Wednesday, February 1, 2023

A Deeper Dive into Langley City’s Proposed 2023 Budget: On-going Operating Budget

Yesterday, I posted about the overall proposed Langley City 2023 budget and how it will impact property taxes and user fees residential and business property owners may pay to the City this year.

Today, I wanted to share what items impact taxes and user fees in the City based on the priorities that Council has set.

I encourage you to read my previous post, which provides the needed background information for today’s post.

Maintain Current Service Levels (Inflation)
  • Employee wages and benefits – collective agreements: $1,226,070
  • RCMP contract and detachment costs: $521,515
  • Fire training, maintenance supplies, dispatch costs: $168,340
  • Bank charges and tax prepayment interest: $168,250
  • Various supplies and contracted services: $117,735
  • Discover Langley City – tourism marketing: $80,000
  • Solid waste services: $42,040
  • FVRL – library services: $68,015
  • Long-term debt servicing $65,835
  • IT security and software support: $43,500
  • Financial audit fees: $29,000
  • Council remuneration, travel and benefits: $25,685
Preparing for SkyTrain
  • $15m (new debt servicing costs): $1,278,930
Investing in the Basics
  • Additional transfer to capital projects reserves for infrastructure renewal: $333,650
Enhancing Public Safety
  • Hire 2 Firefighters / Public Safety Personnel: $523,820
Addressing Poverty, Health and Homelessness
  • Social Planning Services: $180,930
Other Service Improvements
  • Urban Forest Maintenance & Watering: $140,000
  • Recreation (Supporting children & aquatics programs): $141,665
  • Enhance Community Events: $39,900
  • Maintain Downtown Summer and Winter Displays in Downtown, McBurney Plaza and Douglas Park: $35,000
  • Community Newsletters – Increase Government Transparency: $25,000
  • Other Service Level Increments: $98,880

I should note “Maintain Current Service Levels” are offset by about $1.9 million in additional revenue the City is budgeting to receive this year as a result of redevelopment, investments, and fees (that aren’t collected on your property tax bill.)

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Langley City’s 2023 Budget: Preparing for SkyTrain, Investing in the Basics, Enhancing Public Safety, and Addressing Poverty, Health, and Homelessness

Langley City Council works with City staff to develop policies for the municipality and sets the direction for the municipality. The budget is the document that helps turn these policies and directions into actions.

Yesterday, Council introduced its proposed 2023 budgets by giving it first and second reading.

There are four main pillars in the 2023 budget: preparing for SkyTrain, investing in the basics, enhancing public safety, and addressing poverty, health, and homelessness.

Over the next week, I’ll go into more detail about the proposed budget, but I wanted to highlight some of the major initiatives.

Council is planning to borrow $15 million to purchase property and fund SkyTrain-related improvements, such as road realignment, to ensure we maximize this $4 billion once-in-a-generation opportunity for residents and businesses in Langley City.

Council is also proposing increasing the property tax to help fund the much-needed replacement of worn roads and end-of-life water mains and sewer lines. Our community has an infrastructure deficit, and Council is working to close this gap. Council is proposing to add $150,000 more per year to the sewer capital reserve to bring the annual property tax contributions to $1 million. Council is also proposing to add $220,000 to the water capital reserve to bring the annual property tax contributions to $1 million. Finally, Council plans to increase the property tax to support other one-time capital projects by $333,650 to $2.2 million annually.

The City’s stable funding sources for one-time capital projects are property tax/user fees, the casino, TransLink, developer contributions, and the federal Canada Community-Building Fund. The breakdown is shown in the following interactive chart.

City also receives grants from the federal and provincial governments and TransLink to help fund specific projects. Because these grants are not stable funding sources, I did not include them in the chart.

Council is planning to invest an additional $523,000 to hire three new firefighters this year to keep up with the needs of our growing community.

The City plans to host a series of collaborative workshops with the province, service providers, and people with lived experience to address the gaps preventing meaningful action on addressing poverty, health, mental health, and homelessness in our community. Council is planning to add a staff member to help carry out this ongoing work.

Other critical action areas for Council this year include maintaining and growing our urban forest health to reduce the heat island effect and help mitigate the impacts of climate change, and continuing to invest in our recreation programs.

After carefully reviewing the budget, Council is maintaining the current service levels the City provides.

The following table outlines the property tax changes as a result.

