Thursday, May 24, 2018

Game-changers that will deliver better health services in Langley

Accessing physical and mental health services can be a challenge in Langley and throughout the province. If you have a family doctor, your barriers to accessing health services are lower, but there is still a patchwork of seemingly uncoordinated services that must be navigated. For people without a family doctor, accessing these health services can almost feel impossible.

In late April, I attended a workshop hosted by the Langley Division of Family Practice called, “Team Langley goes to the Big Leagues — Primary Care Network Strategy Meeting.” The workshop was attended by people who work in health services and local government. The goal of the workshop was to create a vision of transforming the way that health care is delivered in Langley, so that everyone can have access to the right health services, when they need it, in our community.

At the beginning of the workshop, participants visualized how many health providers are required to deliver care for people with different needs. 10 health care providers are required to service the health needs of a senior in our community as an example.

People at the workshop identified the following as critical barriers for patients, providers, and the community that must be overcome to deliver better health services in Langley.

Barriers that limit access to health services in Langley. Select graphic to enlarge.

What really stood out was that limited access to home-based health services, mental health services, and addiction treatment services was a significant barriers to overcome. Another barrier was poor communication between providers for existing services. I remember one provider talking about the challenging paperwork required for something that should have been a simple request.

Most of the evening was spent visioning “game changing” ways that would deliver health services more effectively in our community. The following infographic shows the results of that exercise.

Game-changing ideas that will deliver better health services, and more positive health outcomes, for people in Langley. Select graphic to enlarge.

The big ideas were: providing a health care concierge that can help people navigate the health system, creating a better triage system, developing centralized and patient-led care plans, increasing access to mental health services, and creating neighbourhood-level health clinics where all primary health services could be accessed.

It was certainly an eye-opening night for me. It seemed to me that increasing access and improving coordination of health services will deliver the best outcome for people in Langley.

The full visual report is available for download. As a note, a provider is someone that delivers health services such as a physician.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Public supports TransLink’s transportation vision priorities

Back in 2014, the region’s mayors agreed on a 10-year vision for transportation focused on expanding high-quality public transit, enhancing walking and cycling infrastructure, and maintaining our regional road network.

Currently, phase 1 of the vision is funded and is being implemented. TransLink has setup an interactive map where you can view the status of all projects and expanded services that have been built, implemented, or are underway.

At the end of March, an agreement was reached to fund phase 2 of the vision. The two big items in phase two are extending the Millennium Line to Arbutus at Broadway in Vancouver, and building light rail in Surrey.

As part of the process, TransLink conducted a series of public consultations both online and in-person during the first half of this month. Around 2,700 people completed an online survey, and around 900 people participated in-person.

TransLink also commissioned a scientific survey of 2,000 Metro Vancouver residents. These residents were asked how important they felt the major components of phase 2 of the vision were for the region. The follow chart shows the summary of what people who participated in the survey thought.

Reponses to question: How important do you feel each of these planned transportation improvements is for the Metro Vancouver region? Select chart to enlarge.

The bus system is the backbone of the transit network in our region; the majority of transit trips are by bus. It was interesting to see that people placed a higher importance on expanding current service on the bus network and the SkyTrain network, over building new rail lines. In all cases, no more than 25% of participants thought that the phase two projects where not important.

When asked about the fairness of how phase two will be paid for, the majority of survey participant thought that the proposed funding sources were reasonably fair. The exception was property tax where 53% of people thought it was unfair.

Responses to questions Do you feel that these are fair or unfair ways of paying for the region’s portion of these transportation improvements? Select chart to enlarge.

There seems to be strong support for having developers pay for expanding transit service. This makes sense as growth should pay for growth. We currently have developers pay for expanding municipality infrastructure. As one of the participants noted, “Development [levies] are the best bet because of the value added to the properties near to the SkyTrain they should pay as they will see the higher increase in value.”

With phase one and phase two moving forward, all that remains is getting funding sorted out to pay for the final phase of the vision which includes building light rail to Downtown Langley. I am hopeful that this funding will get secured before the next federal election.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Building sidewalks, enhancing crosswalks supports our most vulnerable residents. Creating a better community for all.

When you create a community that supports its most vulnerable residents, you create a community that is better for everyone. Vulnerable residents can include young children, seniors, people with mental and/or physical disabilities, and people with lower incomes.

While education, health, and social support systems play critical roles in building strong communities, so does the built form of a community. How we design our buildings and neighbourhoods, how we place buildings in relationship to other buildings and our streets, and how we design our streets are also critical elements to creating communities that either support or detract from creating an inclusive community.

If you have lived in Langley City over the last decade, you will have noticed that there has been a renewed focus on investing in people-powered transportation infrastructure. Whether it is building sidewalks, enhancing crosswalks, or building safer cycling lanes, these investments support some of the most vulnerable residents in our community.

If you are a parent (or imaging being a parent), would you feel safe letting your child ride a bike on 208 Street in the shoulder bike lane? Would you feel more comfortable with them riding down 203 Street? If you had a scooter or other mobility-assistance device which corridor would you feel safer on?

To the point that when we build communities for the most vulnerable, we build better communities for all, more people in general are now using active forms of transportation along corridors like 203 Street than ever before. This promotes better health outcomes, builds a strong sense of community as people start seeing their neighbours, and gets more eyes and ears on the street which reduces crime.

Much of Langley City was built-out during an era when planners actively discouraged walking. As such, many parts of our industrial area, commercial areas outside of Downtown, and single-family housing areas lack the most basic form of infrastructure: the sidewalk.

