New census data shows significant population loss in the country’s largest cities, raising questions about the future of urban living and whether and how quickly rebounds will occur.
Sara Bronin is an architect and attorney who studies how law and policy can foster more equitable, sustainable, well-designed and connected places. Bronin was nominated by the Biden administration to chair the U.S. Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. She says there are significant limitations in this census data, but that planners and policymakers still need to adjust to cities that have been transformed since the pandemic.
“I would caution against sounding the death knell for cities. Census data was collected during a period that overlapped with the first eight months of the pandemic, when people were less likely to respond to poll workers’ outreach. Moreover, the Census itself has said that there were ‘statistically significant undercounts’ of Black and Hispanic people, who are more likely to live in urban areas.
“That said, cities do feel different from their pre-pandemic selves. One manifestation of that difference is that people don’t seem to have confidence in the systems that make cities work, especially public transportation. Not only have people turned to cars, but they have also driven more recklessly, making road violence rates soar.
“With gas prices rising and COVID rates falling, we may see people return to public transportation. But in the interim, policymakers should consider changes, including changes to road design standards, that would keep our cities safe not only for drivers but for everyone else who uses the roads.”