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Travel Behaviour and COVID-19

May 27, 2020

Over the past couple of months we have all found ourselves in unprecedented waters.  During this time, Milestone Transport Planning (MTP) have undertaken a review of online literature in order to draw-out key insights on travel patterns and behaviour, as well as examine the impact on the transport planning industry within the UK, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Transport Use Change

Unsurprisingly, throughout the month of April, usage of the public transport and highway networks in Great Britain was substantially less than that observed in the first week of February. Most notably, as of Friday 24th April 2020, the volume of traffic was 58% lower. However, since the beginning of April, there had been a progressive increase in the use of motorised vehicles.

Over the same period, there was a substantial (95%) reduction in the usage of the rail and underground networks, as commuters adopted home working practices in response to the government’s advice to avoid all non-essential travel and on social distancing. Further during March and April, there was a substantial reduction in public transport services with major operators reduced service timetables for routes into central London.

Apple Mobility Trend Data for UK

Regarding other mobility trends for the UK, data obtained from Apple revealed that the number of requests for directions involving driving, walking, driving and public transport had decreased by over 80% from normal usage since the start of March 2020.

What could this mean for the Transport Planning industry? 

The increased trend in homeworking and implementation of social distancing measures may undermine the future viability of public transport infrastructure / services, due to there being a lack of demand and revenue. 

In light of the fundamental shift in daily travel patterns / behaviour, the majority of local highway authorities have questioned the validity of undertaking baseline traffic and parking ‘stress’ surveys during the COVID 19 pandemic, which are required to assess current situations as well as inform future scenarios. In some cases, this will lead transport planning practitioners to use historic data as a basis for modelling the impact of development proposals under future year scenarios. 

Indeed, this has led some commentators to question the current ‘predict and provide’ approach to establishing whether demand can be adequately accommodated on highway and transport networks. It has been suggested by practitioners that a new paradigm comprising a ‘Vision and Validate’ approach, in which road networks are classified by street and function will replace the previous doctrine. In this event, baseline data will not be needed, as streets and links will be defined.

Milestone Transport Planning will continue to keep a close eye on how COVID-19 will impact our industry in the long term.  As always, we remain available to discuss your transport and travel planning needs, so please contract us today.   

Farnborough Office: 01483 397 888 | Gateshead Office: 0191 338 7220  

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