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


Population Access to Emergency Services and the New Saint Paul's Hospital

Each week I will be blogging about a different application of GIS that the general population can relate to.  This week's post is going to talk about population accessibility, specifically related to emergency room visits.  First off:

Access to Services and GIS? This is a classic application of GIS.  Simply put, we can use geospatial technology to measure how populations may access services using travel networks.  This is typically done by using shortest path or closest facility algorithms which I won't get into here.  What we will get into is how to measure the impacts of moving a facility for an affected population.

The set up: The population of the City of Vancouver currently can conveniently access Six Emergency rooms in Metro Vancouver (I've discounted BC Children's Hospital so we can focus on population in general).   From this I wanted to find out: 

  • For each block in the City, where is the closest emergency room?
  • On average, how far do Vancouverites (all 602,000 of them in 2011) have to travel to get to an emergency room?
  • For whom in the City is Saint Paul's Hospital the closest ER facility?
  • How much more, or less, further do these folks have to travel should Saint Paul's move to its new location on False Creek?

Some additional assumptions:

  • This is a mini project so I only looked at home-to-emergency room trips via car.  (ambulance dispatch is another project entirely);
  • Since February 6th is still a ways off, I used 2011 Census population data (specifically Census dissemination blocks);
  • All populations are treated equally in this little exercise. In reality, there are populations at risk who tend to use emergency services a lot more. I'm not looking at them right now; and
  • I am looking at distance traveled along roads only and not travel times, though I will likely add this in a later post.  So, for the purposes of this post, we will use distance and time interchangeably (though in reality they couldn't be more different!

So how does Access change after the Saint Paul's Move? (play with the slider! the left side of the slider is the proposed state and the right side is the current state)

Catchment Before After Change
Saint Paul's Hospital 118,736 149,620 30,884
Richmond Hospital 5,851 5,851 0
Burnaby Hospital 108,626 101,987 -6,639
Mount Saint Joseph 201,116 162,384 -38,732
Vancouver General 135,690 149,167 13,477
UBC Hospital 33,483 34,493 1,010

It may be a bit hard to see, but basically moving Saint Paul's hospital puts a lot more people into its catchment versus it's old location in the West End (Each colored line represents the minimum travel distance from a block to it's nearest ER).  The relocation of Saint Paul's reduces potential use of Mount Saint Joseph by taking residents in the DTES and in Mount Pleasant (wait 'till we redo this analysis when the new Census comes out!), but increases potential usage of Vancouver general due to folks in Kitsilano staying on their side of false creek. Overall, it appears as if this balances potential ER usage. However...

What about the change in distance to services after the Saint Paul's Move? 

This is where it gets a bit more interesting (and complicated).  If we take population-weighted City-wide average it looks like average distance to a facility increases by 87m (from 3,132m to 3,219m) or about 2.7%.  

However, when we review distance traveled in summary by current catchments (ie categorizing the population based on the ER they are currently closest to), we are presented with a different picture.  Take for instance what happens to populations currently accessing Saint Paul's in the West End:

Catchment Distance
Before (m)
After (m)
Saint Paul's Hospital 1,537 2,584 1,047
Richmond Hospital 6,438 6,438 0
Burnaby Hospital 3,617 3,551 -66
Mount Saint Joseph 3,379 3,061 -318
Vancouver General 3,456 3,452 -4
UBC Hospital 3,845 3,845 0

You'll note that the travel times appear longer (more brown than yellow in the future state). While it is intuitively obvious, it's nice to have a visual that shows how many more people will be potentially travelling longer distances to get to emergency services (That being said, populations at risk will be much closer to the emergency room).  Unfortunately, it is mostly residents of the West End and Kitsilano who may have longer commutes to the ER.  Indeed, for the rest of the City things improve with the Saint Paul's move.  

Refer to the table to the right:  Essentially folks who are currently living in the Saint Paul's catchment (ie Saint Paul's is their closest ER), will have to travel, on average, an extra 1,047m to get to emergency services!  Compare that with individuals who currently are in the Mount Saint Joseph catchment.  Under the proposed change, some of this population will switch to the new False Creek location of Saint Paul's and, as such will have a shorter distance to travel (on average 318m less).  Otherwise things are mostly a wash.

So, you've seen at this very superficial level how we can use GIS to explore how some populations may be inconvenienced by the hospital move. Now of course there are many, many more facets to the analysis.  For instance:

  • what about emergency closing times;
  • wait times;
  • ambulance access;
  • travel times;
  • different modes (such as SkyTrain);
  • different population cohorts;
  • future populations;
  • daytime population; and
  • the list goes on.

The point is that I love doing these types of analyses. If you or your organization has the need to measure how population access will change when you move a facility then please contact me at and I will be happy to talk about your needs. In the meantime, I would love feedback on this post.  Also if you want to learn more about the Saint Paul's relocation then please check out their website here.  There is much to learn about this interesting project.

Now, I will blogging about intriguing GIS weekly, so if you have an idea for interesting and challenging geospatial analysis, then I will work into my future publications.


Hello World!

Hello world and welcome to Licker Geospatial Consulting Co.'s Blog.

On this blog, you will be able to view and interact with a weekly selection of intriguing GIS, plus random posts related to the business side of LGeo.  Feel free to share, tweet, email, pin, pass and otherwise disseminate anything I post here.  Simply credit myself, Aaron Licker, or my company, LGeo, and everything should be cool. Comments are welcome. Constructive feedback is welcome as well, as I am new to all of this and you folks know much better than myself about how to communicate socially.  To whet your appetites, here is a list of some of the blog topics i'll hit in the next 52 weeks.  More to come and stay excited!  

  • Better mapping the cultural crawl
  • The beard index (hipster businesses, services and urban markings)
  • Optimization of brewery tour routes
  • Density Transects
  • Mapping the effects of moving the hospital
  • Mapping historic streetcar routes and their relation to small scale commercial
  • Machine space calculations
  • Mapping where the worst beer lists are
  • Building permit analysis (i.e. bigger homes or more homes)
  • Transit density analysis based on google transit feed
  • Mapping historic rail lines that are now roads or alleyways
  • Mapping suburban intrusions into the urban fabric (chains versus independents), unique versus homogenized landscapes.
  • Open data monthly – deriving insights from random community’s open data stacks
  • Mapping cultures and sub-cultures
  • Random geography questions - how far do I have to walk to get to a:
    • Bus stop in Mississauga
    • Depaneur in Montreal
    • Donair joint in Halifax
    • BBQ place in Austin
    • Coffee shop in Portland