Managing Growth: Integrating Land Use and Transportation Planning
Metro Vancouver Sustainability Community Breakfast at BCIT downtown Wednesday June 12 at 7:30am
I went along to this outreach event. The link above should also eventually link to the presentations as these are made available some time after the meeting – look at the top left of the screen that opens for “Previous Presentations”. They also had their own hashtag so I have a storify link too, which includes some pictures of the slides.
Before I get into the detailed transcription of my notes, I want to make a couple of observations while they are fresh in my mind.
The meeting was chaired by Derek Corrigan, who is both Mayor of Burnaby and Chair of the Metro Regional Planning and Agriculture Committee. He made introductory remarks, and then ran the Q&A session after the presentations, interjecting whenever he felt the spirit move. I seriously think he constitutes a strong case for considering term limits for municipal politicians. While there is clearly value in having elder statesmen, and people with extensive experience, there are now a number of these Mayors-for-Life. Rather like Hazel McCallion of Mississauga they become characters, and gather electability over time so that they effectively can no longer be challenged. This gives them an air of invincibility – and a distinct lack of humility. For instance, when someone, actually from the North Shore where no-one supposes rail transit is even a remote likelihood, raised a question about Translink’s current inability to make commitments to greater transit expansion, he responded by going on an editorial about how buses are more efficient and effective than rail, and people in the room should not think of Transit Oriented Development as being dependent on rail – which he said was unaffordable. Now that is in some senses true, but is really easy to say when you are Mayor of a City that has two SkyTrain lines and no need of more any time soon. He also intervened when someone was discussing community reluctance to embrace development and increases in density with observations about the importance of making commitments that developers can rely on. The important point to him was consistency so that no developer should think that “someone else is going to get a better deal”. That seemed to me to be tone deaf to the question which was about communities, not developers.
Peter Ladner also raised a very pertinent question about Christy Clark’s determination to hold a referendum on transit funding – which could well make the whole process of planning in this fashion pointless. He asked the panel members if they intended to campaign for the referendum – and again Corrigan intervened. Pretending to be humorous, I got the distinct impression he was issuing a warning to staff to not get involved in politics. He also said – with heavy irony – that all the Mayors were really keen on promoting tax increases to pay for transit.
The general tenor of the presentations was educational. It was a bit like attending an academic planning seminar – except of course this was actually about the future of this region – and what it could be. Although, if Corrigan and Ladner are right, might well fall short. All the transportation planning that was discussed was about walking, cycling and transit, and dealing with a more limited role for cars in the future. But the newly re-elected provincial government seems to be on an entirely different track.
Lee-Ann Garnett, Senior Regional Planner, Metro Vancouver
Her presentation was about the tools that Metro use to manage growth and in particular Frequent Transit Development Areas (FTDA) . She showed how the 1m population growth in the next 30 years is to be distributed across the region by municipality. The biggest changes are to be South of the Fraser – mostly in Surrey. The Regional Growth Strategy has been adopted by all of them, and each gets some growth. That growth will be shaped by a combination of the Urban Containment Boundary, Urban Centres and FTDAs. At the top of the hierarchy of centres is the Metro Core (downtown Vancouver) Surrey Metro Centre (no longer to be referred to as Whalley) seven regional city centres and 17 municipal town centres. Only 40% of the population growth will be in those centres: the current concern is about where the rest will go.
The municipalities are now in the process of producing their Regional Context Statements (due in July) which show how their Official Community Plans and zoning will accommodate this growth. There are already a number of FTDAs including the Cambie Corridor in Vancouver (in response to the Canada Line) around the Evergreen Line stations in Coquitlam and Port Moody as well as a proposed FTDA at UBC. The municipalities are urged to “think regionally” and across boundaries. [The significance of this became apparent when Surrey discussed development in its north west sector which abuts Delta – which was shown as blank space on their map. At least it did not have the annotation ‘here be dragons’.]
The objective is to prioritize areas for development – where it goes first. She said that “the market is on board” and supports TOD for jobs and housing. The risks include the possibility that there are too many centres, that adding FTDAs will spread growth too thinly and that FTDAs on the edge of the region present issues of their own.
