Thursday, March 21, 2019

Record ridership drives increased revenue for TransLink, even as fuel tax revenue declines

TransLink is in the process of releasing its year-end reports for 2018. As part of that process, the organization is presenting its 2018 Statutory Annual Report to the TransLink board tomorrow. One of the items in that report is its consolidated statement of operations.

2018 TransLink Consolidated Statement of Operations. Select table to enlarge.

TransLink received about $1.46 billion in revenue from Metro Vancouver via direct taxation and fares in 2018. About 44% of that direct revenue came from fares (and other revenue such as transit advertising.)

There are two things that stand out when it comes to revenue that TransLink received. The first is that fuel tax continues to be an unstable, and slowing declining, source of revenue for the agency. Fuel tax revenue was $7.1 million below what was budgeted in 2018. As noted in the report, “this was as a result of record high fuel prices in the first half of 2018 as a result of a refinery shut down, which caused consumers to look outside the region to purchase fuel.”

Fuel tax will need to be replaced with another revenue stream over the next decade as people continue to drive less due to better walking, cycling, and transit options, due to the cost of fuel, and due to people switching to electric vehicles. The Mayors’ Council and TransLink are studying replacement options.

Due to one of the largest increases in transit service in our region, transit ridership increased a record 7.1% in boardings and 6.0% in journeys between 2017 and 2018*. This delivered an additional $32 million in revenue beyond what was budgeted for 2018 which more than made up for the dip in fuel tax revenue. It seams that if you build it, they will come.

TransLink’s expenditures cover more than just the delivery of bus and rail services, but I wanted to focus on these two items. Rail service usually receives the majority of attention, but it is bus service that is backbone of our transit network. Of the close to $1.03 billion that is invested into delivering transit service, 70% of it is for bus service.

Financially, TransLink had a positive year in 2018.

*a journey represents a complete transit trip and does not count transfers. A boarding is counted every time a passenger enters a fare paid zone, including transfers. More information is available on TransLink’s website.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Transit Update: Bigger buses proposed for Fraser Highway. Expo Line to Langley next steps.

Since the municipal elections last fall, there has been some changes when it comes to the future of public transit along Fraser Highway. Fraser Highway hosts some of the busiest and most overcrowded bus routes in the South of Fraser.

One of the major changes was the switch from building light rail along Fraser Highway, 104th Avenue, and King George Boulevard, to expanding the Expo Line to Langley.

Proposed alignment for Expo Line extension to Langley. Select map to enlarge.

In a recent report to the TransLink board, the following facts about the proposed Expo Line extension were presented:

  • The preliminary cost estimate for a 16-kilometre SkyTrain extension from King George Station to 203 Street in Langley City is $2.9 billion (2017)
  • 14.3 kilometres of the extension will be in Surrey and 1.7 kilometres will be in Langley
  • There will be 8 stations:
    • Two stations between King George Boulevard and the Fleetwood area
    • Two stations in the Fleetwood area
    • Two stations in the Clayton area
    • One station in the Township of Langley (Willowbrook)
    • One station in Langley City
  • There is $1.6 billion available to build SkyTrain to Langley, leaving a gap of $1.3 billion

TransLink is currently projecting that the following work will be completed by the spring of 2020 for the Expo Line extension:

  • Finalize requirements gathering
  • Final reference design
  • Updating capital and operating cost estimates
  • Updating ridership forecasting and other project benefits
  • Confirming the procurement and delivery strategy
  • Confirming scope that can be delivered for approximately $1.6 billion
  • Public and stakeholder engagement
  • Environmental review and studies
  • First Nations reviews
  • Municipal support agreements
  • Business case development

Once these items have been completed, it will allow for the securing of funding approval from the federal and provincial governments, plus the Mayors’ Council. If all goes well, construction of the Expo Line extension could start in 2021/22.

One of the major challenges for the Mayors’ Council will be to secure the additional $1.3 billion to build SkyTrain to Langley.

If timelines don’t slip and funding is secured, SkyTrain to Langley could open in about six years from now. That means that for the next six years, something needs to be done to improve transit along Fraser Highway. Originally, there was going to be a Fraser Highway B-Line. This was cancelled due to the switch to SkyTrain. Even with this cancellation, TransLink and municipalities are looking at ways to address the overcrowding and reliability issues caused by congestion along Fraser Highway.

In Langley City, we are investigating building bus-only lanes along certain sections of Fraser Highway, 203rd Street, and Logan Avenue. I’m hopeful that the same conversation is occurring in Surrey to build some transit priority measures, such as bus-only lanes, along sections of Fraser Highway.

TransLink is also investigating bringing B-Line style buses to Fraser Highway, and improving the current B-Line along King George and 104th Avenue.

As stated in a recent report, “With the recent cancellation of the Fraser Highway B-Line, there will be changes to the roll-out of the new B-Line Program. The 96 B-Line, once slated for cancellation in favour of rail, will now be upgraded. [TransLink] is considering changes to the very busy Route 502 Fraser Highway, including deploying articulated buses.”

We are in exciting times when it comes to building better transit in the South of Fraser. If funding can be secured, we will finally be getting the transit service required to give people a way out of congestion in Surrey and Langley.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Langley Youth and Family Services: A free program to help youth with disruptive behaviour problems

Over the past few months, Langley City council has been receiving presentations from city departments, programs that the city funds, and other non-profit organizations as part of the orientation process of the new council term which runs from the start of November 2018 to the end of October 2022. One of the presentations that we received recently was from Langley Youth and Family Services.

Langley Youth and Family Services is a unique program that is funded jointly by the Township of Langley and Langley City to help young people in our community reduce their interaction with the criminal justice system, and improve their mental health literacy.

The program’s scope is as follows:

  • To provide counselling to children and youth (ages 5 – 17) who are identified by Langley RCMP because of involvement in delinquent or pre-delinquent behaviours.
  • To provide counselling to children and youth (ages 5 – 17) who are identified by Langley community partners because of disruptive behaviour problems.
  • To include parents/guardians in the counselling for the purpose of supporting and assisting their role in creating a positive, responsible lifestyle for the children.
  • To liaise and collaborate with Langley RCMP and Langley community partners in order to enhance and develop crime prevention strategies, policies, and services for the Langleys.

If you or someone you know could benefit from this program, they can be referred via a school counsellor, family doctor or pediatrician, psychiatrist, social worker, or other mental health professional. People are also referred via the RCMP. Information about the referral process is available online. This free program is only available to people who live in Langley.

The program has been running since 1977. Currently, there are only a handful of communities in British Columbia that have similar programs. Ted Leavitt, who is the program manager, noted that about 80% of the people that go through the program do not show up in the RCMP system within a six-month period. He also mentioned that the Langley program is used by other communities as a reference.

By helping young people early on, this program supports them in becoming more positive and productive members of our community. This is good for that person, society in general, and our municipality as it means less calls for service from the police and other municipal services which ends up saving money.

Monday, March 18, 2019

My experience catching the 562. Improving the customer experience at rural bus stops.

