Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Wire theft is increasing in Langley City. You can help reduce theft, keeping our streetlights on.

In a previous career, I looked after television transmitter sites. These remote sites contain copper wiring and accessories. Even though transmitter sites are extremely dangerous places with high voltage and high power, these sites were targeted by people who would risk their lives to steal cooper to sell to unsavoury recyclers.

Sometime these people would steal cooper, but most of the time they would end up with other worthless material. The cost of repairing the damage was high, as was the safety risk these people would create during and after the theft.

Stealing wiring is nothing new in Langley City, but it has intensified over the last little while. The City normally budgets around $12,000 to repair the damage caused by wire theft of its own infrastructure. To date, there has been over 2.5 kilometres of wire stolen, and the repair bill stands at $23,000.

Langley City is doing its part by installing anti-theft devices inside of new streetlights, using less valuable aluminum wiring, and having Langley City stamped on new wiring. These new streetlights are mainly being installed in the Downtown area.

Example of a new streetlight with anti-theft features. Select image to enlarge.

The City needs your help as most parts of our community still have older cooper wiring. If you see anyone messing around with a streetlight or wiring, and they don’t look like they work for BC Hydro or Langley City, please call the RCMP non-emergency line at (604) 532-3200.

If you see a non-functioning streetlight, please let the City know by using the Request for Service portal.

Replacing stolen wiring is costly, and stealing wiring decreases the safety of our streets. With the help of the community, we can curb wire theft.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

March 19, 2018 Council Meeting Notes: Donating to improve parks, business development, and redevelopment proposals.

Monday night’s Langley City council meeting started with business and tourism-related updates. Discovery Langley City, the new destination marketing organization for our community, continues to ramp up its activities with a focus on encouraging overnight stays at local hotels. Councillor Albrecht noted that social media and web traffic are increasing for Discovery Langley City, with top queries being around things to do and places to eat in our community.

One of the other initiatives of council is regular business walks. During these walks, members of council visit various businesses to keep a pulse on our commercial sector. Councillor Martin stated that several businesses are relocating to Langley City due to our community being at the centre of the Cloverdale-Langley area. Langley City is launching a new series of videos which highlight why businesses choose to locate in our community. These videos are being posted online.

For close to 40 years, Langley City has accepted donations from individuals and originations that want to contribute to a park amenity. These amenities includes things such as trees, benches, panic tables, and drinking foundations. These amenities are generally gifted with plaques dedicated to an individual.

Up to this point, there has been no formal policy in place around these gifts. City staff developed a new policy. As an example, the new policy includes terms which state that the City will maintain gifted amenity for at least 10 years. This policy was approved by council last night.

Council approved a request for the City’s Director of Engineering, Parks & Environment to attend the American Water Works Association 2018 Annual Conference.

Council gave first and second reading to two re-zoning bylaws. These readings will allow a public hearing to be scheduled for these zoning amendments.

The first zoning amendment is to accommodate a 39-unit, 3-story townhouse development at the end of 199A Street.

Proposed site plan for 5520, 5521, 5511, 5501, & 5591 - 199A Street. Select plan to enlarge.

The second amendment is to allow 25% of the total gross floor area of 19868 Langley Bypass (City Square) to be used for commercial tenants that are less than 4,000 sq. ft. Currently only tenants larger than 4,000 sq. ft. are permitted.

Council gave final reading to discharge a land-use contract which was covered at the March 5th council meeting. Council also gave final reading, and issued a development permit for 19753 55A Avenue, to accommodate a 14-unit townhouse development. The public hearing for this proposal was held in October of last year.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Two-thirds of TransLink 10-Year Investment Plan now approved in principle, plus getting to 100% funding.

On Friday afternoon, the provincial government and the Mayors' Council on Regional Transportation announced that they had come to an agreement in principle to fund phase two of the three phase 10-Year Transportation Investment Plan. The following map shows the location of the expected investments.

10-Year Investment Plan map. Select image to enlarge.

The following table shows a more detailed view of the transportation investments for our region over the life of the plan.

10-Year Investment Plan details. Select table to enlarge.

Phase one of the plan was funded by a bump in property tax, fare increases, and from TransLink internal revenue sources. Another proposed funding source was a regional development cost charge, though this was not implemented at the time phase one started moving forward.

Phase two investments are to be paid for with another increase in property tax, additional bumps in transit fares, the regional development cost charge, and an increase in parking lot sales tax. This is in addition to TransLink internal revenue sources.

New funding sources for phase two of investment plan. Estimated annual revenue.

The parking lot sales tax is charged whenever you pay for parking in a parkade or surface parking lot.

The new source of revenue is the development cost charge for transportation. This charge will be levied on new construction in our region. The original plan was to have the development cost charge set to generate about $20 million in revenue per year. The latest information states that it will generate around $7.5 million per year.

Implementing the new development cost charge will require a change in provincial legislation, as will the increase in parking lot sale tax.

This increases in revenue still doesn’t close the funding gap for the full 10-Year Investment Plan. One of the asks from the Mayors’ Council has been for the province to contribute annually to help offset the operating costs in the plan with a provincially-controlled source. This is shown in grey on the following graph.

Funding gap for 10-Year Investment Plan. Select chart to enlarge.

TransLink was originally going to replace the Pattullo Bridge. Tolling was going to be a revenue source, but it would still have to be subsidized. The Golden Ears Bridge and the Port Mann both cost more to operate than they were receiving in tolling revenue. The Pattullo Bridge would have been no different.

The 10-Year Investment Plan included the cost of the new Pattullo Bridge. Last month, the province announced that it would take over the Pattullo Bridge replacement, plus own and operate the new bridge. This helped close the “provincially-controlled source” funding gap.

At Friday’s press conference, the province said that it would further relieve financial pressure. It was mum on how, but I think that most people can take an educated guess on how.