I was reminded of how important sidewalks were this weekend as I watched a senior negotiating 62 Avenue on a scooter. The north side of 62 Avenue is in the Township while the south side is in the City.

A senior riding their scooter along 62 Avenue. Select image to enlarge.

The same seniors trying to cross 62 Avenue to get onto 203 Street.

Langley City council is investing in walking infrastructure. As I posted about previously, we are investing more than $1 million to support walking in this year alone. I was reminded this weekend that Langley City must not slowdown investing in transportation infrastructure that supports our most vulnerable residents. This situation of a senior navigating 62 Avenue needs to be a thing of the past in our community.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Rental zoning will give municipalities new tool to support affordable housing

Yesterday, I posted about the state of rental housing in the South of Fraser based on information compiled by the BC Non-Profit Housing Association. The short of it is that market rental housing is becoming less affordable for people in our region. In Langley City, close to half of renter households spend more that 30% of their income on housing. Spending more than 30% of a household’s income on housing costs is considered unaffordable.

Transportation costs are significant for most renter households. The Metro Vancouver Regional District has done research around how to increase affordability for households that make a moderate income. Langley City’s average household income is around $50,000 per year. This is considered a moderate income.

Pinetree Way in Coquitlam is near high-quality public transit

Metro Vancouver’s solution is to build rental housing near high-quality public transit. One of the challenges with this today is that land near high-quality transit normally goes for a premium. One of the ways around this is to zone areas near high-quality transit for rental housing. This would dampen increasing land costs, as it would reduce speculative practices. Rental zoning would encourage people to create rental buildings for the long-term. This will result in more rental units, stabilizing rents throughout our region.

Currently, local governments don’t have the power to create rental zones, but this is about to change. The provincial government has a bill that is currently working its way through the legislature that would allow municipalities to create rental zones.

In Langley City and Surrey, rental zoning could be applied along sections of Fraser Highway, 104 Avenue, and King George Boulevard near transit stops. It could also be applied along B-Line routes. One of the good things about the proposed new rental zoning is that local governments don’t have to take an all-or-nothing approach to creating rental housing. The proposed zone would allow a municipality to make anywhere from 1% to 100% of building housing units rental within the zone. This would work well for mixed-use buildings.

While the provincial and federal governments hold most of the power to create affordable housing, the proposed new rental zoning will give local governments the ability to encourage affordable rental units for moderate income households in our region.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

New index shows state of housing costs for renters in the South of Fraser

Ensuring that everyone can afford a place to live is one of the biggest challenges that our region has ever faced. Whether looking to own a home, rent at market rates, or get into some form of subsidized housing, most people are feeling the pressure.

The Canadian Rental Housing Index is put together by the BC Non-Profit Housing Association. It looks at rent affordability throughout Canada. The index was recently updated with the latest census data, and includes information at the municipal, regional, provincial, and federal levels. What does the index say about South of Fraser communities?

Langley City has some of the lowest household incomes in Metro Vancouver. The following chart shows the average and median gross incomes for renter households in 2016.

Average & Median Incomes in 2016: The average and median gross incomes of renter households. Select chart to enlarge.

The next chart shows the average monthly rent and utility costs in 2016.

Average Monthly Rent and Utilities in 2016: Includes heat, hot water, and electricity. Select chart to enlarge.

Langley City had some of the lowest housing costs in the South of Fraser, but because we also have the lowest household income levels, close to half of Langley City renter households are spending more than 30% of their income on housing. This means that these households are overspending on housing. Between 2016 and this year, the cost of housing has increased, so I would expect that the number of renter households that are overspending on housing costs is now larger.

Overspending in 2016: Households spending more than 30% of their before-tax income on rent and utilities are generally considered to be living in unaffordable situations. Select chart to enlarge.

Transportation is a critical component when it comes to affordability. In communities where driving is the only option, transportation costs can equal a third of housing costs. While in community where walking, cycling, and public transit are viable options, transportation costs can equal about a quarter of housing costs.

Transportation costs are not presented in this index. In the future, it would be good to see transportation costs also included.

The provincial government has recently put measures in place to address creating more affordable transportation and housing options. It will be interesting to see what impacts these policies will have over the next several years.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

May 14 Council Meeting Notes: Increasing budget for Downtown Langley Business Improvement Area. New Employer Health Tax will rise property tax 1%.

As last night’s Langley City council meeting was only one week from the last meeting, it was brief.

The meeting opened with awarding Emily Condon, a student at Alice Brown Elementary, the winner of the Local Government Awareness Day poster contest. She drew the winner poster encouraging people to leave their phone alone when they are driving. Her and other student’s posters can be seen at Timms Community Centre.

Emily Condon receiving an award from the mayor. Select image to enlarge.

The Downtown Langley Business Association represents merchants in the business improvement area (BIA) as shown on the following map.

Downtown Langley Business Improvement Area highlighted in grey. Select map to enlarge.

One of the special features of a BIA is that property owners can choose to tax themselves over-and-above normal property tax to pay for additional services which are delivered through a business association. The City must enable this additional property taxation through a bylaw. The currently bylaw for the Downtown Langley BIA is expiring in 2019.

The Downtown Langley Business Association executive was present last night as Langley City Council considered giving first, second, and third reading to a new enablement bylaw for the period 2020 through 2029. The bylaw will enable a 7% budget increase per year for the business association, funded by an additional property tax applied only within the BIA. Their maximum budget will be $497,976 in 2020, rising to $915,508 in 2029.

