Living/Working September 4, 2020

Living/Working

September 4, 2020

Pandemic redraws urban transportation road map

New study examines COVID-19’s impact on how Metro Vancouverites commute

Movmi CEO Sandra Phillips says she and her company’s COVID-19 Shared Mobility Taskforce were compelled to study how transportation has been changed by the pandemic amid reports of rising interest in car ownership overseas | Chung Chow

Like the sound of a dripping faucet, recent reports of increased car sales in China and Italy as those countries emerged from pandemic lockdowns have been impossible to ignore for people invested in shared transportation.

“And quite frankly, the group was concerned around that,” Sandra Phillips, CEO of Vancouver-based Movmi Shared Transportation Services Inc. and a member of its COVID-19 Shared Mobility Taskforce.

Movmi designs and implements multi-mobility networks that include car and bike sharing, so rising post-lockdown car sales were understandably worrisome. Would efforts to wean commuters off single-occupancy vehicles falter as locals avoid crowded buses or rapid-transit systems for health reasons?

“We decided we wanted to understand from consumers directly,” Phillips said.

An August report commissioned by the global task force and co-authored by Phillips examined the effects of the pandemic on Metro Vancouverites’ transportation habits as more residents embarked on working from home while others modified their commutes when returning to the workplace.

Survey results from the report, meant to represent a snapshot of behaviour in Metro Vancouver from June 10 to July 5, concluded that people in 14% of car-free homes in Vancouver were now considering buying a vehicle.

“Fourteen per cent is actually quite low compared to the numbers that have come out of Milan or China,” Phillips said.

In China, sales of passenger vehicles grew 16.4% year-over-year in July to 2.11 million vehicles, according to figures released last month from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

Numbers in Italy reflect much less enthusiasm than in China, with light vehicle sales falling 10.8% that same month compared with a year earlier, according to the Italian Association of the Automotive Industry (ANFIA).

But a May survey from Capgemini SE consultancy revealed that 43% of Italians were considering buying a car this year – the third-largest proportion among countries surveyed, behind China (61%) and India (57%).

Phillips speculates the difference between those countries and Vancouver may be the degree to which the jurisdictions were hit by COVID-19 at the outset of the crisis.

Cycling increased 2% across Metro Vancouver, according to the task force’s survey, and Phillips said it remains unclear how much these figures will change as the weather gets colder in the coming months.

Google’s (Nasdaq:GOOGL) COVID-19 community mobility report on the city of Vancouver found transit ridership fell 47% below pre-COVID levels from June 15 to July 27.

Just over 71% of task force survey respondents reported reducing the number of trips they take across Metro Vancouver, and another 17% of respondents reported not travelling at all.

The report attributed a significant proportion of that shift to a rise in the number of respondents now working from home: 13% prior to the pandemic, compared with 75% at the time the survey was conducted.

“If we’re thinking 14% are going to buy a vehicle, which is now less used [due to remote working], I always think it’s a waste of space just having these vehicles sitting around,” Phillips said.

“Once you’ve got that you’re locked into that mode for, let’s just say, the next five to 10 years.”

Phillips said after that investment is made, it’s unlikely that those formerly car-free homes will go back to depending on car-share memberships, consistent transit use or cycling.

Metro Vancouver’s brief flirtation with regulated ride-hailing also took a hit as the number of trips plunged throughout the region in the immediate aftermath of the pandemic, according to Lyft Inc. (Nasdaq:LYFT).

Since then, the ride-hailing service reported, rides to Vancouver International Airport have remained low, but rides to ferry terminals and public transportation hubs have exceeded numbers posted during the brief, pre-pandemic period between Lyft’s January launch in B.C. and the lockdown that followed in March.

One of the ongoing issues facing the launch of ride hailing in B.C. is the requirement for drivers to obtain Class 4 commercial licences.

The problem was further exacerbated during the pandemic when the Insurance Corp. of B.C. (ICBC) suspended road tests over safety concerns, according to Jamil Chaudhry, director of operations for ReRyde Technologies Inc.

