In the absence of a vaccine and medical treatments, social distancing remains the only option available to governments in order to slow the spread of global pandemics such as COVID-19 and save millions of lives. Despite the scientific evidence on the effectiveness of social distancing measures, they are not being practiced uniformly across the U.S. Accordingly, the role of compact development on the level of adherence to social distancing measures has not been empirically studied. This longitudinal study employs a natural experimental research design to investigative the impacts of compact development on reduction in travel to three types of destinations representing a range of essential and non-essential trips in 771 metropolitan counties in the U.S during the shelter-in-place order amid the COVID-19 pandemic. We employed Multilevel Linear Modeling (MLM) for the three longitudinal analyses in this study to model determinants of reduction in daily trips to grocery stores, parks, and transit stations; using travel data from Google and accounting for the hierarchical (two-level) structure of the data. We found that the challenges of practicing social distancing in compact areas are not related to minimizing essential trips. Quite the opposite, residents of compact areas have significantly higher reduction in trips to essential destinations such as grocery stores/pharmacies, and transit stations. However, residents of compact counties have significantly lower reduction in their trips to parks possibly due to the smaller homes, lack of private yards, and the higher level of anxiety amid the pandemic. This study offers a number of practical implications and directions for future research.
- COVID-19 pandemic
- Compact development
- Social distancing
- Urban sprawl
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Nature and Landscape Conservation
- Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law