The Fraser Valley is gaining residents and losing personal cars
Friday, June 4, 2021
Good Morning!
This week we reached a nice little milestone: we got our 5,000th new subscriber. It’s not everyone in the Fraser Valley, but I think it’s a decent start. To mark this milestone (this is a total lie, we were going to do this anyways, but it’s what we call a "hook" so just roll with it), I’ll be doing a little video Q&A session this morning at 10:30am on Facebook. I want to share what we’ve learned from our first couple months, what we have coming, and how we decide what appears in the newsletter. Feel free to drop by, make suggestions, or ask a question or 2. (You can even ask why we don’t spell out "2".) —Tyler Olsen, managing editor
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There are now about 3,000 fully electric vehicles insured in the Fraser Valley. 📸  Nick Starichenko/Shutterstock
The Fraser Valley’s disappearing gas-powered cars

In the famously car-dependent Fraser Valley, there are fewer cars on the roads. And those that remain are increasingly using green energy.

A Fraser Valley Current analysis of new ICBC figures reveals 2 big changes in the way people get around in the Fraser Valley. And both are good for the environment. Between 2016 and 2020, the Fraser Valley welcomed nearly 50,000 new residents but actually lost 2,000 passenger vehicles from its roads, according to ICBC statistics on the number of active policies. Over the same time period, the number of electric vehicles increased 10-fold in Chilliwack and Abbotsford.

If the roads seem busier, it’s only because the number of commercial vehicles continues to rise. Those trends echo highway data showing a dramatic increase in the amount of truck traffic in recent years while traffic of commuter and passenger vehicles has barely budged. The decline in passenger vehicles in the Fraser Valley is also fairly unique to the region: across British Columbia and the Lower Mainland, those figures have increased considerably.

Most people do still drive, but transit usage had been rising pre-pandemic, particularly in Chilliwack. And after decades of permitting sprawling developments, a decrease in the amount of available land coupled with new urban planning philosophies have triggered a spate of more-concentrated building in central areas—neighbourhoods that, by design, are less car-dependent than those on a city’s periphery.
The figures suggest another big change is underway. The number of electric-powered vehicles has risen dramatically in the last 4 years, particularly those that are fully electric. In 2016, a fully electric vehicle was a rare sight. There were only 327 insured between Langley and Hope (including 170 in Langley, 80 in Abbotsford and 41 in Chilliwack). Just 4 years later, that number skyrocketed, with 2,935 electric vehicles insured. Chilliwack and Abbotsford saw the largest increase in electric cars.

Such vehicles still make up a tiny percentage of all vehicles on the roads. And the Fraser Valley is still playing catch up to the rest of the Lower Mainland. But the rapid increase comes as the region’s biggest municipalities have all enacted, or are considering, rules that would require new homes to be built with at least 1 electric-vehicle charging outlet. Installing such outlets during construction is much cheaper than retrofitting buildings, particularly in apartment building parking complexes. Chilliwack, Mission, and Langley Township all have such rules and Abbotsford is considering following suit.

Fuel costs continue to push people towards electric vehicles. At the same time, the appetite for hybrids is cooling. This week, Abbotsford approved a new contract for the supply of 33 new fully-electric pickup trucks and 5 hybrid trucks for work crews. The decision is linked to a key reason more people are turning to electric vehicles: even factoring in a higher purchase price, each fully electric truck is expected to save the city about $22,000 over its lifetime compared to a similar gasoline truck. Hybrids, meanwhile, will cost slightly more than gasoline trucks due to maintenance costs, though they will reduce the city’s emissions as well as the amount of carbon tax it must pay.

Still, challenges remain. Abbotsford Coun. Patricia Ross, a proponent of the need for more support for electric vehicles, says it can be difficult to find unused charging stations away from home.

"That’s our biggest challenge," she said. "Electric vehicles have taken off [quicker] than people expected and the charging network hasn’t caught up with all the people on the road."

—By Tyler Olsen

The Floor Is Yours: Will your next vehicle be electric?
Need to Know
🔎 Stó:lō chiefs say research is already underway into the sites of the Fraser Valley’s residential schools. [Mission Record]

🟠  A Stó:lō Elder spoke about the lasting effects of residential schools [Chilliwack Progress]

🚨 The body of a missing Chilliwack woman has been found. [Global]

🚓 A man has been charged in connection to a marijuana grow-op home invasion in Abbotsford [Abbotsford News]

🏫 Harrison Hot Springs Elementary officials apologized for asking kids to switch out of orange shirts for a performance of O Canada [Agassiz-Harrison Observer]

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Prominent downtown Abbotsford intersections will get makeovers in coming years. 📸  City of Abbotsford (click image for a larger version)
The Agenda
New guidelines are being developed for how the urban landscape of Abbotsford’s historic downtown will evolve. The new streetscape standards will outline how new items like benches, bike amenities, street trees, signs, and lights will look in the coming years. A city committee recently got a first look at the proposed new guidelines. They include designs for bike racks, bike storage lockers, waste bins, and street trees. You can see more online.

The City of Chilliwack will now be allowing bike rental businesses to operate along the Vedder Greenway. Previously, only food trucks were allowed to operate on city land. Other vendors could only set up shop during special events like farmers' markets or sporting events. Now, bike rentals will be allowed in parks and parking lots as well. The businesses will need to have a vending agreement with the city, and they will only be allowed to rent pedal bikes. No electric bikes (or other kinds of motorized bikes) will be allowed.
COVID latest
The 89 new cases in Fraser Health announced yesterday was the lowest figure since mid-October. But, it’s also a reminder that despite the good news, dozens of people in the region are diagnosed with the virus every day. Those who received AstraZeneca shots will also soon be getting contacted about their second dose. The aim is for most people to get their shot about 8 weeks after their initial dose, no matter the specific vaccine. [BCCDC COVID data]

Fraser Health

  • New cases: 89 / 126 average (down 34% from last week)
  • No active outbreaks at hospitals / 2 active outbreaks in long-term care
  • School exposures: Abbotsford: 12 / Chilliwack: 5 / Langley: 6 / Mission: 2 / Fraser Cascade: 0
  • No recent workplace closures

  • New cases: 199 / 229 average (down 31% from last week)
  • 224 hospitalizations (down 22% from last week)
  • 2 new deaths / 1,709 total
Around Town
🛶 Heritage Abbotsford Society is launching its newest exhibit, The River People and the Land: Living with S’ólh Téméxw, on June 13.

Chilliwack is fundraising for helmets so kids in need can use them at the pump track. Lightly-used or new helmets are being accepted at The Book Man and Ken’s Tire and Wheel, while cash donations are accepted online.

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