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

Posts Tagged ‘transit oriented development

TransLink commits to first real estate development project

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Most of this post will be composed of a TransLink press release. No doubt the mainstream media will be all over this. I have of course been an interested observer of both the development of the Broadway Subway and the Arbutus Greenway. I was going to use the map provided by Translink but I think the Google Map showing current uses is more appropriate

“TransLink and PCI own adjacent plots of land on the southeast corner of Arbutus and Broadway and have entered an equal development partnership. ” Which would be the current locations of Fletchers Fabricare Dry Cleaners and Rummage Community Thrift store.

The bus loop and station building will be on the north east corner of Broadway and Arbutus

Arbutus Station Construction
The status of the site on May 8 2022: Fletcher’s totem is at the top left of my picture.

TransLink and PCI Developments (PCI) are announcing a new partnership to build a proposed mixed-used development near the future Arbutus SkyTrain Station, on West Broadway and Arbutus.

Located next to the future terminus of the Broadway Subway, an incoming bus loop, and the Arbutus Greenway mixed-use walking and cycling path – this is the first development under TransLink’s Real Estate Development Program. This transit-oriented development will improve people’s access to sustainable transportation options, generate new long-term funding for transit services, and provide much-needed housing options.

“This partnership will help us build a new transit-oriented community, where people can more easily take transit, walk, or cycle,” says TransLink CEO Kevin Quinn. “This program will generate much-needed long-term revenue to expand and improve vital transit services, while aligning with local and provincial government goals to increase housing supply.”

TransLink and PCI own adjacent plots of land on the southeast corner of Arbutus and Broadway and have entered an equal development partnership. The proposed development would include:

  • 30 storeys of mixed-use residential and commercial space
  • Street-level retail and over 200 residential rental units, 20 per cent of which will be rented at below market rates and secured for moderate-income households
  • Community space that will serve as the future home of the Ohel Ya’akov Community Kollel, a Jewish cultural, education, and neighbourhood centre

“We are honoured to be partnering with TransLink on this significant transit-oriented, mixed-use development,” says PCI Developments President Tim Grant. “We are similarly excited about partnering with The Kollel in delivering their new community and worship premises – all in conjunction with desperately needed market and below-market rental housing in a sustainable development adjacent to Arbutus Station and the Arbutus Greenway.”

As Metro Vancouver’s population continues to grow and demands on transportation and housing increase, people are increasingly looking toward transit-oriented communities to live and work in. This transit-oriented development will be in-line with the City of Vancouver’s Broadway Plan while helping to achieve targets outlined in Transport 2050 and Metro 2050.

Further details of the project are still being finalized and will be shared with the public later this spring through a TransLink and PCI-led public engagement process, including a community open house. Following this initial public engagement phase, a formal rezoning application will be submitted to the City of Vancouver.

More Information
TransLink Real Estate Development Webpage
TransLink Real Estate Development Booklet

Written by Stephen Rees

March 29, 2023 at 11:01 am

Condo tower, social housing, public consultation and court ruling

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Screen Shot 2015-02-05 at 3.26.45 PM

City Conversations today revolved around the controversial City decisions and subsequent court case surrounding a land swap between the city and a developer at Richards & Helmcken. Jubilee House is an existing somewhat run down facility that is in need of replacement. The developer proposed to build a replacement at 1099 Richards  St.that would add 75 rental suites, and would then build a 36-storey tower on city owned 508 Helmcken beside Emery Barnes Park. On January 27 the BC Supreme Court ruled that the process was flawed and the development could not proceed until there was a new public hearing.

UPDATE April 23 2015

The B.C. Court of Appeal has sided with the City of Vancouver and Brenhill Developments in a high-profile case against the Community Association of New Yaletown.

This morning, Chief Justice Robert Bauman delivered the news, telling those in the courtroom that written reasons will be provided later.

The decision overturns B.C. Supreme Court Justice Mark McEwan’s ruling last year that voided a rezoning and a development permit to allow for a 36-storey residential tower and a 13-storey housing complex just north of Emery Barnes Park.

source The Georgia Straight

The presenters at the conversation were John Green of the Community Association of New Yaletown – supported by their lawyer Nathalie Baker – and Alice Sandberg of the BC Nonprofit Housing Association.

