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Good morning! Wendy Cox here.

Vancouver’s housing crisis inevitably leads into a discussion about transit infrastructure. The region is getting more of it. It will need still more.

Trains are jammed-packed, buses whiz by waiting passengers because they’re full, routes don’t adequately reach the far-flung suburbs where more and more people are finding affordable accommodation.

But an intensive survey by the region’s transit authority has found area residents aren’t regarding transit as a panacea. In fact, a surprising number of them are choosing to forgo a chaotic commute and simply walk. Some of them for quite a distance.

Municipal reporter Frances Bula took a close look at the results of TransLink’s survey of 28,000 households over three months in the fall of 2017. Residents were asked to make a trip diary, to record for a day every trip they made, for what purpose and how. A similar survey had been conducted in 2011.

Walking trips went from an average of 650,000 a day in 2011 to 1.1 million. And it wasn’t just in Vancouver. The number of walking trips in West Vancouver, Coquitlam and Richmond more than doubled and even in sprawling suburban Surrey, walking increased to 158,000 trips a day from 89,000 trips a day.

Geoff Cross, TransLink’s vice-president of planning, said city planners are paying more attention to walkable neighbourhoods, so that helps. But he said the gains in pedestrian trips weren’t expected.

Also surprising: the share of people taking transit trips remained about the same, with increases barely keeping up with population growth. And the number of trips by bike stayed flat.

Meanwhile, the number of car trips and kilometres travelled soared. The population increased by about 200,000 and the number of people driving solo around the region jumped by 14 per cent.

So did car-pooling. The number of people riding as passengers in cars increased by about 30 per cent. That’s a trend completely counter to the steady decline of car-pooling since 1994. In fact, transit planners had discounted it as a long-term factor.

But the survey also has some fascinating insights about the way people in the Vancouver region live: Online shopping doesn’t seem to have killed the traditional promenade around local stores: shopping trips increased by almost 50 per cent. And trips simply for pleasure went up by 30 per cent.

This is the weekly Western Canada newsletter written by B.C. Editor Wendy Cox and Alberta Bureau Chief James Keller. If you’re reading this on the web, or it was forwarded to you from someone else, you can sign up for it and all Globe newsletters here. This is a new project and we’ll be experimenting as we go, so let us know what you think.

Around the West

ALBERTA ENERGY REGULATOR: Reports from three watchdog agencies in Alberta have detailed how the former head of the province’s energy regulator diverted public funds and resources to a side project while concealing the details from the board of directors. Jim Ellis, who left the Alberta Energy regulator last year, was under investigation for his role in setting up an operation called the International Centre of Regulatory Excellence, or ICORE. The reports include one from the Public Interest Commissioner, who concluded that the actions of Jim Ellis “constitute a willful and reckless disregard for the proper management of AER funds." Messages left for Mr. Ellis on two publicly listed numbers were not returned.

KENNEY IN ONTARIO: Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is in Ontario this week campaigning for Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer – part of Mr. Kenney’s promise to work to defeat Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau. Mr. Kenney appeared alongside Mr. Scheer at an event in Edmonton earlier in the campaign.

CONSERVATIVE CANDIDATE: The federal Conservatives have dropped a British Columbia candidate over remarks on homosexuals that the party is describing as “offensive.” Heather Leung will no longer represent it in Burnaby North-Seymour, the party announced on Friday.

VAPING: Two men in British Columbia are suing vaping manufacturer Juul, alleging that the company misrepresented the potential side effects of using the products. They say they started vaping because they thought it was a safer alternative to smoking, but allege they have experienced shortness of breath, chest pain, coughing and increased addiction to nicotine.

ALBERTA’S ELECTION: The federal election campaign has already been under way for three weeks, but the main party leaders have barely stepped foot in Alberta. James Keller looks at how the province’s reputation as a Tory stronghold has meant it gets short shrift during the campaign.

RIDINGS TO WATCH: From Burnaby North-Seymour, where the Trans Mountain pipeline is shaping the race, to Calgary-Centre, where the Liberal incumbent is fighting off anger over an economic downturn, read what Globe and Mail reporters think are the 21 most important races in the country.

HOUSING: Developers in the Vancouver region say protections for tenants pose a big risk to new rental projects. Frances Bula looks at how municipal rules that require higher compensation for tenants in the event of redevelopment has affected new projects. Meanwhile, Seattle is attempting to woo property investors from Vancouver’s sluggish real estate market while prices continue to drop.

FRATERNITIES: An allegation of multiple women being drugged at University of British Columbia fraternity parties on campus last weekend prompted those groups to suspend all social functions. Campus security and the RCMP say they haven’t received any formal complaints but are nonetheless investigating.

BELLATRIX: Calgary-based Bellatrix Exploration Ltd. has filed for court protection as it seeks a buyer or new investor against a backdrop of depressed natural-gas prices. The energy producer, once worth nearly $2-billion, says it sought protection from creditors to provide stability while it launched a process to explore strategic alternatives.

ALBERTA FOSSIL: Scientists have found fossil evidence from the previous ice age of a sabre-toothed cat in southern Alberta. The researchers say their discovery, in the Medicine Hat area, is the northern-most record of the predator.

FOOD: Vancouver food writer Alexandra Gill stopped by the new Blossom Dim Sum & Grill, which she says has delicious food but whose concept is difficult to pin down.


Gary Mason on fraternities: “But beyond the often-degenerate social activities with which frat houses are associated, there is an even more troubling dimension: the underlying premise for their existence in the first place. They are and always have been highly exclusionary associations that habitually divide by race, class and gender. Far from being afraid of being associated with privilege – often white privilege – fraternities seem to embrace it.”

The Globe and Mail Editorial Board on the oil patch and the election: “If the Trans Mountain expansion has shown us anything, it’s that the courts will insist on extensive consultations with Indigenous peoples, and on detailed environmental assessments, before allowing projects to go forward. Those speedbumps exist regardless of who is in government. And in the case of Indigenous consultation, they are constitutionally entrenched.”

Merran Smith and Sarah Petrevan on clean power: “Canada can still be an energy leader in the decades ahead, but that future doesn’t exist without a strong clean-energy sector − and a federal government after October’s election that will maintain and expand on the progress we’ve made.”

Martha Hall Findlay on internal trade barriers: “There is much that the federal government can do to help move this issue forward, but those steps – as distinct from just talking about it – would also require political will and courage. Will any of the federal politicians running for office step up to this truly national challenge?”

Tim Rand on Canadian energy: “Incumbent industries hold our national narrative on energy in a headlock, defending yesterday’s success stories – not defining or shaping tomorrow’s. That dynamic doesn’t serve our long-term national interest. We must reshape that narrative to anticipate a world dominated by low-cost distributed energy technologies in just a few decades.”

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