Monday, March 11, 2019

Gaps in transit access in our town centres. Transit corridors, office space, and building an accessible region.

One of the long-term goals of Metro Vancouver and its residents is to create complete town centres where people can live, work, and partake in social and recreational activities. These town centres help preserve our greenspace. Our town centres were to be connected by high quality, frequent transit.

Building vibrant town centres in a “sea of green” has been envisioned since 1966 with the adoption of the first regional growth strategy. How successful has this vision been? The square footage of office space is one of the key metrics that is used to measure the success of this policy. It is recognised that while many people will choose to live in town centres, many people will not. It is also recognised that industrial uses are not necessarily appropriate for town centres.

About 68% of all office space is in town centres. This includes places such as Downtown Vancouver, Downtown Surrey, and the Langley Regional Town Centre to name a few. The following map shows the location of town centres and office space.

Inventory of office space in Metro Vancouver. Map highlights town centres. Source: Metro Vancouver.

One of the interesting facts is that not all town centres have frequent transit service throughout them. For example, while Downtown Langley has frequent transit (every 15 minute or better service most of the day), 64th Avenue does not. These areas are both within the Langley Regional Town Centre.

About 4% of office space in town centres is not accessible by high quality transit, focused in areas such as South Surrey, Richmond City Centre, and Willoughby. For town centres to function properly, they need frequent transit throughout. This is a challenge that needs to be addressed in our region.

Increasingly in our region, planners are seeing the value of also concentrating office growth along corridors that are serviced by high quality transit which connects our town centres together. Some examples of these corridors include Fraser Highway and Broadway.

When accounting for these high quality, frequent transit corridors, around 88% of all office space in our region is either in town centres or along frequent transit corridors.

The remaining 12% of office space by square footage is in business parks which would mostly be associated with sprawl. These sprawling business parks are concentrated in Burnaby, Richmond, and North Vancouver (City and District.)

The good news is that building transit inaccessible office space is not popular, but nonetheless, as a region we need to ensure that we are only building offices in our town centres or along transit corridors. We also need to make sure that our town centres have frequent transit service including in town centres in Langley, Surrey, and Delta.

For more information, please read the “Office Development in Metro Vancouver’s Urban Centres” report from the Metro Vancouver Regional District.

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