Thursday, March 26, 2020

TransLink transit ridership and on-time performance in 2019

TransLink staff presented their 2019 Year-End Financial and Performance Report at the most recent TransLink open board meeting.

I thought I would create a few charts based on some of the key statistics from that report. The charts are interactive, so you can hover over the lines and datapoints to get more detailed information.

The legend for the charts is as follows:

  • Bus
  • Expo & Millennium Lines
  • Canada Line
  • West Coast Express

TransLink has seen steady growth in ridership between 2015 and the end of 2019. Even the West Coast Express has seen its ridership climb back up since the introduction of the SkyTrain Evergreen Extension. It is likely that ridership will be lower in 2020 due to COVID-19.

While rail-based transit has excellent on-time performance, buses do not. This is because buses get stuck in congestion. As congestion increases, bus on-time performance decreases. This is why TransLink has introduced the RapidBus program which includes measures such as bus-only lanes to get buses out of congestion.

TransLink’s definition of on-time for buses is no greater than 1 minute early or three minutes late. For SkyTrain it is +/- 3 minutes within schedule. For the West Coast Express, it is +/- 5 minutes within schedule. On-time statistics are not publicly available for the Canada Line.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

COVID-19 Pandemic: Modernizing public hearings, engagement, and dialogue at City Halls

With most municipalities in BC limiting access to their facilities (including City Halls) due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it has challenged some of “givens” around how local governments engage with people.

Most significant items that municipal councils consider have a public engagement component. I’ll use a budget as an example.

Usually, a municipality will post information about how people can attend a public workshop or open house to learn and provide feedback about the budget. In-person, dialogue is able to occur.

There will also be information posted online (usually after the open house) where people can read similar information that was presented at the open house. Generally, people can provide feedback via a web survey, email, or by calling.

Submitting feedback doesn't have the same level of engagement as having a dialogue at an in-person workshop or open house.

It would be unwise to hold an open house or workshop currently, so many cities are exploring ways to connect with people online. There are many tools that can allow people to learn, ask questions, submit feedback, and engage in real-time. These tools that are available today enable the kind of dialogue that occurs at in-person workshops and open houses.

At council meetings, there is the opportunity for anyone to appear in-person to talk about any matter that is important to them. While you can also send an email or letter, it is not the same as in-person.

Again, there are online tools available today that would allow a person to appear virtually that would emulate the in-person experience of appearing at a council meeting.

One of the legislative requirements for approving a budget or updating a land-use bylaw is for a public hearing to occur.

Currently, the laws around public hearings assume that they will be in-person. The provincial government will need to provide guidance to municipalities about how public hearings could occur online. I believe it would be unwise to hold in-person public hearings.

This pandemic has surfaced that we need to modernize how public engagement and dialogue is done.

The business of municipalities needs to continue, and we have the tools today to do much of this business online.

If/when municipalities move forward with these online tools, it will bring a new level of accessibility to local government that will hopefully continue well into the future. People with disabilities who are not able to attend in-person events, and people who cannot attend in-person events for other reasons, would now have the ability to participate.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

March 23 Council Meeting: Logan Creek Culvert Replacement. Uber and Lyft Business Licensing Bylaw Passed.

Yesterday's Langley City council meeting was held via teleconference due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the mayor and staff were at City Hall, the rest of council called in. This meeting was held at 2pm in a streamlined format.

Council gave final reading to the Inter-municipal Transportation Network Services Business Licence bylaw.

As I posted about previously, Langley City is one of the 25 municipalities that are passing the same bylaw which will enable Transportation Network Services such as Uber and Lyft to operate in the Lower Mainland with only one business license.

Any revenue received beyond what is required to administer this intermunicipal licensing program will be distributed among participating municipalities.

Langley City council also gave first and second reading to discharge land-use contracts at the following addresses: 9671 50A Avenue and 19986 50A Avenue. This will start the process to allow for legal secondary suites at those two addresses.

Last June, Langley City awarded a contract for $1,452,717.60 (excluding GST) to replace the Logan Creek culvert as shown on the following map.

Map showing the location of the Logan Creek Culvert Replacement Project, just north of the Twin Rinks Arena. Select image to enlarge.

This contract never moved forward, so the City tender a new contract for this work. Council approved awarding the new contract to Sandpiper Contracting LLP. in the amount of $1,221,090.00 (excluding GST.)

Council also appointed Mary Kydd to the City’s Crime Prevention Task Group.

These special council meetings are still public. If someone wants to attend, they can call 604-514-2800 or email to make arrangements. Access to City Hall is currently restricted to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 for staff.

Monday, March 23, 2020

COVID-19 Information for Langley City

There has been a lot of information about the COVID-19 pandemic, and how it affects people in Canada and the world. There may be questions about how it affects Langley City. For information, I strongly urge you to check out Langley City’s website at:

There you’ll find all the latest and most accurate information on what the City is doing, and what you can do to help “flatten the curve.” Please check out the website. Stay informed, and stay safe.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

The history of the future of Metro Vancouver: 1952’s “The Lower Mainland looks ahead”

Understanding the history of where we live is important. It is important because history creates a sense of place, helping support a sense of ownership in where we live. It is also important because knowing the past can help us understand why things are the way they are today, and hopefully guide us in making better decisions. This is especially true for local governments.

The mid-twenty century was a time of change when it came to how we designed our cities. This is when suburban North America really took off, when we started designing our cities around cars and not people. In Metro Vancouver, we saw the impacts of this choice quickly.

Even today, as we are once again shifting back to designing our cities and regions around people, the effects of land-use and transportation decisions made in the mid-twenty century are still being felt today.

The Metro Vancouver Regional District has posted planning documents from the mid-twenty century online. One of those documents is called, “The Lower Mainland looks ahead.” It was published in 1952.

Back in 1952, our region’s major industries were:

  • Lumber
  • Shipping and transcontinental transportation
  • Fishing
  • Manufacturing

Today, shipping and manufacturing are still important industries in our region, but fishing and forestry is a thing of the past. One of the things that people in the 1950s didn’t predict was that the service and knowledge economy would become critical components of the economy in Metro Vancouver, though they did call out that tourism “appear[s] to face a promising future” (12) in Metro Vancouver.

