Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Is Langley City on the right course to make our streets safer for walking, cycling, and driving? Take my 30 second survey.

Over the past year, there have been some significant changes to the road network in Langley City. These changes have been implemented to make walking and cycling safer and more enjoyable in our community.

Other changes have been implemented to slow down motor vehicle traffic to make our streets safer and to reduce collision hot-spots like along 50 Avenue.

Improving lighting, sidewalks, and crosswalks are key priorities for me. Implementing traffic calming where requested by residents in our community, and making cycling safer are also important to me.

With the changes made to our road network this year, I would like to know your opinion. What has worked well? What needs to be re-examined? Is the City on the right course?

Please take the 30-second survey that I’ve posted online, and let me know your thoughts!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Seniors' LGBTQ2 social group starting in Langley City

People who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, or two-spirited are at a higher risk of being bullied, experiencing homelessness, and committing suicide. Much of this is because of a lack of systematic support in our society, with peers, and at home.

Support systems for people who are LGBTQ2 has improved over the last decade, though there is still much more work to be done. In Langley, there is some support for youth who are LGBTQ2, though many still feel that they must head into Vancouver to truly feel included and accepted.

While it is appropriate that there is a focus on helping LGBTQ2 youth in Langley, there is virtually no support services for LGBTQ2 seniors in our community. For many seniors, mobility can be a challenge; heading into Vancouver is simply not an option to get access to LGBTQ2-focused support and services.

Research from QMUNITY suggests that there are at least 25,000 people over the age of 65 in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley who identify as LGBTQ2.

As noted in their research, “LGBTQ seniors have faced a lifetime of systemic discrimination based on their sexual orientation and gender identities… Consequently, many LGBTQ seniors live in secrecy, hiding their identities and intimate relationships.”

Social connections are critical for people’s feeling of worth, and mental health. In Langley City, LGBTQ2 seniors will now have an option to connect with others to find inclusion and belonging.

New seniors' LGBTQ2 social group poster. Select image to enlarge.

The first seniors’ LGBTQ2 social gathering will be held on Monday, January 22, 2018 from noon until 2pm at Timms Community Centre.

For more information, please email

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Making developers pay their fair share for regional transportation expansion

Development Cost Charges (DCCs) are used to pay for improving infrastructure that is required to support new development projects. Municipalities can collect and use DCCs to pay for building or upgrading sewage, water, drainage system, and roads.

Municipalities can also use DCCs to pay for new park land and for improving parks. The Metro Vancouver regional district collects a DCC to help pay for expanding the sewerage system. School Districts also collect a DCC which is known as a School Site Acquisition fee which is used to purchase land for schools. The following table shows all these charges in Langley City.

Development Cost Charges in Langley City. Effective April 28, 2014. Select table to enlarge.

The idea is that growth should pay for growth, and that developers should pay their fair share for infrastructure required to support their projects.

New development projects also increase the usage of our regional transportation system which includes public transit. The Mayors’ Council and TransLink are looking for the provincial government to enable the collection of a regional transportation DCC which would start in 2020. This transportation DCC would pay for the capital costs of transit expansion projects. The draft initial rate is as follows:

Single family: $2,100 per dwelling unit
Townhouse/duplex: $1,900 per dwelling unit
Apartment: $1,200 per dwelling unit
Retail/service: $1.00 per sq.ft.
Office, Institutional: $0.50 per sq.ft.
Industrial: $0.50 per sq.ft.

In Langley City, this DCC works out to be around 10% of the DCCs that the municipality charges. This regional DCC is expected to generate between $20 million and $25 million per year.

There was discussion about making this proposed regional transportation DCC stepped, meaning that development projects closer to transit service would pay a higher DCC. The current proposal is to have a flat DCC throughout the region. This is to simplify the administration of this DCC. In the future, a stepped DCC could be considered.

One of the big concerns about the regional transportation DCC is that it will impact housing affordability. A report by Coriolis Consulting Corp titled “Will TransLink’s New DCC for Transit Infrastructure Affect Housing Affordability?” states, “Adding a new DCC, such as the one proposed by TransLink, will not directly increase the market price of housing. Prices in a region with strong demand and constrained supply are not determined just by adding up the costs.”

