Monday, April 21, 2008

So What Happened At Langley Township Council Today?

Township engineering staff, UMA consultants, and TransLink representatives presented the Township's Community Rail study. Here is the powerpoint from that presentation:


As I previously wrote, I filed a notice of motion on this issue:
Whereas transit service in the Township of Langley is the poorest, per capita, in the Lower Mainland, and

Whereas the vast majority of trips south of the Fraser stays south of the Fraser, and

Whereas a desire for light rail, streetcars, and community rail has been expressed throughout the south Fraser region, including the Township of Langley,

Therefore be it resolved that the Township support the concept of community rail and pursue the following measures:

1. A study of the possible routes for community rail within the South Fraser region,

2. An EMME2 and micro-simulation ridership study, as recommended in the UMA community rail report, for community rail improvements in the South Fraser and Fraser Valley regions,

3. The Township continue to protect key right-of-ways for possible community rail or other transit use, including, but not limited to, the Interurban rail line, 200th Street, 208th Street, Fraser Highway, 88th Avenue, and 96th Avenue.

4. Send a letter of support to the Fraser Valley Heritage Rail Society reinforcing the Township's support for their efforts, and

5. Send an update to the TransLink Board, Ministry of Transportation, and the Mayors and Councils of the Cities of Surrey, Langley, Abbotsford, and Chilliwack regarding this motion, and offering these agencies an opportunity to participate in the routing and ridership studies.

The rail motion comes back at our May 5 meeting.

Langley Township Talking Rail Today

Today's scheduled presentation from our UMA emgineering consultants on the high level review of Langley Township Community Rail report is getting a lot of buzz around the blogsophere already. (UMA will present at 4 or 4:30 today, at the Council meeting in the Fraser River Presentation Theatre).

Having read the UMA report carefully, I have come to some conclusions and have put together a notice of motion for our May 5 meeting.

I think the most perplexing part of this issue is the resistance of the transportation establishment to really look at the growing desire for light rail in the South Fraser. In TransLink's own trip diary report, we read the following statistics:
- The vast majority of trips in Langley and Surrey stay within their municipal boundaries (1.1 million internal trips in Surrey every day, 284,200 in Langley--that's almost 1.4 million total trips).
- A grand total of 78,000 trips are made from Surrey and Langley into Vancouver. To get there, they have all of the local transit options--every bus route in this region is designed to feed SkyTrain, which is designed to get our residents into Vancouver.
- But almost twice that number, 140,000 trips, are made between Surrey and Langley every day. And we have the lowest per-capita transit service to help them get there.
- On top of that 140,000, another 37,000 trips leave Langley and Surrey to go outside the GVRD, presumably Abbotsford and Chilliwack.

More than double the trips are happening amongst the Interurban communities that happen from Langley and Surrey into Vancouver--let alone the trips that stay within our own municipal borders. These are the people that light rail and streetcars can serve, and in a way that will attract riders who would never set foot on a bus.

Community rail, based on the British model and proposed by UMA in this report, makes sense to me. It's a good place to start--and I think it would so successful that we would soon be upgrading both its frequency and its reach. Whether it ends up on the old Interurban line, or on a new alignment through Langley and Surrey, I don't know. Local Interurban enthusiasts, please don't panic over that statement. I'm merely saying that we should look at options for the Fraser Hwy. and Hwy. 10 corridors, as well. While the Interurban line may be the cheapest, it may not be the best value for dollar, and we need to keep all of the options open at this point. If the Interurban is as viable as many of us think it is, it will stand up to that type of comparative scrutiny.

There are some exciting things happening around the world with community rail and streetcars. I read on the weekend that Charlotte, North Carolina, has designed their system so light rail vehicles and streetcars can use each other's tracks. This is the kind of innovative thinking we need south of the Fraser.

I do know that we need to get rolling. We need a plan, the research and documentation to support it, and the will to move it forward.

