What’s this about?
Yes, it’s a gas station. Not much different than the other 12,684 stations in Canada.
But this one is exceptional: it is one of only two on the Downtown Peninsula of Vancouver (map here). The other is at Davie and Burrard.
These pumps serve a population of over a hundred thousand. And even though a lot of those who live on the peninsula don’t have cars, this is also the first gas station immediately visible from the road for drivers on Highway 99 coming from the north as far as Squamish – about 50 kilometres away.
And yet it’s not that busy.
As oil companies have consolidated and gotten out of the retail end of the business, those prime sites with high values, offering a product with low mark-up, were worth way more as real estate. And so the number of stations in Canada has been dropping by about a thousand a year.
But still, though cars have become more fuel efficient, there have been more of them. Why aren’t the remaining stations busier, particularly here, where the population in the last two decades has doubled?
Could it be that we’re reaching peak car? Some recent studies argue that at least in developed countries, we are starting to see a decline in car use. Peter Newman and Jeff Kenworthy make the case here in ‘Peak Car Use’: Understanding the Demise of Automobile Dependence. And Clark Williams-Derry documents what’s happening in Cascadia in his series: Dude, Where Are My Cars?
Given the value of the site at Georgia and Burrard, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Downtown Vancouver drop to one – one! – gas station.