Thursday, July 19, 2018

Langley City’s role as a commercial centre means lower property taxes for residents

Langley City residents pay some of the lowest municipal property taxes on average in Metro Vancouver.

2017 Municipal Property Tax Levy Survey. Select table to enlarge. Source: City of Langley 2018 Financial Plan

One of the reasons for this is that the casino helps fund our capital improvement program. In 2018, revenue from the casino funded about a third of Langley City’s $16.8 million capital improvement program.

Another reason for Langley City’s low residential tax is because we have an extremely health business community. Langley City may be 10 square kilometres, but we are the commercial centre for our part of Metro Vancouver.

One way to put this into perspective is by looking at the total assessed value of property by class. These assessed values are used to calculate the amount of property tax that is paid. Many people refer to this as the tax base. This information is available from the BC Ministry of Municipal Affairs & Housing.

In Delta, 83% of their total property assessed value is from residential properties. In Surrey, 88% is from residential properties, 96% of property assessed value is residential in White Rock, and in the Township of Langley 85% of property assessed value is residential. In Langley City, that value is 73%.

Another way to look at this is by assessed value of commercial property per capita. As shown in the following chart, Langley City is a leader.

“Business/Other” Property Class Authenticated Roll General Taxable Values per Capita, by Municipality. Select chart to enlarge.

Langley City is a commercial centre. Because of this, we are also able to invest in our community while maintaining lower residential property taxes compared to the majority of municipalities in Metro Vancouver.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Rental zoning gives BC municipalities a new tool to support affordable housing

Langley City’s has a significant amount of rental housing in our community. Around 38% of households in Langley City are renters. This is the highest percentage of any community in the South of Fraser, including White Rock where 32% of households are renters according to census data. Rental housing is an important part of the housing continuum.

Housing continuum diagram which also shows BC Housing's annual contribution across the housing spectrum.

In Langley City, policies are in place to ensure that current rental buildings are not converted into strata units, but most of our rental housing stock is nearing its end-of-life. While some purpose-built rental is being built in Langley, communities throughout BC did not have any tools in place to require that new purpose-built rental units are created, or where those rental units should be located.

Metro Vancouver has done extensive research on affordability, and has found that it is ideal to encourage the construction of purpose-built rental housing near high-quality public transit.

As I posted about earlier this year, the provincial government was considering giving municipalities the ability to create rental zones. The provincial government moved forward with this idea, updating legislation to give municipalities the ability to create rental zones.

Representatives from the BC Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing recently presented to the Metro Vancouver Regional District’s Housing Committee on what this new tool allows municipalities to do.

Fundamental, rental zoning will allow communities to ensure that existing areas of rental housing are preserved, and require that some new housing units be rental.

The zoning can only be applied in areas where apartments, townhouses, or rowhouses are allowed. The zoning can also be applied at different scales such as by neighborhood, street, or building. For example, lots abutting a transit corridor such as Fraser Highway could be placed in a rental zone.

The rental zone doesn't need to be all or nothing, municipalities can specify the percentage or number of units in a building that must be rental.

If a municipality chooses to move forward with creating rental zones, the provincial legislation has measures in place to ensure that existing units occupied by the owners, and strata corporation bylaws or housing co-op rules that restrict rental are not impacted.

The new rental zoning enabled by the provincial government gives municipalities in BC a powerful tool to ensure that there is a health supply of rental units in our communities.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Boardings and cost per boarding stagnant for Langley Community Shuttles

TransLink released its 2017 Transit Service Performance Review for bus routes in Metro Vancouver. The transit agency runs two types of fixed-schedule bus service. One type provides service where there is demand. The other type of service provides basic coverage to areas, even when there appears to be little demand for transit.

People are more likely to take transit if a certain set of conditions are met. Transit routes that are frequent and run in straight lines attract more riders than routes that are infrequent and are milk runs. Land-use also plays an important role. Areas that sprawl generally have lower transit ridership.

