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Smart Cities
September 15, 2020

How Has COVID-19 Changed Public Transportation Behaviours?

Shared-mobility experts discuss changing public-transport behaviours in DRT and the shared mobility industry as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Shared Mobility Panel Discussion | ITS Australia

Trystan Eeles, Ben Hague and Jayden Bryant discuss changing trends and behaviours in Demand-Responsive Transport (DRT) and the shared mobility industry as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, at Mobility 2020’s Virtual Conference. 


Dr Rebecca Michael, Head of Public Policy, Royal Automobile Club of Queensland

Panel Participants: 

  • Ben Hague, Partnerships Principal, Via
  • Jayden Bryant, Regional Operations Manager, Neuron Mobility
  • Trystan Eeles, Chief Operating Officer and Co-Founder, Liftango

“A mindset for change of passengers is right here—right now. There are positive side effects predicted with people changing norms and breaking behavioural patterns, allowing people to become more accepting toward shared mobility services,” Trystan Eeles, Liftango. 

Key points from this session:

  • Transportation technology providers have observed a mindset shift in individual and communities in response to shared mobility services as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • As the world has seen travel behaviour change due to COVID-19, mobility service providers have had the opportunity to accelerate this change process to build out a personalised mobility systems. However, this opportunity presents additional challenges.
  • Utilising Demand-Responsive Transport (DRT) is a smarter way of moving people around than traditional fixed-route networks. On-Demand opens up more levers in order to get better optimisation and return on investment.
  • Neuron Mobility discovered that 25% of riders in April 2020 had never ridden e-scooters before the COVID-19 pandemic. Individuals actively changed their habits. When asked, 80% said they wanted to practice safe and effective social distancing, and felt it was safer than taking Public Transport.
  • Significant changes are happening toward e-scooters locally and on a global scale. Before COVID-19 there were regulatory barriers, but today some of the largest cities in the world are making changes in legislation to accommodate for different forms of sustainable transportation options. From an infrastructure perspective, many cities are using this period to invest in critical infrastructure—such as cycling lanes. 

Challenges arising from COVID-19

  • We need to create a world where people have a mode shift from single-occupancy transportation to feel comfortable enough to get into a shared service or vehicle.
  • Reduction in ridership has been evident as a result of COVID-19.
  • Now that people are thinking about new ways of doing things, how do we design these systems to accommodate them?
  • When it comes to utilising On-Demand services, going straight from fixed-route buses or driving your own car is a big leap. Transitioning to the next step is key. 
  • Creating a compliance service as tech partners that focuses on the user experience both in MaaS app and the On-Demand service continues to provide challenges for providers. Aggregation is key and allows the sharing of resources to be more sustainable.

Opportunities arising from COVID-19

  • The industry has seen an increase in planning for localised DRT services. This is particularly prominent in areas of the world where there’s more evolved decision making where agencies have more control with their budgets and service design. For example, the UK has had the ability to make decisions around transport design, have been able to implement changes and are planning quickly.
  • “People have had their eyes opened to new ways of moving around and are rethinking approaches. More people are saying that “we need to rethink this world—we don’t just need to respond, we have to design it and get it right going forward, and have some agility in there.” - Ben Hauges, Via
  • There is a need to bring DRT services together ready for a post COVID-19 world.
  • The aggregation formula has the capacity to work well in suburban areas. You can also cover a low-density service area and have a good transport service through DRT.
  • In a 2020 context, the corporate side of transport in particular is moving away from fixed-route shuttle buses, to digitalising services and booking On-Demand semi-route buses—with a plan to move into fully demand-responsive transport. This shift has come out of a need for contract tracing and a strong duty of care to employees. Now is a good time to make these changes while people are adapting and forming new behavioural patterns.
  • Countries like the US have seen an uplift in simulation systems, testing and understanding how to run new DRT services before they start implementing services and optimising design.

As we’ve witnessed a behavioural change in transportation patterns as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, mobility providers have the ability to take advantage of the opportunities and services that are critical to the growth of shared mobility moving forward in a post COVID-19 era. Contact us to speak to a shared mobility expert.

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