Temporal planning: a forgotten dimension

image via flickr user Grufnik

image via flickr user Grufnik: http://tinyurl.com/k3t6ewx

In an Urban Institute report released last week, it was found that one out of every five US workers clocks-in between the hours of 6:00 pm and 6:00 am.

As well, the lower a worker’s wages, the more likely they are to work during odd hours: nearly 1/3 of low-wage workers are employed during evenings, nights, and weekends. And this number jumps even higher for workers of color or those with low educational attainment levels.

Furthermore, this 3rd-shift trend is likely to increase: low-wage, nonstandard-schedule jobs are expected to see some of the highest rates of employment growth through 2020. Though employment growth is a good thing, these are low-wage jobs and almost never provide paid time off or sick leave.


OCCUPATIONS                             (full-time, 2011 $’s)

Security Guards                                                               $24,912

Restaurant Servers                                                         $19,536

Laborers and Material Movers                                   $24,432

Nurse and Health Aides                                                $21,744

Stock Clerks and Cashiers                                             $23,616

Janitors                                                                                $23,472

Cooks                                                                                   $18,720

Low-pay, no paid time off, and irregular schedules make everything from childcare, doctors’ appointments, and even grocery shopping, more difficult. But according to the report’s findings, the biggest impact is on the children: “school-age children are the most affected by parents’ nonstandard schedules” and data has shown a marked decrease in participation of low-income parents in school activities.

These trends will surely result in the necessity of policy and government programmatic shifts, but what could it mean for the physical design of cities, transportation networks, and public spaces?

Temporal considerations are already in place for many facilities, such as hospitals and malls, and are sometimes considered when thinking about the use of public spaces and commercial corridors. As well, Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) and other similar schools of thought have long-considered the design and use of spaces over24-hour periods.

As planners, we should continue to elaborate on the role of the temporal dimensions into our economic and physical plans. Parks closing at dusk, bus lines running less frequently, and hours of service-provision could be retooled as employment trends change, especially for the populations most in-need.

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