Transit, especially rail based, requires large numbers of people travelling to one central destination. In Victoria we have had Downtown as a major daily destination for years, but is it realistic to expect that to continue into the future?
As far as I can see, the amount of new office space downtown is not dramatically increasing, but the focus on a lot more housing close to downtown is reducing the demand for transit as more people are walking. One only needs to look at what has happened in downtown Portland and see that the total number of jobs is not rising and that the biggest rise in commuting is with walking and biking, the demand for bus and rail transit is falling. I know, I am linking to Randal O'Toole, even if you do not like his politics, he has a lot of good data.
In the last generation we have seen almost all the retail jobs created outside of Downtown. We have also seen the loss of almost all the blue collar industrial jobs leave the Downtown area. Government jobs are also moving away from the Downtown core, Selkirk Water has a number of ministries located there.
The nature of where the jobs are in this region is changing. Keating Cross Road has a many more jobs than a generation ago, many of them formerly from Downtown. The interurban Camosun college and the tech park are also a new work destination. It was longer ago, but VGH used to be downtown before moving out to Helmeken. The big box cluster in Langford and the Westshore shopping centres are now major centres for employment.
The changing pattern of where we are working means we will need a very flexible transit system. Ideally a lot of bus routes going to many destinations with the operator using different sized buses based on demand.
As we encourage walking and biking, we are pulling people out of the transit stream. I have no proof of this, but anecdotally most of the people I know that bike or walk to work used to bus to work.
Finally, another big change to the nature of work, working from your own home. I do not need to use transit to commute because I work from my own home. All the time more and more people are doing this. This trend is not going to increase the number of commuters.
The nature of the future of work does not bode well for ever having a business case for rail based transit in this region.