John Green opened by saying that the entire city development process was new to all of the CANY members. He said they were in favour of social housing but the city had rammed through the redevelopment in an unfair process: “it didn’t matter what we said”.

Emery Barnes Park is in the heart of the downtown towers – not at the edges like all of the other parks. It could probably do with some enlargement. The Urban Design Panel examined the proposed deal on 27 March 2013 and found that the tower floor plate was too large, the development too dense for the site. Despite this the City Planner at their next meeting urged them to reconsider the proposal – even though there had been no changes – and it was approved. On July 16 there was a public hearing into the rezoning, where it was noted that there were several violations of the Official Development Plan for the area – five times the density, four times the height and with a six foot setback instead of the prescribed twelve feet. People in the area felt that the development was not a good fit. They felt there was a lack of transparency on the deal between the developer (Brenhill) and the City. Overall there would be no increase in social housing as the extra 75 units would be rented at 27% above the market rents for comparable units in the area. There was also the matter of a $50 million difference in the value of the site between the City’s valuation in the land swap and the BC assessment. The deal had not been put out to tender, and therefore the market had not been tested to see what other amenities other developers might be prepared to offer for the city’s site. It was a very complex process and hard to understand.

Alice Sandberg   did not look at the site specifically but examined the more general issue of local government’s role in providing affordable rental housing. She covered a lot of ground very quickly. “Affordable housing” is a relative term and can be applied to rental or ownership. “Social housing” specifically refers to rental housing which incorporates some subsidy from government to help meet the needs of specific groups of people. The development of either requires a range of financial and human resources – and she runs workshops on how to make housing affordable. At one time senior governments had a considerable role through capital grants, specialised mortgages, subsidies and rent supplements. The landscape has now changed. There are no supply side programmes: all are demand side and require the involvement of multiple partners. Senior governments – in Canada and BC – are driven by an ideological agenda and their priorities are to concentrate on the most vulnerable groups as well as emphasizing the role of private sector.

Local governments have some tools in their regulatory toolbox that controls development: these include planning and land use controls, zoning, and development approvals.  In addition they can provide financial incentives, land and partnerships.

The public perception of these developments is that they do not like change in their neighborhood. “They don’t like sprawl and they don’t like density.”


1.  The City could have increased the supply of social housing. They “got nothing” and missed the opportunity

2.  The land swap has not happened

3.   Small apartments on Richards were going to be 350 square feet and rent at $1100 pm or $3.39 per sf

4.  “This is not social housing it is human warehousing for profit.”

5.  Nathalie Baker did not make a presentation but responded to most of the factual questions: There was a two year process of negotiation between the City and the developer. This is not unusual and obviously during the process of negotiation there has to be privacy over the arrangements until the deal is finalised for public examination. However, that does not mean that when the proposal is presented facts that are material to the development can be withheld. The public hearing has to be informed if we are to get a smart decision that is in the public interest. Council decided yesterday that there needs to be more time to reconsider this development and fifteen other, similar deals.

6.  Councillor Adrienne Carr said that there had been no formal meetings of the Council with the developer, though individual councillors may have attended meetings with staff and the developer. At yesterday’s meeting she was surprised to hear the City Planner use the phrase “when Council reconfirms the decision” as it is imperative that when the Council looks at the deal that the court quashed they have to have an open mind. There also has to be an opportunity for the public to comment on changes to the plan. Council also needs to reconsider its definitions of social housing and density bonus.

7. Alice Sandberg you cannot do a building now that is all social housing. Only one third of the units can qualify for government assistance

8.  Chris de Marco observed that the city needs to consider who gains and who bears the cost. In her view the local neighborhood was being asked to absorb more development which benefits the whole region but the impact of that is not shared fairly

9. Gordon Price responded but I regret that my scribbled notes are unintelligible. If he reads this perhaps he can clarify in the comments. I do recall him observing that the longer he is out of office, the better it seems in hindsight.