Objective Additional Tax Required Tax Rate Impact
Maintain Current Service Level (Inflation) $1,085,385 3.24%
Preparing for SkyTrain $1,278,930 3.83%
Investing in the Basics $333,650 1%
Enhancing Public Safety $523,820 1.57%
Addressing Poverty, Health and Homelessness $180,930 0.54%
Urban Forest Management $140,000 0.42%
Recreation $121,665 0.37%
Other Service Level Increases $198,780 0.59%

The following table shows how it will impact your property tax bill.

Classification Average Assessed Value Annual Change Monthly Change % Change
Attached (Appartment-Townhouse) $582,203 $192 $16.00 11.56%
Detached (Single-Family) $1,403,232 $379 $31.60 10.09%

The average business property will see a proposed increase of 11.92% and the average light industrial property 11.98%.

The next step in the budget process is a public open house which will take place on Tuesday, February 7th, between 6 pm and 8 pm at Langely City Hall. This open house will allow people to talk with senior City staff about the proposed budget to learn more about it and get their questions answered. At the 7 pm February 13th City Council meeting, people will be able to provide formal feedback about the proposed 2023 budget to Council. Council will consider the input from the community and, at the February 27th meeting, will vote on moving the budget forward as currently proposed or with changes. The earliest Council could officially approve the budget is at the March 6th Council meeting.

Monday, January 30, 2023

TransLink ridership continues to rebound

Ridership on Metro Vancouver’s transit system continues to grow. At Thursday’s Mayors’ Council on Regional Transporation meeting, TransLink staff presented their latest ridership statistics.

94% of transit customers are back using the system, though with fewer trips. While people travel to shops, appointments, and recreation at similar levels to 2019, many office workers continue to work from home or partially work from home. This change means fewer trips on the transit system. One of the challenges this creates is lower fare revenue because fewer people are buying monthly passes and instead are paying as they go.

Increases in transit ridership in 2022 compared to historical ridership levels. Select the graphic to enlarge.

People who work in industrial areas in Port Kelly, Campbell Heights, Langley City, and throughout the region could never work from home. Transit usage in these areas has only continued to grow over the last few years.

Percentage change in annual service hours by subregion between April 2020 and January 2023. Select the map to enlarge.

Overcrowding is now a concern on some routes. TransLink will be reallocating service hours from routes with lower ridership recovery to fast-growing routes. This reallocation has resulted in more transit service in the South of Fraser. When TransLink is adjusting service hours, they are doing it in a way to maintain fast and frequent service. For example, they might reduce the frequency on some routes from 8 minutes to 10 minutes. With transit ridership still growing overall, there is only so much reallocation that TransLink can do without impacting the quality of transit service. The region will need stable ongoing funding from the province and federal governments to ensure we can continue to invest in transit service.

Today, Metro Vancouver has the 5th highest number of transit boardings in Canada and the US. To put that into context, Metro Vancouver is the 24th most populous region in Canada and the US.

Friday, January 27, 2023

TransLink Mayors’ Council gets to work on 10-Year Vision

Mayors’ Council

Yesterday, I attended the third Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation meeting since the fall local government elections. The Mayors’ Council is one of the governing bodies of TransLink.

This meeting set the stage for the work the Mayors’ Council will complete over the next year. Earlier this week, I posted about the Mayors’ Council’s 10-Year Priorities Transportation Plan. The Mayors’ Council voted to endorse that Plan yesterday.

This Plan will be required to keep people moving and give people affordable travel options as our region grows. Currently, the new 10-Year Plan is unfunded. The priority of the Mayors’ Council will be to work with the federal and provincial governments to enable predictable, stable funding for TransLink to move the Plan forward.

As the Mayors’ Council has 23 members, the Council forms sub-groups to work on substantial policies, which get sent to the full Mayors’ Council for comment and, hopefully, eventual approval.

The Mayors’ Council sub-groups include:

Finance Committee — “This committee will provide input to and recommendations on the timing, pace and final shape for the next Investment Plan. In addition, the committee will be responsible for overseeing the Investment Plan’s funding strategy, and financial modelling and assumptions.”

Planning and Priorities Committee — “This committee will provide input on the processes and studies designed to prioritize TransLink plans, projects and services for funding and inclusion in upcoming investment plans. The committee will also be responsible for considering the development of other policy-related initiatives.”

