Tuesday, November 20, 2018

November 19, 2018 Council Meeting Notes: Townhouse and apartment projects moving forward, plus a new process for rezoning bylaws

Monday night was the first meeting of the new Langley City council where we got back into the business of city governance. With a new mayor and council, comes a new process for dealing with rezoning bylaws.

To rezone a parcel of land, four “readings” of a bylaw, plus a public hearing is required. Previously, first and second reading were given at one council meeting. At a subsequent council meeting, a public hearing and third reading was given. After all conditions from the city were met, a final reading would be heard for possible adoption of a rezoning bylaw.

The public hearing and third reading will now happen on two different nights. This will allow for feedback from the public and council to be addressed in more detail before debating the merits of a rezoning at third reading. I think that this is a good move.

There was a public hearing on Monday night about a proposed rezoning of the property located at 5398, 5410, 5448 208 Street to accommodate a 40-unit, four-storey apartment building. Of the 40 units, 8 units will include three bedrooms. This will help provide move affordable housing options for families.

Render of proposed apartment building at 5398, 5410, 5448 208 Street. View from 208th Street. Select image to enlarge.

Render of proposed apartment building at 5398, 5410, 5448 208 Street. View from Douglas Crescent. Select image to enlarge.

There were two residents who spoke at the public hearing, and one resident who submitted a written list of concerns. One concern expressed by the residents was the loss of trees along Douglas Crescent, east of 208th Street. The primary concern regarding the trees is that the people who live in the apartments across the street would lose privacy. They were also concerned that there would be a reduction of on-street parking. Finally, one resident was concerned about the construction period noise and parking for tradespeople.

Staff informed the residents at the public hearing that the trees will need to be removed to accommodate the underground parking. The proponent of the project noted that they will be incorporating new layered trees and shrubs to provide privacy. As far as on-street parking, staff noted that there will be no reduction in on-street parking.

Landscaping plan for proposed apartment building at 5398, 5410, 5448 208 Street. Select image to enlarge.

I asked the proponent of the project to bring their construction parking management plan for the third reading of the rezoning bylaw.

Later in the meeting, council gave final readings and issued development permits for the following projects:

Tomorrow, I’ll be continuing my update on the matters that were addressed last night.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Mayors’ Council halts light rail along King George and 104th Avenue; moves forward with two-phase SkyTrain extension to Langley

As I posted about on Wednesday, important decisions were made at the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation inaugural meeting. I listened to this meeting which was live-streamed on Thursday morning.

One of the first orders of business was to choose a new chair and vice-chair for the Mayors’ Council. People who serve as the chair and vice-chair of the Mayors’ Council are also automatically appointed to the TransLink Board, so these positions are very important.

Mayor Jonathan Cote of New Westminster was nominated by other mayors to be the chair, and Mayor Jack Froese was nominated as the vice-chair. Both Mayor Cote and Froese are good choices for these positions.

New Westminster and Langley City are very similar as we are both compact urban centres. I know that Mayor Cote is also a strong supporter of building compact urban centres that are connected by high-quality transit. This is what we are working towards in Langley City with our Nexus Vision.

Mayor Froese will provide a strong voice for the South of Fraser. He is pragmatic, and I know that he will work to ensure that we will get rapid transit built to Langley.

Not surprising, the Mayors’ Council did vote to halt building light rail along King George Boulevard and 104th Avenue. Importantly, they also voted to keep moving forward with the 10-Year Regional Transportation Investments Vision with the exception of Surrey rapid transit.

After much debate, they also voted to proceed “immediately with planning, design and procurement readiness works for the SkyTrain on Fraser Highway project. And, concurrently, initiate a planning process to refresh the Surrey-Newton-Guildford rapid transit, consistent with the 10-Year Vision of building 27 km of rapid transit along both corridors.”

It was confirmed that SkyTrain along Fraser Highway will likely be built in two phases due to the increased cost of using this technology compared to conventional light rail. The first phase will likely terminate somewhere in Fleetwood. It will be extremely important that funding is approved to ensure that there is a phase two of SkyTrain that will run to Langley.