10. Some senior staff – and indeed some councillors – seem to be micromanaging staff and hampering their ability to do their jobs

11. The process to date has been a waste of time and money. How do we improve this?

12.Nathalie Baker Council was always obliged to disclose information – the judges ruling actually changes nothing. Council can make decisions even if they are unpopular but they cannot conceal essential information. Up to now they have not been living up to their obligations

13. Opposed to “micro sized units” which may be harmful to mental health and also fail to meet the needs of an aging population who may need more space to use mobility aids

14. What can we do to prevent bad decisions?

15.  Randy Chatterjee:  Why is it that governments only have capital programmes and do not provide help to maintain and operate social housing?

I observed that this problem affects many other programmes – not just housing. There is no federal support for maintaining or operating roads, transit …. and so on.

Alice Sandberg also pointed out that timber frame buildings thirty years ago were not designed to last much longer than that.


Vancouver City Council has been given a very sharp check on its leash by the legal system. It should not be necessary for a Community Association to have to resort to the courts and Freedom of Information requests just to get Council to meet its obligations imposed by legislation and the Vancouver Charter.

I was very impressed that Councillor Carr came to this meeting. She handled the situation with grace and aplomb and is clearly an asset. No staff or other councillors appeared: that says it all.

We also need to elect much better governments federally and provincially that serve the people of this country – all of the people – not just the very wealthy and the big corporations. Public housing – like public transport – is an essential part of a civilised society. The private sector cannot and will not meet the needs of society at a reasonable cost.

Written by Stephen Rees

February 5, 2015 at 5:32 pm

Bernstein at SFU

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Initially the title I have used was just a “working title”. I was going to paste in the title used in the material that promoted the lecture. But take one look at “Progress Lost, Progress Redefined, Progress Regained – How Location Efficiency Performance Measures Are Being Used to Achieve Economic Security” and I think you will agree that it is hardly a grabber.

This was the second of two talks by Scott Bernstein, President, Center for Neighborhood Technology, and the Visiting Fellow in Urban Sustainable Development in SFU’s Urban Studies Program. The most noticeable thing at the start was the nearly empty room. I got there fifteen minutes early so I could sit near an electrical outlet, but I need not have worried. There was a very late start, and a very long introduction: this included the information that “The Visiting Fellowship in Urban Sustainable Development is funded from an endowment by the Real Estate Foundation of British Columbia and the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board.” Which makes me wonder why the room wasn’t populated by the development community. Michael Geller was there and sent a few tweets: there will be a video of the talks at the Urban Studies web page, in due course.

In fairness I think it will help if I insert the “blurb” that went on the ad for this talk

A new index of combined affordability of housing + transportation, which cost households at least half of their available income, are being tested by federal agencies, metropolitan organizations, states and local governments. The results are encouraging. Agencies taking combined affordability into account have shifted billions of dollars in long-term commitments from highways to transit; provided incentives for locational preference in subsidized housing; and awarded capital intended to demonstrate the efficacy of place-based integrated resource strategies.

Location-efficient neighborhood residents felt only one-quarter the economic “pain” felt due to gas prices by those in average neighborhoods, while those in the least-efficient places experienced their region’s highest foreclosure & bankruptcy rates.

Bernstein started by saying that he intended to take a “fresh look at the benefits of transportation and better cities” and why it’s worth paying attention to the efficiency of location. One of the advantages of confining the study to the US is the relatively open source data available everywhere. This is in stark contrast to Canada, of course, where StatsCan has been trying to make data sales a major source of revenue and has only recently begun to relent from that disastrous decision. Even so our Prime Minister, who clearly dislikes the way that facts and figures get int he way of his prejudices, cancelled the long form census which deprives us of about the only data on commuting behaviour across the country.

What is different is that he focuses on what to expect from our public investment, its benefits, not just the costs. He mentioned how gobsmacked Stephen Quinn of the CBC was at this notion, when he appeared on the Early Edition recently. All the prepared questions were simply about the amounts of money that would be spent – not the returns that would generate. This illustrates the ignorance of  why infrastructure is important to cities. It “provides the stuff you need to make the buildings work” and includes municipal services. He estimated that in residential developments this amounts to  US$50-100k per unit plus the land cost – which is roughly similar. Basically what he is advocating is  how to get the infrastructure shared by more units, so that the cost gets lowered. Over the last 30 years we have seen better solutions emerge. For instance, we no longer see rain as a dangerous waste product once it hits the ground.

