Travel before, during and after the COVID-19 pandemic: Exploring factors in essential travel using empirical data

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - asia, place - urban, technology - geographic information systems, ridership - behaviour, ridership - demand, ridership - modelling


Travel behavior, Essential travel, COVID-19, Spatial model, GPS data


The COVID-19 pandemic has a significant impact on daily life, leading to quarantines and essential travel restrictions worldwide in an effort to curb the virus's spread. Despite the potential importance of essential travel, research on changes in travel patterns during the pandemic has been limited, and the concept of essential travel has not been fully explored. This paper aims to address this gap by using GPS data from taxis in Xi'an City between January and April 2020 to investigate differences in travel patterns across three periods pre, during, and post the pandemic. Spatial statistical models are used to examine the major supply and demand-oriented factors that affect spatial travel patterns in different periods, and essential and nonessential socioeconomic resources are defined based on types of services. Results indicate that the spatial distribution of travel demand was highly correlated with the location of socioeconomic resources and opportunities, regardless of the period. During the “Emergency Response” period, essential travel was found to be highly associated with facilities and businesses providing essential resources and opportunities, such as essential food provider, general hospital and daily grocery supplies. The findings suggest that local authorities may better identify essential travel destinations by referencing the empirical results, strengthening public transit connections to these locations, and ultimately promoting traffic fairness in the post-pandemic era.


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


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