Andrew Curran, Manager, Strategy, Strategic Planning & Policy, Translink
[Much of what he said has already been covered here but is repeated for convenience of reference] Translink is currently updating Transport 2040 with more emphasis on co-ordinating land use development with transportation investment decision making.
Transportation shapes land use: Marchetti’s Constant - humans have long had a 1 hour travel time budget in their day. He illustrated what this means – the “one hour wide city” as a series of circles overlaid on the map: the walking city = downtown Vancouver: the streetcar city = City of Vancouver: the auto city = Metro Vancouver. He also showed how the use of single occupant vehicles increases at each scale. In the future “cars will have a role but we have no room for every trip to be by car”. T2040 aimed for a 50/50 split between the walk/bike/transit mode on the one side and car on the other. He then very quickly went through the “Primer on the Key Concepts of Transit Oriented Communities“, noting that transit orientation is really about walking and cycling -which determine transit accessibility. The Frequent Transit Network (FTN) are the routes which run at 15 minute frequency – or better – all day, seven days a week. He said on these routes “you don’t need to rely on the schedule” [which suggests to me that the rest of humanity must have a great deal more patience than I do].
Land use shapes transit: He quoted Jarret Walker’s principle of routing “Be On The Way” – which he illustrated with the Expo Line and the Liveable Region Plan of 1976. While a six Ds [destination, distance, design density, diversity, demand] matter a metastudy by Ewing and Cervero showed a relatively weak direct relationship between travel and density – which in reality acts as a proxy for the other five Ds. “Don’t get too hung up on density, but don’t put it in the wrong place.” He showed an iterative dialogue between a land use planner and a transportation planner developed by Jarret Walker for his book Human Transit. He also pointed for the need for transit to have bidirectional demand along a route, rather than the typical unbalanced “everyone goes downtown in the morning” route. By being more efficient, transit can provide more service for the same cost. He showed examples of recent transit plans for North Vancouver based on FTDAs, the pan for Main Street in Vancouver and also for Newton in Surrey.
He recognized the need for certainty to guide developers but acknowledged the need greater funding. Nevertheless he felt there was still a need for agreements between all parties to assure appropriate zoning. There is no requirement for municipalities to promote FTDAs but he felt they would recognize the value of partnerships.
Don Luymes, Manager of Community Planning, City of Surrey
Surrey is moving from the auto-oriented suburban development pattern of its growth until now, towards Transit Oriented Development (TOD). There are three key strategies
- Reinforce centres along corridors
- Define new centres on those corridors
- Identify future corridors as planning areas
This was being driven by health concerns, geography and the need reduce the impact of energy cost increases. The idea is to wean Surrey off auto-dependancy. Around SkyTrain stations density is being increased from 3.5 Floor Area Ratio (FAR) to 7.5.
(“A density measure expressing the ratio between a building’s total floor area and its site coverage. To calculate F.A.R., the gross square footage of a building is divided by the total area of its lot. F.A.R. conveys a sense of the bulk or mass of a structure, and is useful in measuring non-residential and mixed-use density.” source: Lincoln Institute) In other town centres like Guildford and Newton this was at a lower scale, moving from 1.5 previously to 2.5 FAR now. The calculation is made over the gross site area to encourage developers to relinquish part of the site to the road allowance needed for a finer grain street grid. Cloverdale is not slated for much development as it is not on the FTN.
Subcentres for midrise developments within 400 to 800m of transit, not in exitsing centres. So far four have been identified.
- Scott Road SkyTrain station is “a no-brainer” as a new centre
- Between Guildford and Surrey Centre on 104 Ave
- Along 152 St at 88 Ave and Fraser Highway
- Fleetwood West
No higher density will be permitted in Bridgeview to protect the existing community
Within these centres Surrey will encourage mixed use, pedestrain connections to transit, increase FASR on gross site area and relax parking requirements on developers – although there could be interim requirements until transit can be provided.
He then indicated on the map where there are candidate areas for future corridors.
- Will the market respond? See undeveloped sites in Surrey City Centre
- Timing of transit delivery – already have some dense neighborhoods without transit
His final slide illustrated three levels of transit – BRT, LRT and SkyTrain – but he must have run out of time to discuss this.
