Evidence of a post-COVID change in travel behaviour – Self-reported expectations of commuting in Melbourne

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - australasia, place - urban, ridership - behaviour, ridership - commuting, ridership - mode choice, planning - surveys


COVID-19, Travel behaviour, Infection fear, Mode shift, Work from home, Teleworking


This paper addresses the question, “Will post-pandemic travel behaviour, when the virus has gone, be different to pre-pandemic travel?”. It adopts an online survey where respondents were asked to report changes in travel during the various stages of the pandemic and expectations of future travel after the virus has gone. The paper focusses on commuting including total commuting, work from home (WFH), employment, travel mode volume and share and timing of morning commute trips using reported behaviour during pandemic shutdowns; and expectations of commuting when the virus has gone.

The paper provides evidence that travel behaviour post-pandemic might be different to pre-pandemic travel. It suggests that after the pandemic, public transport ridership, which declined steeply during the pandemic, will return but not to pre-pandemic levels. A post-pandemic reduction effect of around 20% in transit commuting is expected. This effect is supported using secondary evidence from a number of international cities. Results imply a mode shift from public transport use to car driving; this will be particularly large for CBD/downtown areas and is likely to result in peak period traffic congestion after the virus has gone. Work from home increased substantially during the pandemic; this will reduce after the pandemic as enforced WFH is replaced by voluntary WFH. Nevertheless, a sustained future ongoing increase in WFH above pre-pandemic levels is suggested, acting to reduce peak commuting by 6% and commuting to Melbourne CBD by 20%. However, reductions in commuting due to WFH do not offset mode shift from public transport to car driving resulting in a net increase in car use after the pandemic. Infection fear is a new top concern of public transport users since the pandemic. This fear has transitioned from ‘fresh infection fear’; the initial concerns when the pandemic started to ‘residual infection fear’; a long-term effect when the virus has gone. Implications of the findings for research and practice are discussed.


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


Transportation Research Part A Home Page: