Thursday, August 30, 2018

Proposed changes to enhance the residential recycling program in BC

Recycling programs have been a part of many communities in our province since the 1990s. I remember when the recycling program started in my hometown of Vernon, and how I diligently “educated” my parents on the importance of recycling.

Residential recycling programs changed in 2014 due to the provincial government’s Extended Producer Responsibility program for packaging and paper. This program transferred the responsibility of funding and providing recycling services from government to businesses that create products that use packaging and paper. As a result, most things in our province can be recycled.

Langley City was one of the first communities to transfer its property tax funded residential recycling service to Recycle BC, the recycling program that is funded by the private sector. For the most part, the program has been a success; more types of packaging and paper can be recycled than ever before. While the program has been successful, there are challenges.

Recycling BC is updating its stewardship plan as required by the provincial government. The updated program must also be approved by the provincial government. Recycling BC has been reaching out to consultation with people on the new plan. The new plan is focused on resolving some of the challenges with the program.

Over half of all households in BC living in multi-family* housing, yet only half of those households received services from Recycling BC as of 2017. People in multi-family housing generate a significant amount of waste that if not recycling, will end up in landfill. One of the updated program’s goals is to increase the number of multi-family dwelling households that receive recycling services.

Not all types of packaging and paper are recycled to the same level:

Material recovery rate targets for the residential recycling program (based on weight). Select table to enlarge.

Another one of the program’s goals is to increase the amount of plastic, including items like single-use cutlery, plates, straws, and beverage cups that are recycled. Increasing the rate of recycling of plastic will take serious effort by Recycle BC to achieve.

While recycling may no longer be a hot-button topic, it is extremely important for as least two reasons. We are running out of space to landfill our waste, and burning our waste creates other issues. Recycling also helps protect our environment by reducing our reliance on raw resources.

For more information on the proposed changes to the recycling program in BC, please visit the Recycle BC consultation page.

*includes apartments and townhouses.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Protecting the Agricultural Land Reserve, Local Government’s Role, and Cannabis Production Impacts

The Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), which was introduced in the 1970s, has had a profound impact on our province. It has done a reasonable job of preserving food and ranch land from urban and industrial development. In Metro Vancouver, it has also acted as a defacto urban growth boundary that has limited sprawl.

Map of the Agricultural Land Reserve in Metro Vancouver. Source: Metro Vancouver

Over the years, there have been decisions made that have removed productive farmland from being used for agricultural purposes. A classical example was a brief period in the 1980s when golf courses were allowed in the ALR. This was put to an end rather quickly, but many of the golf courses today are a result of that blip. This includes the golf course in Langley City.

In the 2000s, the provincial government was responsible for close to third-quarters of all removal of land from agricultural uses in the South of Fraser, most of which was to accommodate transportation projects.

Even today, we are seeing the conversation of ALR land from food production to cannabis production in communities such as the Township of Langley.

The provincial government launched a review of the Agricultural Land Reserve at the beginning of the year to find ways to strengthen and enhance it; an independent advisory committee was established.

The committee released an interim report at the end of July with several recommendations for immediate action. They also noted what other recommendations will likely be included in the final report.

There are two actions items that require immediate attention according to the committee:

  1. Mitigating the impacts of oil and gas activity in the ALR
  2. Restricting cannabis production in the ALR

The first recommendation is more targeted for northern BC, but cannabis production is impacting farmland in Metro Vancouver.

The committee is recommending that “an immediate moratorium on all non-soil bound cannabis production and facilities in the ALR pending provincial-level analysis of impacts. Further the committee recommended that specific criteria be establish for cannabis production be establish, including the requirement for a permit from the Agriculture Land Commission (ALC).”

I believe that most cannabis production will be best suited on industrial land.

The committee is also evaluating thirteen other recommendations:

