Speculation has become a national sport in the pandemic.
We all have theories on how this stage will move to the next stage and the stage beyond that and how that stage will bring us to another stage and what stage we might be in at that stage.
We have too much imagination on our sanitized hands. Forgive, then, these predictions:
1. As goes business, so will need to go government. Which means the sudden speediness of the private sector in pivoting will spill over – it has to – on the notorious stodginess of the public sector. Hidebound government will, too, be forced to respond with efficiencies. The public will demand more instant gratification.
2. There is no special insight in suggesting white-collar remote work across flexible work weeks will take hold in cities. Market demand will improve technology if we accelerate 5G arrival and virtual reality to deliver better experiences with colleagues, at sites, and for escapism. But a key impact will be the easing of pressure to live near our work. Possibly that prompts a mild exodus from expensive Vancouver and Victoria, especially for early-career people generally stretching budgets to work in tight confines. The disadvantage of accommodating the shortest possible commute will abate.
3. Multibillion-dollar transit extensions make less sense as a priority than ever in a digital-default world of work and higher education. Public finances will be troubled by severe deficits and tax fatigue. The population will be heading east in the region. Autonomous vehicles will arrive. The notion of boring a big hole and running it under part of the city is much more difficult to justify.
4. Cities will need to ignite street life in a hurry. Many will shun public transit while coronavirus is untamed, and staged events will be few, so we will need vibrancy in our neighbourhoods daily, not just occasionally. It would mean more life in our parks and many more retail and restaurant extensions and performances into streets that curtail or eliminate vehicular traffic and induce pedestrians to walk and cycle into more proximate activity.
5. Cycling’s future is propelled by the surge in power bikes, but the car isn’t going to die – not when we’ll need them for more nearby vacations, certainly not once cooler weather returns. But we have to reconsider a new coexistence with fewer heading to office towers. We were on each other’s cases as a city before the pandemic. We need some form of détente. That truce might wisely be a form of separation, one of some cycle-only streets, cycle-absent others.
6. The food delivery business has staying power, but it’s going to have to settle in on a higher-standard business model that doesn’t gut restaurant margins and provides more reliability – that everything ordered arrives, that everything ordered is sanitary. To help that business we will need much more space allotted in residential areas for vehicles to routinely park and deliver.
7. Cities will need to shift bylaws and development priorities to encourage home offices, and tax rules will need to be more generous to recognize them as normal, not oddities or side hustles.
8. Sports will become more interesting on screens, with more pre-game and during-game engagement of players and coaches. Crowd sound will be gone (please, no fake cheers and jeers), but we will hear the genuine sound of competition. We are getting a taste with the reopening of Germany’s Bundesliga. Major leagues should see this as an opportunity to establish a better telecast by the time crowds are permitted.
9. International owners, particularly part-time occupants or those with vacation properties, will be selling in the short-to-medium term because they cannot travel to enjoy them routinely. Travel will be much more expensive and arduous, and despite the bargains, the pandemic will not make great investments of real estate soon.
10. Recorded music will regenerate as a revenue source for artists, providing they negotiate stronger deals with streaming services. Their mainstay revenue from touring, if it continues, will be mainly spartan for years. The human psyche will take a lot of recovering to park the new fear, including there. •
Kirk LaPointe is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Business in Vancouver and the vice-president, editorial, of Glacier Media.