Demand for mitigating the risk of COVID-19 infection in public transport: The role of social trust and fatalistic beliefs

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - asia, planning - methods, planning - surveys, planning - personal safety/crime, ridership - perceptions


COVID-19, Public transport, Demand for risk mitigation, Fatalism, Social trust, Risk perception


The rapid surge of COVID-19 cases worldwide drew attention to COVID-19 infection as a new source of risk in transport. The virus introduced a need for viral transmission mitigation as a major priority when selecting a mode of travel, and caused a significant drop in public transport use. The recovery of public transport use in the post-COVID period requires that the transport authorities favourably address people’s demand for mitigation of the risk of COVID-19 transmission in public transport. The present study aims to explore the role of risk perception, worry and priority of COVID-19 risk reduction along with fatalistic beliefs and public trust in authorities in explaining public demand for risk mitigation. The present study is among the first to investigate the role of fatalistic beliefs, social trust and risk perception for public transport and public demand for risk mitigation. The link between priority of infection prevention and demand for risk mitigation has also been less explored in public transport research. An online survey was conducted among university students in Iran between 19th April and 16th June 2020, during the first wave of the pandemic, when the country was a major epicentre of the disease. A total of 271 out of 370 respondents whose dominant mode on university travels was public transport were included in the analysis. Results of structural equation modelling confirmed the paradox of trust, indicating that social trust is negatively associated with perceived risk of COVID-19 infection, which in turn may lead people to place less importance on COVID-19 prevention as a priority in travel mode choice, and consequently demand less risk mitigation efforts to prevent COVID-19 infection in public transport. Dissimilar to trust, however, the results revealed no relationship between fatalistic beliefs and risk perception, but a significant direct effect of fatalistic beliefs on demand for risk mitigation. To reinforce public demand for mitigating the risk of COVID-19 in public transport, the study calls on policymakers to exploit public trust resources for more effective risk communication, through disseminating the gradually accumulating evidence-based information regarding the infectivity and the virulence of COVID-19 and the scientific risk of infection. The study also underlined the potential importance of considering fatalistic beliefs when developing effective risk communication policies and practices to enhance public support for COVID-19 risk mitigation in public transport.


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


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