Southeast False Creek Mobility Centre Feasibility Study

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					            Southeast False Creek Mobility Centre
                      Feasibility Study

                              Final Report

                             29 March 2004

                              Prepared by:

                 Bonnie Fenton (
                       Joanna Lemay (
                Kristi Zychowka (

                              Submitted to:

Professor Mark Roseland, Director, Community Economic Development Centre,
                          Simon Fraser University

    Helen Cook, Program Manager, Alternative Transportation, TransLink
                           Southeast False Creek Mobility Centre
                                     Feasibility Study
                                        Final Report

                                            Table of Contents

  1       Contents . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .     2
  2       Report summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .           3
  3       Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .     5
  4       Background and rationale . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .             5
  5       Mobility centres in other jurisdictions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .              6
  6       Southeast False Creek context . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .               8
  6a          • Structures, Residential and Commercial . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                       8
  6b          • Transportation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .           8
  7       Market . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .      9
  7a          • Potential service providers/tenants . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                  9
  7b          • End users . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .         14
  8       Location-related issues . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .          16
  9       Organisational structure . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .          17
  10      Sources of financing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .           19
  11      Overall analysis and recommendations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                  20


  A       Interview notes: representatives of other mobility centres
  B       Table: overview of other mobility centres
  C       Map: planned SEFC commercial and residential development
  D       Map: current and planned transportation context for SEFC
  E       List: Sustainable Transportation Service Providers and Advocacy
  F       Interview notes: potential SEFC mobility centre tenants
  G       Summary: potential mobility centre user survey
  H       Summary: commuter cyclist survey
  I       Sample survey: potential mobility centre users
  J       Sample survey: commuter cyclists
  K       List: resources for possible sources of funding

SEFC mobility centre feasibility study                                                             page 2 of 21
                           Southeast False Creek Mobility Centre
                                     Feasibility Study

2. Report Summary

Transportation has become a pivotal issue in the Lower Mainland, as concerns grow
about air quality, road congestion, healthy communities, and personal well-being.
With this in mind, a feasibility study was undertaken to determine whether a mobility
centre located in the planned Southeast False Creek sustainable community would
likely prove successful.

A mobility centre brings under one roof a variety of resources—information, services,
or products—that all work towards the common goal of sustainable transportation.
Such a centre would make it easier for people to find out about, and make use of,
alternatives to the private automobile and could accommodate any combination of
retail, office and public space.

In carrying out this study, similar centres in other North American and European
cities were examined (section 5), as was the local Vancouver context (section 6).
Potential businesses and service providers in such a centre were interviewed to
determine whether they believed it would be viable for them to relocate or expand
their current operations to Southeast False Creek (section 7a). Potential end users of
a mobility centre were surveyed to determine what services they could imagine
themselves using if such a centre were to be built at Southeast False Creek (section
7b). Commuter cyclists were surveyed to determine their needs with regard to
facilities, services, and location (section 7b).

As cyclists were identified as the main user group in all of the other centres we
examined, a particular emphasis was placed on their requirements. It soon became
clear that there were several distinct cyclist groups, including:

    •    Regular commuter cyclists
    •    Recreational/weekend cyclists
    •    Southeast False Creek residents (future)
    •    Out-of-town visitors

The recognition of this subdivision of groups is important in that the potential user
survey indicated that some groups would likely be better served by particular
facilities and in particular locations than would others (section 7b and section 8).

With regard to organizational structure (section 9) and financing (section 10), both
of these would depend to a great extent on who took on the task of starting and
managing the mobility centre, as well as the type of centre developed. This report
examines two types of centres and five possible financial structures. Because this is
an initial study, no clear conclusions have been drawn about the most appropriate
ones for a potential Vancouver centre.

A circular question arises between determining the main potential user group(s) and
selecting the most appropriate location and services to offer. At some point, it
becomes necessary to choose either a target audience or a location, and to make
subsequent decisions accordingly. While making such a determination is outside the

SEFC mobility centre feasibility study                                       page 3 of 21
scope of the current report, recommendations and suggestions for areas of further
study are provided (section 11).

Without a clearly defined objective, concept, and selected target market, this study
is a very preliminary investigation of precedents and of the local context. However,
based on our research, some broad conclusions can be drawn:

    •    If the objective of the centre is to increase and support the commuter cyclist
         population, then SEFC is not a good location for a mobility centre. For this, a
         commuter centre or series of centres located downtown might be a more
         viable option.
    •    There appears to be strong support among sustainable transportation groups
         for a mobility centre in Vancouver.
    •    Difficulties experienced by other mobility centres or bike stations highlight the
         need for a detailed and realistic business plan before starting up a mobility
    •    As with any retail outlet, a clear marketing strategy and persistent, consistent
         advertising are needed in order to create sufficient demand for the products
         and services offered.

SEFC mobility centre feasibility study                                         page 4 of 21
3. Introduction

As awareness and concern grow about environmental health, community functioning
and economic sustainability, transportation has become a pressing issue for
Vancouver. It is clear that the continuance of exponential increases in the use of the
private automobile is not a viable possibility for a workable world. A mobility centre
is one way to positively respond to the need to promote sustainable transportation
options and would ideally make it easier for people to find out about, and make use
of, alternatives to the private automobile.