  1. Strengthen the Act to prioritize agriculture by better defining the ALR, including the purposes of the ALR, and establishing ‘agriculture-first’ criteria for consideration in all ALC decisions
  2. Increase the autonomy, independence and effectiveness of the ALC by ensuring that merit based Commission appointments are made in consultation with the Chair and by increasing the oversight role of the Chair in the selection of both Commission members and the CEO
  3. Ensure province-wide decision making that is consistent and fair with an ALC governance structure that is flexible, locally-informed, regionally-representative, and puts ‘agriculture-first’
  4. Safeguard agricultural values across the province by reinstating a one-zone ALR decision-making model across B.C.
  5. Strengthen ALC compliance and enforcement tools, and capacity, to better protect the ALR
  6. Protect the ALR from residential speculation by establishing a maximum total floor area for all primary residences in the ALR (e.g. Minister’s Bylaw Standards) and providing local government flexibility to zone below the maximum. Enable new regulations for residential siting, secondary dwellings, and home plate size
  7. End the impact of illegal fill on the agricultural capability of the ALR by redefining and restricting fill throughout the ALR
  8. Address speculation through better land use planning by only considering exclusion of ALR land through a joint local government-ALC land use planning process
  9. Make the ALR application review process more efficient by prescribing acceptable non-farm use and subdivision applications
  10. Improve clarity around the two ALC reconsideration processes
  11. Ensure a province-wide agricultural perspective by removing the ALC’s capacity to delegate subdivision and non-farm use decision-making authority to local governments
  12. Build better planning and land use decisions for agriculture by requiring all local government bylaws that affects the ALR to be endorsed by ALC resolution
  13. Strengthen ALC administration by clarifying and updating the Act and Regulation to improve ALC’s daily operation

Recommendations six and eleven are the most interesting for municipalities in our region as it will place limits on their powers. This is required as local governments have constantly prioritized urban development over the preservation of farmland. I am encouraged that many of the recommendations speak to working in a more collaborative manner with municipalities.

I am looking forward to seeing the final report on how to strengthen and enhance the Agricultural Land Reserve in our province.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

TransLink’s distance-based fare system and what it means for your commute

The Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation approved TransLink’s fare review recommendations at the end of July. While the new fare system approval did receive some media attention, I wanted to dig a little deeper into the changes.

People have known that the current zone-based system is unfair for many years. For example, it costs more money to travel between Scott Road SkyTrain Station and Columbia SkyTrain Station, than traveling between Lougheed Town Centre SkyTrain Station and Patterson SkyTrain Station. The current zone-based system was the result of the technological limitations of the old fare payment system.

When Compass Card was launch, buses transitioned to a flat fare. Flat fares will be maintained in TransLink’s new fare structure; the lowest fare will still apply.

For West Coast Express, there will be no changes to the current system right away. Over time, the fare structure will change from the current complex 5-zone system to station-to-station pricing.

The biggest change will be for people who take the SkyTrain or SeaBus which will be moving to distance-based pricing. The following chart shows how the proposed pricing will work.

How TransLink’s distance-based fare system will impact what you pay. Select chart to enlarge.

According to TransLink, 66% of current riders will see very little change to what they currently pay to ride transit. 17% of riders will see a 10% or more increase in what they pay, and 17% will see a 10% or more decrease in what they pay.

For people that use the Compass Card without an unlimited pass, the system will take care of figuring out the right fare. If you use a monthly pass, things will be a bit different.

You can purchase three types of unlimited-ride, zone-based adult passes today as follows:
1-Zone: $93
2-Zone: $126
3-Zone: $172

Moving forward, TransLink will be introducing distance-based, unlimited-ride adult passes. If you travel the kilometre value for the pass or less, you will be good to go. If you travel more than your pass’s kilometres value, you will be charged the different. This could take some getting used to for people.

If you only take the bus, you’ll still pay $93 per month. This would apply to anyone who stays within the South of Fraser. If you are like me, traveling between Langley and Downtown Vancouver, you will still pay the maximum unlimited pass price of $172.

The following is an illustrative example of what the new unlimited-ride, kilometre-value passes could look like:
5 km or less, and bus: $93
7 km or less, and bus: $110
10 km or less, and bus: $125
13 km or less, and bus: $140
17 km or less, and bus: $155
20km or more, and bus: $172

For people who use the HandyDART service, there is good news too. TransLink is proposing to allow people who qualify for concession fare to pay concession fare prices when using the service. Currently, all people must pay the full adult fare when using HandyDART.

Back in the day, zones were only in effect during the morning and afternoon peak travel periods on weekdays. During the mid-day, evenings, and weekends, you paid the lowest fare. TransLink will be exploring expanding the discounted fare program again. As noted in the recommendations, “discounts would be specific to key times – like early morning and mid-day – in geographic areas where overcrowding is most acute.”

The full list of changes can be viewed on TransLink’s website. For most people, they will see very little change in what they pay to use transit.

Monday, August 27, 2018

What’s going on with the construction at City Hall?

