Light Rail Stops Attracts new Business

This interesting study from down South.

The myth makers who favour SkyTrain make much how SkyTrain attracts new development, yet that development has been allowed by city councils, who have allowed for higher densities, read higher buildings) at SkyTrain stations. At the same time the inference is that LRT does not attract development. The study shows that LRT rail stops attract business.

The question should be; “Do we build transit to cater to developers or to move people?”

In Vancouver, rapid transit seems to have been built to subsidize new developments and not cater to customer needs. There is much ado about major developments along the Canada Line, but those very small station platforms (40m to 50m long), which limits the trains to only be two cars long, means endemic overcrowding on the mini-metro. In short, the Canada Line cannot accommodate the new customers coming and going from the new developments!

A simple modern streetcar line could easily handle the customer traffic thus generated from the intensification along the Canada Line route, but TransLink and the City of Vancouver will never admit to this. All the Canada line will do is create more congestion and gridlock as the mini-metro will not be able to handle the demand from the planned increase in density.

The taxpayer has paid over $2.5 billion for this nonsense.

Small stations and station platforms will always hamper the Canada lines potential capacity.

The $2.5 billion mini-metro has less capacity than a much cheaper streetcar.

Portland area MAX stops attract new businesses

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New businesses may be TriMetai??i??s biggest fans.

New firms tend to gather around light rail stations in Portland, according to a recently published study, ai???Transit Access and the Agglomeration of New Firms: A Case Study of Portland and Dallas.ai???

The study, led by Rutgers University professor Robert Noland, compared new- firm births in Portland and Dallas, Texas, between 1991 and 2008. Both cities were chosen because of their relatively new light rail systems. However, while Portland light rail stations act as a magnet to firm agglomeration, Dallasai??i??s firm growth and transit arenai??i??t nearly as highly correlated.

The differences may be explained by each cityai??i??s unique zoning and planning regulations.

“Portland has adopted more stringent policies than Dallas-Ft. Worth in focusing development near rail stations and within the central business district (CBD),” Noland says. “These include restrictions on off-street parking for new development and an urban growth boundary that restricts development on the metropolitan fringe.ai???

The peer-reviewed study was published by Mineta National Transit Research Consortium. To read the report: transweb.sjsu.edu/project/1145.html.

Comments

5 Responses to “Light Rail Stops Attracts new Business”
  1. Haveacow says:

    Most stations do attract some development regardless of the transit technology or individual mode. The real question that needs to be asked is what combination of factors make a great development node or a pathetic one? Yes, as in the study of the LRT stations in Dallas and Portland, good comprehensive zoning may have a stunning effect, sometimes it does not have any effect at all. Zwei also has a point that, a regularly overly crowded station platform can have a negative effect on development however, it has been my experience that developers don’t generally care if the station is too busy, they just want a transit station, any transit station to connect to their development. Like most things in life I found that its a combination of several factors not just one or two.

    The North York Centre Subway Station, a infill station that was put in the late 1980′s on Toronto’s Yonge Subway Line between Sheppard and Finch stations helped supercharge “downtown North York” by creating a subway stop that allowed a much greater section of North Yonge Street to be within walking distance of riders and thus allow a whole host of developments to take place. It also meant that fewer people on this section of Yonge St. had to take the TTC’s North Yonge ST. bus to actually get to the closest subway stop. North of Eglinton Ave, Yonge St. subway stations are 2 km apart and too far away for many local residents to just walk to the stations so a bus is needed as a feeder to the existing stations for many local subway riders. The TTC has always wanted to get rid of the daytime Yonge St. Bus but, they had no choice and the lack of an easily accessible by foot, subway stop north of Eglinton Ave., has always been a sore point for local residents and the TTC, who wanted greater local ridership for this section of the Yonge line outside of peak hours. The TTC didn’t care that it would slow down long distance commuters, the loss of some peak commuters would easily made up by the increase in use by locals during and outside peak hours. The effect of the North York Centre Station on development has been profound. Downtown North York has actually more office and condo development than all of central Ottawa.

    Compare that with another TTC Subway Station, Kipling, which was opened 34 years ago and still is mostly surrounded by a green field although, some development is finally occurring now.

    So not only does your rapid transit station need good zoning to produce development, it needs a basic market need or push, which is the basic reason for any residential or commercial development. It can certainly help that, the station is part of a multimodal transportation node and it should be part of or near an existing community as well. However, the said development, should not permanently hurt or damage that existing community to the point that people do not want to live or be there.