Those folks in the 1950s also got our population statistics wrong. They underestimated the number of people that would call Metro Vancouver and the Lower Mainland home.

Population growth estimates for the Lower Mainland from 1952.

Back in 1952, Abbotsford was a tiny village surrounded by Matsqui and Sumas. There was also a Village of Mission and District of Mission. Fraser Mills was a municipality that was located south of Highway 1 in Coquitlam today.

Langley City (Langley Prairie) and White Rock were not municipalities at that time, though as you can see in the following map, both where major urban centres in their respective district municipalities.

Lower Mainland local governments and land-use map from 1952. Select map to enlarge.

As stated earlier, North American suburbs really took off in the mid-twenty century. By 1952, they were already creating challenges.

Scattered communities mean that children have farther to walk to school and housewives to stores. They also mean longer road, water mains and drain and thus higher taxes. (29)

Unfortunately, it would take us until the 1990s before we started to design our communities at the human scale again.

So, what did those 1950s planners want our region to look like in the year 2000?

The Lower Mainland Region - A Pattern for Tomorrow. Select map to enlarge.

They envisioned a compact, walkable region. This is a similar vision that we have for our region today. It was interesting to see that there was a bigger focus on airports in the 1950s. Unfortunately, the Lower Mainland Planning Board did not have the tools to implement this vision, and urban sprawl occurred at a rapid pace for close to 30 years.

The introduction of the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) in the mid-1970s helped put a stop to some sprawl. The first regional growth strategy with a strong toolkit to limit sprawl outside of the ALR was adopted in 2011, 59 years after “The Lower Mainland looks ahead.”

In reviewing this 1950s planning document, it was interesting to see how its vision is still seen in modern planning documents for Metro Vancouver today.

PS: I wrote a post about “The Lower Mainland looks ahead” back in 2015.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

New water tunnels, $2.4 billion in investments over 4 years to ensure clean drinking water in region

Langley City is a member municipality of the Metro Vancouver Regional District. The regional district provides many critical services for people in Metro Vancouver. For around a century, we have had a regional water utility. Except for White Rock and some parts of Langley Township, if you live in Metro Vancouver, you receive your water from that utility.

The regional district is responsible for the water reservoirs at Capilano Lake, Seymour Lake, and Coquitlam Lake. It is also responsible for treating the water to make it safe to drink, and getting this water to municipalities in Metro Vancouver. Municipalities connect into the Metro Vancouver water system, and provide the “last mile” pipes and connections to buildings.

Because there are no regional water sources in the South of Fraser, all our water crosses the Fraser River. There are five crossings today to get drinking water into the South of Fraser.

The most recent project completed was the $240-million Port Mann Water Supply Tunnel which was opened in 2017. This 3.5-meter diameter, 1-kilometre long tunnel was built to modern earthquake standards. For more details about this project, please read “Tunnelling under the Fraser River at 6 bar.”

Port Mann Tunnel South Shaft. Select image to enlarge. Source: Tunnelling under the Fraser River at 6 bar

The regional district is in the process of building another water supply tunnel under the Fraser River to accommodate population growth in the South of Fraser, and to ensure that the water system remains reliable (even in the event of a major earthquake.) This new 2.3‐kilometre‐long tunnel will go between New Westminster and Surrey as shown on the following map.

Annacis Water Supply Tunnel Concept Overview. Select image to enlarge. Source: Metro Vancouver

While water mains and tunnels are not top-of-mind for most people in Metro Vancouver, they are critical to people’s daily lives in our region. The regional district has invested billions of dollars into the water system over the last decade. It will be investing $2.4 billion over the next 4 years into the water system.

It is encouraging to know that as a region we are committed to investing in our critical infrastructure to make sure that when you turn on a tap, now or in ten years, clean drinking water will come out.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Timms Community Centre and Douglas Recreation Centre Closing

I am reposting the following from the Langley City website. For the most accurate and up-to-date information, visit the Langley City's website.

Langley City, BC – As the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve, we are always considering what is best for the health and safety of our staff, our residents and the community that we serve. It is important to Langley City that we play our part in keeping our community safe.

Timms Community Centre and Douglas Recreation Centre will be closed effective [today] at 4:30 pm (Tuesday, March 17) until further notice to prevent the spread of the virus and minimize the exposure of COVID-19. All programs will be suspended except for Spring Break camps and childcare programs until further directives from health authorities. The City will provide a refund to participants for any cancellation of programs or rentals, put memberships on hold until the end of March 2020, and will cancel any City scheduled events with over 50 people until the end of April 2020.

"We all have a role to play in stopping the spread of COVID-19. The City is making every effort to do just that and protect the community and its residents," said Mayor Val van den Broek. "The City's Pandemic Plan and business continuity plans have been reviewed, and all City departments are making every effort to ensure essential services are maintained to the highest possible level."

Langley City Hall will remain open from 8:30 am – 4:30 pm, Monday to Friday until further notice with Council Meeting and other committee meetings proceedings as scheduled.

What you can do:

  • Regularly wash hands with soap and water for 20 seconds; use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if hand-washing is not available.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing (such as coughing into your elbow or using a tissue).
  • Avoid touching your face, mouth and nose with your hands; Masks are not recommended as protection since they may cause you to touch your face more often, which may be worse than not wearing a mask.
  • Discarding tissues into a waste container.
  • Avoid others who are unwell, and stay home when you are sick.

For all health-related concerns, the public is advised to call 8-1-1, the dedicated coronavirus information line: 1-888-COVID19 (1-888-268-4319), the Government of Canada's novel coronavirus telephone information line at: 1-833-784-4397, or contact their health-care provider or local public health office.

Monday, March 16, 2020

COVID-19/Coronavirus Pandemic Response: Where to get up-to-date and accurate information for Langley City

Information about keeping transit safe. Source: TransLink. Select image to enlarge.

We are in the early stages of COVID-19/Coronavirus spreading in Metro Vancouver. What we do over the next little while will have a major impact on how many people get infected, and how fast people get infected. It is critical that people receive up-to-date and accurate information.