Besides supporting merchants in our Downtown, the association partners with the City to deliver events that benefit all local residents. These events include Arts Alive, Fork ‘N’ Finger, and the McBurney Plaza Summer Series.

Council gave three readings to the BIA bylaw.

The provincial government is ending MSP premiums, replacing the lost revenue with a new Employer Health Tax. As local governments are employers, we will be subject to this new tax. For Langley City, this means that our property tax will have to increase by 1% or $291,000 in 2019 to cover this new Employer Health Tax. This will leave less funding available to fund critical local infrastructure and services.

This is a classic example of provincial government downloading. Langley City council passed a motion calling for the BC government to exempt local governments, regional districts and school boards from the Employer Health Tax to lessen the financial burden on local taxpayers. Council also asked that a letter be written to other municipalities encouraging them to also write letters to the province regarding the impact of the tax.

Langley City council gave final reading to the updated Parks & Public Facilities Regulation Bylaw, and associated updated Municipal Ticket Information System Bylaw. These updates include new restrictions on camping in our community. I posted about these changes in more detail last week.

Council also gave final reading to discharge the land use contract for 5139 206 Street to facilitate a secondary suite.

5454, 5464, 5474, 5484, 5490 Brydon Crescent are subject to rezoning. Select map to enlarge.

In order to allow a public hearing, council gave first and second reading to a zoning amendment to accommodate a 30 unit, 3-story townhouse project along Brydon Crescent as shown.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Maps and list of most Langley City infrastructure projects in progress

Last week, I posted about infrastructure projects that are under construction, will begin construction, or are in the design phase this year. In the post, there was a picture of the project map from a poster that was at the Douglas Neighbourhood Meeting.

Langley City has now posted higher-resolution maps that show many of the projects in our community that are in progress. These maps don’t contain city-wide projects such as replacing all streetlights will LED streetlights.

Alice Brown and Uplands Neighbourhood Projects. Select map to download

Simonds and Blacklock Neighbourhood Projects. Select map to download.

Nicomekl and Douglas Neighbourhood Projects. Select map to download.

Here is the complete list of projects on the maps:

  • Watermain Replacement 197A St, South of 46 Avenue
  • Hunter Park Renovation
  • Penzer Park, New Parking Lot
  • Penzer Park, New Washroom
  • New 46A Ave Sidewalk
  • Grade Crescent Corridor Planning
  • H.D. Stafford Traffic Calming
  • 48 Avenue Sanitary Sewer Rehabilitation
  • Reservoir SCADA System Upgrade
  • Muckle Creek Culvert Replacement at 48 Avenue and at 50 Avenue
  • New Traffic Signal at 50 Avenue and 200 Street
  • Booster Pump Station Removal at Grade Crescent at 200 Street
  • Nicomekl Floodplain Pedestrian Bridge Replacement near 201A Street, and near 203 Street
  • City Park, Spray Park and Playground Upgrades
  • City Park, New Walking Path, Passive Play Area, and Off-Leash Dog Area
  • City Park, Retaining Wall Replacement
  • City Park, South Field Renovation
  • Enhanced Crosswalk at 50A Avenue at 208 Street
  • Nicholas Park, Spray Park Upgrade
  • Brydon Park, Master Plan Design
  • Brydon Park, Playground/Sport Court Renovation
  • Traffic Calming at 198 Street at 53 Avenue
  • 56 Avenue Pavement Replacement between 198 Street and 200 Street
  • Watermain Upgrade along Fraser Highway near Surrey Border
  • Storm Sewer Relining along Fraser Highway near Railway Tracks
  • Michaud Greenway Concept Design
  • New Michaud Community Garden
  • Traffic Study for 62 Avenue
  • New Traffic Signal at 203 Street at Industrial Avenue
  • Duncan Way Industrial Area Sidewalks and Multi-Use Path Project
  • Glover Road Traffic Signal Rebuilds at 56 Avenue, Eastleigh Crescent, and Duncan Way
  • 56 Avenue Project between Glover Road and Langley Bypass
  • Logan Creek Culvert Replacement
  • Rotary Centennial Park Concept Design
  • Fraser Highway One-Way Concept Design
  • Douglas Park, Lighting Replacement
  • Douglas Park, Playground Replacement
  • Douglas Crescent Road and Utilities Project between 206 Street and 208 Street
  • Enhanced Crosswalk at 54 Avenue and 204 Street
  • Traffic Signal Rebuild at 51B/53A/53 Avenue

There are plenty of projects on-the-go that will ensure that our City can maintain and enhance the services required to provide a good quality of life for people who live in our community.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

May 7, 2018 Council Meeting Notes: Financial audit gives city clean bill of health, and development projects continue

On Monday night, Langley City’s council met for a public hearing and a regular council meeting. I’ve posted about some of the major items covered at these meetings including pending changes to our Parks & Public Facilities Regulation Bylaw, and infrastructure investments. Today, I will cover the remaining items from Monday night.

The first item covered at the public hearing was for a proposed 3-storey, 23 unit townhouse project at 20689 and 20699 Eastleigh Crescent.

Rendering of proposed townhouse project along Eastleigh Crescent. Select image to enlarge.

The proposed development has both double-wide and tandem parking garages. One person spoke to the development proposal. This person was concerned about tandem parking; that people would choose to park their second vehicle on the street. The person also questioned how people would use the roof-top patios which are proposed for the development.

