Mountain Doodles

spare time data, analysis, visualization

Comparing Censuses

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It’s great to have fresh census data to play with. Right now we only have three variables, population, dwellings and households. There is still lots of interesting information that can be extracted.

So we started exploring in our last post, things get really interesting when looking at change between censuses. But as we noted, there are several technical difficulties that need to be overcome.

So we at CensusMapper took that as and invitation to do what we love most: breaking down barriers.

RS Population Change

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With reporting on the new census numbers gaining traction, and now Mayor Robertson picking up on single family neighbourhoods losing population we thought it is time to crunch some numbers.

Why does it need number crunching? All the reporting so far is based on looking at CT (Census Tract) aggregates, like e.g. in the map shown and linked to the right. But there is actually no single CT in the City of Vancouver that only contains RS zoning. Deducing results by just looking on CT aggregates can lead to misleading reporting, like we have seen with unoccupied dwellings in the “Marine Gateway Neighbourhood”. Given how prominent this topic has become it is high time to dig into the details.


In summary, we can confirm that RS (single family), RT (duplex) and FSD neighbourhoods have been dropping population. Slightly. Looking separately at the east and the west side, we notice that population in these neighbourhoods dropped by about 1% on the west side and increased slightly on the east side.

In all groupings that we looked at the household size dropped and the rate of unoccupied dwellings increased. This was counter-acted by a growth in dwelling units, mostly confined to RS zones where laneway houses and suites were added (or newly discovered in the 2016 census).

We split the analysis into core regions, blocks that lie completely within RS, RT and FSD zoning, and fringe regions, blocks that have RS, RT or FSD zoning as well as other zoning. Fringe regions grew in population and had overall lower rates of unoccupied units when compared to core regions.

Transit Explorer

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I have played with Mapzen’s Isochrone serivce in the past with a simple visualization of walksheds.

Recently Mazen updated the isochrone API to allow for a more fine-grained selection of exactly what transit services to include or exclude in transit routing, and they created an amazing mobility explorer based on that.

Partially motivated by chatting with two TransLink planners I decided to riff off of that and take a look at how well TransLink serves different parts of Vancouver. At different times of day. And how susceptible TransLink’s network is to Skytrain service disruptions.

More on Teardowns

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A little over a year ago we ran some analysis on teardowns of single family homes in the City of Vancouver. We used the City of Vancouver open data to understand why some single family homes got torn down and other’s don’t.

Relying entirely on open data, there were some important questions that could not be answered. So together with Joe Dahmen at UBC’s School Of Architecture And Landscape Architecture we came back to the question and folded in transaction data from BC Assessment to add some more details and rigor.

The result turned out quite similar to what our initial cruder methods came up with, but it lead to some important refinements.

We won’t go into the details of the findings here, you can read the online data story if you are interested. Instead we will go into a little more details how the analysis was done and what is still missing.

2016 Census Data - Part 1

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Finally the first batch of 2016 census data has arrived on Tuesday AM and CensusMapper was updated with the new census numbers by mid-morning.

Dissemination Block data was a little harder to find, but with the help of some friendly StatCan people I finally managed to locate the data and add that too this afternoon.

Time for writing up some observations. I am hoping to find time to do this regularly as more data gets released.

Jane Jacobs’ Vancouver

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Some time ago I saw Geoff Boeing’s excellent package to generate Jane Jacobs style street grid images. It’s lots of fun to compare different cities that way.

It can be hard to represent one city by one square mile, so I thought it would be neat to use this to compare different parts of Vancouver. Some common themes emerge for the central parts, the more outlying areas display very differnet patterns.

Bumper Year for Thumb Twiddlers

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Almost a year has passed since we first noticed how sitting on single family homes and twiddling thumbs generates more income than working. And not just at the level of individual single family households. In the City of Vancouver, the cumulative land value gains of just the single family homes eclipsed the cumulative taxable earnings reported to the CRA for the entire population.

With the new assessment data available now, it is time to run the numbers and see how our thumb-twiddlers fared vs workers this year. If you thought last year’s twiddling thumbs returns were crazy high, you better hold onto your hats!

The Coveted $1.2m - $1.6m Vote

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Earlier this month the province increased the threshold for the homeowner grant from $1.2 million to $1.6 million dollars. It’s an election year, and with the BC Assessment data for the City of Vancouver now being available via their open data catalogue we can ask who exactly this move was targeting.

Restricted to the City of Vancouver, the answer is quite simple. There are about 24,000 single family homes, 1,200 duplex units and 4,000 condo units in that bracket.

Let’s take a closer look.

Updated Property Tax Data

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The property tax data for the City of Vancouver has been available for a while now, and with new assessment data becoming available soon everyone’s worried about what their property taxes will look like. The City just passed a 3.9% increase in their budget, so on average everyone will pay 3.9% more taxes than they did last year.

The exact change in property taxes varies from property to property. There is a nice overview on how this works in general, for the City of Vancouver there is an added complication of land value averaging meant to soften sudden land value increases, that effectively serves to lower taxes for single family homeowners in a rising market.

If that’s all to abstract for you, keep reading.