Comox Valley Sustainability Forum

In British Columbia, local government decision-making shapes the community it serves, whether that community is a village, town, city or electoral area. The welfare and interests of the community’s future is promoted with a vision implemented through the adoption of policies and bylaws.

In the Comox Valley, the community and regional visions are reflected in the Official Community Plans and a Regional Growth Strategy.

To meet the challenges of climate change and sustainability, some communities’ short-term decisions are made in a reactive, chop and change manner.  In the long run, this approach often fails to protect the municipality’s assets from damage and results in local government missing out on key partnerships and funding opportunities.

On the other hand, proactive municipal decision-making implements a clear, integrated, short and long-term planning strategy, designed specifically to meet the challenges of a community thoughtfully, efficiently and effectively.

BC municipal elections take place October 20, 2018.

On Thursday, May 24, CV Global Awareness Network, the CV Council of Canadians and Imagine Comox Valley invite you to a Sustainability Forum, where voters will have an opportunity to hear more about the possibility of reaching sustainable solutions to current local issues and problems.

The evening will begin with an introduction to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, followed with an overview of the goals outlined in the Regional Growth Strategy and Official Community Plans and why these matter to the well-being of our Comox Valley communities.

Five local speakers will present information on a range of issues from valuing eco-assets, food security and air quality, to increasing energy efficiency in new construction and ending homelessness.  After each presentation, there will be an opportunity for questions.

Whether you are a voter who wants to support candidates who will take a proactive approach to enacting sustainable policies and programs or if you are considering running as a candidate in the 2018 municipal election – this Forum will address what is currently taking place in the Valley and how we can move toward sustainable solutions for our community.

Everyone is invited to attend the Comox Valley Sustainability Forum at 7 pm in the Rotary Room of the Filberg Centre, 411 Anderton Ave., Courtenay.

For free tickets, visit https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/comox-valley-sustainability-forum-tickets-44341476550?aff=es2.  Or call 778 992 0102.

The end of the car is coming …

Back in the 1890s, if you had sat down with a farrier or stable keeper, and told them that within 30 years their entire industry would mostly disappear, they would have probably reacted with a mixture of disbelief and anger. Yet, that is exactly what happened. Between 1890 and 1930, car ownership in the USA went from 0% of households to 60% of all households. Saturation of car ownership decreased as a result of the Great Depression and WW2, but between 1945 and 1960 it jumped from 47% all the way to 80%, and then slowly peaked to the current 92% of households with cars. Today, just over a century after the mainstream debut of the personal automobile, horses are a luxury hobby item, and no longer a mainstay of personal transportation.

We are currently in the midst of another paradigm shift, one which unique conditions in the Comox Valley may well accelerate faster than in other areas. The first sign is the phenomenon of car sharing companies. Car sharing started off in 1948 in Zurich. Despite some early formal car share programs in Europe in the 1970s, successful car share programs didn’t really take off until the 1980s and 1990s. Since then the whole concept has achieved exponential growth with a most recently estimated 1.7 million car share members in 27 countries. Car share member to car ratios are as high as 75 people per car.

This shift to shared car ownership, combined with the growing popularity of cycling as a primary short distance form of transportation, and an aging demographic where the share of the Comox Valley population over 80 (and mostly non-drivers) is set to grow from 4.6% to 7.4% by 2031, is all going to result in less cars on our roads. Combine this with the rise in sales of electric vehicles, which will comprise at least 35% of all cars on the road by 2040, and we are going to see a radical shift in traffic patterns and how our transportation infrastructure is used.

Now is the time to begin to plan for these inevitable changes in the fabric of our society, and to start making prudent transportation investment choices including bike lanes, charging stations, and more, much more, transit.

Andrew Gower is a partner and Courtenay branch manager of Wedler Engineering. He volunteers with several local non-profits and is passionate about the Comox Valley’s sustainable future. He can be reached at 250.334.3263 or www.wedler.com.

Andrew Gower

Wedler Engineering

Why bike infrastructure benefits us all – even drivers

One of the few concepts I remember from my traffic engineering studies is the very counter-intuitive fact that the difference between the most highly efficient state of traffic flow and a total traffic jam is very minimal.

It only takes a miniscule increase in the number of vehicles on any given road to go from well flowing traffic to complete gridlock. That’s why even a small transition of people out of cars and into other modes of transportation can make a significant impact on the flow of vehicle traffic. Only a few more people riding bikes, walking or taking the bus can dramatically increase the efficiency of travel for everyone on our roads.

This is why the construction of cycling and pedestrian infrastructure – such as the proposed bridge on 6th Street, bike lanes and better sidewalks – benefits all of us. Even a 5% increase in non-vehicle transportation can significantly improve the efficiency of roads for people who choose to remain in their vehicles, as it moves us further away from the tipping point between efficient traffic and traffic jams.

