Yesterday morning, I temporarily left our life of isolation and went on the weekly shopping trip. Driving through the normally vibrant downtown, it was striking to see the empty sidewalks and closed shops. We have (had) a good economy here, and I am sure (I hope) that things will eventually return to normal; but how long will it take?
The NPR radio show 1A was on the air, and the panel was discussing the economic repercussions of this pandemic. Everyone agreed that it would take a concerted effort, and some sacrifices from everyone, in order to get the economy moving again. While on the topic, a panel member from Great Britain related a story about a British bank demanding 100% collateral and charging 30% APR to small businesses for emergency loans. The taxpayers bailed out the banks in 2009, but I guess the banks are not willing to repay the favor. So much for the concerted effort.
When we eventually recover from this crisis, the world will likely be changed forever. Many of our ideas about society and infrastructure may need reevaluation. For example, high-density housing is touted as a way to deal with increasing world population. Improvements in public transportation are also desired. High-density housing and crammed public transportation, however, can hasten spread of disease.
If we don’t increase the housing density, what are the alternatives? Sprawl causes traffic congestion. Public transportation can ease the traffic congestion but, as previously stated, it can also serve as a gathering place to spread disease. Another possibility that has been discussed is building small rapid transit vehicles (Personal Rapid Transit, or PRT). Of course, unless these cars are thoroughly cleaned between uses, they will also spread disease.
There is a lot to think about as we move forward out of the current dilemma. Cruising the deserted streets in my Boxster with the top down seemed a little surreal, and it made me wonder what these same streets will be like in a few more months. I hope that those in a position to affect future decisions act in a way that is beneficial to us all.