If you’ve been around City Hall or Timms Community Centre, you’ll have noticed that there is construction going on around the old front entrance. When the new community centre opened at the beginning of 2016, the old entrance was closed. This created an underutilized space in front of City Hall.

Rendering of new City Hall terrace and public space. Select image to enlarge.

One of the big pushes from council is to create safe and inviting public spaces. With that in mind, the old entrance plaza is in the process of being converted into a terrace that will be accessible via the community centre.

The terrace itself will feature oversized planters, and movable tables and chairs. It will also be screened from the street with trees and plantings, a mini-oasis at City Hall. The area will be secured by sturdy and decorative fencing.

Plan for new City Hall terrace. Select image to enlarge.

From the street-side, the public realm will be enhanced with more plantings and a seat wall where people can enjoy their lunch.

Because we have many grey days, there will also be up-lighting for the trees and sign to provide much needed colour and brightness during the winter months.

Walking and accessible access along 204 Street near City Hall. Select image to enlarge. 
Walking and accessible access along Douglas Crescent near City Hall. Select image to enlarge.

One of the important considerations during construction projects is to ensure that accessible access is maintained. While there was an initial gap when construction started, I am happy to report that full accessible and walking access is being provided during the construction period.

Friday, August 24, 2018

August 23, 2018 Council Meeting Notes: Craft Brewery proposal for Downtown Langley plus other redevelopment proposals west of 200th Street

Over the last year, redevelopment in our community has increased significantly. Langley City council does not normally meet in August, but due to the number of development applications, a special public council meeting was held last night.

There were four zoning bylaw amendments that were given first and second reading. This will allow for a public hearing to be scheduled.

The first zoning bylaw and development permit was for a 127-unit, 4-story apartment located along Brydon Crescent. One of the significant features of the redevelopment is a pedestrian connection proposed between Brydon Crescent, over Baldi Creek, to the trail network. This will be via an 8m wide fire lane, connected to a 3m wide pedestrian walkway and bridge. This will provide much needed walking connectivity if approved.

5423, 5433, 19900, 19910, 19920, and 19930 Brydon Crescent including pedestrian access marked in red. Select image to enlarge.

5423, 5433, 19900, 19910, 19920, and 19930 Brydon Crescent rendering. Select image to enlarge.

The second zoning bylaw and development permit was for a 3-storey, 41-unit townhouse development at the end of 55A Avenue, near 196 Street. This proposal will see a public lane extended to the east side of the proposed project. This will enable at least two points of access for all the townhouse developments on the south side of 55A Avenue if approved. This will help with traffic flow.

19610, 19618-26, 19630-32, 19638, and 19648-50 55A Avenue rendering. Select image to enlarge.

19610, 19618-26, 19630-32, 19638, and 19648-50 55A Avenue site plan. Select image to enlarge.

One of the keys to creating a vibrant downtown is to ensure that there is a variety of shops and services that are busy throughout the day. Craft brewery tasting rooms have become a significant draw, becoming a part of community identity where they are located. For example, there is a brewery row in Port Moody that has become a regional destination.

I’ve heard from many people expressing that there are limited evening activity options in our downtown.

The third zoning bylaw was for Farm Country Brewing to establish a craft brewery and tasting room in the Highland Village Shopping Centre at 56 Avenue and Logan Avenue. The proposal includes an 80-seat tasting room, and 20 seats of outdoor patio space. It is proposed to be open between 12pm and 9pm Sunday thru Wednesday, and 12pm to 11pm Thursday thru Saturday.

Rendering of proposed craft brewery located at 20555 56th Avenue. Select image to enlarge.

Site plan for craft brewery located at 20555 56th Avenue. Select image to enlarge.

The fourth zoning bylaw and development permit was for a 5-story, 78-unit apartment located at Brydon Crescent near 55A Avenue.

Located of 5493, 5483, and 5475 Brydon Crescent. Select image to enlarge.

Renders of development proposal at 5493, 5483, and 5475 Brydon Crescent. Select image to enlarge.

Council gave first, second, and third reading to update our Chauffeur Permit and Regulation Bylaw which regulates taxi drivers. This was a housekeeping matter with the most significant changing being increasing the potential renewal period of the chauffeur permit from one year to up to two years.

Council also gave first, second, and third reading to change the definition of a “heavy truck” in our Highway and Traffic Regulation Bylaw from 10,000kg to 11,794kg to bring it inline with other municipalities in our region.