Yesterday, I posted about the success of Langley transit routes that are designed to attracting riders. Today, I wanted to look at TransLink’s basic coverage routes which used to be called “Community Shuttles.” TransLink is in the process of removing the “Community Shuttle” brand, dropping the “C” from these routes in Langley. For example, the C60 is now the 560. To see these routes, you can download the Langley transit routes map from TransLink’s website.

Annual Boardings and Cost per Boarding for the C60 bus route. Select chart to enlarge.

Annual Boardings and Cost per Boarding for the C61 bus route. Select chart to enlarge.

Annual Boardings and Cost per Boarding for the C62 bus route. Select chart to enlarge.

Annual Boardings and Cost per Boarding for the C63 bus route. Select chart to enlarge.

Annual Boardings and Cost per Boarding for the C64 bus route. Select chart to enlarge.

As shown, Langley’s former “Community Shuttle” routes underperform compared to other transit routes. These routes have seen little growth and are highly subsidized. The only exception might be the C62 which runs in straight lines between Langley City, Fort Langley, and Walnut Grove.

There is some good news. With phase two of TransLink’s Ten Year Vision fully funded, Langley’s former “Community Shuttle” routes will be restructured to provide more service and better coverage.

As I noted yesterday, a boarding is counted every time a person taps a Compass card, pays with another means, or uses a transfer. Service cost per boarding is the operating cost of the route divided by the annual boardings.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Boardings up, cost per boarding down for Langley transit routes

TransLink recently released its 2017 Transit Service Performance Review. The review includes detailed information about all bus routes in our region. Langley bus routes are of interest to me, so I thought I would create some charts of the major routes in our communities using the performance review data. The two statistics I looked at were annual boardings and service cost per boarding. A boarding is counted every time a person taps a Compass card, pays with another means, or uses a transfer. Service cost per boarding is the operating cost of the route divided by the annual boardings.

One of the trends for bus routes that service Langley is that ridership is trending up, while cost per boarding are trending down. This is a good thing as it shows that transit routes are serving areas where there is demand. Compass card bus fare is $2.30 today. Based on that number, most bus routes in Langley are subsidized.

Annual Boardings and Cost per Boarding for the 501 bus route. Select chart to enlarge.

Annual Boardings and Cost per Boarding for the 502 bus route. Select chart to enlarge.

Annual Boardings and Cost per Boarding for the 503 bus route. Select chart to enlarge.

Annual Boardings and Cost per Boarding for the 509 bus route. Select chart to enlarge.

Annual Boardings and Cost per Boarding for the 531 bus route. Select chart to enlarge.

Annual Boardings and Cost per Boarding for the 555 bus route. Select chart to enlarge.

Annual Boardings and Cost per Boarding for the 595 bus route. Select chart to enlarge.

I want to call out two things. The 502 ridership dipped in 2014 because it was split into two routes with the creation of the 503 to service Aldergrove. The 595 was also changed to service the 208 Street corridor in the fall of 2016.

Route maps for the 501, 502, 503, 509, 531, 555, and 595 are available on TransLink’s website. Tomorrow, I will be looking at the community shuttle bus routes in Langley.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

July 9, 2018 Council Meeting Notes: $1.5 million from TransLink, a new Community Standards Bylaw, plus a summer of improvement projects and events.

On Tuesday, I posted about redevelopment matters. I posted about new, faster transit service coming to Langley City on Wednesday. Today, I will post about the remaining items covered at Monday night’s Langley City council meeting.

Langley City council gave first, second, and third reading to three bylaws relating to a new Community Standards Bylaw. The new Community Standards Bylaw consolidates three previous bylaws. It focuses on the upkeep and maintenance of properties, including the securing of unoccupied building from unauthorized entry. While mainly a housekeeping matter, the new Community Standards Bylaw makes it easier for the City to address problem properties. The Fees and Charges Bylaw and Municipal Ticketing Information System Bylaw were also amended as a result.

