University commuting during the COVID-19 pandemic: Changes in travel behaviour and mode preferences

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - europe, place - universities, ridership - commuting, ridership - behaviour, ridership - modelling, ridership - mode choice, planning - surveys


Mobility behaviour, College commuting, Discrete choice model, Pandemic consequences, Public transportation


One prominent change induced by the COVID-19 pandemic concerns the worldwide use of public transportation for commuting purposes. This study focused on university commuting in Italy by examining the propensity to change transport modes under different infection risk scenarios. Data were collected in 2020 through an online survey of college mobility conducted by the Italian University Network for Sustainable Development. Asking the respondents to consider both a pessimistic and an optimistic scenario, with respect to the risk odds of being infected, we followed a two-step approach to study the prospective travel habits of college users. First, we tested a logit model to estimate the propensity to abandon one's pre-COVID-19 commuting mode. Then, we investigated the factors influencing the choice of switching from public transportation to either cars or active modes by estimating a multinomial logit model. By exploiting the novelty of considering two risk scenarios, this study highlighted that, especially in the pessimistic case, the change to active modes was constrained by spatial aspects in favour of motorized vehicles. From a policy perspective, this COVID-19-based natural experiment advocates transportation authorities taking effective actions to ensure that, in case of emergencies, a modal shift would not benefit more-polluting transport means.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Elsevier, copyright remains with them.


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