Public Affairs and Governance Committee — “This committee’s mandate will primarily be external facing to provide input to communication and public advocacy efforts to secure senior government support for 10YP and the next Investment Plan. The committee will also consider the Council’s mandated “HR” responsibilities.”

Indigenous Relations Joint Advisory Working Group — “This joint working group was created in September 2022 to provide advice on the implementation of the reconciliation commitments in Transport 2050, including providing transit service to indigenous communities.”

Small Municipalities Caucus — “This caucus comprising the members of the 4-5 smallest local governments in the region have met informally and on an ad hoc basis for many years, to provide unique “small community” perspectives and inputs to regional policies and plans being considered by the Mayors’ Council. The caucus will meet as needed, likely 2-4 times per year, and will consider how proposed policies and plans may impact smaller local governments differently than other local governments in the region.”

Joint Governance Task Force — “This joint task force, comprising 3 members from each of the Board and Mayors’ Council, will develop recommendations for both bodies and the province to finalize and operationalize the governance changes proposed by Minister Heyman in a process to launch this month.”

The chair and vice-chair of the Mayors’ Council proposed a list of committee appointments. The Mayors’ Council approved the suggested appointments. The Council appointed me as vice-chair of the Finance Committee. You can read the complete list of appointments and more information about each committee’s work plan in the latest Mayors’ Council agenda.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

You can recycle more things in Langley City

Recycle BC, which producers of packaging and paper products fund, provides recycling services in Langley City.

In Langley City, you have either curb-side pickup or shared recycling bins at your townhouse complex or apartment building.

You can only recycle some packaging materials at a depot. These packaging materials include foam and flexible, soft plastics such as shopping bags. The Langley Bottle Depot on Industrial Avenue is the approved depot for Langley City.

Starting this January, more items are accepted for recycling, as shown in the following image and on the Recycle BC website.

A table of new items accepted for recycling. Select image to enlarge.

For more information, please visit the Recycle BC page for Langley City.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Understanding the embedded costs of Metro Vancouver Regional District Services

No Trespassing Sign on Cleveland Dam at Capilano River Head

When you look at your property tax bill, you’ll likely see a line item called “Metro Vancouver.” This property tax line item is one of the funding sources for the Metro Vancouver Regional District though it is not its most significant source of revenue.

The most significant sources of revenue for the Metro Vancouver Regional District are water, sewer, and solid waste fees. Munipcailities purchase water and pay a levy to the regional district to process sewer. Langley City’s water and sewer fees charged to property owners include the regional district’s costs plus City’s costs to maintain the local water and sewer infrastructure. These water and sewer charges show up on your property tax bill, are billed to your strata (which becomes part of your strata fees), or your water and sewer bill if you are a high-volume water/sewer user. High-volume users include some commercial properties. Garbage fees, known as “tipping fees,” are embedded into your solid waste fees, either on your property tax bill or embedded in the cost you or your strata pay to private solid waste haulers.

The following graphic shows the average household costs from Metro Vancouver services and how much each revenue source contributes to the overall funding for the regional district and its overall expenditures.

Breakdown of Metro Vancouver Regional District Costs. Select the graphic to enlarge. Source: Metro Vancouver

Monday, January 23, 2023

Mayors’ Council set to vote on work plan in support of 10-Year Transportation Priorities

Bus

On Thursday, the first Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation meeting of the year is happening. The Mayors’ Council and the TransLink board set the organization’s direction.

One of the items on the agenda will be to endorse this year’s work plan of the Mayors’ Council. Getting the Mayors’ Council’s 10-Year Priorities Transportation Plan moved from paper to delivery is what the proposed 2023 work plan will focus on if approved by the region’s mayors.

The key priorities currently are:

  • Developing a sustainable funding strategy for TransLink
  • Expanding local, RapidBus, and Bus Rapid Transit services
    Priority Routes RapidBus Candidate? BRT Candidate?
    King George Blvd to White Rock Yes - Extension from Newton Yes
    Lynn Valley – Downtown/Lonsdale (via Lions Gate) Yes Yes
    Marine Dr Station – 22nd St Station Yes Yes
    Langley – Haney Place (via Golden Ears) Yes Yes
    Coquitlam – Haney Place (via Lougheed) In operation Yes
    Hastings Street In operation Yes
    Richmond Centre – Metrotown In planning Yes
    Scott Road Opening 2023 Yes
  • Moving forward with North Shore Rapid Transit
  • Building the Burnaby Mountain Gondola
  • Start moving TransLink’s operations to net zero, including replacing conventional diesel, diesel-hybrid, and compressed natural gas buses
  • Completing a climate change risk assessment of crucial TransLink infrastructure, and developing a strategy to reduce those risks
  • Working with the Metro Vancouver Regional District to create policies that support a 65% reduction in GHG emissions from cars, vans, SUVs, and pickups by 2030
  • Creating a funding program for local governments to build out the Major Bikeway Network
    Map of TransLink’s Major Bikeway Network. Select the map to enlarge.
  • Developing the express transit service plan covering the Sea to Sky region to the eastern Fraser Valley
  • Continuing to develop new technologies to support Mobility-as-a-Service
  • Supporting the province’s plan to extend SkyTrain to UBC

It will be interesting to see if there will be any changes to the work plan proposed at Thursday’s Mayors’ Council meeting.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

What Lies Beneath: Langley City’s Water Reservoir

BC Hydro and FortisBC likely come to mind when you think of utilities. Probably, you don’t think of Langley City as a large utility, but the City is.

Langley City provides water and sewer services which require a significant amount of infrastructure. Most of it is hidden out of view or underground.

After a local election, City staff usually arrange a Council tour of the various “hidden” pieces of infrastructure and City facilities. One site I’ve never visited before was the City’s water reservoir.

Pump room at Langley City’s Water Reservoir. Select image to enlarge.

Water quality sample station at Langley City’s Water Reservoir. Select image to enlarge.

The City built the water reservoir at the end of the 1990s to replace an old water tower and other end-of-life water infrastructure. The water reservoir primarily serves areas in Langley City south of the Nicomekl River though it can also serve as an emergency supply for the whole city. Langley City purchases our water from the Metro Vancouver Regional District. The connection to the regional district’s water system is by Willowbrook Mall. If that connection and our interconnection with the Township of Langley were damaged, the City would have about three days of water available in the reservoir.

It was interesting to see the scale of the reservoir as it is mainly hidden out of view.

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

January 16 Council Notes: Investing in Firefighters, Mutual Aid in Emergencies, Records Management

Yesterday, I posted about delegations from members of the public who presented at Langley City’s Monday night Council meeting. Today, I will post about the other matters addressed at that meeting.

Langley City Council gave first, second and third reading to a new Records Management Bylaw. This bylaw replaces an out-of-date bylaw from 1982. The bylaw establishes how the City will retain records, who has access to those records, and how long the City will keep records. Records include everything from emails to building plans. The bylaw also establishes that the City’s corporate officer is responsible for maintaining procedures and policies around records management.

In Metro Vancouver, municipalities try to work together whenever possible in the region’s best interest. If an emergency impacts more than one member of the Metro Vancouver Regional District, members will pool resources and work together. The types of emergencies could include a natural disaster, flooding event, cyber-attack, terrorism, and other significant incidents.

Metro Vancouver Regional District members are signing a new mutual aid agreement that updates the previous agreement signed more than 20 years ago. The new agreement includes sections around who to call first, how to bill for resources provided, and insurance.

On Monday, Council authorized Langley City to be a party to the new regional mutual aid agreement.

Council approved Assistant Fire Chief Chris Miley to attend the Fire Department Instructors Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana, from April 24th to April 29th, 2023.

Finally, Councillor Solyom proposed the following motion, which was approved unanimously by Council.

THAT Staff include at least two full-time suppression firefighters in the 2023 budget, at least three full-time suppression firefighters in the 2024 budget, at least two full-time suppression firefighters in the 2025 budget and at least two full-time suppression firefighters in the 2026 budget for Council to consider.

Councillor Solyom noted that Langley City has one of the busiest fire halls in Metro Vancouver, responding to over 3,800 calls for service in 2022, compared to similar-sized communities such as White Rock and Port Moody, which have around half the calls with a larger complement of firefighters. With population growth and the arrival of SkyTrain in a few years, Councillor Solyom stated that he wanted to make sure our fire service would be able to meet the needs of our growing community. He provided more background information to support his motion.

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

January 16 Council Notes: Delegations to Council

Yesterday was the first public Langley City Council meeting of the new year and marked the return to in-person meetings at City Hall.

People can apply to speak to City Council about any matter within the City’s jurisdiction at a Council meeting. Please visit the City’s website for more information on how to present to Council.

