Thursday, May 23, 2019

Sensitive ecosystem loss in Metro Vancouver and the South of Fraser

The Metro Vancouver Regional District has been tracking the loss of sensitive ecosystems and modified ecosystems since 2013. Last summer, the district released region-wide loss statistics which showed that 426 hectares of mature forests, wetlands, and riparian riverbank areas in the Metro Vancouver core had been lost between 2013 and 2018. I posted about this last summer where I noted that this loss was three times the size of all parkland in Langley City! The regional district recently released more detailed analysis and a sub-regional breakdown of sensitive and modified ecosystem loss in that time period.

Two critically sensitive ecosystem types in Metro Vancouver are wetlands and riparian riverbank areas. 120 hectares of our wetlands were lost, and 96 hectares of riparian areas were lost even with seemingly strict regulations. The follow charts shown the reasons for the loss.

Causes of loss for wetland ecosystems in Metro Vancouver. Select chart to enlarge.

Causes of loss for riparian ecosystems in Metro Vancouver. Select chart to enlarge.

One of the things that surprised me was the amount of loss caused by our transportation and communication networks.

While only 7% of all sensitive or modified ecosystems in Metro Vancouver are in the South of Fraser, 33% of the loss of these ecosystems in our region occurred in the South of Fraser which includes Surrey, White Rock, and Langley. 19% of all land in the South of Fraser is considered sensitive or modified ecosystem.

Proportion of regional sensitive or modified ecosystems found within the South of Fraser. Select chart to enlarge.

Proportion of regional loss that occurred within the South of Fraser sub-region. Select chart to enlarge.

The top 3 types of sensitive or modified ecosystems in the South of Fraser are:

  1. Riparian (Sensitive): 4,735 ha
  2. Young Forest (Modified): 2,164 ha
  3. Wetland (Sensitive): 1,952 ha

568 hectares of sensitive or modified ecosystems were lost in the South of Fraser between 2013 and 2018. Of that loss, about 54 hectares was mature forest which is considered a sensitive ecosystem. Modified ecosystem loss included young forests (184 hectares) and old fields (270 hectares).

The top causes of the loss of these ecosystems in the South of Fraser were agriculture, clearing, mowing, and residential development.

In Langley City, we recently strengthen our regulations around development near environmentally sensitive areas. It may be time for other municipalities and the provincial government to do the same to prevent further loss of sensitive ecosystems in Metro Vancouver.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Overcrowded transit routes in the South of Fraser to see increased service

TransLink has had record-level increases in transit ridership over the last few years. Transit ridership increased a massive 15.6% in the South of Fraser between 2017 and 2018; this year is looking to be similar. All this growth in ridership means that some transit routes are becoming overcrowded. While overcrowding is something that has been occurring on some routes for some time, this recent ridership spike has been pushing more routes to their limits.

When buses become overcrowded, the speed of bus service slows down as the amount of time that buses must dwell at stops to let people on and off the bus increases.

TransLink is working on addressing overcrowding on some routes. Last month, they started increasing bus service which will continue into the fall of this year as shown on the following table:

Sub-Region April (6,500 ASH*) June (21,500 ASH*) September (7,600 ASH*)
Burnaby/New West 116 101, 104, 123, 144 112, 116
North Shore 240, 250 240 240, 246
Richmond 301 301, 403, 430 301
South of Fraser 312, 319, 321, 323, 351, 640 319, 323, 335, 340, 341, 345, 640 321, 342
Vancouver/UBC 84 5, 6, 25, 33, 41, 95, 100, N19 5, 6, 7, 49, 99, N17

*Additional Service Hours

About a third of the routes that will see addition service hours are in the South of Fraser. The largest increase in service hours this year will occur in the summer.

TransLink fleet expansion by the numbers for 2019/20. Select image to view.

TransLink is expecting delivery of 32 double-decker buses this summer to go onto South of Fraser Highway routes such as the 555. Double-decker buses will increase capacity and reduce overcrowding. 47 new articulated buses are expected to arrive to support B-Line routes, and hopefully the new 503 down Fraser Highway.

In addition, TransLink has ordered 56 SkyTrain cars for the Expo and Millennium Lines, plus 24 Canada Line Cars.