As our community continues to grow, ensuring the fair use of on-street parking will be an increasing challenge. I believe that a parking permitting system to ensure that all residents in an area have equal opportunity for on-street parking access should be considered in the near future.

Council gave third reading for rezoning the property to accommodate this project.

Council also gave third reading to remove the land-use contract for 5139 206 Street to permit a secondary suite. Land-use contracts stopped being issued in BC over 30 years ago.

Council gave final reading, and issued a development permit, to accommodate a 3-storey, 39-unit townhouse project at the end of 199A Street. You can read more about this project in a previous post.

The City’s finances need to be audited every year by an independent third party. The auditor presented their findings at the council meeting, giving the City a clean bill of health. You can download the consolidated financial statements for more information.

On the topic of finances, council must pass a bylaw that aligns the budget and the consolidated financial statements. Council gave third reading to this bylaw for the 2017 budget year. Council also gave final reading to the tax rate bylaw for 2018.

As a housekeeping item, Council gave three readings to a bylaw to update council procedures. The updated bylaw includes new provision on how council members can behaviour at meetings, formal processes, and what time a council meeting ends at.

Finally, council gave three readings to remove a section of road dedication in the lane off 204 Street and Park Avenue as shown.

Site plan including proposed road dedication removal near Park Avenue. Select image to enlarge.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Infrastructure projects on the go in Langley City. Investing in walking, lighting, and parks.

With the summer construction season here, Langley City will be full of activity as investment in infrastructure continues at a record pace. Improving walking infrastructure such as sidewalks is something that I strongly believe in, and it is something that I’ve heard from many people in our community is important. Langley City continues to invest in walking, and on Monday night, council approved issuing a $1 million contract to Jack Cewe Ltd. for various walking infrastructure projects around Duncan Way and along 46A Avenue.

Location of sidewalk projects in Langley City. Select map to enlarge.

Improved crosswalks are also under construction. At 204 Street and 54 Street, and at 208 Street and 50A Avenue, there are new flashing-light crosswalks. Over the next month, centre islands will also be installed at those locations to further improve the safety and comfort of people who will be using those crosswalks.

An example of a centre island. Source: NACTO

Park investment also continues. The City Park spray park is current under construction. At Penzer Action Park, a new washroom is under construction. Due to the high use of that park, a new parking lot was recently opened along 198C Street.

The City is also activity replacing all of our streetlights with LED streetlights. Within the next year, half to two-thirds of all City-owned streetlights will be converted. Logan Avenue is currently being converted, and it is expected to be completed by the end of June. Other major streets will be done next, with side streets being replaced last.

If you have been around the City in the last couple of weeks, you’ll have noticed that street patching is being completed at various locations. Patching will continue throughout the summer.

The following map from last night’s neighbourhood meeting at Douglas Park Community School shows many of the projects that are under-construction or in the planning stage. Red areas on the map mean under-construction while yellow means they are in the planning phase.

Map of some of the active Langley City infrastructure projects. Select image to enlarge.

Rotary Centennial Park, Brydon Park, the Fraser Highway One-Way, and the Michaud Greenway are all currently in the planning phase. There will be opportunities for members of our community to be part of the design process.

While there are other major projects going on throughout our parks system such as replacing pedestrian bridges in the floodplain, there are also many smaller projects. The following table shows the location and quantity of new benches, picnic tables, and bike racks that will be installed throughout our parks system.

Location New Benches New Picnic Tables New Bike Racks
Conder Park
3 - -
City Park
2 1 1
Brydon Park
4 1 -
Linwood Park 2 1 -
Nicholas Park 2 2 -
Sendall Gardens - 2 -
Douglas Park 5 3 1
Penzer Park 1 2 2

Langley City council is serious about investing in our community. While living through construction is never fun, the end result will be a better community.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Langley City council moves forward with bylaw to restrict camping in certain areas

In 2015, the BC Supreme Court ruled that people who are homeless can camp in parks between 7pm and 9am if they cannot find shelter. The court did place limits on camping: shelters must be temporary, and camping areas could be limited, but not limited in such a way as to restrict access to services for people who are experiencing homelessness.

To ensure that our parks serve all people in our community, and after seeking legal opinion, City council gave first, second, and third reading to a new Parks & Public Facilities Bylaw which places limits on camping in our community.

The bylaw does not permit camping in Douglas Park at any time due to the proximity to Douglas Park Community School, Douglas Recreation Centre, and Spirit Square which are used extensively for children’s programming.

Langley City’s new Parks & Public Facilities Bylaw would restrict camping in Douglas Park. Select image to enlarge.

The bylaw limits camping for people who are experiencing homelessness to only park green spaces that are not “improved.” For example, camping would not be permitted in a plaza, sports field, playground, building, or garden. As such, camping would not be permitted anywhere in McBurney Plaza or Innes Corner.

The bylaw also places restrictions on shopping carts, not allowing them to be parked in a park or public facility such as Timms Community Centre. The new bylaw also adds new regulations regarding motorized scoters, segways, and hoverboards. This will allow the City to enforce a speed limit of generally 10 km/h. Medical devices are exempt.

The bylaw prohibits radio-controlled boats and drones in parks, unless authorization has been granted for their use by a City staff person.

Finally, urinating or defecating outside of a washroom, not being fully clothed, and obstructing “the free use and enjoyment” of a park or public facility by others have been explicitly prohibited.

Enforcement measures, including fines, have been updated as well. The maximum fine is $100 per contravening of the bylaw. The City can also suspend, for a variable amount of time, someone from entering a park or public facility if they violate the bylaw, based on the nature of the contravention.