The Mayors’ Council also approved their work plan for 2019 which includes:

  • Securing all remaining funding from the federal and provincial governments to complete the 10-Year Vision, including SkyTrain to Langley
  • Getting funding to complete a SkyTrain extension to UBC
  • Continuing to moving forward with exploring mobility pricing

While not explicitly stated, moving forward quickly to complete the 10-Year Vision will also mean that the Mayors’ Council will need to approve increased regional revenue to pay for the vision. This will likely mean property tax and gas tax increases.

Over the next few months, more details will become available on the implementation of rapid transit in the South of Fraser, including the timing of implementing B-Line routes. Information will also become available on how to get SkyTrain to UBC.

As I stated last week, I believe that the Mayors’ Council has their work cut out for them. They will need to accelerate and find significant new funding to build transit in our region. I hope that this new Mayors’ Council will move quickly as people in our region are tired of waiting for transit service to be expanded.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Two Events to Get You into the Christmas Spirit

I know that it is still the middle of November, but the Christmas season is quickly approaching. There are a few events that are coming up that are sure to get you into the spirit of the season.

The first event is the 2018 Langley Children's Wish Breakfast.

Children's Wish Breakfast

Stop by Newlands Golf & Country Club on November 27th with a new unwrapped toy, and enjoy a free breakfast with live entertainment. I was at this event last year, and it really reminded me of the generous spirit of our community. The toys will be used by the Langley Christmas Bureau for families in need.

Date: November 27, 2018
Time: 6:30 am - 9:30 am
Location: Newlands Golf & Country Club, 21025 48 Ave, Langley, BC

If you would like to volunteer or have any questions, please contact wishbreakfast@newlandsgolf.com

The next event is the annual Magic of Christmas Day on Saturday, December 1st.

Langley City's Magic of Christmas

You can start the day with a kid-friendly Breakfast with Santa from 9:00 am to 11:00 am at Douglas Recreation Centre. You must pre-register for this event online or by calling (604) 514-2940.

In the afternoon, you can drop by McBurney Plaza to take part in family-friendly activities from 4:00 pm until 6:00 pm.

The annual Christmas Parade starts at 6:00 pm, so be sure to grab a spot along the Fraser Highway One-Way.

After the parade, the Christmas Tree at McBurney Plaza will be lit and carolling will ensue.

For more information, please visit Langley City’s website.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The Future of South of Fraser Rapid Transit on the Table Thursday

Thursday morning will be the first meeting of the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation since the local government elections. Normally, inaugural meetings including items like appointing chairs, allowing people to get up to speed on the details of the current work plan, and developing a work plan for the coming year. With 75% of the mayors serving their first term, this would be a significant meeting with just those items.

With the new mandate in Surrey to halt development of light rail along King George Boulevard and 104th Avenue, and build SkyTrain along Fraser Highway instead, this meeting will also lay the groundwork for the future of transit for the over 800,000 people that call the South of Fraser home.

A typical cross section of SkyTrain as proposed for Fraser Highway. Select image to enlarge.

Mayors’ Council staff is asking mayors to approve the following recommendation:

  1. Endorse TransLink’s decision to suspend the Surrey-Newton-Guildford Project, stopping all expenditures of money and resources on the project, based on the request from the City of Surrey;
  2. Use the 10-Year Vision as the basis for South of Fraser rapid transit planning, recognizing the City of Surrey request to change the technology and timing of the Fraser Highway project from LRT to SkyTrain, and draw only on the available funding currently allocated for South of Fraser rapid transit in the Phase Two Plan, and the financial framework for the Phase Three Plan.
  3. Request the additional analysis and a work plan on “Option 2” in this report, for consideration at the December 13, 2018 meeting of the Mayors’ Council to:
    1. Start immediately with planning, consultation, design and procurement readiness works for the SkyTrain on Fraser Highway project, building on the 2017 SkyTrain design study; and concurrently to,
    2. Initiate a planning process to refresh the South of Fraser transit strategy.