    It continues to amaze and confound me that, otherwise intelligent people can plan developments that are worth hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars and simply drop it beside a rapid transit station and wonder why no one wants to buy into it. They say to me and others like me, “I built it beside a transit station why won’t it work?” These developers yell and scream about socialism or NIMBY or Orwelian planning authorities when we tell them that, their development just won’t work with the existing zoning or any kind of zoning for that matter and may also cause instant resistance inside an existing community. Or in our opinion, is simply too big for the existing local market to bare. The most amazing thing is that (or may not that amazing really), local councils keep voting to build many of these bad developments that sit half empty for years at a time.

    Zwei replies: Excellent reply as always. The massive densification around the Canada line stations is by the city up-rezoning residential and business properties to allow multi story development. This has caused massive blow-back in the CoV where local residents decry this massive densification, as single or two story areas now have 12 or more story highrises looking down on them.

    Already developers (friends of both city and provincial governments) have assemble properties around potential subway stations along Broadway, knowing that the City will up-zone the properties to allow highrises. The fight for a Broadway subway has become less and less of a transit issue and now is has become more and more of a development issue.

  2. Haveacow says:

    This may scare you a bit! Twenty two years ago, in my 3rd year Transportation Planning Class we did an exercise that took various Canadian cities and by applying simple static mathematical models (we called them models but, they were just a simple series of mathematical formulas to be honest) to various areas and rights of way we predicted where future rapid transit lines would/could be located given various existing statistics most of them, easily available from the national census. You need a computer to do the final calculation not because its too difficult, it just requires so many calculations computers just made it easier, taking seconds instead of days by hand. The results showed how receptive a right of way was to the addition of a basic rapid transit service. We used a simple streetcar/ Lite LRT as the mode of choice but we could have recalculated for HRT, heavier LRT, Light Metro’s, Transitway BRT, BRT Lite (express buses in their own lanes like your route 99) even commuter rail. We predicted that sometime in the future that given the line geometry and several other statistical factors that, Broadway would/could be the site of a rapid transit line. Now the output from this formula is a simple series of numbers that show given certain conditions on a chart that, if a certain set of pre conditions exist this ROW can handle a very Light LRT line. The formula can be rerun for other modes. Before you ask, for the life of me I can not remember how long the right of way was we did for the Broadway Corridor (memory loss probably due to too much Rickard’s Red and Upper Canada Dark Ale, I guess). We did quite a few cities and several ROW’s for each city as well as several modes for each ROW. The print out from the School’s Mainframe computer went on for pages.

    The point of this being that, if a bunch of 3rd year Transportation Planning students in another city for that matter, could do it back in 1992, I am quite sure that your locals PTB’s (Powers That Be) with expert help, did it even earlier and have been amassing land on the Broadway Corridor since the mid 1980′s, at the least. They wouldn’t have waited till now or even the past few years to begin the land acquisition process for a line on Broadway.

    Zwei replies: But our transit planning is all about density and not moving people. The concept is connecting regional centres with SkyTrain, thus creating a spiderweb of density along the mini-metro line. For people not living on the mini-metro line, they must take a bus to the metro travel along it and then take a bus again. Not very convenient and makes taking the car a much easier choice. The Millennium Line, which final design was strictly a NDP reelection machine, weaved in and around NDP held constituencies: the Canada was going to be SkyTrain, but then Premier Gordon Campbell wanted a P-3 and as SkyTrain was a proprietary transit system, there would be no bidding so the project was opened up to a “rapid transit” project and every effort was made not to mention LRT. Both Alstom and Siemens dropped out because they wanted to put LRT in a subway and as the chap from Siemens said to me in a email (paraphrased): “TransLink did not want a LRT in any form, even though we could have built a fully grade separated LRT line, with higher capacity at a cheaper cost, with the ability of being extended on lesser (cheaper) routes in the future than SkyTrain or a heavy rail metro.

    The judge overseeing the Susan Heyes court case called the Canada Line P-3 bidding process a “charade”.

    I am sure land assembly for potential subway stations along Broadway has been done and the subway plan seems to confirm this. What the SkyTrain subway will not do is reduce auto traffic, nor the operating costs of TransLink. As I have been informed by my transit friend in Germany, subways are a pandora’s box of expenses and if there isn’t the ridership to support a subway high subsidies (more taxes) must be incurred. The question for Broadway is; “is there the reidership to support a subway?”

