Researching Transit – Episode 5
Published: May 2020
Keywords: COVID-19, travel demand management, public transport, transit, travel behaviour, telework, long term impacts, disruption
The impacts of COVID-19 are felt by individuals, while also disrupting the macro processes by which society functions. The effects of restricted movements, fear of virus transmission, and reduced economic activity on travel and activity are significant. In this episode of Researching Transit, Professor Graham Currie delivers early findings of research exploring the long-term impacts of COVID-19 on travel demand.
Professor Currie’s project seeks to evaluate the likely effects of COVID-19 on long term travel demand, with implications for spending on big infrastructure projects in cities. The shutdown period has seen a reduction in personal travel, leading to a marked reduction in automobile and public transport use as individuals switch to active modes and work from home instead of travelling to work. For a city like Melbourne, with an infrastructure pipeline of $57 billion, this raises questions about the relevance of such large investments in projects including a suburban rail loop and major road expansions. Despite the marked reduction in travel and shifts to alternate modes, early findings suggest that individuals will return to their preferred travel routines once the threat of the virus is gone.
“The number one answer from everybody is that they will go back to the activities that they had done before… Fundamentally the land use we have, the activities we have, the employment we have and the transport system we have are all there influencing their travel patterns”
The desired “return to normal” poses bigger problems for public transport, which cannot safely accommodate the normal peak capacity while the risk of virus remains. Professor Currie suggests this will encourage us to be flexible: to draw on the full range of travel demand management tools to find ways to facilitate the movement of people that were previously using public transport. With no space available for extra road capacity, this will challenge planners and policy makers to go beyond the conventional approach which has been to predict and provide.
In its next phase the project will seek to understand how the population is affected differently by COVID-19, and what the behavioural responses have been. More information about the project is available at the links below.
- Planning for uncertainty in public transport, Veitch Lister Consulting, https://veitchlister.com.au/webinar-planning-for-uncertainty-in-public-transport/, 13 May 2020
- Reimagining mobility in Melbourne after COVID-19, Committee for Melbourne, [insert link] 19 May 2020.
Other research mentioned in this episode:
Modelling public transport capacities to support safe social distancing: WSP 2020, COVID-19 & Public transport: From response to recovery, https://www.wsp.com/en-AU/insights/covid-19-and-public-transport-from-response-to-recovery
Beck, M.J. and Hensher, D.A.2020, Insights into the Impact of Covid-19 on Household Travel, Working, Activities and Shopping in Australia – the early days under Restrictions, Working Paper, https://ses.library.usyd.edu.au/handle/2123/22247
Marsden, G, Anable, J, Chatterton, T, Docherty, I, Faulconbridge, J, Murray, L, Roby, H & Shires, J 2020, ‘Studying disruptive events: Innovations in behaviour, opportunities for lower carbon transport policy?’, Transport Policy , https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tranpol.2020.04.008
Music from this episode is from https://www.purple-planet.com