Over the last week, I’ve seen accurate and inaccurate information on my social media timelines. I’ve also received email messages from friends and family which again have contained a mix of accurate and inaccurate information. Some of this inaccurate information has been posted and sent by trusted friends and family members.

When it comes to the COVID-19/Coronavirus pandemic response, inaccurate information hinders our ability to reduce and slow down the rate of infection.

It is important that you always validate the source of information, before you trust that information.

For Langley City residents, great primary sources of information include:

Good secondary sources of information include:

When you see, hear, or read a social media post, article, video, or email about COVID-19/Coronavirus, always verify its source before making a decision about the accuracy of its information.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

March 9 Council Meeting: Framework for Uber and Lyft to contribute to local infrastructure. Council supports Universal Public National Pharmacare.

Most businesses contribute to the local economy in at least two ways. The first way is by providing local employment. The second way is by paying property tax if they have a retail outlet, warehouse, or other physical presence in a community. These taxes help pay for things such as regional and local roads.

There are some businesses that do not contribute to local property taxes, but heavily utilize resources such as regional and local roads. One such example is Transportation Network Services companies such as Uber and Lyft.

The Langley Bypass

A quick search online of “uber lyft congestion” shows that Transportation Network Services companies can have a negative impact in large urban centre where they operate.

In Metro Vancouver, Transportation Network Services companies have been approved to operate by the province, but currently do not contribute directly for the regional and local roads that they utilize.

To ensure that Transportation Network Services companies have an even playing field within the Lower Mainland, and to ensure that all local governments received some revenue from Transportation Network Services companies, municipalities from Squamish to Chilliwack are in the process of adopting an inter-municipal business license program.

This program will be administrated by the City of Vancouver, and revenue will be distributed amount participating municipalities based on a formula.

Langley City is one of the 25 municipalities that is taking part in this program. Langley City council gave first, second, and third reading to move forward with participating in this program on Monday night.

For Transportation Network Services companies, it means that they only need one business license for the Lower Mainland. For municipalities, it means that we will receive a small amount of revenue which can be used to address some of the negative impacts caused by Transportation Network Services companies.

The proposed fee structure will require that each Transportation Network Services company pay an annual licence fee of $155 plus a per vehicle fees of $150. The per vehicle fee will be reduced to $30 for each zero-emission vehicle, and there will be no per vehicle fee for wheelchair accessible vehicles.

It is expected that this inter-municipal business license program will be refined over time.

At the same Monday night meeting, Langley City council approved expanding our Environment Task Group from seven to eight members.

Council also approved the Deputy Director of Corporate Services to attend the 2020 Government Finance Officers Association International conference in New Orleans from May 16 to 20, 2020.

Finally, council approved sending a letter to federal and provincial Minsters of Health calling for the quick implementation of a Universal Public National Pharmacare program.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

City projects: Brydon parks being enhanced, fixing potholes and uneven sidewalks, and upgrading public washrooms.

Even during the winter months, there are municipally-funded projects occurring throughout Langley City which help enhance the quality of life for residents of our community.

Langley City council received an update about these projects from Rick Bomhof who is the Director of Engineering, Parks and Environment at Monday night’s council meeting.

With the recent increase in people living along Brydon Crescent and 198th Street, Langley City council approved a new plan to enhance Brydon Park as it is the major neighbourhood park in the area.

Construction is now underway for a new dog off-leash area and perimeter trail in the western section of this park.

In Brydon Lagoon, logs were placed in the water to provide a roosting area for birds, allowing them to escape from people who use the surrounding trail.

In the same part of town, City crews are installing new underground utility services to support redevelopment. These new services are paid for by developers.

To increase safety and reduce negative activity, a new flood light was installed at the Linwood Park washrooms. The City will also be making some modification to the washrooms which should hopefully reduce vandalized inside them.

The new washrooms at Nicholas Park are completed.

Landscaping and new washrooms at Nicholas Park. Select image to enlarge. 

As you might have noticed, the City is replacing our streetlight with LED streetlights. Some of the wiring for these streetlights date back to the mid-20th century. City crews are upgrading some of this old electrical infrastructure.

Street light control panel, before and after upgrade. Select image to enlarge. 

There has been an increase in potholes recently. This is caused when it rains in the winter. The water gets absorbed into the asphalt, and it freezes, the frozen water weakens the asphalt which leads to potholes. If you see a pothole, please let the City know by using the online Request for Service tool.

Due to the same freezing and thawing cycling, sidewalks can also become uneven. City crews are busy repairing sidewalks. If you see an uneven section of sidewalk which could create a tripping hazard, please also let the City know by using the online Request for Service tool.

The City is replacing a section of retaining wall near the Nicomekl River, east of 203rd Street.

Retaining wall replacement. Select image to enlarge. 

On a sad note, the tree in the Sendall Gardens greenhouse had to be removed as it was damaging the greenhouse. New planting will be put in its place.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Coronavirus - COVID-19: Langley City Prepares. What You Can Do to Slow Down the Spread.

Last night, Langley City council received an update from Ginger Sherlock, who is the program coordinator for the jointly funded Langley City and Township Emergency Program, about COVID-19.

A presentation about COVID-19. Select image to enlarge.

One of the major concerns around COVID-19 is how it could spread. If too many people get sick all at once, it could mean that a significant number of Langley City employees could be at home sick. This means that there would be a limited number of people available who can provide municipal services.

In Langley City, we directly provide:

  • The Fire-Rescue Service
  • Water Service
  • Sewer Service

If any of these services were interrupted, it would have a significant impact in our community.

To that end, Langley City is verifying its business continuity plan. This plan will be activated if a significant number of City employees are unable to come into work due to COVID-19 to make sure that the City will still be able to deliver critical services.

The public health response is fully a provincial responsibility, but the City would make our public facilities available if required by Fraser Health or another provincial government organization.

As I noted earlier, one of the concerns around COVID-19 is that a whole lot of people could get sick all at once. Not only could this impact some City services, but it could put a strain on our health care system.

So, what can you do to help slow down the spread of COVID-19? This is what Fraser Health states:

Follow the same procedures as what is recommended during cold and flu season. This includes washing your hands often with soap and water; covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing; avoiding others who are unwell; and staying home when you are sick.

