Monday, June 14, 2021

TransLink Transit Network “COVID-19 Snapshot:” Bus routes and South of Fraser ridership recovers more than other parts of Metro Vancouver

For several years, TransLink has released an annual transit network review that provides detailed ridership and cost information about all the agency’s routes. This year, TransLink provided a less-detailed “COVID-19 Snapshot” review of 2020.

As I posted recently, not all modes of transit recovered equally. Bus service recovered more than other modes.

Ridership by mode, early fall 2020. Source: TransLink

This recovery is not surprising as bus service is the workhorse of transit service in our region.

Of note, the 319 - Scott Road route moved from the eighth busiest route to the fourth busiest bus route between 2019 and 2020.

The R1 - King George Bouvard became the ninth busiest bus route in 2020.

In Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows the R3 Lougheed Highway, which TransLink introduced in January 2020, was still able to “generating new ridership demand in the sub-region in 2020.”

Ridership recovery by sub-region, early fall 2020. Source: TransLink

Bus service is the primary mode of transit for the South of Fraser, Maple Ridge, and Pitt Meadows. These areas are also home to essential businesses and workers, people who need to work out of the home. It is no surprise that transit ridership recovered more in these areas.

In areas with a more significant number of transit routes that service post-secondary institutions, which were doing remote learning for most of 2020, transit ridership was suppressed.

Another interesting observation was that transit ridership recovered more mid-day and on weekends than peak travel periods.

Weekday bus and SkyTrain (Expo, Millennium, and Canada Lines) Compass boardings by time of day, early fall 2020 vs. early fall 2019. Source: TransLink

These changes in travel patterns highlight the importance of transit service beyond post-secondary/school trips and office commuter trips.

As we continue to recover from the pandemic, I would not be surprised if transit service has smaller peak travel periods. It will be interesting to see how TransLink adapts, including impacts on revenue and ability to provide a robust, frequent transit network.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Langley City Council supports 101-unit Birch Building affordable seniors rental housing project by reducing fees by $151,500

Entrance to Langley Lions Housing Society site. Select image to enlarge.

In BC, municipalities can levy development cost charges on new development projects to expand or build new infrastructure.

The provincial government has strict regulations for development cost charges. A municipality must go through a complex bylaw creation process that lists specific road, sewage, water, drainage, and parkland projects. Municipalities must prove that any project for which development cost charges are applied is required as a direct result of development. There is a 116-page guide on creating development cost charge bylaws, including complex calculations needed to “prove” the impact of development on a community. The provinical government must approve development cost charge bylaws.

Development cost charge regulations can be too restrictive. For example, with parkland projects, municipalities can use development cost charges for building some types of sports fields, swings, and slides, but not dugouts, tennis courts, basketball courts, baseball diamonds, sports tracks, park lighting, or parking lots. This example shows the overly restrictive nature of development cost charges.

As a result, municipalities negotiate developer-paid community amenity contributions during the rezoning process to help pay for projects required due to development, but are exempt from development cost charges. Examples include basketball courts and other park improvements, public art, affordable housing, and renewing roads, trails, sewers, and water mains.

Langely City uses both development cost charges and community amenity contributions.

The Langley Lions Housing Society provides affordable housing for seniors and people with disabilities. They are in the process of building a new 101-unit Birch Building. They recently signed a housing agreement with Langely City to ensure that this building is mainly for seniors and remains affordable.

The Society requested that Langley City waive the $202,000 community amenity contribution for the Birch Building.

Langley City staff recommended that Council waive 75% of the community amenity contribution, which works out to $151,500. Constructing a housing agreement-secured, affordable, seniors-focused rental housing project is an amenity for our community. That being said, staff noted that “increased site density and a plan to allocate 20 percent of new units to non-seniors, it is also fair to anticipate that some increased demand for community amenities will be generated by new Langley Lions residents.”

The remaining $50,500 of community amenity contribution will support the new Birch Building residents’ additional amenities requirements.

Council supported staff’s recommendation and reduced the community amenity contribution for the Birch Building by 75%.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Council Motions: Eliminating Nuclear Weapons, Supporting 988 Suicide and Crisis Hotline

Back in November, Langley City Council passed a motion supporting the Mayors For Peace Appeal. In addition, Council sent a letter to the federal government asking them to advocate for eliminating nuclear weapons.

Once a year, elected representatives and local government staff attend the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) convention. One of the main objectives of the convention is to pass motions for the provincial or federal governments to consider. The idea is that the voice of all local governments calling for action will get more done than just one.

The UN Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) is an agreement signed by 86 countries calling for national governments to dismantle nuclear weapons. It came into force this year. But, unfortunately, all nations with nuclear weapons and NATO members (including Canada) did not sign this treaty.

Council passed the following motion on May 31st:

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the UBCM support the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) Cities Appeal and send urgent correspondence to the federal government asking that they take decisive steps toward the global elimination of nuclear weapons and sign and ratify the TPNW.

This motion will now go forward to the annual UBCM convention, where other local governments will have the opportunity to support it.

