Assessing the Impact of a New Site for Vancouver's Daytox/Detox Centre

While bopping around in the twittersphere the other day, something I tend to do after my toddler is put to bed and a calm descends on our home, I came across a group concerned about the proposed site for the relocation of Vancouver's Daytox/Detox programme. My brain started mulling over the issues that they had raised and I couldn't shake the feeling that this required a closer look which of course includes my good old friends Spatial Analysis and Maps, which is why we, or at least some of us, are here. So here we go... 



The current location is at 333 E 2nd Ave and is a Vancouver Coastal Health facility that offers outpatient withdrawal services for those aged 19 and older. Withdrawal programmes offered here last 6-weeks, are medically monitored and include a variety of resources such as counselling, acupuncture, and other services. 


The proposed site at 1636 Clark Drive will provide a new, updated home for these services and will offer inpatient withdrawal support, which the current site does not, as well as housing through a mixed use development that is 5 stories high and provides 60-100 units for long term stays, and 20 short term beds for those who have completed the treatment. Additionally, BC Housing has proposed to offer social enterprise programmes, culturally appropriate services relevant to the neighbourhood, as well as be a teaching and knowledge sharing facility for staff and health providers. All in all, this proposal is an important improvement for those seeking support in their addiction and beyond.


That said, there are concerns from a residents' group have regarding the new location and the impact on the neighbourhood that are both legitimate and persuasive, and include: 

  • Another BC Housing development less than 100m away from the proposed site and within 2 blocks there are almost 200 existing BC Housing units;
  • Safety for seniors, children and property due to the proximity of those being offered addiction related services; and
  • The building height shadow and potential to dwarf adjacent buildings.

In an effort to add clarity to what is sure to be an emotional issue, and to understand the potential effect of the site compared to the perceived impact, let's take a closer look at these concerns through an analytical lens mentioned in my opening paragraph...


According to listings on BC Housing's website, there are 374 buildings in the City of Vancouver that they oversee. These range in type of housing from low income family housing to seniors supportive housing, and everything in between (or at least pretty darned close). Buildings range in size from 3 units - a housing cooperative - to over 450 units - a subsidized housing option for seniors and those with disabilities.

To satisfy my curiosity raised regarding the potential site, I needed to calculate the density of units and crime per hectare as can be seen in two maps below. To accomplish this I calculated the density of  both BC Housing units for the below illustration and crime points as reported by the City of Vancouver (2017) further below.


Image 1: BC Housing Density of Units/ha - comparing current levels (brown) to proposed levels (blue).


Reviewing the maps above, as well as the data that is produced alongside these visualizations, it is notable that there are numerous pockets of BC Housing density (the map coloured yellow to brown) scattered throughout the City as well as in Grandview Woodlands somewhat proximal to the proposed site. That being said, it is hard to argue that this area represents the highest concentration of BC Housing units in the City! The densities of BC Housing units in the Downtown Core, Strathcona, and Downtown South and the West End are nearly double that of the light brown blob Southeast of 1st Ave. When we take a look at the effect of the new development (blue blobs), we can note that there is a small change in the overall density of BC Housing units in the area, but again not a tremendous effect when compared to the rest of the City.

Another way to look at this data is to take a look at the relationship between population density and density of BC Housing units. In an ideal world, each part of the City would have an equal proportion of BC Housing units to that of its total dwelling stock. However, we all know that is not the case. We ran some analysis on this which is presented in the scatter-plot chart below. The left axis is BC Housing dwelling density and the bottom axis is population density.  Areas that are below the trendline (the dotted line that represents the relationship between Units and Population) are seeing less BC housing units than would be expected for their populations given the relationship depicted in the graph and areas above the line are showing more BC housing units than expected. In this instance we see that Grandview Woodlands is punching a bit above its weight in terms of BC Housing units versus population density, but it is in a similar league to Killarney in Southeast Vancouver, and is totally dwarfed by Downtown and Strathcona, which have the bulk of BC Housing units in the City

 Figure 1: Graph showing the relationship between densities of BC Housing units and overall population density.

Figure 1: Graph showing the relationship between densities of BC Housing units and overall population density.


The next thing to look at was whether or not we could draw any causal links between the existing Daytox/Detox site and non-violent crime rates in the area. This was to address the statement that the new location of the site may lead to concerns with regards to the safety of children and seniors due to the proximity of addiction-related services. The two questions to answer are: Does the current facility generate a lot of crime and what is the current crime baseline at the location of the proposed site?

 Image 2: Density of Reported Crimes/ha

Image 2: Density of Reported Crimes/ha


In the above visualization, it is of note that there is no real crime "hot-spot" around the current site (red blobs indicate high crimes per hectare). While the density of crimes is generally higher in the area compared to Mount Pleasant as a whole, we could not draw any conclusions that they were being driven by the Detox/Daytox site. We should also note, that this a very high-level analysis, indeed a whole thesis can be written on the effects of addiction-related services and criminal activities (or any mislabeled "driver" and criminal activity for that matter). However, at this high-level it is inconclusive to suggest that there will be a reduction to personal safety were the site to be moved. 


The following analysis is to explore the shade that the proposed building will cast on the neighbouring parcels and if and how much it would "dwarf" the neighbouring buildings. In the following images you will see our very rough 3d model of the proposed development, as well as a solar modeling based on angle of the sun and daylight hours and other objects that currently cast shade (namely trees and buildings) on surrounding properties.


Image 3: Before and after sketch of location and height of proposed building.


First Avenue between Clark and McLean is a very steep street. Based on the only high level sketch we could find of the site, it appears as if the structure will be approximately five stories at Clark and maintain a uniform roof line towards to McLean. In terms of massing, the site will be bigger, but the slope of the street and the presence of mature full foliage trees will do much to blunt this impact.

In terms of shading, the analysis is a bit more interesting. The two images below show a before and after sketch of what the total hours of sunshine will be at the location based on a solar model run for May 20th (a theoretical sunny day in spring/summer). Red colours indicate higher levels of sunshine per day and blue colours indicate fewer hours of sunshine per day. For example, with a quick glance it is easy pick out the shade cast by trees as dark blue and the red as open areas that get many more hours of sunlight.


Image 4: Before and after prediction of building shadow based on the height of the proposed building at 5 stories.


Based on the analysis, it was noted that there was increased shading mostly in the alleyway directly behind the proposed development and and to the west of the site on Clark Drive. There is not a lot of shading and infringement on neighboring properties due to two factors: first the site slopes off very steeply to the East, as shadows mainly fall in a Northeast to Southeast arc, and the shadows are basically eaten up by the hill. Second, the trees along 1st are very tall and have quite full foliage. These (if they are retained) already block out significant amounts of sunlight in this area.

To get a a more complete understanding of the impact, the next step is to compare the two cases directly by estimating the total loss of direct sunlight on May 20th (Image 5 below). In the image below, lighter colours indicate fewer hours of sunlight lost and bluer colours indicate greater amounts of sunlight lost. As has been mentioned, there will not be a tremendous amount of change on any neighbouring properties. Indeed, in terms of placing a big blocky building anywhere in Vancouver, this would have to be one of the best sites for reducing impacts to shading and sunlight.


Image 5: Estimation of total loss of direct sunlight hours.


From the above analyses the following outcomes were gathered:

  • Another BC Housing development is less than 100m away from the proposed site and within 2 blocks there are almost 200 existing BC Housing units:  True but this is a drop in the bucket of BC Housing units in the City overall. Second, there are many other areas that have higher densities of BC Housing units.
  • Safety for seniors, children and property due to proximity to addiction related services: We did not note any large crime hot spots around the existing facility, therefore we cannot determine if there will be a negative impact to the safety of seniors, children and property due to the proximity of addiction related services.
  • The building height shadow and potential to dwarf adjacent buildings: Given the site conditions, the building will certainly mass larger than adjacent buildings but will have a lowered impact with regards to shading

In summary, what was attempted here is to include some data and analysis to answer potential community concerns. Many of these will be addressed in the coming days and months by project stakeholders as the project moves forward (note: we are not part of this project at all), but at the outset it is hoped that analyses like these will be employed by all parties to better craft the design process for this site. As always, questions, concerns and comments are welcome and appreciated!

