by Paul Bunt, P. Eng., and Peter Joyce, P. Eng., Bunt & Associates Engineering Ltd.
The opening of Vancouver's SkyTrain rapid transit system in 1985 has spawned considerable new development within its corridor. "Pockets" of higher density residential and commercial development have emerged at many of the station locations much to the satisfaction of municipal and regional landuse and transportation planners.
A prime example of a neighbourhood transforming in response to rapid transit is at the Joyce SkyTrain station in Vancouver. Greystone Properties Ltd.'s Collingwood Village Project adjacent to Joyce Station will ultimately consist of more than 1,100 residential high-rise, low-rise, and townhouse dwelling units. By 1996, approximately 685 units had been constructed. The problem faced by Greystone was that the parking provided for the earlier phase development (approximately 1.35 stalls per unit) was as much as 20-30% unsold or un-leased even two years later.
Meanwhile, on-street parking usage in the neighbourhood was considerable with speculation that at least some of this parking was by residents of Collingwood Village. With hundreds of residential units yet to be developed in later phases of the Collingwood Project, and concern that application of previous parking standards would create even more surplus parking, Greystone commissioned Bunt & Associates Engineering Ltd. in 1996 to conduct a study of resident and neighbourhood parking at Collingwood Village. Surprisingly in the more than 10 years since SkyTrain's opening there had not yet been any detailed study of residential development parking demand near station locations.
SkyTrain Usage & Car Ownership Patterns
To determine the effect of SkyTrain, a comprehensive household survey was undertaken to record information on car ownership, SkyTrain use and other parking characteristics. With the assistance of staff from the City of Vancouver and City of Burnaby, approximately 60 buildings containing 4,000 households in the east side of Vancouver and the west side of Burnaby were selected. The survey buildings were chosen to provide a mix of townhouse, low-rise and high-rise buildings of various sizes and to represent both rental and owner-occupied units. The buildings were also generally no more than 15 years old.
To test the effect of SkyTrain, the sample was broken into two groups: (i) those within 300 metres walking distance of a SkyTrain station, and (ii) those beyond a reasonable walking distance, defined as at least 1,000 metres from the closest SkyTrain station. Thirty-three of the buildings selected were within walking distance of SkyTrain, including all of the existing buildings at Collingwood Village. At least two buildings were identified for each of the Nanaimo, 29th Street, Joyce, Patterson, Metrotown and Royal Oak SkyTrain stations. Survey questionnaires were executed in three ways including telephone interviews, hand-out surveys at existing Greystone projects, and mail-back surveys administered by the City of Vancouver. Completed responses were collected from 555 households representing a response rate of about 14%.
The main findings from the survey are:
Neighbourhood On-Street Parking
License plate trace surveys of all vehicles parked on-street within 450 metres of the Joyce Station were conducted at several different times of the day (including late evening after 11:30pm). This process identified that as much as 83% of the on-street parking activity was by nonresidents of the community. Commuters accounted for most of these, particularly during the daytime period. (Joyce Station is the first station inside a fare change zone.) Employees from nearby major employment centres also had a significant presence. On-street parking by community residents was primarily associated with older buildings not meeting current parking supply standards. Only a fraction (4%) was associated with residents from newer residential projects such as Collingwood Village.
This result corresponds with comments reported in the 555 survey responses collected. Most respondents (86%) reported that they usually parked their vehicles on-site on the building property. Another 11% reported that they regularly parked their vehicles on nearby streets. A small number of the vehicles owned (3%) were parked offsite at another location.
When examining the reasons for parking on the street, no particular reason clearly stood out. Some reported that there was insufficient space on the property (27%) and some indicated that parking cost was the main reason (12%), but a large proportion responded that safety/security was the reason for parking on the street (25%). Other reasons (36%) included the need to accommodate oversize vehicles, etc. The results generally indicate that regardless of the cost or availability of parking, a small proportion of vehicles owned by residents will be parked on-street.
Follow-Up to Study
On the basis of this parking study, Bunt & Associates developed a formula for parking supply to be applied in subsequent phases of the Collingwood Village Project, based on the number of residential units and their size. The formula takes into account the specific characteristics of the Collingwood Village neighbourhood, including the effects of proximity to SkyTrain. The City of Vancouver subsequently approved these recommendations. The new level reduces the on-site parking requirement by about 25% below the previous level and will avoid the costly and unnecessary construction of hundreds of parking spaces at Collingwood Village.