Travel Behavior Trends During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The proliferation of digital devices and online services over the past decades has changed how people travel, enabling new mobility options and offering greater opportunities for e-commerce and telework. Researchers are still trying to understand how these new technologies and emerging transportation services are being adopted by different socio-demographic groups, and what the current trends might mean for transportation sustainability. In 2019, researchers at UC Davis launched a national survey to gain insights on general travel behaviors and the adoption of various emerging technologies. The researchers looked at behaviors such as the adoption of smartphones and information and communication technology, telecommuting, new mobility options, electric vehicles, and other alternative-fuel vehicles. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, the researchers modified their plan to understand new trends, such as increased remote work, online/virtual meetings, and e-shopping, as well as changes in travel. The team launched additional rounds of surveys to collect information on several additional topics in spring 2020, fall 2020, and summer 2021 (with a new round of data collection planned for fall 2022). The longitudinal dataset provides insights into emerging changes in transportation patterns, including the generational or sociodemographic differences in those changes, before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. This policy brief describes the key discoveries from the research.