As long as the province is able to get enabling legislation passed to fund phase two, all that remains is funding phase three. While I don’t have the exact numbers, it seems that the “provincially-controlled source” funding gap will be plugged.

By 2021/22, the Mayors’ Council wants to implement mobility pricing with $50 million per year, growing to $75 million per year, used to fund the full investment plan which includes light rail to Langley. With significant federal dollars committed to projects like Fraser Highway Light Rail, I am hopeful that all levels of government will once again be willing to work together to fund the full investment plan.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Insight into where people walk and cycle in Langley City

At the end of February, there were a few significant snow events in Langley City. One of the things that I noticed was that there were bike tracks left in the snow as it was falling. While looking at tire tracks in the snow is not a scientific way of measuring cycling lane usage, it provided me with some semi-permanent evidence of their use, even when the weather is unpleasant.

Fresh tracks on 203 Street in February. Select image to enlarge.

Fresh tracks on 53 Avenue in February. Select image to enlarge.

Earlier this week, the weather was warm and sunny. I take transit between home and work during the week; 203 Street and 53 Avenue are on my walking route to transit. I noticed along these corridors an increase in people walking, cycling, and scootering in the nice weather. Just a few years ago, these corridors were not very friendly for active modes of transportation. In fact, I used to avoid 203 Street due to its narrow sidewalks.

Strava is a social network and activity tracker used by many people who run and cycle. Strava has been in the news recently because they provide a publicly available map which shows popular routes of its users. Unfortunately, it led to some unintended disclosures of military bases.

I looked at this map years ago, but I didn’t think about it much again until the recent new stories. I decided to take a look at the map around Langley City.

Strava heatmap of popular cycling routes in Langley City. Select map to enlarge.

The map looks at two years worth of data, and is updated monthly. It is certainly not surprising that direct routes around our community such as 53 Avenue are the most popular. What is really interesting to see is cycling usage by Strava users on Grade Crescent, jutting down to 48 Avenue. 48 Avenue received bike lanes a few years back. Strava makes more detailed information available to local governments than is publicly available online.

While tire tracks in the snow and Strava maps don’t paint the full picture of everyone who walks and cycles, it provides some insight into popular routes in communities.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Metro Vancouver provides feedback to province on preserving farmland in our region

The Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) was created by the Dave Barrett NDP government in the 1970s to protect farmland in our province. It was created in response to the rapid urbanization of our limit, high-quality farmland in the province. This urbanization was particularly prevalent in the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island, and Okanagan.

Farmland in Metro Vancouver. Source: Stephanie Vacher

While most people are aware that ALR exclusions permanently remove land from being farmed again, there are other things that happen within the ALR that also prevent land from being farmed. These non-farm uses can range from highways being built within the ALR, to illegal fill dumping, to people “farming” to take advantage of a lower tax rate for their mini-mansions and country estates.

The current provincial government has launched a review of the ALR with the following goals:

  1. Preserve the productive capacity of land in the ALR.
  2. Encourage farming of land in the ALR for uses related to agriculture and food production.
  3. Strengthen the administration and governance of the ALR and ALC to both increase public confidence and to ensure that land use regulation and land use decisions are preserving agricultural land and encouraging farming and ranching in the ALR.

Farming in an important industry in Metro Vancouver. Our region has the highest gross farm receipts per hectare in Canada. Our region is also home to half the population of BC. This means that farmland is under constant threat of urbanization. The Metro Vancouver Regional District believes that the following key initiatives will help perverse farmland in our region.

  • Strengthen the ALC legislative framework to prevent non‐farm activities in the ALR.
  • Create financial disincentives for non‐farm uses in the ALR.
  • Modernize requirements for the classification of farm for assessment purposes.
  • Encourage more agriculture economic development and value‐added enterprises.
  • Expand avenues to maintain ecological services on agricultural land.
  • Implement policy reform specific to the Metro Vancouver region.

The provincial government will be seeking input from the public and other stakeholders until the end of April. Recommendations resulting from this review will be put forward during Winter 2018/19.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Positive events and activities in Langley City on the rise; Timms Community Centre continues to see massive growth in usage

One of the big pushes for Langley City Council is to bring more positive activities into our community. Programming more events and activities benefits our community in three broad ways. It gives people somethings to do, builds a sense of community, and reduces crime.

One of the things that I hear from people regularly is that there is traditionally nothing to do in our community. By providing more positive activities in the community, it gives people a chance to get out and discover their community. Because city-supported activities are subsidized, it also provides opportunity for people who might otherwise not have the funds to pay for other entertainment options like seeing a movie, or going into Vancouver to see a show.

When people get out and about in their community, they start to get to know their neighbourhoods. This builds a sense of ownership in a community. There is a rise in loneliness among Canada’s seniors. Providing opportunities for more social interaction improves seniors’ quality of life. When young people have positive activities they can take part in, they are less likely to take part in negative activities.

Negative elements don’t like being visible. More positive activities draws more people out into the community. This means that there are more eyes and ears in our Downtown, our neighbourhoods, and our parks. This results in less negative activities in our community.

Langley City has been ramping up the number of events, tournaments, and other activities in our community. The following table shows the significant increase over the last three years.

Events 2017 2016 2015
Events - City Free 37 24 21
Events - City Paid 7 7 5
Events - Outside Organizations 40 35 25
Tournaments 12 8 7
Seasonal Programming 88 37 45

The following list shows some of the events and activities directly run by the City in 2017. This list doesn’t include events that the City supported, but didn’t run such as the Arts Alive Festival or the McBurney Plaza Summer Series.