Finally, Council approved a request to conduct door-to-door canvassing for Plan International Canada.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Save the Date: Rogers Hometown Hockey Coming to Langley City

Sportsnet studio truck for Rogers Hometown Hockey. Source: Wikimedia Commons

While NHL hockey is likely not top-of-mind at the end of August, there is some pretty exciting news to share. Rogers Hometown Hockey will be coming to Langley City in January. Our community will be one of 25 communities where Hometown Hockey will be visiting through the 2018-19 NHL season.

The free family-friendly hockey celebration features two days of live entertainment, NHL alumni, local celebrities and hockey-themed activities for all ages. Running from Saturday through to Sunday evening, the festival culminates with an outdoor viewing party of a national NHL game broadcast hosted live. The national match up will be Florida @ Vancouver at 3:30pm. Ron MacLean and Tara Slone will host a pre-game, intermission, and post-game show from Langley City.

Our City staff have been working hard behind the scenes to make this event possible. One of the big pushes from council is to bring more positive activities into our Downtown. While the summer is filling up with these types of activities, the winter doesn’t have as many things going on. Having Hometown Hockey in our community helps expand our programming of public spaces which helps build a healthy and safe community.

Save the date for January 12 and 13, 2019. You will not want to miss this event. More information is available on Langley City’s website.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

How the largest bus terminal in North America was cleaned up. An example for BC communities.

For the past week, I have been in New York on a holiday. I was staying at a friend’s place in New Jersey which meant that the most convenient way into Manhattan and New York City was by bus. All buses that go to Manhattan terminate at the Port Authority Bus Terminal.

Outside the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Source: Rose Trinh

Coming into the bus terminal for the first time, I was amazed at the sheer size and volume of people and buses that use the facility. The bus terminal is 1.5 million square feet, and handles around 230,000 weekday passengers per day. To put that into perspective, the bus terminal is about the same size as Metropolis at Metrotown, and handles half the daily passengers as SkyTrain!

Inside the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Source: krisknow

I was curious how they kept such a massive, 24-hour facility secure. I noticed that the bus terminal had shops and service that were like what you would find in an airport. I figured this had something to do with how they keep the place safe and inviting.

I did some Googling and found a research paper titled, “Redesigning Hell: Preventing Crime and Disorder at the Port Authority Bus Terminal” (Felson et al.) The bus terminal was full of people that would sleep all over and was a hotbed of all types of unsavory activity up until the mid-1990s. The first response that people had was to call for more police to clean up the terminal.

Just like in British Columbia, the courts in New York allow people to stay in public facilities. In New York, they must ensure that there is help is available for a person. Only if help is available and if the person refuses the help, can they be asked to move along. In our province, “low-barrier” housing must be available for all people on the street. If it is not, people can camp in parks as I’m sure most people in Langley are aware. If social services aren’t available, police have their hands tied.

It would be cost-prohibitive to have police in every section of the bus terminal attempting to monitor every activity considering the size of the facility and volume of people using it. At the time of the report, there were over 125 police officers assigned to the facility, and “policing the bus station was frustrating and often ineffective” (17). Even if they were able to arrest a person committing a “low level” crime, they found “difficult[ies] in making charges stick” (17).

The Port Authority needed to take a different approach, and in the early 1990s invested in improving the design of the facility and addressing the social issues in a different way.

To address the social issues and people living the in the bus terminal, the Port Authority worked with social service providers to ensure that people had an option to get help. When the police saw a person living in the terminal, they offered them the option to get help or get arrested.

The design of the facility was also improved to reduce crime and high-quality businesses were brought in. The facility was opened to ensure that there were no nooks and crannies where people could be hidden: some brick walls were replaced with glass, for example. Lighting and wayfinding were also improved, along with ensuring that the facility was clean and in a state of good repair.

They also attracted chain shops to the bus terminal to create an inviting retail environment, and to get more eyes and ears in the facility. Where larger stops could not be accommodated, they put in small kiosks.

In Langley City, we are improving the lighting in our Downtown, keeping the core clean, and providing more positive activities to drive out negative activity. We are also working to ensure that we have a diverse mix of businesses in our Downtown.

Council is also advocating to the province to get more resources into our community to give people the option of getting off the street.