In addition, it is proposed that agricultural uses, affordable rental housing projects, and statutory places of worship projects will be exempt from this regional transportation DCC.

It is expected that the provincial government will support creating enabling legislation for the collection of this new DCC.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

TransLink bringing back independent access for all SkyTrain customers

When the fare gates on the SkyTrain system were finally closed in the summer of 2016, there were some customers that were no longer able to use the system independently. TransLink estimated that there were around 15 to 50 people with limited mobility who would now need SkyTrain staff to assist them to access the system.

Taking away a person’s independence is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly, and TransLink planned to upgrade the accessible fare gates at stations to give people back their ability to independently use the SkyTrain system.

If you look above the accessible fare gates at many of the SkyTrain stations, you’ll see a white rectangular panel. This panel is an RFID reader which will be able to detect a person who has a special card. If it senses this special card, it will open an accessible fare gate.

A new RFID reader installed at Main Street – Science World SkyTrain Station. Part of TransLink’s Universal Fare Gate Access Program. Select image to enlarge.

About 40% of SkyTrain stations now have these new RFID readers, and this new universal access system is scheduled to be fully rolled out by the end of 2018. According to a recent TransLink report, the agency’s management is now seeking board approval to start rolling out their “Universal Fare Gate Access Program.”

People who will be eligible for the program must meet the following criteria:

Resident of [Metro Vancouver] who is a person who travels independently and due to a disability, confirmed by a medical practitioner, is physically not able to tap fare media, without assistance, at a Compass Fare Gate, to use conventional SkyTrain and SeaBus.

TransLink management hopes that by starting the rollout of this program before the RFID readers are fully functional, they will be able to better tune the system based on the number of people that enroll in the program.

Our SkyTrain system used to be barrier-free, and over the years, TransLink worked to make the system fully accessible. When the fare gates were closed, accessibility was reduced which is unacceptable. Bringing back independent access for transit customers is critically important. I’m happy to see that TransLink is taking this matter seriously.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

December 11, 2017 Council Meeting Notes: City's own GHG emissions down, plus 48 Avenue sewer replacement moving forward.

Last night was the final Langley City council meeting of 2017. Two of the major items on the agenda were the receipt of the 2016 Corporate Energy and Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG) Inventory, and tendering a contract to replace a section of sanitary sewer between 208 and 210 Street along 48 Avenue.

Langley City is a signatory to the BC Climate Action Charter. As such, we are committed to reduce our own GHG emissions by 134 tonnes between 2008 and 2018. The major incentive of being a signatory to the BC Climate Action Charter, and reducing GHG emissions, is that the City receives a 100% refund of any carbon tax that it pays.

The City has met its original target of reducing direct GHG emissions by 134 tonnes. The following table shows the year-over-year reduction throughout the last eight years. Most of the reductions in GHG emissions have been obtained by making municipally-owned buildings more energy efficient. There is still work to be done to make our vehicle fleet less GHG intensive.

Langley City direct GHG emissions. 2008 – 2016 Tonnes CO2e. Select chart to enlarge.

The City must also report GHG emissions from contacted services. In 2016, contact services added an additional 128 tonnes of CO2e emissions to our bottom line.

Some of the 2017 projects that the City is working on to further reduce GHG emissions include:

  • City Hall LED Lighting Retrofits
  • LED Streetlight Replacement (203 Street, 56 Avenue)
  • Vehicle Replacement (Plug-in Hybrid)

Over the next several years, the City will be replacing 100% of municipally-owned streetlights with LED lights. City staff is also developing a new 10-year GHG reduction plan.

Council also approved awarding a $495,000 contract to PW Trenchless Construction Inc. for the 48 Avenue sanitary sewer replacement.

City council adopted seven bylaws last night. Most of the bylaws were related to water, sewer, and garbage services. You can read more about these in a post I wrote last week. The other bylaw was a housekeeping amendment to the Council Procedure Bylaw.

Council appointed the following people to the Advisory Planning Commission for 2018: Trish Buhler, John Beimers, Jamie Schreder, Dan Millsip, Kimberley, Kim Mullin, and Ron Madsen. The Advisory Planning Commission “reviews development proposals while considering criteria that includes: overall design appeal, form and character, siting of the buildings and total site development in relation to its surroundings.” The commission provides advice to council and developers for consideration.