Exploring Urban Change Through Population Density

So, after an epic break from blogging, Licker Geospatial Consulting is back at it, with a nice new post on our favorite topic, Urban Change!

Part of this has been spurred on by our recent collaboration with the fine folks at Renewable Cities. With them, we've been looking at changes in population dynamics over time in Metro Vancouver, British Columbia and other Major Canadian Municipalities. This post will show off something similar but will be more related to how we can possibly understand multi-temporal, multi-variate changes through some nifty mapping.   

Now as many of our past and current collaborators know, Licker Geospatial Consulting cut their teeth in urban planning and then did a right angle turn into environmental planning and earth sciences (and then some sort of squiggle into geospatial consulting!). One of the coolest things about the earth sciences (i.e. geotech) is the use of cross sections to comprehend and visualize multi-dimensional data. Now because urban planners need to fancy things up all the time, they took the humble cross section and renamed it: The Transect (Thanks DPZ) The transect is, of course, totally awesome and very useful to help planners systemize urban environments. Very rarely, however, do we see the transect used as a tool for urban analysis and information synthesis.  Even more rarely do we see transects used to understand temporal change. What we want to achieve with this post is to show how a transect, or cross section can be employed to understand urban spatial-temporal change and possibly the influence of mass transit on urban development.

Let's Talk Data

(Non GIS nerds please skip to the next heading) As mentioned, through my collaboration with Renewable Cities, I've been amalgamating an awesome longitudinal set of census data (specifically population) for all of Canada. These data are great because they represent a controlled and assured set of measured data that is mostly comparable across multiple years. For this little post, I've focused my efforts on the lower mainland, but there is nothing stopping us from seeing how things have changed in any part of urban Canada, really. What we are using for inputs are Census Enumeration Points, Census Dissemination Areas, or Census Dissemination Blocks, depending on the year. Comparing these data is not as easy as just overlaying all these polygons into a massive set of longitudinal greatness, indeed what's really annoying (but inevitable) is that all of these blocks or areas are not the same size, shape or even types due to the fact they were created to administer Census data not to allow for cutting edge analysis, alas...

 A big data jumble, 1971 data are light blue polygons, 1981 and 1986 data are light and dark blue points respectively, and 1991, 1996, 2001, 2006, 2011 and 2016 data are purple, blue, red, black and green respectively... Nothing matches up!!

A big data jumble, 1971 data are light blue polygons, 1981 and 1986 data are light and dark blue points respectively, and 1991, 1996, 2001, 2006, 2011 and 2016 data are purple, blue, red, black and green respectively... Nothing matches up!!

Transforming these data into information that we can actually use requires some generalization and interpolation. The quickest and easiest technique out there is to use a kernel density function on the centrepoints of each dataset so at least everything is on the same scale and in area density (which is what we wanted anyway). In plainer  English, we made everything into density surfaces. Once I had these generated, we got even more clever and interpolated between years to generate this mesmerizing beauty below (but that's another blog post)....

Where's the analysis already?

So we got the density by year and you'll note we found some Skytrain lines somewhere. It's time to run some sections! Cross sections are pretty cool because they allow us to view overlaid data along a common axis, which greatly enhances our ability to synthesize data at a glance (In English again: lots of data quickly). What we did was: first, measure the change in population density between 2016 and 1976 (40 years of change: superb!) to develop an overall understanding of change, and second we used some GIS wizardry (go to the very end of this post for the method) to develop sections by Skytrain line. The results, with a little bit of interpretation are displayed below for your amusement and edification (click to expand all figures).

The Expo Line

Let's walk through this slowly. First the rainbow of colours on the top figure represent change in population density, as expressed by the average number of people per hectare within an 800m neighborhood. Areas that are red are where the population has actually declined in the past 40 years and areas in brown are where it has increased (sometimes a lot!). The bottom graph shows the population density along the line starting at Waterfront Station to the left and ending at King George Station to the right. Each line represents the population density at that particular year. The Expo line was more or less completely built out by 1995, but change along the route has varied tremendously by station location. First note that between 1976 and 1986 there was almost no growth along the line! (astounding in this day in age!) However, post expo things started to change mostly around Joyce Station and New Westminster. After 1996 there was a ton of development around the Edmonds and Joyce Skytrain stops as well as in Downtown Vancouver (certainly related to de-industrialization and the Skytrain). After that development boomlet, you'll notice that the next big changes were both in Downtown Vancouver and in Surrey which saw the most growth in the 2006-2016 period. There are some other cool things to note: population density has not materially changed much at Nanaimo station, 29th Avenue, 22nd Avenue, and Scott Road (I would love to look at changes to employment though!). 

The Millennium Line

It's a different story for density along the M line (and the sneaky extension I added in there) than the E line, that is for certain. First, you'll note that residential density increased very little in the City of Vancouver in the past 40 years along this line (likely because most of the existing M line route is still surrounded by active Industrial Land, for the most part, as well as by low density residential lands and the new M Line extension had not been built yet). However, Burnaby is a different (and interesting story). First, Skytrain induced development caused population density at both Gilmore, Brentwood, and Holdom to increase from effectively 0 people per hectare in 1996 to about 75 persons per hectare in 10 years! There's been a similar rate of change in Central Coquitlam as well. Another interesting density spurt is at Loughheed Town Centre which had a huge boom between 1976 and 1986 that didn't happen anywhere else along the line (this was basically due to an attempt at highway oriented multi-family development!). Finally, it looks like Moody Centre and Coquitlam Centre are due for booms given the recent Evergreen line extensions. 

The Canada Line

So, a drawback from similar scales between these three figures means that population density at the Yaletown Station is literally off the chart! To properly understand this change just note that in 20 years, the population density at Yaletown Roundhouse has increased from 100 persons per hectare to 245! (and was 0 in 1986!!!) Nothing else in the lower mainland even comes close. Take, for instance, the stretch between King Edward and 41st Avenue, basically zero change in 40 years. Richmond has seen some pretty big changes in the past 20 years but an order of magnitude less than Vancouver (likely flight path/flood plain induced). Now, more than any other graph we've looked at in this little assessment, this one will change the most in the next 5-10 years as there are big changes underfoot in the Cambie Corridor area, so stay tuned for a follow up blog post in 2022 ;) .

Some Sort of Conclusion

As with all of our posts here, we are trying to highlight an application of geospatial analysis that can help us make better urban planning decisions and understand our urban environments. The next time someone questions the transformative impact of mass transit coupled with de-industrialization then all you need to do is show them these graphs and explain what a cross-section is. (if only it were that easy). That being said, all this work is exploratory in nature, but super fun to do, so if you feel the need to conduct some longitudinal urban analysis then feel free to drop a line to  If you want to pick this post or our methods apart, the comment section is below!

Finally, Nerdy method for making the graphs.

Simply put the method is to: first interpolate the vertices of a line against a surface and then plot those those interpolated values as y values on an xy graph where x values are measured and scaled against the length of the line!


Metro Vancouver 1968 - An Amazing Window Into Regional Urban Evolution

Because I cut my teeth as young GIS analyst supporting land use planners, I am huge sucker for old land use maps.   Recently, my old colleague Peter Russel from the City of Richmond found an amazing copy of Development in the Western Portion of the Lower Mainland Region, 1968.   How amazing is this map? Well for starters, it is completely packed with information, its super well designed, and it was drawn up almost exactly 50 years ago!

While it's unlikely that the young draftsperson who constructed this map in 1968 actually reads LGeo's blog, if you are out there and reading this, then please know that your work has stood the test of time! Take a look at the gorgeous map below and tell me if you disagree. (full size 20mb version can be found here)

Now the reason why I really love this map, is that it provides an extremely valuable perspective on long range land use planning and the evolution of our urban environments.  That is to say, if we know how much things have changed in the last 50 years, we can start to grapple with the profound challenge of figuring out the next 50.  To do this, we can use a bit of fancy GIS and can run some fairly cool analysis on this map to figure out how things have changed.

