Evolution of Mode Use Due to COVID-19 Pandemic in the United States

Evolution of Mode Use Due to COVID-19 Pandemic in the United States: Implications for the Future of Transit

Principal Investigator: Ram M. Pendyala, Director and Professor, School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment
Co-Principal Investigator: Irfan Batur, Associate Research Technologist, School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment
Project Duration: 12 months
​Project Budget (Federal UTC Funds): N/A
Project Budget (Cost-share): N/A
Institution: Arizona State University

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about transformative changes in human activity-travel patterns. These lifestyle changes were naturally accompanied by and associated with changes in transportation mode use and work modalities. In the United States, most transit agencies are still grappling with lower ridership levels, thus signifying the onset of a new normal for the future of transit. This report addresses this challenge using a novel panel survey data set collected for a representative sample of individuals from across the United States. The study involved the estimation of a panel multinomial probit model of mode choice to capture both socio-economic effects and period (pre-, during-, and post-COVID) effects that contribute to changes in mode choice. This work provides rich insights into the evolution of commute mode use as a result of the pandemic, with a particular focus on public transit. Through a rigorous modeling approach, this study provides a deep understanding of how transit use has evolved, how it is likely to evolve into the future, and the socio-economic and demographic characteristics that affect the evolution of (and expected future use of) public transit. Results suggest that transit patronage is likely to remain depressed by about 30 percent for the foreseeable future, in the absence of substantial changes in service configurations. This study also shows that minority groups and those living in higher density regions are more likely to exhibit transit use recovery in the post-pandemic period.

Research Products and Implementation

Final Report