How does one move around the city in the safest way possible now that we’re facing a coronavirus pandemic? Many people ask themselves this, even if they stay at home as required by law and only go out once in a while, especially to drive somewhere.
The coronavirus pandemic is virtually guaranteed to change our daily habits for good; some solutions we are implementing will simply stay with us even when the situation gets better. The way transportation is used will change, too. A number of restrictions will need to remain in place in order to prevent a similar outbreak in the future. How will our mobility change, then, when we have contained the virus? Let’s take a look at China to find the answers.
According to the Ipsos research carried out at the end of February in China, the fear of coronavirus has significantly changed the transportation preferences in the market. The survey demonstrated that the preferred means of transport was one’s own vehicle (no. 1 in the list), and not the bus or underground. Surprisingly, no. 2 was one’s own bicycle. While China has already contained the situation, the preference to use one’s own means of transport remains, as the fear of infection is bound to stay, too; we can safely assume the same trend in Poland. It is then very likely that the pandemic will result in an increase demand for cars; since the economy is currently going down, the majority of these will be bough second-hand.
One can already see the change when looking at the public transport, e.g. in Warsaw, where in the 2nd half of March the number of passengers dropped by 30%. The new pandemic-related requirements only allow that every other seat is taken in a bus or tram, which makes the situation even worse. A potential passenger will certainly think twice before using public transport in view of the risk of infection. Another source of data supporting the analysis are the statistics published by Revolut, a payment service. Compared to February, in March the numbers of transactions made at SkyCash and MoBilet with the use of Revolut cards fell by 65 and 57%, respectively. These applications allow the purchase of bus and tram tickets. According to Revolut, transportation and travel services take up 10 positions in the top 20 of services that are currently suffering from reduced demand.
Not surprisingly, whoever has a car, is more likely to use it, even if only to go out once in a few days. Some cities are already considering or implementing free parking city-wide to take some weight off the public transport. Empty streets, no rush hour traffic, free parking in the centre and the cheapest fuel cost in ages: all of this makes using your own car seem the best deal ever.
It is worth pointing out that apart from the Poles, worldwide, over 2,6 billion people (half of that in India alone) have been forced to radically reduce their mobility. There is a simple reason behind that: using public transport is one of the easiest ways to get infected. In the beginning of March the German federal minister of health Jens Spahn recommended that the citizens use a bicycle instead of public transport. This makes sense at short distances and in good weather, of course, but especially in autumn and winter, longer trips will definitely be more practical if you just stick to your own car.