The western portion of the lower mainland region was a different world compared to Metro Vancouver

The first thing you notice is how much influence the Fraser River had on the development of our region.  In 1968, the original Port Mann Bridge had only been constructed four years prior in 1964, the Massey Tunnel had only been around since 1957, and only the venerable Pattullo Bridge had been standing since 1937.  These lack of connections were likely one reason why the population south of the Fraser River was so small.   Second, you can notice how agricultural lands are relatively unchanged since 1968, likely that is due to the implementation of the Agricultural Land Reserve which was established in 1974.  Finally, notice the primacy of roads and highways on this figure.  By the time this map was produced, our region was completely ensconced in the world of motordom. Cars were the mode of choice on this figure and it shows.  Rail lines are shown but faintly and only fragments of the interurban lines can be inferred from the very interesting place names scattered throughout Metro's suburban communities.

Contrast this map with Metro Vancouver's Regional Growth Strategy map here.  You'll note that roads and highways are completely de-emphasized with a focus instead on transit and multi-nodal development has supplanted land uses. 

Use the simple application below to explore the figure. I've found that by fiddling around with opacity of the figure (or the extracted data), it becomes really easy to see what has changed.  Once you are done panning zooming and overlaying, check out the discussion below for some insights into the evolution of our region.

adjust overlay opacity:
  • Swap Overlay

Spatial analysis & Discussion

As mentioned, this figure is full of information.  The clear colors, well positioned labels and highly accurate mapping render this map well positioned to produce informational champagne.  However, old figures like this one do not yield their information without a digital fight! I had to spend a fair bit of time, extracting, digitizing and correcting the data to transform the information from paper to silicon.  All that being said and done, I've managed to create a reasonable dataset from this figure with the following standard (and very important caveats):

  • Extracting digital data from old figures is a profession in of itself. I'm not an expert in this area and I am sure that others couple likely do a better job. That being said I used a simple interactive supervised classification system coupled with some aggregation and manual correction to try and extract all the land use types. If you can't read GIS, in English what I did was pull the colours of the map and make some assumptions about things I couldn't see.
  • There is no way for me to easily verify the veracity of this figure.  That is to say, some of the information could just be plain wrong, out of place or simply ambiguous.  I just don't know because I was neither alive nor present in  the Lower Mainland in 1968. So, calling all baby boomers: I insist that you check to see if Sullivan Station and Essondale were places.  Also take a look at Sea Island, note the mystery community there?
  • All area totals are super approximate and based on my digitization. Therefore, please do not live or die on the fact that I've noticed there was approximately  427.5 sq km of agricultural land depicted on this figure in 1968.  By the same token, please enjoy the fact that there was apparently 487.4 sq km of agricultural land in 2011 but do not quote the 546.3 sq. km total I've used that corrected for right of ways (more on that below).

So, what do we know about the Lower Mainland Land use in 1968 (note, this is chopped  down to MV boundaries, and does not include the Northern Parts of West and North Vancouver as well as Bowen Island):

Designation Total Area (Sq. Km.) Percent of Area
Agricultural 427.6 20.1%
Civic and Institutional 43.0 2.0%
Commercial 21.8 1.0%
Industrial 35.3 1.7%
Residential 262.5 12.4%
No Designation 1,201.3 56.6%
Parks and Recreation 131.3 6.2%

Somewhat interesting... But the temporal analysis is even more interesting.  For instance, how much has the residential footprint grown?  Have we really deindustrialized?  what about outdoor space?  To answer this, as mentioned I've done some work to get the 2011 MV Land Use data in line with the 1968 version.  Some notes.

  • For both 1968 and 2011, I've conflated parks and recreation with no designation as MV 2011 has created this unfortunate category: Recreation, Open Space and Protected Natural Areas
  • Because the 1968 dataset does not have road right-of-ways (ROWS) as a designation, I've had to roll ROWs into all other categories proportionately in the 2011 dataset and inflate land use numbers by approximately 200 sq. km.
  • 2011 mixed use res/commercial has been reclassified to residential; and
  • 2011 extractive industries has been reclassified into no designation because that's how they were treated in 1968...

With those additional caveats in mind. treat yourself to 50 (...err 45 ) years of land use change!

Designation 1968 Area % Land Base Modified 2011 Area % Land Base % change in area (1968-2011) Change in area
Agricultural 427.6 20.1% 546.3 25.6% 27.8% 118.7
Civic and Institutional 43.0 2.0% 53.0 2.5% 23.4% 10.1
Commercial 21.8 1.0% 33.2 1.6% 52.3% 11.4
Industrial 35.3 1.7% 82.3 3.9% 133.3% 47.0
Residential 262.5 12.4% 473.7 22.2% 80.5% 211.2
No Designation 1,332.6 62.8% 945.4 44.3% -29.1% -387.2

So here are some fun takeaways for you to debate with me:

  • Residential land has increased by 211sq. km. or 80% Population increased by 1.5m (about  900,000 to 2.43m) or 170%, ergo we've sprawled out but we are also more dense than 1968 - despite an addiction to motordom!
  • Industrial land area has increased considerably, Notably, Vancouver's industrial areas have shrunk while Surrey's and NE Sector(especially along the Fraser) have grown dramatically. 
  • The ratio of commercial to residential lands has slipped somewhat from 8% to 7% (this may be offset by an increase in industrial and mixed land uses), suggesting that commercial land use demand is linked to residential growth.
  • Lands considered as agricultural (who knows what the Non-designated lands were in 1968!) appears to have increased; suggesting that the ALR has been effective in preserving agricultural lands... (I would love to see more data on this to see if this is the case!)

I could go on, and there are probably many more facts and nuggets that you can glean from the data.  So put on your analysis hat because I want to hear them! Please send me your comments, corrections and considerations; because information like what I've exposed above starts conversations that will inevitably allow for better planning and decision making.




How Large and Dense Are Canadian Cities? A Visual Comparison

So, certain parties have recently let me know that some of my blog posts are slightly too nerdy for the general populace.  Considering how much I love extra complex analysis this isn't surprising. However, my goal is to bring GIS to the general public, and I don't want to miss that goal due to some excessive detail.  Therefore, I've tried to make this week's blog post  by focusing on something that we've all thought about, but never mapped:

How big is my city anyway??

Why this is an interesting question is that there is lots of information on how big or populated a Canadian city is (for instance here), but the units: square kilometers and persons per square kilometers are not so comprehensible to your average human.  

Second, its hard to relate these data without an comparison, so what if Vancouver has 5,491 people per km2, what does that actually mean and look like and more importantly how does that compare to say, Regina?

After some noodling around on the interwebs trying to answer this question, I stumbled on this excellent website which allows for country to country comparisons of size . And then I realized what I had to do: Show the true size of Canadian municipalities by using Vancouver as the lucky comparison town.

What I've done then, is simply overlay Vancouver (respecting projections and the such) on various Canadian cities to show how huge and comparatively underpopulated they are compared to my favorite city.  I've presented the results below: you can click on each thumbnail to get a larger version for your viewing pleasure.

The coolest part of this little project was, at the outset, I had no idea how small Vancouver was compared to some other Canadian cities.  Or more to the point: how big are other Canadian Cities!  You'll also note that Ottawa and Halifax are slightly odd.  That is because they are regional municipalities that encompass A LOT of underdeveloped space.  Comparing areas and densities to these monsters isn't really an apples-to-apples comparison, so I've tried to chop them down to size using some older municipal boundaries.

All data sources are from the current Census of population. Also if you notice any errors or omissions let me know and I'll update the maps quickly. Happy map viewing!


Safe Access To Every Playground in Toronto

So after a reasonably long hiatus, I'm back to blogging; this time about population access and playgrounds in Toronto. 

Why I am keen on this topic is: (1) As a new parent, I am starting to get interested in play and play spaces.  Seeing as how I will be visiting Toronto in June, I (non-altruistically) wanted to find out where is the best place to visit with regards to playground access for my energetic toddler; (2) I wanted to showcase some of the new (and awesome) Census data; and (3) I wanted to draw attention to what can be accomplished with Toronto Open Data. 