City’s Council heard two delegations. The first delegation was from Stewart Furness, whose son Steven Furness was killed in a mass shooting this summer in Langley City and Township. Steven was experiencing homelessness at the time of his death. Stewart called on the City to partner to build low-barrier housing for people experiencing homelessness and provided Council with an additional information package.

The second delegation was from David Stingl, who owns a business on the Fraser Highway One-Way in Downtown Langley. The City plans to replace the underground water and sewer lines under Fraser Highway, which are at the end of their useful life. Since City contractors will need to dig up the one-way section, the City is also planning to improve the streetscape. You can read a previous post to see what the proposed improvements are.

Mr. Stingl, who provided a petition with around a dozen businesses, stated they were worried about the proposed project’s impacts and wanted to make sure that the City would consult with them on the proposed construction plan and design.

I told Mr. Stingl that the construction project would start no earlier than 2024 and that the City would meaningfully consult with impacted businesses before the project begins.

Tomorrow, I will post about the other matters addressed at yesterday’s meeting.

Monday, January 16, 2023

Accepting Submissions for the Inaugural Langley City Film Festival

LCFF Logo

Langley is a hotbed of production for film and television, so it makes sense that we should have our own Langley City Film Festival (LCFF). Supported by Langley City’s Arts, Recreation, Culture, and Heritage Committee and the Langley Arts Council, LCFF will take place from Friday, October 20th to Sunday, October 22nd this year and is now accepting submissions.

This theme for the inaugural film festival is “Transitions.”

The categories for filmmakers 19 years of age and older are Stop Motion, Animation, or Experimental Films; Short; and Feature. The winner in each category will receive a cash honorarium of $1000 and a tour of a local film studio. The runner-up in each category will receive a tour of a local film studio and a certificate of participation.

There are also student categories for filmmakers 18 years of age and younger. The categories are Short, Medium, and Long. The winner in each category will receive a $100 gift card and a tour of a local film studio. The runner-up in each category will receive a tour of a local film studio and a certificate of participation.

For more information about the Langley City Film Festival and submission criteria, please visit: https://filmfreeway.com/LCFF2023

Friday, January 13, 2023

Bike Parking is Required to Make Cycling a Convenient Travel Option

Before being elected as mayor of Langley City, my primary way of getting around the community was by foot. One of the first things I purchased after being elected was an e-bike, as I knew I’d been spending more time going from my house to City Hall and other appointments throughout the community.

I’m happy I purchased that e-bike, as it only takes about 6 minutes to get from my place to City Hall. I can get to most other places within Langley City in about 12 minutes. One of the things I have noticed that can be a barrier to cycling is end-of-trip facilities (aka a place to park your bike securely.)

I had to lock my bike to a fence at a convenience store in Downtown Langley. Select the image to enlarge.

At home, I store my e-bike in my garage. I can park my e-bike in the secure underground parking at City Hall. I can park my e-bike in front of entrances with good visibility at most places built over the last 20 years in Langley City, as our zoning bylaw requires bike parking. An example of this is the 7-Eleven on 200th Street and 56th Avenue. There is no place to park your bike at many older buildings because zoning bylaws aren’t retroactive. Some builder managers or business owners do not consider biking as a way their customers might visit their location. I’ve also seen newer strip malls in Langley City where bike parking has been tucked away in the corner, making it feel unsafe to park your bike.

We must build a safe, connected cycling network to give people the option of cycling. We must also ensure that bike parking is in high-visibility locations. The two must go together to make cycling an attractive transportation option.

While the City cannot force older commercial building owners to install bike parking, the City can encourage the installation of bike parking. The City can also install bike racks on the street. You can see this in parts of Downtown Langley today. In Kelowna, they’ve gone one step further and installed bike lockers in their downtown.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Move! That! Bus!: How to Rapidly Build a Fast and Frequent Bus Network

In Metro Vancouver and Langley City, we are trying to design our communities to give people travel choices such as walking, cycling, taking transit, and driving. While SkyTrain is an integral part of the transit story, buses are the backbone of the network handling 61% of transit boardings throughout Metro Vancouver.

One of the challenges with most bus routes in Metro Vancouver is that they get stuck in the same traffic as everyone else, increasing the cost of providing transit service and slowing down transit service.

One of the big regional pushes over the next decade will be to quickly build a fast and frequent bus network to give more people access to fast, frequent, reliable transit service. This network will be known as the RapidBus and Bus Rapid Transit network. You can read more about this in a previous post that I wrote.