I prefer light rail to SkyTrain in every way. It is less intrusive, and has a better community feel. It is also far more saleable politically to our communities. SkyTrain frightens many people, with its industrial, concrete, overhead guideways, and the perception that crime springs up around every station. Light rail is also much, much cheaper. And when light rail is one-quarter the cost of SkyTrain, that means you can go four times further.

None of the obstacles in this report seem insurmountable. The key now is to get TransLink's attention with some well-researched business plans, ridership studies, and development scenarios.

This leads me to some practical questions. Clearly, we need to approach Surrey (whose mayor, Dianne Watts, is already on record as supporting light rail) and see how we can work together to get this done.

I read on page 24 of the UMA report that "EMME2 and micro-simulation modeling be completed for these rail service scenarios in combination with future employment and potential scenarios for various combinations of bus, bus rapid transit, and rail improvements in the South of Fraser area and outside the region to the Fraser Valley." I also know that from recent changes at TransLink, that the transportation authority will look carefully at options that can be funded through development of stations and surrounding areas. I think Surrey and Langley are better positioned than any other community in the Lower Mainland to provide that type of financial upside for TransLink.

So my question to the UMA folks today is simple: how do we get this rolling? What are the next steps? UMA's answers, some of which are in their report, will refine a notice of motion I plan to put on the agenda for our May 5 afternoon meeting (a draft version of which is below):

Whereas transit service in the Township of Langley is the poorest, per capita, in the Lower Mainland, and

Whereas the vast majority of trips south of the Fraser stays south of the Fraser, and

Whereas a desire for light rail, streetcars, and community rail has been expressed throughout the entire south Fraser region, including the Council of the Township of Langley,

Therefore be it resolved that the Township support the concept of community rail and pursue the following measures:

1. A study of the possible routes for community rail within the South of Fraser region,

2. An EMME2 and micro-simulation study, as recommended in the UMA community rail report, for community rail improvements in the south of the Fraser and Fraser Valley regions,

3. The Township continue to protect key right-of-ways for possible community rail or other transit use, including, but not limited to, the Interurban rail line, 200th Street, 208th Street, Fraser Highway, 88th Avenue, and 96th Avenue.

4. Send a letter of support to the Fraser Valley Heritage Rail Society reinforcing the Township's support for their efforts, and

5. Send an update to the TransLink Board, Ministry of Transportation, and the Mayors and Councils of the Cities of Surrey, Langley, Abbotsford, and Chilliwack regarding this motion, and offering these agencies an opportunity to participate in the routing and ridership studies.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Evergreen route announcement is welcome news

Get Moving BC
For Immediate Release
April 18, 2008


EVERGREEN ROUTE ANNOUNCEMENT IS WELCOME NEWS: GET MOVING BC


Vancouver, B.C. – Today’s announcement that the Evergreen Line will follow the northwest route comes as no surprise, but it’s still welcome news to people living in the Lower Mainland’s fast-growing northeast sector according to Get Moving BC Spokesperson Sheri Wiens.

“We’ve been eagerly expecting this northwest route announcement for more than a month,” said Wiens. “It’s great to know the Evergreen Line project is now officially on track and moving forward.”

Wiens says building the Evergreen Line is as important to a balanced transportation system for the Lower Mainland as twinning the Port Mann Bridge and improving Highway #1. “Commuters need convenient choices,” she said. “I’m pleased the Evergreen Line is soon going to be one of those choices.”

Wiens says she is also pleased about the new Rapid Bus Network that was announced in January as part of the province’s $14 billion transit plan.

“The Rapid Bus Network is going to have a huge positive impact on the reach and effectiveness of the Evergreen Line and the region’s other rapid transit lines,” said Wiens. “The Rapid Bus Network puts POCO, Pitt Meadows, Maple Ridge and Mission into the rapid transit picture, and we really needed to be part of that picture—it’s a very good start.”

Wiens says she is also relieved that fears the Evergreen Line would be pushed aside in favour of a westward expansion of the Millennium Line have finally been put to rest.