So given the above interest, I was able to generate some very interesting questions around playgrounds in the City. For instance:

  1. Where are all the playgrounds in the City of Toronto and how do I get that data?
  2. Where are the best and worst parts of the City for play access for young people (0-14yrs old)?
  3. Which parts of the City are the particularly challenging from a play access standpoint (ie where is there much potential walking travel along busy roads)?
  4. Which areas of the City may benefit from new infrastructure?

Thankfully, getting this information mapped and analysed was not too great of a challenge, thanks, once again to the good folks at open data Toronto.  In any event, I needed a few things to get started with this analysis:

First, I searched for a playground dataset - which I found here.  However, this was not all the playgrounds in the City, only ones located on City land.  To complete my set, I added in all  of the non-overlapping locations of junior or elementary schools in the City. (operating on the assumption that most, if not all, elementary schools have playgrounds).  I combined the two datasets, and spent about 10 minutes reviewing the data.  Check out the map below, (and please let me know if I missed any or added in an unnecessary locations).  

Where Are The Children

Once I had the playgrounds mapped, I then set about figuring out how kids would possibly walk to these play spaces. Safe walking to school is a big deal these days, however, safe walking to playgrounds - because they are often co-located on school grounds - is less well analyzed.  Nevertheless, the general consensus is that a safe walk to a playground should be short, protected and accessible.  Given the rising number of pedestrian fatalities in the City of Toronto, I thought that by taking an overview level approach to access, I may be able to isolate less safe areas for walking and see how these intersected with potential walks to playgrounds.

To generate these walks, I used the newest release of census data (Age by dissemination areas!), and mapped out the concentration of young people (age 0-14) in the City.   In response to some other commentators out there, there are still A LOT of young people in the City of Toronto, with the highest densities being located in the Yorkville, Thorncliffe, and Woodbine Gardens Areas...


The next step is to get "geo-nerdy" and figure out access.  As mentioned in previous blog posts, this is best accomplished through the creation of pedestrian walking network and running a nearest location algorithm.  Thankfully open data Toronto to the rescue once again, a great singleline road and trail network set exists here.  Building the network was a snap.  and from that I was able calculate how far each population point was in time (as the kid walks - 77m/minute) from each playground location.   The findings are heartening. 44% of Children live within a 5 minute walk of a playground and 88% of all children in Toronto Live within a 10 minute walk of a playground. These are excellent numbers... but there is more to analyze here!

Diversity of Access

As we all know children do not walk to their closest playground but typically pick from what is local.  I therefore also mapped which parts of the City have the access to highest number of playgrounds in the City (see figure below). The findings are pretty interesting: 

  • 88% of children aged 0-14 live within a 10 minute walk of at least 1 play facility;
  • 66% of children live within a 10' walk of at least 2 play facilities;
  • 42% of children live within a 10' walk of at least 3 play facilities;
  • 10% of children live within a  10' walk of at least 5 play facilities; and
  • 0.7% of children live within a 10' walk of 8 or more play facilities

Safe Access

So, now we have a reasonable idea of access. But as I mentioned, what I am really after is safe access to playgrounds.   What I wanted to highlight then was the shortest paths to playgrounds that run alongside, or cross a major arterial.  Thankfully there are not many of these but they bear investigation. First, based on the theoretical 3,702 trips to their closest playgrounds, I noticed that 10% of all these trips in terms of distance run alongside major arterial roads, 17% along collectors, 52% along local roads and only 7% along trails. In terms of trips, 18% of all shortest path trips travel some appreciable distance (50m+) along major arterial roads.  

That being said, walking alongside a major arterial, is not nearly as dangerous as completing a crossing.  I recently read an interesting article that basically states that Children up to their early teenage years had difficulty consistently crossing the street safely.  I'll let you read the article, but suffice to say, crossings are important... Therefore, based on my preliminary analysis, it seems that 15% of all trips involve at least one major arterial crossing to get to a playground.  Now, full caveat here, I am looking at theoretical shortest path routes and not actual routes.  In reality, many children will not take the shortest path to their local park but the safest path... However, with that in mind the figure below is still indicative of potentially dangerous crossings.

bonus: which areas are spoiled for choice and where could the City benefit from a new play facility or two

If you managed to read this far, then you are certainly into geospatial analysis, so here is one more for you. Basically, with all of these data we can also find out which areas of Toronto have more playgrounds to access within 10 minutes given the population of children in the City.  If that didn't make any sense, let's try this way: I am trying to locate neighborhoods where the expected density of playgrounds is less than the expected density of children using a 10 minute walkshed.

To make this analysis happen, I found out for each dissemination area what is the total population of young people within a 10 minute walk as well as the total number of playgrounds.  I then divided these two numbers (and divided population by 100) to get a measure of playgrounds per 100 children within a 10 minute walking distance.  I then layered on locations of under-serviced densities to gain a full picture of access plus playground and population density. The output is pretty cool,  if a little busy.  To read the map, you can either look for green areas that have many playgrounds per 100 children (these could be areas with too many facilities), or look for the black areas that have no playgrounds and therefore have under-serviced populations (these are ares that may require facilities).   Areas that are orange are basically at the mean of 0.7 playgrounds per 100 children within a 10 minute walk!

As with all of my work, please let me underscore that this all preliminary analysis, subject to change.  yes, it looks professional and cool, but this is work done on my own time, between projects, and therefore may be subject to validation and analytical errors that I have not been able to suss out.  Please recognize this when you review or share this work. As always, comments are more than welcome! 

Every Sunny Patio in Toronto - Mapped

Now that, for the most part, the horrible months of winter are behind us, we can turn our sun starved gazes towards the most cherished of civics amenities.  Yes, I am referring to those unique public/private spaces: our Canadian patios.

You see, I have simple goal here at lgeo and that is to get GIS information to the masses as quickly and as efficiently as possible.  And by GIS information, I mean: Beer, in the sunshine. So, with that lofty goal in mind, I've managed to make a good start on this, and will have an app to help sort out thirsty Canadians in the medium term.  

For right now though, I'll walk you through one case study of patios, sunshine and all good things GIS.

The Toronto Case Example

To find sunny patios anywhere, we need some data to start with.  Fortunately for us, the open data revolution is making this easier than ever before.  Presented below is the sunny patio recipe that I've cooked up to make this happen:

  • 1 Massive buildings dataset with heights that is reasonably up-to-date;
  • 1 digital elevation model of reasonable accuracy and precision;
  • 1 list of every patio in town;
  • and the capacity to build a solar shading model for an entire day at regular intervals; and
  • some GIS wizadry to put it all together!

See, so easy! Now, thanks to the very good folks at open data Toronto,  I've managed to locate  a great list of businesses with patios, an awesome buildings dataset and the aforementioned elevation model.  I've got the last two bullets down pat so here we go.

The hardest part of all of this was getting the patios in the right spot.  Patios come in many flavors including roof patios, back patios, side and front patios, arcades and random corporate office balconies.  And in case you were wondering, Toronto has like 1,400 of these so that took some time.  Thankfully, GIS is really good at automating data management stuff like moving patios off of the middle of buildings to the block face so it wasn't too bad. Just in case you wanted to get an idea of the level of accuracy that I needed, here are some shots of how well these things are located (Torontonians see if you can guess the street in the comments):

 Side Patios

Side Patios

 Front and back patios

Front and back patios

Anyway, once I had the patios down, it was time to tackle the buildings and the associated shadow model. Full disclosure, there is some IP in here so let's just assume this was more or less magically created. However, the takeaway for how do this can be found on this amazing link here (full disclosure I am not as excellent as the NY times).  In any event, I've managed to create the map below for the June 6th prime patio day (use the sliders to change time of day, scroll wheel zooms in and out, click to pan):

Select the time of day:
adjust shadow opacity:

Once the shadows were completed, the next step was to figure out at what time of day any patio would be in the sunshine.  Some more semi-secret GIS later, we have  all of the data ready to play with in the map below.  Reddish circles mean that the patio is in full sun, blue circles mean the patio is in partial sun. Have fun with it, you can use the street view links to hopefully find the patios (I'm working on the view angle that will be added later).  