20 of the 56 Expo/Millennium Line cars have already arrived, and it is expected that the remained will be here by March 2020. Between September 2019 and 2020, service frequency will increase on the Expo and Millennium Lines.

The new Canada Line cars are expected to arrive during the second half of this year, and Canada Line service frequency is expected to increase starting in 2020.

With the cost of fuel at record levels, it is more important than ever to give people affordable transportation options that get people where they need to go in an efficient manner.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

2019 Maps of Civic and Parks Projects in Langley City

Over the last few weeks, Langley City staff and council have been hosting a series of meetings in various neighbourhoods throughout the community. These annual #LangleyCityConnects meetings give residents a chance to connect directly with their local government to ask questions, provide feedback, and learn about what is going on in their community. These meetings are wrapped up for this year.

One of the more visible aspects of local government is the various projects that are being planned, are about to start, or are in progress in Langley City.

Over the last five or so years, Langley City has been in renewal mode when it comes to our infrastructure. This year is no different. The following maps show the status of various projects in the City during the 2019 construction season.

Map of projects in the Nicomekl and Douglas neighbourhoods. Select map to view. 

Map of project in the Alice Brown and Uplands neighbourhoods. Select map to view. 

Map of projects in the Simonds and Blacklock neighbourhoods. Select map to enlarge.

For more information, please visit the Engineering & Parks Project section of the Langley City website.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

May 13, 2019 Council Meeting Notes: Wire Theft, Project Updates, and More Voting Opportunities.

The Langley City council meeting on Monday night had a packed agenda. You can read about some of the development matters addressed in the post I wrote on Tuesday, and about council remuneration and other financial matters addressed in yesterday's post. Today will be my final post about that meeting.

Langley City council receiving an engineering update. Select image to enlarge.

Council received an update on some of the various projects happening in our community. Some highlights include the recent enhancements to Brydon Lagoon including a new fountain in the middle of the lagoon. The Fraser Highway One-Way sidewalks were recently pressure-washed, and look great. City crews also recently completed work on keeping our fire hydrants and sewer pump stations in a state of good repair. Work is also progressing well on the City Park renewal project.

An example of the damage caused by wire theft, plus repair. Select image to enlarge.

Wire theft continues to be a major issue in our community. If you see someone tampering with street lights or traffic lights, please call 911.

In the past, people who were members of the Langley Seniors Resources Society had been offered an additional advanced opportunity to vote at the society’s building on 51B Avenue for local government elections. This additional advanced voting opportunity was not available to all members of the public which caused some confusion during the last election. Council approved staff to investigate making the Langley Seniors Resources Society location an additional advanced voting opportunity for all people eligible to vote, and to explore extending the number of hours available to vote at this location for the next local government election.

Council received a delegation to add on-street parking in front of the building located at 19897 56 Avenue on April 8th. At that time, council referred the matter to staff for a report. City staff recommended that the current travel lanes on 56 Avenue be maintained along this major corridor “in order to keep the traffic moving efficiently and allowing space for future protected bike lanes.” Council supported the recommendations in the staff report, and as such, there will be no on-street parking at this location. As a note, one of council’s priorities is to develop a comprehensive parking management plan for our whole community.

Langley City’s Fire Rescue Service uses the secure radio network from E-Comm which is best known for providing 911 services for most of BC. As such, the City is entitled to sit on the E-Comm board. Council approved appointing Councillor Gayle Martin to the E-Comm Board for a one year term beginning in 2019.

Council also approved Jayde Marno to be appointed to the City’s Environmental Task Group.

Mayor van den Broek provided an update on her trip to Ottawa with other members of the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation where they lobbied members of all federal political parties for increased transit funding for our region.

The Mayor also recognized Langley City Firefighter Colby Dodd who participated in the New York City 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb Fundraiser.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

May 13, 2019 Council Meeting Notes: 2018 Council Remuneration. Supporting Economic Development.

During the April 29th council meeting, Langley City’s independent auditor gave the City’s 2018 financials the all clear. At that time, I also posted about the year-end financial results of Langley City. On Monday night, further financial information was made available. This information ends up being rolled into an annual report which is released mid-year. This reporting is mandated by provincial legislation.

