Apr 24, 2020 - World

Europe's push to lessen public transit crowds may outlast coronavirus

Ben Geman, author of Generate

A passenger wearing a protective face mask in a subway train as she passes the Eiffel Tower on April 24, 2020 in Paris, France. Photo: Chesnot/Getty Images

CityLab has some fascinating reporting on European cities making changes to their transit policy that will outlast the immediate crisis and, more intriguingly, perhaps become permanent after initial reemergence from lockdown.

Driving the news: It notes that in the near term, transit policies and systems will change in recognition that people should not be — and don't want to be — crammed into buses and trains cheek-by-jowl.

  • But more broadly, CityLab reports that cities like Milan are using the time to "re-evaluate" their relationship to cars, which could "become a more popular post-pandemic commuting mode when transit-anxious workers venture back to the office."

How it works: Several cities like Brussels and Paris, to avoid more congestion post-pandemic, are taking steps to give over more of the streetscapes to biking and walking.

  • CityLab reports that while it's "not clear if all these measures will be retained once the threat of coronavirus has receded" and social distancing wanes, they reflect trends apparent before the crisis.

What we don't know: What the pandemic will ultimately mean for carbon emissions from transportation.

  • As we've explored in prior coverage, it's also easy to see post-pandemic life as a net-negative for mass transit as people naturally avoid close contact in favor of cars.
  • On the other hand, some see telecommuting and other behaviors proving that curb oil use proving sticky post-COVID.

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