During the course of the year, I board well over 1,000 transit vehicles as I use transit to get to work in Downtown Vancouver from my home in Downtown Langley. Due to the number of times I take transit, sometimes I have a negative experience on transit. These negative experiences as far and few between; I can count them on one hand. Last week, I had a negative experience.

Last Wednesday, I was invited to speak at a meeting in Fort Langley in the evening. I decided to take the 562 which provides transit service between Langley City, Fort Langley, and Walnut Grove. This route is special because it is one of only a few transit routes in Metro Vancouver that isn’t operated by the publicly-owned Coast Mountain Bus Company. Its operation is contracted out by TransLink to First Transit which is a private corporation.

Unlike Coast Mountain Bus Company, the 562 lacks a key feature of other routes, real-time information. Because the 562 is a bus that runs every hour past 6pm, and is known to be inconsistent, there is always a bit of anxiety when the bus doesn’t arrive at its scheduled time. The route’s transit operators also don’t have the full communication system like Coast Mountain Bus Company operated routes.

An example bus stop in the Township of Langley (208th Street at 82nd Avenue.) Select image to enlarge.

I was waiting to catch the 8:11pm 562 at Wright Street and 88th Avenue. The bus was running late, but I didn’t know that because there was no real-time information. This section of 88 Avenue is poorly lit. There was no lighting of any sort at the bus stop. Given that this is the first bus stop after a long stretch of rural road, and due to the lack of lighting, I figured that there would be a high chance that I would be passed up.

When I saw the bus coming down into Fort Langley, I started waving my phone around. The transit operator did pass the stop, but luckily saw me at the last second, and pulled over past the stop to let me board. I was told by the operator, who was not very happy with me, that I wasn’t being visible enough.

This situation shouldn’t have happened. It was the result of design decisions that can be corrected.

Bus stops in rural areas need to be designed differently than bus stops in urban areas which generally have good street lighting. Ideally, there should be lighting at rural bus stops. As a younger, able-bodied male, I felt uncomfortable waiting at a dark bus stop. I told my friend who used to live in Fort Langley about this bus stop, she told me that she would never wait for a bus at night there because she felt unsafe.

If lighting a bus stop is not possible, adding reflective material to the bus stop sign and sign pole would help make the stop more visible. In Seattle, you can press a button at some bus stops which causes a light to flash above the bus stop sign.

If the transit operator had the more advanced communication system like Coast Mountain Bus Company operated routes, they would have been reminded that a bus stop was coming up.

A few changes to rural bus stop design could make for a better customer experience. Waiting for the 562 should not be a harrowing adventure.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

March 11, 2019 Council Meeting Notes: City Park renewal project and other project updates, plus advocating to the province

Today will be my last post on Monday night’s Langley City council meeting. I’ve previously posted on the approved 2019 budget, the City’s new citizen-led task groups, and updated door-to-door canvassing policy.

While memories of large quantities of snow is likely on most people’s minds, it actually has been a mild winter. This means that various projects have been moving forward in our community. Council received an Engineering and Parks update about what is in the works at the meeting.

City Park is undergoing a phased renewal. The first of several phases is being worked on right now. The following drawing shows the scope of work for this current phase.

City Park current-phase renewal project scope. Select map to enlarge.

There were several trees that were removed recently from the park. The majority of the removed trees were part of the approved plan, but six trees were removed that were not on the original plan (which I learned about post removal). At Monday’s meeting, council was assured that many more trees will be planted than were removed. As per the approved plan, the former conifer trees are being replaced with deciduous trees.

City Park Renewal Project: In-Progress Photos. Select image to enlarge.

It is expected that this phase of the City Park renewal will be done by the end of May.

Other projects on the go include:

  • Condor Park trail renewal
  • LED streetlight renewal which is scheduled to be completed this year
  • New vandalism-resistant boxes to protect city-owned wiring
  • Michaud Crescent corridor renewal planning and upcoming public consultation
  • Grade Crescent corridor renewal planning and upcoming public consultation
  • Glover Road corridor renewal and cycling planning
  • 203rd Street renewal between Fraser Highway and Logan Avenue
  • Various projects to renew water mains throughout the community
  • Updating the Subdivision and Development Bylaw

One of the ways that local governments can pass ideas onto the provincial government for consideration is through the Lower Mainland Local Government Association (LMLGA) and Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM). These organizations present a united voice for local governments in our province. Langley City council approved forwarding the following motions for consideration:

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

March 11, 2019 Council Meeting Notes: Pickleball, Environmental Task Group, Arts & Culture Task Group, and Door-to-Door Canvassing

Monday night’s Langley City council meeting was a full house with members of the Langley Area Pickleball Dinkers. Pickleball has become a popular sport in Langley City in recent years. The sport “combines elements of badminton, tennis, and table tennis.

Members of Langley Area Pickleball Dinkers at Monday night's council meeting. Select image to enlarge.

When pickleball is played outdoors in Langley City, it is played on the tennis courts in Douglas Park. Client Davies, who represented the Langley organization at the council meeting, requested that the City repair the surface cracks on the courts and repaint permanent lines to support both tennis and pickleball. He also noted that there will be a pickleball tournament in Langley between July 5th and 7th, with proceeds benefiting Douglas Park Community School.

Council passed a motion to have staff investigate options to repair and repaint the tennis courts in Douglas Park.

As I noted yesterday, later during the meeting, council gave final reading to the 2019-2023 Financial Plan. Council also gave final reading to the Advisory Planning Establishment Commission Bylaw which I posted about previously.

Council also approved the terms of reference for our new Environmental Task Group, and Arts and Culture Task Group. These task groups will run until the end of this year, and could be extended by council for another year if required.

The Environmental Task Group “will evaluate and recommend to City Council bylaws and policies related to the protection and enhancement of the environment.” The membership of this task group will include: two members of council, a member representing the Langley Field Naturalist, a member representing the Langley Environment Partner Society, a youth member, a member from a post-secondary institution, and a member from the community at-large.

The Arts and Culture Task Group “will evaluate and recommend to City Council initiatives and programs related to the furtherance of arts and culture in the community.” The membership of this task group will include: two members of council, a member from the Langley Arts Council, a member from a local multicultural organization, a youth member, and two members from the community at-large.

Council also approved an update to our Door-to-Door Canvassing Policy. People who go door-to-door in our community to fundraise for registered charities are subject to this policy, and should receive approval from council for canvassing activities.

The policy’s principles include that canvassing should only occur between 9am and 8pm, Monday thru Saturday (excluding holidays), and that any one organization can only canvass for one month per year. Information about groups that are permitted to canvass are sent to the RCMP, and the policy states that all canvassers must carry proof of authorization at all times. As a note, this policy is not meant to apply to children selling cookies for a club that they belong to.

Tomorrow, I’ll be posting about the remaining topics covered at Monday night’s council meeting.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Langley City council unanimously approves 2019 budget

Last night, Langley City council unanimously voted in favour of approving our community’s 2019 budget (Councillor Wallace and Storteboom were not at last night’s meeting.) This means that the City will be moving forward on some significant projects and programs that will improve the quality of life for people in our community.