This following image shows an overview of Langley City’s 2018 consolidated financial statements. The complete set of statements can be downloaded from the City’s website.

Langley City 2018 Consolidated Statement of Operations. Select image to enlarge.

Langley City council’s remuneration, expenses, and benefits are disclosed annually. Last year was a bit unique as it was an election year, so it includes the costs for both the current council and past council. Expenses include items like paying for the registration and travel costs for attending conferences like the Union of BC Municipalities. Benefits include medical, and travel & accident insurance.

Elected Official Remuneration Expenses Benefits Total
Schaffer Ted J. $79,800.00 $7,401.00 $3,148.00 $90,349.00
van den Broek, Valaria $51,869.00 $6,051.00 $133.00 $58,053.00
Albrecht, Paul E. $43,955.00 $4,862.00 $4,047.00 $52,864.00
Arnold, Jack $36,825.00 $3,869.00 $111.00 $40,805.00
James, Teri L. $6,475.00 - $460.00 $6,935.00
Martin, Gayle M.E. $45,394.00 $3,428.00 $2,068.00 $50,890.00
Pachal, Nathan J. $43,170.00 $2,979.00 $133.00 $46,282.00
Storteboom, Rudolph $43,955.00 $6,345.00 $2,427.00 $52,727.00
Wallace, Rosemary H.M $6,475.00 $70.00 $657.00 $7,202.00
Total $357,918.00 $35,005.00 $13,184.00 $406,107.00

As a note, the total cost of council represents about 0.9% of the total 2018 expenditures in the City. To put that into perspective, it is about the same cost as operating Al Anderson Memorial Pool during the summer season.

On another financial matter, council authorized investing up to $80,000 to support the recommendations of the City’s Economic Development Task Group. This funding will be used as follows:

  • Develop an Executive Summary of the Economic Development Strategy along with a branding and marketing campaign.
  • Enhance economic development website site.
  • Explore and develop web-based GIS capabilities to support economic development data with an interactive map.
  • Retain a contract retail recruiter to actively recruit destination stores to further expand and diversify the retail cluster in the City.
  • Retain a retail recruitment specialist to undertake a targeted investment attraction campaign to draw a desired anchor tenant to the downtown.
  • Host Urban Development Institute breakfast and luncheon, Chamber of Commerce Dinner and other functions.
  • Meet with KPU, TWU and the School District to explore the possibility of hosting an education summit.
  • Meet with KPU to explore the potential concept of an innovation hub, and what such a hub would involve and engage other interested partners in bringing together a firm development concept.

Tomorrow, I’ll be posting about the remaining items that were on the agenda of Monday night’s council meeting.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

May 13, 2019 Council Meeting Notes: Public hearing for proposed rezoning. Information about CLA affordable rental project.

The Langley City council meeting last night started with a public hearing for rezoning to accommodate a proposed 34-unit, 4-storey apartment building which will be located at the northwest corner of Douglas Crescent and 208th Street.

Elevations of proposed apartment building to be located at 20755, 20765 Douglas Crescent and 5453 208 Street. Select image to enlarge.

Ground-level site plan of proposed apartment project. Select image to enlarge.

The proponent of the development project highlighted some of the features of the building. One of the proposed features is that 10% of the underground parking spots will be able to support electric vehicle charging from the get-go, and the remaining underground parking will be roughed in to support electric vehicle charging in the future.

One of the ways to create a safer community is to ensure that there are eyes and ears on the street. Similar to the Serenade Building at the corner of Douglas Crescent and Park Avenue, this proposed building will also include individual street access for each ground-floor unit fronting Douglas Crescent. The building will only be setback 3.2 metres from the street. The street-level access and reduced setback supports crime prevention through environmental design.

At the public hearing, a representative from Henderson’s Langley Funeral Home expressed some concern that the construction could interrupt their business. The proponent of the project committed to working with Henderson’s representatives to mitigate impacts. Council also received two written submissions from people opposed to the project. One was from a person who lived in the adjacent 4-storey apartment building expressing concern about construction noise and the loss of view/sun from their patio. The other was opposed because the project was not specifically designed for low-income seniors.

The proponent of the project noted that the most impactful part of construction would be around 2 months long. They presented a traffic management plan to help mitigate those impacts. Council also reminded the proponent of the importance of being a good neighbourhood including by providing off-site parking for construction crews, and ensuring that dust, mud, and debris are cleaned up promptly.