This updated bylaw respects the BC Supreme Court’s ruling, considering the needs of all people that use parks, plazas, and community centres.

Monday, May 7, 2018

A sneak peek at South of Fraser Light Rail, coming to a place near you

With phase two funding approved for TransLink’s 10-Year Vision, light rail in the South of Fraser will be a reality. Light rail will be built in two stages. The first stage will be between Newton, Surrey Central, and Guildford. Travel time between Newton Exchange and King George will be 13 minutes, and travel time between Guildford Exchange and Surrey Central will be 9 minutes. The second stage will be between Surrey Central and Langley City along Fraser Highway. It is expected that stage one will be open in 2024.

A map of South of Fraser Light Rail. Select image to enlarge.

Funding for the detailed design of the second stage, plus “early works” construction projects for the Surrey-Langley line is approved. Early works projects include things like relocating water, sewer, hydro, and communication lines. It also includes things like replacing bridges. Actual construction of light rail to Langley will not start until the final phase of TransLink’s 10-Year Vision is approved which will hopefully be soon.

There are well over two dozen light rail systems in Canada and the US, but light rail is a new concept in Metro Vancouver. To give people a sneak peek at what the system will look like in the South of Fraser, the City of Surrey will be touring a mockup light rail vehicle throughout their community. There are also people available to answer questions by the mockup. I dropped by Central City this weekend to have a look, and took a few pictures.

Me inside the mockup light rail vehicle. Select image to enlarge.

Inside the light rail vehicle, including a mockup of a light rail station. Select image to enlarge.

The operator cab inside the mockup light rail vehicle. Select image to enlarge.

Outside of the mockup light rail vehicle at Central City. Select image to enlarge.

The following are the dates and locations for the light rail vehicle road show:

Date Location Time
May 2-11 Surrey Central City Mall 12-6pm
May 13-23 Newton Superstore Parking Lot 12-6pm
May 25-26 Surrey International Children’s Festival (Bear Creek Park) Fri: 9am-2:30pm
Sat: 10:30am-7:30p
May 28 - June 1 Surrey Civic Plaza 9am-5pm
June 9 Surrey Doors Open at Surrey Operations Centre 10:00am-4:00pm
June 11-22 Guildford Town Centre 12-6pm
July 1 Canada Day Celebration (Cloverdale) 10am-9pm

Thursday, May 3, 2018

While Aldergrove Regional Park is now split in half, improvements are still moving forward

The former District of Matsqui was a member of the now defunct Vancouver-Fraser Park District. This district was absorbed into the Metro Vancouver Regional District in 1972. When Matsqui and Abbotsford merged, the former park district parks still remained a part of Metro Vancouver, even though Abbotsford was fully in the Fraser Valley Regional District. Recently this changed, with all Metro Vancouver parkland in Abbotsford being transferred over to the City of Abbotsford.

Aldergrove Regional Park straddles the Langley/Abbotsford border. Half the park is in Metro Vancouver, and the other half of the park is in the Fraser Valley Regional District. Metro Vancouver is still managing the park as one entity, but at the end of 2019, it will likely only be managing the western half.

Within the western half of the park, Metro Vancouver is planning on making $1.1 million in investments to improve the park with an upgraded regional trail connector, nature discovery area, and nature discovery trail. The following map shows the areas that are proposed to be improved.

Map of Aldergrove Regional Park project locations. Select map to enlarge.

The regional trail will be multi-use, and connect the Township’s street cycling route on 272nd Street to the South Langley Regional Trail along 8th Avenue. The Nature Discovery Trail will open up an area of the park for people to view a new wetland area. The Nature Discovery Area is the old lake area, and it will be focused towards families with younger children. It will include a sand play area, cobble stone play area, and a boulder amphitheatre play area. There will also be a picnic area. The following site plans show these areas in more detail.

Nature Discovery Area Concept Plan. Select image to enlarge.

Nature Discovery Trail Concept Plan. Slect image to enlarge.

While Aldergrove Regional Park may now be split in two, improvements are still moving forward.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

TransLink reducing reliance on fuel tax over next decade

TransLink currently receives revenue from a variety of sources such as through local taxation, revenue from providing transit service, and directly from government. The two largest categories are taxation and from transit service. One of the more significant taxation sources currently is fuel tax at 17 cents per litre.

The cost of fuel has been rapidly increasing. In the past, this has resulted in a drop of revenue from fuel tax, and an increase in transit use. At the same time, people are shifting to electric and other more fuel-efficient vehicles over the next decade. This got me thinking about how TransLink will be funding the new 10-Year Transit Vision.

TransLink recently updated their financial projections over the next 10 years. I have included select information in the following charts from those projections.

TransLink Projected Revenue 2017-2026. Actual Revenue in 2016. Select image to enlarge.

TransLink Revenue 2016. Select image to enlarge.

TransLink Projected Revenue 2020. Select image to enlarge.

TransLink Projected Revenue 2026. Select image to enlarge.

TransLink has accounted for the fact that fuel tax will be a smaller part of their funding mix. This is encouraging to see. TransLink’s Mayors’ Council launched the Mobility Pricing Independent Commission in part to figure out how to replace the fuel tax.

In this day and age, fuel tax is a poor way to pay for transportation systems. As more people shift to walking, cycling, transit, and more efficient vehicles, less money will be available to fund the network. I look forward to seeing fuel tax replaced.