I’ve posted about the budget previously as follows:

A complete set of budget documents is available on the City’s website. I’ve also updated my Langley City Solutions Tracker 2.0 which shows how the approved 2019 budget aligns with the commitments I made to residents during the fall 2018 election.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Gaps in transit access in our town centres. Transit corridors, office space, and building an accessible region.

One of the long-term goals of Metro Vancouver and its residents is to create complete town centres where people can live, work, and partake in social and recreational activities. These town centres help preserve our greenspace. Our town centres were to be connected by high quality, frequent transit.

Building vibrant town centres in a “sea of green” has been envisioned since 1966 with the adoption of the first regional growth strategy. How successful has this vision been? The square footage of office space is one of the key metrics that is used to measure the success of this policy. It is recognised that while many people will choose to live in town centres, many people will not. It is also recognised that industrial uses are not necessarily appropriate for town centres.

About 68% of all office space is in town centres. This includes places such as Downtown Vancouver, Downtown Surrey, and the Langley Regional Town Centre to name a few. The following map shows the location of town centres and office space.

Inventory of office space in Metro Vancouver. Map highlights town centres. Source: Metro Vancouver.

One of the interesting facts is that not all town centres have frequent transit service throughout them. For example, while Downtown Langley has frequent transit (every 15 minute or better service most of the day), 64th Avenue does not. These areas are both within the Langley Regional Town Centre.

About 4% of office space in town centres is not accessible by high quality transit, focused in areas such as South Surrey, Richmond City Centre, and Willoughby. For town centres to function properly, they need frequent transit throughout. This is a challenge that needs to be addressed in our region.

Increasingly in our region, planners are seeing the value of also concentrating office growth along corridors that are serviced by high quality transit which connects our town centres together. Some examples of these corridors include Fraser Highway and Broadway.

When accounting for these high quality, frequent transit corridors, around 88% of all office space in our region is either in town centres or along frequent transit corridors.

The remaining 12% of office space by square footage is in business parks which would mostly be associated with sprawl. These sprawling business parks are concentrated in Burnaby, Richmond, and North Vancouver (City and District.)

The good news is that building transit inaccessible office space is not popular, but nonetheless, as a region we need to ensure that we are only building offices in our town centres or along transit corridors. We also need to make sure that our town centres have frequent transit service including in town centres in Langley, Surrey, and Delta.

For more information, please read the “Office Development in Metro Vancouver’s Urban Centres” report from the Metro Vancouver Regional District.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Dealing with toxic social media and defending their records. Recently re-elected councillors share experiences from the campaign trail.

Inspired by SFU City Conversations, four first-term councillors from municipalities throughout the region had an idea to bring important city-building conversations out from the confines of the City of Vancouver, to the rest of the region.

They held a series of in-person Metro Conversations in 2017, and launched a 6-episode podcast series in 2018. The topics focused on housing, transportation, and equity. The series was paused due to the fall 2018 municipal elections.

With elections over, and all four councillors now serving their second-term, Metro Conversations is back.

Four special election-edition podcasts have been released where councillors Nathan Pachal from the City of Langley, Kiersten Duncan from the City of Maple Ridge, Mathew Bond from the District of North Vancouver and Patrick Johnstone from New Westminster talk about their experiences during the fall 2018 campaign including what the hot topics were, other candidates, and the politics of their communities.

“These were fun interviews to do, and I like that we ended up with four very different conversations,” said Councillor Johnstone. “We may all have similar politics, so we all laugh at the same cues, but these interviews show how diverse our communities are and highlight how our connected region is often impacted by politics that are hyper-local.”

Season 1B is also available on:
iTunes: http://itunes.convo.city
Google Play: http://play.convo.city

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Metro Vancouver study finds oversupply of on-site parking at apartments

Back in the summer, and again in the fall, I posted information about the Metro Vancouver Regional District’s on-going research into the utilization of on-site parking at apartment buildings throughout Metro Vancouver. Even in the South of Fraser, they found that on-site parking at apartment buildings was underutilized.

On-street parking on 204th Street near 54th Avenue in Langley City. 

The regional district compiled a series of key findings from its long-term parking study which was started in 2011 as follows:

  • For both rental and strata buildings, apartment parking supply exceeds use across the region. In strata apartment buildings, parking supply exceeds utilization by 42 percent, while in rental apartment buildings, parking supply exceeds utilization by 35 percent.
  • Apartment parking supply and use is lower for buildings closer to frequent transit (bus or rail).
  • Transit use is generally higher where apartment parking use is lower, especially for rental buildings.
  • Street parking is complex in mixed-use neighbourhoods. Some of the factors contributing to street parking use include: visitors to non-residential land uses in the evenings; apartment visitors on weekends, holidays, and special occasions; and some apartment residents parking on a nearby street.
  • The design and capacity of bicycle parking facilities in apartment buildings appear to discourage use by many residents.

I live in an apartment building, and there is never a time when I see our parking lot full. This seems to support the findings of Metro Vancouver’s study.

One of the comments that I heard from people, and see myself, is that in certain parts of Langley City on-street residential parking is harder to find. The Metro Vancouver study found that the worse time to find on-street parking in their study areas was on Saturday evening, where at 17% of the sites, on-street parking exceeded 85% utilization. 85% is the number at which it becomes difficult to find parking.

Again, this confirms my observation in Langley City where there are only certain areas with apartments where on-street parking is heavily utilized.

Comparison of parking supply and utilization at market rental sites. Select chart to enlarge.

The Metro Vancouver study did note that where on-site parking is included as part of rent, there is a slightly higher utilization rate of on-site parking. Where on-site parking is a paid optional component of rent, there is slightly higher on-street parking usage by residents though the study found that “street parking utilization on average does not approach 85 percent” outside of the City of Vancouver.

In Langley City, it found that on-street parking utilization was 67% on Saturday evenings, when on-street parking utilization is highest, at their study area around 19899 55A Ave.

Anecdotal observations from several peer municipal staff in Metro Vancouver suggest that there is a correlation between on-site visitor parking utilization and whether or not the nearby streets have regulations (i.e. where apartment sites tend to have lower facility utilization if the nearby streets are unregulated).

Langley City is in the process of starting a comprehensive parking management strategy for our community. I look forward to seeing its results and recommendations especially around on-street residential parking.

On-site parking is expensive to building, an underground parking spot costs around $20,000 $55,000. If on-site parking is underutilized, there is an opportunity to reduce the cost of building apartments. It also means that there is an opportunity to use less land for parking which helps create more affordable and environmentally sustainable communities.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

$1,000 Aboriginal Youth Mentorship Award

I received the following information which I thought I would pass along from Longhouse Consulting which according to their website is a local business in our community that is “a 100% owned aboriginal business [that] strives to incorporate the same values as the Metis Nation of British Columbia.”

They are accepting applications for their Aboriginal Youth Mentorship Award which includes $1,000 plus workshops at their office on web design, digital advertising and graphic design “that will aid any entrepreneur in their future endeavours.”