For more information, you can also call the Public Health Agency of Canada at 1-833-784-4397.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Restrictions for wood-burning fireplaces and stoves coming May 2021 to Metro Vancouver

Back in the fall of 2017, I posted about how the Metro Vancouver Regional District was looking to restrict the use and type of wood-burning fireplaces and stoves that can be used within the urban containment boundary of our region.

Map of urban containment boundary. Source: Metro Vancouver. Select to enlarge.

This is now closer to reality as the regional district is moving forward with a bylaw to regulate the use of residential wood-burning stoves and fireplaces.

Smoke from burning wood is a major source of fine particulate matter in Metro Vancouver, and causes the following human health impacts:

  • Aggravates existing lung and heart diseases
  • Increases the risk of cancer
  • Reduces life expectancy

With that in mind, if the bylaw is approved, indoor wood burning will only be permitted between September 16th and May 14th unless it is the only source of heat for a building starting in 2021.

Starting in September 2022, people will need to start registering their wood burning appliances. These registered appliances must meet emissions standards. If an appliance is certified to confirm with Canadian or US emission standards, that is all that is required.

If the appliance is not certified, the owner of the appliance will have to provide evidence to the regional district that it meets current emission standards, is the sole source of heat, or that the owner will only use manufactured fire logs (which result in no visible emissions.)

An owner of a wood-burning appliance must also declare compliance with best burning practices, and re-declare their compliance every three years.

Examples of best burning practice include to:

  • Operate a residential indoor wood burning appliance and any attached emission control equipment in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommended operating procedures
  • Operate a residential indoor wood burning appliance in a manner that produces no visible emissions except during the starting of a new fire for a period not to exceed twenty minutes in any four-hour period
  • Apply practices to minimize smoke

By 2025 (2032 in Lions Bay), all wood-burning appliances must be registered unless you live in a low-income household.

To help people transition to cleaner wood-burning appliances, the regional district is offering $250 to $400 to exchange uncertified wood-burning appliance for certified ones. There is a limited number of rebates available.

For more information, please visit Metro Vancouver’s website.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Nicomekl River District Neighbourhood Plan: Phase 2 Concept Plan, Next Steps

An official community plan is one of the key documents for communities in BC; you can think of an official community plan as the constitution for a community. All planning and land-use decisions that are made must be consistent with a community’s official community plan.

Unlike a constitution, official community plans are living documents and are regularly updated. While Langley City’s official community plan has been updated every year or so, the last major update occurred in 2006.

A community’s neighbourhood plans and zoning bylaw are interlinked with its official community plan. In Langley City, we are in the process of updating our official community plan, zoning bylaw, and working on a new Nicomekl River District Neighbourhood Plan.

These plans and bylaws will guide our community’s future for the next decade or more.

Since the spring of 2019, work has been on-going for a new Nicomekl River District Neighbourhood Plan. A draft concept was revealed based on input received from people in our community, city council, and city staff last summer. Based on further input received and technical analysis, this concept was further refined. This updated concept was presented at an open house last night.

There are really two components of the neighbourhood plan: what happens inside the Nicomekl River floodplain and what happens around the floodplain.

One of the concerns that I’ve heard from people is that new development will occur within the current footprint of the floodplain. This is not being proposed in the Nicomekl River District Neighbourhood Plan. The plan envisions enhancing the natural areas of the floodplain.

The guiding principals of the plan are:

  • Reducing the risk of flooding causing harm to people and damaging homes
  • Enhancing habitat quality through the containment and management of invasive species, restoration of native riparian vegetation, and the creation of new off-channel habitat
  • Creating places to gather together and unite the City’s northern and southern neighbourhoods
  • Establishing the Nicomekl River District as a unique and beloved regional destination

The following image provides a high-level view of the proposed enhancement inside the Nicomekl River floodplain.

Nicomekl River District - Proposed neighbourhood-scale projects. Select image to enlarge.

Outside of the floodplain, the following land-uses are being proposed.

Proposed land-uses around the Nicomekl River floodplain. Select map to enlarge.

These are examples of what each of the proposed land-uses could look like with a detailed description. If you look at the area north of the Nicomekl, you will see that much of the area is proposed to be low rise residential. This is similar to redevelopment that has already occurred in this area.

Examples and descriptions of proposed land-uses around the Nicomekl River floodplain. Select image to enlarge.

The main drivers for redevelopment are:

  • To provide greater setbacks and buffers from the floodplain for flood protection
  • To receive developer fees and contributions to help pay for new neighbourhood amenities
  • To enhance transportation infrastructure to improve streets and trails for walking, cycling, and transit access

More detailed information will be posted to the City’s website shortly, and there will be further opportunities to provide feedback.

The next steps will be to incorporate feedback received, and start work on developing a final neighbourhood plan which can be presented to City council for review.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Metro Vancouver’s site selection process for 500 new units of affordable housing. Scale tipped for Langley.

As I’ve posted about recently, the Metro Vancouver Regional District is looking to building 500 new units of family- and seniors-focused affordable housing in our region in partnership with member municipalities. These new units will be funded by an increase in regional property tax which will result in an additional $4 million per year for regional affordable housing projects.

While 500 new units is a good start, it is a modest number. For example, the redevelopment of the Langley Lions Seniors Housing complex in Downtown Langley will see a similar number of new units built over the next decade. All this to say, there will be a highly competitive process for these 500 new units of Metro Vancouver Regional District affordable housing.

The regional district has put together a matrix that it will be using to score potential sites for these new units. Sites with higher scores will have a higher chance of getting an affordable housing project built.

The scores will be weighted as follows:

Metrics Weighting Max Score
CATEGORY: Development Opportunity 40%
Development potential — anticipated number of unit 10
Development readiness — fast-track municipal approval process 10
Site readiness — low construction costs 10
CATEGORY: Tenant Livability 20%
Walking distance to amenities — parks, schools, shops, services 5
Walking distance to frequent transit network 5
Support tenant relocation from other developments 5
CATEGORY: Municipal Action to Contribute to Financial Viability 20%
Reduced municipal development fees and/or other financial contributions to support the project 15
CATEGORY: Regional Equality 20%
Higher score for communities with little or no Metro Vancouver funded affordable housing today 15

What is good to see is that the regional equality component of the scoring matrix is significant. Langley does not have any Metro Vancouver managed affordable housing, so all other things being equal, there is a higher chance of new affordable housing being built in Langley City or Township than other municipalities.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Strengthening the regional growth strategy to support affordable housing, transportation, and childcare

Metro Vancouver is world-renowned for being a place that has been able to build walkable communities that are connected by high-quality transit while at the same time preserving our farmland and protecting sensitive ecosystems. Of course, our region also has its challenges. The opioid crisis that is killing people, and an affordable housing crisis that is making people homeless, are starting to be addressed with the support of the provincial and federal governments.