As capital projects move forward, more detailed costing becomes available. The City can also receive funding from the province, feds, or TransLink throughout the year. Because of these things, Langley City must amend its financial plan from time-to-time. One of the items that I wanted to highlight is that our community recently received a $977,000 grant from TransLink to help replace the Logan Creek Culverts under the Langley Bypass. Another highlight is that the City was awarded $284,000 by TransLink to support installing bike lanes on 208 Street, and $269,000 to support the installation of bike lanes on Glover Road. A full list of updates to the financial plan can be view on the City’s website. Langley City council gave first, second, and third reading to a bylaw that would amend the financial plan.

Council gave final reading to a new Business Improvement Area Bylaw which I posted about previously. Final reading was also given, and a development permit approved, for a townhouse complex located at the intersection of 56 Avenue and 196 Street which I also posted about previously.

Council received an update on our recreation programming over the summer. There is something happening pretty must every weekend. More information is available on the City’s website.

Council also received an update on parks and other capital projects on the go in our community. Some of the highlights include:

  • A new zip-line at Brydon Park that can support a person up to 250lbs
  • A renovated sports field at City Park
  • A replacement pedestrian bridge in the floodplain near 203 Street that recently opened
  • A replacement pedestrian bridge in the floodplain near 201A Street that is under-construction, and due to open at the end of August
  • A renewed Douglas Park playground that is under construction
  • A new washroom at Penzer Park which will be completed this summer
  • A new sewer main under 48 Avenue which is under construction

There are many other projects in our community that have been approved by council. You can see a list and maps of projects in a previous post.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Fraser Highway B-Line to cut travel times almost in half with transit priority measures

On Monday night, TransLink’s Daniel Freeman who is the manager of Rapid Bus Projects, presented to Langley City Council on the future Fraser Highway B-Line which will run from Surrey Central SkyTrain to the Langley Centre bus loop on Logan Avenue. There will be a B-Line bus every 8 minutes during peak travel periods, and every 10 to 15 minutes during the rest of the day and night. Real-time next bus information signs will also be installed at all B-Line stops along the corridor.

Proposed Fraser Highway B-Line Stops. Select image to enlarge.

Fraser Highway is a significant transit corridor in Metro Vancouver. Around 27,000 transit passenger a day travel along Fraser Highway. 25% to 33% of people that travel along Fraser Highway between King George and 203rd Street do so on public transit; this is a significant number.

Congestion on Fraser Highway is extreme in the afternoon/evening peak travel period. From personal experience, my commute on transit between Langley and SkyTrain can take double the time in the afternoon compared to the morning. This is reflected in TransLink’s data about the corridor.

Transit and private vehicle travel times today, and with B-Line service in 2019, during the peak PM travel period. Select image to enlarge.

Transit can take between 58 to 69 minutes in the afternoon today. With the introduction of B-Line service, TransLink wants to speed up transit service. The agency has made funding available to install bus priority measures along the Fraser Highway corridor which if approved by Surrey, Langley City, Langley Township, and the BC Ministry of Transportation, could double the speed of transit during the most congested parts of the day.

According to Freeman, TransLink completed an extensive public consultation. He stated that TransLink found that 77% of people, whether in Surrey or Langley, supported adding transit priority measures along Fraser Highway.

Some of the measures that TransLink would like municipalities to consider are queue-jumper lanes (like on King George Boulevard), traffic lights that are timed to speed up buses, bus-only lanes, and HOV lanes. TransLink is also willing to pay for 100% of the costs to implement these measures to speed up transit.

TransLink is looking for Langley City to support adding queue-jumper lanes, HOV/bus lanes, and signal prioritization in our community as shown in the following map.

Transit priority measures under consideration in Langley City. Select image to enlarge.

One of the busiest sections of road in Langley City is Fraser Highway between the Langley Bypass and 200 Street. Our transportation system should be about moving people and goods in the best way possible. I asked Freeman how TransLink was going to ensure that the number of people and goods travelling through that section of road would be able to increase, especially given the at-grade rail crossing.

