29 Sep 2020, 13:04
Alex Dziadosz

Public transport loses ground to private cars in pandemic – survey

Clean Energy Wire

The coronavirus pandemic is causing public transport to lose ground to individual transport means, such as private cars, the German Aerospace Center (DLR) said in a statement. A survey carried out by the DLR’s Institute for Transport Research asked 1,000 people about their transport habits from the end of June to the start of July, following up on a survey carried out in April during the lockdown. The survey aimed to assess the medium and long-term effects of the pandemic on transport preferences. “Behaviours that have been tried and tested in a state of emergency have become engrained and influence new routines," Barbara Lenz, director of the DLR Institute for Transport Research, said in the statement.

While this has sometimes led people to choose environmentally friendly options such as bicycles – or simply to travel less because they are working at home – individual cars are a “clear winner” from the crisis. The statement said that an analysis of mobile network data showed traffic at the time of the second survey had reached pre-crisis levels, even though 43 percent of respondents said they had been on the road less or much less than usual over the preceding seven days. About half of those surveyed said they use public transport less often or much less often. The survey showed that groups, including young people and city dwellers, feel less comfortable with the risks public transport may entail. “This is a worrying development because these are precisely the groups that frequently use local public transport in everyday life,” Lenz says.

The pandemic has made many people more hesitant to use public transport and shared vehicles. The rising use of vehicles presents a problem for Germany’s energy transition, as emissions from the transport sector were already stubbornly high – although experts predict the crisis may ultimately lead to fewer private journeys as more people work from home and walk or cycle to complete short journeys. In August, the Association of German Transport Companies (VDV) said capacity utilisation levels had risen back to 60 to 70 percent nationwide after dropping to around 20 percent during the lockdown in March and April.

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