Application of Protection Motivation Theory to Quantify the Impact of Pandemic Fear on Anticipated Postpandemic Transit Usage

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - north america, ridership - behaviour, ridership - commuting, ridership - modelling, planning - surveys


planning and development, public transportation, transit


The COVID-19 pandemic had an unprecedented impact on transit usage, primarily owing to the fear of infection. Social distancing measures, moreover, could alter habitual travel behavior, for example, using transit for commuting. This study explored the relationships among pandemic fear, the adoption of protective measures, changes in travel behavior, and anticipated transit usage in the post-COVID era, through the lens of protection motivation theory. Data containing multidimensional attitudinal responses about transit usage at several pandemic stages were utilized for the investigation. They were collected through a web-based survey in the Greater Toronto Area, Canada. Two structural equation models were estimated to examine the factors influencing anticipated postpandemic transit usage behavior. The results revealed that people taking relatively higher protective measures were comfortable taking a cautious approach such as complying with transit safety policies (TSP) and getting vaccinated to make transit trips. However, the intention to use transit on vaccine availability was found to be lower than in the case of TSP implementation. Conversely, those who were uncomfortable taking transit with caution and who were inclined to avoid travel and rely on e-shopping were most unlikely to return to transit in the future. A similar finding was observed for females, those with vehicle access, and middle-income individuals. However, frequent transit users during the pre-COVID period were more likely to continue to use transit after the pandemic. The study’s findings also indicated that some travelers might be avoiding transit specifically because of the pandemic, implying they are likely to return in the future.


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