The criteria for the award are as follows:

  • Be an Aboriginal Youth of or between the age of 17 and 25
  • Be seeking to enter a career in entrepreneurship, technology, marketing, photography/videography or graphic design
  • Preference will be given to local applicants of aboriginal ancestry, however, in the absence of quantity or quality of applications applicants from anywhere in Canada and of any background may be considered

For more information about the award, and to apply, please visit their website.

Monday, March 4, 2019

A list of TransLink’s proposed transit, road, walking, and cycling improvements that are unfunded

In November 2016, phase one of TransLink’s three-phase, ten-year vision was approved by the Mayors’ Council. Phase two was approved in June 2018. For more details about the projects, service increases, and new funding for road, walking, and cycling infrastructure in this vision, please visit TransLink’s 10-Year Vision microsite.

A TransLink representative presented an update about the 10-Year Vision at the most recent Mayors’ Council meeting and Metro Vancouver’s Council of Councils. The results of phase one transit improvements are in: overall service has increased by six percent between 2016 and 2018, resulting in ridership increasing 15 percent in the same period. Our region has seen one of the highest growth rates for transit ridership of any major region in Canada or the US.

A TransLink representative presenting at Metro Vancouver Council of Councils meeting. Select image to enlarge.

This high growth rate means that transit service is still overcrowded. Phase two of the vision is in the process of being rolled out, but the final phase still is not funded. The following table shows the proposed transportation improvements currently in the final phase of the ten-year vision.

Rail Improvements:

  • Upgrades to Expo, Millennium, and Canada Line stations
  • Purchase 10 West Coast Express cars
  • Upgrades to Canada Line systems
  • Surrey-Langley Expo Line extension

Bus Improvements:

  • 7% service increase for conventional bus transit
  • 8% services increase for HandyDart transit
  • Five new B-Lines
  • Service expansion to two areas that are underserved today
  • Upgrades to 9 transit exchanges

Road Network, Walking, and Cycling Improvements:

  • $100 million for road network safety upgrades
  • $71.5 million for road network structures and seismic upgrades
  • $12.5 million for walking infrastructure
  • $43 million for municipal-controlled cycling infrastructure
  • $13 million for TransLink-controlled cycling infrastructure

The current provincial government has shown that it is willing to work with the Mayors’ Council on getting transit built in our region. I’m hopefully that this cooperation continues to get phase three funded. The transit referendum that was forced upon our region set transit expansion back many years; we cannot afford these types of delays going forward.

Even with phase three fully funded, more transit service expansion will be needed. TransLink is in the process of developing a new long-range regional transportation strategy which will feed into a new mid-term vision to expand transportation options in our region.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Council of Councils: An Overview of Metro Vancouver Regional District Services - Part 2

Last weekend, I attended Metro Vancouver’s Council of Councils meeting. This meeting is held semi-annually, and provides an opportunity for all elected representatives from local governments throughout our region to learn and ask questions about the regional district.

On Monday, I posted some general information and highlights from last Saturday’s meeting, focusing on the regionalized utilities that provide water, sewer, and garbage services that make up the bulk of the regional district’s budget.

Today, I’ll be posting some highlights about the remaining services that we received information about at last Saturday’s Council of Councils meeting.

Regional Parks

Metro Vancouver maintains a system of regional parks and protected areas. This is likely one of the services that most people in Metro Vancouver associate with the regional district.

Map of Metro Vancouver Regional District Greenspaces. Select map to enlarge.

Metro Vancouver’s mandate for its parks system is to connect people with natural ecosystems, not provide sports fields and playgrounds. Because of this mandate, the parks system provides an opportunity to protect threatened plants and animals in our region.

As I posted about earlier this year, one of the key strategies of Metro Vancouver is to purchase property with sensitive ecosystems to expand its parks and conservation network. One recent example is the purchase of 3.95 hectares of property to expand Campbell Valley Regional Park.

Currently there are 32 parks, greenways, and protected areas that the regional district manages.

Regional Planning

The regional district is required by provincial legislation to have a regional growth strategy. The provincial government has a good overview of what regional growth strategy do on their website. All municipalities in our region must have their official community plans consistent with regional growth strategy objectives. This is done mostly by consensus and cooperation.

The current regional growth strategy, Metro Vancouver 2040, is due for an updated. One of the major projects for the regional district will be to update our regional growth strategy. It is expected that this update will be completed sometime in 2021.

TransLink is also updating their long-term regional transportation strategy. Both TransLink’s and Metro Vancouver’s long-term strategies will be developed to align with each other.

Air Quality and Climate Change

The Metro Vancouver Regional district is unique in our province as it has regulatory powers to manage emissions from industrial emitters and other sources of air pollution such as wood burning stoves and construction equipment. It maintains an air quality monitoring network.

The district also provides resources to support its federated local governments adopt to climate change and reduce emissions. A new Climate 2050 roadmap is being developed by the regional district to provide a strategy for how our region moves forward to tackle climate change.

Metro Vancouver Housing

The regional district is one of BC’s largest affordable housing providers. It provides 9,400 people on 49 sites in 11 municipalities a place to call home. Their housing is geared towards families, seniors, and people with disabilities. The below market rents are indexed to tenants’ income. A process is underway to expand their supply of affordable rental housing by redevelop their existing sites.

I asked if they would be building additional affordable housing in municipalities that currently don’t have regional district sites. I was told that if municipalities can provide land, the district would be willing to look at building affordable housing in those municipalities.

The regional district also provides resources to help municipalities plan for affordable housing such as the recent Affordable Housing Strategy.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

February 25, 2019 Council Meeting Notes: Updates to the Advisory Planning Commission. Development Projects Approved.

Yesterday, I posted about the proposed 2019 Langley City budget and community grants that were approved at Monday night’s council meeting. Today, I will be covering the remaining items that were on the agenda.

George Garrett, former CKNW report, presented about the Volunteer Cancer Drivers Society. He noted that around 3 years ago the Canadian Cancer Society stopped funding their volunteer driver program which provided a way to transport people who otherwise couldn’t get to cancer treatment. Garrett stated that his organization picked-up where the Canadian Cancer Society left off, and now provides about one-third of the volunteer cancer driver trips in our province. He requested that Langley City provide a community grant to the Volunteer Cancer Drivers Society to support their program.

Council also received an update about recreation services from its director, Kim Hilton. She stated that Family Day long weekend programming was well received, including a family art drop-in program at Timms Community Centre where 125 people attended. She noted that the family art drop-in will be back. For a list of recreation opportunities, please visit the City’s website.

Council gave third reading to bylaws to support a proposed 4-storey, 14 unit "stacked townhouse" development at 20172-20178 53A Avenue; and, a proposed 5-storey, 104-unit apartment at 5470, 5480, 5490, 5500, 5510 199A Street. Council also gave final reading to discharge a land use contract for 5139 209A Street. You can read more about these items in a previous blog post.

Council also gave first, second, and third reading to update the Advisory Planning Commission Establishment Bylaw. The Advisory Planning Commission provides advice to council about proposed development projects in our community. All development projects are reviewed by this commission before going to Langley City council for review.

The commission is made up of six voting members from the community, and one voting member who is an Accessibility Representative. There are other non-voting members on the commission including a representative from the school board, RCMP, and City council. Members serve a one-year term.