A mobility centre could accommodate a mix of retail space, office space and public
common areas. Public common areas would be used to inform people about public
transit and long distance transportation options by displaying schedules, housing a
ticket booth, and providing an information centre. Public areas could also promote a
sense of community by providing meeting space available to the public and by
housing a library of information on transportation and other sustainability-related

Retail space could be leased to businesses offering products and services in the area
of sustainable transportation, such as a bike repair shops or bike rentals. Above this
mix of retail and public space, office space could be made available for lease by
organizations whose work relates to sustainability.

Other cities in North America and Europe have developed, or are in the process of
developing, similar centres. Freiberg, Germany has a mobility centre which offers
secure parking for 1000 bikes, bike rentals and repairs, guided bike tours, a bike
shop, a travel agency, bus and train schedules and tickets, a car sharing centre,
information on local and long distance transportation, and a restaurant/café. It
serves as an exciting example of the potential for such a centre in Vancouver.
However, with differences in density, distances and culture, come differences in local
demand for such a centre.

Due to its focus on sustainable development and its proximity to bike routes and
public transportation options, Southeast False Creek, the area between Cambie and
Main streets and north of 2nd Avenue, is seen as a potential location for a mobility
centre in Vancouver.

The role of this study is to ask questions, such as: Would such a centre be viable in
this location? And if so, what factors would contribute to its viability? What products
and services are relevant to the Vancouver context?

4. Background and Rationale

This feasibility study was carried out under the supervision of Professor Mark
Roseland, Director of the Community Economic Development Centre at Simon Fraser
University in connection with the CED course Practicum Project in CED. The team
was charged with examining the feasibility of a mobility centre located on the site of
the planned sustainable community along Vancouver’s Southeast False Creek.

SEFC mobility centre feasibility study                                       page 5 of 21
The intention was to determine if such a centre would be viable in this area and, if
so, what factors would contribute to its viability. In conducting this study, the main
factors examined were:

    •    precedents in other jurisdictions
    •    the local context
    •    the expressed needs of potential service providers and end users
    •    possible management structures
    •    possible sources of financing

5. Mobility centres in other jurisdictions

We ascertained that it was important to learn from those who have already tried
similar projects. A survey was done in order to determine the number and range of
mobility centres that currently exist, their successes and failures, and the lessons
that can be applied to a mobility centre in Southeast False Creek.

Bike stations and/or mobility centres in Canada, the United States, Germany and
Japan were identified through an Internet search and personal contact. Language
barriers, long distance rates, and time zones meant that European and Asian centres
were covered less extensively, but a more detailed survey of bike stations in North
America was performed.

Resource persons from the following centres were contacted and interviewed by
either telephone, e-mail, or in person:

    •    Bikestation Seattle - Seattle, Washington
    •    Bikestation (Head Office) - Long Beach, California
    •    Alternative Transportation Centre - Vancouver, British Columbia
    •    Chain Chain Chain - Victoria, British Columbia
    •    Millennium Park Bicycle Station - Chicago, Illinois
    •    Universal Bike Station - Boulder, Colorado
    •    Freiberg Mobility Centre - Freiberg, Germany

Appendix A provides a summary of the conversations held with the contact people
from the various centres. Note that these are summaries and may not be in the
exact words of the interviewees, nor the interviewer.

The following information was obtained for most of the centres:

    •    Products and services offered
    •    Location
    •    Size of centre
    •    Organizational structure
    •    Sources of funding
    •    Typical users and/or numbers of users
    •    Issues and advice

Appendix B summarizes some of the information obtained in table format. Following
are some important points that were drawn from the conversations:


SEFC mobility centre feasibility study                                       page 6 of 21
According to Georgia Case, director of the Bikestation in Long Beach, important
factors to consider in choosing a location for a mobility centre or bike station include:

    •    visibility
    •    convenient access to a destination
    •    access to bike paths

The centre should add value by making available parking and other services that the
cyclist/commuter wouldn’t ordinarily have access to in that location.

Joe Simon, Manager of Bikestation Seattle, and Nick Jackson, of Chicagoland Bicycle
Federation, questioned the distance that people are willing to walk to their end
destination after parking their bikes. Geoff Stamp, from Victoria’s Chain Chain
Chain, questioned the price that people are willing to pay for bike parking. In order
to address these factors in the Vancouver context, questions related to distance from
destination, cost for parking, and safety were included in a questionnaire that was
distributed to commuter cyclists (see section 6b).

Size and Integration
In terms of size, it is worth noting that the North American bike stations are
significantly smaller and more modest than the German mobility centre we looked at.
Where the Freiberg station is a large building, housing organizations and retail
businesses that provide a range of transportation-related products and services,
most of the North American stations are the size of a standard bike shop, are
managed by one or two parties, and focus mainly on cycling-related products and
services, such as bike parking.

According to Case, it is ideal if the region’s transit authority or the municipality takes
on the task of developing a mobility centre or bike station. She notes that one
centre is great, but, in order to be effective, it has to serve other parts of the city
and has to be integrated into the broader transportation system. These thoughts
were consistent with Peter Roper’s (the Universal Bike Station) observation that the
Universal Bike Station was successful in part because it was integrated into the
broader transportation system for the University of Colorado and the city of Boulder.

