Longitudinal Analysis of COVID-19 Impacts on Mobility: An Early Snapshot of the Emerging Changes in Travel Behavior

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused huge disruption to society with, among other impacts, direct and indirect effects (e.g. through public health measures) on travel behavior. Since its initial outbreak, COVID-19 has manifested itself into a global pandemic. In response to extensive community spread and potential risk of infection, many state and local governments implemented stay-at-home orders along with measures for social distancing restricting non-essential travel for residents. These travel advisories imposed broad restrictions on millions of Americans resulting in drastic changes in mobility and disruptions to economic activity. In the study the research team used a combination of data from two previous online surveys and a current data collection conducted to evaluate the impacts of the pandemic on mobility to form a unique longitudinal panel. The use of a longitudinal panel provides the ability to observe initial trends in travel behavior change, adoption of online shopping, active travel and use of shared mobility services. In the analysis the researchers present initial descriptive statistics from the sample to examine the changes in various components of travel behavior in the sample (N=1,274) and for each income/occupation group separately. The research team found substantial shifts from physical commutes to teleworking, more adoption of e-shopping and home delivery services, more frequent trips by walking and biking for leisure purposes, and changes in ride-hailing use. Also, the research team discusses implications of these findings from the perspectives of environmental sustainability and social equity. This study concludes with suggestions of directions for effective policy and future research.

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