Select the time of day:
Patio Solar Exposure
adjust shadow opacity:

As always, I need some help with the exact location of these patios so any crowd sourcing of errors is appreciated.  And if you wondering, the beta app of this mapping will be released on android and iphone before summer kicks off.  Just in time to help you find your sunny patio as easy as possible.


#SakuraMap - A Cherry Guide To Vancouver's Bodacious Blossoms

As I have mentioned previously, I am a hopeless romantic who can't stop mapping intriguing things.  So, while developing new analytical approaches for measuring urban vitality is interesting, perhaps far more approachable is mapping and analyzing Vancouver's abundant and life-affirming cherry blossom trees. 

Now, while the fine folks over at the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival, have an excellent website and a great map of some favorite trees, they don't have any handy cartography that can be used to tour the blossoms. So, much like the map I made to help folks ride the ales, I figured I would use the integrative power of GIS to make some figure that would help people find the trees they love at the right time of year.

Every Flowering Cherry and Plum Tree in Vancouver...

This is actually, less easy then you might imagine.  Many do not know this, but there are more than 29,000 cherry (and plum) trees in this fine City. Viewing all of these trees on one map, at one time, is almost impossible.  However, from a little bit of research, we do know when most species have historically bloomed in the City. Using blooming period averages I found at VCBF, I was able to determine, on average, how long after the first blossoms of spring every other tree followed.  The results are a basic blooming timeline that can then be sequenced into an animation, slide show or movie for easy review and use in the field. 

The result are the slides and movie below.   What I've tried to do is use "best-available" data to create a best guess at when and where you can find blossoms this spring.  Now, I know that this map will not be accurate, so I want to try some participatory GIS to make it better. If you see a tree that is, or is not blooming according to my map, take a photo with your phone's GPS turned on, email it to me, and I will use that information to make my maps better.

In the meantime, enjoy the #SakuraMaps and happy blossom viewing!

UPDATE --- Please use this map here, to review in detail where things are blooming. Drop me an email if you find something out of whack.

Blooming Gallery

Blooming Movie (download here, animated gif available here)

Bonus Analysis

The maps above are great, but I wouldn't be doing my job as an analyst if I couldn't mix in a bit of decision support:  Therefore, I ran a quick analysis to find the best bike routes for each day of #VanSakura based on total number of trees and blossom trees per km/bike lane.  Please be advised that the list below is contingent upon a nicely spaced blooming schedule.  I'll update it as real data becomes available.

ID Date Bike Route Name Total Sakura Count Bike Route Name Trees / KM
1 March 19th North Arm Trail 221 Haro 31.3
2 March 20th North Arm Trail 220 Haro 31.3
3 March 21st North Arm Trail 220 Haro 31.3
4 March 22nd North Arm Trail 220 Haro 31.3
5 March 23rd North Arm Trail 220 Haro 31.3
6 March 24th North Arm Trail 220 Haro 31.3
7 March 25th North Arm Trail 220 Haro 31.3
8 March 26th North Arm Trail 220 Haro 31.3
9 March 27th N/A 0 N/A 0.0
10 March 28th N/A 0 N/A 0.0
11 March 29th Bute 2 Bute 2.6
12 March 30th Bute 2 Bute 2.6
13 March 31st Bute 2 Bute 2.6
14 April 1st 63rd Ave 22 63rd Ave 17.2
15 April 2nd 63rd Ave 22 63rd Ave 17.2
16 April 3rd 63rd Ave 22 63rd Ave 17.2
17 April 4th 63rd Ave 22 63rd Ave 17.2
18 April 5th 63rd Ave 22 63rd Ave 17.2
19 April 6th 63rd Ave 22 63rd Ave 17.2
20 April 7th 63rd Ave 22 63rd Ave 17.2
21 April 8th Off-Broadway / 7th Ave 16 Richards 3.9
22 April 9th Midtown/Ridgeway 81 Rupert St 28.5
23 April 10th Midtown/Ridgeway 81 Rupert St 28.5
24 April 11th Midtown/Ridgeway 81 Rupert St 28.5
25 April 12th Midtown/Ridgeway 81 Rupert St 28.5
26 April 13th Midtown/Ridgeway 81 Rupert St 28.5
27 April 14th Midtown/Ridgeway 80 Rupert St 28.5
28 April 15th Midtown/Ridgeway 82 Rupert St 28.5
29 April 16th Off-Broadway / 7th Ave 45 Chilco 8.6
30 April 17th Off-Broadway / 7th Ave 45 Chilco 8.6
31 April 18th Off-Broadway / 7th Ave 45 Inverness 7.4
32 April 19th Seaside 53 Inverness 7.7
33 April 20th Seaside 53 Inverness 7.7
34 April 21st Seaside 53 Inverness 7.7
35 April 22nd Seaside 53 Inverness 7.7
36 April 23rd Seaside 53 Inverness 7.7
37 April 24th Seaside 53 Inverness 7.7
38 April 25th Seaside 53 63rd Ave 7.8
39 April 26th Off-Broadway / 7th Ave 215 Rupert St 39.9
40 April 27th Off-Broadway / 7th Ave 215 Rupert St 39.9
41 April 28th Off-Broadway / 7th Ave 215 Rupert St 39.9
42 April 29th Off-Broadway / 7th Ave 215 Rupert St 39.9
43 April 30th Off-Broadway / 7th Ave 191 Rupert St 37.7
44 May 1st Off-Broadway / 7th Ave 191 Rupert St 37.7
45 May 2nd Off-Broadway / 7th Ave 195 Rupert St 42.7
46 May 3rd Off-Broadway / 7th Ave 195 Rupert St 42.7
47 May 4th Off-Broadway / 7th Ave 191 Rupert St 42.7
48 May 5th Off-Broadway / 7th Ave 191 Rupert St 42.7
49 May 6th Off-Broadway / 7th Ave 191 Rupert St 42.7
50 May 7th Off-Broadway / 7th Ave 191 Rupert St 42.7
51 May 8th Off-Broadway / 7th Ave 175 Rupert St 42.7
52 May 9th Off-Broadway / 7th Ave 9 Rupert St 5.0
53 May 10th Off-Broadway / 7th Ave 9 Rupert St 5.0
54 May 11th Off-Broadway / 7th Ave 9 Rupert St 5.0
55 May 12th Off-Broadway / 7th Ave 9 Rupert St 5.0
56 May 13th Off-Broadway / 7th Ave 9 Rupert St 5.0
57 May 14th Off-Broadway / 7th Ave 9 Rupert St 5.0
58 May 15th Rupert St 7 Rupert St 5.0
59 May 16th Rupert St 7 Rupert St 5.0
60 May 17th Rupert St 7 Rupert St 5.0
61 May 18th Rupert St 7 Rupert St 5.0

Is Vancouver Dying? A Restaurant Vitality Perspective

There has been much attention these days focused on claims that we have reached "Peak Vancouver" and our gorgeous city is now on the decline.  Stories of millennial migrations, absurd property valuations, potential bubbles, and of course, the million dollar teardown trend highly in our local news cycle to the delight of news organizations in our otherwise dull city.  

But how much of this is media hyperbole and how much is fact?  Personally, I don't believe that Vancouver is dying and by two gross measures: our population and our economy, this City is doing very well. And more importantly, can we lump all of Vancouver into one giant failure bubble, or are there nuances to the vitality of this City?

Perhaps a better question is: Are there geographic expressions to Vancouver's vitality? I've already commented on population dynamics in the City, locations of alienated desire and of course where to find good beer.  What else can we map then?

Naturally, my thoughts turn to the service industry (restaurants) where two good ideas come to mind:

  1. We can measure the health of a neighbourhood's local economy through its retention of established business, specifically in this case, local restaurants. The theory here being that neighbourhoods with high restaurant survival rates are good places to do business (and therefore are nice to live in as well); and
  2. We can also measure local economic health through an analysis of economic growth.  In this case, we can look at the rate of formation for new restaurants in the City. The theory here being that neighbourhoods with high business formation rates speak to growing markets and exiting places to be.