  • Bike to Work Week
  • Canada 150 - Canada in our Backyard
  • Canada 150 - Canadian Mosaic Project
  • Canada 150 - Canadian National Film Day
  • Caroling in the Plaza - 4 dates
  • City Walks - 32 sessions
  • Community Concerts at the Spirit Square - 2 dates
  • Community Day
  • Creative Kids - 18 sessions
  • Family Day
  • Family Fun Day
  • Food Truck Festival
  • Holiday Chaos
  • Langley Walk
  • Local Government Day
  • Lunch & Lounge in McBurney Plaza - 18 sessions
  • Magic of Christmas Festival
  • Move for Health Day
  • Movie in the Park - 3 dates
  • Penzer Youth Action Park Grand Opening
  • Pitch-In Day
  • Push Play - 20 sessions
  • Seniors Week
  • Sounds of Summer Concert Series - 9 dates
  • Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day
  • Youth Halloween Party
  • Youth Ugly Christmas Sweater Party
  • Youth Week

Another huge success has been the new Timms Community Centre. The following table shows the massive 33% growth in usage between 2016 and 2017.

Drop-ins (with pass) 2017 2016 2015
Seniors 36,539 26,380 9,532
Adults 53,029 40,022 29,116
Students 5,011 2,212 12
Youth 17,377 12,630 5,045
Children 5,741 6,499 985
Family 2,862 1,335 n/a
Total - All Ages 120,612 89,078 44,690

The recently adopted 2018 Langley City budget continues the trend of increasing investment in events and activities in our community. Based on the response seen so far, I’m excited for the coming year.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Data shows Michaud Crescent and 201A Street traffic calming success, speed significantly down

At the beginning on the year, Langley City staff installed traffic calming at the intersection of 201A Street and Michaud Crescent as shown in the following picture.

Traffic calming at Michaud Crescent and 201A Street. Select image to enlarge.

City staff has been monitoring the speed of westbound traffic through that intersection for some time. This allows for a good comparison of motor vehicle speeds through the intersection before and after traffic calming was implemented.

85 percentile speed westbound at Michaud Crescent and 201A Street, September 10, 2017 thru September 15, 2017. Select chart to enlarge.

In September, the typical speed through the intersection was 50km/h.

85 percentile speed westbound at Michaud Crescent and 201A Street, January 28, 2018 thru February 7, 2018. Select chart to enlarge.

After traffic calming was installed, the typical speed dropped between 30km/h and 40km/h.

This is a significant reduction in speed. The following chart shows the likelihood of a fatality when someone walking in struck by someone driving a car.

As a note, traffic engineers use the 85 percentile speed when designing road infrastructure, and when measuring speed. According to the BC Ministry of Transportation the 85 percentile speed is “the speed at or below which 85 percent of the motorists are traveling.” No matter what design measures that are put in place, some people will choose to drive recklessly.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

March 5, 2018 Council Meeting Notes: Redevelopment proposals, park improvements, and walking safety enhancements

So far this week, I have posted about the Langley Urban Agricultural Demonstration Project and the changes coming to transit service along Fraser Highway. Both items were topics covered at Monday night’s Langley City council meeting. Today, I will be posting about the remaining items that were on the agenda.

Redevelopment proposals continue to come in at a steady rate for the area of our community bounded by 200 Street, 53 Avenue, 56 Avenue, and Surrey. There were two rezoning applications to support proposed townhouse projects that were up for public hearing on Monday.

The first proposed project is located along 55 Avenue. Huntsfield Green was one of the first townhouse projects in the area, built in the early 1990s. When redevelopment in the area picked up a few years ago, the residents of this complex were concerned about the impact redevelopment would have on their quality of life. At the public hearing on Monday, Keith Green who is the president of Huntsfield Green, commended the developer of the proposed 55 Avenue project for being a good neighbour.

The proposed project is phase three of their “Terraces” townhouses. This proposed project will contain 64, 3-storey townhouses. As part of the proposed project, the developer also committed to contributing funds to enhance the western half of Brydon Park.

Render of proposed townhouse project located along 55 Avenue at 198 Street.

The second proposed 33 unit, 3-storey townhouse project is located along 56 Avenue at 196 Street. All access to the units will be via a lane way.

Rendering of proposed townhouse project at 56 Avenue and 196 Street. Select image to enlarge.

One of the features in both projects is that they will be electric vehicle-ready which will allow for easy EV charging station retrofits. Council gave third reading for rezoning for both proposed projects.

Land-use contracts were used back in the 1970s. These contracts supersede bylaws. In 2024, all land-use contract will be eliminated in BC. In the meantime, Langley City will terminate land-use contracts earlier at the request of an owner. The owner of 20217 44 Avenue asked for their land-use contract to be discharged to enable the underling zoning which permits secondary suites. As a note in Langley City, secondary suites are only permitted in owner-occupied houses. Council gave third reading to discharge the land-use contract.

Langley City council also provided consent to allow Abbotsford to leave the parks function of Metro Vancouver.

A slide showing one of the new LED lights installed at Douglas Park. Select image to enlarge.

Our Engineering department continues to be extremely busy with projects. A few of the projects that I wanted to highlight include:

  • Two new pedestrian crossing signals which will be installed at 204 Street at 54 Avenue, and at 208 Street at 50A Avenue, by the end of March.
  • New LED lighting in Douglas Park
  • New Michaud Park Community Garden that will be ready for the growing season
  • New Penzer Park washroom which will be completed by the end of July
  • New Penzer Park parking lot which will be completed this spring

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

March 5, 2018 Council Meeting Notes: Fraser Highway B-Line plus a big change for Aldergrove transit customers coming in 2019

Sarah Ross, who is the Director of System Planning for TransLink, gave a presentation to Langley City council on Monday night about upcoming changes to transit service along Fraser Highway. As part of the Mayors’ Council’s 10-Year Vision for Transportation in our region, 11 new B-Line routes will be rolled out throughout the region.

Fraser Highway will see B-Line service introduced between Surrey Central and Langley Centre in 2019. Ross explained what this would mean for residents along the corridor.