Q & A
1. There was no discussion of industry – which usually has a density well below that needed for transit
LAG – our focus on residential and commercial development in centres protects industrial land. The limited pool of funding for transit precludes provision for low density industrial areas
AC – it is very expensive to serve industrial areas. We do provide basic mobility (infrequent service) but there is interest in industrial intensification to provide more employment intensive areas. the key thing is to protect industrial land
2. There is going to be push back from the community to increased density. Are there better practices for communications?
DL – It is difficult to get the community engaged at this level of planning. More interest in immediate impact on neighbourhood. We have a well developed community planning process but there are different levels of interest in different areas
DC – Certainty and consistency [for developers]. Make sure that no-one else gets a better deal (see my introductory note)
3. There is no mention of food in your strategy. There is Metro Food Policy document but if you allow a small loss of ALR every year in 30 years most of it is gone. Have you considered rising ocean levels and the increases in cost of transporting food over long distances?
LAG – We have five goals – and I could have talked all morning Our policy protects food growing areas, we are also trying to make agriculture more viable and looking at local food strategies
DC – our prime concern is to protect the ALR
3. Housing for families in town centres? and minimum level of transit provision outside centres to provide an alternative to car use
DL – Our policies provide for a mix of housing types that includes three bedroom apartments as well as “skirt” of townhouses around centres. There are family areas adjacent to centres where we are stabilizing the community and providing “relative affordability”.
AC – Services in low density communities means that they need to be located along the FTN if they are to get good transit service. We are working to improve South of Fraser networks using the 6d score and wouldlike to develop more but the fudnign and resources are not there now. When there is a limited amount of money it has to go to higher demand areas.
4. Planning for a future village centre in the District of North Vancouver does have community support, but we have no confidence that Translink will deliver the service that is essential to support the development
AC – In the conversation about funding everyone wants everything but no-one wants to pay for it. We hope we will get new funding tools – but that is part of a larger conversation
DC – fixed rail is very expensive, buses are cheaper – improvements to the bus system are efficient and effective (see my notes above)
5. Access to transit: drawing neat circles on a map does not address the reality of cul de sacs in suburbs. Access is typlcially much longer than a straight line
DL – auto oriented streets frustrate direct access. We need new street connections and our density calculations allow the developer to benefit from the density otherwise “lost” to streets – they can “pile density on the rest of the site”. Pedestrian only links from street end bulbs have not been successful. It can be challenging to get new links without establishing a right of way.
DC – See Patrick Condon’s study that show how building new roads increases pedestrian access [can someone provide me with a citation for that please]
6. Bike Share?
in the absence of anyone from the City of Vancouver AC replied on the issue of helmets as slowing implementation
7 Car sharing and ride sharing can provide intermediate capacity where ransit not viable
DL – we have entered into agreements with developers to provide car sharing in return for less parking provision. In farther flung areas this can prove more challenging
Is car sharing included in the package?
AC – Translink has an Open Data policy and will share data more than just transit data now provided on Google apps through the API
8 Commercial development within mixed use can be very expensive to do. In the same way that we support non-market housing can we support commercial development?
LAG – We have only looked at office development on a large scale
AC – Los Angeles County has a program for supporting commercial development at transit exchanges
DL – Legislation forbids that here: local government is not able to support commercial developments financially. Subsidy is not allowed
9 Are you setting aside money for separated bike tracks to improve safety? There is no room for bike lanes on North Vancouver roads
AC – it is an engineering challenge on existing streets and there is growing consensus on the need for separate facilities. We will cost share at 50% with municipalities but there is only $3m a year
DL – there is going to be a two-way separated bike path along King George Boulevard. We will fund all of it if needs be.
10 (Peter Ladner) All of these plans crash on the reef of the referendum. Are you going to take an active role?
AC – It’s early days yet, and the province has already given direction to the Mayor’s Council to develop a strategy [which is what they are doing]
DL – the pressures that give rise to the strategy are not going to go away. We will figure it out
LAG – It depends on the Metro Board
11. Are you going to change the zoning of corner lots to recognize that they have greater development potential?
LAG – established question actually directed at the City of Vancouver