Despite Covid, Planners Expect Return to 'Old Normal,' Survey Says

Although the survey collects data from a small sample, it looks like North American planners don't expect the pandemic to change much about the way cities are planned.

2 minute read

February 22, 2022, 11:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Large numbers of young people, some wearing and masks and others note, walk around an outdoor shopping mall in Southern California.

Wirestock Creators / Shutterstock

A recent survey indicates that planners don't intend to change much in their approach to urban planning, despite the various disruptions and influences of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Researchers at the University of Waterloo in Canada surveyed 98 city planners (after disseminating the survey via the Canadian Institute of Planners Newsletter, the American Planning Association's Interact newsletter, and various planning-related social media groups) about the future of planning in mid-sized urban areas as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic, publishing the results in the Planning Practice & Research journal (the study is currently available in full online) in December.

"Despite calls for greater creativity and innovation, there is essentially no difference between what planners viewed as more important to downtowns pre-and-post the pandemic," says Pierre Filion, an emeritus professor in the School of Planning at Waterloo, as quoted in an article by David Malone for Building Design + Construction that shared news of the new research.

Like the public and the media, the surveyed planners are certainly aware of the negative effects of the pandemic. Among the study respondents, 60% "indicated that the pandemic had a substantial negative effect on downtowns," according to the study. "The survey respondents perceived that the most severe effects of the pandemic were experienced by eating and drinking establishments, with substantial negative effects being reported by more than 75% of the respondents." 

Yet, the survey did not reveal that planners expect to produce a commensurate response in the form of reform and innovation. From the discussion of the journal article:

The survey findings reveal a disconnect regarding planner’s perceptions of the drivers of downtown recovery after Covid. On the one hand, despite calls for greater creativity and innovation, there are essentially no differences between what planners viewed as important to downtowns pre-and-post the pandemic. This suggests that they are not ‘planning’ on fundamental changes to past practice even in the face of a changing reality, or a ‘new normal.’ 

The full Planning Practice & Research article can be found at the link below.

Thursday, December 16, 2021 in Planning Practice and Research

View of small-town street with brick buildings and cars parked in diagonal parking with string lights going across street in Cleveland County, Oklahoma.

Norman, Oklahoma Eliminates Parking Mandates

The city made a subtle, one-word change that frees up developers to build parking based on actual need and eliminates costly unnecessary parking.

September 14, 2023 - Next City

Few passengers waiting in subway station with multiple platforms and "North Station" signs in Boston, Massachusetts

Boston Transit Riders Report Safety Concerns

Almost three-quarters of current and former riders report feeling unsafe while using MBTA services.

September 18, 2023 - Hoodline

View of Boston from Bunker Hill with statue in foreground

Boston to Begin Zoning Code Update, Mayor Announces

It’s been nearly 60 years, but the city of Boston is finally ready to do a comprehensive rewrite of its zoning code.

September 14, 2023 - The Boston Globe

Aerial view of large warehouses in Southern California with hills in background.

California Air Regulators to Crack Down on Warehouses

Truck traffic to and from Southern California warehouses accounts for as much pollution as refineries, power plants, and other industrial polluters combined.

September 22 - Los Angeles Times

Close-up of bioswale drain with pebbles and various small plants with water running through.

FEMA Climate Resilience Loans Target Small Communities

A new loan program reduces the bureaucratic hurdles to implementing small-scale climate adaptation projects.

September 22 - Grist

Silver and red WMATA public bus at station in Washington, D.C.

D.C. Delays Bus Lane Enforcement

The program using cameras to ticket drivers who block bus lanes was scheduled to begin this week.

September 22 - DCist