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.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

First look at proposed fare increases to pay for transit improvements

Back in March, the federal, provincial, and local governments came to an agreement on how to fund two-thirds of the three-phase, 10-Year Transportation Plan. The plan will among other things see B-Line bus service introduced in all parts of the region including down Fraser Highway, light rail in Surrey, and a SkyTrain extension along Broadway. This will be a generational investment in public transit, local roads, and active transportation. For more details, please read an earlier post. One of the ways that this investment will be funded is with an increase in transit fares.

Starting in May, TransLink will be holding a series of public consultations on the transportation plan. One of the items covered during the consultation will be the fare increase. The following table shows the proposed pricing structure for all fare products over the next decade.

Proposed fares increases over the next decade by type. Select table to enlarge.

As the preceding table is a bit dense, the following table shows the change in price only for adult Compass Card fares and monthly passes.

2018 2027 Change
Store Value
1-Zone $2.30 $3.20 $0.90
2-Zone $3.35 $4.50 $1.15
3-Zone $4.40 $5.85 $1.45
Monthly Pass
1-Zone $95.00 $121.00 $26.00
2-Zone $128.00 $165.00 $37.00
3-Zone $174.00 $225.00 $51.00

As a regular transit user who has a three-zone adult pass, the proposed modest increase in fares is reasonable, considering the amount of new transit service that will be introduced throughout the region.

TransLink is currently doing a review of the three-zone fare structure. It will be interesting to see how these proposed fare increases will look if the agency decides to move towards a distance-based structure for SkyTrain and SeaBus fares.

Monday, April 16, 2018

“City in Flux” Panel Discussion: West Vancouver’s Affordability Crisis

I’ve always thought of West Vancouver as an enclave for people with money, but I was surprised to learn that this wasn’t always the case.

A view of West Vancouver. Source: https://flic.kr/p/6Yo7Xf

According to several people, now retired, who grew up and established a life in West Vancouver, it used to be an affordable community; people with money would go to Burnaby. This all came to light during the “City in Flux” panel discussion which was inspired by the work of Carolina de la Cajiga.

I was one of the panel members along with Carolina de la Cajiga, West Vancouver Director of Engineering & Transportation Raymond Fung, and Bryce Tupper who is the Vice President of Planning & Development at British Pacific Properties.

West Vancouver’s march towards unaffordability started in the early 1980s. Today, West Vancouver is one of the least affordable communities in the region. The community serves as a cautionary tale for the rest of the region.

The population in West Vancouver is declining, while the average age of the population is increasing. Businesses are having problems attracting people to work in the community, and those that do, have to commute long distances.

For many seniors that are living in older apartments in West Vancouver, development pressure is forcing them out of their community.

West Vancouver’s built-form apart from Ambleside and Horseshoe Bay is auto-orient, and single-family housing centric. This compounds issues around congestion and affordability. So, what are some of the solutions to make West Vancouver more inclusive and affordable?

There is a housing continuum. Market-priced ownership and rental buildings are on one side, and shelters and supportive housing are on the other side. In the middle are various forms of subsidized and below-market priced housing.

In West Vancouver, more variety in market housing types and tenure is needed. Tupper noted that his company is now starting to build complete communities that include mixed-used buildings with residential, commercial, and public amenities.

All panel members acknowledged the recent National Housing Strategy and BC Housing Plan. We were hopefully that these programs would help deliver subsidized housing options such as supportive housing and below-market priced rentals.

Of course, affordable housing options can cause controversy in some communities. Would current West Vancouver residents support affordable housing options in their neighbourhoods? I noted that with strong community involvement and engagement, it would be possible. If people felt blindsided, it would be a challenge.

All panel members acknowledge that walking, cycling, and transit need to be a bigger part of the transportation pie in West Vancouver. Just like Fraser Highway is getting a B-Line between Surrey Central and Langley City, the North Shore is getting a B-Line along Marine Drive.

