Will COVID-19 be the end for the public transit? Investigating the impacts of public health crisis on transit mode choice

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - north america, place - urban, planning - personal safety/crime, ridership - attitudes, ridership - behaviour, ridership - demand, ridership - mode choice


COVID-19, Transit mode choice, Perception, And attitude towards transit usage


COVID-19 had an unprecedented impact on transit demand and usage. Stiff and vigilant hygiene safety requirements changed travellers’ mode choice preferences during the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, transit modal share is radically impacted. Therefore, quantitative measurements on transit demand impact are urgently needed to facilitate evidence-based policy responses to COVID-19. Thus, we collected 1000 random samples through a web-based survey in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), Canada, on traveler’s modal choices behavior during the COIVD-19 pandemic. The paper presents an analysis with this firsthand dataset to understand transit users' behavioral adaptation resulting from the spreading of COVID-19 in 2020. We found that the transit frequency dropped by 21% to 71% for various socioeconomic groups in the GTA during the pandemic. The transit modal share dipped for all trip purposes. For private vehicle owners, around 70% of transit users switched to their private vehicles. More than 60% of those without cars switched to active transport for all travel purposes. Also, ride-hailing services are the second most popular substitution of transit for them. More than 80% of the respondents agreed with all transit safety policies, such as mandatory face-covering listed in the survey. Moreover, a similar proportion of the respondents agreed to return to public transit in the future. Multinomial, nested, and mixed logit models are estimated to capture relationships between modal choices and various factors. We found that the daily number of new COVID-19 cases impacts the choice of transit negatively. However, vaccine availability and mandatory face-covering onboard positively affect travellers’ choices of riding transit during the pandemic.


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


Transportation Research Part A Home Page: