COVID-19 & its impact on travel behaviour


written by Nicoletta Moss

people sitting on blue and white train seat

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

We have arrived at the second wave of COVID-19.

It seemed to be, that now it is also the time that a lot of cities and institutions are taking stock of how travel behaviour has changed within the last half year. In today’s blog article I would like to summarize and share with you results from a few surveys conducted around the world.

Let’s start from Vancouver. Movmi asked residents in Metro Vancouver, concerning their lifestyle changes and travel behaviours during the initial Phase 1 (work-from-home state) and the following recovery phase 2 of the pandemic.

From the questionnaire, the five key takeaways were:

Questionnaire from Movmi

Source: Movmi

Stantec conducted a survey among their employees in the USA with around 1000 responses. The results indicate that 11% of the people have decreased their numbers of days driving to work and 19% are using transit. That equals also roughly in an 11% decrease in cars on the road and a 19% decrease in transit riders on any given day. They also saw the biggest increase in working from home is also with people who live suburban and work urban (an increase of 3.7 days per month per person).

BCG conducted a survey of 5,000 residents of major cities in the US, China, and Western Europe (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the UK). During the lockdowns, the use of nearly every mode of transportation fell precipitously. Cities kept public transit running to provide low-cost transportation for essential workers. Some e-scooter and car-sharing services suspended service temporarily, while others maintained operations, implementing sanitizing and other hygienic measures. Post-lockdown, between 40% and 60% of respondents said they will be using public transit less or much less frequently, in favour of walking, biking, or driving their own car. Other shared-mobility modes, such as ride-hailing and car-sharing, will also be used less often, but they won’t experience declines as sharp as public transits.

All three surveys show that whoever can, will try to work more from home – especially those living in the suburbs – which results in lower commuter numbers. Health and safety are a major factor not to use public mass transit. Commuters prefer to choose solo transport where possible. Those shared mobility providers, who take it seriously to look after their passengers by sanitizing and providing social distancing will recover fine – as soon economics surpasses health concerns (in total shared transport is cheaper than a private car). Some cities started to act, by providing more bike lines by removing car parks and considering adding more green space.

Photo by Wesley Mc Lachlan on Unsplash

If you are a mobility provider – make sure that you have health and safety high up in your agenda. If you are a city, update your infrastructure by providing more space for bikes, e-scooters and people wanting to walk (green space!) and support mobility providers. The alternative to mass-public-transport is shared transportation such as ride-pooling, car sharing or micromobility. If those people who used to travel with mass-public-transit, go back using their private car, your city will soon collapse. It is now the time to work on the transition to new mobility, making the most of sharing economy but by keeping high health and safety standards.

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