A paradigm shift in urban mobility: Policy insights from travel before and after COVID-19 to seize the opportunity

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - urban, place - asia, mode - bike, mode - car, mode - mass transit, mode - pedestrian, ridership - demand, ridership - mode choice, ridership - behaviour, policy - fares, policy - sustainable, planning - surveys, planning - personal safety/crime, planning - travel demand management


COVID-19, Travel behavior, Mobility-shift, Resilient public transport, Active travel, Transport policy, India



COVID-19 outbreak unfolds as the biggest challenge of this century by far. Virulence of the disease has compelled densely populated countries like India to impose severest measures, which include full or partial lockdown to contain the virus spread. The contagious virus has put the lives of many in urban cities on hold and forced them to abandon or restrict regular activities, which includes a basic human need to travel to satisfy one's daily needs. The eventual impact of the pandemic on individual mobility and the urban city's sustainability depends upon the resilience of medium and long-term policies during such disruptive events.


In order to gauge the impact of this unprecedented disease on travel behavior and mobility patterns of individuals, a web survey is conducted in urban agglomerations of India. The idea is to record travel mode choices before, during and after situations. The study also attempts to elicit responses towards a safer and disaster-resilient public transport, which can also cater to the needs of private vehicle-owning individuals. Further, the study presents and evaluates a set of medium to long-term policy prescriptions to negate the repercussions of this crisis and seize the opportunity it has created so that the long-held dream of sustainable and resilient cities in the context of urban mobility is realized in the best way possible.

Key findings

The study findings indicate an increase in the car-dependency pan-India level post the COVID-19 crisis. Strikingly the captive users of public transport and non-motorized transport mode (walk) are also willing to make a shift towards private motorized vehicles (car, motorized two-wheeler). The eventual mobility shift will depend upon- (a) the recovery period of mass transportation systems to normalcy (b) investments and promotion of active travel modes (non-motorized transport, i.e., walk, bicycle). The findings also reveal that demand and the willingness to pay extra for a safer, faster, cleaner, comfortable, and most importantly, resilient public transport exists. Further, policy evaluations for sustainable and resilient recovery reveal - (a) the provision of bicycle superhighway will push the bicycle share from 31% to approximately 44% (b) travel demand moderation efforts such as (i) staggering of working days demonstrates the reduction in the congestion externalities. (ii) Flexible arrangements for educational activities (two shifts in a day) facilitates overall gain in the system welfare, and (c) incentive such as reducing public transport fare has a positive impact on its share due to the mobility-shift from the private motorized vehicle.

Interpretation and implications of results

Investment and encouragement of active travel mode should be prioritized for personal well-being and disaster-resilient cities. Resilience planning should be an integral part of public transportation systems to handle the future shock of pandemics and other emergencies. Additionally, self-sustainable neighborhoods should be encouraged to reduce the trip lengths substantially or the need for private motorized transport for various secondary activities.


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


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