April 20, 2016

Surprising densities at some SkyTrain stations

Michael Mortensen posted the work of Jens Von Bergmann on his blog, The Liveable City.

“Jens ran some 2011 census data to give us some idea of the population density within 800 metres for SkyTrain stations (including the Canada Line). His very interesting results are found here on his “Mountain Doodles” blog: see Link .”


Population within 400- and 800-metre radius


Click to enlarge.


I would never have believed that the 29th-Avenue Station would be almost in the Top Ten, with Nanaimo not that far behind.  They seem amongst the most suburban of settings, and are typically mentioned when critics point to the absence of appropriate transit-oriented development.

Here’s an illustration of 29th-Avenue 800 metres out, done by Michael in his blog (along with all the other station areas).

29th ave

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  1. Which is it, can we fit more people into low density low rises than we’d expect or do we overestimate the population gains that towers can give?

    I wonder how high the Nanaimo and 29th Ave numbers would be if the area was predominantly duplex, triplex, row house and other low rise forms that are higher density than Vancouver Specials.

  2. My guess is that many of the houses in the Nanaimo/29th catchments are split into multiple suites. An east Van house accommodating 10 people is probably not uncommon. I would also guess that a lot of tower units are occupied by just one person. Developers seem to favour building studio and 1BR units so I don’t think that’s going to change.

    I don’t understand why Frank says the situation is sad.

  3. Nearly every house here (Norquay Village) is broken up into suites. Everybody has cars, even though the skytrain station is only 200m away. The house directly behind me has five cars associated with it, and off street parking for only three. When the stacked townhouse development behind me is finished, it will have sixteen suites with parking for 12 cars. Densification would be ok if it wasn’t for all the cars.

  4. Based on land-area alone, you would expect to find four times as many people within 800 m as within 400 m. Looking at the ratio for each station is instructive—only a couple are that high, and those are the special cases where stations are built under shopping malls. Otherwise, there are more people than you’d expect within 400 m, implying that housing has been deliberately built as close as possible to the station. 29th Avenue is the nearest to 4:1, implying no particular concentration of housing, which fits with the view that there hasn’t been appropriate transit-oriented development there.

    (Qualification: I haven’t actually built a spreadsheet; I’m eyeballing these comparisons.)

    1. I ran those numbers when Jens first put this out (though not adjusting for water coverage)

      There are 34 stations with a higher 400 m population density than 800 m population density, while there are 10 stations with a lower 400 m density than 800 m density.

      The most evenly dense station areas would be (+/-15%) would be Langara-49th, Oakridge-41st, 29th Avenue, Lake City Way, VCC-Clark, Nanaimo, Broadway-City Hall, Sapperton, Surrey Central, Rupert, Braid, Renfrew, and Vancouver City Centre.

      The most concentrated stations are

      * Edmunds (400 m density is 262% of 800 m density)
      * Lougheed (241%)
      * Gilmore (235%)
      * New Westminster (234%)
      * Brentwood (227%)
      * King George (222%)
      * Aberdeen (211%)
      * Yaletown (198%)

      The stations which have less dense 400 m areas than their 800 m areas are:

      * Rupert (400 m density is 91% of 800 m density)
      * Braid (91%)
      * Renfrew (89%)
      * Vancouver City Centre (86%)
      * Waterfront (72%)
      * Production Way – University(68%)
      * Bridgeport (64%)
      * Granville (59%)
      * Scott Road (55%)
      * Burrard (48%)

    2. It would be nice to see a side-by-side comparison with ridership at each station.
      i.e. residential land use isn’t the be-all-end-all of transit ridership as nearby commercial use likely generates more trips.

      There are likely some stations in light industrial areas with higher ridership than the residential population would suggest.

  5. Brentwood its about to rocket up in the rankings once all those towers are completed. Brentwood and Gilmore will probably be at the top of the “concentrated” group in a couple years.

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