Preferences for using the London Underground during the COVID-19 pandemic

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

mode - subway/metro, place - europe, place - urban, ridership - behaviour, ridership - demand, planning - surveys, planning - travel demand management, operations - capacity, operations - crowding


COVID-19, Discrete choice experiment, London Underground, Travel behaviour, Face masks, Vaccination


The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically impacted people’s travel behaviour and introduced uncertainty in the demand for public transport. To investigate user preferences for travel by London Underground during the pandemic, we conducted a stated choice experiment among its pre-pandemic users (N = 961). We analysed the collected data using multinomial and latent class logit models. Our discrete choice analysis provides two sets of results. First, we derive the crowding multiplier estimate of travel time valuation (i.e., the ratio of the value of travel time in uncrowded and crowded situations) for London underground users. The results indicate that travel time valuation of Underground users increases by 73% when it operates at technical capacity. Second, we estimate the sensitivity of the preference for the London Underground relative to the epidemic situation (confirmed new COVID-19 cases) and interventions (vaccination rates and mandatory face masks). The sensitivity analysis suggests that making face masks mandatory is a main driver for recovering the demand for the London underground. The latent class model reveals substantial preference heterogeneity. For instance, while the average effect of mandatory face masks is positive, the preferences of 30% of pre-pandemic users for travel by the Underground are negatively affected. The positive effect of mandatory face masks on the likelihood of taking the Underground is less pronounced among males with age below 40 years, and a monthly income below 10,000 GBP. The estimated preference sensitivities and crowding multipliers are relevant for supply–demand management in transit systems and the calibration of advanced epidemiological models.


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


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