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It's time to reassess and grow, says city planner as we look ahead to post-pandemic life

Last Updated May 6, 2020 at 8:52 am PDT

Downtown Vancouver is seen here from the NEWS 1130 Air Patrol in November of 2019. (Riley Phillips for NEWS 1130)
Summary

Among the changes we can expect to see in our post-pandemic lives is the way in which we map out our cities

Former City of Vancouver planner says it's time to re-assess and align our city growth strategies to the new-normal

City planner says, despite fewer cars being on the road now, cutting public transit services would create a problem

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Our post-pandemic world is likely going to look and feel a lot different — and this may include the way we approach the design of our cities moving forward.

This suggestion is coming from the former chief planner for the City of Vancouver, who adds it would perhaps be naive and a missed opportunity if we don’t reassess city planning.

Brent Toderian, now an independent planning contractor, says one area in-particular to watch is how cities deal with transportation issues.

“If public transit sustains permanent damage, which would be a very bad thing for cities, let’s be really clear, if a lot less people take public transit, even during just during the recovery period of this, and those people try to drive more, we may actually have more cars on the road,” Toderian explains.

He suggests while working from home could become a new normal, it won’t necessarily mean less traffic, especially if cities decide to cut back on public transit.

Toderian notes there have also been more people riding bikes during this pandemic.

“All the elements of mobility in our cities are all in flux right now, the question is, what will stick as we come out of the pandemic into the recovery, and into the creation of, essentially, some sort of new normal?”

He adds change is always happening, and stresses the importance of not just recovering from this pandemic, but planning for the future.

“We have to remember, one of the consequences of climate change is more and worse pandemics, among many other consequences,” he says. “So we can’t put our foot on the gas towards even worse climate change or faster climate change in our response to this pandemic, or it’ll be, sort of, out of the frying pan and into the fire.”

Toderian says strategic infrastructure spending could be a way for cities to restore economic growth with a mind towards sustainability and the environment.

“Even though there’s less money for infrastructure projects, there’s a huge reason to have infrastructure projects in the form of catalyst projects that will help reactivate the economy. Although the money will be short, there will be a great interest in spending money strategically to get jobs and economic activities going again.”

Last month, Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart said the City of Vancouver was losing about $5-million a week due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.