Financial Considerations
Nearly all of the bike stations in operation have relied on grants for both start-up
funding and ongoing operations. Chain Chain Chain is the only station that has
financed the bike parking through user fees and retail sales and without grant

When developing a plan for a bike station or mobility centre, it’s important to
consider its long-term financial sustainability. As demonstrated by the early closure
of Vancouver’s Alternative Transportation Centre and the uncertainty of Bikestation
Seattle’s continuing funding, it is risky to rely on grants to cover operating expenses.
Plans for generating sufficient revenue through the sale of products and/or the
provision of services should be in place from the outset.

A partnership between a non-profit organisation and a for-profit retail business can
create a tension between promoting a free public service and promoting the sale of
merchandise for profit (as observed in Seattle - see Appendix A for details). In a
partnership, it must be clear that all parties have the same objectives.

SEFC mobility centre feasibility study                                         page 7 of 21
Markets and Marketing
When planning and operating a mobility centre, it is important to be clear about what
your objectives are and whom you intend to serve. As demonstrated with the
Alternative Transportation Centre, conflict can occur when all parties aren’t in
agreement about their target market. In several conversations, it became evident
that a clear marketing strategy and persistent, consistent advertising are needed to
create sufficient demand for the products and services offered. Potential users must
know about the existence of the centre, its purpose, and the benefits that they could
derive from using it.

Liability and Insurance
Both Case and Simon brought up the topic of liability and insurance. These were
seen as important determinants of the feasibility of providing a particular product or
service (e.g. liability issues surrounding showers and the high cost of insurance for
rental scooters). These concerns may or may not be as crucial in a Canadian
context, but warrant further investigation by anyone intending to open a mobility

6. Southeast False Creek context

Our examination of the planned context of Southeast False Creek has been divided
into the aspects of the proposed residential and commercial development, and the
transportation infrastructure.

6a. Context: Residential and commercial development

The future development of SEFC was explored through an examination of the
proposed allocation of residential, commercial, and mixed-use land as well as types
of housing. Although it should be noted that the City of Vancouver’s official
development plan for Southeast False Creek is still described as conceptual, some
aspects have already been determined. These include:

      •    2,125,000 sq. ft of housing (including market and non-market housing)
      •    35% housing suitable for families
      •    20% non-market housing
      •    200,000 square feet of mixed use, commercial, and hotel1

It is projected that approximately 14,000 people will be living in the SEFC
community within a decade. According to the City’s current official development plan,
density will be significantly higher at the east end of the community than the west
end, with a greater number of high-rise residential buildings currently planned east
of Ontario Street.

There are plans for a “village square” with shopping and other amenities roughly at
the foot of Manitoba Street. According to the current plan, the so-called “Saltbox”
(the approximately 24,000 square foot Domtar Salt Building) has been designated as
a proposed sustainability centre for the community and will be moved from its
current location to one closer to the water’s edge. The specific focus for this centre
has yet to be determined, but a request for proposals for its use is expected from the

    City of Vancouver Southeast False Creek Official Development Plan supplement, February 2004, p. 17.

SEFC mobility centre feasibility study                                                       page 8 of 21
City of Vancouver in the spring of 2004. See Appendix C for a map of the proposed

6b. Context: Transportation

Looking at the transportation context of SEFC entailed mapping out current
transportation services as well as the changes and improvements to the
transportation infrastructure proposed for the coming years.

Southeast False Creek is arguably one of the best-served areas of the city for public
transportation. The site is close to:

    •    the Expo/Millennium SkyTrain line (Main Street/Science World station)
    •    the Greyhound bus station
    •    the VIA train station
    •    Main and Cambie Street buses
    •    the South False Creek streetcar line
    •    the False Creek ferries
    •    the Ontario, Seaside, Off-Broadway, and Adanac bike routes

Proposed future additions to the transportation network in the area include:

    •    completion of the Central Valley Greenway
    •    the proposed Richmond Airport Vancouver rapid transit line (along Cambie
    •    the extension of the False Creek streetcar line to downtown and to the north
         side of False Creek
    •    a bus line (possibly a “B-Line” express bus) along Second Avenue linking to a
         SkyTrain station
    •    an additional aqua bus station

The Southeast False Creek transportation context is presented in map form in
Appendix D.

7. Market

In examining the potential success of a mobility centre at Southeast False Creek, an
important consideration was the prospective market (both service providers and end
users) for such a centre.

With regard to service providers, we consulted with potential tenants, merchants,
and organisations that might consider relocating or expanding a current operation to
a mobility centre located at Southeast False Creek. What factors would encourage
them to--or discourage them from--doing so? These issues will be addressed in
section 7a below.

Furthermore, based on their knowledge and experience in the area of sustainable
transportation in the local context, interviewees were also able to provide a degree
of insight into considerations in choosing locations, local demands and markets in the
Vancouver context. Much of this supported the information obtained from the
surveys completed by potential end users of a mobility centre.