What this means is that if the resolution is approved, Mayors’ Council staff would start the process of implementing SkyTrain along Fraser Highway in two phases. There is currently $1.6 billion available to build SkyTrain along Fraser Highway. The total cost to build SkyTrain is around $2.9 billion.

As noted in the report, “given the funding available in Phase Two [today], management advises that is likely that SkyTrain from Surrey to Langley would have to be constructed in two phases, the first using available Phase Two funding, and the second phase to complete the line to Langley, commencing once the Phase Three Plan is funded and approved.” Planning for SkyTrain along the whole corridor would start right away if the resolution is approved.

Additionally, there could be impacts to the timing of the Fraser Highway B-Line which was scheduled to start service in 2019.

In order for SkyTrain to make its way to Langley, new funding will need to be approved. Ideally, the federal and provincial governments would commit to an accelerated funding program. The Mayors’ Council would also have to approve a regional funding component which has historical been sourced by increasing property tax and gas tax.

Building SkyTrain to UBC has been expressed as a priority for the City of Vancouver. The Mayors’ Council will also need to figure out the priority of this project, how much it will cost, and how it will be funded. There is also the question of the future of rapid transit along King George Boulevard and 104th Avenue in Surrey that will need to be answered.

The new Mayors’ Council will have a full plate over the next few years. If all the pieces fall into place, SkyTrain along Fraser Highway could start construction in 2021/22.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Battery-electric and double decker buses coming to a transit route near you

Every year, the federal government distributes around 2 billion dollars to municipalities throughout Canada. This program is called the Federal Gas Tax Fund, and can be used for a broad range of infrastructure projects. In Metro Vancouver, municipalities decided that 95% of the fund be dedicated for public transit projects. This funding is used almost exclusively to purchase new buses for TransLink.

Every year, TransLink submits a list of projects to the Metro Vancouver Regional District Board for approval. This year TransLink is looking to purchase the following:

Project Vehicles Cost (Millions)
2020 Conventional (Double Decker) Bus Purchases for Modernization 25 double decker diesel buses $32.32
2020 Conventional 60’ Hybrid and 40’ Battery Electric Bus Purchases for Expansion 62 60‐ft hybrid buses, 6 40‐ft battery electric buses $109
2020 HandyDART Vehicle Purchases for Modernization 42 gasoline vehicles $6.45
2020 HandyDART Vehicle Purchases for Expansion 10 gasoline vehicles $1.6
2020 Community Shuttle Purchases 9 gasoline vehicles $2.22

One of the interesting purchases is for 25 double decker diesel buses which will replace the current yellow highway coaches that run on routes such as the 555 between Carvolth Exchange and Lougheed Town Centre.

TransLink is also proposing to buy 6 40-ft battery electric buses. These buses are proposed to run on the 100 between 22nd Street Station and Marpole Loop. These battery buses could use rapid-charging stations on-route. You can read more about this in a previous post that I wrote.

Map of bus route 100, Marpole Loop/22nd Street Station. Select map to enlarge.

In total, 87 vehicles will be used to expand transit service in our region, and 67 vehicles will be used to replace end-of-life buses.

Transit expansion is dependent on the region still proceeding with the Mayors’ Council 10-Year Vision. We will know more in the coming months about any modifications that will be made to the vision per the wishes of the new Mayors’ Council.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Property Tax, TransLink, and funding the major road network in the South of Fraser

When most people think of TransLink, it’s buses and trains that come to mind. What many people don’t know is that TransLink is also responsible for enhancing and maintaining the major road network, and funding projects that support improving cycling and walking in the region.

Map of the Major Road Network in the South of Fraser. TransLink funded roads are in blue. Select map to enlarge. Source: TransLink

In Langley City, TransLink helps fund the maintenance of 200th Street, and sections of the Langley Bypass and Fraser Highway. TransLink is also responsible for the 204th Street Overpass. In addition, our community has received funding for projects such as for the 203rd Street corridor enhancements.

TransLink has three major sources of revenue: fares, fuel tax, and property tax. The following chart shows the amount of property tax that the agency received from municipalities in the South of Fraser in 2017.