This bus network will be faster to build and cost less per kilometre than SkyTrain, giving the region more bang for its transit buck. For this new network to be successful, it will need the support of municipalities’ planning and transportation departments. TransLink will not be able to do this alone.

The National Association of City Transportation Officials, a group of North American municipalities working toward increasing transportation choices, has released a new guide called “Move! That! Bus!: How to Transform Transit and Fight Climate Change in Two Years.

Municipalities and TransLink must work together to build fast, frequent, and reliable bus service. Image Source: NACTO

Some of the actions that municipalities and Councils must take to ensure a fast and frequent bus network include:

  • Building dedicated bus lanes
  • Implementing bus queue jumper lanes, turn restrictions, and short segments of bus lanes at a specific problem intersection and ‘hotspot’ where there is bus delay due to congestion
  • Implementing transit signal priority at intersections
  • Upgrading bus stops to be safe and accessible, making sure that they are also safe and accessible to roll, walk, or bike to
  • Pricing parking based on demand and adopting zoning policies that decrease the over-supply of parking and support increasing housing and mixed-use development options

Municipalities will need to implement these actions for TransLink’s proposed RapidBus and Bus Rapid Transit network to succeed in Metro Vancouver.

The full report also includes actions that TransLink will have to take. I invite you to read the full easy-to-read report.

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Metro Vancouver Regional District Board and Committees. What’s in Store for the New Regional Growth Strategy.

With the new year, the Metro Vancouver Regional District Board and its committees have been restarted and refreshed with a new configuration of directors and members due to the fall municipal election.

Because there are 41 directors appointed from Tsawwassen First Nation, our region’s 21 municipalities, and one electoral area, most of the work in studying and developing policies occurs in committees with their work sent to the overall Metro Vancouver Board for approval.

People appointed to the Board and its committees should be working in the region’s best interest. Most of the time, what’s best for the region is also what’s best for a municipality, but there can be times when regional and local municipal interests appear misaligned. When there is a misalignment, a director or committee member must make a difficult call. In the past, I’ve noticed this happens most often around land use decisions.

Before the election, the Regional District was working towards adopting Metro 2050, which is the new regional growth strategy.

Map of land with the regional Rural land-use designation in Metro 2050. Select map to enlarge.

For a regional growth strategy to be “in force,” it must be approved by Tsawwassen First Nation and all 21 municipalities in Metro Vancouver. While Tsawwassen First Nation and 19 municipalities did approve Metro 2050, Surrey and Township of Langley Councils had concerns about Metro 2050, and each did not approve it before the municipal elections. It will be interesting to see how things shake out regarding adopting Metro 2050 with new Councils in Surrey and the Township, plus a refreshed Metro Vancouver Regional District Board.

Councillor Paul Albrecht and Councillor Rosemary Wallace are the primary and alternate appointments to the Metro Vancouver Regional District Board by Langley City Council. Councillor Albrecht is also on the Regional Planning Committee, Liquid Waste Committee and Water Committee. Councillor Wallace is on the Climate Action Committee and Zero Waste (Solid Waste) Committee.

Monday, January 9, 2023

The Rolling Strategic Plan: How it will Help Langley City Council Move Forward

When people run for office, they usually have ideas, policies, and initiatives they want to see implemented. Throughout a term in office, residents and businesses will suggest other items they want Council to address. Council members will also suggest new things they’d like to see implemented throughout the term. There are normally more great ideas than time or resources to implement them. Because of these limitations, most Councils develop strategic plans. These strategic plans help City staff implement the vision of Council and the community.

In Langley City, Council will hold a workshop to gather all ideas, policies, and initiatives and then will work to create a prioritized list of tasks for City staff. Some items from the list will be incorporated into the existing work plans of City staff. An example from a previous strategic plan was to hold regular neighbourhood meetings. Some items are more complex and require further planning before they can be implemented. A current example is the Urban Forest Management Strategy which is actively being developed. Most items require a budget, so the strategic plan is used by City staff to set the budget as well. You can see Langley City’s current strategic plan on the City’s website.

Because priorities can shift over a term in office, Langley City is moving toward a rolling strategic plan. Council will review the plan at least once per year to close out completed items, validate outstanding items that still make sense to complete, and add new items. Council will adopt the rolling strategic plan at least annually at a Council meeting.

