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 meeting@langleycity.ca 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: https://langleycity.ca/news

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.