As I posted about recently, the Metro Vancouver Regional District is in the process of updating our regional growth strategy. This updated strategy will be call Metro 2050. As I learned about a few weeks ago, the updated growth strategy will address the matter of equity more fully than the current growth strategy. Equity includes affordable housing.

Map of current urban centres and frequent transit development areas. Select map to enlarge. Source: Metro Vancouver

As I noted earlier, the basics principle of our regional growth strategy has been to connect mixed-use, walkable town centres with high-quality transit. In the currently regional growth strategy, transit corridors that connect these centres were also given special attention as frequent transit development areas. These centres and corridors are where population and job growth in our region is meant to be focused.

The Metro Vancouver Regional District is considering the following refinements in the updated regional growth strategy to support the objects of building a walkable, transit-friendly, and affordable region.

Some of the measures being consider are:

  • Limiting areas within town centres and transit corridors for single-family housing, strip malls, big box, and office parks
  • Identifying locations to build affordable housing
  • Prioritizing transit service in town centres and corridors by creating bus-only lanes or queue-jumper lanes
  • Implementing measures to improve air quality, and reduce noise and vibration cause by motor vehicles near major roads
  • Implementing climate change mitigation strategies
  • Reducing on-site parking in new apartment buildings
  • Improving bicycle parking standards in all new buildings
  • Supporting the provision of more childcare spaces
  • Creating tenant protection and relocation polices

The updated regional growth strategy will require the approval of all municipal councils in our region as it is binding on them. Some of these measures may not make it into the final updated regional growth strategy, and other measures could be added.

I believe that most of these measures will help keep our region on the right track, and address some of the challenges around affordable transportation and housing that we are facing today.

Monday, March 2, 2020

TransLink’s Low Carbon Fleet: More battery-electric buses coming soon

On Thursday, I represented Langley City at the TransLink Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation meeting as Mayor van den Broek was unavailable. While the agenda was short, there was an important decision made that will set TransLink on the path of electrification of their bus fleet.

The Mayors’ Council has mandated that TransLink reduce its greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) 80% by 2050. This is based on federal, provincial, and regional GHG emissions reduction targets. By 2030, emissions are to be reduced by 45%.

On Thursday, the Mayors’ Council got this process started by directing TransLink to more forward with purchasing only battery-electric, trolley, or renewable natural gas (RNG) buses moving forward.

RNG comes from sewage, landfills, and farms. It is created by decomposing organic waste.

The following map shows which routes are currently electric, will be converted to electric, and will be RNG powered by 2031.

Renewable fuel transit routes by 2031. Select map to enlarge. Source: TransLink

The cost of this plan is $450 million over the next 10 years. There will be further costs beyond 2030 to renew the transit fleet.

Because of reduced operation costs due to the switch from diesel fuel to electricity and renewable natural gas, there is only a 2 to 3% increase in costs over the next 30 years between continuing with the status-quo or going with all renewable energy buses.

Incremental TransLink fleet electrification costs from 2020 to 2050, relative to status-quo. Select chart to enlarge. Source: TransLink

One of the reasons for the increased cost is that TransLink will need to install new infrastructure to support battery-electric buses such as upgrading bus depots with battery chargers, and installing fast-chargers in-route.

The Mayors’ Council of course is going to advocate to the provincial and federal governments to pay for switching out our region’s transit buses to use low carbon fuel sources.

At the Mayors’ Council meeting, TransLink staff stated that the cost of renewable energy was verify with BC Hydro which includes factoring in the switching of the private vehicle fleet in our province from fossil fuel to electric.

This plan will not have a meaningful impact on the commitments made in the current 10-Year vision for transit such as building SkyTrain to Langley.

If all goes to plan, we should see more battery-electric buses being rolled-out starting in the next several years.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

February 24 Council Meeting: $123k in community grants awarded, Know Your Neighbour campaign, and resolutions

I posted about budget items on Tuesday, and yesterday I posted about actions that Langley City council took based on correspondence received, both from Monday night’s public meeting. Today will be my last post about that council meeting.

As per policy, Langley City council allocates a portion of the money it receives from the Cascades Casino for community grants annually. This year $168,000 was set aside for grants. Council approved 41 grants totalling $123,364.55 for organizations that help benefit our community. Because there is still funding available, there will be another intake for organizations to apply for grants this year. For more information about which organizations received a grant, please download the full report from the City’s website.

In 2018, design work started for the renewal of the Fraser Highway One-Way section in downtown Langley. Extensive feedback was received from people and businesses about the future of this section of street, and two potential concepts were approved by council in January 2019.

Langley City is applying to the federal government for funding to complete phase one (green) as shown in the map. Select map to enlarge.

This is a significant project requiring an investment of $9.9 million. Langley City staff received approval from council to apply to the federal government’s “Invest in Canada Infrastructure Program.” Because this is a competitive grant program, there is no guarantee that the City will receive the grant. If the City is successful, the federal government would cover $7.3 million of the Fraser Highway One-Way renewal costs.

Langley City’s Crime Prevention Task Group is gearing up for its third annual Know Your Neighbour Campaign. You will see task group members at various City events this year looking for volunteers to help out. As a way to show appreciation for people who volunteer, council approved a draw to award one volunteer a three-month Timms recreation pass.

Another action item from the Crime Prevention Task Group is to educated people about homelessness, prolific offenders, and crime. While most people will link people who experiencing homeless to an increase in property crime, this is not always the case. To help, the task group received City council’s approval to form a “partnership with Stepping Stone Community Services and the RCMP to work on a video story featuring people who are experiencing homelessness and include an education piece from the RCMP about prolific offenders.”