In the past, our strategic plan was static and covered four years. If Council wanted to move forward with a new item outside the static strategic plan, Council had to do it via a one-off motion. In the last term, Langley City Council passed several significant one-off motions, including around community safety, reconciliation, and climate action, due to the limation of the previous strategic planning process.

Motions of Council as a healthy part of the democratic process, but too many one-off motions around significant items create uncertainty about what City staff should prioritize. An example of this was the City of Vancouver Council in the last term. That Council’s many one-off motions and limited strategic planning limited its ability to move forward with a vision for its community.

Strategic plans and planning are not sexy and generally don’t generate newspaper headlines. Even so, they are one of the most effective ways for Councils to get things done. It gives city staff clear direction.

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

HandyDART - Access Transit Service Update

One type of transit service we don’t spend a lot of time talking about is Access Transit, best known for the HandyDART service. This service evolved from various non-profits that provided door-to-door service for people to get to medical appointments and other essential daily trips. Today Access Transit service is funded and managed by TransLink and is contracted out to First Transit.

HandyDART Bus. Photo by Stephen Rees

Anyone with a physical, sensory, or cognitive disability who cannot use conventional public transit without assistance is eligible to apply to use Access Transit. The service is door-to-door.

With Access Transit, people are either dispatched a HandyDART bus or taxi if a HandyDART vehicle is unavailable. In talking with folks with knowledge and lived experience using Access Transit service, getting a taxi can create challenges as taxi operators don’t have the same training or vehicles to help people with disabilities. Whenever possible, Access Transit service should be delivered by HandyDART.

In September, the latest month where information is available, 77% of Access Transit trips were delivered with HandyDART operators and vehicles, while 23% of trips were by taxi vehicles.

The goal should be to lower taxi trips, which TransLink is working towards.

In Langley City, you will see a lot of HandyDART buses in our Downtown area due to the demographics of folks who live there. Overall, we are seeing an increased demand for HandyDART service throughout Metro Vancouver which will only continue to rise as our population ages. Another goal is to make conventional public transit more universally accessible so more people can use conventional transit services whenever possible.

To help improve the HandyDART user experience, TransLink is rolling out a new system that will provide online trip booking for customers, improved dispatch efficiency, and better reporting. TransLink is targeting the system to go online at the end of 2024.

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

The Importance of Place Names - kʷeyəlsteyt/Innes’ Corners/Langley City

Names are important as they should speak to the rich history and context of a place.

In 2016, I went on a trip to New Zealand/Aotearoa. One of the things that stood out to me was the integration of Māori names and culture into the everyday experience for people. The Māori people came to Aotearoa in the 14th century, while European explorers arrived in the 18th century.

When European settlers came, they started renaming places. In part, due to the Treaty of Waitangi settlement process, many places have either been dual-named or reverted to their original Māori name. This process continues today.

When I was there, they recently updated the train announcement on the transit system in Auckland, the largest City in New Zealand, to have proper Māori pronunciation of places.

Transit rail station names in Auckland, New Zealand. Select image to enlarge.

I’ve been thinking of the name Langley City and the importance of place names that connect us to rich histories and the land for some time. I was reminded of this again over the holidays when a friend sent me a picture of an old postcard of Langley Prairie.

Postcard of Langley Prairie (the previous name of Langley City) likely from the late 1940s. Select image to enlarge. Postcard seems to be by TC Walker of Chilliwack.

Fort Langley was named after Thomas Langley. When the Fort was founded, Mr. Langley was a Hudson’s Bay Company Governing Committee member. As far as I can tell, he lived in England and never set foot in what we call Langley today.

Present-day Langley City used to be called Innes’ Corners which was named after one of the first prominent European landowners in the area and who also served as Secretary of the local School Board. You can learn more about this history at the site Children of Fort Langley.

I’m unsure why Innes’ Corners was renamed Langley Prairie and then Langley City. It seems that Innes’ Corners would be a more significant name from a settler historical context.

What has been passed down from Kwantlen First Nation elders is that the place we call Langley City has been called kʷeyəlsteyt, pernounced Kway-ul-styte, for time immemorial.

I posted a straw poll on Twitter a few days ago asking if people would be interested in renaming Langley City. I asked this because of Thomas Langley’s weak connection to this land and the fact that two municipalities sharing that name confuse folks. While I take Twitter polls with a grain of salt, people seem interested in exploring renaming. It is certainly a conversation to continue.

I should point out that renaming Langley City is not a strategic priority of City Council or the City.