The Richmond-based ride-hailing service is among the more than a dozen B.C. operators now aiming to compete with giants like Lyft and Uber Technologies Inc. (NYSE:UBER).

“When we were choosing which market to entertain, we noticed there was a huge gap,” Chaudhry said, referring to Uber and Lyft offering services only within the Lower Mainland.

“Companies are rushing towards one area. One reason’s for sure: everyone is looking to cater to the community with the higher population.”

He said ReRyde will instead be focused on the Capital Regional District, the rest of Vancouver Island, the Okanagan and northern B.C.

But getting operations off the ground with a sufficient number of drivers has been challenging for ReRyde due to the lower population density of those regions and the lack of road tests (ICBC resumes road tests September 9).

The company is now offering $500 bonuses to applicants who become drivers.

Victoria-based LTG Technologies Ltd. (Lucky to Go) began offering services in Kelowna in July but its CEO, Mandeep Rana, said it was possible to do so only by recruiting taxi drivers who already possessed a Class 4 licence.

Chaudhry said the company is doing the same but it has taken a big hit as a result of the pandemic.

He still hopes services will be ready to launch in 30 to 60 days.

“It is going to be a struggle, just because of how things are working right now,” he said. •

 
Leading

COVID-19’s cumulative effect hits Labour Day weekend hard

I cannot recall a Labour Day weekend like this Labour Day weekend.

 

The typical circumference of summer, proscribed by resting and recharging, was no more in 2020. We have been burdened in these months by a new access tax to normalcy.

This weekend has felt, for so much of life, for a half-century now through school and into career, the truer start of the new year.

What with the snap intensity of business, the density of activity, the attention on goals to accomplish, the inflection point oozing optimism and impulse with a pinch of apprehension – the calendar might as well place it as January 1.

Year by year there has been something rejuvenating in acknowledging the slackened summer was done, that business was back, and that we were upon crucial weeks to catalyze our refreshed psyche to attack expectations.

Of course, we are still upon these crucial weeks, only we are not attacking expectations as much as mitigating and manoeuvring them. The rhythm of a spring strategy and autumn’s tactics feels ancient and inadequate to our tasks. The harvest period of prime economic performance – half the business in a quarter’s time, in our usual year – is hampered by the drought preceding it.

The local business leaders I meet and talk to, if they will be honest about it, are expecting much more difficulty ahead than what they have so far encountered. In general, with some exceptions, their tenacity comes and goes a few times in the day. They talk about their energy levels as vulnerable and more frail each week that passes. They fret about their families and colleagues in entirely new ways because they know the weariness and wariness are mentally corrosive. They are used to problem-solving, not problem-festering.

What is worrisome is to hear them talk not only about the long-term uncertainty of the road ahead so much as the spate of short-term detours, how it feels like every day is carjacked and how enervating it is to hold the wheel. Good ideas are driven into the ditch when attention is diverted.

They are accustomed to using the months of summer as a source, not a sapping, of strength. They are admittedly struggling to get a handle on their businesses without credibly understanding how, when or if stability will present itself.

They work more and achieve less, often in homes built precisely to escape that work. The novelty of remote employment and leadership has worn thin, as has the patience in this instant-gratification era for science to answer the pandemic.

So, for that matter, is it common to hear a growing disquiet about the signals senior governments are sending, particularly to smaller and medium-sized businesses without the deeper fitness to withstand the marathon.

There is an obvious backdrop of anxiety about the next wave of infection anticipated later in the fall, how that will again disrupt and set back their improvised operations, and whether there is the resolve and resources in governments to see the battle more precisely, properly and through. And, unsurprisingly for business leaders, there is also a tinge of resentment about how the pursuit of public health has had more weight than the pursuit of economic health. That being said, no one is unafraid of a surge in cases because everyone knows that will surely shut what modestly operates.

They’d like, as I would, in 2021 and beyond to get our Labour Day weekends back – to get the last drop of juice into the batteries, to celebrate and reflect on what work achieves, to watch sports in their correct seasons and movies in their correct locations and to again venture into autumn with assuredness, with business as usual and not as unusual. •

Kirk LaPointe is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Business in Vancouver and the vice-president, editorial, of Glacier Media.

