As Canada slowly reopens the economy and facilitates people’s interaction with friends and family, it has at least two distinct paths or strategies to guide the recovery. Large and small cities may return, to the pre-COVID 19 scenario where traffic congestion was ubiquitous and housing affordability posed an unrelenting challenge. The pre-COVID strategy will try to find supply-side solutions to these challenges. This will involve spending billions of dollars on new roads and transit systems along with some minimalist attempts to construct new affordable public housing. Regrettably, the supply-side alternatives will do little to bring a meaningful change.
The second path focuses on limiting travel demand by promoting telework so that workers can work from home and continue to be active members of the economy. This solution may not work for everyone. Some (many) would still have to go to work. But for those who can work from home, governments and businesses can facilitate the transition. Working from home (telework) will help reduce travel demand and hence it has the potential of savings in infrastructure spending, some of which could be redirected to health and education. Telework will save businesses hundreds of millions of dollars in commercial rents. The reduced travel demand will also result in a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, workers can choose to live in affordable suburban neighbourhoods or in small towns while still being connected to and engaged at work.
Learn more about these ideas in my conversation with Steve Paikin at TVO. Please Click HERE to watch the panel discussion.