Our region is currently at a crossroads. Will we continue along the path of unaffordability which will result in people and jobs leave our region, or will we start building a more affordable region? At the same time, will we be able to preserve what makes our region a special place? I am optimistic.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

April 9, 2018 Council Meeting Notes: Summer works projects, Langley Bypass zoning, and wire theft reporting

Throughout the week, I have been posting about the items covered at Monday night’s Langley City council meeting. On Tuesday, I posted about the bingo expansion at Cascades Casino, and I posted about the Crime Prevention Task Group’s adopted recommendations yesterday. Today I will be finishing up the posts on that meeting.

When the Langley Bypass was first zoned for retail development, council required that businesses had to be 4,000 sq. ft. or larger. This was added at the time to prevent Downtown Langley businesses from relocating to the Bypass. Over the years, council has loosened this requirement, allowing up to 25% of retail businesses at certain developments to be less than 4,000 sq. ft. This has not had a detrimental impact on our Downtown.

The owner of City Square, located along the Bypass between Fraser Highway and 200 Street, requested that their development also be allowed to have 25% of businesses be less than 4,000 sq. ft. Council gave third reading to update zoning to allow this.

On the one-way section of Fraser Highway in our Downtown, the street trees have become an increasing safety risk. Unfortunately, the trees planted were not the right species for a street tree, resulting in sidewalk upheaval. Council approved removing all but four trees between 204 and 206 Street, and smoothing out the sidewalk to reduce the safety risk. This is a temporary fix. In 2019, it is expected that the one-way section will be completely rehabilitated including new tree streets.

Our parks are happening places, and we are now in short supply of benches and picnic tables. Council approved additional funding to allow the City’s parks department to purchase and install new benches and picnic tables in time for the busy summer season. More parking will also be available at Penzer Park shortly.

With warmer weather coming, the City is getting ready for its annual road rehabilitation program. Patching and repairing will occur throughout our community; significant projects include:

  • 56 Avenue between Production Way and 200 Street
  • The lane between Fraser Highway and Industrial Avenue that connects Valley Centre Mall to 203 Street.
  • The intersections of 200 Street at 40 Avenue, Glover Road at Eastleigh Crescent, and Glover Road at Duncan Way.

New street lights were also install in Downtown Langley laneways to improve safety recently, and the new Michaud Park Community Garden is under construction. There will be 36 plots which will be managed by LEPS. If you’d like a plot, you can email them at agriculture@leps.bc.ca.

The floodplain trail network is also getting upgrades with two bridges being replaced near 203 Street and near 201A Street.

Wire theft is a serious problem in our community. If you see someone messing around will a streetlight or traffic signal, please call 911. If it is after that fact, please visit http://rfs.langleycity.ca to report wire theft.

An example of wire theft.

Council also approved various housekeeping bylaws, including updating our election bylaws in preparation for the fall.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

April 9, 2018 Council Meeting Notes: Bringing positive evening activities to our parks, downtown, and neighbourhoods to reduce crime

Langley City is a safe community, having a low violent crime rate. Our community does however have a higher than average petty crime rate. Petty crime includes theft under $5,000, shoplifting, and disturbing the peace. For more information, please read a blog post on crime stats which I created late last year.

One of the best ways to reduce the kinds of negative activity that we see in Langley City is to bring more positive activities into our parks, downtown, and neighbourhoods. Getting people out and about, especially during the evening, builds a sense of community, ownership, and pride. This in turn reduces crime, and the perception of crime, by driving out negative elements.

Langley City’s Crime Prevention Task Group recently completed several working sessions to “identify positive aspects within the community for public promotion.” This was done as one of the task group’s mandates is to promote crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED) by recommending measures to bring more eyes and ears to public spaces in our community.

51B Avenue Bridge. Select image to enlarge.