Freeman stated that they are looking into the advanced train warning system that is currently being installed which will direct people to the 204 Street and 196 Street overpasses when trains are coming. He also noted that Translink will be doing further research to ensure that there is adequate capacity for all modes of travel whether by transit, biking, walking, or driving along the Fraser Highway corridor.

I am looking forward to transit priority measures being implemented along the Fraser Highway corridor as it will give people a way out of congestion, getting people to where they need to be faster.

Langley City council unanimously passed the following motion:

  1. THAT Council receive the Translink presentation (delegation at July 9 meeting), ‘Fraser Highway B-Line Consultation Results & Transit Priority’; and
  2. THAT Council endorse the Fraser Highway B-Line & Transit Priority concept in the City of Langley; and
  3. THAT staff be directed to continue to work collaboratively with Translink and stakeholders to maximize B-Line opportunities for transit priority, assess traffic and possible parking impacts, and address concerns arising from the implementation of the project; and
  4. THAT staff report back with further details of recommended transit priority measures and the implications for all transportation users along the corridor.

Yesterday, I posted about development proposals in our community. Tomorrow, I will be posting about the remaining items covered at Monday night’s Langley City council meeting.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

July 9, 2018 Council Meeting Notes: Public Hearing on Four Development Proposals, Plus a New Mixed-Use Building Approved

Monday night’s Langley City council meeting had a packed agenda. There were four public hearing items and one “Committee of the Whole” where people could provide comments on rezoning and development proposals.

The first public hearing agenda item was for the properties located at 19727, 19737, 19755, & 19763 55 Avenue to accommodate a 3 storey, 36 unit townhouse development. There were two representatives from Huntsfield Green which is a 117 unit townhouse complex that is adjacent to the properties under consideration for rezoning. The representatives said that their complex was supportive of the proposed new townhouses. They commended the developer for working with them to come up with solutions that will preserve their quality of life. One example was using privacy glazing on the patios that abut Huntsfield Green. They were also supportive of the two-vehicle parking requirement which has been standard for townhouses in Langley City for at least the last 30 years.

Another person expressed concerns about construction projects in the area. He noted noise, mess, safety, and construction crew parking issues. The mayor instructed the person to leave their list of concerns with City staff for follow-up.

Council unanimously gave third reading to the rezoning.

The second public hearing agenda item was for property located at 20105, 20109, 20119, & 20129 53A Avenue to accommodate a 4 story, 48 unit apartment building. The proposed apartment would contain a mix of one-bedroom, two-bedroom, and two-bedroom plus den units.

Five people from the townhouse complex just north of the proposed apartment did not support the proposed rezoning. They were concerned that the proposed apartment would impact their quality of life. Some of the concerns were around parking, fire safety, and that the underground exhaust fans would be noisy.

At the meeting, I said that I live in a 48 unit apartment building which is adjacent to a 5 unit townhouse complex. I stated that our buildings have been able to co-exist with no issues for at least 15 years. I also noted the parking in my building is the same as the proposal, and that parking hasn’t been an issue in my building. I stated that for over 30 years, there was no on-street parking near our buildings on 53 Avenue. I did note, as did other members of council, that construction crews are taking up a significant amount of on-street parking spaces in the area. We asked the developer to work on a construction crew off-street parking plan. I asked staff to investigate with the developer options for low-noise underground parking exhaust fans.

Councillor van den Broek and Albrecht asked City staff about fire safety concerns. They were told that the project was approved by our fire department.

Council unanimously gave third reading to the rezoning.

The third public hearing agenda item was for a proposed 3 story, 13 unit townhouse complex at 5471 and 5481 199A Street. There were no members of the public that spoke about the project. Council unanimously gave third reading to the rezoning.

You can see renderings of the proposed projects in a previous post I wrote.

Back in June, Council removed the road dedication for a small section of lane adjacent to 204 Street and Park Avenue, retaining a continuous 6-metre cross-section from 204 Street to Park Avenue. One of the housekeeping matters was to zone that section of former lane to “C1 Downtown Commercial.”