One of the ways that municipalities throughout BC can share their views about matters to the provincial government, and the public, is through resolutions which are debated at the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) conference annually.

As a first step, these resolutions must be endorsed by regional government associations. Langley City council proposed the following two motions for debate at the upcoming Lower Mainland Local Government Association conference.

WHEREAS the Province of British Columbia through the BC Assessment Act — Prescribed Classes of Property Regulation B.C. Reg. 438/81 specifies that there is one assessment class for all types of residential properties and the Community Charter outlines that a municipal bylaw to establish the property value taxes each year under section 197 (3) specifies there is a single rate for each property class;

AND WHEREAS the assessed value of the multi-family strata units and single family housing appreciates at vastly different rates, leading to large fluctuations and tax rate swings year-to-year between these housing types;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Province of British Columbia amend the BC Assessment Act and the Community Charter to allow the residential class to be split into two distinct residential classes so that a different rate may be applied to each type of residential property to allow for better tax planning, and a more consistent application of property tax changes for all residents no matter their housing type.

WHEREAS following the legalization of non-medicinal cannabis in July 2018, the Province has implemented legislation that enables local governments to regulate cannabis retail activities within their jurisdictions;

AND WHEREAS the Province has finalized a cannabis excise tax coordination agreement with the Federal Government, which includes a share of the 75% of the cannabis excise tax revenues being allocated to provinces and territories;

AND WHEREAS the Province acknowledges the strong local government interest in cannabis excise tax revenue sharing and the Province has noted it is committed to working with local governments to understand the potential costs they may experience as a result of cannabis legalization;

AND WHEREAS cannabis retail stores have been legally operating in BC local government jurisdictions since 2018 and excise tax revenues have been collected by senior governments since 2018;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Province commit to negotiating with local governments, through UBCM, to advance the development and implementation of a Provincial — local government cannabis excise tax revenue sharing agreement.

These resolutions have been forwarded to UBCM in the past, but no action has been taken by the province to date. Council decided on Monday that it was worth submitting these resolutions annually until these matters are positively addressed by the province.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

February 24 Council Meeting: Safer side streets, Grade Crescent Heritage Road, and National Pharmacare

Yesterday, I posted about budget matters that were addressed at Monday night’s Langley City council meeting. Today, I will be posting about correspondence sent to council.

Recently council changed how we address correspondence. In the past, correspondence was included in the agenda, but unless someone on council explicitly stated that they wanted to address a particular matter from a piece of correspondence, the sender of the correspondence would not get a follow-up. Council will now follow-up on all correspondence that is included in the agenda to increase transparency.

Council received a letter from local resident Bruce Downing requesting that Grade Crescent be designated as a “Heritage Road.”

Grade Crescent was the alignment of the former Great Northern Railway which you can read about on the site “The Children of Fort Langley.”

Map of the former Great Northern Railway through Langley. Select map to enlarge.
Mr. Downing requested that the City consider applying for a grant from the BC Heritage Fund to install “interpretative signs at designated locations such as Conder Park, Sendal Gardens, Iris Moony which would inform passers-by of the history of that designated street which was the former rail network.”

Council asked staff to follow-up on Mr. Downing’s request.

The City of Port Moody sent a letter to all municipalities in BC requesting that their respective councils send letters to the federal government in support of immediately starting a Universal Public National Pharmacare program. Council asked staff to review this request from Port Moody.

On January 27th, Council received a letter from Saanich council. For close to 20 years, municipalities in BC have asked for the province to allow default 30km/h speed limits that could be applied to all side streets. This would support reducing the amount of people that die or are seriously injured in motor vehicle crashes. This is part of something called Visions Zero which you can read more about in previous posts.

The province once again stated that they would not be adding the option to allow municipalities to set default 30km/h speed limits.

Saanich council was disappointed to hear this, as was Langley City council. We sent a letter noting our disappointment to the Minister of Transportation & Infrastructure.

Council heard back from the Minister. She stated that the province is now working on pilot projects in partnership with local communities “to support active transportation and better protect vulnerable road users.”

She also stated that “a second phase of pilot projects could allow the ministry to work with interested municipalities to lower the default speed limit on their streets.”

Langley City council made the following motion on Monday:

THAT the Council for the City of Langley send correspondence to the Honourable Claire Trevana, MLA, Minister of Transportation & Infrastructure thanking her for the reply, and requesting that she inform City of Langley Council when the second phase of the pilot project to support active transportation and better protection of vulnerable road users will be open for submissions.

I look forward to hearing back from the Minister about the potential of working together to make our streets safer.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

February 24 Council Meeting: Budget approved. Alternative Approval Process started.

Last night, Langley City council gave final reading to adopt the 2020-24 Financial Plan for our community.

This year’s budget is about ensuring that our parks and infrastructure are kept in a state of good repair. It is also about ensuring that we are delivering projects for today as well as planning for the future, including for the arrival of SkyTrain.

For people that own single family homes, the portion of their City-control tax bill will increase 5.65% or on-average $179 this year. For people that own a townhouse or condo, the portion of their City-control tax bill will increase by 5.52% or on-average $86 this year.

Langley City had the lowest on-average residential property tax last year, and I expect that we will still have the lowest or second lowest on-average residential property tax this year.

For more details about the budget, please read a previous post that I wrote.

In order to build for the future, Langley City council is planning to invest $10 million per year, over the next five years as follows:

  • $31 million in strategic land acquisitions to support preparing for SkyTrain, renewing downtown, and expanding parks
  • $3 million in parks and trails improvements
  • $6 million in Downtown Langley infrastructure upgrades
  • $10 million in City and recreation facilities expansions and enhancement

These initiatives are proposed to be funded by a loan which will be paid off fully over 15 years. For more information about why City council is proposing a loan, please read a previous post on the topic.

In order for the loan to be approved, it must go through an Alternative Approval Process. This process allows for Langley City residents to have a direct say on the proposed loan.

If people support City council moving forward with the loan, they do not need to do anything. If people do not support City council moving forward with the loan, they can fill out an Alternate Approval Process Elector Response Form which will be available online and at City Hall. The same eligibility requirements for municipal elections applies to this process.