“Last October, when Sam Sullivan said completing the Millennium Line was Vancouver’s top transit infrastructure priority and that he would get it done, we called on the Provincial Government to fully fund the Evergreen Line and get the project underway,” said Wiens. “Our biggest fear at that time was that the Millennium Line would get built before the Evergreen Line, which would leave POCO, Pitt Meadows, Maple Ridge and Mission out of the rapid transit picture for years to come, and we felt that was just plain unacceptable.”

Wiens was quick to add that Get Moving BC is not opposed to extending the Millennium Line, and is pleased that the Millennium Line project will move forward too, but not at the expense of the Evergreen Line.

“The Evergreen Line was on hold for way too long now,” said Wiens. “I’m glad it’s finally becoming a reality—it really can’t wait any longer.”

The TransLink board approved plans for the Evergreen Line in principle in October 2004. When completed, the Evergreen Line will serve the people in one of the fastest growing areas of the Lower Mainland—the northeast Sector.


– 30 –


Get Moving BC is dedicated to holding governments accountable for a balanced transportation system and was formed to provide a voice for the majority of Greater Vancouver residents who support improving our roads, bridges and transit systems.


For more information please contact Get Moving BC at 604-678-5567 or by email at info@getmovingbc.com

Online References and Attachments:
· http://www.getmovingbc.com/
· The Evergreen Line: http://www.translink.bc.ca/EvergreenLine/default.asp

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Use P3 to bring streetcars back to Vancouver

CKNW recently ran an online poll that asked whether Vancouver city council should consider using a P3 to bring streetcars back to Vancouver? 64.48% said “Yes” and 35.51% said “No.” This is a very interesting result.

As we recently saw with the City of Burnaby’s online Gateway project poll, online polls can produce highly questionable results. But in the case of CKNW’s poll the question asked was very direct and very straightforward and their website receives more than enough hits everyday to provide some random statistical substance to the poll results.

What strikes us as being noteworthy is the fact that two-thirds of the CKNW poll respondents were in favour of the P3 approach to bringing back streetcars; a fairly overwhelming endorsement of the P3 approach when you consider the vast amount of time and money that different vested interest groups have spent spreading anti-P3 propaganda in B.C. over the past few years.

Lately, P3 success stories have been piling up in B.C. faster than gridlocked cars on the Port Mann Bridge: The new Abbotsford Hospital, the new Kicking Horse Canyon Bridge, the new Canada Line, and the Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Care Centre at VGH are just a few examples of notable P3 successes we can point to here in B.C., with the Port Mann Bridge and the Evergreen Line soon to join the list.

There is an old saying that you can’t argue with success. Unfortunately the great success of P3’s in B.C. hasn’t stopped the anti-P3 vested interests from trying. But if I was an anti-P3 propagandist I would probably be thinking about making a career change sometime soon.

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Monday, March 31, 2008

You heard it here first folks!

The Vancouver Sun ran a great editorial on Saturday endorsing Hong Kong’s real estate development model as a way to expand the Lower Mainland’s transit system without reaching into the pockets of taxpayers.

We’re particularly pleased about the Sun’s editorial because we’ve been pitching the Hong Kong approach for nearly two months. In fact, the Hong Kong model has been central to our last three press releases. Remember folks, you heard it from Get Moving BC first.


TransLink has to start milking its cash cows to pay for expanded service

Vancouver Sun - Published: Saturday, March 29, 2008

The notion that transit lines don't have to be bottomless pits for public dollars is a radical departure from past experience in Metro Vancouver.

In Hong Kong, however, the public transit system is not only run at a profit, new lines and stations are seen as cash cows, not just added costs.

Hong Kong's MTR Corporation started service in 1979. After aggressive expansion, it has a network of 211 kilometres of rail with 150 stations.

That expansion was financed by real estate development, which MTR regards as a primary business function.

MTR began as a government enterprise and was transformed into a publicly traded corporation. In 2007, it had a net profit of more than $1.1 billion Canadian.

We can't duplicate these results in the Lower Mainland. Hong Kong is a much more densely populated city with a more authoritarian government, but we can profit from the principle that makes the MTR so lucrative.