The development of green infrastructure has produced a new mind set. Previously the purpose of investment was to promote consumption: now it can be to increase productivity – e.g. streets to connect people rather than promote car use. It has even proved more efficient to pay people to consume less energy than build new power plants. Findings from recent polls show that people want better, more affordable transportation but are not wiling to raise gas tax to pay for it. They do not trust the system to deliver the promised benefits. 13 states allow voter initiatives “tax elections” which show that people will vote for increased taxes provided that there are specific conditions in place to ensure delivery, and the ability for voters to sanction those that do not deliver. These programs are always local or regional in nature and not led by a state or federal government.

There have been some very significant demographic and price trends. Since the beginning of the twentieth century household size has been steadily declining. At the same time developers have increased home sizes. They have found that they cannot sell that product any more. Gasoline prices were $1.13 a gallon in 2002 and $4.33 now – with the clear expectation that they will rise further. People who live in new exurban developments, where there are no services find that they have to spend a gallon of gas to buy a gallon of milk. The increase in gas price has been 8x faster than income. There has been ten years of foreclosures in the suburbs – not just since the 2008 market crash.

Currently the most attractive investment is high density Transit Oriented Development (TOD). He noted that it  is harder than it should be to do TOD here! He showed a graphic which contrasted the “Nourishing economy” where connectedness = prosperity, compared to the conventional model of residential cul de sacs, and limited access highways, which is where economic distress is note widespread. His advice was that we should tear down the viaducts – just as other cities are doing.

A good example of what he advocates is the Pearl district in Portland OR where  affordable housing is mandated at 25% on all development. It is not concentrated in one place, and there is no displacement due to development. The idea is to  build things worth keeping up.

He eulogized Ellen Swallow Richards – inventor of the calorie counter, and the standardized home budget. She thought it important to teach people financial literacy and persuaded high schools to have  mandatory home economic courses.  “Somehow we got through the Depression” – mainly because people understood how to economize. Her structures included “Don’t go into debt for an automobile”. Eventually home ec was squeezed out by drivers ed. This was because federal funding of freeways required that there be a road safety component.

The revolution between 1885 and 1902 was the introduction of streetcars – which was equivalent in its day as the internet has been tom our era. There was one system in 1885 and 1 in every city of 10,000 by 1902. He did, in my view, somewhat confuse the issue by talking of streetcars and interurbans as though they were the same thing. He said that the streetcar was an illustration of a network economy. The first telephone was a curiosity: it was not until there was another one that it had any use, and the use grew exponentially as more telephones were added to  the system.

He showed an illustration of Vancouver in the 1890s, which showed the city was designed to have a grid of streets, connected to the port and the railway. It was said to be a developer’s design since it had more corners! This is simply because land value peaks at intersections. There were freely available maps of land value surveys to demonstrate that then but “Nobody is doing that now!’

Location efficiency = you don’t need to drive as much. A combination of density and transit access (proximity, frequency, connectedness) lowers the cost of living. Good transit access equals one car less per household , the equivalent of an increase of 10 to 20% in income tax free, or around $5k to $8k pa.

Location Efficient Mortgages way outperformed the market. In 30,000 transactions there was only one default and not one repossession Fanny MAE only committed to one experiment – it did not fail! This is in strong contrast to the “drive until you qualify” approach, traditionally used by lenders. There is in economists language “severe information asymmetry”. A British popular song ended with the tag “a week’s wage for a month’s rent”. This was the extent of the support for the notion that a household can support a mortgage at 30% of salary. In many years of searching he has found no research backing for 30% affordability.  And, of course, no reckoning of transportation cost.

The Housing + Transportation Cost Index has been published in two books – “A Heavy Load” and “Penny Wise,  Pound Fuelish” but there are now two new online tools using US data. He also pointed out that other researchers have found very similar results in London and Tokyo.

Example of HTA index mapping

Example of HTA index mapping

Transportation cost in Manhattan, Kansas

Transportation cost in Brooklyn, New York

“Who cares? You should!”

While I am quoting him I feel I must mention that no-one had corrected him talking about “the Frasier valley”! He said that HUD (Housing and Development) and DOT (Department of Transportation) both US federal government departments are using it to screen grant applications, MPOs (Metropolitan Planning Organizations mandated by federal transport funding requirements) are using it to rescreen transportation plans.