SEFC mobility centre feasibility study                                       page 9 of 21
In looking at the prospective end user, it is, of course, not possible to survey local
residents as the planned community has not yet been developed. Thus potential
users surveyed were simply Greater Vancouver residents with a variety of
commuting habits, many of whom currently use some form of sustainable

7a. Market: Potential Service Providers/Tenants

A key part in ascertaining the feasibility of a mobility centre was to speak with local
people already working in the field of sustainable transportation. We performed face-
to-face interviews with people involved in various aspects of promoting and
supporting sustainable transportation options. This included representatives from:

    •    Our Community Bikes
    •    the UBC Bike Co-op
    •    the Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition
    •    Cycling BC
    •    Putting Pedestrians First
    •    Reckless Bike Shop (bike sales and rentals)
    •    Mountain Equipment Co-op
    •    the Cooperative Auto Network
    •    Better Environmentally Sound Transportation

The interviews took between 30 and 90 minutes, consisted of a loosely ordered
series of questions, and were a useful way of determining the needs that potential
tenants would have, as well as receiving recommendations for the promotion of
sustainable transportation. See Appendix F for interview notes.

In order to present the findings of these interviews, we have drawn out certain key
aspects of the discussions, grouping them broadly into:

    •    Potential benefits and drawbacks
    •    Specific tenant requirements for participation
    •    Product and service suggestions
    •    Location considerations

Potential benefits and drawbacks
Each organization and business that we spoke with felt that the mobility centre
would enhance and support their work, whether or not they were open to being
directly involved in such a centre. The potential positive outcomes recognized were:

    •    The change of attitude and growing awareness of transportation options that
         such a centre could create in Lower Mainland communities
    •    An increase in attractiveness and perceived safety of, and therefore a
         corresponding increase in, the number of people using sustainable means of
    •    The creation of a collective voice, allowing those working towards sustainable
         transportation to empower one another and work in alliance

By seeing it on the ground, and seeing it work, it was felt that substantial advances
would be made in promoting sustainable alternatives to the private automobile.

SEFC mobility centre feasibility study                                       page 10 of 21
The main barrier to success was seen to be financial factors. There was a lot of
scepticism about how such a centre would be funded on a long-term basis. Another
potential shortfall that interviewees foresaw was the difficulty that varied groups
might have in working together; there was concern that a centre might lack focus, as
different groups attempt to further their particular priorities.

In addition, some felt it was worth bearing in mind that the success of a mobility
centre would depend, to a certain degree, on the success of Southeast False Creek
as a community and as a sustainable model, including the success of the
‘Sustainable Olympic Games’. If the community or the Games were to fail in their
original goals, or if the mobility centre were less than successful, it might prove
difficult to launch such a project again.

Specific tenant requirements
Some possible attributes tenants would look for if considering relocating to a mobility
centre in Southeast False Creek include:

    •    Outdoor, multi-use plaza space (room to expand bike parking, teach courses
         and seminars, for patrons to relax while having their bike repaired, etc.)
    •    Sidewalk frontage for retail and educational signs
    •    Affordable, shared multi-use or meeting space (consistently seen as a way to
         increase community, education, and action around sustainable transportation,
         and something that is largely lacking in Vancouver)
    •    Shared kitchen for staff and volunteers
    •    A shared receptionist (if there were office space)
    •    Kiosk and information board capacity
    •    Co-operative Auto Network truck/van for occasional business use
    •    Extensive recycling facilities with large bins
    •    Bike courier services available in the neighbourhood
    •    Cement floors - especially for bike repair and bike building/welding functions
    •    High ceilings, to enable the construction of large objects
    •    Coffee shops, cafés and restaurants inside the building and/or in very close
         proximity, to serve staff and volunteers
    •    Print shop and graphic design shop in the area
    •    Secure bike parking, showers and lockers for staff and volunteers
    •    Access to building in off-hours
    •    Office space (see notes below)

Office Space
There were various opinions about the need for office space for sustainable
transportation-related organizations. Some felt that being located together would
empower the groups involved and deepen alliances in those doing like-minded work.
Others felt that because there is already ample office space available in other parts
of the city, funding would be better spent on other things. Some expressed a
concern that a significant rise in walk-in traffic to their offices could disrupt work
schedules. Therefore, it is crucial to have a design plan that would direct traffic flow
through retail and public spaces, and divert traffic from the offices.

Product and service suggestions
Based on their experience in the field of sustainable transportation, interviewees also
commented on what they felt would be valuable services to offer at a mobility

SEFC mobility centre feasibility study                                       page 11 of 21
centre. While there was some diversity in suggestions, some consistent themes are
worth noting. These include:

Encouraging multi-modal transportation
Those working in the field of alternative transportation felt that representing a true
diversity of transportation modes was important. It was said repeatedly that a crucial
result of a mobility centre should be to facilitate multi-modal transportation.
Namely, that it should support people to use combinations of cycling, walking, bus,
SkyTrain, car-sharing, water transport, etc. to facilitate the use of the most
sustainable, effective, efficient transportation choice for each trip that they make.

Currently in Vancouver, there is a lack of co-ordination in information and advocacy
for multi-modal transportation; most organizations are experts in only one form.
Recommendations included:

    •    Clear, accessible information, including alternative transportation maps
    •    Highly informed attendants who are aware of local and long-distance transit
         information, pedestrian and cycling routes, and co-op car locations; and are
         able to help patrons connect various forms into a workable route

Those working in the area of sustainable transportation state that there is a lack of
informative, interactive, and empowering education available to engage those new to
the full spectrum of transportation options, as well those who already choose
alternatives such as transit, cycling or walking.