Several people from the apartment building located at Douglas Crescent and Park Avenue expressed concern about the 6-metre cross-section being too narrow, creating a safety issue. I noted that research shows that a 6-metre lane is safe, and point to research out of the City of Toronto. Councillor van den Broek suggested that a mirror be installed at the intersection of the building and lane to improve safety.

Council unanimously gave third reading to the zoning.

Rendering of approved mixed-use building at 203rd Street and Michaud Crescent. Select image to enlarge.

The final opportunity for public feedback was for a mixed-use building at the corner of Michaud Crescent and 203rd Street. The project will contain one ground-level retail unit and 6 apartments above. There were no members of the public that spoke about the project, but there was one letter council received in support of the project.

I noted that the building had a good streetfront design which will support creating a vibrant, walkable downtown. In our downtown, developers can pay cash in lieu of providing on-site parking for commercial units. This money will be used to fund a future central parkade. I support building a parkade in our downtown as it will help maintain walkability while providing an adequate central parking supply. Without central parking, our downtown would end up looking like the Langley Bypass. The developer of this building is proposing to pay for parking in lieu of providing 3 on-site spots for the commercial unit.

The City recently completed a parking utilization study for our downtown. Within walking distance of the proposed building, there is an ample supply of on-street parking.

On-street public parking demand west of downtown core. Select chart to enlarge.

Council approved issuing the development permit for this building with Councillor van den Broek opposed.

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

Monday, July 9, 2018

South of Fraser sees largest percent growth in bus ridership in Metro Vancouver

The TransLink 2017 Transit Service Performance Review was recently released; transit ridership is continuing to increase rapidly in the South of Fraser. There were 43,311,000 annual bus boardings in 2017 which was up 8% compared to 2016. Even in South Delta, which includes Ladner and Tsawwassen, annual boardings was up 9%. Overall, bus transit ridership is growing faster in communities south of the Fraser River than anywhere else in Metro Vancouver.

Annual Bus Boardings by Sub-Region from 2013 to 2017. Select table to enlarge.

In the Performance Review, the 319, 363, and 96 B-Line were noted as seeing the strongest growth in the South of Fraser. As a daily user of the 502, I’ve noticed that this route has become somewhat less crowded. Due to more bus services along the route, the 502 is no longer in the top 10 most over-crowded routes in the region.

Top 5 Routes - South of Fraser Annual Boardings System-Wide Rank
319 - Scott Road Station/Newton Exchange 5,193,000 16
96 B-Line - Guildford Exchange/Newton Exchange 5,019,000 17
502 - Surrey Central/Langley Centre 2,833,000 31
321 - Surrey Central/White Rock 2,550,000 34
335 - Surrey Central/Guildford/Newtown Exchange 2,508,000 36

The 319 is the most utilities bus route in the South of Fraser, travelling along Scott Road. This corridor is in desperate need of B-Line service, and thanks to the recent approval of phase two of TransLink’s 10-Year Investment Plan, service is scheduled to start by 2021.

Annual Bus Service Hours by Sub-Region from 2013 to 2017. Select table to enlarge.

The performance review shows that there was a 23% decrease in bus ridership in the Northeast Sector. This was due to the 97 B-Line being replaced with the Evergreen Extension of SkyTrain.

All TransLink services saw an increase in ridership expect for the West Coast Express in 2017. This was due to the opening of the Evergreen Extension of SkyTrain. The following table shows that ridership at stations such as Maple Meadows, Port Haney, and Mission City increased in boardings. In fact, Mission City saw a 17% increase in boardings in 2017.

West Coast Express Average Weekday Boardings, Fall 2016 and Fall 2017. Select table to enlarge.