The task group asked council to have City staff investigate implementing several initiatives, with the top four being recommended for implementation this year, and the remaining initiatives recommended for implementation in subsequent years. They are as follows:

  1. Addition of attractive night lighting in the downtown core: increases security and could be in coordination with the laneway activation;
  2. Guided floodplain group walking tours: focus on evening times and highlight nature and wildlife within the floodplain;
  3. Promote Point of Pride Program more actively to keep trails clean, promote within schools;
  4. Graffiti wall: a wall that celebrates community artists and provides a space for legal spray painting. It has been known to help prevent unwanted graffiti in problem areas;
  5. Additional lighting in laneways would encourage safety and security;
  6. Consider lighting in the floodplain to encourage use after dark on key trails;
  7. BMX Jam Night at Penzer Park;
  8. Community street parties;
  9. Yoga in the park;
  10. Lawn bowling: host event that pairs seniors and youth as a team;
  11. More community gardens; and,
  12. Create “Buy and Sell Zone” at Langley RCMP for safe exchange of goods bought and sold online (similar to Abbotsford Police Dept).

The two broad themes of the recommendations are to enhancing lighting and program our public spaces in the evening to encourage positive activity.

Council endorsed the recommendations made by the Crime Prevention Task Group. Tomorrow, I will be posting about the remaining items covered at Monday night’s council meeting.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

April 9, 2018 Council Meeting Notes: Bingo expansion at Cascades Casino supported

In a 4-3 vote, Langley City council decided to support the relocation of Playtime Langley Bingo into Cascades Casino. Relocation of gaming is governed by the BC Lottery Corporation (BCLC); one of their requirements for a relocation is approval from the host local government.

Langley City, in accordance with BCLC requirements, scheduled a public hearing to seek public feedback. Langley City also sent letters to the Township of Langley and City of Surrey to solicit their feedback. The City of Surrey replied that they had no comments regarding the proposed relocation. The Township of Langley did not reply.

At the public hearing which was held at the end of February, people expressed concern that there would not be enough accessible parking close to casino entrances. There was also general concern from the community about the loss of the Summit Theatre entertainment venue. Gateway Casinos & Entertainment, Cascades’ operator, submitted a response to the questions raised by the public and council.

On the matter of parking, Gateway noted that seniors who are passengers can be dropped off at the closest casino entrance. Drivers can then find a parking spot. In my opinion, this didn’t address providing more accessible parking close to casino entrances. Their reply also assumed that people with disabilities, or with limited mobility, will always have an able-bodied person with them.

On the matter of the live entertainment, the former Summit Theatre saw about 30 events per year. Gateway has committed to booking at least 5 events per year in the upgraded convention centre ballroom. The following renderings show what the upgraded ballroom will look like.

Ballroom configuration for live performances. Select rendering to enlarge.

Ballroom with banquet configuration for live performances. Select rendering to enlarge.

As the rendering shows, this is not a performing art centre.

Council had three choices to make regarding the relocation. Approve it, deny it, or delay it to allow more time for Gateway to address the concerns brought forward during the public hearing.

While I fully support the addition of bingo at the casino, I felt that the parking matter was not fully addressed. I did not support the motion to approve the relocation at last night’s meeting for that reason. Councillor Albrecht and Councillors Martin also did not support the motion, wanting more time for Gateway to address concerns. Like me, both supported the addition of bingo at the casino.

After the meeting, I talked with one of the Gateway folks who said that they would look into providing more accessible parking next to casino entrances.

Throughout this week, I will be posted about the other matters addressed at last night’s council meeting.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Land-use, parks, and indoor public space: a day in Snug Cove on Bowen Island

This weekend, I visited Bowen Island for the first time. Bowen Island is a 20-minute ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay. The island has always had a strong connection to the rest of Metro Vancouver. Post-colonization, Bowen Island was used for farming and other resource-based economic activities such as forestry and mining. During the first half of the 20th century, the island became a resort destination operated by the long defunct Union Steamship Company, providing an escape for people from Vancouver.

Today, the island is home to around 3,700 permanent residents. Many people commute to mainland Metro Vancouver whether for work, high school, or accessing “big city” amenities. Bowen Island is unique as it is part of the Metro Vancouver Regional District, the Islands Trust, and is the only island municipality in the province.