Later during the meeting, council received a presentation from Peter Fassbender of the CLA Housing Society. He spoke about the planned affordable rental building that the church will be building with the support of BC Housing on CLA land. While the building will be in the Township of Langley, it is at the Langley City border along 56th Avenue. Fassbender noted that because it is a BC Housing supported project, the units will not be prioritized for CLA church members. He noted that the project is geared towards families and seniors. Fassbender stated that 50% of the units will be rent-geared-to-income, so people would pay 30% of their income toward housing, that 30% of the units would be rented out at CHMC affordable rental rates, and that the remaining 20% of units would be specifically for people on income assistance including low-income seniors. He stated the project could be completed in 2 years if all goes smooth.

Council also received a presentation from Kiaro which is a company that operates cannabis retail stores in western Canada. They are looking to setup shop in Langley City. Currently, Langley City does not permit cannabis retail stores in our zoning.

Local Government Awareness Day sponsors recognition. Select image to enlarge.

Finally, council recognized ICBC and our local McDonald's franchise owner for their sponsorship of our 2019 Local Government Awareness Day and events.

Tomorrow, I will be posting about other items that were on Monday night’s agenda.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Your property taxes help pay down the infrastructure debt in Langley City

A few weeks ago, I posted about Langley City’s 2018 financial results. Langley City’s revenue was higher than budgeted in 2018, and expenditures were lower than budgeted. You can read that post for more details. People asked me if that means their property tax will be lowered in future years as a result. Currently, the answer to that is no. Of course, a tax break would be nice, but investing in infrastructure which supports the long-term health of our community and its residents is critical.

Municipalities in BC are responsible for a significant amount of infrastructure. This infrastructure includes water and sewer lines; roads, bridges, and pathways; and parks and recreation facilities. Some municipalities are even responsible for electrical distribution. According to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, around 60% of public infrastructure is owned by local governments.

Around 12% of your total taxes are directly controlled by local governments. About 2.5% is used for investing in infrastructure. The remaining funding is used to deliver day-to-day services. Langley City is a typical municipality in this regard.

Langley City’s was built-out between the 1960s and early 1990s. Since that time, any new development in our community has been redevelopment. When the infrastructure was put in to support our community in the 20th century, it was design for a service life of around 50 years. Today, we build infrastructure for a service life of around 100 years. The short of it is that there is a whole lot of infrastructure that is end-of-life in our community.

When infrastructure is at its end-of-life, it doesn’t mean that it just suddenly stops working. It does mean that the cost to maintain that infrastructure rapidly increases. It also means that the likelihood of failures also increase. Some examples of what happens with end-of-life infrastructure include bursting water mains and rough roads. In some municipalities (not Langley City), it could also mean bridge failures.

Langley City council has been providing funding to renew or replace end-of-life infrastructure, but the money budgeted currently does not match the money required to ensure all our infrastructure is in a state of good repair today and into the future.

The following chart shows the cost to replace or renew all end-of-life infrastructure in an example municipality, year-over-year in blue. It also shows the funding that is available to replace or renew end-of-life infrastructure in an example municipality year-over-year. The red line shows the different between funding required and funding available, and it continues to climb year-over-year.

An example of infrastructure backlog in a typical municipality. Select chart to enlarge.

It is expected that all municipalities have a backlog of infrastructure that needs to be replaced. Where things get concerning is when that backlog only continues to climb like the red line in the example.

In Langley City, we have a growing backlog of infrastructure that needs to be replaced or renewed. While the federal and provincial governments do provide grants to help renew infrastructure, this funding is not predictable. This is why there is an infrastructure levy on your property tax bill in Langley City. It is also why any budget surplus is used to replace or renew infrastructure in our community.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Top 10 vehicle crash intersections in Langley City have a few things in common

One of the comments that I receive regularly from people in Langley City when it comes to traffic safety is the request to install traffic lights and four-way stops to increase safety. I also received comments from people telling me that they believe that building narrower streets, tighter intersections, and roundabouts decrease the safety of Langley City streets. One the surface, this makes sense. The more uncomfortable a road feels to drive and the less certainty of who has the right of way, the more unsafe the road should be, right?

