COVID-19 has certainly changed the way we live over these past four months, and with cases continuing to surge in some states, things are certainly not going the way we had hoped early on. How people and goods get around will likely be one impact of COVID-19.
This week, I participated in a webinar entitled “Adjustments to Transportation Planning for a Post Pandemic World,” which was hosted by Tredis, a firm specializing in transportation economics. Based on information presented in the webinar, transportation is likely to change following the COVID-19 pandemic in the following ways:
- As most would suspect, telework/remote work is likely to endure as a larger share of the American workforce than it had been prior to the pandemic. This is expected to be the case as managers have observed that telework is productive, while requiring less real estate for employment. Technology, in addition to facilitating telework, is also anticipated to boost e-commerce and telemedicine.
- Another impact on the transportation system in Post-COVID America will likely be greater travel by automobile but less ride-sharing. At least in the near-term, it is anticipated that vehicle miles traveled by single-occupancy automobile will increase as people seek to spread out because of the pandemic. Conversely, while single-occupancy vehicle travel and commuting is anticipated to increase – at least for the short term – ride sharing is anticipated to decline as Americans seek greater distance between themselves and others. In addition, the increase in e-commerce is expected to result in less vehicular travel between the home and the shopping center.
- Along with an increase in e-commerce, the need for more reliability in supply chains will likely result in reshoring of some industries. This, in turn, will result in more freight shipped across our transportation system by truck and rail. Likewise, neighborhoods are likely to experience an increase in delivery truck traffic as Americans have a greater quantity of product delivered to their homes.
- Along with at least a temporary reduction in ride sharing, post-pandemic America is anticipated to experience a temporary drop in transit ridership for the same reason. This anticipated trend is likely to be a double-edged sword, as farebox revenues will almost certainly suffer. Consequently, service on some systems could be reduced, and it is reasonable to expect that the most vulnerable members of our communities will be disproportionately affected. As an example of a decline in ridership, Amtrak recently announced that it would be reducing schedules on many of its routes to three times weekly beginning October 1st due to lower ridership resulting from the pandemic.
- On the flip side, active transportation commuting, such as via bicycle and walking, is anticipated to increase, particularly in urban areas. This trend would be another effect of social distancing. So while post-pandemic America may see an increase in single-occupancy automobile use, some of those vehicle miles traveled will likely be offset, at least to some extent, by more bicycle and pedestrian transportation.