The Details

2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023 2024 2025 2026
Fuel Tax $396m $388m $388m $389m $390m $390m $391m $391m $392m $392m $393m
Other Taxation $430m $448m $467m $485m $512m $537m $561m $582m $603m $626m $648m
Transit Revenue $542m $566m $595m $624m $653m $675m $700m $724m $747m $768m $790m

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Metro Vancouver Council of Councils: Climate Change, Waste Management, Affordable Housing, and Transit.

Two times a year, the Metro Vancouver Regional District hosts Council of Councils meetings. Each municipality in our region has a few members of their council who also serve as directors on the Metro Vancouver Board. These Council of Councils meetings provide an opportunity for all elected local government members to get direct updates from the district, ask questions, and hopefully receive answers. I was at the most recent Council of Councils meeting on Saturday.

Metro Vancouver Council of Councils meeting. Select image to enlarge.

The meeting opened with an update from the regional district chair Greg Moore. Due to the recent media attention around the regional district, Moore provided “fact checks” to some of the stories that have been circulating. The one fact that stood out to me was that the Metro Vancouver Cafeteria is not subsidized, it makes a profit.

The first update at the Council of Councils meeting was about the Climate 2050 Strategy. Climate change will have serious impacts in our region. Over the past decade, GHG emissions have stabilized in Metro Vancouver. This is good news, as both the population and economy have grown. This is not enough though, emissions need to go down. Metro Vancouver is starting the next phase of its climate strategy, and will be working with the public and stakeholders to develop a plan to further reduce GHG emissions in our region.

Impacts of climate change in Metro Vancouver by 2050. Select image to enlarge. 

The North Shore Wastewater Treatment Plant is one of the largest infrastructure projects ever undertaken by the regional district at $700 million. The new plant will provide secondary sewage treatment for North Shore communities as required by federal regulations which come into force at the end of 2020. One of the interesting features of the treatment plant is that it will also include a district energy component, so that heat from wastewater can be productively used. This is similar to the district energy system in the Olympic Village area in Vancouver. More information on the treatment plant is available on the project’s website.

One of the region’s goals is to divert 80% of all discarded material from ending up as waste, either in a landfill or incinerated, by 2020. As of 2016, 62% of solid waste is diverted. Metro Vancouver continues to make progress on increasing the diversions rate. As of July, polystyrene (foam) packaging will be banned from garbage.

There are many materials banned from garbage in our region. One of the ways that some people are getting away with having banned materials in garbage is to ship garbage outside of the region for processing. Metro Vancouver has introduced a new Generator Levy and Commercial Waste Haulers Licensing System to better ensure that solid waste is handed within our region’s systems.

Single-use containers such as coffee cups are becoming a significant solid waste issue. The regional district is currently working on options for dealing with these single-use items. These options will be presented this winter to the Metro Vancouver board for consideration.

Metro Vancouver is a public housing provider, focusing on housing for families with low to moderate incomes. There are about 9,000 people living in Metro Vancouver managed housing, making it the second largest subsidized housing provider, after BC Housing, in our region. With the recently announced provincial and federal housing programs, Metro Vancouver’s housing corporation is positioning itself as a manager of affordable housing on behalf of municipalities in our region. Municipalities can require affordable housing as part of redevelopment proposals. Once that affordable housing is built, it could be handed over to Metro Vancouver Housing for management.

On the topic of affordability, transportation and housing costs must be considered together. One of the big pushes in our region is to provide affordable rental housing near frequent transit such as B-Lines and SkyTrain. Metro Vancouver has been providing advocacy support by creating things such as the Regional Affordable Housing Strategy. The provincial government is in the process of creating rental-only zoning which should further help support creating affordable rental housing near transit. At the meeting, it was noted that Coquitlam has been successful in building rental housing near public transit.

There was also an update from TransLink at the meeting, focusing on recently funded phase two projects.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Young councillors from four munis launch new podcast series on affordable housing, transportation, and equity

Around two years ago, inspired by SFU City Conversations, four councillors from municipalities throughout the region had an idea to bring important city-building conversations, now called Metro Conversations, out from the confines of the City of Vancouver, to the rest of the region.

It is important that these conversations about affordable housing, transportation, and equity are not just focused on one municipality, but the region as a whole. That is why we decided to bring these conversations, in partnership with SFU Public Square, to other centres throughout Metro Vancouver. Mathew Bond of the District of North Vancouver, Kiersten Duncan of Maple Ridge, and Patrick Johnstone of New Westminster, and myself hosted these conversations connecting citizens and topic experts.

“We realized that not everyone could make these conversations,” said Councillor Patrick Johnstone. “This is why we are excited to be launching our podcast series, enable access for more people to engage in the conversation.”

Metro Conversations around single-family housing, short-time rentals, affordable housing, gender in politics, and transportation were held in Lynn Valley, Downtown PoCo, New West, and Langley City, engaging with around 150 citizens of our region over the past year.

Funded by a SFU Community Engagement Initiative grant, Metro Conversations follows the model of SFU City Conversations, an SFU Public Square program, with short presentations from experts followed by moderated dialogue among participants.

“Connecting with community is part of everything we at Canada’s engaged university,” says SFU Public Square executive director Janet Webber. “We are thrilled to support Metro Conversations and have these important discussions reach and engage citizens throughout Metro Vancouver and are very excited that this new podcast will allow the program to reach an even wider audience.”

The podcast series includes the best of the in-person conversations, and exclusive online-only content.