Property Tax 2017
Delta $14,131,700
Langley City $2,699,413
Langley Township $12,801,000
Surrey $43,692,000
White Rock $2,210,261

The following table shows the funding that TransLink provided in 2017 to South of Fraser municipalities to fund the major road network, and other cycling and walking projects.

Road Network, Cycling, and Walking Funding 2017
Delta $2,834,243
Langley City $871,865
Langley Township $5,235,952
Surrey $10,000,757
White Rock $69,000

This final table shows the percentage of property tax directly collected in each municipality that is used for road, cycling, and walking projects in that community.

Percentage Returned to Communities 2017
Delta 20%
Langley City 32%
Langley Township 41%
Surrey 23%
White Rock 3%

Around a quarter of property tax revenue is invested directly into non-transit projects by TransLink in the South of Fraser.

The majority of funding does go into transit service. In Langley, we get more transit service than we fund via property tax and gas tax. For more information, please look at an infographic I created a few years back.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Transit on-time performance for first half of this year mostly favourable

TransLink recently released its on-time performance metrics for the first half of this year.

On-time performance of SkyTrian and West Coast Express. Select chart to enlarge. Source: 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015.

Compared to previous years, on-time performance for rail service has remained consistent. This is mostly due to the fact that rail transit runs in its own right-of-way and is not subject to general traffic congestion.

Bus on-time performance is trickery to maintain as most buses in our region run in mixed traffic. This means that they are subject to the same delays that people driving single occupancy vehicles experience and cause. Even with that in mind, TransLink has been trying to improve the on-time performance of the bus system.

In the first six-months of this year, 76% of frequent transit routes and 81% of all other routes where on-time. It was 76% and 79% respectively during the first six-months of 2017.

One of the best ways to improve on-time performance of bus services is to have them operate in their own bus lanes with traffic signal prioritization. A good example will be the pending Fraser Highway B-Line. One of TransLink’s asks is that both Surrey and Langley City implement bus priority measures which include some dedicated bus lanes. This is something that I will support wholeheartedly.

TransLink defines on-time for SkyTrain as staying within 3 minutes of schedule, and staying within 5 minutes of schedule for West Coast Express. Bus service must not leave at scheduled stops earlier than 1 minute or arrive later than 3 minutes for it to be considered on-time.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

November 5, 2018 Council Meeting Notes: The Inaugural Meeting

Like most municipalities in Metro Vancouver, last night was the inaugural council meeting for Langley City. The meeting started with a welcome and honour song from Kwantlen First Nation Chief Marilyn Gabriel, her husband Kevin Kelly, and her son Michael Kelly Gabriel.

The inaugural council meeting is a celebratory event, but it also contains a key regulatory component in which the mayor and rest of council take the oath of office. The oath of office affirms that:

  • No member of council knowingly took part in vote buying or intimidation in relation to their election to the office.
  • Council members will faithfully perform the duties of their office, and will not allow any private interest to influence their conduct in public matters.
  • Council members will disclose any direct or indirect pecuniary interest they have in a matter and will not participate in the discussion of the matter and will not vote in respect of the matter.

A pecuniary interest means a matter that is tied to a monetary gain or loss. In local government, this generally relates to property where a decision of council could favor members of council, but not a neighbourhood as a whole. A good example would be if a member of council was selling a piece of property to the City.

The following pictures are from last night’s inaugural meeting.

Mayor Val van den Broek receiving the Chain of Office from former Mayor Ted Schaffer. Select image to enlarge.

Council taking the Oath of Office. From left-to-right, Rudy Storteboom, Rosemary Wallace, Gayle Martin, Teri James, Nathan Pachal, Paul Albrecht. Select image to enlarge.

Signing my oath of office. Select image to enlarge.

After the meeting, a reception was held outside of the council chamber.

Monday, November 5, 2018

A Primer to Governance at the Metro Vancouver Regional District Board

One of the things that I noticed when talking with people at the door during the recent election campaign was that most folks had limited knowledge about how the Metro Vancouver Regional District functions, especially the governance structure. This makes sense as the regional district, with the exception of regional parks, doesn’t directly provide services to people in our region.