TransLink has been able to invest in improving bus service in Metro Vancouver over the last few years due to new funding being approved by local, provincial, and federal governments. “Build it and they will come” is certainly the case for transit service in Metro Vancouver.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Take the State of Local Government Survey

Young Regional Leadership Collective

Around a year ago, some friends of mine (and their friends) that are involved in government, urban planning, or civic advocacy decided to form the “Young Regional Leadership Collective.” We started this group to create a forum for people under 40 who are passionate about regional planning and governance issues in Metro Vancouver. One of the goals of the group is to research regional matters & gauging public opinion on current affairs.

On that note, we have launched a new survey. We want to better understand how different people from across the Metro Vancouver region perceive the state of local government services.

We know that local government is under growing pressure to find cost savings, while still providing a good level of public services. At the same time, there is also a growing desire for local government to increase services in specific areas.

Local government services have a profound impact on our lives and there may be a new growing interest in specific services. We’d like to hear from you about to learn about your thoughts on local government services, and the quality of life in your community.

Please take 5 minutes of your time to complete this survey between July 5th and August 3rd of 2018. Results will be published in September 2018.

Take the Survey

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Creating strong neighbourhood identities and knowing your neighbours key to safe, health community

Jane Jacobs was one of the great urban philosophers of the twentieth century. Her call to action was the destruction caused by mid-century century “urban renewal” which saw walkable neighbourhoods razed to the ground in favor of housing projects, highways, and parking lots.

In her seminal book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jacobs observed that one of the keys to healthy and safe neighbourhoods was the loose relationships that people formed with one another in those neighbourhoods.

It wasn’t that every neighbour was your best friend, but that people knew who lived in the neighbourhood, and could trust them. A Langley City example might be to trust your neighbour to water your plants and check your mail when you are away. Another example might be to trust them to walk your kids to school.

Langley City is taking a fresh approach to building a safe community. One of the first steps is to invest in building connections between neighbours, and to create a sense of place. You may have noticed the following banners throughout Langley City. This is one on ways to start building neighbourhood identity. Another is the “Know Your Neighbour” campaign which will be launching in a few weeks.

Blacklock Neighbourhood Banner. Select image to enlarge.

Alice Brown Neighbourhood Banner. Select image to enlarge.

As noted on Langley City’s website:

An important goal of Langley City Council is to foster strong community ties among residents in the City of Langley. Neighbourhood safety is a team effort and it is evident that when residents work together to improve community safety it results in a reduction in crime. To that end, Council mandated the Crime Prevention Task Group to develop strategies that will encourage residents to get involved and take an active role in helping to prevent and reduce crime in our neighbourhoods.

To realize this goal, the Task Group has developed the “Know Your Neighbour” campaign! An initiative that will have volunteers hitting the streets July 21 & July 28 (11am-3pm), going door to door to educate residents one household at a time, about crime prevention strategies and to share tips about how to easily improve neighbourhood safety. We want residents to get to know one another and help us build a strong, safe community.

If you’d like to volunteer to spread the message door to door, canvassers will be going out two Saturdays - July 21 and July 28, 11am - 3pm. Please contact Dave Selvage, Manager of Bylaw Enforcement by Friday, July 13 to sign up and help out! dselvage@langleycity.ca or 604-514-2822.

So far there has been a great response from people in our community, but we could always use more volunteers. Building a healthy and safe community starts at the neighbourhood level.

Here are more pictures of the neighbourhood banners that were recently installed in our community.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Contact information for discarded needle pickup program in Langley City

A few people have reached out to me over the last year, asking what to do if they see discarded needles anywhere in our community. While City staff members perform sweeps of our parks and public spaces for needles, Fraser Health funds a program for picking up discarded needles which is managed by the Lookout Housing and Health Society. For service, you can contact them by:

Phone: 604-812-5277

Email: langleyhror1@lookoutsociety.ca

In-Person: 102 - 5714 Glover Road

Langley City council has also requested that our staff investigate with Fraser Health, the possibility of a pilot program which would install needle drop boxes in areas where there is a pattern of discarded needles. These boxes have been effective in other communities. You can read more about this in a post I wrote in the fall.