Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

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Key density growth to SkyTrain stations

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Bob Ransford, Vancouver Sun

Published: Saturday, November 10, 2007

Thanks to reader Ron C I now have a link to this article which goes after the Mayor and Councillors of Vancouver for not permitting more density around existing SkyTrain stations. It’s a good point but the wrong target. It has been this way for many years, and many councils, and all they were doing was responding to the demands of the people who elected them. Basically people who vote in civic elections in Vancouver do not favour any change in their neighbourhoods. Look at the ridiculous fuss over seniors housing in Arbutus, which was designed to keep ageing citizens in their neighbourhood but was given the same type of response that Richmond voters reserve for rehab housing for recovering addicts. And of course the main reason for routing the Canada Line along Cambie was that it was not Arbutus – though Ken Dobell liked to claim that Cambie had lots of existing demand.

When people came to see the Vancouver transit system and I was detailed to take them out and show them around, I would ask them to accompany me on SkyTrain. And I would take them to 29th Avenue and ask them to step outside with me. They were all amazed that no development had occurred. The same thing happened along the Bloor-Danforth subway in Toronto. The established neighbourhoods stood firm against any increased density, so there was not the development that can be seen at all the Yonge Street stations – especially in North York.

And in this region it is not just Vancouver that resists change. The 22nd Street Station in New Westminster sits in an area of single family homes that has remained untouched. And in Vancouver the Joyce Street Station area has seen significant transit oriented development in what had been a largely industrial area – which also explains much of the development along the Expo line in Burnaby. Though whether the relocation of industry to the burbs was in the region’s best interest is at least debatable.

In cities like Stockholm they have a “density gradient” around their stations. Highrises at the station itself falling to medium density as the walk distance gets to 10 – 15 minutes and low density beyond that.

Richmond recently changed its policies and now allows higher densities along bus routes. Williams Road is now being rebuilt, in a piecemeal fashion but now nearly built out, from side splits on generous lots to continuous row houses, most with shared or lane vehicle access. Oddly enough, this process started at the centre section from No 3 to No 2 Roads where the bus route is an infrequent community shuttle. All the houses have garages (of course).

Community Shuttle on Williams Road

“Before”

Old House

“After”

New Development on Williams Road

Written by Stephen Rees

November 12, 2007 at 12:09 pm