The proposed updates address some housekeeping matters and also clarify details about how the commission should go about reviewing development proposals. The commission can provide advice on most aspects of a development proposal to council including the overall design of a proposal, the relationship of a proposal to its surrounding, parking layout, siting of a building, building materials used, and overall quality. This is not an exhaustive list. If the updated bylaw receives final reading, the next step will be to appoint commission members for 2019.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

February 25, 2019 Council Meeting Notes: Budget receives third reading and community grants approved

Currently, Langley City is in the process of adopting its 2019 budget and financial plan. Around 7 residents attended the financial plan open house last Wednesday. Of the people that I talked to, the concerns I heard were around the assessed values of their properties. The value of property is determined by the independent BC Assessment Authority. The authority does provide a way to appeal their assessment determinations though the period to appeal for 2019 has passed.

A Committee of the Whole was held at the beginning of last night’s council meeting to give people an opportunity to provide feedback directly to council about the proposed 2019 financial plan. Council received no written comments and no members of the public were present to speak to the financial plan last night.

Mayor van den Broek proposed some amendments to the financial plan to delay implementation or eliminate some of the proposed service level increases. These amendments did not move forward. The unamended financial plan received third reading last night. The final reading of the financial plan will occur in March. If approved, the 2019 budget and financial plan will be adopted.

For more information about the financial plan, please read my budget overview post, a post about the proposed service level increases, and a post about the proposed capital works budget.

Langley City received $7.8 million in casino proceeds in 2018. Every year council allocates a portion of these proceeds to provide community grants to support non-profit organizations and events that benefit our community. Council also distributes scholarships to support Langley City high school students.

Council adopted an amendment to the community grant policy on Monday night to require that organizations that receive a grant, provide an acknowledgement regarding this support.

Council also approved distributing $157,430.65 in grants last night as follows:

Bard in the Valley - $11,285.40
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Langley - $3,000.00
Blacklock Elementary School (PAC) - $1,500.00
Boys and Girls Club of Langley - $3,600.00
Canadian Chili and BBQ Society - $10,000.00
Canadian National Racquetball Championship - $1,000.00
Children of the Street Society - $1,000.00
Christmas Parade Event - $11,500.00
Codependents Anonymous 12 Step Group - $491.50
Critter Care Wildlife Society - $2,500.00
DLBA – Arts Alive Event - $10,000.00
Douglas Park Charity Pickelball Tournament - $4,000.00
Douglas Park Community School Society - $4,000.00
Elijah Place - $3,465.00
Encompass Support Services Society – Best Babies - $6,187.59
Fibromyalgia Well Spring Foundation - $1,000.00
Fraser Region Community Justice Initiatives – Black Book - $2,000.00
Fraser Valley Cultural Diversity Awards - $750.00
KPU / Kiwanis Fraser Valley Music Festival Society - $5,500.00
Langley 4H District Council - $150.00
Langley Amateur Radio Association - $262.60
Langley Baseball Association - $8,000.00
Langley Cares Foundation – Langley Lodge - $3,000.00
Langley Community Farmers Market Society - $4,500.00
Langley Community Services Society - $5,000.00
Langley Field Naturalists - $1,600.00
Langley Flippers Swim Club - $3,066.00
Langley Fundamental Secondary School - Dry Grad - $500.00
Langley Girl’s Softball Tournament $2,500
Langley Hospice Society - $2,062.00
Langley Lawn Bowling Club - $1,300.00
Langley Literacy Association - $2,500.00
Langley Pos-Abilities Society - $1,261.31
Langley Royal Canadian Legion – Remembrance Day - $4,750.00
Langley Scholarship Committee - $4,500.00
Langley Secondary School – Dry Grad - $500.00
Langley Senior Resources Society - $15,000.00
Langley Ukulele Association - $1,650.00
Lower Fraser Valley Aboriginal Society - $2,627.00
Mountain Secondary School Dry Grad - $500.00
Parkinson Society BC – Langley Chapter - $236.25
Pitch In Canada - $425.00
Pucks Powerplay Foundation - $2,500.00
Seniors of Langley - $355.00
Shape Your World - $4,906.00
Youth Parliament - $1,000.00

Tomorrow, I’ll be posting about the other items on Monday night’s council meeting agenda.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Council of Councils: An Overview of Metro Vancouver Regional District Services - Part 1

The Metro Vancouver Regional District is a federation of municipalities, Tsawwassen First Nation, and unincorporated areas. Each local government appoints members to the Metro Vancouver board. Because the majority of councillors in our region do not actively participate in the regional district’s committees and boards, twice a years, a Council of Councils meeting is held. This is a town-hall format event where local elected representatives receive updates about the regional district, and have an opportunity to ask questions.

Map of Metro Vancouver Regional District including other local governments. Select map to enlarge.

I attended the first Council of Councils meeting since the fall election on Saturday. Because there are many new people elected in local government, the focus of this Council of Councils was on providing a high level overview of the regional district and the services it provides.

Metro Vancouver is home to 53% of BC’s population. Services started being regionalize in 1914 with sewerage and drainage services, followed shortly by water services. The regional district has a proposed 2019 budget of $831.4 million.

Water, sewerage, and drainage services require a significant amount of funding to operate and maintain. The following is a sample of some of the $200 million plus projects that the regional district is working on:

  • Annacis Island Wastewater Treatment Plant Stage 5 Expansion - $538.3 million
  • Northwest Langley Wastewater Treatment Plant Expansion - $537.6 million
  • Second Narrows Marine Crossing - $351 million
  • Coquitlam Main No. 4 - $236 million
  • Annacis Marine Crossing - $217 million

The Council of Councils meeting lasted about 3 hours, and with the density of information provided, it was like drinking from a firehose a points.

I will be posting some highlights from this meeting in two parts. Today, I will focus on the regional district’s utilities which represent about 85% of its expenditures. Later in the week, I’ll be posting about the remaining services.

Water Services

Metro Vancouver has the largest water filtration facilities in Canada. Water services require a high level of investment. Metro Vancouver’s website provides information on their three reservoirs. The proposed 2019 budget for water services in the region is $289 million.

Langley City buys water from Metro Vancouver which is then fed into our water system before connecting to housing and businesses in our community.

Demand for water has been relatively flat even as our region grows due to conservation efforts, but the district is starting to see demand grow now. This means that the regional district will need to double-down on conservation efforts, and also start to plan for further expansion to make sure that water is available for everyone as the region continues to grow. The regional district is about to start work on a 30-year infrastructure plan to help guide investments required.

Liquid Waste-Sewerage Services

As I noted earlier, sewerage services have been regionalized for over 100 years. While people don’t think much about sewers today, they are one of the key components of the public health system.

The proposed 2019 budget for liquid waste services is $309 million to support five wastewater treatment plants including significant upgrades to accommodate population growth and new environmental standards which require secondary treatment of wastewater. The cost of upgrading these treatment plants will have a large impact on property tax in the coming years. Like the water utility, a 30-year infrastructure plan is being developed.