At this point I feel I need to explain that he was using slides with two columns and five paragraphs in each. There was too much information presented in a very short time and some of it was impossible to absorb. All I can do here is give some highlights that stuck in my mind or I was able to type.

El Paso TX is now directing affordable housing to areas of low transportation costs. Washington DC which was looking at one or two streetcar lines has now decide to build 20.

He said that there is now a 200% net return on public investment (I assume he was either talking about streetcars or TOD) .

Do you want to succeed for the long term?

The Q&A was not recorded by me but will be on the SFU video.


If you do a search of this blog on the term “Location Efficient Mortgages” you will see that what he is talking about is not exactly news. He has been at this for thirty three and a third years (he said). The questions that come to my mind revolve around why it is taking so long for these ideas to get adopted. In this region, of course, we have gone in completely the reverse direction. The BC Liberal government decided to expand the freeway and to hobble public transport. Christy Clark is simply following in the footsteps of Gordon Campbell – and Ujjal Dosanjh.

There is indeed a task force on affordable housing – and a fat headed approach to transit funding, which prevents any real progress towards sustainability in this region. There was a criticism of the Livable Region Strategic Plan in that it did not address affordable housing. That seems to be to miss the point completely. If we had done what the LRSP aimed to do – build a compact urban region, with complete communities that protected the Green Zone and increased transportation choice – then we would not have the crisis we now face.

There is some transportation choice in Vancouver and Burnaby – but it rapidly declines away from these municipalities. Everywhere else – and to some extent in those cities too – we have seen workplaces decentralize (something the LRSP did not anticipate) and steadily increasing suburban sprawl. Most of Vancouver south of 12th Avenue is suburban, and all of it unaffordable by any measure.

One thing that cropped up more than once in his lecture – usually as unscripted asides – was the potential for our region to see the same real estate crash that has affected the US. We certainly do not have what he termed funky mortgages like theirs. But most people here  have very little financial room to manoeuvre and are just as vulnerable to rising gas prices, with often no realistic alternative to driving. Not just for work, but for everything. And the real estate sponsors of this talk are ensuring that we will see low density, single family subdivisions endlessly extending up the valley for the foreseeable future – with Squamish now added for good measure. This is a recipe for financial disaster, and is nothing like a sustainable region.

Smart Growth Debate

Nathan Pachal has asked me to post a press release from South Fraser OnTrax. They have invited Todd Litman to debate Smart Growth  with Randal O’Toole. Even if I was in town on that day, I would not be going. I have the greatest of respect for Todd but I have nothing but contempt for Randal O’Toole and the Cato Institute. There is, in general, a desire to see “both sides of the question” – media are required to provide “balance” – but this has been exploited by the rabid right to present arguments on issues where there really isn’t any controversy. No-one with any understanding of the word “truth” doubts that smoking causes lung cancer – and a wide variety of other serious diseases. The methodology espoused by the tobacco industry to fight off legislation limiting its activity have been emulated by the corporations that exploit fossil fuels – and our willingness to believe comforting falsehoods.   The scientific consensus on the link between fossil fuel use and climate change is overwhelming and the need for action is desperate. Yet institutions and individuals have been paid handsomely by the vested interests who profit from peddling tobacco and oil to create the illusion that there is some doubt about these linkages.

In the case of the South Fraser, our provincial government has determined that there will be little or no Smart Growth there. The freeway is being widened, there is no prospect of any significant transit alternative – such as low cost light rail using the former BCER Interurban track. And where there is no adequate transit you simply cannot expect Transit Oriented Development. It did not matter that the arguments in favour of highway expansion were based on fallacies: nowhere, anywhere has ever built its way out of traffic congestion. Increasing the size of roadways in urban areas simply expands traffic demand. Where people can drive but have few options that work for them, they will drive. So it does not matter what has been promised – or even what low cost palliative is offered by Translink in its plans – we know the shape of things to come in Surrey and Langley, and that is more of the same.

So what is the point of a debate? The facts were ignored. Reality has been set aside. We will continue to do what we have always done and we expect a different outcome.