Currently, the 502 and 503 provide primary bus service between the SkyTrain network and Langley City. The 502 is a local service along Fraser Highway which comes every 5 minutes during peak hours, 15 minutes outside of peak hours, and 30 minutes in the night and into the early morning.

The 503 provides express service along Fraser Highway between the SkyTrain network and Langley City, with local service to Aldergrove. This bus run every 30 minutes.

Because the 502 is a local service, and due to the extreme congestion along Fraser Highway, the total travel time between Surrey Central and Langley Centre is between 45 minutes and 60 minutes today. The 503 is an express service with a travel time between Surrey Central and Langley Centre of between 28 and 51 minutes depending on congestion.

Ross explained that the total travel time on the new B-Line between Surrey Central and Langley Centre will be around 40 minutes, and will stop as shown.

Proposed Fraser Highway B-Line stops. Select slide to enlarge.

From a customer perspective, this will provide faster access for more people along the Fraser Highway corridor. The new B-Line service will run every 8 to 10 minutes until 9pm. This will provide more frequent off-peak transit service than today. The new B-Line service will use bigger buses which will result in less crowded buses along this corridor.

There will be some changes that will impact customers negatively. The 502 service frequency will be reduced to 15 minutes between start of service and 9pm, with 30 to 60 minute service at night.

The biggest change will be to the 503 which provides service to Aldergrove. Ross stated that 20% of 503 customers travel beyond Langley Centre. TransLink is planning to discontinue express travel between the SkyTrain and Langley Centre, converting the 503 back into a local service along the whole corridor. This means that Aldergrove customers will have two choices: endure a longer commute between the SkyTrain and Aldergrove on the 503, or take the new B-Line between the SkyTrain and Langley Centre, then transfer to the 503 in Langley.

As I stated earlier, travel times along Fraser Highway vary significantly due to congestion. The following map shows average speeds. TransLink will be working with both Langley City and Surrey to implement transit priority measures to reduce this variability. The section of Fraser Highway through Green Timbers experiences the most severe congestion; it can be faster to walk. I hope that Surrey and TransLink are able to get buses moving faster along that section of Fraser Highway.

Speed & Reliability along the Fraser Highway Corridor. Select slide to enlarge. 

Ross stated that TransLink, in partnership with municipalities, will ensure that all B-Line stops have proper bus shelters. TransLink is also working to provide real-time next bus displays at these stops.

In the longer-term, Ross said that TransLink will be exploring installing other amenities at stops such as off-board fare payment.

TransLink will be seeking public feedback about these service changes along Fraser Highway over the next few months.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

March 5, 2018 Council Meeting Notes: Langley Urban Agricultural Demonstration Project Not Moving Forward

The Langley City council chamber was packed on Monday night as council navigated a dense agenda which included three development related items, a report from TransLink, and the final report about the Langley Urban Agricultural Demonstration Project along the BC Hydro right-of-way.

The idea of investigating urban agricultural along the BC Hydro right-of-way was part of the 2009/11 City Strategic Plan. At the end of 2011, the City and Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) completed a preliminary plan for the concept. Based on this early work, KPU and the City were awarded $50,000 from Metro Vancouver’s Sustainability Innovation Fund to refine the earlier concept into a detail site and project plan.

Between February 2017 and 2018, the project team worked on creating the project plan. This included hosting a series of community open houses. What became clear as the project moved forward was that there was limited support for this project from residents in the area.

Based on the feedback received from the community, the project team refined the plan which included setting aside 76% of the land for non-food production uses such as a pollinator corridor, buffer planting areas, and habitat restoration.

The follow image shows the site plan that was ultimately suggested by the project team.

Langley Urban Agriculture Demonstration Project Proposed Site Plan. Select image to enlarge.

One of the elements of the plan that intrigued me was the pollinator corridor. As stated in the plan, “the pollinator corridor is specifically designed to attract and support a diversity of wild pollinators including; bees, butterflies, birds, and insects. These garden areas would be planted with a mix of native and non-native species.”

Rendering of proposed micro food production plots and tool storage area along BC Hydro right-of-way. Select image to enlarge.

This 23 acres plan would require around $1,000,000 to built out, and around $100,000 per year in annual operating support. The food production components would need to be managed by a non-profit agency, and by people from the community.

As I stated earlier, it was made clear to council that there was no desire by residents in the area to move forward with this plan. Council voted to receive the report for information, but to not move forward with the next steps as identified in the plan.

From a regional perspective, this plan could provide guidance to other communities that might be interested in exploring small-scale, local food production and education.

Throughout this week, I will be posting about Monday night’s Langley City council meeting.

Monday, March 5, 2018

100,000 reasons to start up a new business in Downtown Langley

The heart of any community is its downtown. If a community’s downtown is doing well, the whole community is doing well.

The Downtown Langley Business Association (DLBA) is one of the most active Business Improvement Area associations in our province. The DLBA organizes events like Arts Alive, Fork & Finger, and the McBurney Plaza Summer series. While Langley City does provide partial funding for these events, it is the strong partnership we have with the DLBA that ensures there is an increasing amount of positive events and activities happening in our downtown. The DLBA is also the new destination marketing organization for our community via Discover Langley City.

Independently-run, local businesses contribute back to our community more so than chains. Local business owners are more invested in their community as they usually have one location, and live in the same community where their business is located. These independent businesses create a sense of place with experiences that you won’t find at a mall. This is what makes each downtown a special place.

While most BIA’s have a business recruitment strategy, the DLBA has taken attracting a new independent retailer to the next level.

The DLBA has launched the “Start It Up Langley!” contest. For the entrepreneur with the winning idea for a new retail business, the DLBA will give them $100,000 in prizes to get off the ground.

