Monday, May 04, 2020

How density and transit relate to the pandemic

Our main theme this week is the relationship between density, transit, and the pandemic:
"It should go without saying that evaluation of the COVID-19 spread needs to be objective. This means that it needs to include all potentially factors, even the most “politically correct”, such as density --- especially the exposure density from how we live, work and get around. 
The subways are an important part of this in New York City. As Harris notes, “We know that close contact in subways is fully consistent with the spread of coronavirus, either by inhalable droplets or residual fomites left on railings, pivoted grab handles, and those smooth, metallic, vertical poles that everyone shares.”
“A city comes into being for the sake of life,” wrote Aristotle, “but exists for the sake of living well.” This should become the first principle of our next urban renaissance. Cramming poor people into tiny spaces, forcing them to ride crowded subways and taking away many upwardly mobile jobs, may work for luxury developers and those in search of kitchen help, but does not create the foundation for an urbanism that can thrive after the pandemic."
"A commuter from a detached house in Westchester County to a job in Lower Manhattan’s financial district is likely to experience high exposure density. The trip, for the sake of discussion, includes a walk or car to the commuter rail station, a ride on commuter rail to Grand Central Station, a walk through corridors to reach the subway station, a ride on the subway train, exiting through a subway station for a walk to the high rise work location. At this point, the commuter joins others in a crowded elevator, and exit at the 40th floor, walking to an office shared with others."
"Evidence is mounting evidence that urban transit has been one of the main spreaders of COVID-19. New York governor Andrew Cuomo says the virus can survive for days on transit seats and metal surfaces. The head of New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority was infected by the virus and the head of New Jersey Transit actually died from it. 
In the face of this evidence, anti-auto advocates have given up on their efforts to get people out of their cars and onto transit. As a Huffington Post headline reads, “The Coronavirus Pandemic Is Forcing Cities To Rethink Public Transportation.” 
Just kidding. In fact, despite the headline, the story goes on to tell how anti-auto politicians are using the pandemic to somehow argue that more people should be discouraged from driving."

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