Transportation advocates emphasized that a mobility centre should have an
interactive education centre. Our Community Bikes and the UBC Bike Co-op already
offer public education such as bike repair classes and bike building workshops - these
types of education could be supported and expanded within a mobility centre.
Other basic information that one needs to know before choosing alternative
transportation (e.g. how to cycle in winter, how to cycle commute) should also be
made available.

Other education related ideas proposed by interviewees included:

    •    An interactive combination of a bike museum, art gallery, and ecological
         footprint assessor to both attract people to a mobility centre and to serve as
         an educational tool
    •    Guided bike tours to attract both locals and tourists
    •    Library services, either as part of a larger organization or in the form of
         reference guides to resources available at the public library

Retail, rentals and repairs
Bike retail, rental and repair facilities were seen an attractive service that would
serve people’s practical needs and draw them into a centre. Services such as free air
and oil, an electric bike charging station, loaner bikes for during repairs, non-profit
repairs, and/or a do-it-yourself workbench would increase the number of visitors to a
mobility centre. Such a shop could also cater to less common modes, such as in-line
skates, skateboards, and non-motorized boats, could rent infrequently used
products, such as bike trailers, and could house display models of cutting-edge
technologies, such as electric bicycles and hybrid cars.

SEFC mobility centre feasibility study                                       page 12 of 21
Other services
A café or restaurant either in or near a mobility centre was seen as crucial in
attracting people, building community, and serving the staff and volunteers of such a
centre. A transportation-related theme, such as a pedal powered smoothie bar,
might be attractive.

Many people felt that a large bike parking facility in Southeast False Creek would not
be well used because of the relatively small number of people commuting there, and
should therefore expand only as needed. On the other hand, downtown was seen as
a location where secure bike parking might help to increase the number of commuter
cyclists. This was seen as particularly true if the facility had lockers and showers,
the lack of which is often a significant barrier to the use of human-powered

One interviewee suggested that housing a gym in a mobility centre might attract
more visitors and provide a shower and locker system that could sustain itself. It
could be available to cyclists and pedestrians on an as-needed basis with a reduced-
price pass for patrons using only the shower and locker facilities.

Finally, because car sharing is a service used as a back-up to sustainable
transportation modes, it was felt that access to shared cars might enable more
people to give up their private automobiles for more sustainable options. Car sharing
services were seen by interviewees as extremely useful in promoting sustainable

Location considerations
Visibility and amount of through traffic were seen as the most important factors in
choosing a location. It was emphasized that a mobility centre would need to be
located on major cycling, pedestrian and transit routes, be fully wheelchair
accessible, and be near other popular destinations such as restaurants and cafés,
grocery stores, print shops, and workplaces.

It was pointed out that water transportation is an underused option and that
proximity to a False Creek Ferry station and kayak/canoeing facilities would be
important. It was generally felt that being located near a recreational area or
waterfront would be an asset, but not crucial in choosing a location. Green space in
the surrounding area, however, was seen as an important aspect of traffic calming
and of creating the physical ideal of sustainability that such a centre would be
working towards.

Some saw Southeast False Creek as an ideal location; the development’s mandate of
sustainability corresponds with the purpose of a mobility centre, and Southeast False
Creek is the hub of Vancouver--the area where many neighbourhoods come together
and where some of the best, most frequently used, cycling routes merge.

Many others however, pointed out that the largest commuter population travels
downtown and if the goal is to reach commuter cyclists, downtown might be a better

7b. Market: End users

Thirty-five people were surveyed about their regular transportation habits (see
Appendix I for sample survey). The majority of those who answered the surveys

SEFC mobility centre feasibility study                                     page 13 of 21
were currently users of some form of sustainable transportation (transit, walking,
cycling) and were aware of the issues. Many were members of list serves sponsored
by transportation-related organisations, such as Better Environmentally Sound
Transportation and the Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition, or recreational cyclists,
such as the Vancouver Bicycle Club. Four respondents claimed a car as their primary
mode of transportation.

As cyclists were identified as the main user group in all of the other centres we
examined, a particular emphasis was placed on their needs, and a second survey
(Appendix J) was administered to 26 people who claimed the bicycle as one of their
main modes of transportation.

It became clear from the survey responses that there were several distinct cyclist
groups, including:

    •    Regular commuter cyclists
    •    Recreational/weekend cyclists
    •    Southeast False Creek residents (future)
    •    Out-of-town visitors

The recognition of this subdivision of cyclists is important in that the surveys
indicated that some groups would likely be better served by particular facilities and
in particular locations than would others. For example, a location near the waterfront
or other recreational facilities would likely be attractive to recreational cyclists or
tourists, whereas for regular commuter cyclists, such amenities would be less
important than proximity to their final destination (i.e. the workplace).

Highlights of the survey results
• An overwhelming majority believed that a mobility centre was a good idea and
   that Southeast False Creek would be a good location for it.
• The key facilities respondents wanted to see were a café/restaurant (32 people),
   bike repairs (25), and a bike shop (24). Bike parking was a somewhat distant
   fourth (18).
• Security of their bikes, proximity to end destination, 24-hour access to their
   bikes, and easy access to a bike route were seen as key factors.
• People indicate a general unwillingness to walk more than 2 blocks from the place
   they leave their bikes to their final destination.
• There was a general consensus that access to other forms of public transit would
   be beneficial.
• More cyclists seemed to see a SEFC mobility centre as a place where they would
   park their bikes “during the evening” (7 people) or “while socialising” (13) than
   “during work” (4).
• Providing various sorts of information was chosen by slightly fewer than half the
   respondents: local and regional tourist information (17), TransLink information
   and passes (16), information on mobility options and their combination or
   integration (15), library of information on sustainable transportation (14).