A slide about the timeline for the Alternative Approval Process. Select image to enlarge.

Council gave first, second, and third reading of the loan authorization bylaw to get this process started. If all goes to plan, the Alternative Approval Process will start on April 8th for a 30-day period. If at least 2,076 responses are received in opposition to the loan during this period, council must either hold a referendum on the loan or not proceed. Otherwise if less responses are received, the loan will be able to be approved.

The provincial government has clear guidelines about how the Alternative Approval Process works, including advertising requirements.

Once the Alternative Approval Process begins, I will post a link to the official information.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Council of Councils Meeting: Managing growth, building affordable housing, and renewing Iona Island

40 local government elected representatives sit on the Metro Vancouver Regional District board. This is about a quarter of all local government elected representatives in our region. To give an opportunity to directly hear from, and ask questions to the regional district, Council of Councils meetings are held several times a year for all elected representatives.

Metro Vancouver Council of Council Meeting. Select image to enlarge. 

The latest meeting took place on Saturday at the Anvil Centre in New Westminster. The following are some of the highlights from that meeting.

Metro 2050 – Updating Regional Growth Strategy

With 35,000 people on-average per year moving to our region, primarily driven by immigration, there will be 3.6 million people that call Metro Vancouver home by 2050.

Our region has a good track record of concentrating growth within existing urban areas to reduce the high economic, social, and environmental costs of sprawl. While the current regional growth strategy has served us well, it is due for an update.

Some of the updates to be included are new population projections, and integration with TransLink’s upcoming long-term transportation plan called Transport 2050.

In the last decade since the current regional growth strategy was adopt, our understand around climate change impacts has improved and well as social equity concerns. The affordable housing crisis has also become more pronounced. Metro 2050 will address these matters.

The new Metro 2050 Regional Growth Strategy will need to be endorsed by all councils in our region as it is a binding document. It is expected that this should happening starting in 2022.

Because of the importance of this strategy, there will be robust public engagement.

Metro Vancouver Housing 10-Year Plan

There are 9,400 people that live in Metro Vancouver Regional District housing. 30% of households in regional district housing have their rent geared to their income while the remaining households live in low-end-of-market priced rental units.

The regional district wants to renew and expand their family-friendly housing. Over the next decade, they want to acquire 350 new units to manage, and build an additional 500 new units on municipal lands.

The regional district is also look for the province and federal government to commit even more funding to build affordable housing, so that this number can be larger.

Currently, the regional district is reaching out to member municipalities to see who is willing to help partner on building these 500 new units of affordable rental housing.

Regional Industrial Lands Strategy

Industrial land in our region only represents 4% of the land base, but is home to 27% of the jobs in Metro Vancouver. There is currently an industrial land shortage in our region. This is driving up lease costs which is hurting businesses and limited job growth.

Industrial uses include production, distribution, repair, and construction of goods, plus outdoor storage, and wholesale uses.

One of the current challenges is that there are other non-industrial uses occurring on industrial lands such as retail shops and consumer services such as doggie daycares. One of the ways to protect industrial land is to ensure that only industrial uses are permitted within them.

The upcoming industrial land strategy will be implemented in the next year or so with the goal of ensuring that there is enough industrial lands until 2050.

It was made clear that destroying agricultural land to provide more space for industry was not a solution.

For more information, please read a previous blog post I wrote on this topic.

Iona Island Wastewater Treatment Plant Project Update

Metro Vancouver’s second largest wastewater (sewage) treatment plant is located on Iona Island and was built in the 1960s. It does not meet modern environmental standards, so it needs to be replaced.

Slide about Iona Island. Select image to enlarge.

The regional district is looking at replacing this treatment plant in phases with a tertiary filtration plant. This type of wastewater treatment plant is the best for the environment, is the most cost effective to build and maintain, and provides for the best recovery of water, electricity (waste-to-energy), bio-oil, and natural gas from sewage.

In addition to replacing the current plant, the regional district will be enhancing habitat and improving water flow in the inter-tidal area near the plant to support salmon and bird migration.

The new plant should be up and running by the end of 2030.

Iona Island is just north of YVR airport.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

#IReadCanadian Day

I read Canadian

As they say, it is better late than never. Yesterday was #IReadCanadian Day, an opportunity to bring visibility around Canadian books, authors, and illustrators.

With so many books available online and in-stores, it can sometimes be hard to know where to start if you are looking to read a book from a Canadian author or illustrator, or a book about Canadian experiences.

For example, there are award winning authors right in our own back yard such as Langley-born Jonathan Auxier.

A good place to start in our province would be the BC and Yukon Book Prize. You can find past winners in prize in categories that range from children to adult, and fiction to non-fiction.

If you are looking to encourage your child to read, the Canadian Children’s Book Centre is a good place to start.

The #IReadCanadian site also has links to other province’s book awards if you would like to find books from authors and illustrators who are from specific provinces.

Many of these books can be requested online or from the Langley City branch of the Fraser Valley Regional Library.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Metro Vancouver’s water conservation efforts a success story. More work needed.

One of the success stories of our region has been our efforts to converse water. The Metro Vancouver Regional District recently released a report on water utilization in our region going back until 1985.

Back in 1985, Metro Vancouver had about half the population as today, but a similar amount of water being utilized as shown in the following graph.

Water use by sector, trends from 1985 to 2017. *Years when not all local government water consumption data was available. Source: Metro Vancouver.

Per capita per day of water used has been steadily declining. Today, 486 litres per person per day of water is used in Metro Vancouver. Even with the reduction of per capita water usage, overall water usage is starting to climb again due to population growth.

Breakdown of water use by sector in 2017. Select chart to enlarge. Source: Metro Vancouver.

58% of water utilized in our region is for residential use. This means that there is still significant opportunities for people to make a big difference in our water conservation efforts.

Switching out shower heads, toilets, faucets, washing machines, and dishwashers with low-flow models can significantly reduce your water usage. BC Hydro even offers some rebates for shower heads and faucet aerators.

Of course, fixing leaks and drips also goes a long way to help conserve water.

One of the best ways to conserve water is to not water your lawn. This is something that can even be done if you live in a strata.

