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 https://help.nathanpachal.com/. 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.