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Experts Discuss Changing Transportation Patterns as Lockdowns Lifted

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VANCOUVER—Getting around Stanley Park since the pandemic struck is a new experience for Tom Green.

Roads that weave through the urban forest in Vancouver have been closed to traffic, making space for residents to get fresh air at a physical distance.

“Its become a cycling and walking paradise and you can hear the birds better,” said the climate solutions policy analyst for the David Suzuki Foundation.

Mobility data released by Apple suggests enormous declines in personal transportation since COVID−19 began its spread in Canada.

Users of the companys Maps app made 80 percent fewer requests for directions on transit between Jan. 13 and May 4 across the country. Requests from drivers dropped 42 percent, while walkers dropped 40 percent during the same period.

Its a shift that one expert says places communities at a crossroads. Theres an opportunity to encourage healthier forms of transportation after the crisis subsides but theres also a lot at stake, said Meghan Winters, an associate professor of health sciences at Simon Fraser University in nearby Burnaby.

“I think the biggest challenge that will face our cities is that were not going to recover in terms of transit,” Winters said.

Data from post-lockdown China suggests more people are driving, she said.

In Canada, already cash-strapped transit agencies are facing sharp revenue declines and with a new public aversion to shared spaces that could extend into the long-term.

The Toronto Transit Commission has temporarily laid off 1,200 employees amid an 85 percent drop in ridership. In Metro Vancouver, TransLink says it is losing around $75 million each month due to reductions in ridership and lost fuel tax revenue.

Service cuts are manageable in neighbourhoods where alternate routes are available but theres a question about equity if some routes are cut permanently. Not everyone can drive and people with disabilities, teens, and seniors could lose vital links to groceries and medical appointments, Winters said.

Cities arent designed to handle significant increases in congestion unless a large portion of the economy shifts to more permanent work-from-home arrangements, she said.

But theres also an opportunity as more people bike and walk on roads without traffic in many places. People who dont normally cycle have been able try it out in a safer way and could continue riding under the right conditions, she said.

“If theres one silver lining here, its that weve been in a place that isnt as car-centric, that doesnt have that same congestion, pollution, noise, stressors. And people have been out in their communities noticing different things, hearing different things, feeling safer on their streets,” Winters said.

But it will take a co-ordinated effort for cities to hold onto that change, she said.

“Theyll have to invest in ensuring that walking and cycling continue to feel like safe activities for people.”

In the short-term, police in several jurisdictions said theRead More – Source