I grew up in the Okanagan where water conservation during the summer is critical. Golden lawns were OK. Many people replaced grass lawns with other plantings and landscaping that looked good and needed less water to maintain.

For a more local example, our strata doesn’t water our grass. During the winter and spring, the grass is green. During the summer, it turns golden. The strata building across the street waters their grass. I do not believe people who live in that other building have a better quality of live compared to people who live in my building due to grass watering.

Langley Environmental Partners Society has a good guide on water-wise gardening.

People who live in Metro Vancouver have done a good job conserving water, but as our population continues to grow and climate change causes drier summers, we will need to step up our game.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Metro Vancouver’s Walkability Index highlights gaps in the transit network

TransLink is well underway in delivering the Mayors’ Council’s 10-Year Transit and Transportation Vision which extends to about 2025. This includes SkyTrain to Langley.

Map of Mayors’ Council 10 Year Investments. Select map to enlarge. Source: Mayors’ Council.

Work is now underway on Transport 2050 which is our region’s long-term transportation plan. Metro Vancouver has had a series of these long-term plans which have been successfully implemented since at least the early 1990s.

The Metro Vancouver Regional District and TransLink has been working with the UBC Health and Community Design Lab to create a walkability index for our region. The walkability index has five components that determine the score: residential density, intersection density, land-use mix, commercial floor area ratio, and sidewalk network completeness. While the index does have some challenges, it helps to highlight areas that are walkable.

Why does this matter, and how can this link to Transport 2050?

One of the longstanding goals for regional planning in Metro Vancouver has been to create walkable nodes with a mix of housing, shops, services, offices, and industry connected by high quality transit. In Metro Vancouver’s land-use plans, these are called urban centres.

The following map overlays these urban centres, TransLink’s frequent transit network, and the walkability index.

2016 Walkability Index overlaid with Metro Vancouver’s Urban Centres and TransLink’s Frequent Transit Network. Select map to enlarge. Source: Metro Vancouver.

There are a few observations which could help inform Transport 2050 and Metro Vancouver’s land-use plans.

It appears that there are urban centres that are missing such as the Scott Road area in Newton, Clayton, Walnut Grove, and Tsawwassen. Urban centres such as South Surrey, Cloverdale, and Ambleside/Park Royal should be expanded.

This map also highlights major gaps in the frequent transit network.

For example, there is no frequent transit service in South Delta, Cloverdale, and Aldergrove. While there is a planned RapidBus for the 200th Street corridor, there needs to be frequent transit along 208th Street and in Walnut Grove. Port Coquitlam needs better transit connectivity as an urban centre.

Hopefully, this walkability index can help inform transit priorities in our region as every transit trip starts or ends with walking.

This walkability index is based on 2016 census data which is the most recent census. The next census will be in 2021, and I hope that this walkability index will be updated at that time.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

February 10 Council Meeting: Zoning Matters

This week I’ve posted about feedback received about Langley City’s proposed 2020-24 Financial Plan, and an update on various civil projects occurring in the community; these matters were both from Monday night’s Langley City council meeting. This post will cover the remaining items from that evening.

Council gave final reading to bylaws, and approved issuing development permits, which enable the construction of two development projects:

On January 27th, council decided to start the process of replacing the former Advisory Planning Commission with a new Advisory Design Panel. Council gave final reading to repeal the bylaw for the old Advisory Planning Commission and replace references to this old commission, with Advisory Design Panel, in other bylaws.

Council also approved Councillor Gayle Martin to attend the International Making Cities Livable Conference in Carmel, Indiana from June 2nd to 6th, 2020. The total cost is estimated to be $2,000.

The Langley District Parent Advisory Council sent a letter to both Langley City and Township councils requesting that zoning bylaws be amended to prevent businesses from selling vape products that are located within a 2km radius of schools.

As Langley City is in the process of updating its Official Community Plan and zoning bylaw, council requested that City staff investigate this request as part of this update process.

As a note, if council did decide to move forward with this request, existing businesses that sell vape product within a 2km radius would be grandfathered in as per BC law.

Finally, council heard from Anthony Butera regarding setting up a retail cannabis dispensary in Langley City.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

February 10 Council Meeting: Engineering and Parks Update - Snow, flooding, and other matters

This last month has been extremely busy for Langley City crews; Langley City council received an update on Monday night about the various activities and projects underway in the community.

In the middle of January, Metro Vancouver received an extraordinary amount of snow in a short period of time. Langley City crews were out making sure that city-maintained roads, walkways, sidewalks, and facilities were accessible.

Snow in Downtown Langley. Select image to enlarge.

At the beginning of this month, after weeks of heavy raining, the Nicomekl River floodplain was fully doing its job. City crews were out ensuring that our community remained safe, responding to localized flooding events.

Flooding, pedestrian bridge east of 203rd Street. Select image to enlarge.

Flooding, Brydon Lagoon. Select image to enlarge.

The Nicomekl River floodplain is protected. One of the reasons why we didn’t see massive flooding in our community this month is because we have preserved the integrity of the floodplain over the years to protect us from a 1 in 100-year flooding event. Due to climate change, there will be more frequent and severe flooding that the current floodplain will not protect us from. This is why the City updated it Floodplain Elevation Bylaw recently, and is proposing to support redevelopment to reduce flooding risks in the upcoming new Official Community Plan.

In time for spring, the new Douglas Park Community Garden will be open.

A proposed Rotary Centennial Park Community Garden is also in the works.

A new public washroom will be opening soon at Nicholas Park.

If you’ve travelled down 203rd Street recently, you will have noticed that there is a new traffic light at Industrial Avenue to enable better access between Industrial Avenue and 203rd Street.

Traffic light replacement in progress at 53rd/53A Avenue/206 Street. Select image to enlarge.

The traffic light at 53rd/53A Avenue/206 Street is also in the process of being replaced.

LED lighting replacement. Select image to enlarge.

Council also learned that work is continuing to replace all our streetlights with energy-efficient LED lights.

New water and sewer system monitoring and control system. Select image to enlarge.

The system that ensures that our water and sewer system is fully monitored and controlled was recently replaced. This will help ensure that our city-owned utilities continue to provide reliable service.