Improved SeaBus service could drive up Lonsdale's real estate prices

Jan 25 2017, 1:52 am

The accessibility of a neighbourhood is a major factor in land values, and any improved access between major urban centres could lead to an uptick in the value of residential property or rents.

The SeaBus and the potential impact of its forthcoming service improvements on the Lonsdale area in North Vancouver is no exception. Beginning last week, TransLink doubled ferry service on Sundays and holidays with sailings every 15 minutes from 10 am to 7 pm. By the end of the year, when more staff are trained, sailing frequencies will further increase to every 15 minutes any time of the day, seven days a week.

And by 2019, when a new third vessel arrives, frequencies for the weekday morning and evening peak periods will operate every 10 minutes.

The ferry service between downtown Vancouver and North Vancouver is one of Metro Vancouver’s most reliable transit services, and each one-way crossing across Burrard Inlet takes less than 15 minutes to complete. In contrast, the same trip by car across the Lions Gate Bridge, which is often highly congested and prone to multi-hour delays when accidents occur, during the peak period in the peak direction has a travel time of at least 30 minutes.

There are only nine lanes of traffic across the inlet that connect the 177,000 people who live in the three North Shore municipalities with the rest of the region, so a transit alternative that is relatively reliable, very frequent, and cuts down travel times is bound to be a highly attractive transportation substitute for those who work in downtown near Waterfront Station.

“If you increase the accessibility of a place, that should raise property prices and rents,” Thomas Davidoff, professor and executive director of the Centre for Urban Economics and Real Estate at the UBC Sauder School of Business, told Daily Hive.

“There is really good evidence of that in New York, they just added the Second Avenue line which made parts of the Upper East Side much more accessible. And there is considerable evidence that rents and prices are rising.”

This uptick in prices also occurred on the Cambie Corridor after the completion of the Canada Line and along the route of the Evergreen extension in the Tri-Cities.

But Davidoff doesn’t think the impact will be significant nor will it be a major driver for further densification in the Lonsdale area like what is currently happening around a number of SkyTrain stations due to the City of North Vancouver’s rigid policies over growth.

“I don’t think the barrier is interest in building around Lonsdale, I think people would build more if they could build more,” he said. “Maybe there would be more interest, but I think the real barrier is in fact the municipal government’s view that there is too much traffic. If you listen to the City Council hearings anywhere in the North Shore, all they say is ‘there is too much traffic, we can’t build anymore apartments.'”

About a decade ago, TransLink proposed to acquire a parcel of land on West First Street in North Vancouver to build a new bus depot for the North Shore routes, but those plans were canceled after nearby residents complained about the noise and pollution the bus traffic would create.

Instead, most of the buses now arrive daily from a bus depot in Burnaby by traveling across the Second Narrows Memorial Bridge, and residents who fought against the bus depot near their homes will now have to contend with a $700-million sewage treatment facility on the same site.

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