That principle is that while transit is expensive, it also creates value. Developers have long known this. They harvest that value by using proximity to transit as a selling point.

Now the recently reformed Metro Vancouver Transportation Authority, armed with new enabling legislation from the province, is finally getting serious about capturing some of that value to help pay for new transit.

It's a welcome move. Dale Parker, the chair of the new TransLink board, hopes to raise up to $1.5 billion through a real estate arm now under development.

The key to that success will involve persuading municipalities to go along with bidding for the routing of new transit lines with their willingness to assign added density around stations.

These are early days, but one obstacle that will have to be overcome is the possibility of speculators jumping in and tying up property around potential station sites.

Private developers can play an important role in creating both value and exciting urban neighbourhoods around transit stations. But this scheme will only work if municipalities make it clear from the start that much of the initial value for added density is going to be used to pay for construction of the transit line.

So if a developer, existing owner or speculator wants to build larger buildings with more units than allowed by the existing zoning, much of the windfall value of changing the zoning will go to TransLink, not into their pockets.

Such exchanges already occur when developers seek higher density for buildings. In return, municipalities extract benefits, such as parks, social housing, community centres, green space or land for schools. Those benefits typically eat up a significant portion of the value of the increased density.

In this case, municipalities will have to be persuaded to share with TransLink benefits they have until now taken as their own.

In return, TransLink may be able to deliver new transit lines more quickly.

So, for example, if the city of Vancouver wants the Broadway line extension to jump the queue, council will have to look at ways to create valuable density along the route and offer it up to pay a larger share of the construction cost.

No doubt there will be considerable difficulties in following this route, including some yet to be imagined. But we know where the traditional methods of financing take us -- straight to higher taxes, slow progress and continuing congestion.

This looks like a better route.

© The Vancouver Sun 2008

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Mayor's stance out of touch

Get Moving BC Advisory Board member, Mike McBratney, had a great letter published in Wednesday's Burnaby Now debunking the claim that 87% of Burnaby's residents oppose the Gateway project. As a professional poll conducted for Get Moving BC by NRG Research demonstrated last fall, 72 per cent of the people in Burnaby support the twinning of the Port Mann Bridge and the widening of Highway 1, with only 21 per cent opposed and eight per cent who did not have an opinion. Nice work, Mike!


Mayor's stance out of touch

Burnaby Now (Published: Wednesday, March 26, 2008)

Dear Editor:

How does the mayor's antagonistic stance on a new $14-billion transit plan serve the people of Burnaby? The majority of Burnaby residents are actually in favour of twinning the Port Mann Bridge and widening Highway 1, and I suspect they also support the new transit plan.

In attempting to justify his stance against the Gateway project, Mayor Derek Corrigan has gone to some fairly extreme lengths, including having city staff draft a report - using very questionable methodology - that states that 87 per cent of Burnaby's citizens are opposed to the Gateway project. Last September, we at Get Moving B.C. decided to challenge that claim.

We commissioned NRG Research Group - a leading North American public opinion and market research company - to scientifically gauge the level of support among Burnaby residents for twinning the Port Mann Bridge and widening Highway 1. NRG Research interviewed 300 randomly selected Burnaby residents and discovered that 72 per cent of the people in Burnaby support the twinning of the Port Mann Bridge and the widening of Highway 1, with only 21 per cent opposed and eight per cent who did not have an opinion. The full report is at http://www.getmovingbc.com/.

How can the City of Burnaby and the mayor claim there is strong opposition to the Port Mann/Highway 1 project in Burnaby? As it turns out, the city's claim is based on an unscientific, non-random, online questionnaire posted on the city's website and circulated at a shopping mall and a Burnaby library.

The city's questionnaire consisted of 11 'statements' about the Gateway project, worded in such a way that it would be nearly impossible to disagree.

In total, the City of Burnaby received 154 responses to their questionnaire, with only 65 of these responses actually coming from residents of Burnaby. Sixty-three responses came from Vancouver residents, with others coming from Surrey, New Westminster, North Vancouver, Coquitlam, Port Moody and seven other municipalities.