The following list from the most recent 2017 ICBC data shows intersections with the highest number of crashes that involve motor vehicles in Langley City.

Intersection Crashes
Langley Bypass @ Fraser Highway 130
Langley Bypass @ 200th Street 112
Langley Bypass @ 56th Avenue 77
200 Street @ Fraser Highway 67
Langley Bypass @ Glover Road 55
Langley Bypass/208th @ Fraser Highway 52
Langley Bypass 204th Street Turn Lane 34
Fraser Highway @ Glover Road 31
200 Street @ Logan Avenue 24
203rd Street @ 56 Avenue 23

There are some common design elements of these intersections. They have higher traffic volumes, traffic lights, higher speeds, and turn lanes. When driving through one of these intersections, most people feel completely safe and 100% certain of who has the right of way.

Intersections of wide roads with traffic lights are dangerous because of human nature. The safer we feel, the more likely we are to act in an unsafe manner. For example, would you send a text message while driving down the Fraser Highway One-Way? How about when driving along Highway One?

A good example is 203rd Street, the regular intersection with traffic lights at 56th Avenue, Fraser Highway, and Logan Avenue have a higher number of crashes. The section of 203rd Street south of 56th Avenue is one of the safest sections of road in Langley City. Even with its higher traffic volume, it is designed in such a way that people feel less comfortable driving. When people feel less comfortable driving, they drive safer.

This intersection of 56th Avenue/Douglas Crescent and 203rd Street had 23 crashes in 2017.

This complex section of 203rd Street, just south of 56th Avenue up to and including the Langley Mall pedestrian signal had 1 crash in 2017.

One of the best ways to increase road safety is to get people to drive slower and more cautiously. For more information about this, please check out a post I wrote about Vision Zero which outlines how to reduce road transportation crashes and fatalities.

Just a note, I posted in the past about why a four-way stop is not a great tool for traffic calming or to increase safety.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Seniors Week in Langley City – June 1 thru June 7

Seniors week is coming to Langley City at the beginning of June. I thought I would share some information about the events that are coming up. Please visit Langley City’s event page for the most up to date information, or stop by one of the City’s community centres.

The City of Langley staff, volunteers and partner agencies celebrate seniors and their many contributions to our community.

Join us for a variety of free programs and events - there is something for everyone no matter what your interests or abilities.

Those 50+ years are invited to obtain a free Seniors Week Activity Pass which enables you to access a variety of activities throughout the City during Seniors Week.

Register for your Seniors Week Activity Pass starting May 1 at the following locations at Timms Community Centre or Douglas Recreation Centre.

Saturday, June 1
10:45am: Core & Stretch
10:00am - 1:00pm: Art Demo & Display Artist: Sheila Van Delft
1:00pm: Public Swim
1:00pm: Social Bridge

Sunday, June 2
10:00am - 1:00pm: Art Demo & Display Artist: Dan Kennedy
11:30am: Stretch It Out!
1:00pm: Public Swim

Monday, June 3
7:00am: Length Swimming
7:30am: Shallow Water Aquafit
10:30am: Seniorcise
1:00pm: Social Bridge

Tuesday, June 4
7:00am: Length Swimming
10:00am: Gentle Cycle
11:30am: Seniorcise
1:00pm: Elderly Abuse Workshop
1:00pm: Learn to Play Poker
1:30pm: Learn to Lawn Bowl
6:30pm: Deep Water Aquafit

Wednesday, June 5
7:00am: Length Swimming
7:30am: Deep Water Aquafit
10:30am: Seniorcise
1:00am: CRA- Outreach Program
1:00pm Movie Matinee- “It’s Complicated”
1:15pm: Zumba Adapted
2:15pm: Light Toning
11:00am: Tea & Tech
6:30pm: Shallow Water Aquafit

Thursday, June 6
7:00am: Length Swimming
10:00am: Gentle Cycle
10:30am: Wellness Workshop- “Know Your Supplements”
11:30am: Seniorcise
1:00pm: Medwatch- “Health Care Emergency Program”
1:30pm: Learn to Lawn Bowl
2:00pm: Virtual Reality Playtime
2:00pm: Walkfit
3:30pm: Mobility & Stability
6:30pm: Deep Water Aquafit