City council members sit on about two dozen committees. Council approved the list of committee appointments for 2018, as well as the finalized 2018 regular council meeting schedule.

Monday, December 11, 2017

TransLink Study: Traffic way up across Fraser River crossings, commutes slower

At the start of September, the provincial government removed the tolls from the Port Mann and Golden Ears Bridges. Transportation planners predicted that there would be a marked increase in vehicles across these two bridges. They were not wrong.

Port Mann Bridge: Source:

Preliminary data and personal anecdotes suggested that traffic ballooned across the Port Mann and Golden Ears. Unprompted, Langley residents have been telling me that they want the tolls back to make their commutes faster again.

TransLink staff crunched the numbers, and they found that traffic was up close to 30% on the Port Mann Bridge and 30% on the Golden Ear Bridge. They also found that traffic decreased by 11% on the Pattullo Bridge, 5% on the Alex Fraser Bridge, and 2% through the Massey Tunnel.

Truck traffic decreased 19% on the Pattullo Bridge. There was a 30% increase of truck traffic on the Golden Ears Bridge, and 15% increase on the Port Mann Bridge.

When all Fraser River crossings are considering, there was an overall average 7% increase in traffic during the weekdays and 9% increase on the weekends. That’s an extra 30,000 vehicles per day!

At the same time, transit ridership across the Fraser River has continued to grow at a similar rate as last year. These extra 30,000 vehicle trips materialized out of thin air. This is called induced demand. Simply put, more vehicle lanes produce more traffic.

How did this increase people’s commute times? Travel between New Westminster/Surrey or New Westminster/Coquitlam by car is now faster. Otherwise, travel times are longer.

TransLink’s Regional Transportation Model, which is used to predict traffic patterns, was “close to the actual outcomes on all three types of impact.”

The removal of the tolls at the Port Man Bridge and Golden Ear Bridge has been an excellent case study of tolling and its impact on congestion. The only way that our growing region will be able to reduce vehicle congestion along major corridors will be by implementing a system of fair tolls at all major crossing.

I believe that as a region-wide tolling system is implemented, gas tax should be lowered. This is one way to make the new tolling system fair.

The Mayors’ Council’s Mobility Pricing Independent Commission is looking a different decongestion road pricing options. Tolling is only one of the options that they are looking into. The commission will be presenting its recommendations early next year for the provincial government to consider.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

December 4, 2017 Council Meeting Notes: Council approves new $15,000 ongoing grant to Langley Senior Resources Society, improvement projects, and changes to council remuneration

Over the last few days, I’ve been posting about items that were covered at Monday night’s Langley City council meeting. I posted about the library system on Tuesday, and about water, sewer, and garbage services on Wednesday. Today, I will be covering the remaining items.

Even though winter is only a few weeks away, Langley City crews are still busy making improvements throughout our community. Council received an update from Rick Bomhof, Director of Engineering, Parks & Environment. The 200th Street Bridge upgrades over the Nicomekl River is compete. There is still some work which will be done in the new year between 50 Avenue and Grade Crescent, including installing a new traffic light at 50 Avenue and repaving.

Traffic calming is currently being implemented near Linwood Park and Conder Park, with speed tables now in place. If you are around Timms Community Centre, you will see that the sidewalks to the centre are being replaced with concrete sidewalks which will improve accessibility.

On the topic of accessibility, Langley City is also replacing pedestrian buttons at traffic lights. While a small change, these new buttons are more reliable.

An example of a new pedestrian signal button in Langley City. Select image to enlarge.

Work is continuing along 56 Avenue, and it is expected to be wrapped up for the season in the next few weeks. Other projects on the go include the 48 Avenue sewer replacement, and culvert upgrades along Production Way and the Langley Bypass. Park improvements in progress include expanding the spray park at City Park, upgrading the sports fields at Rotary Park, and adding washrooms and a picnic shelter at Penzer Park.