Solid Waste Services

Metro Vancouver residents, buinessines, and visitors generate around 3 million tonnes of garbage per year. While our region is a leader in North America with 63% of garbage being diverted into recycling and organics streams, this is a long way from the region’s goal of 80% garbage diversion. Beyond diverting garbage, one of the keys is to reduce waste from being created in the first place. The good news is that there has been a decline in garbage even as our region is growing. The regional district is working with other communities and organizations throughout Canada to help further this decline in garbage generation.

Two areas that the regional district is working on is how to better handle construction and demolition waste which can be voluminous, as well as working on an action plan to reduce single-use item waste such as food containers.

Metro Vancouver operates a waste-to-energy facility which consumes about a quarter of the garbage that would otherwise end up in landfill. A 30-year infrastructure plan is being developed for solid waste services. The proposed 2019 budget for these services is $107 million.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

SFU competition brings students together to pitch solutions to reduce congestion in Metro Vancouver

It is very unusual for both my role as a Langley City councillor and role in my day job at a local software company to come together, but it did yesterday at SFU’s CaseIT Business Case Competition. This competition is run out of the Beedie School of Business. The competition focuses on creating business cases for ideas that bridge business and technology. The company that I work for was a sponsor of the event, and I was there as a TechMentor to provide guidance and advice to the teams that were in the competition.

I was surprised to learn that the teams had to develop a business case on how to reduce congestion in Metro Vancouver. This is something that I spend a lot of time thinking about in my role as a city councillor.

Lunch break at CaseIT competition. Select image to enlarge.

Many of the teams pitched solutions that focused around road pricing to reduce congestion by providing incentives to travel outside of peak travel periods and disincentives to travel during peak periods.

Other teams thought about expanding bike-share programs region-wide, and providing safe bike parking at SkyTrain stations. One team thought that the region needed to build more park and ride lots at SkyTrain stations.

Some teams focused on creating apps to make car-sharing, cycling, and transit easier for people. One team pitched an app that would tell you the best way to get around the region, including using multiple travel modes such as using rideshare and transit, that could be customized by options such a price, environmental impact, and accessibility.

Instead of private companies providing ride-hailing services, one team pitched a solution where TransLink would use ride-hail technology to help provide fast, frequent mini-bus service to areas that currently cannot support 15 minute or better bus service. This was one of the ideas that I thought could have an application in Langley.

While many of the teams focused on moving people around, one of the teams that I TechMentored wanted to look at how communities could reduce congestion by providing more information to municipalities.

Currently information about our transportation network exists in many places. Crash data is available through ICBC. Many private companies have real-time traffic information. Traffic signals are controlled by various municipalities and the province. The short of it is that there is a lot of information available that could be used to help municipalities build roads that reduce crashes which reduces congestion, or optimize traffic signals and routing, but they are all in disconnected locations.

If you are a big municipality like Vancouver or Surrey, you can hire a team to develop custom solutions, but this is not possible for most municipalities in our province. All municipalities have GIS mapping systems which allow the public and municipal staff to look at things like property lines, aerial photos, roads, pipes, parks, and streetlight locations. Adding traffic information into these mapping systems is just another layer that could be made availalble. One of the teams pitched creating a solution that would tie various disconnected data sources into these GIS systems through software that would be broadly available to municipalities of all sized.

I found the experience of attending CaseIT refreshing. It was encouraging to see students working towards solutions to help reduce congestion and the need for single-occupancy vehicles in Metro Vancouver.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Creating safer streets in Langley City. 80% drop in crashes on 203 Street.

The majority of streets in Metro Vancouver have been built and are maintained by municipalities. As I posted about in early January, motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of fatalities in our province and a leading cause of hospitalizations. These statistics are alarming and unacceptable. These statistics are unacceptable because street design is directly linked to both the severity and number of crashes. Street design can be changed.

Many municipalities in North America are adopting “Vision Zero” principles to reduce the severity of injuries from crashes and to eliminate fatalities caused by motor vehicle crashes.

While Langley City has not official adopted Vision Zero principles, the City has nonetheless being making changes to our street network to reduce speeding and conflicts at intersections which help to reduce the frequency and severity of collisions.

Over the past several years, there has been a significant redesign of two streets in our community that have been completed to improve safety for all street users: 203rd Street and 53/51B Avenue, east of 204th Street.

Have these street redesigns been successful in creating safer streets?

203rd Street at 53A Avenue. Select image to enlarge.

Between the beginning of April 2016 and end of March 2017, there were 12 collision on 203rd Street between Michaud Crescent and Grade Crescent according to RCMP data. Between the beginning of April 2017 and end of March 2018, there were 2.

Between the beginning of February 2017 and end of January 2018, there were 4 collisions on 53/51B Avenue between from 204 and 208 Street. Between the beginning of February 2018 and end of January 2019, there were 2.

There have also been various smaller traffic calming projects implemented throughout Langley City in the past few years. Headlines were made in 2017 when there were several vehicles that crashed and flipped along 50 Avenue near Condor Park.

Before traffic calming was installed along this section of 50 Avenue, there were 4 collisions between the beginning November 2016 and the end of October 2017. Between the beginning of November 2017 and end of October 2018, there was 1 collision.

Most of the changes that have been made to Langley City streets in the last several years seem to be reducing the number of collisions. The means safer streets which results in a happier and healthier community.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Langley City 2019 Budget: A look at the $10 million capital works plan

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been posting about the proposed Langley City 2019 budget and financial plan. There are two main parts of the financial plan, the operating budget and the capital budget. The operating budget is generally where ongoing expenditures are accounted for. Some examples would include labour costs for providing policing services, paying for electricity, or purchasing paper towels for City washrooms. The operating budget is the largest part of the Langley City financial plan.

A slide of the larger items in Langley City's 2019 proposed capital budget

The other major part of Langley City’s financial plan is the capital budget. The City is proposing to invest close to $10.1 million in the 2019 capital budget. The capital budget is generally used to pay for one-time projects, or to pay for creating or renewing a tangible asset such as building a new playground, replacing an old water main, or building a bridge.

Langley City’s capital budget is funded from revenue received from the casino, fees and contributions from developers, funding from the federal and provincial governments, and property tax.

Today, I wanted to highlight some of the larger items that are being proposed in the 2019 capital budget.

RCMP Detachment Repairs - $905,000
Help fund the renewal of the fire suppression and electrical systems, heating/cooling system, enhance security, and general improvements.

Baldi Creek Bridge - $745,000
Funds the construction of a pedestrian bridge across Baldi Creek, connecting Brydon Crescent with the BC Hydro Right of Way Trail.

Brydon Park Masterplan, Phase 1 - $700,000
Funds upgrading the park to include a water play area, sand volleyball court, picnic area, new washroom building, outdoor fitness equipment area, dog off-leash area, and perimeter trail lined with trees. See a previous blog post for more details.

Road Rehabilitation - $575,000
Funds various repaving projects throughout the community.

203 Street between Fraser Highway and Logan - $550,000
Funds renewing the sanitary sewer, repaving, and adding transit lanes.

Future Land Acquisition - $540,000
Funds used to help the City purchase properties for strategic purposes. An example could be to expand a park.