See Appendices G and H for summaries of the survey results.

SEFC mobility centre feasibility study                                      page 14 of 21
When asked their opinion on locating a mobility centre at Southeast False Creek, an
overwhelming number of respondents (32) saw the location as a good one. The
positive comments can roughly be divided into 6 categories:

    1.   Southeast    False Creek is a very central location
    2.   A mobility   centre there would be attractive to tourists
    3.   A mobility   centre fits into the sustainability theme of the community
    4.   Southeast    False Creek is a good location for recreation
    5.   A mobility   centre would serve the new neighbourhood well once it’s built
    6.   Southeast    False Creek is close to a wide range of transportation options

Those who spoke against a mobility centre at Southeast False Creek were far fewer
in number (only 3), although some who said it would be a good location also offered
reasons why they thought it might not be. The main two comments were:

    1. It would only benefit those living in the neighbourhood
    2. It isn’t the best location to serve commuters

Alternate locations suggested were:

    •    Near the Vancouver Art Gallery (x2)
    •    At/near Waterfront Station (x2)
    •    Broadway Station/Commercial Drive
    •    Stanley Park/the West End

Only one person suggested there was no good location for a mobility centre.

Proximity to bike routes was almost universally seen as positive (30). Connections to
bus (19) and SkyTrain (16) were also popular choices, as were parks or green space
(18), and a grocery or market (17). Only 12 people thought it was important for the
centre to be near their workplaces.

More than half of those surveyed said that it was important for a mobility centre to
be located close to good bus connections and/or to SkyTrain, however almost all
respondents who cycle regularly indicated that they almost never take their bikes on
the bus or on SkyTrain. Broader access to SkyTrain might make some difference in
this. If bikes were allowed on SkyTrain during rush hour (or at least in the off-peak
direction), this might increase multi-modal travel and/or offer the possibility of a
“reverse commute” for residents of SEFC.

There is a clear perceived need for some sort of bicycle facility in or around the new
SEFC community, but the target audience for such a centre is less clear. Many
survey respondents describe SEFC as an area where they pass through, rather than
one where they stop.

One important point to note with regard to location is the distance people are willing
to walk: two thirds of respondents would walk no more than 1-2 blocks from their
bike parking to their final destination.

Potential market at Southeast False Creek
According to the responses received, it seems the main market would be recreational
cyclists, tourists, and/or the residents of the new community. As noted above,

SEFC mobility centre feasibility study                                        page 15 of 21
people who expressed an interest in using a mobility centre at Southeast False Creek
were much more likely to do so for recreation than during work. Several people
suggested that a bike rental facility similar to those near Stanley Park would likely
prove successful.

8. Location-related issues

A mobility centre would clearly align with the City of Vancouver’s policy statement on
Southeast False Creek,2 which includes “promot[ing] efficient transit service in SEFC
incorporating buses, streetcars and ferries.” Furthermore, it states, “Car co-ops and
vanpooling initiatives should be encouraged in SEFC.”

A consultant’s study3 was carried out to develop a package of sustainable
transportation measures that would be relevant and applicable to Southeast False
Creek and that would influence mode choice in the SEFC area. According to the
report, “to develop SEFC as a model sustainable community, a wide range of
transportation choices that promote more sustainable modes of travel (ecologically,
socially and economically) need to be emphasized and accessible to the future
residents of SEFC.”

The consultant carried out a stakeholder workshop and administered a survey to
2000 residents of False Creek communities. The resulting list of sustainable
transportation strategies best suited for SEFC included:

    •    community transit pass
    •    car sharing service
    •    parking management
    •    improved/multi-modal transit
    •    pedestrian and bicycle improvements

If a mobility centre were located at Southeast False Creek, some of these services
could potentially be administered through the centre, providing services to the
community and revenue to the centre. See section 10 for more information on
revenue development.

Within the Southeast False Creek community, two general locations might be
considered (see also Appendix C, the SEFC map):

    1. at the heart of the community, in the village square area, possibly as part of
       the proposed sustainability centre (although this would require further study).
    2. at the east end of the site, close to the SkyTrain station and relatively near
       the bus/train station.

In either case (or if another site is considered), several location-related factors must
be examined with the specific target market(s) in mind. Whether Southeast False
Creek is the best choice of a location depends on the identification of a target market
for a mobility centre. For some audiences (local residents or tourists), it might prove
successful. For others (regular commuter cyclists) it may not be the best choice.

  Southeast False Creek Policy Statement, Adopted by Vancouver City Council, October 1999

SEFC mobility centre feasibility study                                                      page 16 of 21
9. Organizational Structure

There are five basic organizational structures that could potentially be used for a
mobility centre:

    1.   private for-profit
    2.   non-profit (NGO)
    3.   for-profit/non-profit
    4.   cooperative
    5.   public project/program

The organizational structure used will depend on who is taking on the task of starting
and managing a mobility centre, as well as the type of mobility centre developed. As
observed in the survey of mobility centres in other jurisdictions, there are two main
concepts for a centre: the first is a centre in which all of the services are located
within one retail space the size of an average bike shop. The second is a larger
building housing different businesses and organizations that provide the products
and services to the end user. The five organizational structures are analyzed with
these two different concepts in mind.

