Jeremy Beck's picture


  by  Jeremy Beck

How do you manage limited space for "ever more users"?

That's the question transportation experts and officials are wrestling with, reports Winnie Hu of The New York Times:

The same way we will have to reimagine so many elements in our city, we must do the same with our streets," said Danny Harris, the executive director of Transportation Alternatives, an advocacy group. "We can't go back to streets that are littered with traffic and parking.

A silver lining in this awful pandemic is, as The Times puts it, "a glimpse of what the city could be like without so much congestion."

New York. Detroit. San Francisco. Los Angeles. Across the country, the air is cleaner, the roads are clearer, and the sounds of nature are reaching ears unaccustomed to hearing them, Hu reports:

Many New Yorkers said they had grown used to life without congestion and wanted to keep it that way.

Joby Jacob, 45, a biology professor in Queens, said he could hear birds chirping without the cacophony of car horns and engines.

"Now is the time to figure out where things could be reimagined and repurposed," he said. "If not now, when?"

Notably, neither The Times nor the experts they spoke with appear to be reimagining our country's commitment to population growth, 88-95 percent of which is dictated by Congress' immigration policies. Hu reports:

The extraordinary shift {in behavior} offers a glimpse of what one of the world's most gridlocked cities could look like without congestion and provides an unexpected case study for transportation officials and experts wrestling with how to manage limited street space for ever more users, including ride-share drivers and delivery trucks hauling Amazon boxes.

"Ever more users" and limited space are incompatible in the long run. Eventually, the former will bump against, or crash through, the latter. Technological and managerial advances to delay the impact are welcome and necessary, but they have yet to transform the finite into the infinite.

Just as everyone expects traffic, congestion, and pollution to rise once the outbreak has subsided, our population will also continue to do so, zooming past 400 million in the next four decades, as long as immigration policies remain unchanged.

JEREMY BECK is the Director of the Sustainability Initiative for NumbersUSA

Updated: Wed, Apr 29th 2020 @ 11:45am EDT

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