Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Looking at some data about the Blue Bridge

The City commissioned a report to be done on the economic impacts of the Blue Bridge project on the city.     The Banjar Management report is what came out of this.

The report has created the $12 million economic impact number that is being currently bandied about if the bridge is closed for a year for refurbishment - a time frame I have seen no data indicating to me it is a reasonable assumption.   So what how much can we rely on this number?   I would argue not much.

The total economic activity downtown is roughly $1 billion dollars.   The estimated economic impact on downtown businesses is $10 million.    This is 1% and is a smaller number than the margins of error of the current estimates of downtown economic activity.  It is effectively unmeasurable and will be something that would not be noticed by the businesses if it were true.   Annual fluctuations due to economic factors are much larger than this estimated impact.

Is it even reasonable to assume that the $10 million loss is what would happen?   I would argue that it is not.  Currently many people in the city due not shop downtown because the parking sucks, it is hard to find a space where you need it when you need it.   This says to me that downtown is close to capacity for shoppers.   The loss of some people from Vic West and Esquimalt would be be made up with people like myself that can see that it might be easier to park downtown.  

The analysis done made no assumptions of the impact of downtown being at capacity for shoppers and therefore used a simplistic model to assume the loss in business.  The reality as I have shown is very different.   Where do the extra shoppers come from?   Disproportionately from Mayfair and Uptown as they have the stores that most directly compete with downtown.

The analysis also ignores the positive impact on businesses in Vic West from the bridge closure.   The money that was going downtown is going to go somewhere else in the region.   Since the majority of this money is coming from Vic West and Esquimalt, this money will tend to stay local and benefit businesses on the other side.  Because there are fewer businesses on the west side, the increase may be enough to be noticeable.  In any case, the positive impact on businesses in Vic West and Esquimalt should have been accounted for in the report.

The analysis also looks at cost in time for drivers and assigns a value to this, but the analysis only looked at moving traffic between destinations and did not look at downtown traffic seeking a parking space.   There are a high number of vehicles downtown that are spending time seeking a parking space on the streets or in the parkades.  With lower traffic coming in from the west, drivers will be able to find a parking space quicker than they do now.   If this is not the case, it means total traffic downtown has not changed and therefore there can be no significant economic impairment for downtown businesses.

The analysis is also working with old traffic data.  Most specifically the available traffic volume possible on Esquimalt road has been significantly reduced.  This change is reducing the demand for the Johnson Street Bridge.   There is also new traffic volume space available on Habour Road.  It is not used much yet, but as more people discover it, more people are using it to get to Tyee.

Clearly transit will suffer and will take a loss, $500,000 for a year is a reasonable amount.  The dollar value assigned to the transit passengers is a notional number and should be really be measured in total time lost sitting in traffic.   Converting the time into a dollar value confuses the final number

We come back to the $12 million number for a full year bridge closure and here is my estimate of what it should be:

  • Business impairment downtown - negligible
  • Driver time loss - $800,000
  • Transit operations - $500,000
  • Transit passenger time loss - $1,000,000

So I come to $2.3 million of which only $500,000 is an actual monetary loss.
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