    •    Private for-profit - A private for-profit business would perhaps have a better
         chance of being financially sustainable, because a person who has invested
         equity in the business would be more likely to tend to the bottom line. While a
         for-profit business likely wouldn’t be able to attract grant funding, and may
         have to charge a higher price for services (such as bike parking), it would be
         better able to attract debt financing. If operated as a large building housing
         the various service providers, a for-profit structure may be more feasible
         because a private landlord would have greater access to both debt and
         equity. However, with either concept, there exists a risk that a private
         landlord or business owner might sacrifice the social and environmental
         objectives of the centre for the sake of higher revenues.

    •    Non-profit organization - A non-profit structure could be feasible as long as
         the management has developed a strong business plan and is able to balance
         financial implications with social and environmental service. While an NGO
         would be able to attract equity through grants, that source of funding is most
         often available for start-up costs or one-time projects. Ongoing core funding
         could be more difficult to secure.

    •    Non-profit/for-profit - As observed during the survey of other centres, there
         can be issues in a partnership between a non-profit and for-profit. It must be
         clear from the outset that both organizations place priority on the same set of
         objectives. If this model is used, any profits made from the sale of
         merchandise or from repairs should be used to support the less profitable
         services (such as the bike parking).

         Alternatively, combining these two in the form of an enterprising non-profit
         organisation could be advantageous in operating a bike-shop sized centre.
         The for-profit entity could be a separately incorporated subsidiary of the non-
         profit entity, allowing profits generated by the for-profit to be directed to the
         non-profit, and losses to be isolated to the for-profit. While the NGO would

SEFC mobility centre feasibility study                                         page 17 of 21
         be in a better position to attract grant money, the for-profit would be in a
         better position to attract debt financing.

    •    Co-operative - a co-operative structure could take the form of individual users
         purchasing shares in a bike-shop sized centre or organizations and businesses
         purchasing shares in a larger building. The former could resemble a retail co-
         op while the latter might resemble a housing co-op. Operating as a retail co-
         op might have the advantage that members would be more involved in the
         operation of the centre and might patronize it more frequently (because of
         the potential to earn share dividends). However, a drawback is that new
         users might not want to purchase a share if they use the centre infrequently.
         A building operated as a co-op (much like a housing co-op except that the
         space would be retail or office space) might face the difficulty of businesses
         and NGOs not having sufficient cash flow to purchase membership shares.

    •    Public project/program - a centre (either a bike shop-sized centre or a larger
         building) could be operated by a government body (the municipality, the
         region, or another government agency). The advantage to this is that the
         centre could be incorporated into the broader transportation and/or
         infrastructural plans for SEFC, for the city, and for the region. The city might
         also have access to federal funds earmarked for infrastructure projects
         related to environmental sustainability (see below).

10. Sources of Financing

Without pinpointing the specific organization that would develop and operate a
mobility centre and without knowing the organizational structure of the mobility
centre, it is difficult to assess the financial feasibility of the project. Instead,
potential sources of financing are listed. The three types of financing are (1) equity,
(2) debt and (3) revenue from sale of goods and services.

1. Equity
    • Foundation grants - there are many grants available to non-profit
       organizations and public institutions. These can be found in the Canadian
       Directory of Foundations & Grants. Relevant foundations can be found by
       checking under the following categories in the Index of Foundations by
       Subject Terms of Grants Given:

             o    Advocacy
             o    Community Centres
             o    Community Development & Improvement
             o    Cycling
             o    Environment
             o    Heritage Conservation
             o    Sports & Recreation
             o    Sustainable Development
             o    Transportation & Safety

    •    Government grants - there are a few federal funding programs that might be
         relevant to a mobility centre.
             o The EcoAction Funding Program, Environment Canada - supports
                projects that protect, rehabilitate or enhance the natural environment,
                and build the capacity of communities

SEFC mobility centre feasibility study                                        page 18 of 21
             o    Moving on Sustainable Transportation (MOST), Transport Canada -
                  studies or projects related to sustainable transportation
             o    Commercial Heritage Properties Incentive Fund, Parks Canada -
                  supports corporations in the preservation of a heritage property that is
                  listed on the Canadian Register of Historic Places.
             o    Green Municipal Funds - municipalities that are a member of the
                  Federation of Canadian Municipalities can apply for the Green
                  Municipal Enabling Fund to support feasibility studies of environmental
                  infrastructure and the Green Municipal Investment Fund to support
                  investment in environmental infrastructure

    •    Community grants from credit unions - both of the major credit unions in the
         Lower Mainland, VanCity and Coast Capital Savings, offer grants to non-profit
         organizations. These include:
            o Enterprising Non-Profits Program - provides matching grants to help
                non-profit organizations in B.C. to start or expand a business venture.
            o EnviroFund Grants - grants of up to $25,000 are awarded to local
                community initiatives that address specific environmental concerns in
                the Lower Mainland, Fraser Valley and Greater Victoria areas.
            o Community Project Grants - grants of up to $10,000 are awarded to
                community initiatives that focus on the issues of social justice,
                economic self-reliance or ecological responsibility.
            o Capacity Building Grants - This grant program is specific to VanCity
                members and provides up to $10,000 to support their capacity
                building initiatives.
            o The VanCity Award - every year a $1 million grant is awarded to a
                major project that supports the social, environmental or economic well
                being of the community. Funding may go towards development,
                capital, operational, or endowment needs.

