Transit Oriented Development: room for smart growth in Greater Vancouver

A tweet by journalist and urbanist Frances Bula sent me to Google Earth to look at Transit Oriented Development (TOD) around Vancouver’s Millennium Line stations. As Frances notes, it is surprising to see the amount of land that remains in low intensity residential and industrial use around stations new and old, even years after the two sections of the line have been completed.


Out of interest, I drew an 800 m radius (a 10 minute walk) around each Millennium Line station and zoomed in to create a quick photo essay on the scale and intensity of land use – putting a different lens on Frances’ tour. The images on Google Earth are often out of date, so much may have changed over the last year or so, but you still get a sense that we have considerable room for new mixed-use development all along that line.


The other notable observation is the degree to which other cities have taken the TOD baton and run with it. In the early 2000’s, Concert Properties’comprehensively planned “Collingwood Village/Joyce Station” neighbourhood in Vancouver was considered pioneering TOD; it generated 95 units/acre while accommodating shops and services, park spaces and community uses (CMHC study here). In the decade that followed, Town Centres outside of Vancouver began absorbing much of the new Transit Oriented development in Metro Vancouver.

The Google Earth images below show clusters of new towers and multi family developments in Burnaby and New Westminster along the Millennium Line. Similar tours would show considerable new development in Richmond along the Canada Line (where they had early plans for TOD in advance of the completion of the line); in Surrey along the Expo Line (2013 presentation); and in Coquitlam in advance of the completion of the new Evergreen Line (2013 report). The most recent proposals for the retrofits of Brentwood Mall and the Lougheed Town Centre include buildings of 60 to 70 storeys (article here) which exceed heights and densities in Vancouver’s downtown core.

Vancouver is again making new strides with the third phase of planning for the Cambie (CanadaLine) Corridor (COV Document) which builds on earlier rezonings for Oakridge Centre at 41st Ave, and with the completion of the “Gateway” at Marine Drive (opening April 7). The latest news is that a new Canada Line station is being planned at 57th Avenue as part of the community amenities generated by a proposed rezoning and redevelopment of a 25 acre site owned by Vancouver Coastal Health (CBC story). Along the Expo/Millennium Line, the City is updating the local area plan for Joyce/Collingwood Station (COV report) as well as developing new plans for the Station atCommercial & Broadway (Grandview Woodlands plan update here).

So, are we making the best use of the land around our rapid transit stations? And are the cities promoting high intensity uses along the line doing enough to create commensurate levels of amenity to support their new populations? Take the virtual tour and let me know what you think! When I am back in Vancouver this month, I’ll do some proper on-the-ground tours to capture the look and feel of these emergent neighbourhoods.

Waterfront, Burrard, Granville, Stadium

Vancouver’s downtown stations are intensely developed. Main Street is filling in with the build-out of South East False Creek and with the proposed future relocation of St Paul’s Hospital to the False Creek Flats.



VCC-Clarke (Vancouver)


Commercial Broadway (Vancouver)


Renfrew (Vancouver) 


Rupert (Vancouver) 

7 Rupert.JPG

Gilmore and Brentwood (Burnaby)

8 Gilmore and Brentwood.JPG

Holdom (Burnaby)

9 Holdom.JPG

Lake City Way (Burnaby)

11 Lake City Way.JPG

Production Way (Burnaby) 

12 Production Way.JPG

Lougheed Town Centre (Burnaby) 

13 Lougheed.JPG

Braid and Sapperton Stations (New Westminster)

14 Braid and Sapperton.JPG

Columbia & New Westminster (New Westminster)

15 Columbia and New Westminster.JPG

22nd Street (New Westminster) 

22nd Street.JPG

Edmonds (Burnaby)

17 edmonds.JPG

Royal Oak (Burnaby) 

18 Royal Oak And Metrotown.JPG

Metrotown (Burnaby)

19 Metrotown.JPG

Joyce Collingwood  (Vancouver)

20 Joyce Collingwood

29th Avenue (Vancouver)

21 29th ave and Nanaimo.JPG

Nanaimo (Vancouver)

22 Nanaimo.JPG

-30 –

by Michael Mortensen, MA MCIP, RPP
a Vancouver Developer & Planner Abroad ©2016

One Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s