Council also approved changes to our community grant policy, updating grants that are automatically given. The following outlines the changes:

  • Six scholarships to graduating students who reside in the City of Langley will increase from $600 to $750 each.
  • Support for the Youth Parliament will increase from a total of $600 to $1,000.
  • A new $15,000 grant for the Langley Senior Resources Society to be used to subsidize the membership packages for low income seniors living in the City of Langley and for upgrades and maintenance to the facility.

I’m extremely pleased that council decided to provide stable and consistent operating funding for the Langley Senior Resources Society which provides critical social and recreational services for older people in our community. Langley City has supported the society for many years. The City contributed $40,000 per year towards the society’s mortgage since 1998, paying it off fully in 2014.

Langley City council also approved an update to our own remuneration. Currently, one third of council salary is tax-free. The federal government announced that starting in 2019, they will be making the salary of local government elected officials fully taxable.

To compensate for this change, the mayor’s remuneration will be changing from 85% of the median of other municipalities in our region to 100% over the next two years. Other council member’s remuneration will increase from 40% to 45% of the mayor’s remuneration. There will be a temporary 11% increase to the mayor’s remuneration in 2019 that will be evaluated in 2020 to see if it is still warranted based on remuneration in other Metro Vancouver municipalities. These changes will result in a $53,000 increase in the City’s budget for 2018 which is about 0.1% of the overall budget.

Council voted to extend the Crime Prevention Task Group’s mandate into 2018, and also voted to approve the 2018 regular council meeting dates.

Council also gave final reading, and approved the issuance of a development permit for a townhouse project located along 55A Avenue.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

December 4, 2017 Council Meeting Notes: Updated water use restrictions, plus rate increases for water, sewer, and garbage services

With the end of the year, also come planning for water, sewer, and garbage services for 2018. Council gave first, second, and third reading to six bylaws relating to the delivery of these services on Monday night.

Metro Vancouver adopted a new Drinking Water Conversation Plan. This plan has four stages of water restriction:

Stage 1: reduces demand in summer months, and is automatically in effect on May 1 until October 15.

Stages 2 and 3: activated and deactivated by the GVWD Commissioner, are likely to be activated during unusually hot and dry conditions to maximize conservation.

Stage 4: activated and deactivated by the GVWD Commissioner during an emergency to immediately limit water use to essential needs only.

Metro Vancouver has posted a document online which outlines what water uses are restricted during different stages. Langley City is incorporating Metro Vancouver’s water conversation plan into our bylaws.

Langley City council also gave three readings to update our municipal ticketing bylaw which will see an increase in fines for unauthorized watering when restrictions are in place.

Stage 1 increased to $100 per incident
Stage 2 increased to $200 per incident
Stage 3 increased to $500 per incident
Stage 4 increased to $1000 per incident

Council gave three reading to update the City’s fees and charges bylaws to allow lawn sprinkling permits for new lawns, and existing lawns to receive nematode application during certain stages of water conservation.

Langley City garbage collection fees will be increasing by $10 in 2018. Council gave three readings to increase the flat fee to $190 per year. This is due to a 38% increase in green waste disposal costs, plus a 3% fee increase from Metro Vancouver for handling garbage. Langley City provides garbage collection services to single-family housing only.

Water and sewer fees are increasing in 2018. Council gave three readings to bylaws that will increase the water consumption charge by $0.07 per cubic metre, and $0.07 per cubic metre for sewer. These rate increases are primarily driven by Metro Vancouver who provides water and sewer services to municipalities in our region.

The proposed new water rate will be $75 per year, plus $1.23 per cubic metre of use. The proposed new sewer rate will be $75 per year, plus $1.11 per cubic metre of use.

On the topic of sewer, Langley City council authorized funding for upgrading the sewer line along 48 Avenue between 208 Street and 210 Street.

Yesterday, I posted about our library system. Tomorrow, I will be posting about the remaining items that were on the agenda of Monday night’s council meeting.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

December 4, 2017 Council Meeting Notes: Mayor Schaffer not running again, plus the future of the library system.

At last night’s Langley City council meeting, Mayor Ted Schaffer announced that he will not be running in the upcoming 2018 municipal election due to health reasons. The Langley Time posted an article which goes into more detail about Mayor Schaffer decision. The next municipal election will be held on Saturday, October 20, 2018.

