Stephen Rees's blog

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

Posts Tagged ‘placemaking

TransLink eyes real estate riches

with 11 comments

Vancouver Sun

This is a new power that previous transit providers here did not have. In fact, neither GVTA nor BC Transit were very much involved in the rail rapid transit projects. There was always a special agency created by the province, and their interest stopped at the “dripline of the station house”. About all the transit provider had the resources to do was put in a bus loop. And the bus loops of this region are some of the dreariest places on earth, as anyone who has missed the bus at Phibbs Exchange or Ladner can testify. Deliberately set apart from other development to limit the impact of those nasty noisy buses on sensitive ears, they are as far from desirable urban places as I can imagine.

The other thing that I think I have mentioned before was the completely misleading knowledge that the head of security brought back from a visit to Paris, where his fellow cops convinced him that allowing shops and cafés in the metro had just given the pickpockets an easier life. Which SkyTrain management took on board without any kind of critical analysis and is why there were so few facilties in the Expo line stations. Or any transit facility come to that.

I would hope that they get some good real estate people in who understand placemaking – which may not be the same thing as maximum revenue generation. Transit Oriented Development does need to happen, but it will not be like the MTR in Hong Kong. No-one is going to allow a high rise office building on the top of 29th Avenue Station. The BCTel “boot” was dropped down next to the anticipated Boundary Road station which never happened. The MTR had to acquire land in order to build its system. Ours is already in place – and as the piece points out, opportunities missed. About the only good example I can think of is Broadway and Commercial. And what is there now on the north side of Broadway is supposed to be just the start


Buying land now is not going to be cheap – and some developers are beginning to see opportunties. There was one developer who tried to do the right thing at Gateway Station in Surrey – but it has taken a long time for that area to take off commercially, for a wide variety of reasons. And more office towers were planned at Metrotown, but Burnaby decided to allow office parks, which killed that idea.

So it is fine for the new improved Translink to exercise its new powers, but talk to the local municipalities first and ensure they understand what is needed to support TOD. It is not something that a developer can do against the tide. And it will need partners with deep pockets and a very long term view of returns on capital employed. This is by no means a quick fix for an $18m revenue shortfall!

And there is also a thoughtful opinion piece by Pete McMartin which quotes both the conversation yesterday with the Sun editorial board and Jane Jacobs.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 19, 2008 at 8:03 am

Posted in land use, transit, Urban Planning

Tagged with ,