SCADA Upgrade - $340,000
Funds upgrading the communication system used to control the water system.

Douglas Recreation Centre Soffit Repair - $300,000

Bicycle Facilities - $200,000
Funds projects such as expanding bike lanes and installing bike racks.

Nicholas Park Washrooms - $200,000

City Park Picnic Shelter - $200,000
Funds replacing current wooden shelters with three new all-metal picnic shelters.

Water Meter Replacement Program - $200,000
Funds replacing aging water meters that may read water consumption inaccurately.

Eliminate Pipe Twinning - $200,000
Funds removing unneeded pipes to reduce ongoing maintenance costs.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Langley City 2019 Budget: Helping to increase safety, address social matters, and keep our parks and streets in a state of good repair

During the election campaign, and over my last term on council, there were common themes that I heard from residents in our community. They wanted Langley City to reduce property crime, address homelessness, and continue investing in our parks and streets. While we need the federal and provincial governments to partner with us to address some of the more complex social challenges in our community, the proposed 2019 budget addresses these themes heard. I wanted to highlight some of the proposed service level increases, and their annualized costs, found in the Langley City 2019-2023 Financial Plan.

Langley City budget presentation

Safety

Bylaw Officer - $90,000
Will allow the hiring of an additional bylaw enforcement officer to provide additional enforcement to support the growing community, and to address matters relating to camping in our parks.

Vandalism\Wire Theft - $30,000
Will allow the City to address the increased cost of cleanup and repairs due to vandalism and wire theft.

Additional Firefighters - $456,130
Will allow the hiring of 3 additional firefighters to increase the number of fire prevention inspections and enhance daytime emergency response.

Social

Recreation Office Supervisor - $73,400
Will allow for the Director of Recreation, Culture, and Community Services to focus on cultural planning and on developing programs that address the complex social needs of people who live in Langley City.

Community Outreach Facilitator - $48,300
Will allow the City to partner with the federal and provincial governments, and social service agencies, to address matters around: aging population, diversity and multiculturalism, new immigrant support services, inclusion, participation and social connectedness, and homelessness.

Building Maintenance Position Upgrade - $12,800
Will allow for the Timms Community Centre to remain in a state of good repair.

Parks and Streets

Enhanced Park Maintenance - $45,000
Will allow the City to keep parks up to standard including grass mowing and landscape maintenance.

Enhanced Tree Maintenance - $100,500
Will allow the City to address the increases in requests for service to address matters relating to trees, and help ensure that the City’s increasing tree inventory remains healthy.

Planning for the Future

Planning Assistant - $90,500
Will support the implementation of Langley City’s Nexus Community Vision.

Infrastructure Levy - $75,000
Will help ensure that the City’s aging infrastructure can remain in a good state of repair.

Unlike the federal and provincial governments, local governments are not allowed to run deficit budgets. To help increase safety, address the social challenges in our community, enhance our parks and streets, provide more recreation and event opportunities, plan for the future, and keep our infrastructure in a state of good replace, a property tax increase is required.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

February 11, 2019 Council Meeting Notes: Engineering projects on-the go to improve walking, cycling, and transit infrastructure

Because of the mostly mild weather this winter, Langley City public works projects have been proceeding throughout our community. Langley City council received an engineering department update at its Monday night meeting about what was on-the-go.

Rogers Hometown Hockey was a well attended event in our community this January. Behind the scenes, Langley City staff were working hard to ensure that this event went flawlessly. There was a significant portion of our Downtown that was closed to motor vehicle traffic. The traffic management plan was completed in-house by City staff and worked well.

There are many sections of Langley City that were built during a period of time when little thought was given to making walkable communities; there are sections of our community with no sidewalks for example. Today, we are correcting this oversight by slowly completing our sidewalk network. One project that was recent completed was the installation of a new sidewalk along 46 A Avenue, off 208 Street. The completion of this project has been well received, and the City has received positive comments from members of the community about this change.

Work is continuing for adding sidewalks in the Duncan Way Industrial Area. A multi-use trail along Duncan Way was completed late last year which connects from Glover Road to the 204 Street overpass. Work is currently underway to add a sidewalk in the rest of this area.

Just an important as building out a cycling network is to ensure that there are places to park bikes. While there are currently some bike racks in the Downtown Core, Langley City will be installing an additional 12 new bike racks in the area.

As our community and region grows, the number of people travelling around will continue to increase. Widening roads have been shown to be ineffective in reducing congestion. People need fast, safe, and convenient ways to get out of congestion instead. As part of improving transit service in Langley City, in partnership with TransLink, transit-only lanes will be coming to certain sections of our community. This will help speed up travel for transit riders, making it a more appealing travel option.

As part of the reconstruction of 203 Street between Fraser Highway and Logan Avenue, transit-only lanes will be installed. In addition, the sewer line will also be upgrades as well as a new traffic signal will be installed at Industrial Avenue.

Wire theft is on the rise in Langley City. This is costly to repair, so the City is starting to rollout the installation of deterrents to try to combat this increase in theft.

Wire Theft Deterrent Device. Select image to enlarge.

Langley City council increased the funding a few years back to help ensure that our streetscape remains in a good state of repair. The following picture shows some work done to ensure that a stop sign remains visible.

Boulevard Maintenance - Tree Trimming. Select image to enlarge.

Other projects on-the-go include:

  • Developing the Michaud Crescent Greenway Design
  • Developing the Grade Crescent Design
  • Updating the subdivision and development bylaw
  • Upgrading water mains along 197A Street, south of 46 Avenue; and, Fraser Highway, between the Langley Bypass and Landmark Way.

Later during the meeting, council approved our CAO Francis Cheung to attend “the Canadian Association of Municipal Administrators Annual Conference and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Annual Conference in Quebec City, Quebec from May 26 to May 30, 2019 and from May 30 to June 2, 2019 respectively.”

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

February 11, 2019 Council Meeting Notes: Public Hearing for Redevelopment Proposals and Funding Community Amenities

Last night’s Langley City council meeting started with a public hearing for three different bylaws around development.

As I posted about previously, there is a proposed bylaw which would allow for a 5-storey, 104-unit apartment building located in the 199A Street cul-de-sac off Brydon Crescent to be constructed. The project’s proponent noted some of the proposed features of the building at the public hearing including a terraced concrete foundation to reduce the building’s perceived height. Also, all underground parking spots will be roughed-in to accommodate electric vehicles.

Renders of proposed apartment project at 5470, 5480, 5490, 5500, 5510 199A Street. Select image to enlarge.

As a condition of a subdivision or building permit to be issued, Langley City imposes Development Cost Charges. While these charges are mandatory, they are very restrictive in how they can be used under BC law. As part of a rezoning application, the City also negotiates Community Amenity Charges with developers to help provide additional required amenities beyond what can be funded via Development Cost Charges. The currently policy is set at $2,000 per multi-family residential unit approved to help mitigate the impacts of the development.

In this proposed development, in addition to contributing $208,000 as per council policy, the project’s proponent is contributing $200,000 to help fund a pedestrian bridge as shown on the following map which will link Brydon Crescent with our trail network.