The podcast series is also available today on:
iTunes: http://itunes.convo.city
Google Play: http://play.convo.city

Thursday, April 26, 2018

#LangleyCityConnect Neighbourhood Meetings Coming Up in May

For the past several years, Langley City has hosted a series of neighbourhood meetings annually. Generally when public meetings occur in a community, it is to seek feedback on a specific plan or project. Otherwise, people are expected to reach out to local government if they have other questions or concerns. This can be an intimidating process for many people.

People at Douglas Park neighbourhood meeting in October 2017. Select image to enlarge.

Our Langley City neighbourhood meetings are a way for local government to come to people where they are at, in a casual atmosphere. The mayor and city council will be on hand, as will be representatives from every city department, plus the RCMP, to answer your questions.

There will be members of Langley City’s Crime Prevention Task Group at the meetings looking to sign up people to help out with the upcoming “Know Your Neighbours” campaign.

You can also learn about community projects, what has been accomplished over the last year, and learn about the wide range of programs and services available in our community. If you want, you can also provide feedback on upcoming city-led initiatives.

If you have a question about organics collection, parks, redevelopment, or the budget, or you just want to stop by to meet other people in your neighbourhood, please consider attending an upcoming neighbourhood meeting.

Details:

Date: May 1, 2018
Time: 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Location: Simonds Elementary School Gym - 20190 48 Avenue

Date: May 8, 2018
Time: 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Location: Douglas Park Community School Gym - 5409 206 Street

Date: May 16, 2018
Time: 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Location: Alice Brown Elementary School Gym - 20011 44 Avenue

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

April 23, 2018 Council Meeting Notes: Downtown Saturday farmers market starting up, and redevelopment continues

Several groups presented information at Monday night’s Langley City council meeting. There were also several zoning bylaws that continued their progress forward, and some housekeeping bylaws addressed.

The first presentation was from the New Westminster & District Labour Council reminding council about the upcoming Day of Mourning for Workers Kill or Injured. Representatives from the Labour Council noted that the Day of Mourning also serves as a reminder to make our workplaces safer. A safe work environment also needs to support good mental health; bullying and harassment is akin to a workplace injury. Langley City will be raising a flag to acknowledge the Day of Mourning. For more information about this day, please visit the Labour Council’s facebook page.

The Langley Community Farmers Market will be expanding in Langley City. The market currently is open on Wednesday from noon to 4:30pm at the Langley KPU Campus. The market will now also be open on Saturday between 10am and 2pm at the Timms Community Centre parking lot in Downtown Langley. The market only allows people that produce their own goods to be vendors. This will be a great addition to our community, and I look forward to the opening date of June 2nd.

Council also received a presentation by Ginger Sherlock who is the Langley Emergency Planning Coordinator. She reminded council that Emergency Preparedness Week is coming up from May 6th through 12th. There will be events scheduled in both the City and Township. She noted that information about these events will be posted to both municipality’s websites, and on social media with the hashtag #FamilyReady.

There were three land-use matters addressed by council. The first was a public hearing for a re-zoning request to accommodate a 3-storey, 39-unit townhouse project at the end of 199A Street near Brydon Crescent. At the public hearing, one resident asked if sewer services would be interrupted for neighbouring residents during construction. He was told that there would be no interruption in service. Council gave third reading to the bylaw for re-zoning.

Site plan for proposed project at the end of 199A Street. Select image to enlarge.

Council also gave first and second reading for a bylaw to rezoning 20689 and 20699 Eastleigh Crescent to support a 3-storey, 23-unit townhouse project. This will allow for a public hearing to be scheduled.

Rendering of proposed project along Eastleigh Crescent. Select image to enlarge.

Langley City allows secondary suites, but some properties in our community have land-use contracts from the 1970s which prevent them. It is the City’s policy to remove these contracts at the request of owners. Council gave first and second reading to discharge the land-use contract for 5139 206 Street.

Council gave final reading to adopt various housekeeping bylaws for the upcoming fall municipal election.

Council also gave first, second, and third reading to the 2018 tax rate bylaw. The budget was approved earlier this year, and I posted about what the impact will be for sample single-family and multi-family properties at that time. A tax rate is also known as a mill rate, and it must be adjusted annually.

You may have heard that Metro Vancouver Regional District directors voted for a retroactive retirement allowance from 2007. As this didn’t go over well with the general public, the directors are reconsidering this allowance. Langley City council passed a motion asking our Metro Vancouver director to consider voting against this allowance.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Council approves additional funding for Bylaws on Bikes Program

One of the reasons that I moved to Langley City was because of the number of parks, and the extensive trail network. In fact, around 14% of the community is park space. The RCMP has a program in place where members patrol on bicycle throughout the community. Having RCMP members cycling around our community improves their visibility, aiding in crime prevention. Research shows that having police on bikes results in improved access to police services in a community, and increases the likelihood of police encountering an illicit activity in progress during a patrol.

Given the large portion of our community that is only accessible by foot or bicycle, have RCMP members on bikes allows for the patrolling of areas that are not accessible by motor vehicle, improving response times in those areas.

While the RCMP performs summer bike patrols in Langley City, this was not done traditionally by our bylaw department. Last year, a new program was started called the “Integrated Proactive Homelessness Inspection Team.” One of the initiatives of the program was to have bike patrols where both RCMP and bylaw department members where out enforcing both the City’s bylaws and the Criminal Code, with the safety of people who were homeless and other members of the community in mind.

These bike patrols enabled our bylaw department to have improved access throughout our parks and trails network, and other more isolated areas in Langley City. These proactive patrols resulted in a reduction in calls for service for both the RCMP and our bylaw department.

