Coronavirus
April 8, 2021

Will you drive more or less after the pandemic?

Here’s a plausible scenario in which you’ll drive more – from Slate:

When the pandemic hit, Sheila worked at home. Seeking to minimize interactions with strangers, she avoided crowds and had groceries and essentials delivered to her house. But when the pandemic ends, finally, she’ll resume visiting stores and meeting other people, and her employer will blow the dust off the cubicles and reopen the office. For now, Sheila will return to work in person only three days per week, working from the ‘burbs during the other two. How might her teleworking travel differ from when she commutes in person?

Sheila obviously won’t be driving to or from work if she stays at home, but she’ll still take many other trips. Since she can’t exercise at her office, she instead drives to a gym four miles from her house. A lunch meeting is five miles away, and she combines it with a pharmacy run—generating a trip of 12 miles. At the end of the workday, she makes a final trip to a grocery store three miles away. If you do the math, she has now driven a total of 26 miles—more than when she went to the office.

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Who doesn’t like a good aerial to start the week – this one from the go-to website of “Changing City” for literal perspective on Vancouver.

This is the part of Downtown Vancouver that has seen the greatest change (from 1982 to 2020).

While Granville Street has been zoned (up to now) to restrict building heights, to allow the sidewalks to stay naturally lit and brighter, almost everything to the east in Downtown South has been allowed to go higher – although there are viewcones that cross the area restricting the height (and therefore density) of some buildings.

There are also guidelines to limit shadowing of parks – which now exist, although from this distance they’re hidden by a sea of mostly residential towers. Yaletown – the original three street warehouse district of 1900s buildings also has height limits, and can be seen on the right.

 

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It is one of the most frustrating things about this pandemic~everything might be closed down and activities discouraged, but there are basic things you need to do. I had an appointment and stopped  at Broadway and Granville Streets to use a washroom. I went to order in the Starbucks on Granville Street and asked to use the washroom only to find that while Starbucks will make the coffee and you can drink it, there’s no washroom available due to Covid.

For many people and for children drinking liquids without access to a washroom is like writing on a blackboard without chalk. It cannot be done. There are times you just need the use of public washroom facilities. I could not find a washroom to use anywhere. I did have a gift certificate for a merchant on the street, and while I was first refused access to the store’s washroom (which was taped off and closed)  that was provided once no other alternative was known and I told them I  had a credit in the store.

This was my first time having to negotiate to use a  washroom in Vancouver. Why is that even necessary?

I  don’t think that the merchants of this city should be required to provide washroom facilities without support from the City. There is no support, other than a vague promise from the City that some mobile washroom facilities would be available for the  dire need in the downtown eastside. No timeline, no locations given.

Council’s response and ignoring the need for basic washroom facilities in business areas is  just not good enough.

While the City has ignored the need for safe sanitary portable washrooms in business areas and in downtown they appear to have accessed funding for other items.

This City Council  voted  two months ago to have an auditor general set up to scrutinize internal processes and evaluate program effectiveness at a cost of two million dollars annually. Last week City Council considered adding an ethics commissioner at an annual cost of $200,000. That job was  to develop separate Codes of Ethics for staff and for City Councillors and Committees (there already is one for both).

The previous City Manager has pointed out that there already  was an internal auditor function and hiring the two million dollar auditor general would duplicate some existing positions. You would think Council could shoehorn in the ethics commissioner into the two million dollar annual outlay for the new Auditor General and pony up some money for something of a much more immediate need: Public Washrooms. Portable ones. That could be placed for citizens use now.

Why is Council busy looking at its own processes and fine tuning themselves when there is no where for citizens to do their business in the streets?

I have written over and over again why we need public washrooms, and accessible clean washrooms in Covid times. It is not only a public health issue it is a human right.

It was  Paola Lorrigio in The Star who bluntly points out that the dearth of  public washrooms, once a barrier to the homeless, poor, racialized and disabled is now a barrier to everyone.

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Daphne Bramham on the weekend wrote in the Province that “the chaos and disorder” in the Downtown Eastside  is so  “normalized that most Vancouverites have abandoned the neighbourhood, given it up to the homeless, the addicted, the mentally ill, and the people who prey on them.”

It is a true reflection of what has occurred and it is not equitable. There should be a standard of civility afforded to everyone to have safe, clean, accessible open spaces and streets everywhere in the city and to ensure public safety to every resident. By every measure that parameter has failed and the most vulnerable are impacted.

Ms. Bramham and Derrick Penner in the Vancouver Sun have written about the JJ Bean coffee shop at 14th and Main Street. The manager has had an escalating situation with several mentally ill homeless people in a host of situations, including “an altercation involving a homophobic slur, someone using drugs while barricaded in his café’s washroom, trash strewn in the alley and human waste smeared on the café’s compostables recycling bin.”

The coffee shop manager found that there was no direct way to find assistance with the challenges, and both the police and the city pointed at each other as places that should be able to provide assistance.

There is clearly no civic blueprint  to allow businesses to function while municipal attitude is to look away from people in crisis on the street, and finger point that other levels of government should be assisting.

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It’s no secret that when election ballots were alphabetized in the City of Vancouver that they seemed to favour people who had names at the top of the alphabet. You can take a look at this list of Mayors and Councils dating back to 1887. From my unscientific examination that there appears to be a heck of a lot of Councillors with last names beginning with the letters  “A” to “D”.

In 2005, six councillors had their last names with the initials “A” to “D”. In 2008 there were four Councillors that had their last names starting with  “A” to “D” initials. The City of Vancouver Council has ten members, as well as the Mayor.

If you have a slate of councillors you want to get elected with, knowing that their last name started with a letter from the front of the alphabet has historically helped.

It made sense to randomize the ballot, but what to do with the very long slate of names, many names people voting for Councillor might be unfamiliar with?  Alex Strachan reported in a 1993 article in the Vancouver Sun  that “studies show voters choosing a slate from the list of 40 names or more may choose several selections at the top of the list before realizing they have a few choices left”. 

Sadly it appears to be human nature that people go to the bottom of the list and then work their way up~”overlooking the names in the middle”.

In 1993 the ballot was randomized, with the order of ranking on the ballot being decided by names being drawn from a ballot box. The successful mayor, Phillip Owen was number two on the ballot; his main opponent, Libby Davies was in the 11th spot.

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