COVID-19 and the impact on Public Transit

There are a lot of questions revolving around COVID-19 and its potential impact on various realms of life. One such question is its impact on our daily commute and the potential changes in travel behaviour. What will the impact be on transit in particular? Will we see a sudden influx of cars on the road? Will people stop using the buses or the metro altogether?

To answer this question, it helps to start by knowing who the users are and understand the reason why they choose transit over other modes of transport. Who are ones who prefer to choose transit over a private car and the flexibility a car offers?

Knowing this gives an idea of who then really has the option to change modes and will prefer to.

Who among these users can we see a change in mode preference? Users in the first two categories are less likely as they cannot afford to (or they don’t seem to really have the option in the first place). The question then becomes about the latter two types of users. Will they choose to trade a safer environment for less convenient or longer commutes?

Perhaps we should not even be asking this question. The fact that transit agencies around the world are still running services despite the public being in complete lockdown only emphasizes how it is an essential service and why it is important to exist. So many essential service workers rely on them for their commute.

What if we see a complete decline in ridership? We still require them to exist. Jarret Walker, author of Human Transit rightly said, “if ridership were a sole metric of public transit’s success, all transit operations would be shut down by now”. He insists we all look beyond ridership and instead “measure all the ways that transit makes urban civilization possible”.

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An up and coming Smart Mobility Engineer who loves listening to murder mystery podcasts on her long commutes to and from work