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.