The gas station might survive – but not the suburban form in urban centres.
Vancouver is set to lose its last downtown gas station, as the Esso at Burrard Street and Davie Street is now listed for sale. Late last month, the only other place to fill up in the city’s downtown area closed.
The surging cost of real estate in the city is adding pressure to shut down businesses like gas stations, sell the properties, and build dense, lucrative developments like condominiums.
Changing face of transportation
Gordon Price, former Vancouver city councillor and fellow at the Simon Fraser University Centre of Dialogue, says the current business model for gas stations is under threat.
“Some would say this is the end of the gas station in downtown Vancouver, but really, it’s the end of the suburban model for gas stations — the idea where you take the good part of a block, pave it over, put up a few gas pumps and a mini-mart,” said Price. “That model, given the land values, is clearly over.”
Price can foresee a not-too-distant future when traditional gas stations disappear, and a new style of business emerges in their place.
“I do think there is an opportunity for something like an energy supply depot, a place where you might get … gas and other fossil fuels if you need them,” he said.
“Maybe it’s a place you get other transit services [like fares], as well. Maybe it’s a place where you sign up for public bike share — a full utility.”
“When you go to places like Europe, certainly Asia, they’ve been through this before — high land values and very dense urban environments. You see a very different way to get some gas. Sometimes it might just be a pump on the sidewalk,” said Price.
… downtown Vancouverites will have to drive the extra kilometres to tank up once the final station closes.
“Vancouver would be an exception, only that it’s so extreme because of land values,” said Price, whose only lament about the station closure is that he’ll lose another place to inflate his bike tires.