 
Spending

Vancouver ranked most popular Canadian city for veganism

Let's hear it for our plant-power! 🌱

Tofu Bowl at Chi Vegan | Photo: @chirestaurantbar/Instagram

Let's hear it for our plant-power! 

Vancouver has been ranked one of the top 10 cities in the world for veganism, and is the top - and only - Canadian city on that list.

The list was compiled by the website Chef's Pencil, which used Google Trends to analyze "the search interest level for veganism across the world."

Some of the search terms they included, in any language, were "veganism," "vegan restaurants," and the like. 

"Veganism is now twice as popular as it was just five years ago," notes Chef's Pencil. 

Vancouver landed ninth in the world, and was only one of two North American cities in the top 10; Portland, Oregan came in second overall. The top city for veganism in the world, per Chef's Pencil's data analysis, is Bristol, UK.

Overall, Canada ranked ninth among global nations for veganism based on web searches. Among Canadian provinces, British Columbia has the highest ratio of vegan-related searches, with Ontario a distant second and Nova Scotia ranking third.

Vancouver's vegan scene has been expanding rapidly in the past few years, and the city is home to a number of strong plant-based brands, including food products, restaurants, and other businesses. Earlier this year, a popular travel site, Big7, named two Vancouver spots on their list of its picks for the best vegan restaurants in the world (they're The Acorn and MeeT). 

Here are the rankings:

1.        Bristol,UK (Popularity Score: 100)

2.        Portland,US (Popularity Score: 76)

3.        Edinburgh,UK (Popularity Score: 75)

4.        London,UK (Popularity Score: 69)

5. (tie) Amsterdam, NL (Popularity Score: 67)

5. (tie) Berlin, DE (Popularity Score: 67)

5. (tie) Hamburg,DE (Popularity Score: 67)

8.        Manchester,UK (Popularity Score: 63)

9. (tie) Vancouver,CA (Popularity Score: 62)

9. (tie) Leipzig,DE (Popularity Score: 62)

Vancouver Is Awesome

 
Spending

Richmond brewery hosts virtual beer tasting happy hour

Brewmaster Steve Black is thrilled to introduce top-selling craft beers to viewers | Photo: Submitted

A brewing company headquartered in Richmond will host a virtual happy hour to unwind with friends during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Old Abbey Ales, an Abbotsford brewery with its head office in Richmond, will launch a virtual beer tasting event on Sept. 18 to introduce their most iconic craft beers to the public and teach audiences how to use beer to make cocktails in just minutes.

“Hanging out and cracking some beer with friends is missed by many during the pandemic, but there are other ways to raise glasses with your dearest by gathering online via Zoom,” said Sonny Li, CEO of Old Abbey Ales.

“I know meeting friends in person sounds more exciting, but sometimes it’s hard to keep social-distancing rules in mind after the booze kicks in,” added Li.

Steve Black, a brewmaster from Old Abbey Ales, said he is going to introduce their top-selling craft beers and also introduce nitro beer, which is listed as one of the most Instagram-worthy drinks.

Sour raspberry, another one of its popular beers, will also be featured in the virtual event.

“The sour raspberry beer has won multiple awards, including 1st place at the Canadian beer awards in the fruit beer category and 2nd at the BC beer awards in the same category. I used fresh raspberries from a local farm and lactobacillus bacteria to sour it. It’s the same bacteria we used to sour the yogurt.

“I am excited to host a virtual party to help people escape what’s going on in the world and focus on what we are grateful for. No matter where you are, you can have a drink together," said Black, adding that he hopes everyone can “arrive thirsty, but leave inspired and happy.”

For new Canadians who might not be aware of the Canadian beer culture, the event could help participants broaden their tasting vocabulary and understand Canada’s beer history.

“It will make your beer taste even better after getting to know the history behind. You can also get your beer questions answered from our brewmaster,” said Li.