Burnaby staff then assigned a 'score' to each questionnaire, based upon a cumulative response to the 11 'survey' questions. Based upon this questionable measure, they decided that 87 per cent of Burnaby's residents were opposed to the Gateway project and were therefore supportive of the anti-Gateway position taken by Corrigan and his majority on city council.

The city's questionnaire never even asked whether the respondents supported or opposed the twinning of the Port Mann Bridge and the widening of Highway 1.

When it comes to speaking out against the project, Corrigan clearly does not speak for the people of Burnaby. The evidence does not support the stance he has taken. And considering the positive reception the public and the media have given to the new transit plan, the same can very likely be said for the mayor's negative assessment of the $14-billion transit plan.

Get Moving B.C. supports a balanced transportation system for the Lower Mainland, one that maintains the prosperity of our region and its livability. We believe the majority of Burnaby's citizens also support a balanced transportation system and, in our opinion, Corrigan is clearly way out of sync with the people of Burnaby on this issue.

Michael McBratney, Burnaby, Get Moving B.C.

© Burnaby Now 2008

Monday, March 24, 2008

Peter Ladner's Transportation Tax

Last week, Vancouver City Councillor and mayoralty candidate Peter Ladner was on The Christy Clark Show to float his idea for a congestion tax to pay for TransLink's $18-million budget shortfall. It was an interesting conversation (available in CKNW's Tuesday, March 18, 2008 audio vault during the noon hour). Here are a few excerpts, and my thoughts on them...
Clark: "When you are talking about those proposals, are you imagining that they would apply to the downtown core of Vancouver, you might see a toll like that on the Burrard or Cambie Street Bridge?"

Ladner: "These cannot be tolls that simply apply in Surrey or Langley or Maple Ridge or somewhere else than in Vancouver. They have to apply everywhere. The principle has to be that we want to raise money."
True enough. If you want to bring these measures in, they shouldn't be limited to just one bridge (i.e., The Port Mann) but they should also ding Vancouver drivers. In fact, Vancouver drivers, in my view, should pay far more for those congestion taxes than South Fraser drivers, as the Vancouver folks have access to all of the rapid transit in the region. Their choice to drive is mind-boggling when you consider they have SkyTrain and oodles of rapid buses.
Clark: "But Vancouver has a disproportionate number of businesses that depend on regional migration. If you make it more expensive to get into Vancouver from Coquitlam, people will shop in Coquitlam Centre rather than coming down here to shop at Pacific Centre."

Ladner: "Well that's what they should be doing. We don’t want…people shouldn't be travelling right across the region to go shopping. There should be a good, as there is, a good shopping mall in Coquitlam Centre and that's where people should shop... as it happens, they can come in on SkyTrain."
Let's walk down that path a little bit. If I were a Vancouver merchant, I'd be concerned about my wannabe mayor suggesting I limit my trading area. As a side note, I'd like to welcome shoppers from anywhere in the region to come spend money in Langley any time. Consider our door wide open to your business!

Whether we like it or not, there are certain regional amenities that only exist downtown. Tens of thousands of regional residents travel to GM Place and BC Place every year for Vancouver Canuck games, BC Lion games, trade shows, concerts, and other events. The PNE is in Vancouver, along with the Pacific Coliseum. There is also toursit attractions like Science World, Granville Island, and, yes, the shops on Robson Street. These are regional amenities located downtown, and I don't think Lower Mainland residents should be punished for having them located there.

As for the SkyTrain comment, it's almost laughable. SkyTrain barely comes into the south Fraser, and its four stops are in the worst part of Surrey (admittedly, Surrey is working hard on improving the area). And SkyTrain doesn't go near the PNE.
Clark: "How much would a toll be?"

