Travel time priorities: new BC poll shows people wary of density, want shopping, green space close by

densityThere’s a wealth of information, insight and perspective in a new Real Estate Foundation of BC poll about urban design and the built environment, including the news that BC residents have the least tolerance for long commutes to shopping or green space.

That’s hard to square with the finding that BC residents are wary of density, particularly tower buildings and want new construction to be dominated by fully-detached homes. (Forty-four percent favour detached homes for new construction; 81 percent support some higher density, but only if it is low rise.)

How can commutes be shortened without higher density and some higher buildings? That will be a problem for the industry and for municipal governments, given the poll’s conclusion that half of the respondents  feel they don’t have enough say in development processes and that developers and foreign owners have too much.

The poll by McAllister Opinion Research shows that residents value quick access to shopping, green space and recreation above commute times to work, education or health care when they consider community assets.

Most people like shopping to be about 13 minutes away and get dissatisfied when the trip stretches to 27 minutes. A trip to work is fine at 17 minutes and doesn’t begin to irk a commuter until 32 minutes. That’s about how I feel, too, and I prefer to walk or cycle, if I can, not drive, park and manoeuvre around underground parking.

Clearly, most British Columbians — and a huge share of the population of the province lives in Metro Vancouver — would like to spend a maximum of an hour a day commuting to and from work. That will take transit investment, if we’re going to make it happen, and that will take density, not fully-detached homes.

If there’s one thing this poll tells us, it’s that many residents aren’t clear about the real trade-offs required to achieve their goals.