speak about their experiences and audience members will be encouraged to add their voice to help shape the conversation.

“Most people outside of politics aren’t aware of the blatant misogyny women have to contend with in their role as elected officials” says Councillor Kiersten Duncan from the City of Maple Ridge who is the main organizer of this event. “It creates an unsafe working environment which inherently discourages women from getting involved in politics”. Councillor Duncan credits her colleagues Councillors Nathan Pachal from the City of Langley, Patrick Johnstone of New Westminster, and Mathew Bond from the District of North Vancouver for coming up with the idea.

“It’s surprising how normalized misogyny is, many people don’t even realize they’re being inappropriate,” says Councillor Pachal.

“What was acceptable 20 years ago isn’t acceptable today, times have changed,” notes Councillor Johnstone. “Many older elected officials have a hard time adjusting to this.”

Councillor Bond hopes that women interested in running in next fall’s municipal elections will consider attending, hoping that this event will give them insight into some of the challenges they will face. Panelists include Councillors Laura Dupont and Glenn Pollock from the City of Port Coquitlam, Bonita Zarillo from the City of Coquitlam, and Mayor Nicole Read from the City of Maple Ridge.

This free event will take place:
November 22nd at 7:00pm (Doors open at 6:30p)
M. Wright Art Gallery Room at the Gathering Place
200 - 2253 Leigh Square Place, Port Coquitlam

Everyone is welcome. Seating is limited, and it is recommended to register to reserve your seat.

Reserve your seat at Eventbrite

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Metro Vancouver looking to study single-use coffee cup deposit system

Would you be willing to pay a small deposit on single-use cups or food containers? Most single-use cups and containers are recyclable, but they still end up in the garbage or discarded onto the street.

Light-weight foodware which includes cups and containers make up 10.7% of the material that ends up in street bins by weight in Metro Vancouver based on 2016 data. The City of Vancouver found that this translates into 50% of material by volume in their street bins. This is significant.

In contrast, containers with a deposit make up 4.4% of the material that ends up in street bins by weight. 2.4% of that is glass which is heavy. Our deposit system is helping to effectively recover certain types of containers. Our region has a binners community whose members collect containers that have deposits from our street bins and other public spaces.

Tides Canada is a national charity which supports initiatives across the country that support positive environmental and social change. In our region, one of their initiatives is the Coffee Cup Revolution where a pop-up coffee cup recycling depot at Victory Square is setup for a few hours.

Slide from Binners’ Project presentation delivered to Metro Vancouver’s Zero Waste Committee. Select image to enlarge.

In 2016, 175 binners collected 50,000 coffee cups to receive 5 cents per cup in a few hours. 210 binners collected 53,783 coffee cups within three hours on October 16, 2017.

One of the major goals in the Metro Vancouver Regional District Integrated Solid Waste and Resource Management Plan is to reduce waste. As such, the regional district is looking to support the Coffee Cup Revolution initiative with $6,000 annually for three years. This funding would be used to improved data collection, develop a waste characterization study, support round-table discussions, and provide a portion of the coffee cup refunds and pop-up recycling depot costs.

63% of waste was diverted from going to a landfill, or ending up in a waste-to-energy facility in our region in 2016. The street bin diversion rate was only 40% in 2016. There is still much more work to be done.

Considering the contribution of single-use cups and containers to our region’s waste, I could see the regional district advocating to the provincial government for an expanded deposit refund system for containers in Metro Vancouver.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Langley City Traffic Calming Progress. Making Streets Safer.

Earlier this year, Langley City council approved funding to implement traffic calming measures in three areas of our community. Based on neighbourhood feedback received this summer, traffic calming measures will be moving forward as noted in the following images.

Traffic calming around Condor Park. Select image for more details.

Traffic calming around Brydon Park and along 198 Street. Select image for more details.

Traffic calming around Linwood Park. Select image for more details.