Ladner: "Christy, I haven’t done this work. I have no idea. My main message is that we have got to start thinking about measures. It may not be a toll. It could be an increase in fuel taxes. Fuel taxes are effectively a toll on the amount of driving you do. They are an effective tool because they also measure the bigger your engine the more you pollute the more you pay. So you have an option with a fuel tax. You can have a smaller engine and you can share the ride and so on... that’s one alternative."
He is backing away from the congestion tax idea here--even though that's what got the play in the media. To Ladner's credit, he also talked about the need for the feds and province to return more gas tax revenue to transportation projects, and his proposal was by no means the kind of pure congestion tax used in places like London. Nonetheless, you can bet the Sam Sullivan people will be pouncing all over the "I haven't done this work, I have no idea," quote.
Ladner: "I think that the other point this gentleman raises is that we have paid for these things [roads and bridges] or we don't want to spend more money. Okay, well then stay there in the line up in the Port Mann bridge and spend two hours getting to work every day. Or wait in the line up for the buses and watch the buses pass you by. We’re hearing that we need more transportation infrastructure and somehow or another other we have to pay for it."
A Vancouver politician finally admits that there is congestion at the Port Mann!

Transportation First Step of Livability Accord Process

Last year, the Councils of Surrey, Abbotsford, Coquitlam, and Langley Township signed the Livability Accord, an agreement to work together to convince regional, provincial and federal agencies to better fund infrastructure in these four High Growth Communities (HGCs). At the time, I said this might be the most important thing we do this term (a sentiment I still carry).

Surrey's staff has been spearheading the implementation of the Livability Accord, and the four communities have jointly hired Urban Systems Ltd. to help develop the necessary strategies. Last week, the four councils received an update on the progress. I thought you might be interested in it:
The consultant has nearly completed the information gathering stage of the work and has held a number of meetings/workshops with key staff from the HGCs in commencing the development of the Accord strategies. Staff and the consultant have decided that it would be advantageous to develop one of the Accord strategies as a model to use in expediting the development of the other strategies. The target of this first strategy is "Public Transit and Transportation Infrastucture" (which includes as a necessary subset land use considerations). It is expected that a draft of this first strategy will be completed by the end of March at which time a further report will be forwarded to Council for consideration, followed closely by drafts of the remaining strategies during April.

It is expected that each of the HGC City Councils will consider a draft of the full set of strategies in April and will authorize staff and the consultant to proceed immediately thereafter with public review of the information through open houses and stakeholder meetings, including meetings with officials from other orders of government. Presentations will also be made to the Metro Vancouver Mayors Committee and to the Excecutive Committee of the FVRD. With this public and other stakeholder input in hand, the draft strategies will be finalized and a further report will be provided to each HGC City Council for consideration. the report will include a summary of the public and stakeholder input and will recommend final draft Accord strategies for Council approval. These final draft strategies will be forwarded to Council for consideration and approval no later than September.

I'm pleased to see transportation go first. This is the most pressing need among these four communities, as we share thousands of people who travel regularly among the four municipalities.

Friday, March 21, 2008

TransLink's Property Purchase Process

Ken Hardie over at TransLink sent me an email outlining a little bit more about the TransLink property issue that I blogged here.
We would not find ourselves in the position of being able to purchase properties along a corridor before there was fairly broad public awareness of the possibilities that a rapid transit line would be constructed. The reason being is that, as before, TransLink is legally bound to support the region's growth management strategy -- currently the Livable Region Plan -- that is adopted by all the municipalities.

The process of developing that growth management strategy involves a review of potential rapid transit corridors. For example, the Millennium, Evergreen and Canada Line corridors have all been identified in the LRSP for over ten years. All of the bus rapid transit corridors in the province's plan are on the map as a result of transit planning that has involved a great deal of public consultation. TransLink would not be able to quietly assemble land and then suddenly announce to the world that it was going to build a rapid transit line through or by those properties.

What we have done in the past, though, is purchase properties that we know we're going to need for a project as they come up for sale -- we did this in a few locations along the Evergreen Line. The difference now is that we can purchase additional property over and above what we need for the project itself, in the interests of generating some of the benefits from higher property values back to the public, which has paid for the line in the first place.