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ATN Blog - Did Transit-Oriented Development (“TOD”) affect the health effects brought by COVID-19 lockdowns?

Datum:03 maart 2022
Marquis K.F. Yip
Marquis K.F. Yip

By: Marquis K.F. Yip

COVID-19 was a pandemic of unprecedented scale in recent memory.  First causing an outbreak in Wuhan, China, it quickly reached every corner of the world, mutated into various strains and caused death and miseries to millions of people.  It should then come as no surprise that the scale and strength of the measures adopted by governments worldwide have scarcely been surpassed in recent history.  One of the most contentious yet commonly adopted COVID-19 responses is the measure of lockdowns.

Lockdowns refer to restricting the movement of a group of people, sometimes but not necessarily after the identification of positive COVID-19 case(s) among that group, in an attempt to prevent further spread of the disease.  This is usually implemented in the form of prohibiting or severely limiting travelling outside one’s home.  While lockdowns would seem to help contain the spread of the virus, studies have also revealed that, perhaps unsurprisingly, lockdowns carry negative health impacts as well, ranging from loneliness due to lack of social contact, loss of motivation, to depression and anxiety. (Ahrens et al., 2021)

Although lockdown is primarily a public health policy, it would be interesting to examine further how different development patterns might have led to different effects the mental health of those affected.  One interesting urban pattern to study might be transit-oriented development (“TOD”).  Often hailed as an integrated and a sustainable transport planning model well suited to address the needs and challenges of a modern city, TOD promises to impart mobility to residents by encouraging walking and cycling and the use of public transport, enhancing overall accessibility of a local area, while helping retaining a more compact form of development and curbing urban sprawl. (Kim, 2020)

As such, TOD helps foster a mixed-use high density development with various functions and destinations, for example shops, social amenities, schools and public services, close to residences and easily accessible.  Depending on the exact type of lockdown implemented (e.g. lockdown at the level of a neighbourhood, street block, or individual flats), those under lockdown may still be able to make their regular trips, even if only partially, such as grocery shopping, using services, etc.  In this manner, TOD might have helped mitigated the health effect of restricting travels by making destinations still reachable even under lockdown.  This is of course only a simplistic hypothesis and further research is needed to justify and provide supporting evidence.  For example, if the lockdown is practiced on individual households, then TOD might be less relevant in helping with the health effects felt by those affected.  Furthermore, the health effects on various different demographic might be different.  For example, a worker who has been working at home for some time might cope with a short-term lockdown better, while a homemaker who makes regular trips to do grocery shopping and sends his/her children to school might experience different mental health effects.  Though data might be less available now in a post-lockdown world, it would be interesting to see how different groups, living in a TOD or other urban forms, deal with the lockdown and the impact casted on their health.

 

References

Ahrens, K.F., Neumann, R.J., Kollmann, B. et al. (2021). Impact of COVID-19 lockdown on mental health in Germany: longitudinal observation of different mental health trajectories and protective factors. Translationaly Psychiatry 11, 392. DOI: 10.1038/s41398-021-01508-2.

Kim, S. (2020). The Social Justice Impact of the Transit-Oriented Development. Societies, 11(1), 1. DIO: 10.3390/soc11010001\


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