Combine this with the fact that the same number of people can be moved with non-vehicular infrastructure that costs significantly less than the equivalent vehicle infrastructure that would be required, and the cost savings begin to add up.

Removing vehicles from the road will also decrease wear and tear on existing infrastructure, extending the life of roads we’ve already built and, again, saving everyone money.

In the end, people who choose to continue to drive cars will benefit immensely from every penny spent on bike lanes, transit improvements and pedestrian infrastructure.

Andrew Gower is a partner and Courtenay branch manager of Wedler Engineering. He volunteers with several local non-profits and is passionate about the Comox Valley’s sustainable future. He can be reached at 250.334.3263 or www.wedler.com.

Andrew Gower

Wedler Engineering

The Evolution of Rainwater Management

When it rains, the water falling from the sky runs down the roofs of our houses, across our lawns and yards, across sidewalks and down streets to disappear into the little grates that dot the roads and parking lots of our towns and cities. What happens after that may be a mystery to most, but, as a civil engineer, managing that rainfall run off properly is one of the main focuses of my career.

For most of the modern age, urban and sub-urban rainwater management has consisted of capturing and channeling rainwater to catch basins to keep our homes, business, streets and sidewalks free from flooding. After the water enters the catch basins, it flows into pipes that increase in size as more areas are connected until, eventually, the rain water discharges into a natural watercourse. The pipes were sized to contain storms up to a certain size, with the water from larger storms intended to run overland to the nearest watercourse.

While the above methodology sounds reasonable, it has some inherent flaws. For example, when you take an area of land that was originally forested, and build roads, houses and sidewalks on it, you greatly reduce the amount of rainfall that was naturally absorbed by the landscape. This can lead to flooding and erosion issues at the point of discharge of the stormwater system. For comparison, a forested area will absorb 80% of all rain that falls, whereas a residential development might absorb 20% of the rainfall.

Furthermore, when rain falls on a forest, or vegetated area, it tends to stay spread out in sheet flow or small rivulets. The traditional stormwater system concentrates the flow, and the pollutants that end up on our sidewalks, parking lots and streets get washed off into the stormwater system.

Fortunately, new techniques, standards and legislation are being developed and implemented all the time to remedy this situation. For example, detention and retention of a certain amount of rainfall on a developed site has become common practice in much of North America. Oil-water separators are more or less a standard requirement, and the technology available improves all the time. While these measures can increase the up front costs to develop land, the will help ensure a more sustainable future for everyone.

Andrew Gower is a partner and Courtenay branch manager of Wedler Engineering. He volunteers with several local non-profits and is passionate about the Comox Valley’s sustainable future. He can be reached at 250.334.3263 or www.wedler.com.

Andrew Gower

Wedler Engineering

Who pays for roads?

A common theme of debate when discussing bike lane and pedestrian construction projects is the question of who pays for roads in the first place. Detractors of those who wish to walk, take transit, or ride bikes to transport themselves often claim that only those who own and drive cars pay for roads. The idea that cyclists should be licensed and insured is brought up also. So, just how are road projects funded?

One of the more common ways municipal roads are funded is via new developments. A developer building a subdivision has to construct the roads for the new lots, and has to pay “Development Cost Charges” (DCC) to the municipality they are in for future road works. The money to fund this road construction and pay the development cost charges is passed on to those who buy the new lots. Thus, homeowners are paying for these roads. If the houses are rented, or the new project is multi-family including rentals, then renters are paying for these roads. Whether any of these people have cars or ride bikes is immaterial – the cost of the infrastructure is included in the new home / apartment price.

Road expansion projects in municipalities in BC are typically funded by a combination of municipal funds (drawn from taxes and DCCs), Provincial grant funds and Federal grant funds. The largest share of Federal revenue in Canada is personal income tax at 48.1 % of all revenue. A fund that is often cited as paying for roads is the Federal Gas tax, however this makes up less than 5% of all Federal revenue, and totals only $2 billion per year of Federal Revenue. It is estimated that road maintenance costs in Canada, including expansion projects, total some $12 billion dollars per year.

Who pays for the roads? The answer is everyone pays for the roads, and if the revenue derived strictly from vehicle related taxes were to become the only source of funds used for roadworks, we would have a lot less roads and bridges to drive on.

Andrew Gower is a partner and Courtenay branch manager of Wedler Engineering. He volunteers with several local non-profits and is passionate about the Comox Valley’s sustainable future. He can be reached at 250.334.3263 or www.wedler.com.

Andrew Gower

Wedler Engineering

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