Work will now begin to implement these traffic calming measures. Over the next week, speed bumps will be installed. The remaining traffic calming measures such as curb extensions, signage, bollards, painting, and fencing will be completed by the end of this winter. These projects are weather dependent and traffic delays are expected.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

November 6, 2017 Council Meeting Notes: Fire-Rescue Service call volume increasing. Crime prevention review for Langley businesses.

Monday night’s Langley City council meeting was chockablock with reports and information. I posted about some of the items covered yesterday. Today, I will be posting about the remaining significant items that were on the agenda.

Langley City Fire-Rescue Service continues to be extremely busy. Fire Chief Rory Thompson provided an overview of the overall trend in the number of calls that the Service responds too.

Langley Fire-Rescue Service call growth since 2011. Select image to enlarge. 

The opioid overdose crisis that is hitting all BC communities is resulting in increased call volume, but there are other factors at play at well. Chief Thompson noted that more investigation will be necessary to find what other factors, such a population grow, are contributing to increased call volume.

The following table shows more details about the types of calls Langley City Fire-Rescue Service has responded to over the last seven quarters. Medical emergency and motor vehicle crash calls are the largest category of calls. One of the areas where there has been an almost double of calls is for hazmat response.

Langley Fire-Rescue Service call statistics (2016-2017). Select image to enlarge.

Considering the large amount of medical emergencies and motor vehicle crashes that Langley City Fire-Rescue Service responds to, could anything be done to reduce these types of calls while maintaining the same level of service?

The opioid overdose crisis response is lead by Fraser Health and the provincial government. It will take their leadership to reduce the number of overdose incidents in our community.

The City has a direct roll to play in decreasing the amount and severity of motor vehicle crashes and incidents. Speed, impairment, and distraction are contributing factors to around 85% of crashes in BC.

Introducing traffic calming and narrowing streets will slow down traffic. Langley City is working to change the geometry of some streets in our community. By making our community more accessible via non-motor vehicle modes of transportation, we can give people safer ways to get home if they have a drink or must check social media. The City is working to build a mixed-use downtown, and is investing in enhancing sidewalks throughout the community.

Crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED) works. One of the recommendations of Langley City’s Crime Prevention Task Group is to promote CPTED reviews in our business community. The RCMP provides free CPTED business assessments. As part of the upcoming business license renewal process, Langley City will be distributing the following brochure.

New crime prevention brochure for businesses - outside. Select image to enlarge.  

New crime prevention brochure for businesses - inside. Select image to enlarge.

I am hopefully that businesses in our community will take advantage of this free program to help reduce crime.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

November 6, 2017 Council Meeting Notes: More evening events coming to Downtown Langley. Improving Langley City streets and parks

While no decisions were made a last night’s Langley City council meeting, the agenda was dense with updates from community organizations and our municipality’s departments.

Before council heard the updates, two long service awards were presented to Langley City staff members.

Mayor presenting long service awards to Langley City staff members. Select image to enlarge.

The first presentation heard by council was for Canuck Place Children’s Hospice. Katrine Chow, who represented the organization, outlined the services they provide, and the number of families they help. As an example, in 2016, 715 families were helped by their programs with 44% of families coming from the Fraser Valley. 20 families lived in Langley. Most children are in their programs for 3 years. Chow also invited council to attend their Gift of Love Gala which is schedule for Saturday, February 17, 2018.

The next update from the Downtown Langley Business Association/Discover Langley City was presented by Teri James. She reviewed the 2017 McBurney Summer Series and Duelling Pianos Evening events. Both the daytime events and evening event were successful. Duelling Pianos in the Plaza, a 19+ event, was sold out within four days.

For 2018, James outlined that they will be focusing on bringing high-quality entertainment for families during the day, and will be hosting an additional 19+ evening event with high-quality entertainment. Bringing positive evening activities to our downtown core is something that I believe is critically important. Not only does it help build community, but it also reduces negative activities in the evening.

Between the McBurney Plaza Summer Series and other events, there will be something going on pretty much every weekend next summer in our community’s core.

