“Doctors found traces of blood in my coffee stream.”

Source: Unknown

Vancouver has its fair share of coffee shops: over 250 of them, in fact. So whether you want the familiar Starbucks Americano or an fresh-brewed Ethiopian Yirgacheffe from a hip local shop, Vancouver offers what you are looking for. And beyond the caffeine highs served up, coffee shops also provide a gathering place for university students, remote workers, and retirees, alike. A such, the density of coffee shops can be viewed as one barometer of social activity. Another barometer might be foot traffic. Closely related to foot traffic is transit use, as most transit trips start and end on foot. This led me to the question, if I am looking for a caffeine high in Vancouver, what transit stops will provide close access to the greatest number of coffee shops?

To determine this, I first need the data showing the locations of coffee shops within the City of Vancouver. As the starting point, I downloaded the storefront data from the City of Vancouver’s Open data portal, then filtered for businesses that included keywords such as “coffee” and “cafe”. I then compared this data against coffee shops listed in Google maps to determine if these coffee shops were still open as of March 2023.

For the keyword “cafe”, it got a little tricky, as some cafes are clearly coffee shops, whereas other qualify as restaurants that may also serve coffee. If the primary purpose of a visit to a cafe is to get a meal, I classified it as a restaurant, while if I deemed the primary purpose to be coffee-related, then I classified it as a coffee shop. If I wasn’t sure, I searched for images that included people using laptops, which for me signifies that this is the kind of place that people go to spend time and not just eat.

I did this analysis separately for Skytrain stations and bus stops. I determined how many coffee shops were within a 500-metre buffer of each Skytrain station, and a 250-metre buffer of each bus stop. I reasoned that Skytrain stations are farther apart and have a greater inflow/outflow than bus stops, so a larger buffer was appropriate. I created separate lists for the Top 5 Skytrain stations and Top 5 Bus Stops for accessing coffee shops in the city of Vancouver. 

So without further ado, here are the top 5 Skytrain stations where you can most easily satisfy your coffee fix:

Top 5 SkyTrain Stations

5) Vancouver City Centre: As you will see throughout both Top 5 lists, downtown Vancouver dominates the rankings. At number 5 is Vancouver City Centre, the second station on the Canada Line. Within 500-metres you will find 19 coffee shops, including
4) Stadium-Chinatown: The first stop within downtown along the Expo line, Stadium-Chinatown has 20 coffee shops within 500 metres. Among these are East Van Roasters, Papparoti, Revolver (yet again!), and not one, but two JJ Bean locations.
3) Burrard: located in the heart of the central business district, Burrard SkyTrain Station is Vancouver’s fourth busiest SkyTrain, and it ranks one spot higher than that on this list. Among the 21 coffee shops within 500 metres are Caffe Artigiano, Pallet Coffee Roasters, Murchie’s Tea & Coffee, and four Starbucks. If you are in the mood for a Frappuccino, head down to Burrard Station.
2) Granville: Granville Station is a busy station in the heart of downtown Vancouver. The station feature entrances onto Granville, Seymour, and Dunsmuir Street, providing easy access to Take Five Cafe, Bel Cafe, Mario’s Coffee Express, JJ Bean, and more.
1) Waterfront Station: Vancouver’s busiest SkyTrain station is also the best access point for caffeine. Waterfront Station is the starting point for the Expo line, Canada line, Seabus, and the West Coast Express. Cruise ships dock nearby, and Gastown’s throngs are just down the street. And with 26 coffee shops within 500 metres, these visitors don’t have to go far to refresh themselves before they head off to their next destination. These choices include Kafka’s, Java Cat, Mario’s, Blenz, three Starbucks, and two Tree’s Organic Cafes.
These five SkyTrain stations offer the best selection of nearby coffee shops.

At the other end of the spectrum, if you are looking for coffee and you are standing outside VCC-Clark, 29th Avenue or Nanaimo Stations, be sure to wear good shoes. These three stations share the honour of having zero coffee shops within 500 metres.

Top 5 Bus Stops

5) 50410 – Southbound Cambie St @ W Hastings St (Routes: 4 to Blanca, 19 Stanley Park, 50 Waterfront Station): With 12 coffee shops and cafes within 250 metres, the southbound stop and Cambie Street and Hastings Street comes in at number 5. Within close reach are Nemesis, Waves, Prado and Bean Around the World.

4) 50080 – Eastbound W Pender St @ Hamilton St (Routes: 17 Oak, 19 Metrotown Station, 22 Knight, 22 Knight to 63rd, 22 Knight via Terminal, N15 Cambie NightBus, N19 New West Station, N19 Surrey Central Station NightBus, N24 Lynn Valley NightBus): Number four on this list also with 12 nearby coffee shops is the stop and Pender and Hamilton. If you think you are starting to notice a pattern here, you might be correct. Downtown Vancouver is coffee shop central. Expect it to dominate the bus stop rankings the same way it did the SkyTrain station rankings.

3) 50407: HOMER ST @ W PENDER ST  (Routes 14 to Blanca, 14 UBC, 209 Upper Lynn Valley, 210 Phibbs Exchange, 210 Upper Lynn Valley, 211 Seymour, 214 Blueridge): Number 3 is the stop at Homer Stree and Pender Street. Thirteen coffee shops are just a stones throw away from this stop, with familiar cafes such as Bean Around the World, Nemesis, Timbertrain, and Java Cat making the list.

2) 50036: W CORDOVA ST @ HOMER ST (Routes: 3 Main-Marine Dr Station, 4 Downtown, 4 Powell, 7 Nanaimo Station, 8 Fraser, 50 Waterfront Station, 209 Upper Lynn Valley, 210 Phibbs Exchange, 210 Upper Lynn Valley,211 Seymour, 214 Blueridge, N8 Fraser NightBus): Yet another nearby bus stop located at Cordova Street and Homer Street is number two on this list. Saunter, Trees Organic, Nemesis, and Kafkas Coffee are just a few of the 13 coffee shops the surround this stop. 

1) 50931 – Eastbound W Hastings St @ Homer St: This stop is number one and expect to see yet more familiar names located within 250 metres of this stop at West Hastings and Homer Street. Waves, Timbertrain, Kafkas, Nemesis and more are within easy reach of this station. This further confirms that downtown is where the coffee action is the strongest.

Get off at any of these five bus stops to satisfy your caffeine addiction.

If you are wondering which station outside of the downtown peninsula ranks highest, your answer would be the bus stop at West Broadway and Ash with seven coffee shops within 250 metres. 

Coffee shops are just one amenity that draw transit users to a particular location. But hopefully this analysis shows a basic connection between the ways we get around and the places we want to go. The explosion in popularity of coffee shops in the past decades is a fascinating phenomena, and maps illuminate this sea change in a way that might not be obvious to the observer on the ground. As one saying goes, the road to success is paved in coffee. And in Vancouver, many roads (and transit lines) lead to coffee.