– By Jeff McMahon
- “I want you, on purpose, to spend $33,000 on an asset, okay?
- And I want you, on purpose, the minute you buy it, to lose 11.5 percent.
- And on purpose to make that asset sit idle 95 percent of the time,”
– By Jeff McMahon
The coronavirus has exposed the ills of continued automobile-centric urban planning practices that adversely impact equity, health and the climate. Those of us who are working from home, own an automobile and can conveniently make grocery runs may overlook the fact that many in this country are not so lucky. Many households rely on public transit systems that are struggling to provide service, or they may bear high transportation costs exacerbated by a lack of access to the most critical of needs.
No technological solution will solve the systemic problems with our urban land use and transportation policies. We simply need to commit to the development of complete neighborhoods and communities that ensure access to food, healthcare, education and jobs — without relying on personal vehicles.
In the midst of this crisis, many are pointing to the outbreak of COVID-19 in urban centers such as New York City to support anti-density arguments. This sentiment is nothing new in the environmental community, much of which grew out of anti-development advocacy of the 1970s and ’80s. But the world is a different place, and it’s time for the environmental community to push back on these arguments.
After all, compact and mixed-use neighborhoods — which can include medium or “gentle” density levels — are, by nature, resilient and energy efficient. Barring supply chain collapse, they far outperform suburban communities in their access to food and other critical needs during crises such as the one we are experiencing.
Why then, do we continue to outlaw this resiliency in most of our cities?
Paris. 22 March 2020
So now what? Well, for sure life is about to get very interesting. With the unmet challenge of the world climate emergency, and now out of the blue the Coronavirus fast upon us, we are now in the process of putting the old century once and for all firmly behind us. Not so much because we want to, but because we HAVE to. It’s a new world out there and we must meet it!
2020 will be the year of transition. And at the end of this round we will never be the same. One way or another! Your call!
So for our bit, please stay tuned to World Streets and Co. Here and at . . .
By Lloyd Wright, Senior Urban Development Transport Specialists, Asian Development Bank – https://blogs.adb.org/author/lloyd-wright https://blogs.adb.org/let-s-use-the-pandemic-to-expand-our-transport-options
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted lives and livelihoods, and has become a devastating global human tragedy. A change event of this magnitude also affects fundamentally how we work and interact. Personal mobility in the age of COVID-19 may never be quite the same again. The new normal of mobility, though, may represent a unique opportunity.
Work-from-home has always represented an option to both reduce emissions and promote family time. However, work-from-home’s potential has never been fully realized in terms of actual practice, as long-standing practices and cultures in Asia and the Pacific often prioritize physical time in the office.
New information technologies have meant that work-from-home does not have to substantially reduce the quality of workplace interactions. A plethora of software apps, such as Google Hangout, Skype, Cisco Webex, MS Teams, and Zoom, are now available to give a visual space for sharing information and facilitating decision-making. We are moving away from mere tele-conferencing to lifelike virtual interaction. While work-from-home may never fully replace workplace presence, the new technologies at least offer the potential to reduce the need for everyday commuting.
Lockdowns across many cities and countries has meant that a unique global experiment is underway. The World Health Organization estimates that 7 million persons suffer premature deaths each year from air pollution, and that 1.3 million persons perish in car crashes. For cities with air quality problems, such as Beijing, Delhi, and Manila, the lockdowns have visibly brought pristine skies, as also evidenced by satellite imagery. In addition, the University of California at Davis has been tracking reductions in car crashes in California during the state’s partial lockdown conditions. Serious injuries and fatalities in the past week have been halved from 400 to just 200 per day.
None of this is to minimize the appalling human tragedy of COVID-19’s trail of death and illness. The social and economic cost of the pandemic is staggering. But these types of comparisons do indicate what could be achieved if we adopted sustainable energy and transport practices once the pandemic has passed.
Of course, the virus also hits certain forms of sustainable personal mobility quite hard. Buses and trains place passengers in close proximity, heightening disease transmission risk. During this time of crisis, to the extent persons have options, passengers do appear to be avoiding public transport, and many cities have closed public transport in its entirety. Most likely, governments will need to step forward with financial support to public transport operators for both short-term and long-term viability.
Conversely, this situation does represent a large potential opportunity for walking and cycling. Already, in the early days of the virus, New York City is recording record levels of cyclists. The city’s Department of Transport reports a 50 percent increase in cycling over the same period last year, and a 67 percent increase in usage of New York’s CitiBike bicycle sharing system.
Home delivery services also appear to be experiencing a significant increase in the wake of virus lockdowns. Such services hold the potential to reduce overall transport congestion and emissions by effectively achieving economies of scales in urban delivery logistics.
With streets now operating under dramatically reduced traffic levels, an opportunity exists to quickly address long-standing needs that are difficult to implement under day-to-day realities. Upgrading footpaths and developing cycleways is the type of quick win that can utilize the economic stimulus spending being deployed to shore up falling economies. These investments can be done quickly and create jobs at a time when it is most needed.
The pandemic is a change event like few others. The dramatic break in personal mobility from past habits represents an opportunity to view cities in a new way. From this moment, we could embrace the future of work-from-home and the greater adoption of walking and cycling. Perhaps there is yet a small silver lining from this unfolding tragedy.
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