Cities have rapidly implemented new street design and management strategies in response to the challenges posed by the pandemic. These emerging best practices can provide a roadmap for other cities to follow as they respond to current needs, reopen their economies, and adjust to the more permanent changes to daily life.
In a recent public opinion survey conducted by the MassINC Polling Group, Massachusetts residents expected to travel less in the future due to COVID-19’s impact. However, many residents expect to increase their trips by car and decrease trips by transit. A majority of residents polled are open to the idea of drastic changes to the transportation system.
As the economy recovers from COVID-19, how can we emerge with a better, stronger, and more resilient transportation system? Three recent reports analyzing the impact of the pandemic on transportation and personal attitudes toward transportation may offer some clues.
Traffic volumes have plummeted since the pandemic. While that has led to fewer crashes overall in some states and cities, a growing number report large increases in speeding citations. In California, the number of tickets issued for driving above 100 miles per hour is 87 percent higher than this time last year. Similar reports have emerged across the country. Besides enforcement, what can states and cities do to reduce dangerous driving?
A new paper under review presents evidence that exposure to pollution—including that from motor vehicles—reduces the survival rate of individuals who have contracted COVID-19. Those most at risk of death have underlying diseases which may be due to, or exacerbated by, long-term pollution exposure. This adds to the mounting awareness that disadvantaged communities may disproportionately bear the brunt of the effects of COVID-19.
As more data begins to emerge, COVID-19’s impact on traffic crashes and severity is proving complicated. Collisions and fatalities have declined in many places with data available, though not everywhere. However, collision rates and injury and fatality rates appear to be up in a number of cities for both drivers and vulnerable pedestrians once you account for the significant drops in VMT, likely due to higher speeds made possible by less traffic.
Cities across the country are restricting motor vehicle use on some streets and reallocating road space to give residents more space to move by foot and bicycle while still maintaining appropriate distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many cities are finding that residents using active transportation face two problems: drivers speeding on the empty streets and insufficient space to stay six feet apart on sidewalks, paths, and trails.
Just as the bottom has fallen out of the of the air travel market, so it has for local and regional transit and intercity rail travel. Transit farebox revenue has taken an immediate hit, and sales, state, and local taxes will likely decline as well. In total, transit agencies stand to lose between $26 billion and $38 billion over the next year.