Before we go any further let's nail down these two concepts:

  • Restaurant Survival Rate - Percentage of all restaurants that were open in 2011 still open in more or less the same location in 2016; and
  • Restaurant Formation Rate - Percentage change in total number of active restaurants by 2011-2016

Now, let's suppose that these two factors: restaurant survival rates and new restoraunt formation rates are not correlated.  If that's the case (and it is: r-squared of 0.0034!), then we can create a simple two variable model to classify the City:

  1. Areas where survival rates are low and formation rates are negative are likely areas that are, for lack of a better word, in decline. This means that in these areas long term businesses are failing and no new ones are taking their spots.  These are the doomsday neighbourhoods predicted by Vancouver haters.
  2. Areas where survival rates are low and formation rates are positive are likely areas that are experiencing rapid change.  In Vancouver the four letter term for this would be: gentrification (gtfn?). 
  3. The third category is where we have negative rates of new business formation, but high survival rates for established restaurants.  I don't have a great term for these hoods but we can call them static zones.  That is to say, existing places do well, but its tough to get a foothold in these areas
  4. Finally, we have areas where we have a growing number of restaurants and high survival rates of existing establishments.  These areas can be considered by any definition as being economically healthy.

OK! Map it out already!

The figure below shows the state of all of Vancouver's 1,498 class 1 and class 2 restaurants in business today plus the 196 that were in business in 2011 but were not replaced by another business at that location. Overall, Vancouver has a 62% five year survival rate which is pretty good. Vancouver also has a 9.2% overall growth rate in restaurants, which is excellent considering our population only went up by 5% (cheap credit perhaps?).

Note the patches of green in International Village and Olympic Village...

Some Analysis...

To do some analysis, I made a layer comprised of Business Improvement Areas (BIAs) and the remainder of neighbourhoods based on some logical groupings to give me analytical samples of reasonable size.   Once this was done, I completed a simple overlay to get the following info:

There is a lot going on in the image above, so let's discuss quadrant by quadrant (please note that I use the question mark here "?" to indicate that this is just my off-the-cuff analysis of the data. In no way am I placing value judgement on any of these neighbourhoods or BIAs):

  • Economically Healthy? By my definition, most areas in Vancouver have healthy economics for restaurants. Overall, most areas of the City are seeing greater than 60% five-year survival rates and within these areas, most are seeing growth through the generation of new establishments.  Really interesting is the Chinatown BIA - which ranks as the best place to have a restaurant in the City (68% survival rate and an astounding 55% increase in new restaurants over 5 years).  Second to the Chinatown BIA, the Victoria Drive BIA (at Vic and 41st) has a 70% survival rate and has seen a 40% increase in new establishments!  Rounding out the "super growth" category are Hastings Crossing BIA, Other Mount Pleasant (ie Olympic Village and SE False Creek) and areas in the West End outside of the West End BIA (ie Coal Harbour).  All of these can be considered as gentrification candidates where suvival is low (RIP Crime Lab), but that is offset by tremendous growth.  
  • Gentrifying? Speaking of gentrification, the next quadrant certainly speaks to this occurrence... The Strathcona BIA (which stretches from Gore to Clark along Hastings, is seeing all sorts of new restaurants come (and go), but also has extremely low survival rates at 50%.   The "Other Downtown" area (ie International Village and North False Creek) has the worst survival rate in the City at 43% despite positive growth of 12%.  In this area, I suspect that the pace of rapid change has displaced many prior establishments and new ones cannot seem to succeed in this market (the same can be said for that mall....).  Finally we have the Hastings North BIA, the land of breweries is less kind to restaurants with only 50% of establishments surviving from 2011 to 2016.  Something tells me however, that this trend will stabilize as development along Hastings finally slows down.
  • Static? In my opinion these three areas (Point Grey Village BIA, Marpole BIA and Kits outside of the BIA) are the most interesting.  One the one hand they have very high business survival rates, on the other hand all have seen an 8% drop in the number of restaurants in the 2011-2016 time period.  Perhaps these are ultra-competitive markets, or perhaps some of these surviving restaurants simply persist with an older clientele.  Either way, if Point Grey Village BIA can find a way to grow, it would seem to be a great place to do business.
  • Declining? Something is going on in the Kits 4th Aveneue BIA and on Robson Street.  My current theory is that restaurants are being displaced by clothing stores. and other restaurants simply can't handle the rent shock of these newly minted "high-end" streets. I would welcome any other theories that explain a 48% five year survival rate and an 8% decline is restaurants over five years.


I would encourage folks who have read this far, to start to think about what this data means and view it in the context of other economic trends in the City.  Personally, if we take a look at Vancouver dining scene, it appears to be vibrant growing and remarkably stable for most of the City. Taken this way, I would say that Vancouver is a long way from dying.  some small parts may be sick, but the rest of the City seems to be thriving in the foodie arena.

As always I welcome comments, feedback and differing points of view.  If you like this type of analysis, feel free to contact me and I can probably customize for it your needs.  Next week I promise to get back to beer and love, I promise.


Bonus Dynamic Map

I'm playing around with mapbox for some of my online figures. Let me know what you think of this as well.


Analytical data below:

Area Name New restaurant at new location - 2016 Business from 2011 - not replaced New Business Replacing one from 2011 - same location Still In Business at same location 2011-2016
Kitsilano Fourth Ave. BIA 3 6 15 20
Other Downtown 12 7 15 17
Robson St. BIA 6 7 8 16
Dunbar Village BIA 0 2 3 7
Hastings - North BIA 6 3 18 21
Other Fairview 13 15 31 65
Strathcona Area BIA 4 1 6 7
Downtown Vancouver BIA 63 58 63 176
Other Kitsilano 6 11 16 46
Collingwood BIA 6 3 7 13
South Granville BIA 2 1 7 13
West End BIA 23 9 42 77
West Broadway BIA 7 3 9 18
Mount Pleasant BIA 8 6 12 36
Marpole BIA 1 2 2 10
Other SE Van 6 4 6 20
Other West Side 8 5 10 32
Other Kingsway 15 10 18 61
Fraser St. BIA 2 1 4 11
Other NE Van 12 6 7 24
Yaletown BIA 8 3 13 35
Kerrisdale BIA 6 4 5 21
Point Grey Village BIA 1 2 2 13
Other Marpole 7 2 4 10
Commercial Dr. BIA 19 5 16 43
Other South Main St 13 3 13 34
Other West End 7 1 5 9
Cambie Village BIA 8 3 7 26
Gastown BIA 11 2 11 32
Other Mount Pleasant 24 5 11 25
Victoria Drive BIA 11 2 5 16
Hastings Crossing BIA 13 0 8 12
Chinatown BIA 16 4 3 15

Ride the Ales! A Brewery Map for Modern Times

Taking a break from romance, I thought I would blog this week about my other favorite geographic topic: Beer!

As many of you know, I have two forthcoming apps that will use GIS and geospatial technology to make the world a more fun and interesting place.  In case you couldn't guess, one of the apps will involve dating.  The other is going to help everyone get a bit tipsier.  Indeed, I will be creating an application that helps people to get to sunny patios faster and in the nick of time to catch some rays.

While my PatioFinder app is in progress, I'll share with you folks a homage to one of my favorite cartographic styles: the Beck's London Tube Map of 1931.  I simply love this style and have seen it applied to so many maps and diagrams so excellently. I also love touring around Vancouver by bike sampling our diverse array of craft breweries. So....