Unlike counties in the US, regional districts are not another level of government. Regional districts only have as much power as member municipalities give them. One of the more controversial services that a regional district provides, as per provincial law, is a regional growth strategy that dictates land-use at a macroscale. Even this requires the consensus of all member municipalities.

For historical reasons, the Metro Vancouver Regional District consists of the regional district itself, the Greater Vancouver Sewerage and Drainage District, the Greater Vancouver Water District, and the Metro Vancouver Housing Corporation. While they are different legal entities, they function like one unit.

Each municipal council in our regional appoints one or more of its council members to the Metro Vancouver board. It is based on a weighted voting system. For every 20,000 people in a municipality, the board member gets one vote. One board member can have a total of five votes. For every five votes, a new board member is appointed by their municipal council to the board. The following table shows the current number of votes and board members for each municipality in our region.

Community Total Board Members Total Votes
Vancouver 7 32
Surrey 6 26
Burnaby 3 12
Richmond 2 10
Coquitlam 2 7
Delta 2 6
Langley Township 2 6
Maple Ridge 1 5
North Vancouver District 1 5
New Westminster 1 4
North Vancouver City 1 3
Port Coquitlam 1 3
West Vancouver 1 3
Langley City 1 2
Port Moody 1 2
Anmore 1 1
Belcarra 1 1
Bowen Island 1 1
Electoral Area A 1 1
Lions Bay 1 1
Pitt Meadows 1 1
Tsawwassen First Nation 1 1
White Rock 1 1

Based on this weighted vote system, regional district board members appoint a chair and co-chair of the regional district. All matters at the board can be subject to this weighted voting system.

One of the unique features of regional districts is that they act as de facto municipalities outside of municipal borders. People outside of municipalities elect directors to regional district boards. In our region this includes people who live at UBC, the University Endowment Lands, Barnston Island, and sections of Howe Sound and up Indian Arm.

The regional district system in BC gives a forum for municipalities to come together for the mutual benefit of each other. Because regional district boards are not another level of government, the amount of finger pointing that stands in the way of getting things done is limited.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Regional water and sewer utilities: big dollar, critical services for Metro Vancouver

Unless you’ve visited a regional park, there is a good chance that you’ve never directly interacted with the Metro Vancouver Regional District. Besides regional parks, two of the services that people benefit from directly each and every day are water and sewer services. Water services have been provided regionally since 1926 and sewer services since 1956.

Municipalities are responsible for the pipes and local reservoirs that are between the property lines of businesses and residences to Metro Vancouver mains. The following maps show where these water and sewer mains are for Langley City.

Map of Metro Vancouver Sewer Mains in Langley City. Select map to enlarge. Source: Metro Vancouver GIS.

Map of Metro Vancouver Water Main that serves Langley City. Select map to enlarge. Source: Metro Vancouver GIS.

With the possible exception of the North Shore, the rest of the region would be in a pickle if water and sewer services were not regionalized.

Water and sewer services are capital intensive; it takes a lot of money to build and renew these services. Recently, the regional district presented its financial plan for 2019. 37% or $308.6 million of the regional district’s budget is planned to go towards sewer services operations, and 35% or $289.1 million towards water services operations.

$231.4 million in project expenditures are planned for 2019 to maintain the regional water system and to accommodate growth. Many of the projects support the growth occurring in the South of Fraser.

$564.9 million in project expenditures are planned in 2019 for the regional sewer system. Two major multi-year projects that directly support the South of Fraser are the expansion of both the Annacis Island and Northwest Langley wastewater treatment plants.

These projects are paid for with funding from regional district operations, other orders of government, and debt financing. Over the next decade, the amount of money annually required to maintain and growth both water and sewer services is projected to increase.

While little attention is paid to water and sewer services, some of the most critical and expensive projects in our region are to ensure that taps work and toilets flush.

For more information, please check out the Metro Vancouver 2019-2023 Financial Plan Presentation Slides.