The Port Authority Bus Terminal is a microcosm of what many communities in BC experience, and it confirms to me that we are on the right course. When I was at the bus terminal, I felt safe. The programs put in place in the 1990s are still effective today.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Increased bus service for the South of Fraser coming in September

TransLink updates its transit service schedule four times per years. On Tuesday, September 3rd, transit service will be adjusted. Thanks to the approval of phase one and two of the 10-Year Vision for Transportation Improvements by the Mayors’ Council, these service changes now result in increased transit service.

One of the best ways to improve the usefulness of transit for the greatest amount of people is by increasing frequency on bus routes. From personal experience, it is a lot easier to plan your life when you don’t have to plan for when the next bus will arrive.

Increasing frequency encourages more people to take transit which generally leads to even more bus service being added; this is a virtuous cycle.

While TransLink’s defines frequent transit service as routes that run every 15 minutes or better for most of the day, increasing regular bus routes from 1 hour to 30 minutes, or 30 minutes to 20 minutes, improves the transit experience.

With that in mind, I am happy to see that TransLink is continuing to invest in increasing the frequency of regular bus routes in the South of Fraser. The following highlights some of the changes that will come into effect in the next few weeks.

319 Scott Road Station/Newton Exchange: Every 12-20 minutes from 5pm to 1am, increasing from every 15-30 minutes, on Saturday.

320 Surrey Central Station/Guildford/Fleetwood: Every 12 minutes from 6am and 8am, and 4pm to 7pm, on weekdays. An increase from every 15 minutes.

321 Surrey Central Station/Newton Exchange/White Rock Centre/White Rock South: Every 12 minutes between 4pm and 6pm on weekdays. An increase from every 15 minutes.

323 Surrey Central Station/Newton Exchange: Every 15 minutes between 6am and 8am, every 12 minutes between 4pm and 7pm, and every 20 minutes between 7pm and 8pm.

337 Fraser Heights/Guildford/Surrey Central Station: Every 12 minutes between 7am and 8am. An increase from every 15 minutes.

555 Lougheed Station/Carvolth Exchange: Every 20 minutes between 9am and 2pm on weekdays. An increase from every 30 minutes. On Saturday, service will be increasing from every 30 minutes to every 20 minutes between 10am and 5pm.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Riding Light Rail in LA. Similarities to Metro Vancouver.

Currently, I am in Los Angeles as I am taking a bit of a holiday. When most people think of Los Angeles and transportation, it is likely freeways that come to mind. While the built-form of this area has been heavily influenced by the automobile, it is actually streetcars and interurbans that caused the build-out of the region.

The Pacific Electric Railway Company covered the whole region, but in the mid-twentieth century, the system was sold to automakers in what became the General Motors streetcar conspiracy. The streetcars were destroyed, and freeways where built.

Los Angeles Pacific Electronic Railways Map. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Some of the remnants of that system still exists today, and Metro —the regional transportation authority— has been busy rebuilding the network over the last several decades. While there is a subway system in LA, the majority of the rail network is light rail.

I wanted to share some videos of the Expo Line which fully opened in May of 2016. The line runs on the street, elevated, and in its own rail right-of-way. It shares some of the attributes of the light rail lines that are in the process of being built in the South of Fraser.

The final video is from the Green Line which runs along a freeway.

While LA and Metro Vancouver are generally not thought of as having similarities with their transportation networks. Both regions where defined by streetcars, and both regions are slowly rebuilding these networks which were abandoned in the mid-twentieth century.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Re-Election Update #1: You can help to keep the positive momentum going

With summer in full swing, many people are taking a well-deserved break from their usual routine. The last thing on many people’s minds is the upcoming municipal election. The provincial government has moved the election up a month - to October, so our campaign preparations need to start a bit earlier this time around.

I announced at the end of May that I will be seeking re-election to Langley City Council, so that we may continue to build upon the positive momentum we have gained over the last three years. There are three accomplishments that I’m especially proud of helping to move forward:

  • Getting new resources from the Province to help improve housing and supportive service for people who are experiencing homelessness;
  • Improving quality of life and improving safety within the community by investing in our parking, streets, and downtown core;
  • Adopting our new community vision - “Langley City: Nexus of Community.

You can see the full list of accomplishments at on the Solutions Tracker. While progress has been made on many items, there is still much more work to do.

This is where you can help. If you are able to volunteer your time to help out on the campaign, or if you would like a lawn sign to show your support, please either reply to this email, or visit The campaign will start in earnest immediately after the Labour Day long weekend.

