Research – Noland, Iacobucci, and Zhang “Public Views on the Reallocation of Street Space Due to COVID-19”

January 5, 2023

Abstract

Problem, research strategy, and findings

Many towns and cities have reallocated street space in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This was done to allow more social distancing for physical activity and to provide space for restaurants to offer outdoor dining. We used data collected via an online Qualtrics panel of New Jersey residents (n = 1,419) to evaluate how these street closures were viewed. Did people take advantage of the opportunity to dine outside? Was walking more attractive with more space? How did respondents feel about changes in traffic patterns due to the closures? Did people walk more frequently? Results suggested that there was substantial public support for these types of interventions that allowed for more walking and more lively town centers (about 40%–45% of respondents expressed support, and only 35% had negative views; a large share was neutral). Those with negative views believed that street closures increased congestion and that outdoor dining made it more difficult to walk.

Takeaway for practice

In New Jersey, many towns are considering making COVID-inspired street changes permanent. There is broad support for this, though transportation agencies remain an impediment. We suggest that the current groundswell of support for street changes represents a rare opportunity to implement street design changes that support pedestrians and outdoor activities.

Robert B. Noland is Distinguished Professor, Director, Voorhees Transportation Center, and
Associate Dean of Faculty at the Bloustein School

Evan Iacobucci received his PhD from the Blosutein School in 2021

Wenwen Zhang is Assistant Professor in Informatics at the Bloustein School

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