The following package of prizes are included:

  • 6 Months Free Rent
  • Interior Contracting
  • Exterior Signage
  • Interior Merchandising
  • Business Banking Account with $500
  • Promotional Car Wrap
  • Professional Business Coaching
  • Brand Asset Development
  • Website Development
  • 6-Months Marketing Support
  • Print Media Advertising
  • Full Security System
  • City Fees
  • New Business Set-Up Legal Fees
  • New Business Set-Up Accounting Fees
  • Grand Opening Reception

If you’ve ever thought about starting your own retail business, or know someone who is thinking about starting a retail business, check out this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I’m excited to see who will win this contest, and what new retail concept they will be bringing our downtown.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Find out how to pay less property tax in Langley City with a prepayment plan

If you own property in Langley City, you must pay your property tax bill by the beginning of July. The majority of Langley City property owners pay their taxes as a lump sum payment, but over a quarter of property owners take advantage of the City’s tax prepayment plan.

Starting in July of every year, the City estimates what your following year’s property tax bill will be. Based on that estimate, on the 15th of every month, an equal instalment is withdrawn. By taking advantage of the City’s prepayment plan, you can avoid having to pay a lump sum of property tax.

There is another benefit, the City will actually pay you to use the prepayment plan. The City will pay you interest on your prepaid balance at a rate of prime minus 3%. As of today, the interest rate would be 0.45%.

More details on the prepayment plan are available on the City’s website. You can also download the Pre-Authorized Tax Prepayment Plan application form to get started.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Metro Conversations: The Future of Transportation - Recap and Video

Last night, the fifth Metro Converstations was hosted back in New Westminster at the Anvil Centre. The topic of the evening was the future of transportation. The three panel members who participated where Mayor Jonathan Cote, Shazeen Tejani, and Adrian Bell.

Left to right: Adrian Bell, Shazeen Tejani, and Jonathan Cote.

Besides being the Mayor of New Westminster, Cote completed a Master’s Degree, researching the interaction between urban development patterns and major transit infrastructure.

Shazeen Tejani is a Community Planner at the District of North Vancouver. She started her career as a municipal transportation planner, and is currently part of a team that is implementing B-Line transit service on the North Shore.

Adrian Bell is the Principal at Activate Planning. Originally from the UK, Bell is a Civil Engineer with a Masters in Transportation Planning and Management. He has worked in public and private sector transportation planning for nearly three decades.

The conversation was recorded; you can watch it below, but I also wanted to highlight some broad themes from the evening.

One theme that emerged during the conversation was that privately-owned autonomous vehicles will not usher in a new era of transportation utopia. Parking and congestion will still be issues, and could be exacerbated by autonomous vehicles.

Panel members agreed that how will build our cities will still dictate the types of transportation that people use, even with autonomous vehicles. If we build walkable, bikeable, and transit accessible communities, people will still walk, bike, and take transit.

There was also discussion about semi-autonomous vehicles, and how they could create additional safety challenges. An example given to highlight these challenges was auto-pilot. If pilots relied on auto-pilot expect for only the most extreme situations where a manual intervention is required, pilots would not be able to respond as needed because their skills would have atrophied. Panel members noted that we shouldn’t be entertaining the idea of semi-autonomous vehicles.

Panel members agreed that local governments should not have to bear the cost of retrofitting communities for autonomous vehicles.

The general thinking from panel members was that fleets such as taxis, buses, and delivery vehicles will be the first to go fully autonomous. There was good discussion about what autonomous vehicles mean for jobs in the transportation sector.

Finally, there was also a brief discussion about how autonomous vechiles could serve communities that have marginal or no transit service, and how it they could help paratransit users.

Over the next little while, we will be working on a Metro Conversations podcast series. Be on the lookout for it in the next few months.

These on-going conversations are organized by Patrick Johnstone from New Westminster, Nathan Pachal from the City of Langley, Kiersten Duncan from the City of Maple Ridge, and Mathew Bond from the District of North Vancouver. These conversations are made possible with the generous support of SFU Public Square. This conversation would not be possible without the support of the City of New Westminster.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

What happened at the Cascades Casino bingo relocation public meeting

Last night, Langley City hosted a public meeting for people to learn about, and provide feedback on, Gateway Casinos & Entertainment’s proposal to relocate its existing bingo operation from Playtime Langley that was located at 64 Avenue and 197 Street, to the former Summit Theatre at Cascades Casino.

A handful of people turned up to the public meeting.

A view of the people who attended the public meeting. Select image to enlarge.

BCLC staff provided a brief overview of the regulatory environment for gaming in our province, and the role of local government. BCLC provides more information about the approval process on their website.

Gateway Casinos & Entertainment staff presented information on the bingo relocation. They also stated that they will be renovating the current convention space to be able to accommodate up 600 people for music events. Gateway staff noted that because the convention space is located outside of the casino, it will allow for all-age events. Gateway staff noted that they believe there will be no conflict between programming the convention space for its current uses, and as a music venue. They also stated that they did a poor job of communicating the Summit Theatre to convention space transition for music events to Langley City residents.

Gateway Casinos & Entertainment projects that the bingo operation will result in an additional $78,905 in proceeds to Langley City.

Slide on incremental revenue from the relocation of bingo operations to Cascades Casino. Select image to enlarge.

There were two members of the public that spoke at the meeting, both expressing concern that there would not be enough accessible parking.

As part of the approval process, the Township of Langley and City of Surrey must also provide feedback on the bingo relocation. This can take up to 30 days to receive. Once feedback is received, Langley City council will then decide if it will give approval to host the bingo operation in our community.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Pop-Up Planning: Abbotsford’s leadership in public engagement

Several years ago, the City of Abbotsford decided to update their Official Community Plan (OCP). An OCP is the main policy document that drives how communities grow and develop in our province. There were two things that stood out to me about Abbotsford’s OCP called Abbotsforward.