With your help, we can continue the positive momentum, bringing solutions forward for a better Langley. Thank you to those who have already offered to help out!

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Cities in a Sea of Green: Langley City’s role in the Lower Mainland’s half-century vision

A few weeks ago, I posted about our community’s new vision, Langley City: Nexus of Community. This vision will help guide growth and development in the City over the next several decades. One of the key tenets of the vision is to cement Langley City’s role as a centre for the Fraser Valley. While our new community vision is bold, it is also the continuation of a half-century vision for the Lower Mainland.

Over the long weekend, I found myself reading Plan for the Lower Mainland of British Columbia which was adopted in 1980. This plan encompassed all communities from Bowen Island to Hope. At the time, Langley City was in the former Central Fraser Valley Regional District.

Regional Districts in the Lower Mainland in 1980. Select map to enlarge.

This plan had nine key strategies:

  • Protect farmland, floodplain, and natural assets from urban and industrial development.
  • Develop and enhance the use of farmland and other natural resources for the long-term benefit of the Lower Mainland.
  • Locate more of the total population growth within the metropolitan area.
  • Locate more of the population growth occurring outside the metropolitan area to the North of the Fraser River.
  • Focus four-fifths of Fraser Valley growth in five Valley Towns.
  • Promote higher residential densities in the metropolitan area and the Valley Towns.
  • Focus new commercial employment and high and medium density housing in and around the metropolitan core and existing regional centres.
  • Improve the balance in the distribution of jobs and labour force in all parts of the Lower Mainland.
  • Provide transportation and physical services in a way which will reinforce the development concept.

While our current regional growth strategy has certainly been refined since this 1980s plan, these nine key strategies are still very much a part of the ethos of our region.

For the South of Fraser, growth was planned to occur both in North Surrey, and in Valley Towns. Langley City, and surrounding parts of the Township, was one of the designated Valley Towns.

Lower Mainland Development Concept Map. Select map to enlarge.

Langley City was specifically called out in the plan as a Valley Town. The plan for these towns was for them to “evolve as key links in the transportation network, including the introduction or further development of public transit systems, and as important focal points for local shopping, services and community life.” They were to be the “centres of growth in office employment, shopping and cultural facilities.”

Langley City: Nexus of Community is a bold vision for our community. It is also deeply rooted in our region’s half-century objective to create sustainable cities in a sea of green.

Fun fact: W.C. Blair, who the pool in Murrayville is named after, was chair of the Central Fraser Valley Regional District when the 1980s Plan for the Lower Mainland of British Columbia was adopted.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Provincial government now requiring municipalities to create housing needs report

This year, the provincial government introduced new tools and requirements to help local governments support the creation of affordable housing in communities throughout BC. One of the new tools available is rental zoning. This new zoning power will allow municipalities to designate sections of neighborhoods, streets, or buildings for rental-only. You can read more about this new zoning power in a previous blog post that I wrote.

A new requirement placed on local governments is the creation of a housing needs report. This new report once created will need to be updated every five years, and include the following information:

  • Current and projected population
  • Current and projected household incomes
  • Information about the local economy
  • Number of currently available or in-stream housing units, including information about the type of unit
  • Number of housing units needed to meet the current demand, by type of unit
  • Number of housing units to meet the projected needs of the population over the next five years.

The provincial government plans to develop more detailed regulations on how the report should be formatted. For example, the regulation will hopefully define what level of detail is required for “type of unit.”

In Metro Vancouver, our regional growth strategy already contains information about what sort of housing is required based on tenure and household income.

Housing Demand Estimates by Tenure and Household Income for Metro Vancouver Subregions and Municipalities (2016-2026 Estimates). Source: Metro Vancouver.

For example, it is projected that Langley City will require 1,300 units of housing that will be for people to buy, and 700 units of housing for people to rent, between 2016 and 2026. In Metro Vancouver, we already consider this information as all municipal official community plans must line up with the regional growth strategy.

We know that we need to create around 420 units of housing in Langley City for households that earn less than $30,000 per year between 2016 and 2026 according to our regional growth strategy. The new housing needs report requirement will likely require us to spell out in more detail how we will get those 420 units.

For example, it might state that Langley City will advocate to BC Housing on behalf of current non-profit housing providers for more and renewed units of subsidized housing. It might also state that the City will wave development permit fees for subsidized housing projects.

Another example for Langley City might be calling out how rental zoning will support getting us to the 700 new units of rental required for our community between 2016 and 2026.

