You see it in the comment sections all the time – whenever a story is run on an item that gets cast as a ‘war on the car.’*  You know, bike lanes, street closures, the Viaducts.

Vancouver, say the critics, is bleeding because the powers that be don’t understand that people are fed up, they aren’t driving downtown, and so jobs, business, retail are all heading for the ‘burbs.

Is that true?

Andy Coupland at City Hall crunched some numbers:

In terms of jobs: In 1996 there were an estimated 132,000 jobs on the Downtown Peninsula; 38.6% of the city total of 308,700 jobs. This includes a proportional allocation of the ‘no fixed workplace’ employees.

Using the same methodology, there are an estimated 171,700 jobs on the Downtown Peninsula in 2011; 43.3% of the city total of 397,000 jobs.

So Downtown has actually increased its proportion of jobs in the city.

Regionally, it looks as if Downtown Vancouver had 14.4 percent of all the region’s jobs in 1996 and 14.6 percent in 2011. So steady – and if anything a slight increase.


There are other indicators that correlate.  Like this:




The vacancy rate is a little higher in the last few years, probably because new office buildings are coming online, but the rate is considerably lower than a decade ago.


Here’s another indicator:

expo and space


For data geeks:



You can see from the two charts the strong link between job growth and transit ridership.  Which explains why even though it is more difficult and more expensive to drive downtown, transit has more than made up the difference.  Even luxury goods and specialized jobs (hello, Nordstrom and Microsoft) want to cluster in the core, making Pacific Centre one of the most lucrative malls in Canada.

Today’s Sun:

Pac CentreA new study has found that four of Canada’s 20 most productive shopping malls are located in Metro Vancouver, with Vancouver’s Pacific Centre and Oakridge Shopping Centre earning first and third spots respectively on the overall productivity rating.

The study was conducted and released this month by Retail Insider after an assessment of Canada’s top shopping centres. They calculated the rankings by dividing the overall annual sales (as reported by the landlords) by the overall square footage of the mall, excluding department stores and anchor tenants.

“We’re basically looking at the middle part of the mall,” Retail Insider editor-in-chief Craig Patterson said in an interview.

Vancouver’s Pacific Centre topped the list with annual sales of $1,498 per square foot. Oakridge Shopping Centre was rated third at $1,395. Metropolis at Metrotown came in 12th ($886) and Richmond Centre earned 17th spot ($833).

You’ll note all the best-performing malls are connected to transit.

But not to worry, critics.  If there’s a No vote in the referendum, the region’s commitment to more transit will be capped, the Province will commit to more roads and bridges, and Downtown Vancouver will finally get what’s coming to it.  It will bleed.


*  If there ever was a war on the car (and there arguably was from about 1915 to 1925), the car won.


  1. I think if people switch destinations due to choice of mode, it’s more likely convenience related and tied to discretionary trips (rather than work trips – at least for office workers. rather than service workers).

    Better transit to downtown would more than compensate for reduced car capacity into downtown, but for discretionary trips that may require a car (i.e. Christmas shopping), the cost of parking may be a big deterrent. Ever tried to park at Metropolis on Boxing Day??

    The “success” of the malls is tied in part to the retail positioning of the malls. Both Pacific Centre and Oakridge are “high end” malls while Metropolis and other suburban malls span a range of price points and exclusivity.

    1. Related to the positioning comment, I would second that and bet the “Apple effect” is partly in play…Pacific Center, Oakridge and Metrotown all have Apple Retail locations that generate tremendous sales/sq. ft.

  2. One thing worth looking into is the number of professionals working downtown who get free parking stalls as employee perks. As a friend of mine at EY said “use it or lose it…”

  3. The success of high end shopping emporiums points to the resortification of Vancouver more than anything else.

    I would say the real story is that downtown Vancouver is essentially stalled in terms of jobs versus its place in Metro.

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