The cost is $20, including eight 473ml beer cans that need to be picked up at 4211 No. 3 Rd. in Richmond beginning Sept. 1.

People who have questions about the event can email: info@oldabbeyales.com or visit the website

Richmond News

 
Spending

Vancouver-Opoly: Jail has been replaced with traffic jams in the Vancouver version of Monopoly

A Vancouver version of Hasbro's classic Monopoly board game has been launched in stores and online

Photo: Outset Media

This might be the only slice of real estate many of us folks in Vancouver can afford.

It comes in the form of landmarks on the limited edition Vancouver-Opoly, which launched again this month both online and in stores.

A spin on the classic Hasbro board game, Monopoly, the Vancouver version features Stanley Park and downtown Vancouver in the pricey spots of the original Boardwalk and Park Place.

In Vancouver-Opoly, instead of getting trapped in jail and having their turn delayed, game players get trapped in traffic jams.

Paying luxury or utility taxes has been replaced with property taxes costing just $200, and a $75 parking ticket.

Canadian owned and operated Outset Media partnered with Walmart to create and sell the game, available now, here.

“We are ecstatic that the citizens of Vancouver have chosen to welcome us into their homes and include us in weekly game nights with friends and family,” explained Outset Media vice-president Jean Paul Teskey.

“We look forward to continuing the celebration of Vancouver and other local communities across Canada,” Teskey said.

Other Vancouver properties available for pretend-purchase include Robson, Granville, Commercial, and Main Streets along with the Vancouver Aquarium, BC Place, Granville Island, and the University of British Columbia.

Previously, Monopoly-like board games have been created with the City of Vancouver in mind.

Vancouver Is Awesome

 
Exploring

What are we reading? September 3, 2020

Getty Images

Each week, BIV staff will share with you some of the interesting stories we have found from around the web.

 

Kirk LaPointe, publisher and editor-in-chief:

Are you bored? Is that really a question and not a statement in the pandemic? Boredom has its role. Embrace it. – The New Yorker

https://www.newyorker.com/culture/annals-of-inquiry/what-does-boredom-do-to-us-and-for-us#intcid=recommendations_the-new-yorker-homepage_51b8dc57-6161-43e7-9211-cef8c0e042e0_popular4-1

 

George Packer has been an astute societal observer and chronicler for decades. He’s warning Americans that Joe Biden could lose. – The Atlantic

https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/08/how-biden-loses/615835/

 

Ever gone online shopping and spent well more than you expected? There’s tech behind that. – Wired

https://www.wired.com/story/amazon-online-retail-dark-patterns/#intcid=_wired-homepage-right-rail_dadb580e-c771-413b-8a26-68eafad0192d_popular4-1

 

Emma Crawford Hampel, online editor:

So we are now wearing the masks. But are we wearing them correctly? How face masks work and which ones provide the best protection: – Wall Street Journal

https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-face-masks-work-and-which-types-offer-the-best-covid-19-protection-11595946178?mod=wsjtwittertest19

 

Mark Falkenberg, deputy managing editor:

John Horgan enjoys the highest approval rating among Canadian premiers in a new Angus Reid poll. The survey suggests that a lot of the B.C. premier’s approval, at 69%  – rests on the BC NDP government’s response to the pandemic, despite the recent rise in the number of new cases of COVID-19 in the province.  – angusreid.org

http://angusreid.org/premier-approval-august2020/

 

The end of many pandemic support programs, including B.C.’s Temporary Rental Supplement, will likely touch off a wave of evictions in the province, observers warn.  – rabble.ca

https://rabble.ca/news/2020/08/bcs-housing-crisis-hit-boiling-point-pandemic-protections-are-set-be-lifted

 

Timothy Renshaw, managing editor:

In need of a little light summer reading? Try digesting the OECD's roundup of global tax policy reforms in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, how those reforms have helped or hindered economies, what countries and their populations will need to do to pull themselves out of the financial morass they are all now mired in and why international taxation co-operation is needed more than ever.

http://www.oecd.org/tax/tax-policy-reforms-26173433.htm