If there is any point in attending such an event I suppose it has to be its entertainment value. Todd Littman is a very good speaker and I expect he will have the best arguments, since anyone who looks at these issues objectively has to agree that Smart Growth is one of the few things that we can do that will make a difference in the suburbs. And, of course, we can equally predict what Randal O’Toole will say. If you haven’t heard of him I suggest you start with this wiki entry about him (and its footnotes of course) and the Cato Institute. Both are very careful to be fair and balanced.

 LANGLEY, With the Metro Vancouver region set to grow by another 1 million people over the next 20 years and with most of that growth set to occur in the South of Fraser, there has been a call by many academics and urban planners to change the way we build our communities. South Fraser OnTrax advocates for smart growth design principles such as making transit a priority and building neighbourhoods that provide a variety of housing options, from single-family homes to apartments. OnTrax believes these principles will protect the environment, human health, and our agricultural land, but not everyone shares this belief.

Todd Litman of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute, whose research has been used by governments worldwide, will be debating Randal O’Toole who is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute and who has also taught environmental economics at Yale, UC Berkeley, and Utah State University on the future of land-use and transportation planning in the South of Fraser. Litman is a strong proponent of smart growth principals and high-quality public transit while O’Toole has been an outspoken critic.

“For many years we have talked about building more sustainable community and better transit,” says Nathan Pachal of OnTrax, “but many in our communities are not sold on the ideas that this is the way to go. This debate will allow both perspectives to be expressed and let people decide what future they want for our region.”

OnTrax with the support of a City of Langley grant will be hosting this debate on Thursday, February 23rd from 7:00pm to 8:30pm at the Township of Langley Municipal Hall (20338 65 Avenue.) This free event is open to all members of the public, who will have the chance to hear both sides of the debate and have the opportunity to question Litman and O’Toole.

Seating is limited and reservations are recommended. Please visit or for more information and email southfraserblog (at) to reserve your seat.

VIA Blogger Meetup

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I have just returned from a couple of hours at the Roundhouse with a group of bloggers invited there by VIA Architecture. I was pleased to chat with fellow local bloggers Gordon Price, Erika Rathje, Richard Eriksson, Karen Fung and Mike Klassen. There were nibbles and drinks courtesy of our hosts who are keen to continue the great urban debate (or perhaps that should be conversation) and will also be holding a similar meetup for local bloggers in Seattle. VIA have their own blog too.

Towards the end of the evening I managed to get to talk to Graham McGarva. I told him that one of the reasons I was intrigued by their invitation was that it mentioned their current work on the Evergreen Line. I had thought that project stalled for lack of funds, but apparently work is still proceeding on planning – specifically on determining the precise alignment, and its effect on local land use. The project may be stalled now by the absence of sufficient funding, but it is assumed that can be resolved, somehow. While it is not clear yet how that might happen one possible answer would be trimming the specification: after all, that was how the Canada Line got built, when its budget was not enough to pay for all that was originally desired. It is also possible that Translink may be able to come up with more funds through property development. Again this is something that Translink has been looking at for over a year now, but has yet to make any specific proposals.

Graham and I last worked together back when the Millennium Line was at a similar stage of development. He told me an interesting story tonight that I had not heard before of how the retail development at Broadway and Commercial was achieved. This is one of the few stations on the Translink system which actually manages to be truly an urban place, through a modest but strategically located retail building on the north east corner of the intersection. As architects they had no power of decision making but they could be, as he put it, “in all three rooms”. That is they were trusted by the client (the province’s project office) the City and the local community. They were therefore able to determine what each would accept – and thus came up with a proposal for the small parcel of land owned by the project but not actually needed for the station itself. There were several possibilities – and a quick look around most transit stations in this region will show that they are rarely as successfully resolved.

Hopefully, the Evergreen Line will get started in earnest, and when it does the involvement of a firm like this gives me some hope that we will really see some worthwhile transit oriented development in this region, something I feel is long overdue.

Written by Stephen Rees

January 20, 2010 at 10:02 pm

Transit Oriented Development Produces Fewer Auto Trips

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When you think about it is ridiculous that a phrase like that is a headline.  TOD is designed to reduce car use by making possible for people to get around by other means – walking and, of course, transit. But unfortunately it takes governmental systems some time to catch up to ideas like this. Especially when they are surrounded by lobbyists who continually push for more of the same and resist change.