Friday, June 7
7:00am: Length Swimming
7:30am: Shallow Water Aquafit
9:00am: ICBC- Enhanced Road Assessment Workshop
10:00am: Dementia Friends
10:30am: Seniorcise
11:40am: Gentle Abs
1:00pm: Social Bridge

Event Legend
Aquatic Programs: Al Anderson Memorial Pool - no pre-registration required.
Fitness Classes: Timms Community Centre - no pre-registration required.
Workshops: Please pre-register space is limited - 604-514-2940 (for movie matinees call 604-427-2828)
Drop-in programs: Langley City Library - no pre-registration required.
Social Programs: Timms Community Centre - no pre-registration required.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

LED is just better. Langley City’s streetlight conversion program in progress.

One of the significant services that Langley City provides to its residents is street lighting. In fact, it was street lighting that caused Langley City to become a municipality in the first place as the Township of Langley council back in the mid-twentieth century did not want to invest in urban infrastructure for our community. We were told “not a nickel for streetlights!”

Langley City is planning to invest $312,330 to operate its streetlight network this year. This investment does not include the funding for replacing the older turquoise streetlights downtown, or the LED streetlight replacement program.

A section of streetlights near 53rd Avenue near 204th Street that has been converted to LED. Select image to enlarge.

If you take a look along some of the roads and pathways in our community, you may have noticed a change in the colour of the lighting (and maybe even a change in the design of the streetlight heads). Langley City is in the process of replacing all our streetlights with LED streetlights.

Changing our streetlights to LED has several benefits. The City of Kelowna recently completed a massive conversion of their community’s streetlights to LED technology. They noted the following benefits:

  • A longer lifespan (100,000 hours) for streetlight heads
  • Reduced maintenance requirements for streetlights
  • 62% reduction in electricity consumption for streetlighting
  • Higher quality lighting which improves clarity and the ability to see details while walking or driving
  • More focused and directional lighting, reducing the amount of wasted light and “uplight” or “skyglow”, ensuring light is focused on roads and sidewalks where drivers and pedestrians will benefit from it the most. This is also known as being “Dark Sky Friendly.

A snippet from the GE LED streetlight brochure on the "coefficient of utilization" and light pollution. Select image to enlarge.

This is real a win-win: better lighting and lowers cost for the city. The cost savings realized can be used to invest into other priorities for our community.

Except for the LED streetlights on 203rd Street (between Grade and Michaud) and 56th Avenue east of Glover, the City is using GE Evolve LED Roadway Lighting. If you want to get into the technical specifications, a production brochure is available to read. Langley City, like some other municipalities in BC, is taking part in a provincial LED streetlight purchasing program which provides better pricing for LED streetlight heads than if the City went it alone.

It is expected that Langley City’s streetlights will be fully converted to LED by the end of this year.

An example of a BC Hydro-owned streetlight. Select image to enlarge.

As a note, if you see streetlights on utility poles like as shown in the previous picture, they are owned by BC Hydro. They have their own LED streetlight replacement program which they are anticipating to start in the summer of 2020.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Metro Vancouver leaders call for bus-only lanes for Massey Tunnel expansion project

The previous BC Liberal government was in the process of building a $3.5+ billion, 10-lane bridge to replace the current Massey Tunnel. I’ve posted quite extensively on this proposed bridge. I noted that the technical challenges would likely have further driven up the cost of the bridge, and that the data suggested that a 10-lane toll bridge would lead to an overall increase in congestion for roads that cross the Fraser River and could lead to a reduction in transit usage along Highway 99. The current BC NDP government cancelled the bridge project and went back to the drawing board.

Last December, the provincial government released an independent technical review of the Massey Tunnel replacement project. The key takeaways were that a smaller six-to-eight lane crossing with bus-only lanes would “accommodate the majority of traffic predicted by 2045”, and that the existing tunnel could likely be twinned.

The provincial government is now coming up with a new plan for expanding capacity across the Fraser River along the Highway 99 corridor and is reaching out to stakeholders throughout our region. They presented to Langley City council at the end of March. At that meeting, they noted that they wanted to start implementing changes along the Highway 99 corridor beginning in the summer of 2020.

