Has COVID-19 changed our loyalty towards public transport? Understanding the moderating role of the pandemic in the relationship between service quality, customer satisfaction and loyalty

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - asia, place - urban, mode - bus, planning - methods, planning - service quality, planning - service improvement, ridership - perceptions, ridership - modelling


Public transport, Bus system, COVID-19, Structural equation modelling, MIMIC models, Multi-group analysis, Observed heterogeneity


COVID-19 has been associated with a decline in public transport ridership in many cities. However, the impact of the pandemic on passenger perceptions of public transport, particularly loyalty, has remained largely unexplored. Using a case study of Tehran’s bus system, this paper aims to assess the moderating effect of COVID-19 on passenger loyalty. A cross-sectional survey of bus users was conducted in two similar periods, before and during COVID-19. The data was analysed using structural equation modelling, with the effect of observed heterogeneity evaluated using multiple indicators multiple causes models and multi-group analysis. The results indicate that during COVID-19, perceptions of service quality have improved, particularly in relation to comfort (including crowding), safety, reliability and information. While this has led to increased customer satisfaction, loyalty to the system has decreased. An increase in the perceived attractiveness of using private cars was found to be the primary factor for reducing passenger loyalty with the perceived monetary and psychological costs of using cars being less effective in encouraging people to use the bus. Taking into account the significant utility of private vehicles in urban transportation during COVID-19, the present study identifies feasible areas for improving the performance of bus services to increase satisfaction with this form of public transport among car owners.


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


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