After COVID-19, Urban Planning Will Never Be The Same

Large cities like Buenos Aires are prepping for life after the lockdown and anticipating changes, among other things, in the ways people commute.

Residents walk through the streets in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Miguel Jurado

BUENOS AIRES — Once the lockdown is lifted, Buenos Aires will be different, in certain ways, from the city we were forced leave behind some 40 days ago. At least for a while still, the pandemic's harsh effects will continue to reshape daily life, especially with how we move around public spaces.

The head of the city's transport and public works department, Juanjo Méndez, cites a recent poll to suggest that 10% of the people who typically use public transport will now travel by car. This may anticipate a more emphatic trend as confinement is lifted but with the virus still present, and lead to one of two undesirable scenarios. One, as Méndez hints, is the increased use of the private vehicles. The other is jam-packed buses and metros.

Similar overcrowding could be seen on streets, in shops, at bus stops or in underground stations. With that in mind, the city government has a plan to ensure that minimum distances are respected and mobility options exist. "Cities that come out of quarantine find they must offer alternatives to the private car, which is why we have bicycles, both normal and electric, and even scooters," Méndez says.

The transport chief says that city's bike lanes system currently allows 310,000 daily trips but may need to be greatly expanded to compensate for public transport.

The Colombian city planner Carlos Pardo also has some insights on how people may change their mobility options once confinement ends. He points to a study suggesting that passengers will shift from public transportation (bus, rail and metro) to active transportation means (bicycles, scooters and even skateboards). The research predicts a 56% drop in passengers compared to the pre-quarantine period, with the active system growing 60%.

"Cities that come out of quarantine find they must offer alternatives to the private car.

The study showed that the use of cars and motorcycles would remain relatively stable in the pre and post-pandemic periods, while the use of taxis and ride hailing services could rise by 30%. It also concluded that post-pandemic, public transportation would struggle to recover its previous user numbers, while taxi and bicycle usage would remain high, suggesting some of the urban mobility changes could be lasting.


Passengers wait in a train station in Retiro, ArgentinaPhoto: Paula Acunzo/ZUMA

Before the confinement order, 47.2% of Buenos Aires residents used public transport, 27.7% used a personal vehicle (car or motorbike) and 23.6% walked or cycled. Quite a few cities on the American continent are already expanding their bicycle and scooter paths by depriving the automobile of one of its lanes on the street.

For obvious health reasons, the city government is also concerned about congestion. "A train station like Retiro in Buenos Aires offloads some 2,500 commuters an hour onto the city while a metro train can only seat 250 people (or 16% of its users in normal times)," says Méndez. "That will mean very long queues if there is adequate distancing."

The official says that horizontal signaling, or signs on the ground to keep people apart, have already been installed in more than 500 bus stops and metro stations so that passengers respect the minimum preventive distance of 1.5 meters. Looking ahead, the city plans to mark all its 6,800 transportation stops and also locations like shop entrances and sidewalks.

In supermarkets, city authorities have been distributing instructions to staff on the implementation of distancing among customers. And many shops are expected to serve customers without entry. ​Méndez says that the city is also going to design new rules for using sidewalks to ease pedestrian movement and take some of the space used to park cars to create space for queues to enter shops.

Several other cities are working to reform their public spaces in response to new sanitary norms. The U.S. capital, Washington D.C., intends to widen some sidewalks to facilitate social distancing, especially outside supermarkets and other crowded venues like pharmacies or DIY stores.

The writing, in other words, is on the wall: Cities need to adapt, as do the people living in them, because even after lockdown, the virus won't just disappear unfortunately — at least not anytime soon.

Support Worldcrunch
We are grateful for reader support to continue our unique mission of delivering in English the best international journalism, regardless of language or geography. Click here to contribute whatever you can. Merci!

La Sagrada Familia Delayed Again — Blame COVID-19 This Time

Hopes were dashed by local officials to see the completion of the iconic Barcelona church in 2026, in time for the 100th anniversary of the death of its renowned architect Antoni Guadí.

Work on La Sagrada Familia has been delayed because of the pandemic

By most accounts, it's currently the longest-running construction project in the world. And now, the completion of work on the iconic Barcelona church La Sagrada Familia, which began all the way back in 1882, is going to take even longer.

Barcelona-based daily El Periodico daily reports that work on the church, which began as the vision of master architect Antoni Gaudí, was slated to be completed in 2026. But a press conference Tuesday, Sep. 21 confirmed that the deadline won't be met, in part because of delays related to COVID-19. Officials also provided new details about the impending completion of the Mare de Déu tower (tower of the Virgin).

El Periódico - 09/22/2021

El Periodico daily reports on the latest delay from what may be the longest-running construction project in the world.

One tower after the other… Slowly but surely, La Sagrada Familia has been growing bigger and higher before Barcelonians and visitors' eager eyes for nearly 140 years. However, all will have to be a bit more patient before they see the famous architectural project finally completed. During Tuesday's press conference, general director of the Construction Board of the Sagrada Familia, Xavier Martínez, and the architect director, Jordi Faulí, had some good and bad news to share.

As feared, La Sagrada Familia's completion date has been delayed. Because of the pandemic, the halt put on the works in early March when Spain went into a national lockdown. So the hopes are dashed of the 2026 inauguration in what would have been the 100th anniversary of Gaudi's death.

Although he excluded new predictions of completion until post-COVID normalcy is restored - no earlier than 2024 -, Martínez says: "Finishing in 2030, rather than being a realistic forecast, would be an illusion, starting the construction process will not be easy," reports La Vanguardia.

But what's a few more years when you already have waited 139, after all? However delayed, the construction will reach another milestone very soon with the completion of the Mare de Déu tower (tower of the Virgin), the first tower of the temple to be completed in 44 years and the second tallest spire of the complex. It will be crowned by a 12-pointed star which will be illuminated on December 8, Immaculate Conception Day.

Next would be the completion of the Evangelist Lucas tower and eventually, the tower of Jesus Christ, the most prominent of the Sagrada Familia, reaching 172.5 meters thanks to an illuminated 13.5 meters wide "great cross." It will be made of glass and porcelain stoneware to reflect daylight and will be illuminated at night and project rays of light.

La Sagrada Familia through the years

La Sagrada Familia, 1889 - wikipedia

Support Worldcrunch
We are grateful for reader support to continue our unique mission of delivering in English the best international journalism, regardless of language or geography. Click here to contribute whatever you can. Merci!