The first thing was that the OCP was bound to population growth, not time. The second was the degree of public engagement throughout the process of developing the OCP. I wrote about Abbotsforward in more detail back in 2015.

Building off Abbotsforward, the City of Abbotsford is applying the same process to update their neighbourhood plans.

Before a long-term plan goes to council for approval in Abbotsford, it goes through a comprehensive process of creation and community engagement:

  1. Background Research: Review existing conditions, plans and strategies, and provided early community engagement activities.
  2. Explore New Concepts: Extensive community engagement, including online surveys, road show events, citizen circles, and neighbourhood walks on new concepts and ideas.
  3. Create the Plan: Based on information gather in steps 1 and 2, propose several options for the community. Engage with the community once again to determine their preferences. The results from the research and engagement guide the creation of a draft plan. Draft plan presented to Council.
  4. Complete the Plan: Receive final feedback from residents, council, and other stakeholders to finalize a plan. The plan then goes through the legally required public hearing process, and is ultimately adopted.

The City of Abbotsford is currently developing a new City Centre plan. They are currently in Step 3 of their process.

Sevenoaks Mall Entrance. Select image to enlarge.

Engagement with the community means meeting people where they are at. In Abbotsford, this means setting up a pop-up shop at Sevenoaks Mall. On Saturday, I decided to take a trip out to Abbotsford to see how this was working out.

City Centre Neighbourhood Plan Pop-Up Shop. Select image to enlarge.

Inside pop-up shop. Select image to enlarge.

Patrick Oystryk, a planner with the City of Abbotsford, is leading the engagement process for developing his community's new City Centre plan. He was at the pop-up shop on Saturday chatting with residents. Talking with Patrick, he noted that they have received over 700 completed survey from people who have dropped into the pop-up shop.

People inside the pop-up shop. Select image to enlarge.

I spent some time listening-in on the conversations that folks were having with each other about the City Centre plan. Given the amount of engagement involved with the plan up to this point, it was no surprise that people appeared to be supportive of the ideas presented.

A concept plan for South Fraser Way. Select image to enlarge.

Local governments traditionally hold open houses, usually at a City Hall, to get people’s feedback on a topic. Unfortunately, this often results in only hearing from people who have the strongest opinion on the given topic.

When it comes to meaningful public engagement, Abbotsford is certainly a leader.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

February 19, 2018 Council Meeting Notes: $125,976.79 in community grants awarded

So far this week, I have posted about development proposals and the upcoming public meeting on the proposed bingo hall relocation at Cascades Casino. These items were part of Monday night’s Langley City council meeting agenda. Today, I will be posted about the remaining items that were covered.

Council heard two presentations. The first presentation was from Tim Cheung and Simon Lau of Unifor 2002. Their union is advocating for a federally supported, universal Pharmacare program. This idea has received support from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. Cheung and Lau requested that Langley City send a letter of support for universal Pharmacare to our MPs and MLAs. Council agreed to send a letter of support.

A presentation from ICBC on its distracted driving awareness campaign. Select image to enlarge.

Leanne Cassap from ICBC delivered a presentation to council on its districted driving awareness campaign. She thanked the City and our staff for supporting the campaign.

Over the past month, the 2018 budget has been making its way through the process of getting adopted. On Monday, the 2018-22 Financial Plan received final reading, and was adopted by council. You can read more about the budget in previous posts.

Last year, the Langley City Crime Prevention Task Group asked council to pilot including a brochure as part of the business license renewal process, informing business owners about the free crime prevention assessment available through the RCMP. Due to the success of this pilot, the task group asked council to make including this brochure permanent. Council agreed.

The Langley Emergency Program is a shared responsibility of the City and Township of Langley. The Langley Emergency Program is interested in applying for a $25,000 grant from the provincial Community Emergency Preparedness Fund. This funding can be used for emergency operations centres, emergency operations training, emergency social services, evacuation route planning, flood risk assessment, flood mapping, flood mitigation plans, and structural flood mitigation. Council did our part, and supported the Langley Emergency Program’s request for this funding.

Langley City council dedicates a partition of the revenue the City receives from the casino for community grants. The following organizations and groups will receive grants this year:

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

February 19, 2018 Council Meeting Notes: Public meeting scheduled for proposed bingo hall at Cascades Casino

Langley City council was made aware via the local newspapers at the end of December that Gateway Casino & Entertainment was considering relocating Playtime Langley Bingo into Cascades Casino, replacing the Summit Theatre.

Proposed bingo hall at Cascades Casino. Select image to enlarge.

At the same time, Gateway is proposing to renovate the current convention space to “allow the ability to host live performances.” This would include modifying the ceiling of the current banquet hall to “allow for retractable sound and lighting; and the new configuration will allow for up to 600 guests, including those under the age of 19.”

More information on Gateway’s plan is included in the latest council agenda package.

Langley City council received a letter from BC Lottery Corporation (BCLC) in January. BCLC is responsible for casinos in our province. The letter stated the proposed addition of the bingo hall at Cascades Casino is a “substantial change” which requires the following steps to occur before the bingo hall can being operation:

  1. Consult with potentially affected local government.
  2. Receive adequate community input.
  3. Provide formal written approval to BCLC and the Gaming Enforcement Branch.
  4. Comply with the objection and non-binding dispute resolution process outlined within the Gaming Control Act.

On Monday night, Langley City council approved sending a letter to both Surrey and the Township of Langley informing them of the proposed “substantial change”. At the same time, council approved holding a public meeting on Monday, February 26 at 7:00pm at the Langley City Hall Council Chambers.

The public meeting agenda is proposed to be:

  1. Representatives from BCLC and Gateway Casino & Entertainment will each make a presentation to provide information regarding the proposed “substantial change” to accommodate the bingo facility.
  2. After the presentations, attendees will be provided with the opportunity to provide feedback and to ask questions regarding the proposed “substantial change.”