Suicide is one of the leading causes of preventable death in Canada. At the same meeting, Council passed a motion that “staff be directed to send a letter indicating such support to the local MP, MLA, Federal Minister of Health, the CRTC and local area municipalities to indicate our support” for a national 988 suicide and crisis hotline.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

May 31 Council Notes: Streetscape Bins Waste Audit and Bylaw Traffic Fine Increases

Protecting and enhancing the environment where we live is a priority for Langley City residents and Langley City Council. People who completed an online survey about the proposed new Official Community Plan ranked its environmental policies with the highest levels of support.

Earlier this year, Langley City Council passed a motion declaring there is a climate emergency in our community and ask City staff to outline the next steps to:

  • Achieve net-zero carbon emissions before 2050 with a balanced approach for today and future generations
  • Update the current Sustainability Framework to incorporate current best practices on climate mitigation, adaptation and resilience, and to incorporate principles of biodiversity, sustainability and stewardship to guide future developments and infrastructure projects within Langley City

On May 31st, Council approved $14,000 to complete a Streetscape Container Waste Audit. Streetscape containers include the garbage and recycling bins you see at bus stops, at trailheads, and around the Downtown and Langley Bypass areas.

Langley City has 175 of these containers. This audit will sample 25% of these containers to see what people throw away. The audit will also check if people follow the labelling on multi-stream containers (silver bins) and will pilot new labelling at select bins to see if that improves sorting.

Based on the audit results, staff will plan for funding future phases of this waste audit starting next year to find the best ways to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills or burned at Metro Vancouver’s Waste-to-Energy Facility.

At the same meeting, Council also gave final reading to the 2020-24 Financial Plan Amendment Bylaw.

Council also gave first, second, and third reading to update the Municipal Ticket Information System Amendment Bylaw to increase the fines for many highway and traffic regulations violations. Penalties range from $30 to $500. If given final reading, you could get a $500 fine for damaging or altering City’s streets and sidewalks or for obstructing traffic flow.

Council also gave first, second, and third reading to the:

  • Community Standards Amendment Bylaw
  • Mural Regulation Amendment Bylaw
  • City of Langley Sign Amendment Bylaw

These were housekeeping amendments to remove redundant wording from these bylaws.

Monday, June 7, 2021

May 31 Council Notes: Apartment Projects along 53A Avenue and 201A Street

Last Monday, Langely City Council gave first and second reading for two bylaws to accommodate a 5-storey, 56-unit apartment development at 20179, 20189, & 20199 53A Avenue. Because the proposed development is not consistent with the current Official Community Plan, but will be under the proposed new Official Community Plan, Langely City staff recommended updating the current Official Community Plan along with the normal rezoning process for this proposed project.

Rendering of the proposed project at 20179, 20189, & 20199 53A Avenue. Select image to enlarge.

Council has enabled staff to schedule a public hearing on this project by giving first and second reading to the bylaws.

After the public hearing, I will post more about this project, but you can view the architectural drawings, landscape drawings, and Advisory Design Plan recommendations from the City’s website.

Council also gave third reading to a bylaw that would enable the construction of a 5-storey, 62-unit apartment at the corner of 56th Avenue and 201A Street. This proposed development is on the site of a former fire-damaged apartment building. The third reading of a bylaw occurs after a public hearing.

Rendering of the view from 201A Street of the proposed project at 5609 201A Street. Select image to enlarge.

Rendering of the northwest view of the proposed project at 5609 201A Street. Select image to enlarge.

Rendering of the southeast view of the proposed project at 5609 201A Street. Select image to enlarge.

Langley City’s Advisory Design Plan made two recommendations about this proposed development:

  • That the size of the balconies increase
  • That the uncovered balconies have rain protection

The development proponent stated that they would be increasing the usable area or size of balconies throughout the project. The proponent also added a two-foot-deep overhang at a minimum over the previously unprotected balconies.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Changes made to Langley City’s proposed new Official Community Plan and Nicomekl River District Neighbourhood Plan based on feedback

Yesterday, I posted about the feedback Langely City received from residents and other stakeholders about the draft proposed new Official Community Plan and Nicomekl River District Neighbourhood Plan. These plans will guide the City’s policies, including land-use policies, for decades to come.

Two of the main areas of concern about these plans were land-use policies and community safety. There was also a strong desire by residents who took part in the open houses and survey to strengthen environmental policies.

To address some of the feedback, Langley City staff and consultants updated the plans to:

  • Strengthen townhouse building design guidelines
  • Strengthen high-rise building design guidelines
  • Strengthen industrial building design guidelines
  • Strengthen building guidelines on on-site stormwater management and on-site clean energy generation
  • Strengthen design guidelines and other policies to prioritize safety, eyes-on-the-street, sightlines, and community ownership of public spaces
  • Identify the need to create a Community Safety Strategy in collaboration with the Township of Langley and RCMP
  • Locate a policing station office adjacent to the proposed 203rd Street SkyTrain Station
  • Identify the need to create an Urban Forest Management Plan to protect and enhance the tree canopy
  • Clarify that lighting should be used sparsely in the Nicomekl Floodplain to reduce the impact on sensitive wildlife habitat
  • Enhance policies around partnering with Kwantlen First Nation and environmental stakeholders on wildlife habitat restoration and conservation

The following map shows land-use changes resulting from the feedback.