    Zwei thinks not!

  3. Haveacow says:

    Oops, that should be my 4th year Transportation Planning and Policy Class. So long ago! Wow I feel old.

  4. Sean says:

    If the Translink BS continues, is there a chance to fire all those bureaucrats and replace them with people who actually care about moving people around Metro Vancouver? Simple tram lines, even without private right-of-ways, can work fine.

    Zwei replies: I’m afraid not, the rot has set in to long for TransLink to change. Too many people making too much money will ensure the status quo.

  5. Haveacow says:

    Hey Zwei,

    The system for predicting where rapid transit lines are going to be in the future using the method I outlined is definitely not perfect however, it is very important for most transit lines (everything from the simple local bus or tram line to major express high capacity subway/metro lines) that, you have highest density possible. Yes, I agree you don’t necessarily have to have very high density or sometimes, even medium levels of density to make transit work. Without density helping you out, you have to concentrate feeder local bus and tram lines to your planned rapid transit service. This has two common negative effects. The simple act of having to concentrate many local routes most often makes that part of the journey longer and you get some of the negative effects of transferring on ridership. The increase travel time forces your transfer to becomes, as one my planning profs put it, not easy. The second is one you constantly complain about, higher cost. Not having density for your routes sometimes works because the service is popular but, that unfortunately is very rare when most people can just hop into a car instead. Remember Zwei, you have to pay for these things somehow, the money has to come from somewhere. Firing bureaucrats might help at first but within a year or two those cost efficiencies are not enough anymore, Rob Ford found that out, the hard way I Toronto. Toronto has had a budget surplus every budget year since 1997 (It has to) but, it has hit its limit their are only so many efficiencies left before you have to make significant cuts. Also most North Americans for the most part, still don’t want to pay European levels of taxes and price supports as well as live with their draconian and dictatorial planning laws that make some of their rail lines and transit systems so successful.

    Developers take advantage of that higher population density areas (existing or planned) in cities with well developed transit networks and a fairly strong local economy like Vancouver. However, as a planner I have to make this point clear as possible to you. ALL NORTH AMERICAN CITIES WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT, ARE GOING TO HAVE TO BE MUCH MORE DENSE IN TERMS OF POPULATION IF WE ARE GOING TO SURVIVE FINANCIALLY, END OF POINT, PERIOD. WE CAN’T AFFORD TO SERVICE NOTHING BUT LOW DENSITY DEVELOPMENT. THESE DEVELOPMENTS DO NOT PAY FOR THEMSELVES THROUGH THE TAXES THAT THEY PRODUCE. WE KEEP HAVING TO USE OTHER TAX SOURCES TO SUBSIDIZE LOW DENSITY DEVELOPMENT TO PROVIDE SERVICES TO THEM.

    That’s why in the states especially since 2008, you are seeing nearly dead suburban shopping malls and their tremendously huge parking lots being gutted and a small tight grid of streets being introduced to form new town centres with medium and sometimes high density mixed use development. Tyson’s Corners in suburban Washington (Fairfax County, Virginia to be exact) is the most dramatic example of this. Read the book Edge City? I think, it has a significant story about this place. I read that book quite a few years ago as part of my university reading list. They are still going to build large single family homes in the traditional suburban sense but, the owners are going to start paying the real price of that development through their taxes. Its at a very early stage and its only effecting small isolated developments but, it seems even Canadian suburbs are beginning to retrofit themselves as well.

    In fact I just read about it yesterday that, even in Calgary several huge LRT station park and ride lots are being significantly downsized in older inner suburbs and replacing them with medium density development. These large park and ride lots are in what are now older suburbs and they cause more traffic problems than they are worth. For example, Calgary’s Anderson LRT Station is reducing its 1750 space commuter parking lot to 500 and building an entire mixed use community with parks and stores for families who will now walk to the station instead of drive.

    Zwei replies: UBC Planning professor, Peter Boothroyd, said to me some years ago that Vancouver and the metro region had ample density for LRT, yet BC Transit/TransLink refused to provide adequate transit such as light rail to service the transit needs of the area. Instead, the province and BC Transit-TransLink wanted even greater density for SkyTrain.

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