May 17, 2020

What will happen to car traffic?

Traffic went effectively overnight to nothing at all.   Didn’t expect that.

But what now?  Will it return to previous levels – maybe even drop a little, given that so much else has changed, from working at home to not working at all.

Or will a significant percent of people, fearful of transit, take their cars and compete for the remaining space.  Result: congestion city.

In this real-time experiment we now live in, we can watch from day to day to see what happens.  For instance, here’s the Causeway on Friday, May 15 in the afternoon.

Better yet, check the video.

Then take a guess as to which way it’s going to go.


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  1. I may be the only one to jump in on this provocative subject, so here goes: I think many people, including me, will be transit shy for some time, maybe until there’s a proven vaccine. Our oldest means of movement, walking, will continue to be popular in gridded areas, and biking should go.
    Cars for commuting? That’s the biggest question, given as you note either working from home or job loss.
    This raises a good question for me: maybe now would be a good time for some of those stripped lanes for peak hours parking on major commuting routes could be reclaimed for other uses, not ignoring loading. I’m thinking of West Broadway, South Granville and Commercial Drive in particular. Such strips with density that fosters high ped counts and has existing doorways frequency could bounce back sooner than later?

    Having said that, and as a consultant to two of the three streets named above, I realize that eliminating parking is a real threat.

  2. Agreed that people will be hesitant to use transit, but the alternative will likely depend on individual circumstances.
    Most office employers will likely ease into the back to work, allowing employees the option of coming in or working from home. So the need to commute will probably be reduced and employees will likely trickle in over time as they become accustomed to conditions.
    For those days where an employee does come to work, the mode of travel will depend on the distance involved.
    Longer haul travel means WCE, SkyTrain or personal car – with distancing requirements, it will be interesting to see if there will be sufficient capacity or if employees choose to work from home most days (if they can do so efficiently). People may come in to the office once or twice a week.
    The cost of parking downtown (if that’s your destination) can be prohibitive to drivers (over $20/day).
    Shorter distance travel also allows people to walk, bike, bus or be dropped off by family car (avoiding parking cost).
    I could see bus patronage drop since there tends to be more alternatives for short haul travel and there have been recent incidents on buses.

  3. Indeed public transit will have a perception of germ spreading for some time now, and as such people will opt for other means of transport. Car use will go up eventually. Given governments’ needs for massive revenue increases due to falling economic activity and massive debt creation we need to discuss significant civil servants wage decreases AND at the same time congestion fees ie road tolls. Road use in most cities is far too cheap in both its states: driving and parking. As such up parking fees and road use fees significantly but only if all 3 gov level can demonstrate significant wage reductions as that is their biggest expenses and far too high given now far higher unemployment and less economic activity. We are, afterall, “in this together” mais oui ?

    1. Post

      Let us begin with Health departments – provincial and regional especially. Full of civil servants. And labour is a huge percentage of health-department budgets.

      Perhaps Bonnie Henry could start by volunteering a 10 percent cut in hers.

      1. Indeed healthcare workers very well paid. Not sure if your comments are sarcastic or not, but I would not start with health care workers at the front line as the first target. But City of Vancouver staff or provincial staff generally is overpaid to start with and soon, Post Covid with far FAR higher unemployment and lower wages those already existing gaps.

        The mantra “we are in this together” rings very hollow for the millions of unemployed Canadians and employees or owners of: airlines, hotels, cruiseships, campgrounds, bars, restaurants, commercial real estate, retail stores, hair salons, yoga studios etc .. ALL significantly affected while civil servants continue to receive safe bi-weekly, sometime even raised, paycheques !

  4. There won’t be any commuter cars in the downtown core in the post covid-19 world. All of those people will be telecommuters. The remaining population will take up more public space at 12.5 square feet per person. They will all be members of the 2-meter Club and living in affordable housing. There will be no more building downtown either as the economy shifts to slow down defensive mode: preservation and re-allocation of existing resources, infrastructure and buildings will rule the future. We will all try to do better to avoid climate change by eliminating the combustion of fossil fuels. We will employ ourselves in the electrical conversion of everything. Designers will re-imagine streets for walking and rolling individuals and for electric power utility carts wrapped in soft bodies, enclosed and heated, attractive shapes and paint jobs and cool designs, smart phone connected, slow speeds on ten inch wheels, manual or AI enabled, voice controlled. [Smallest units should be less than 30” wide in order to fit through doors, travel down corridors and ride in elevators in the post covid 19 world.]