June 23: McBurney Plaza Summer Series — Day
July 7: McBurney Plaza Summer Series — Day
July 14: McBurney Plaza Summer Series — Evening
July 28: McBurney Plaza Summer Series — Day
August 11: McBurney Plaza Summer Series — Evening
August 18: 25th Annual Arts Alive Festival
August 25: Fork and Finger Event

As was reported this summer, planning for a night market is still in the works for 2018 which will bring even more positive activity to our downtown in the evening.

Later in the presentation, James introduced Melissa Phillips who is heading up Discover Langley City, our new destination marketing organization. Phillips comes from Richmond Tourism.

Rick Bomhof, Director of Engineering, Parks & Environment, updated council on the activities in his departments.

In 2017, council approved additional funding for an on-going corridor improvement program. Bomhof shared some pictures of the enhancements that were funded via the program.

Example of street improvement on 53 Avenue near 203 Street. Select image to enlarge.

Example of enhanced sidewalk maintenance in Downtown Langley. Select image to enlarge.

Bomhof also noted that work is almost completed in Hunter Park. For more information, please visit the City’s website.

Another major project is the 200th Street Bridge deck replacement. This project is scheduled to be completed in the next few weeks.

Other projects on-the-go include:

  • New Baldi Creek corrugated steel culverts for better fish passage
  • 53/51B Avenue bike lanes
  • Ongoing road patching and repaving
  • Spray park expansion at City Park
  • 56 Avenue Project: Glover Rd to Langley Bypass
  • 48 Avenue sewer replacement
  • Culvert relining on Fraser Highway near Production Way
  • Langley Bypass culvert replacement
  • Rotary Park sports field upgrades
  • New Penzer Park washroom & picnic shelter

Our City crews have been, and continue to be, extremely busy making our community awesome.

Tomorrow, I will be posting about the remaining topics covered at Monday night’s council meeting.

Monday, November 6, 2017

GHG Emissions Down in Metro Vancouver. Air Quality Improving.

Earlier this summer, Metro Vancouver released its annual “Caring for the Air” report based on its extensive network of air quality monitoring stations. This report showed that over the last decade most air pollutants have been decreasing except for ground-level ozone. More information on this report is available in a previous blog post.

Metro Vancouver has now completed another report on air pollution in our region with information that goes back to 1995. This report, used for looking at longer-term trends, is completed every five years using emission inventory data. The good news is our air quality is getting better.

Greenhouse gas emissions are down in our region after peaking in the 1990s. A reduction in industrial activity, power generation (Burrard Thermal), and fuel consumption have helped lower GHG emissions even as the population grows. Even with this decrease, GHG emissions from motor vehicles are increasing.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the Lower Fraser Valley Airshed. Select chart to enlarge.

As I posted about previously, fine particulate matter emissions are also down across the region except for residential wood burning. This is why the regional district is looking at introducing regulations to encourage people to stop using wood-burning appliances.

Fine Particulate Matter in the Lower Fraser Valley Airshed. Select chart to enlarge.

Smog forming pollutants are also down over the last 20 years. This is mainly due to improved engine emissions standards and the former AirCare program.

Smog Forming Pollutants in the Lower Fraser Valley Airshed. Select chart to enlarge.

Over the last five years, many of these reductions have slowed. Further action will be required to ensure that air quality and GHG emissions continue to decrease in Metro Vancouver and the Lower Fraser Valley airshed, even as the population and economy continue to grow.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

New Study: Rent subsidies a way to make apartments affordable near transit

In May 2016, the Metro Vancouver Regional District adopted a Regional Affordable Housing Strategy. One of the goals in the strategy is to increase the “rental housing supply along the Frequent Transit Network.” The regional district recently released a report called “Analysis of the Financial Viability of New Purpose-Built Rental Housing at Transit-Oriented Locations in Metro Vancouver.

Map of case study sites used in the report.