Langley City council heard from Nancy Gomerich who is the Director of Finance, and Scott Hargrove who is the CEO of the Fraser Valley Regional Library (FVRL). Langley City is a member of FVRL which is the largest library system in BC, serving a population of 706,000 people in 2015. Member municipalities fund the library system. In 2015, Langley City residents contributed $1.5 million for library services through property tax.

As shown in the following picture, major library systems had local government contributions that were on-average $43 per capita in 2015. The FVRL per capita local government contribution was $32. For comparison, the Vancouver Public Library, which is the second largest system in BC, had a per capita contribution from the City of Vancouver of $62 in 2015.

FVRL total costs in 2015, compared to other large library systems in BC. Select image to enlarge.

Gomerich and Hargrove presented the FVRL’s budget for 2018 which will see Langley City’s contribution to the system increase by at least 1.35%. This will cover increases in staffing costs, and investments in IT and materials such as books. They also presented their 2018 to 2023 strategic plan called “Opening Minds, Enabling Dreams.

When most people think of the library, they think of books. Hargrove explained that books are certainly an important part of the library, but the library’s core mandate isn’t to loan books, it is to enabling literacy. He noted that there are different types of literacy including reading, comprehension, creativity, critical thinking, digital, and cultural as examples. Hargrove stated that the library’s role is to enable this boarder definition of literacy, and highlighted their program called “The Playground at FVRL” which is a makerspace.

The FVRL Playground has programmable robots, green screens, virtual reality, musical instruments, and KEVA planks that enable different types of literacy which is critical for people to thrive in the 21st century.

With this in mind, the FVRL’s new strategic plan has five major elements:

  1. INSPIRATION: Our staff, combined with our technologies and resources, encourage strong economic, creative and social growth in our communities, families and individuals.
  2. WELCOMING PLACE: Fraser Valley Regional Library is an essential destination connecting people living, working or studying in our communities. We provide a fun, friendly environment focused on knowledge, creativity and experiences that transform lives.
  3. PARTNERSHIPS: Our libraries are integral to sparking the potential of individuals and their communities through meaningful connections and relationships.
  4. ENGAGING STAFF: Our staff continue to grow their expertise and confidence needed to meet evolving customer needs.
  5. KNOW US. LOVE US: We are known and celebrated for providing a broad and dynamic range of services. Our customers appreciate the friendly and personalized Fraser Valley Regional Library experience. Those who know us, love us.

The full plan has been made available online.

Someone people think that libraries are for a time long past, but that isn't true. Modern libraries are vibrant places. I am pleased to see that our library system is forward thinking.

Tomorrow, I’ll be posting about other items that were covered at last night’s council meeting.

Monday, December 4, 2017

People in the South of Fraser spend way more time commuting on public transit than rest of region

On Thursday, I posted about transit mode share in Metro Vancouver, focusing on South of Fraser communities. The most recent 2016 census data shows that more people are choosing to take transit to get to work than ten years ago. In the South of Fraser, transit mode share growth is occurring at a greater rate than the regional average.

One of the key metrics for commuting is how long it takes to get to work. In Metro Vancouver, the average one-way commute to work by car is 27.3 minutes. With active transportation options such as walking or cycling, the average one-way commute to work is 17.4 minutes in our region. On average, people spend 43.6 minutes on transit getting to work in Metro Vancouver. How do South of Fraser communities compare to regional averages?

Average commuting duration in Metro Vancouver with a focus on the South of Fraser. Select chart to enlarge. Source: 98-400-X2016324 Data tables, 2016 Census.

For commuting by car, the South of Fraser is comparable to the rest of the region. Active transportation commute times are below the regional average outside of Langley City and Surrey. What really stands out is average commuting time on public transit.

Excluding Tsawwassen First Nation, which is an outlier, the average one-way commute on public transit in South of Fraser communities is 56 minutes. This is 28% higher, or 13 minutes longer, than the regional average. The South of Fraser lacks rapid transit throughout the vast majority of the sub-region. With rail rapid transit in the works along King George, 104th, and Fraser Highway, I would expect commute times to decrease once it is built-out.