Location of proposed bridge connecting Brydon Crescent to the trail network. Select map to enlarge.

Some of the issues that council hears regularly from residents about at public hearings are around construction traffic and parking. The project’s proponent submitted a traffic management plan to help mitigate these issues.

At the public hearing, there was one resident who expressed some concern about parking for visitor who have larger pickup trucks, and the need for more affordable housing in general.

The second proposed bylaw at the public hearing would accommodate at 4-storey, 14-unit stacked townhouse complex. This is a new concept in Langley City which you can read more about in a previous post. Council received a writing letter from an individual who was generally concerned about higher-density development. This proposed project will also have a traffic management plan.

Renders of proposed stacked townhouse project at 20172 - 20178 53A Avenue. Select image to enlarge.

The final bylaw on the agenda of the public hearing was to remove a land-use contract from the property located at 5139 209A Street. Land-use contracts were planning tools used in the 1970s that are no longer used. The owner of this property has a pending request to our Board of Variance for a setback relaxation. This request cannot more forward until the land-use contract is removed/discharged. There were no members of the community that spoke to this matter. Later during the council meeting, third reading was given by council to discharge the land-use contract.

Tomorrow, I’ll be continuing to post about Monday night’s council meeting.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Policing expenditure increases, prevention, and Langley City’s proposed budget

Over the next little while, I will be posting about Langley City’s 2019 – 2023 Financial Plan and budget. Policing expenditures are a significant partition of our City’s budget, and this has been the case for at least a decade.

The following table shows the increase is property tax budgeted from 2009 until this year.

Year Budgeted Percent Change
2019 $29,191,145.00 7.66%
2018 $27,113,085.00 5.46%
2017 $25,710,425.00 4.73%
2016 $24,549,430.00 4.18%
2015 $23,565,270.00 3.42%
2014 $22,785,750.00 4.25%
2013 $21,856,465.00 3.03%
2012 $21,214,045.00 2.96%
2011* $20,603,182.00 3.26%
2010 $19,952,130.00 5.83%
2009 $18,852,505.00 0.00%

The next table shows the increase in policing expenditures over the same period.

Year Police Expenditures† Percentage of Budget
2019 $12,907,040.00 44.22%
2018 $12,261,750.00 45.22%
2017 $11,725,840.00 45.61%
2016 $11,023,910.00 44.90%
2015 $10,596,570.00 44.97%
2014 $10,317,425.00 45.28%
2013 $10,065,385.00 46.05%
2012 $9,589,110.00 45.20%
2011* $8,427,799.00 40.91%
2010 $8,715,645.00 43.68%
2009 $8,357,740.00 44.33%

Policing expenditures have consistently used around 45% of property tax revenue received. In fact, policing costs are proposed to increase by $0.6 million dollars this year. This investment maintains the number of police officers and does not increase the number of police officers. While we get a great value from the RCMP and our joint detachment with the Township of Langley, increasing the number of police officers would have a significant impact on our budget and property tax.

This is why it is important to invest in programs, people, and infrastructure that will reduce the number of incidents that police need to attend.

This means investing in our parks and recreation departments to ensure that young people have positive opportunities in our community, or by giving community grants to organizations that help parents in our community nurture their children and by giving community grants that help ensure that young people can receive nutritious meals, so they can succeeded at school to become productive members of society. This helps reduce police calls for service over time.

It also means investing in our parks and public spaces to get more people outside which results in more eyes and ears on the street. It also helps create a sense of ownership in our community which further helps reduce police calls for services.

Ensuring that our buildings, parks, and public spaces use Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design principals is also critical.

Finally, implementing traffic calming and redesigning our roads to reduce speeding also lowers the amount of police calls needed.

Programs and projects that are focused on prevention help lower the number of police calls for service. This has a direct impact on the number of police officers required which affects the City’s bottom line and your wallet.

If you do see suspicious activity, please call the police every time.

*This is the actual, not budgeted amount.
†This does not include capital works projects.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

“Secret” Free Parking in Downtown Langley

When people are looking for a place to park their vehicle when visiting Downtown Langley, the first place that most people look is along the Fraser Highway One-Way. During certain parts of the day, finding a spot on the One-Way can be tricky. While there is also on-street parking available on 56th Avenue and Douglas Crescent, there are a few parking areas that many people are unaware can be used.

The Downtown Langley Business Association provides a map of all parking that is available in the Downtown core.

Map of parking in Downtown Langley. Select image to enlarge. Source: DLBA

The first area where parking is available is at the Timms Community Centre/City Hall. You can park for up to 3 hours while visiting the Downtown core.

The other “secret” parking area is between 56th Avenue and Fraser Highway, just west of 206th Street. Many people believe that this is a paid-only parking lot or is a private parking lot. While there is some paid parking, there is also free 3-hour parking as well.

Parking lot off 56th Avenue. Select image to enlarge.

Parking lot off 56th Avenue, view from lot. Select image to enlarge.

Over the past few years, I’ve told people about these two parking options. Many people were surprised that they were available for general parking use when visiting Downtown Langley. Hopefully now that this information is shared, it will also be useful for more people. These parking options are a few minutes walk to the One-Way, and will save time, reducing the need to hunt for a parking spot.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

First look at 2019 Langley City budget

Langley City staff and council have been busy over the past several months working towards a proposed 2019 financial plan and budget. An open house about the financial plan will be occurring shortly as noted below:

Date: February 21, 2019
Time: 6:00pm - 7:30pm
Location: Finance Department Foyer (main floor), Langley City Hall

You can drop in any time during the open house to ask Langley City staff questions about the budget and provide feedback. There will also be a more formal opportunity to speak to council during a Committee of the Whole meeting:

Date: February 25, 2019
Time: 7:00pm
Location: Council Chambers, Langley City Hall

The following table shows the high-level changes between the 2018 financial plan and the proposed 2019 financial plan.

High-level overview of proposed 2019 financial plan. Select table to enlarge.

There is a proposed $3.8 million increase in expenditures for 2019, and I’ll post more details about why in future posts. The short of it is that it will result in a 6.98% increase in property tax. Because of how property taxes work in our province, not all property owners are impacted the same. You can read more about why this is the case in a previous post.

On average, single-family home owners ($886,095 average assessed value) would see an increase of $58 dollars in their property tax and user fee bill in 2019. Townhouse and apartment owners ($407,050 average assessed value) would see an average increase of $164 dollars. The proposed average increase for townhouses/apartments seems step compared to single-family as proposed in the 2019 financial plan, but as shown in the follow tables, over time this isn't the case.

Apartments/Townhouses*
Year Average Change
2014 $0
2015 -$22
2016 -$39
2017 -$20
2018 $106
2019 $137
Total $162.00

Single-Family*
Year Average Change
2014 $50
2015 $92
2016 $71
2017 $105
2018 -$7
2019 $2
Total $313.00

There were a lot of priorities that I heard during the campaign this fall from people about what they wanted addressed. I look forward to sharing over the next month or so about how the proposed 2019 budget will address those priorities.

*Does not include users fees such as water and sewer charges.