Metro Vancouver’s most visibile presence on the island is Crippen Regional Park which wraps around Snug Cove, the main village on the island. I had a chance to explore Crippen Regional Park with my friend Patrick. One of the things that we noticed was that the park’s trail network wasn’t only recreational, but also acted as the main way to get around by foot in the area.

Crippen Regional Park. Select image to enlarge.

As part of the Islands Trust, Bowen Island Municipality isn’t required to have its land-use policies be consistent with our Regional Growth Strategy. It must however ensure that its land-use:

  • Foster the preservation and protection of the Trust Area's ecosystems
  • Ensure that human activity and the scale, rate and type of development in the Trust Area are compatible with maintenance of the integrity of Trust Area ecosystems
  • Sustain island character and healthy communities

Patrick and I were given a tour of Snug Cove by Bowen Island Councillor Sue Ellen Fast. One of the things that she noted is that Bowen Island is encouraging mixed-use development in Snug Cove, and that was certainly evident. She also noted the informal shared-use nature of their main street, Bowen Island Trunk Road, through Snug Cove. It is used for ferry lineups, parking for businesses, walking, and cycling. Because of its various uses, people tend to drive with caution. In the future, I could see this road transform into a more formal shared space.

Mixed-use development in Snug Cove. Select image to enlarge.

New development in Snug Cove. Select image to enlarge.

Ferry traffic on Bowen Island Trunk Road. Select image to enlarge.

Like other municipalities in our region, affordable housing is a challenge. She pointed out that there is currently a “Grafton Lake Lands” re-zoning application which would see 120 market-priced units, 45 affordable housing units including rental units, and an 18-unit “spiritual, cultural, education, and wellness centre” built if approved.

Councillor Sue Ellen Fast also gave us a tour of Cove Commons, a new community space that was celebrating its grand opening while we were there. The $1.2 million dollar facility includes a 1,200 sq. ft. arts space, and a significant addition to the current library with much needed flexible use space. 69% of the funding to build Cove Commons was provided through private sources, with 25% of the funds coming from the federal government. The facility will be jointly operated by the library (which is funded by the municipalities) and the Bowen Island Arts Council.

Entrance to Cove Commons. Select image to enlarge.

Bowen Island Arts Council gallery space. Select image to enlarge.

New library space inside Cove Commons. Select image to enlarge.

Bowen Island was a great day-trip, though I was only able to see about one-sixth of the island. I look forward to exploring more of this unique place in our region in the future.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

The opioid crisis and its impact on Langley City Fire Rescue Service

One of the things that I’ve noticed since being on council is the rapid increase in incidents that Langley City Fire Rescue Service has responded to over the last four years. The largest increase has been due to medical incidents. This is not surprising giving that there is an opioid crisis in our province.

The Internet Archive saves a point-in-time copy of most websites online. I decided to look up Langley City’s old website, and found Langley City Fire Rescue Service Statistic from 2000. I put together the following chart comparing 2000 to last year. Keep in mind that Langley City’s population has only increased by 9% over the last 17 years.

Langley City Fire Rescue Service Stats: 2000 and 2017. Select chart to enlarge.

The MESA category which includes responding to motor vehicle crashes and medial incidents has seen a 2000% increase since the turn of the century. Other categories of incidents have also increased faster than population growth, but it is the MESA category that stands out.

The opioid crisis is having a profound impact on people in Langley City and throughout our province. It is our first responders who are bearing the brunt of this crisis, and that is not sustainable. Prevention is key. This will require the provincial government and its health authorities to take the lead. Local governments cannot do it alone.

