Commentary based on story written by Rani Molla, Recode by Vox, originally published October 21, 2021
The COVID pandemic has already changed the American suburb, with working from home draining downtown populations, “de-urbanizing” the office core of large cities, and injecting new life into suburbs once empty during the week. This Recode article examines how real estate developers are capitalizing on this opportunity, converting “once-defunct” strip malls into multi-use gathering spaces, where people working from the suburbs can meet for coffee, take advantage of a workout, network, or simply see other people.
The new growth in suburban activity means significant change in traffic patterns, including those of pedestrians. Unfortunately, while foot traffic is up, many communities outside of the central core of U.S. cities weren’t built for pedestrians, historically favoring the car instead.
Review StreetLight’s report U.S. Top 20 Pedestrian Cities: How Safe Are Your Streets? for systematic analysis that sheds light on how foot traffic has changed and the implications for pedestrian safety.
“Traffic in city centers is below normal, but it has recovered in the suburbs and is in some cases heavier than before, according to data from StreetLight… Things could get worse as more people head into the office again, leading to more time spent in cars and more greenhouse gas emissions.”
Up until recently, cities like Chicago and Washington D.C. have experienced a reduction in traffic in the city core, with more activity “uptown.” What makes this trend more concerning from the emissions perspective is that many city dwellers have chosen to move beyond their immediate metropolitan areas, seeking space in less densely populated areas farther away. StreetLight analyzed relocation “pairs” of U.S. metropolitan areas to understand what in the year 2020 appeared to be an “urban exodus.” The results show New Yorkers moving to Miami and other less dense warm-weather destinations, but they also show less likely pairs, such as L.A. County residents moving to the nearby Bakersfield-Delano CBSA or Houston residents moving to Huntsville, TX.
Implications of people moving to less densely populated areas are many, including lack of transit and heightened social equity issues in the urban core.
To learn more about the trends examined by Recode, read the full story on Recode by Vox.