Yesterday, I posted about rezoning bylaws and proposed redevelopment projects. Tomorrow, I will post about the remaining items from Monday night’s council meeting.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

February 19, 2018 Council Meeting Notes: Rezoning west of 200 Street, new build proposed at Langley Mall.

The area west of 198 Street between 53 Avenue and 56 Avenue has seen a significant amount of redevelopment over the last few years. At last night’s Langley City council meeting, there was a public hearing for a bylaw to rezone property located at the end of 55A Avenue to accommodate a 33 unit, 3-storey townhouse development as shown in the following rendering.

Proposed townhouse development at the end of 55A Avenue. Select image to enlarge.

There were no comments from the public provided during the public hearing. After the public hearing, council asked some questions about the proposed site plan to the project proponent. One of the requirements of the City is the inclusion of a connection between 55A Avenue and the parallel lane north of 55A Avenue at 196 Street. This new connection will include a 2-metre sidewalk as well as a 6-metre roadway. The sound-wall along 196 Street will remain. All vehicle access to the proposed development will be via the lane.

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

Later during the meeting, Council gave first and second reading for two additional bylaws to accommodate rezoning for other townhouse projects in the area. One rezoning application was at 56 Avenue and 196 Street. The other was along the south-side of 55 Avenue near 198 Street. A public hearing for these bylaws will now be scheduled.

Proposed townhouse project at 56 Avenue and 196 Street. Select image to enlarge.

Proposed townhouse project at 55 Avenue and 198 Street. Select image to enlarge.

Back in the fall of 2012, the owner of Langley Mall proposed adding a new retail building at the northwest corner of their property. Because this is in Downtown, it required a development permit. It was never built. 6 years later, the owner of Langley Mall proposed a slightly modified version of the 2012 building. This required that council approve issuing a new development permit.

Rendering of proposed building located along Douglas Crescent at Langley Mall. Select image to enlarge.

One of the basic tenets of creating a walkable, vibrant downtown is that retail businesses must have their primary entrance directly from a street. One of my primary concerns was that the building would turn its back to the street, providing primary access via the parking lot. During the meeting, the proponent of the building stated that it is designed in such a way that primary pedestrian access could be provided from Douglas Crescent. I tried to impress upon the proponent the importance of ensuring that pedestrian access is provided directly off Douglas Crescent. This building will not include a drive thru.

There was a resident at the meeting who spoke against the proposed retail building, citing concerns about noise, drug-use, and homelessness. The resident was also concern about increased traffic. Council also had concerns about the traffic patterns in the mall creating a hazard for both people driving and walking.

Council approved issuing a development permit, but required that the proponent complete a traffic engineering assessment as a condition of its issuance.

Council also gave final reading to a bylaw to allow the reconfiguration of the cul-de-sac on 199A Street.

There were many other items that were addressed at Monday night’s council meeting which I will be posting about throughout this week.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Metro Conversations: The Future of Transportation

Metro Conversations - Conversation 5: February 27

Metro Conversations is back in New Westminster as part of Innovation Week which runs from February 23 to March 3.

Elon Musk’s bold vision of electric autonomous vehicles, cargo missions to Mars, and a network of high-speed underground Hyperloop tunnels promises a future free of traffic, free of drivers, and cities on Mars. Yet, what infrastructural and ethical considerations do cities and policymakers need to make to ensure that this transition is not only possible, but that nobody is left behind in this race to the future? Join us for the fifth conversation on the future of transportation.

Metro Conversations offers a unique format that bringing experts in the field together with citizens for two-way dialogue and discourse within a strict 1-hour time limit. Beyond a lecture, it is a sharing of ideas.

The free event will take place on Tuesday, February 27 at 7:00pm in room 417 at the Anvil Centre located at 777 Columbia Street, New Westminster. Doors open at 6:30pm and everyone is welcome.

Seating is limited, and it is recommended to register at the event’s Eventbrite page to help us manage seating.

For more information on Innovation Week, please check out:

These on-going conversations are organized by Patrick Johnstone from New Westminster, Nathan Pachal from the City of Langley, Kiersten Duncan from the City of Maple Ridge, and Mathew Bond from the District of North Vancouver. These conversations are made possible with the generous support of SFU Public Square. This conversation would not be possible without the support of the City of New Westminster.

Reserve your seat at Eventbrite

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Development proposal to add more land into the Agricultural Land Reserve

When Agricultural Land Reserve and development application are used in the same paragraph, the word exclusion is almost always present. Over the years that I’ve been following the state of the ALR in the South of Fraser, land has been either taken out of the land reserve for urban development, or been used in such a way as to remove the potential for farming. An example of this would be the South Fraser Perimeter Road.

Development proposal located near 0 Avenue and 184th Street. Select image to enlarge.

A proposal by Hazelmere Golf & Tennis Club recently came before the Metro Vancouver Regional Planning Committee. The proposed plan would see the following:

  • 41.9 acres of existing ALR land brought into agricultural production
  • 3.9 acres of land under BC Hydro Right of Way be included into the ALR
  • 20 acres of preserved and enhanced natural habitat and open space
  • 3 acres of new parks
  • 19.5 acres of existing golf course
  • 39.2 acre, 145-lot suburban single-family houses

The single-family housing area would be outside of the ALR, but would still require Surrey to rezone that area from “Agricultural” to “Suburban”. It would also require Metro Vancouver to change the regional zoning from “Rural” to “General Urban” in that area.

An argument could be make that this is essentially sprawl. What really set this proposal apart from other similar proposals —which have been approved in this part of our region in the past— is that ALR land will be expanded, enhanced, and brought into production.