Map of land-use changes resulting from the feedback received from open houses and the survey. Select map to enlarge.

The significant changes include removing the “special study areas” in the suburban residential areas. Changes also include reducing the scale of ground-oriented housing such as duplexes and townhouses to better fit within the character of neighbourhoods south of the Nicomekl River and clarifying the language around secondary suites and garden suites.

For a complete list of changes, please view the “Table of Recommended Changes” in the Official Community Plan & Nicomekl River District Neighbourhood Plan Engagement Summary.

You can read the updated proposed Official Community Plan, which incorporates the Nicomekl River District Neighbourhood Plan, from Langley City’s website. You can also find out how to participate in the formal public hearing on June 28th on the same page.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Majority support Langley City’s proposed new Official Community Plan and Nicomekl River District Neighbourhood Plan

Over the last two years, Langley City staff and consultants have been working on an updated Official Community Plan, which prepares for the future Surrey-Langley SkyTrain extension, addresses housing affordability, and strengthens environmental protection.

City Council members, members of the public, and stakeholders such as Kwantlen First Nation have participated in workshops, open houses, surveys and provided written comments throughout the process.

179 people participated in virtual open houses, and 332 people participated in a survey about the proposed updated Official Community Plan and accompanying Nicomekl River District Neighbourhood Plan in February of this year.

Langley City’s consultant presented the feedback from the open houses and survey at Monday’s Council meeting.

Overall, two-thirds of survey respondents supposed the overall vision of the proposed Official Community Plan. In addition, 52% supported the land-uses proposed in the plan.

The following are the five key themes of the proposed Official Community Plan and the level of support from survey respondents.

  • Affordable Living and Diverse Housing for all Generations – 61%
  • A Highly Connected City Aligned with Rapid Transit – 67%
  • A Safe and Inclusive Community Rich with Cultural Destinations – 77%
  • A Responsive Community that Creates New Jobs – 74%
  • Environmental Solutions to Fight Climate Change – 79%
Map of Nicomekl River District. Select map to enlarge.

On the proposed Nicomekl River District Neighbourhood Plan, 62% of survey respondents supported the vision, with 54% supporting the land-uses.

The following are the themes for the proposed Nicomekl River District Neighbourhood Plan and the level of support from respondents.

  • A Walkable & Accessible Neighbourhood – 73%
  • A Complete Neighourhood – 60%
  • An Ecologically Sensitive Neighourhood – 78%
  • A Hertigate Conscious Neighourhood – 71%
  • A Playful & Safe Neighbourhood – 71%

The following key themes emerged from the feedback that the City received.

  • All parts of both plans received majority support from survey respondents
  • There is strong support for environmental policies such as protecting the Nicomekl River ecosystem
  • Land-use policies generated the most concern with fear about changes in single-detached housing neighbourhoods
  • People were concerned that the City’s infrastructure, including roads/parking, would not be able to keep up with population increases
  • People noted that community safety is critical

Tomorrow, I post about how Langley City staff and consultants addressed the concerns raised in the survey and open houses in the latest versions of the plans.

You can read the full survey results available on the City’s website.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Food trucks and alcoholic beverages allowed in select parks this summer

Langley City Council approved a summertime food truck and alcoholic beverages in parks pilot program. This pilot program will help support the economic recovery of our restaurants and small businesses in Langley City and allow people to safely enjoy beer, wine, or other alcoholic beverages during a picnic with friends and family.

As part of this pilot program, people who operate a food truck will need to have a permanent food service business located in Langley City.

The City will permit food trucks in commercial areas outside of the Historic Downtown area, including parking lots, if the operator has the permission of property owners.

Map of food truck exclusion zone. Select image to enlarge.

The City will also allow one food truck each in the parking lot at:

  • City Park, west of Al Anderson Memorial Pool
  • Linwood Park
  • Brydon Park
  • Sendall Gardens
  • Portage Park
  • Penzer Park
  • Uplands Dog Off-leash Park

The City must approve the schedule for any food truck operating in a park.

Food truck operators will also need to follow good neighbourhood rules around noise and garbage.

On Fridays and Saturdays from 1:00 pm to 8:00 pm from July 1st through September 30th, people will be allowed to responsibly consume alcoholic beverages in McBurney Plaza, select areas in Douglas Park, and the picnic shelters at City Park.

The following map shows the select areas in Douglas Park.

Alcoholic beverage zone in Douglas Park. Select map to enlarge.

The City will be investing $21,000 to provide portable toilets were required, garbage/recycling/organic collection, security services, and signage to support this alcoholic beverages in parks pilot program.

Example signage as part of the alcoholic beverages in parks pilot program. Select image to enlarge.

People will also be able to provide feedback on this program through the pilot period. Based on the results of the pilot program, Council may decide to make the program permanent.