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Issues and Insights

This page provides links to recent articles, reports and announcements relating to transportation policy, legislation and research. The entries are drawn from a wide range of sources, including national newspapers, magazines and websites. If you come across interesting transportation reading that might deserve posting here, let us know at [email protected]

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Corona Bicycle Metrics: Where Bicycling Increased and (Surprise!) Decreased Street Light Data, 7/21/20 - Bike shops sold out quickly, and cyclists seemed to be everywhere during May’s widespread stay-home orders. But were Americans actually cycling more? Our analysis provides cycling facts instead of anecdotes about cycling during COVID. And some of the results surprised us. To understand the shifts in cycling behavior beyond the anecdotal headlines, we used our bicycle Metric from StreetLight Insight. We’ve just released updated data through May of 2020 to enable these sorts of trend analyses. 
I’ve Seen a Future Without Cars, and It’s Amazing The New York Times, 7/9/20 - As coronavirus lockdowns crept across the globe this winter and spring, an unusual sound fell over the world’s metropolises: the hush of streets that were suddenly, blessedly free of cars. City dwellers reported hearing bird song, wind and the rustling of leaves. (Along with, in New York City, the intermittent screams of sirens.)
How Cities Are Trying to Avert Gridlock After Coronavirus Lockdowns The New York Times, 6/26/20 - As coronavirus lockdowns loosen around the world, city leaders are scrambling to address a new problem: the prospect of gridlock worse than before the pandemic. From Shenzhen to Milan to Austin, officials are trying to coax people back onto buses and subways and reclaim road space for cyclists and pedestrians.
Five ways to ensure that models serve society: a manifesto, 6/24/20 -  The COVID-19 pandemic illustrates perfectly how the operation of science changes when questions of urgency, stakes, values and uncertainty collide — in the ‘post-normal’ regime.

Well before the coronavirus pandemic, statisticians were debating how to prevent malpractice such as p-hacking, particularly when it could influence policy. Now, computer modelling is in the limelight, with politicians presenting their policies as dictated by ‘science’ Yet there is no substantial aspect of this pandemic for which any researcher can currently provide precise, reliable numbers. 

Emissions Are Surging Back as Countries and States Reopen The New York Times, 6/17/20 - 
After a drastic decline this spring, global greenhouse gas emissions are now rebounding sharply, scientists reported, as countries relax their coronavirus lockdowns and traffic surges back onto roads. It’s a stark reminder that even as the pandemic rages, the world is still far from getting global warming under control. In early April, daily fossil fuel emissions worldwide were roughly 17 percent lower than they were in 2019, as governments ordered people to stay home, employees stopped driving to work, factories idled and airlines grounded their flights, according to a study published in May in Nature Climate Change.
Fear of Public Transit Got Ahead of the Evidence The Atlantic, 6/14/20 - 
The headline of the report read like the title of a 1950s horror film: “The Subways Seeded the Massive Coronavirus Epidemic in New York City.” As America’s densest city became the epicenter of a national pandemic in March, New York’s subway system, which carried 5.5 million people on an average workday in 2019, emerged as the villain from central casting. Landing in mid-April, the report, written by an MIT economics professor, concluded that New York’s subway system was “a major disseminator—if not the principal transmission vehicle” in the city’s COVID-19 outbreak.
Transportation leaders focus on regaining trust before building anew Smart Cities Dive, May 26, 2020 - As cities inch toward reopening, agencies are questioning how to regain the trust and loyalty of riders who fled public transit for alternative forms of transportation — like personal car use — in fear of crowds and infection. There are even worries that personal car usage will spike during recovery, as it did in Wuhan, China, which could lead to increased congestion and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
The Spaces That Make Cities Fairer and More Resilient New York Times, May 17, 2020 - 
Like a chemical catalyst, the sidewalk and the street edge are the surface on which all the atoms of a metropolis come together, react with each other and produce energy. In practical terms, this is because public space provides a restaurant owner, someone posting dog-walking services, or a midnight clubgoer the chance to meet anybody, with any imaginable result. The equality of access to a busy city street, combined with the creativity and skill required to thrive there, is the meritocratic mechanism at the heart of urban life.
How 5G will power smart cities of the future Globe and Mail, May 18, 2020 -  5G technology is expected to be 100 times faster than the existing 4G networks in Canada, with a much lower latency rate, or lag, when sending and receiving data in real-time. It will also be able to handle a much larger number of connected devices than current networks, enabling them to speak to one another. Powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning, the potential of smart cities and the Internet of Things will be unleashed.
How Will Americans Commute After Lockdowns End? Citylab, May 14, 2020 -Now, as coronavirus lockdowns loosen in parts of the world, a divergent picture of the post-pandemic commute is emerging. Peak rush-hour traffic in Shenzhen is roughly 10% over its 2019 baseline, while congestion in Auckland, New Zealand, is creeping up every day. In North America, gasoline demand is rising and cars are retaking the streets, while mass transit ridership remains low and working from home is the status quo for 2020 (and possibly onwards) at tech-forward employers such as Google, Facebook and Twitter. 
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