The set up:

  • I sourced the most current list of breweries that I could get my hands on from beermebc here;
  • I devised some logical groupings of breweries based on geographic location (and cut out anything south of Dageraad);
  • I plotted and connected the dots using a shortest path route finding algorithm to determine my routing combinations;
  • I then plotted the breweries and the routes and then transferred them to a hexagonal grid to start the schematic process;
  • With a bit of artistic license, I ended up with the top figure;
  • I then used some fancy GIS to figure out timing along each route and used something called linear referencing to build the timetable for the bottom figure; and
  • You can see the results from the real world data and my transfer to "creative space" from left-to-right in the slider image below. (note: creative space can be easily accessed after only a few pints)

The results:

Well this worked out well, I would say.  I didn't have any overarching analytical goal except to use some skills I obtained building strip maps for pipeline alignments and applying them to something enjoyable like trip planning.  There are some notes and caveats that go with this map:

  • Schematic diagrams in GIS are hard to do.  Everything in GIS-land is made to be accurate and precise.  Building a schematic is neither.  Thus, I had to "force" my software to conform to my hexagonal wishes and requirements for reference lines... no easy task
  • I didn't include breweries to the south of Dageraad.  I'm only a little sorry about this, because my page size didn't work with the kind of scaling and I wasn't up to schematizing all of the arms of the Fraser. maybe next week....
  • If this has been done before, please let me know how you did it, as I am sure there are better ways to create a schematic diagram than the method I outlined above.

And with all of those out of the way, please check out and enjoy the final product.  If you want to suggest alternate names for the routes please feel free to do so in the comments below, and I will update the map. A downloadable version is available here.

Finally, I can't help but do some more analysis of population change and things that are cool and interesting in Vancouver.  Take a look at the interposition of breweries and population change over the last five years in Vancouver... notice anything?

 Breweries and population change hmm....

Breweries and population change hmm....

Vancouver's Geography of Desire

or: Finding Vancouver's most romantic location?

....from the you "can-map-anything-column", this week's blog post is devoted to everyone's least favorite Hallmark holiday: Valentines day!  What I wanted to map this week was the geographic expression of Vancoverites desire for one another.  Thankfully, there is an amazing data source that reflects this from the Georgia Straight's "I Saw You" feature.  Truth be told, I am big fan of I Saw Yous, they perfectly reflect Vancouver's alienated passive aggressive dating scene, they are super geographical, and are rather sweet and thus speak to my romantic nature.  And, most importantly, I Saw You posts are also a treasure trove of semi-unstructured data!

A typical I saw you reads like this:

"I saw you at the southeast end of Sunset Beach Park walking your cute sausage dog. You were wearing a black coat with a furry hood. You are a beautiful brunette and you took my breath away as I walked by you. I saw you again later on sitting on a log at the beach and you gave me a glance as you got up and left. I was wearing shades, black jacket and pants, nearly shaved head and a beard..." - February, 13th, 2017

From this post we can clearly understand that shaved head / beard guy clearly desired cute dog-walking woman at Sunset Beach on or around February 13th, 2017.  As most posts are written in a similar fashion, we are able to extract from them: Space, place, time, gender, orientation, mode of transportation and a clear sense of longing for a connection.  These data can be mapped and analysed to reveal hidden truths about our urban environment. 

The set up:

  • After no small amount of labour, I managed to transcribe and locate about a year's worth of I Saw Yous in the Vancouver Area
  • I didn't map ambiguously located posts, or any posts outside of the City of Vancouver.
  • For posts which referenced bus rides (about 60% of all posts) I tried to intuit the location or simply used the starting point of the trip (A lot of posts refer to individuals staring longingly at each other for entire bus rides to Burnaby!).
  • Finally, I segregated each post into Man seeking man/woman or Woman seeking woman/ma

The results:

Given the readership of the Georgia Straight, it is not surprising that key locations for finding attractive people are centered around Main and Broadway, Gastown, English Bay and all of Commercial Drive (Man seeking are the blue hearts and Women seeking are the red hearts).  I've offset clusters of love to highlight dense areas of desire). Now, there is not much going on in Kits, West Point Grey,  any of Vancouver's breweries, Yaletown and basically everything south of 16th Avenue.  This suggests one of two things: (1) folks in these areas are more forward and actually talk to people they are attracted to; or (2) there are no attractive people in these areas!

Now, there are some very interesting differences between how men and women long for other persons: 

Accounting for exactly half of the posts, Women-seeing points cluster massively around Main and Broadway (or should we call it Man and Broadway?) and secondarily around Commercial Drive Skytrain and Waterfront Station/Gastown.  Women also seem to see people they are attracted to at physical locations like concerts and stores instead of on the bus or walking around town.  In terms of outdoors locations, women prefer to check out attractive people at English Bay and Trout Lake. 

Men, however have completely different people-seeing behaviors.  First, their posts do not cluster like Female-seeking posts.  Men seem to check out attractive people along streets and on transit.  Specifically Men love to seek people all along Commercial drive, Water street, Granville street, Denman Street and 4th Avenue.  Men seem to really enjoy watching people they are attracted to on the bus and at Skytrain stations. According to my data, If you are a straight women and want to get looked at by a gentleman then you should start taking the bus to Kits Beach, Stanley Park, or Commercial Drive. 

Take a gander at the maps below to compare (move the slider to the right to reveal what Woman saw, and to the left to reveal what men saw): 

Naturally we should understand that there are two biases at play with this data which should colour our interpretation:

  • The first: is to understand that that the Straight's readership are typically hip residents of Vancouver, left leaning and generally into living on the East Side. So of course there will be more records in that area (This also explains why I saw no records from the Cambie Pub, Queen Eilizabeth Park, the Gas Town Steam clock or any other heavily trafficked tourist area)
  • The second is that the users of the I saw yous are probably Gen X or younger in terms of age. This means two things: (1) they are probably more keen than older folks to go online and post long shot statements of unrequited longing; and (2) they may feel less inclined to do the old fashioned thing and talk to the person they are checking out in the grocery store ;)

However, these are simply my unsubstantiated assumptions. I therefore challenge the West Vancouver Beacon to prove me wrong by starting their own I Saw You section and to produce data from other demographics as quickly as possible.


Population change and the geography of desire combined! See any correlations??

As always, if anyone has any suggestions, comments or complaints please contact me aaron @ or leave a comment below.

Thanks so much for reading and happy belated Valentines day!


Census 2016: Whither the Regional Growth Strategy

Each week I will be blogging about a different (and interesting) application of GIS that everyone can relate to.  This week I was going to blog about site selection and retail market share.  But instead, to celebrate #Census2016, I thought I would look at Census population growth and Metro Vancouver's Regional Growth Strategy.

Why I want to do this, is to highlight the implications of forecasting for planning decisions and to underline the importance of timely data analysis.  

Some background (Stolen from here):

  • Metro Vancouver 2040: Shaping our Future, the regional growth strategy, represents the collective vision for how our region is going to accommodate the 1 million people and over 500,000 jobs that are expected to come to the region in the next 25 years.
  • Metro 2040 was unanimously adopted in 2011 by 21 municipalities, TransLink and adjacent regional districts. It contains strategies to advance five goals related to urban development, the regional economy, the environment and climate change, housing and community amenities, and integrating land use and transportation.

Of the five goals today I am going to focus on this one:

  • Containing growth within a defined area and channeling it into vibrant, livable Urban Centres

Per table 2 of the strategy, Metro would like to see 29% of new dwellings built by 2021 in Urban Centres (Metropolitan Core, Surrey Metro Centre, Regional City Centres and Municipal Town Centres). Of that new growth, almost equal amounts were targeted for Metro Core and Surrey Metro Centre (22,000 and 18,700 new homes built between 2006-2021 respectively). In total, the RGS was targeting 112,700 new dwellings in all Urban Centres between 2006 and 2021. What I wanted to find out is how well along are various jurrisdictions with respect to their RGS targets!

What I did

  • Downloaded all the Census data for Metro Vancouver for 2011 & 2016;
  • Downloaded all of the nice land use datasets from Metro Vancouver's excellent open data portal;
  • Connected the dots to get totals for various land uses; and
  • Ran some density analyses to get an idea how area population density has changed at a regional level

The Upshot

  • Density has changed significantly in the last five years. Check out the maps below (moving the sider to the Left will show 2011 population density and to the right will show 2016 population density):

Show me something better...