Notes on other categories:
Rescue – Responses including for extrications, water rescues, and confined spaces rescues
Hazmat – Responses to hazardous materials and items incidents
Fire – Responses to building, vehicle, and outdoor fires
Alarms – Responses to fire alarms where there is no fire (such as a fire sprinkler burst)
Other – Responses including to smells/orders, floods, electrical hazards, and burning complaints. Also includes mutual aid.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Metro Vancouver residents support protecting farmland and preserving industrial land

Two of the tenets of regional land-use policy in Metro Vancouver is to protect farmland and preserve industrial land. There is a healthy tension between municipalities and the regional district when it comes to land-use. Municipalities tend to push towards development with the “highest and best use” at a given point in time, while the regional district tends to look at a longer timeframe when it comes to the best use for land. The regional district is a federation of municipalities in Metro Vancouver; each municipality agreed to be bound by the regional district’s land-use policy.

Metro Vancouver recently polled people who lived in our region, asking them if protecting farmland and preserving industrial land is important. They also asked people under what conditions would they consider allowing farmland or industrial land to be developed for residential or commercial uses.

The poll revealed that people believe that agricultural land:

  1. Provides a local source of fresh food
  2. Offers environment benefits such a providing green space, clean air, flood management, and habitat for wildlife
  3. Supports future generations with options for local food production and food security

People in the poll believed that industrial land:

  1. Supports a significant number of jobs in our region
  2. Provides suitable locations to meet the day-to-day needs of the region such as warehousing, repair, and manufacturing
  3. Attracts companies to do business here

People in our regional strongly believe in protecting farmland. The only case where the majority of people polled would support converting farmland to other uses would be if the land was not suitable for farming or other agricultural uses. People polled strongly support keeping residential growth within existing urban areas.

When it comes to converting industrial land to other uses, the majority of people polled would only support conversion if industrial land was vacant, not being used for industrial proposes for over half a decade. The majority of people polled also believed that industrial activities should have priority access to certain locations such as rail corridors, waterfronts, and highways.

Industrial uses along the waterfront.

This poll confirms that people support protecting farmland and preserving industrial land. It also confirms that people want to see residential and commercial uses (such as offices and retail) built in current urban areas.

In Langley City, we are doing our part. Current industrial land is protected as is our limited amount of agricultural land in our Official Community Plan.

The full poll results can be downloaded from Metro Vancouver’s website.

Top three responses.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Bus, SkyTrain, and West Coast Express reliability increased in 2017

With any transportation system, reliability is a critical metric. Being stuck in stop and go traffic can really get the blood boiling for most people. The same is true for transit users, with the added expectation that transit service arrives and leaves within a few minutes of its scheduled time.

The SkyTrain network runs in its own right-of-way and is automated. This means that the system should be extremely reliable. SkyTrain reliability has historical been extremely high, but reliability drop in 2014 as a result of some serious breakdowns. This led to an independent review which made 20 recommendations to improve reliability. Since that time, reliability has improved.

TransLink recently released 2017 year-end reliability statistics, and it is good news for SkyTrain. In 2017, 95.3% of trains arrived within 3 minutes of their scheduled time.

SkyTrain and West Coast Express on-time performance between 2011 and 2017. Select chart to enlarge.

West Coast Express commuter rail has historically also been extremely reliable, but on-time performance started dropping in 2015 due to scheduling challenges between commuter and freight trains. In 2017, on-time performance increased with 97.2% of trains arriving within 5 minutes of their scheduled time. This increase in performance was due to reduced freight traffic on the commuter corridor.

Ensuring the reliability of bus service is extremely difficult as buses share lanes with other vehicles for the most part. This means that buses are susceptible to both time-of-day congestion, and congestion caused by crashes. That being said, TransLink was able to make some modest improvements to on-time performance on its bus network.

Bus on-time performance over the last two years. Select chart to enlarge.

As a transit user, one of the most frustrating things is when a bus leaves early from a stop on an infrequent route. TransLink and its subsidiaries have been working to reduce the amount of buses that leaving early from stops. For example on the Fraser Highway corridor, bus operators now wait at certain stops if they are running early.

TransLink’s operating subsidiary, Coast Mountain Bus, has added “on-time performance discussions” to operators’ annual performance reviews, looking at each operator’s early leave and late arrival metrics.

It is encouraging to see that the overall on-time reliability is increasing for all modes within our region’s transit network.