Recently, Chief Wayne Sparrow from the Musqueam Indian Band and Chief Bryce Williams from Tsawwassen First Nation, plus the mayors of Delta, Richmond, Surrey, Vancouver, and White Rock signed a letter regrading the George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project. They stated in the letter that:

  • The project should address First Nation concerns regarding in-river works and fisheries impacts.
  • The project should not create additional potentially costly, lengthy or prohibitive environmental challenges or reviews.
  • The project should address the City of Richmond and Delta’s concern regarding local impacts at interchanges or access point, as well as minimize impacts on agricultural land.
  • To fully realize the benefits of this significant investment, the entire Highway 99 corridor should be evaluated for improvements as part of the crossing project including the existing congestion at the South Surrey interchanges.
  • The project should address the City of Richmond and Vancouver’s concerns regarding excess capacity, the risk of increasing vehicles kilometres travelled, and the potential to worsen congestion at the Oak Street Bridge and along the Oak Street corridor.
  • The crossing should be designed to serve the needs of the region to at least 2100.
  • The crossing should include six lanes for regular traffic including goods movement and two lanes dedicated for rapid transit bus, with dedicated facilities for cyclists and pedestrians, and include immediate access to enhanced rapid transit capacity at opening. It should also have the potential for conversion to rail in the future, including consideration for potential high speed rail.
  • As it is now, all utility infrastructure, including BC Hydro power transmission lines, should be constructed underground in conjunction with the tunnel.
  • Any solution must address the matter in a timely manner, hopefully with construction completed by 2025-2026.

There are a few things that I wanted to highlight from this letter. The first is the call for dedicated bus-only lanes, not HOV lanes. This is important because mixing double-occupancy vehicles with buses that can hold around 60 people (and are usually packed along Highway 99) results in making transit service less reliable.

HOV lanes are generally called out as tools to reduce congestion, vehicles kilometres travelled, and air pollution, yet there appears to be little evidences to support these claims. A recent research paper by Sharon Shewmake of Western Washington University titled “The Impact of High Occupancy Vehicle Lanes on Vehicle Miles Traveled” found that “it appears that HOV lanes fail to reduce traffic volume in areas that are being encouraged to build them.”

A document from Transport Canada notes that “in general, most researchers and transportation practitioners agree that the majority of arterial and highway HOV facilities in Canada have met their primary objectives of reducing congestion, encouraging carpooling and improving travel times for multi-occupant vehicles (and buses where they are permitted on HOV facilities). Unfortunately, the quality and quantity of data to support these finding is relatively limited, particularly from Canadian sources.

The signatories to the letter call for six lanes for general-purpose travel, this is less than the original eight which was proposed with the now cancelled Massey Bridge project.

Finally, the signatories call on the crossing to be rail-ready. While this is good to do, most bridges built across the Fraser River in Metro Vancouver including the Alex Fraser Bridge are “rail ready”, yet no bridge in Metro Vancouver has been converted to date.

It will be interesting to see what the provincial government’s new Massey Tunnel upgrade project will look like.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

April 29, 2019 Council Meeting Notes: 2018 budget results mean more funding for capital projects

On Tuesday, I posted about how Langley City’s 2018 financial results were reviewed by an independent auditor as required by provincial law and received the all clear. This is one of the many steps required to prepare Langley City’s Annual Report which is one of the ways that local governments provide financial transparency to their stakeholders.

At the beginning of 2018, council approved its budget for the year. This is a budget which means that at the end of the year, the budget will not exactly line up with the actual results. Revenue might be different than what was estimated, the City’s might have received a grant, or an unusual amount of snow might have fallen; these are some examples of why actual year end results might not line up with a budget.

The City’s must run balanced budgets as per provincial law, so we can never spend outside of our means.

One of the provincial requirements is that we reconcile the 2018 budget with the actual 2018 year-end results. Council gave first, second, and third reading to do just that on Monday night.

The City budgeted that it would receive $48.3 million in revenue, but actually received $52.7 million in revenue. This was due to receiving around $900,000 more than expected from casino proceeds and around $3.2 million more than budgeted due to record breaking development activity.