OK, so that's how density looks like, but what about growth and change.  I prepared a second map to show that below:  White outlines are Urban Centres and Designated Frequent Transit Areas. Red colors mean gains in population density from 2011 and blue colours mean losses.

 Population Density Changes in Metro Vancouver 2011-2016

Population Density Changes in Metro Vancouver 2011-2016

In terms of density increases, Orange and Dark Red show increases of greater than 5 and 20 persons per hectare respectively.  You'll note some big time growth in the Metro Core (Ie Downtown Vancouver), UBC, Coquitlam, parts of Richmond Centre and a little bit Surrey's City Centre.  However, there is a ton of growth outside of Urban Centres including all sorts of development in Central Surrey, South Surrey,Langley, Northeast Coquitlam and North Delta.  

Even more interesting is where there has been a drop in population.  Check out Richmond, Vancouver's West Side, the District of West Vancouver and 1970s ring suburbs in Surrey, Burnaby, Delta and the Tri-Cities. Now I am willing to bet that Andy Yan has already started to look into into dwelling price appreciation and population declines in Metro Vancouver.  It certainly seems like property speculation is bad for Families. (If Andy doesn't do this analysis, I will get to it in a post in the next few weeks...)

Metro Vancouver Targets: Winners and Losers

This is where it gets fun.  I went and took a look a look at the Metro Vancouver dwelling growth targets for Urban Centres.  Based on Metro's targets dwelling growth in City Centres should be 112,700 units by 2021.  If we extrapolate backwards then expectation would be for  75,133 units to be build between 2006 and 2016.  Using current Census numbers it looks like only 62,600 units were added in these areas.  So in terms of targets, we get an A- at 82% of the way there!  Hot take: Urban intensification in Metro Vancouver is almost meeting targets!...

But, wait there's more! Conveniently Metro has targets for both Downtown Vancouver and Surrey. By 2016 in Downtown Vancouver Metro Vancouver is targeted to have a total of 102,667 units - an increase of 14,667 over 2006. Based on the Census it looks like Downtown Vancouver added an astounding 31,189 units since 2006. Hot take: Downtown Vancouver crushes urban intensification  target!

South of the Fraser it's a different story.  By 2016 in Surrey City Centre is targeted to have a total of 20,767 units - an increase of 12,467 over 2006. Based on the Census it looks like this area added an a measly 3,683 units since 2006 (only 30% of target). Hot take: City of Surrey gets an F for urban intensification!

For most of us in the know, this is not a huge story.  Surrey still has quite a big market for greenfield development and those products are still reasonably affordable.  Presumably the urban infill market will heat up in Central Surrey in longer term.

In any event, I'll be blogging a bit more about population changes in the coming weeks and months. Next week's blog is a valentines special so get excited! As always if you have any comments, suggestions or fixes email me at aaron @


Visualization of Urban Development in the City of Victoria

Each week I will be blogging about a different (and interesting) application of GIS that everyone can relate to.  This week's post is going to talk about geospatial analysis, specifically related to how new construction (ie development) has occurred in the City of Victoria in the last two decades.  What I wanted to do this week was look at (1) how development has generally played out in the City since 1996 and (2) whether or not we could use GIS to discover if there are any catalyzing effects of new development.

Catalyst developments?  Cities occasionally use catalyst developments a strategy to spur urban revitalization.  Catalyst projects can make areas more attractive for citizens and visitors, spur investment and development and add diversity and energy to previously less vibrant areas. The question is:  do catalyst developments actually work and can we possibly identify them through GIS? 

What does this have to do with GIS? Well thanks to the current push for open data and specifically building permit applications (thanks City of Victoria!), we can use GIS to visualize developments by value as they occur over time and space.  We can then use GIS to look at what level of development has occurred downstream in time and space from any possible catalyst location to see if it had any effect on its surrounding neighborhood. 

The set up: For a change, I thought I would use the City of Victoria as an example for this type of analysis.  The City has helpfully made available all of their development permit data from 1994-2017 (including values, purpose and locations).  Its a treasure trove of data!  Being the huge data nerd that I am, the first thing I did was map everything (this may take a minute or two to load..):

 All permits in Victoria over time...

All permits in Victoria over time...

What are we looking at? this is every building permit in the City sized by value and displayed by year from 1994-2017.  It's a bit overwhelming, so I filtered down the data quite a bit:

  • First thing was to remove all building permits that were not new construction;
  • Second, I removed any new construction permit that was less than $2,000,000 (not in real dollar terms, that's for a future piece of work);
  • From that, I then mapped the spatial temporal relationships between all of these filtered records of construction;
  • Using these relationships, I assessed where each development fell in time and looked at all developments that occurred after that building permit and were within a 600m radius;
  • I then totaled the values and picked the top 20 developments with initial construction values over $10m and downstream development values of over $40m

If that didn't make any sense, then let's try an example:

In 1999, the Hotel Grand Pacific added new guest rooms and renovated the whole building. At the time, it was a $20m job. 15 years later 21 new developments occurred within a 600m radius of the hotel for a total of $201m in construction permit values.  

Did the hotel redevelopment catalyze development in the area? Well certainly there has been a lot of development in the Downtown Core and in James Bay, so it may be a likely candidate. Luckily we have the rest of the data to use a visual cue, so let's take a look.  The following animation shows the interconnected nature of development in Victoria. You'll note a lot activity in Vic West, along Humboldt Street and in the Downtown core. (the animation may take a few seconds to load so be patient!).  The size of blue circles is the development permit value, and the size of the purple circles is the total accumulated value for each potential catalyst location.   The connecting lines are colored by each catalyst development to give you an idea of area of influence. The table below summarizes the animation.

Address Development Year BP Value Accum. Value
843 YATES ST THE WAVE 2004 $12,320,000 $383,016,795
728 HUMBOLDT ST MARIOTT INNER HARBOUR 2002 $15,000,000 $359,478,139
732 CORMORANT ST THE CORAZON 2004 $10,461,126 $356,719,889
760 JOHNSON ST THE JULIETTE 2007 $18,000,000 $351,699,115
758 HUMBOLDT ST ASTORIA 2004 $15,000,000 $333,204,647
1321 BLANSHARD ST THE ATRIUM 2008 $28,835,000 $280,647,380
737 HUMBOLDT ST ARIA PHASE 1 2006 $10,161,872 $271,236,174
1925 BLANSHARD ST SOF MEMORIAL CENTRE 2003 $18,944,000 $264,829,705
861 FAIRFIELD RD MOUNT ST MARY HOSPITAL 2001 $19,000,000 $252,559,414
737 HUMBOLDT ST ARIA PHASE 2 2007 $12,216,000 $239,148,302
788 HUMBOLDT ST THE BELVEDERE 2005 $16,953,258 $232,969,647
843 DOUGLAS ST THE FALLS 2007 $30,200,000 $232,967,137
463 BELLEVILLE ST HOTEL GRAND PACIFIC 1999 $19,584,950 $191,010,340

The Wave or The Marriot?   Well, based on either 12 or 14 years of downstream data, both of these developments may be able to claim "Catalyst" in their title.  You can probably note that the Save-on-Foods Memorial Center and Mount St. Mary Hospital are not far behind... Now, this of course is a basic introduction into a much more complicated question that begs a few caveats...

  • Building permit values are not construction values or actual building values, indeed, they may be off by orders of magnitude.  However, We can potentially use BC assessment data to fill this gap;
  • 600m in space is arbitrary.  If we looked at 200m or 1km would we see a much different answer in terms of spatial effects;
  • Correlation is not causation.  Just because something happened before something else in time, doesn't mean that it caused it.  There are a lot of factors that affect land development and this analysis just scratches the surface on most of them; and
  • The data could be wrong to begin with.  While I am sure that the City took every care to scrub their data in advance of publication, it is highly likely that there are errors in the information.  Assuring the data before using it will very much likely add to any analysis like this in the future.

Standard pitch:  If this was even remotely interesting to you, or if you feel strongly on what I have done here, then do not hesitate to contact me as soon as convenient.  I would love your feedback.  

Coming up next week:  Defining markets through spatial analysis to identify the best location for a new full-service grocery store