The 41.9 acres of farmland, which is a significant parcel, is proposed to be transformed into a farming co-operative. The proponent is proposing to work with the Young Agrarians and their Land Matching Program to find suitable farmers. For the land that is outside of the ALR, about 30% will be preserved from development.

As development projects occurs at the edge of the ALR in our region, these projects should be required to contribute to making adjacent farmlands viable and productive. This proposed plan may be a good example of how these types of developments should occur.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Transit ridership growing faster than population in Metro Vancouver

Back in October, TransLink posted that they were seeing record-level growth in transit ridership in Metro Vancouver during the first half of 2017. With 2017 now a distant memory, full-year data has been released by the agency. The following table shows more detail on transit ridership in our region.

Year Boardings (Million) Percent Change
2017 406.84 5.7%
2016 384.3 -
2017 Boardings by Mode
Bus 247 3.2%
Expo/Millennium Lines 105 12%
Canada Line 46 6.3%
West Coast Express 2.32 -5.5%
SeaBus 5.84 7.3%

Not surprisingly, Expo and Millennium Line ridership saw double digit growth with the opening of the Evergreen Extension to Coquitlam. It was expected that some West Coast Express riders would switch to using SkyTrain as a result. West Coast Express ridership was down 5.5%.

Canada Line also saw strong ridership increases; TransLink increased peak hours service on the Canada Line in 2017.

SeaBus ridership peaked in 2010, and started a steady decline. In 2017, TransLink increased service frequent on the SeaBus. At the same time, there was strong growth in SeaBus ridership.

While bus service doesn’t capture the imagination of politicians, the media, or the general public as much as other modes of transit, over 60% of all transit ridership in our region is from bus service. Because of investments made due to the 10-Year Vision, and a strong economy, bus ridership also saw a strong increase in ridership.

Between 2016 and 2017, the population of Metro Vancouver grew about 1.1%. Transit ridership in our region grew 5.7%. This means that more people in our region are choosing to take transit to get around than over forms of travel. To put this into perspective, 14.3% of commuters used transit in 1996 in Metro Vancouver. In 2016, that number grew to 20.4%.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Newly restored Hunter Park in Picture

In the fall of 2016, Langley City staff discovered that Laminated Root Rot has spread to a significant number of trees in the Hunter Park area. Hunter Park is located near 200th Street at 45A Avenue. The park was acting like a mini-urban forest, but the root rot meant that the majority of trees had to be removed to prevent the disease from spreading, and to protect the safety of people and buildings in the area.

The Hunter Park Task Force was struck by the City. The task force included both City staff and local area residents who worked together to design a new Hunter Park. The task force approved a new design for the park at the beginning of April last year, with council approving the design at the end of April. Work started right away on restoring the park.

With the restoration of Hunter Park essentially complete, I recently visited the park. I took a few pictures which are below. While Hunter Park is not the same as it was, the newly restored park looks great, and should serve folks in the community well.

New Hunter Park entrance off 45A Avenue. Select image to enlarge.

New grass area in the centre of Hunter Park. Select image to enlarge.

Information board along walking trail in Hunter Park. Select image to enlarge.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

February 5, 2018 Council Meeting Notes: Smart City initiatives and traffic calming. Abbotsford leaving parks function of Metro Vancouver.

Over the past few days, I’ve been posting about Monday night’s council meeting including the committee of the whole to hear public feedback on the 2018-22 Financial Plan, and an update on Langley’s new Intensive Case Management Team which is working on getting people with substances use issues stabilized and housed. Today will be my final post about Monday’s meeting.

Rick Bomhof provided an update on the projects from the departments that he oversees. One of the larger initiatives is implementing traffic calming in speeding hot-spots in our community. Traffic calming is now being installed along 50th Avenue, including curb bulges in front of Conder Park. During the summer, there were several crashes in the area.

50th Avenue - Curb bulges in front of Conder Park. Select image to enlarge.

One of the buzz words going around is “Smart City”. This means using connected sensors to get real-time data about our city to help make better decisions. The City has been installing frost sensors in our streets. The latest batch were installed at 200th Street at 44th Avenue, and along the 5700 block of 198th Street. These sensors help the City know when crews need to provide winter maintenance for our roads, allowing the City to make more efficient use of crews as well as materials.

New Frost Sensors installed on 200th Street at 44th Avenue, and the 5700 block on 198th Street. Select image to enlarge.

City crews are busy installing water and sewer services for a new washroom at Penzer Park. Crews also recently installed a new water service to support the new Michaud Park Community Garden.

Other significant projects on-the-go include:

  • City Park Spray Park Expansion
  • 48 Avenue Sewer Replacement
  • Culvert Relining under Fraser Highway near Production Way, and under the Langley Bypass
  • Fraser Highway One-Way Redesign
  • Booster Pump Station Decommissions on 200th Street
  • SCADA System Upgrades (Supports Smart City)

Kim Hilton provided an update on recreation opportunities in our community. You can find out about these various actives, and signup online on the City’s recently redesigned website.

Later during the meeting, Council gave first, second and third reading to a bylaw to allow the reconfiguration of the cul-de-sac on 199A Street.

Plan for 199A Street cul-de-sac reconfiguration. Select image to enlarge.

Abbotsford is not in Metro Vancouver, but it is a participant in the parks function of the regional district for historical reasons. Abbotsford is looking to leave the parks function. This would see Matsqui Trail, Sumas Mountain Regional Parks, and the eastern portion of Glen Valley Regional Park being transferred to the City of Abbotsford. Two-thirds of Metro Vancouver regional district members must support this. Langley City council passed a motion in support of transition these parks to Abbotsford.

For non-profit societies to be able to conduct door-to-door canvassing, they need approval from council. Council approved door-to-door canvassing which will benefit: the Canadian Cancer Society, Word Vision, Red Cross, BC Children’s Hospital, and the World Wildlife Fund.