No one really knows what the future holds.
But that doesn’t mean that people can’t think about what lies ahead with the things that are known.
This is what planners with Metro Vancouver and TransLink did in an exercise to imagine what the region may look like in 2050.
The result is four different scenarios, which they hope will guide decision makers respond to challenges and opportunities.
The process identified technology and automation, and the economy and trade, as two factors exerting the biggest and most variable impacts.
“This exercise is not about choosing a preferred future, or about proposing a set of policy actions,” the planners stated in a joint report. “The purpose of the project is to describe and understand divergent but possible futures for the region to the year 2050.”
James Stiver and Sean Tynan, division manager for growth management and transportation, and regional planner, respectively, with Metro Vancouver, presented preliminary findings in a report.
Stiver and Tynan summarized the results in their report that is included in the agenda Friday (April 5) of the district government’s regional planning committee.
“The future is uncertain, with a range of trends and technologies that will likely make the future look very different from today,” Stiver and Tynan wrote.
They noted that Scenario A “assumes current economic growth and development trends continue”.
“Automation becomes increasingly common in jobs with more repetitive tasks, but this trend is largely offset by job growth in other sectors,” Stiver and Tynan reported. “Significant uptake in autonomous vehicles (AVs) and high housing costs shift travel behavior and housing location decisions.”
Under this scenario, automation “continues to disproportionately impact lower-income workers who are more likely to be conducting repetitive tasks, decreasing equity in the region”.
There will be more traffic congestion because of the increase of autonomous vehicles, “while allowing driving time to be more enjoyable as it becomes possible to sleep or work while in a vehicle”.
“People may increasingly seek housing outside the region,” the two planners wrote. “The cost of housing and more enjoyable commutes may increase the willingness to travel long distances, with more people living in the Fraser Valley, Sea-to-Sky corridor, the Sunshine Coast and even Vancouver Island.”
Scenario B “assumes that rapid automation drives job losses and outmigration, resulting in declining growth”.
“All sectors, including professions like teaching, healthcare delivery and research and development are increasingly automated through artificial intelligence and advanced robotics,” Stiver and Tynan stated. “Decreasing employment drives a shift to more part-time and short-term ‘gig work’. Trip demand decreases with fewer work-related trips.”
According to them, “wealth inequity persists”, as more wealth is “capture by fewer people”.
Scenario C “assumes increasing barriers to global trade and reduced labour mobility spur a more self-sufficient regional economy”.
“The federal government decreases immigration rates, slowing population growth, while higher tariffs increase the cost of exporting or importing goods,” Stiver and Tynan reported.
Under this scenario, agricultural land “becomes more essential” as “food supply and cost may be compromised by increased trade barriers”.
“Housing becomes more affordable,” Stiver and Tynan stated. “With slowing population growth, housing costs recalibrate to local wages.”
Scenario D “assumes that automation and a more ambitious federal immigration policy drive rapid job and population growth in the region”.
“An increasingly mobile global workforce is attracted to the region, with more people working for companies headquartered elsewhere,” according to Stiver and Tynan.
“Congestion and overcrowding continue but are more spread throughout the day,” according to the planners. “People increasingly use shared mobility and employees are less likely to have traditional ‘9-5’ work hours, enabling less travel during peak periods.”
In their report, Stiver and Tynan indicated that feedback is being gathered in connection with the scenarios.
They expect “finalized product” to be available in May this year.
The draft report of Metro Vancouver and TransLink can be found in the regional planning committee’s agenda.