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WPS No.45 | Glaser, M. & Krizek, K.J. (2020) | Can emergency response measures trigger a transition to new transport systems? Exploring the role of “street experiments” from 55 US cities

In this working paper, Meredith Glaser and Kevin J. Krizek inventory and assess street-level COVID-response measures from 55 US cities to explore characteristics of “street experiments” that might enable a transition to an alternative mobility future.

Transport planning and policy is increasingly being called to action in ways that differ from prior generations. Pressures call for a character of city street that differs from those currently found in most auto-dominated urban environments. These pressures were acutely felt with the escalation and disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many cities responded by abruptly changing the character of select streets.

This paper argues that these “street experiments” fueled an opportunity to explore a transition to paradigms that prioritize forms of sustainable mobility. We inventory street-focused emergency response measures from the 55 largest cities in the US and devised a rubric to systematically assess and locate characteristics of these measures that might enable a transition. Results show that five “innovator” and some “early adopter” cities are using COVID conditions to test new forms of streets and in some cases, street networks.

Analysis indicate that these cities excelled in conveying a vision for alternative future, articulating implementation pathways, leveraging political capacity, and circulating information.  These and other components could help seed a much-needed break-through in how city streets are used, designed, and standardized. The paper contributes an important baseline of evidence on which future research efforts can build and provides empirical evidence on early stages of the experimentation and transition process of urban mobility systems.

This paper has been published (pre-proof) in Transport Policy.