Friday, April 17, 2020

Poor planning and governance, not density, is the problem

I want to push back against the idea that density and transit necessarily have to spread COVID-19. Dense NYC may be the site of a particularly bad outbreak, but much denser Asian and European cities did much better despite high transit use. The difference is in better institutional planning and personal actions for disease containment.

Density is not the problem. It's the type of density. If you ban Asian metropolis-style apartment buildings, you get low-paid workers crammed 4 to a bedroom in a single-family home in Elmhurst, Queens, NYC. Or 23 people in a house in northeast Los Angeles.

In the words of Richard Florida
But even in the U.S., it is not density in and of itself that seems to make cities susceptible, but the kind of density and the way it impacts daily work and living. That’s because places can be dense and still provide places for people to isolate and be socially distant. Simply put, there is a huge difference between rich dense places, where people can shelter in place, work remotely, and have all of their food and other needs delivered to them, and poor dense places, which push people out onto the streets, into stores and onto crowded transit with one another.

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