In 2017, our bylaw enforcement staff used bikes made available by the RCMP. This year, those bikes were not available. City council approved investing $4,500 for two bikes plus associated equipment to allow this successful program to continue at last night’s council meeting.

It is innovative programs like this that improve both the perception of safety, and actual safety in our community with minimal cost. A win-win!

Monday, April 23, 2018

Population projections show critical need for Fraser Highway Light Rail

Last week, I posted about population growth in our region based on the latest information available from the Metro Vancouver Regional District. One of the significant shifts is population is the migration of people who currently living in Vancouver and Burnaby, towards Surrey and Langley. What will the population in our region look like in the next 20 years? The following map shows the projected population by 2041, including the change in population from the latest census.

Projected population growth between 2016 to 2041 in Metro Vancouver, by area. Select map to enlarge. Source: Metro Vancouver.

What I like about this map is that it breaks population figures down by urban contiguous areas. Cloverdale and Langley will have a similar population to the Tri-Cities. Surrey will eclipse Vancouver in population starting in 2041.

The South of Fraser will see close to 390,000 people move-in over the next few decades. How we design our transportation systems and communities will be critical to ensure that our region doesn’t grind to a halt. Building mixed-use town centres that are walkable and bikeable, connected by high quality transit will be a must. Just as critical will be to ensure that the majority of jobs are located near transit.

One of the transit projects that I’m most anxious to see open is light rail connecting Downtown Langley to Downtown Surrey.

Last week, UBC started pushing for an extension of the Millennium Line to their Point Grey campus. I’m all for more transit service everywhere in our region, but I also know that the current 10-Year Transportation Vision doesn’t include a SkyTrain extension to UBC. Funding being limited, I always have a bit of a concern that the South of Fraser will get the short end of the stick.

If additional funding becomes available to support building light rail along King George Boulevard, along Fraser Highway, and SkyTrain all the way to UBC, that would be great news. If the funding envelope stays the same, I hope that all levels of government will stick to the current 10-Year Transportation Vision. I believe that sticking to the vision is important, not just because I live in Langley, but because of the sheer number of people that will be moving to the South of Fraser over the next two decades.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Fraser Highway B-Line: Street redesigns will make buses faster and more reliable

In 2019, B-Line bus service will be running along Fraser Highway between Surrey Central and Downtown Langley. The B-Line service along Fraser Highway will have the following benefits:

Fast and Reliable

  • Stops spaced about 1 kilometre apart (compared to around 200 metres apart for current bus service)
  • High-capacity articulated buses
  • All-door boarding
  • Street redesign to make buses faster

Frequent

  • Every 10 minutes or better during peak periods
  • Every 15 minutes of better other times of the day

Available all day

  • Run from at least 6am to midnight, 7-days a week

Easy to find

  • Buses and stops have a different look
  • Stops have next bus digital signage
  • Route information inside of buses

One of the keys to ensuring that the Fraser Highway B-Line is fast and reliable will be to redesign some elements of that street. This can include things such as bus lanes, queue jumper lanes, signal prioritization, turn restrictions, and curb extensions at bus stops. TransLink will have funding to implement some of these measures, but will need the support of municipalities to support these changes.

A bus priority lane along King George Boulevard. Source: https://twitter.com/SkyTrain4Surrey/status/644307139792535552

TransLink information provided in the agenda for the upcoming Mayors’ Council meeting states that “we can get better B-Lines —and better ridership growth potential— if municipal partners are willing to cost share and/or make bold changes” to roads. This will result in faster and more reliable bus service that will require fewer buses which means “buses freed up can be reinvested for even higher frequent” service on B-Line routes.

One of the things to keep in mind is that even a half-full B-Line bus is the equivalent of 20 passenger vehicles. One bus clears up a lot of road space. The following video illustrates the point.

As a regular transit rider along Fraser Highway, I am looking forward to B-Line service. I will be supportive of municipal measures to help ensure that this service is fast and reliable.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

People leaving Vancouver and Burnaby for Surrey and Langley

Our region is continuing to grow, and by 2041 an additional 1 million people will call Metro Vancouver home. The Metro Vancouver Regional District does detailed analysis of growth projects, breaking down the components of growth into several categories.

The components of growth include natural changes, meaning the number of births in the region subtracted by the number of deaths; inter-provincial migration between provinces; intra-provincial migration in BC; and inter-municipal migration within the region. The following graph shows the components of current growth, and forecasted growth for our region.

Components of Metro Vancouver population growth. Select chart to enlarge.

What is clear is that people who immigrate to Canada will be the driving component of population growth in our region. Historically, Vancouver would accept the most new people to Canada, but Surrey is starting to take the lead.

Immigration by municipal distribution. Select chart to enlarge.

People who live in other provinces and territory are a smaller component of population growth in our region.

When it comes to migration within BC, more people living in Metro Vancouver will be leaving the region for other parts of the province than vise versa. The most interesting graph to me is the migration of people that currently live in our region between municipalities.

Inter-municipal migration in Metro Vancouver. Select chart to enlarge.

Between 2001 and 2011, there was a significant net flow of people from Vancouver and Burnaby to Surrey, Langley, New Westminster, and Maple Ridge. I have to wonder if housing prices and job opportunities have something to do with that flow.

Subregional population projections to 2041 and beyond. Select chart to enlarge.

The end result is that with both immigration and migration within Metro Vancouver, Surrey and the South of Fraser will increasing become the new centre of our region.