I learned of the research that now shows that TOD in the US has reduced auto trips from the ITE Journal – and of course that esteemed organ is not available to ordinary humans. But fortunately the research was funded by the US government so the full report on which the ITE article was based is available on line as a pdf. “Effects of TOD on Housing,Parking, and Travel” TCRP Report 128 by G B Arrington and Robert Cevero shows that TOD produces about 50% of the car trips produced by conventional development.

ITE regularly publishes trip generation rates for all kinds of land use – and updates them as research becomes available. It is these figures that are used to determine how much transportation infrastructure is going to be required by new development. Or to be more precise, how many parking spaces and how much new road space. This is the key interface between planning transportation and land use in North America. And since the end of WW2 it has been mostly about making more space available for cars. “ITE trip generation rates overestimate automobile trips for TOD housing by approximately 50 per cent”. What that means is that when developers who want to do TOD go to municipalities for their permits, too much parking and roadspace is required – which raises the cost to developers and hence residents. One of the most significant short term effects of TOD – affordability – is lost. In a region like ours, where despite recent price drops affordability is still a major hurdle for many households. (Incidentally another article in the same edition criticizes the ITE trip generation rates: “These rates are limited as they are based almost solely on isolated suburban development with little or no pedestrian, bicycle or transit accessibility for ease of data collection.”)

But the second round effect is even more important. Because there is the additional capacity, other users can fill the new space provided. And, of course, it is not just the developers that we have to be concerned about. “Transit ridership is positively correlated to the extensiveness of the transit system, amount of traffic congestion and higher parking costs. Transit service headways of 10 minutes are ideal to support a transit lifestyle”. In this region “frequent transit service” is 15 minutes – so we are well short of the ideal even if  the current plans can be implemented. Since that is in itself uncertain, it can be anticipated that where there is TOD in this region but inadequate transit (Port Moody for instance) it will underperform. Indeed there is a sneaking suspicion that is the intent of the provincial government, which likes to pose as “green” but very obviously is not at all.

The transit funding is going to be a huge problem – but the highway funding was found easily even though the P3 fell through. That tells you all you need to know about priorities. It also means that the benefits the United States will see from conducting this research and implementing its findings through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act  (and the next surface transportation bill) will not be realised in BC – or probably most of Canada. Because we have a federal government that is not engaged in the same kind of process. There is no research based program – and it is not tied to federal funding. Transit projects are tied to the whims of Ministers and short term political advantage, and given the way that votes are distributed in Canada still favour major roads over other transportation projects.

The idiocy of the Gateway was to put freight transport ahead of everything else (trucks account for 8% of the traffic at the most – which happens to be the Port Mann Bridge) even when it looks as though international freight traffic is going to continue to decline for a while and may never recover its former pattern as the world’s economy adapts to new realities. But the effect is that TOD is simply not going to happen in  most of the new build areas of this region, because we have already built, or are in the process of building, much new major road infrastructure, but the future of transit is still very uncertain. And of there is one things that investors hate it is uncertainty.

Smart growth requires smart calculations; impact fees, parking ratios, and road improvements need to account for the likely trip-reduction effects of TOD. Research study results indicate that residential TOD parking ratios can be tightened and fees lowered to reflect the actual transportation performance of TODs. Given that TODs have historically been over-parked, the incorporation of research results into revised parking ratios is an important step toward national recognition of the expected community benefits of TOD.

And there is also this important insight

TOD type is less important than specific location within the region and the quality of connecting transit service

What has happened here in recent years is that transport investment has managed to overcome the intentions of the LRSP while seemingly being coherent with it. You can find lines on maps in the LRSP and point to them and say “there is the SFPR, there is the Golden Ears Bridge” and so on – and people do and have here. But the intention of the LRSP was not to encourage automobile use or build in auto dependency.  But for the majority of the region that is what has been and is being done. And great opportunity to change direction has, it seems, been lost.

Written by Stephen Rees

July 7, 2009 at 11:53 am

Key density growth to SkyTrain stations

with 8 comments

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


Old House


New Development on Williams Road

Written by Stephen Rees

November 12, 2007 at 12:09 pm