    •    Other Grants - other grants may be found in the National Green Source
         Funding Guide
    •    Donation of building by the city
    •    Fee from developers for reduction of parking space requirements
    •    Membership shares - for co-operatives
    •    Shareholder’s equity - for private businesses

See Appendix K for more detailed information on the funding opportunities listed.

2. Debt
The sources of debt financing typically sought by small businesses would likely be
available to a mobility centre (if operated as a for-profit business). These can
include term loans, commercial mortgages, lines of credit, leases and accounts
payable. There are various financial institutions (credit unions in particular),
government programs, and private organizations that offer debt financing to small

3. Revenue from sales of goods and services
In order to be financially sustainable in the long run, the centre should be able to
generate sufficient revenue to cover its expenses. Revenues can potentially be
obtained from the following sources:

SEFC mobility centre feasibility study                                         page 19 of 21
    •    Sale of goods and services, such as bike accessories and repairs, and fees
         (per use or membership fees) for bike parking
    •    Rental of office and retail space
    •    Admission for special events
    •    Contracts for service with government agencies or the private sector (e.g.
         contract for servicing City Police bicycles, administering a community transit
         pass, providing transit information, or cycling education).

11. Overall analysis and recommendations

In assessing the feasibility of a mobility centre at Southeast False Creek, a circular
question arises between determining the main potential user group(s) and selecting
the most appropriate location and services to provide. At some point, it becomes
necessary to choose either a target audience or a location, and to make subsequent
decisions accordingly.

In order to assess the feasibility of starting a mobility centre, it is important to start
with a well-defined concept. In order to define a concept, three broad questions
must first be answered:

    1. Which specific organization, business, public agency or individual is taking on
       the task of starting up and managing the centre?
    2. What is the objective of the centre? Is it to make commuting by bike more
       feasible? Or to promote awareness of alternative forms of transportation? Or
       to develop a sense of community? There are a wide range of potential
       objectives for a mobility centre and these needs to be clarified.
    3. Who is the target market? Do you wish to serve people who currently
       commute by bike, or would you rather target recreational cyclists (i.e.
       potential commuters)? Will the centre focus on serving the SEFC community,
       Vancouver or the entire Lower Mainland? The party starting up the centre
       and the objectives that they have will in part determine the target market.

Without the answers to these questions, this study cannot be anything more than a
very preliminary investigation of precedents and of the local context. The feasibility
of particular locations and of offering specific products and services will, to a large
extent, depend on the stated objectives of the centre and the market that is being

While we emphasize that a more in-depth study must be performed in order to
confidently assess the feasibility of such an endeavour, we have nonetheless tried to
point out some important factors that should be considered in starting a mobility
centre, and have drawn some general conclusions based on our research:

    •    A survey of commuter cyclists has demonstrated that if the objective of the
         centre is to improve the viability of cycle commuting and therefore to serve
         the commuter cyclist market, then SEFC is not a good location for a mobility
         centre. Respondents indicated that on average they were willing to walk two
         blocks to their end destination after parking their bikes, and SEFC is not
         within a two-block radius of many regular commuter destinations. If the goal
         were to increase and support the commuter cyclist population, a commuter
         centre or series of centres located downtown (possibly in close proximity to
         Waterfront Station or Granville Station) would be a more viable option.

SEFC mobility centre feasibility study                                         page 20 of 21
    •    Based on interviews of representatives from organizations that support
         cycling and alternative transportation in the GVRD, there appears to be strong
         support among sustainable transportation groups for a mobility centre in
         Vancouver. Whether or not they would directly participate in the operation or
         ownership of the centre, many organizations felt that such a centre would
         support their work by changing attitudes toward, promoting awareness of,
         and facilitating the use of alternative forms of transportation.

    •    Difficulties experienced by other mobility centres or bike stations highlight the
         need for a detailed and realistic business plan before starting up a mobility
         centre. While grants may be used to provide financing for start-up costs,
         they should not be relied on for ongoing operations. The initiators of a
         mobility centre should have a plan to generate sufficient revenues to cover
         operating costs from the sale of products and services or from service
         contracts with private businesses or public agencies.

    •    Bike stations in other jurisdictions have had mixed results in attracting users.
         A clear marketing strategy and persistent, consistent advertising are needed
         in order to create sufficient demand for the products and services offered. As
         with any retail outlet, potential users must know about the existence of the
         centre, understand its purpose, and recognise the benefits that they could
         derive from using it.

Again, because this is a preliminary exploration, we feel that a good deal more
research needs to be conducted before a mobility centre could be established with
any confidence in its ongoing success. Steps that should be taken include:

    •    Determining clear answers to the following questions: What is the objective of
         the centre? Whom do you want to attract? Where do you want to be
         located? What are your goals and your purpose?
    •    Performing a thorough financial assessment, based on specific objectives, a
         clear concept, and target markets
    •    Developing of a realistic business plan based on the above two factors
    •    Creating a marketing strategy that will enable reaching goals and criteria

SEFC mobility centre feasibility study                                        page 21 of 21