Disconnecting Transit in Vancouver

After months of campaigning, Vancouverites have had their say -- and it’s a no. Approximately 62% of the 700,000 residents voted down the 0.5% sales-tax hike for the transit plebiscite, an increase that would help pay for $7.5-billion worth of new transportation. For many in the commercial real estate industry, this result is disappointing to say the least.

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Source: Evergreen Line/Facebook

With high rents, online competition, and limited space, retailers are already in a challenging arena. Often, being situated near a transit hub can be the rent-maker or breaker, since foot traffic is significantly increased. Plus, office and retail developments are generating more income when next to transit, leading many developers to focus on transit-oriented projects whenever possible.

According to a report from the commercial real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL), from 2012 through 2016 nearly 90% of new office construction outside downtown Vancouver will be within 500 metres of a transit station. With residential prices forcing many working professionals to move outside the city, transit is vital for both cost-efficiency and time dedicated to the daily commute.

Transportation has clearly become the driver for new investment and development. That’s why the proposed Broadway Corridor would have, as Bob Tattle, Vice President of Business Development at Anthem Properties said, “transformed Vancouver”. A ten-year project, this system would connect along the corridor between Commercial Drive and the University of British Columbia. Since the rejection of the proposal, this busy hub is expected to become more strained over the next 30 years as population and employment along the corridor are expected to nearly double.

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Source: UBC

Now it’s on to Plan B. Vancouver is considering a strategy called ‘land value capture’ to make rapid transit on the Broadway corridor happen. That means directing a portion of anticipated gains in land value (as a result of new transit investment) to the cost of construction through taxes, charges, or other mechanisms.

Whether or not the city will be able to implement the new corridor remains to be seen, but many are forecasting a negative future for Vancouver commuters. Having to hold onto their cars, surrounding neighbourhoods won’t have access to public space or urban design benefits that come with public transportation. As for the services, retailers, and restaurants, they’ll need to introduce innovative ways to promote traffic through their doors that would’ve otherwise been brought by transit.

Were you happy with the voting results? Tweet @NAIOPVancouver and let us know! 

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