Cities Double Down on Car-Centric Services During the Pandemic

The pandemic has created even more obstacles to participation in society for those without a car.

November 30, 2020, 7:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Pandemic Drive-Thru

Jim Lambert / Shutterstock

Madeline Brozen critiques the uses of drive-ins and drive-thrus as the chosen response for services during the pandemic, first noting how completely the concepts have caught on in an already car-centric country:

Given the convenience and privacy of the automobile, it is no surprise that drive-ins and drive-thrus have surged during COVID-19. This fall, people could traverse spooky Halloween drive-thru trails, visit drive-thru pet sanctuaries, and view entire independent film festivals from their cars. Governments and healthcare providers, meanwhile, are offering drive-thru food distributionCOVID-19 testing, and flu shots. 

There's a big problem with the popularity of drive-ins and drive-thrus during the pandemic, according to Brozen: they're only available people that drive.

Without a car, you can’t see the elaborately carved pumpkins, smile at the rescue cow, or enjoy most outdoor movies. There are worse things, of course, than being denied access to a drive-thru burger, or to an Instagrammable haunted Halloween drive-thru. But it is much more concerning if you can’t get food from the food bank, or know if you have tested positive for COVID-19.

According to Brozen, the country already denies access to opportunity to those without automobiles, whether by choice or necessity, and the current trends would only strengthen those obstacles at the worst possible time. And like so many other consequences of auto dependency in the United States, both racial justice and social justice suffer as a result.

Brozen notes that the tendency toward driving-thru services during the pandemic is a set back for a growing movement in planning departments to slow the spread of auto-dependency by banning drive-thrus altogether. "Minneapolis, for example, prohibited the opening of new drive-thru facilities after 2019, saying they were inconsistent with the city’s long-term plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A handful of other cities in CaliforniaMontana, and New Jersey have instituted their own temporary or permanent bans too," writes Brozen.

The source article offers a few policy prescriptions to ensure that drive-thrus and drive-ins don't exclude people without cars.

Thursday, November 19, 2020 in Transfers

Stylized rendering of the Midwest Regional Rail Network

Federal Railroad Administration Proposes New Midwest Rail Network

If built, regional high-speed rail networks could provide an alternative to uncomfortable air travel and prevent travelers from becoming stranded at airports during extreme weather.

January 17, 2022 - The Urbanist

New York City Politicians wears a mask at a New York subway station during the COVID-19 pandemic.

New Leadership at New York Department of City Planning

With a new mayoral administration comes new planning leadership in the Big Apple.

January 20, 2022 - New York City


'15-Minute City' To Be Built in Utah

A community that focuses on reducing the need for car ownership and providing effective multimodal transportation and diverse land uses will be built from scratch on the site of the decommissioned Utah State Prison.

January 19, 2022 - Streetsblog USA

Suburban Homes

Experts Express Pessimism Over Housing Costs

Although the current housing crisis has been compared with the housing crash of the late 2000s, experts caution that affordability issues could plague the U.S. housing market for years to come.

4 hours ago - The New York Times

online education

Annual Google Scholar Citation Data for Planning Faculty

Publish or perish?

5 hours ago - Tom Sanchez

Texas Apartment Construction

What the Microchip Shortage Reveals About Housing

The microchip shortage facing the automotive industry illustrates the significant impact that supply has on the cost of durable goods.

6 hours ago -

New Updates on The Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

New Updates on The Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

New Case Study posted on HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Hand Drawing Master Plans

This course aims to provide an introduction into Urban Design Sketching focused on how to hand draw master plans using a mix of colored markers.