The new provincial requirement for a housing needs report will not create more affordable housing in our province. The report will bring to the surface where housing demand does not match housing provided. This should help municipalities better advocate to the federal and provincial governments for housing funding and support. It should also help municipalities update zoning and policies to support housing option for all people in a community.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Getting up to speed on rail service in Cascadia: Ultra high-speed rail between Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland

About once a year, the topic of a very fast train between Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland seems to surface. I’ve been asked about it a few times this year, so I thought I would put together a primer on the topic.

Current Amtrak Cascades rail corridor. Source: WSDOT. Select map to enlarge.

Over the past decade, the Washington State Department of Transportation has invested closed to US$800 million via funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to improve passenger rail service in that state. This money has been used for projects that enabled faster and more reliable service along the rail corridor. Today, the following level of service is provided:

  • 4 daily round trips between Seattle and Portland
  • 2 daily round trips between Seattle and Vancouver
  • 2 daily round trips between Portland and Eugene

The goal is to increase the daily round trips between Seattle and Portland from four to six.

Washington State also completed a high-level feasibility study that cost US$300,000 which was released in December 2017. This study focused on rail service with speeds of 400km/h or faster. They evaluated convention high-speed rail, maglev, and hyperloop technologies.

The study narrowed down the service corridors and stops to as follows:

Corridor 1A
Vancouver International Airport - Vancouver, BC
Fairhaven Station - Bellingham, WA
Everett Station - Everett, WA
Stadium Station - Seattle, WA
Tacoma Dome Station - Tacoma, WA
Centennial Station - Lacey, WA
Rose Quarter Station - Portland, OR

Corridor 2
Pacific Central Station - Vancouver, BC
Stadium Station - Seattle, WA
Tacoma Dome Station - Tacoma, WA
Portland International Airport - Portland, OR

Corridor 4
King George Station - Surrey, BC
Tukwila Station - Seattle, WA
Expo Center Station - Portland, OR

Each of the three corridor options has different benefits. For example, corridor option 1A would provide the highest ridership. Corridor option 4 would be the least costly to build, but would have the lowest ridership. 12 daily round trips along the entire corridor would provide the optimal level of service, and would capture 13 to 17 percent of all trips along the corridor.

The high-level cost to build ultra high-speed rail would range between US$24 billion and US$42 billion.

Recently, the Washington State Legislature, Province of BC, Oregon Department of Transportation, and Microsoft funded a US$1.5 million in-depth study that will evaluate:

  • Corridor options, including station and alignment opportunities, technologies, and costs
  • Potential ridership and revenue
  • Governing structures and economic impacts
  • Funding and finance alternative

Providing ultra high-speed rail service between Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland would certainly be a bold project. It will be interesting to see the results of the new study.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Langley City requests additional resources for ICM Team to help get people off the street

Last fall, Fraser Health launched a new Intensive Case Management (ICM) team for Langley. This team provides the following services for people:

  • Substance use counselling and/or access to treatment
  • Housing brokerage and support
  • Daily living skills supports and skill building
  • Connections to primary, dental, and specialist care
  • Grocery shopping
  • Accessing vocational rehabilitation support
  • Connections to community resources
  • Transportation to appointments
  • Supporting and encouraging healthy lifestyle choices, personal hygiene, short and long-term goal setting, and money management.

The ICM team services are key in helping people transition from living on the street with substance abuse issues, into safe housing with supportive services. To help support the ICM Team, BC Housing is providing 30 rent subsidies. When the former Quality Inn near Home Depot is reopened, it will provide 49 units of supportive housing.

The ICM team has the capacity to help 72 people, and earlier this year they reached their capacity. With over 200 people confirmed without a home in our community, we need more resources for the ICM team, including accompanying supportive housing.

ICM Team Statistics from September 29, 2017 thru June 13, 2018. Select table to enlarge.

On July 23, Langley City council released a letter that we sent to the Honourable Adrian Dix, BC Minster of Health. In the letter, we asked for additional resources to support the ICM team in Langley. The ICM team itself has requested additional resources from Fraser Health including another full-time support worker, two trauma counselors, three additional case managers, and continued funding to retain a Registered Nurse and full-time administrative assistant to ensure that people can get help in our community. More supportive housing will be required to be provided by BC Housing.

I am hopeful that BC Housing and Fraser Health, both provincial organizations, will come to the table will additional resources to help people in our community.