This new report looks a several sites along the Frequent Transit Network in Metro Vancouver, comparing the sale price for condos, market rental value, and what the upper limit would be for these units to be affordable. Affordable studio and 1-bedroom units mean that a household making $30,000 would spend a third of their income on rent. Affordable 2-bedroom units mean a household making $50,000 would spend a third of their income on rent. The proceeding graphs show that there is a gap between affordable and market rental rates for both concrete and wood-frame apartments in Metro Vancouver.

Key Numbers in the Development of New Concrete Apartment Units (Strata Titled and Rental). Select chart to enlarge.

Key Numbers in the Development of New Wood Frame Apartment Units (Strata Titled and Rental). Select chart to enlarge.

The reports authors note that units can only be affordable if one or more of the following conditions are met:

  • The construction costs are reduced.
  • The land must be free or very low value
  • The housing developer is content to earn a project management fee and the investor is content to earn a relatively low return on investment, but they are not compensated for risk to the extent the private sector normally expects.
  • The rent is topped up by a subsidy

When it comes to building new affordable rental units, the authors of the report note that there are really three approaches that are viable in our current system.

One approach is that affordable rentals are funded by government. This could be done, but this would be a slow and costly process that would take a decade for enough affordable housing units to be built.

The second approach is to allow increased density for projects if a developer builds a certain percent of affordable rental units. This is a tool that is already used today, and is limited in its effectiveness given the severe shortage of affordable housing in our region.

The final option is to provide people a rent subsidy. Providing a rent subsidy for apartments would likely be the most expedient way to make housing affordable in our region. Local governments need to zone areas around the Frequent Transit Network for higher density. Currently, local government cannot zone based on tenure. The province could also consider allowing local governments to have “rental zones” near frequent transit to ensure that affordable housing is build near the Frequent Transit Network.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

New safer bike lanes, additional parking, and a loading zoning along 53/51B Avenue

If you’ve walked, cycled, or driven along 53 Avenue/51B Avenue over the last few days, you’ve likely seem some changes along that corridor.

53 Avenue near 204 Street, Before. Select image to enlarge.

53 Avenue near 204 Street, After. Select image to enlarge.

When I first moved to Langley City, I wondered why 53/51B Avenue was so wide, and looked like a highway in some sections. This corridor was originally supposed to be a Langley Bypass-style road, but due to the Langley Bypass, became redundant. Today, this corridor has very low motor vehicle traffic volume, and doesn’t require four lanes.

One of the goals of Langley City is to make our streets multi-modal, making walking and cycling safer and more convenient. Early this year, the City received funding from the provincial government to add bike lanes along the 53 Avenue/51B Avenue corridor.

Comparing the safety, comfort, space, and cost of bike lanes. Select image to enlarge. Source: Global Designing Cities Initiative

With this funding, the City installed buffered bike lanes along much of the corridor. A buffered bike lane is safer than a conventional bike lane, and has the following benefits according to the National Association of City Transportation Officials:

  • Provides greater shy distance between motor vehicles and bicyclists.
  • Provides space for bicyclists to pass another bicyclist without encroaching into the adjacent motor vehicle travel lane.
  • Encourages bicyclists to ride outside of the door zone when buffer is between parked cars and bike lane.
  • Provides a greater space for bicycling without making the bike lane appear so wide that it might be mistaken for a travel lane or a parking lane.
  • Appeals to a wider cross-section of bicycle users.
  • Encourages bicycling by contributing to the perception of safety among users of the bicycle network.

The safest bike lanes are protected bike lanes, similar to what is along 203 Street.

Besides installing safer bike lanes, the City was able to install 26 on-street parking spots along 51B Avenue near the Seniors Centre, and a new loading zone near 204 Street. Some parking was remove between 203 and 204 Street, but overall there is a net gain in parking along the corridor.

There is still some work to be done including adjusting some of the traffic lights and installing some flexible bollards at intersections.

With the installation of safer cycling infrastructure complete along 203 Street and 53/51B Avenue, Langley City now has a basic connected, usable bike network that can get you to all quadrants of our community.