On the operating expense side of things, excluding amortization, the City was under-budget by $1.5 million. The big reason why was due to unfilled staff positions at City Hall, the RCMP and our fire service. These positions are planned to be filled.

While engineering operations was under-budget in 2018, wire theft costs within that department were over-budget by $88,000. This is a cost that ebbs and flows in the City; some years have little wire theft and other years have more. The City has been working to make stealing wire less profitable for thieves by installing deterrent devices, and by using less valuable metal.

Our parks department was over-budget with one of the drivers being homeless camp cleanup costs which were $64,00 over budget. This means that the City spent around $300,00 for “City Image Maintenance.” This shows one of the direct costs to taxpayers of not having supportive housing for people who are homeless. This is why it is important for us to continue to work with the province to get more supportive housing in Langley.

Because the City received more money than it spent in 2018, the unspent money is placed into our capital reserves to be used for projects such as upgrading parks or replacing water and sewer lines in future years.

Langley City council gave final reading to our 2019 tax rate bylaw. You can read more about this in a previous post about the April 8th council meeting.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

April 29, 2019 Council Meeting Notes: Development proposals, crime prevention, and inclusivity

At Monday night’s Langley City council meeting, there were two development related matters on the agenda.

Council gave a rezoning bylaw third reading. This rezoning would accommodate a 4-storey, 80-unit apartment building along 55A Avenue, between Brydon Crescent and 200th Street. The exact addresses for the proposed rezoning are 19920, 19930, 19940, 19950, 19960, 19970 - 55A Avenue. A public hearing for this proposed rezoning was held on April 8th. For more information about this proposal, please read my previous post about it.

Council also gave first and second reading for a bylaw which would enable the rezoning of properties located near Douglas Crescent and 208th Street as shown on the following map.

Location of proposed rezoning near Douglas Crescent and 208th Street. Select map to enlarge.

This proposed rezoning would accommodate a 4-storey, 34-unit apartment building as shown in the following renderings.

Elevations of proposed apartment building to be located at 20755, 20765 Douglas Crescent and 5453 208 Street. Select image to enlarge.

A public hearing will now be scheduled to seek public feedback on the proposed rezoning and apartment building.

While not directly related to the development, if the proposed rezoning is approved, curb extensions will be built on the northwest corner of Douglas Crescent and 208th Street to improve the safety of that intersection.

One of the indicators of a safe and healthy community is when neighbours know each other. Langley City’s Crime Prevention Task Group held a “Know Your Neighbours” campaign last summer. Based on the success of last year, the task group is gearing up for this year’s campaign. This campaign requires a team of volunteers, so task group members will be at #LangleyCityConnects Neighbourhood Meetings, at other events, and at various locations throughout our community over the summer to built up that team. In order to help get people signed up, the task group suggested that everyone who volunteers be entered into a draw to win a prize valued no higher than $500.

Council approved the following motion in support of the Crime Prevention Task Group:

That Council provide up to $500 from the Enterprise Fund to the Crime Prevention Task Group, to fund the purchase of a prize to use as an incentive to recruit volunteers, to go door to door promoting crime prevention during the 2019 “Know Your Neighbour Campaign.”

Council also approved two staff members to attend the Public Works Conference and Exhibition (PWX) in Seattle from September 8th through 11th. Council re-affirmed support for nominating Mayor van den Broek to stand for election onto the Federation of Canadian Municipality’s Board of Directors for the period starting in June 2019 and ending June 2020.

Council received a letter from Stacey Wakelin who is the founder of B.C. Families for Inclusivity asking that the City ban Conversion Therapy which is a damaging “pseudoscientific practice of trying to change an individual's sexual orientation.” I noted that the City doesn’t have the toolkit to effectively enforce a ban on this destructive practice, and that it would be best handled at the province or federal level.

I also noted at the meeting that Langley City’s role is to ensure that we are creating an inclusive community that welcomes all people including people who are LGBTQ. Some of the ways that the City currently shows this support is by flying a rainbow flag at City Hall for one week annually, designating our City facilities are safe spaces for people who are LGBTQ, providing free meeting space for an LGBTQ seniors group, and by supporting Langley’s Youth Hub. Of course, there is always opportunity for improvement.

Tomorrow, I’ll be posting about the remaining items that were addressed at Monday night’s council meeting.