Following the outbreak of the current Coronavirus pandemic, ridership on major public transport systems in European and US cities has plunged by more than 80% since mid-January. Transport for London predicts that the financial implications of the coronavirus could be up to £500m, whilst the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority projects losses of as much as $52 million per month.
Evidence from Chinese cities shows that private cars, walking, and cycling have each increased their share of the modal mix. Rental car and shared car scheme usage has also remained relatively buoyant – most likely because the perceived risk of infection is lower than on public transport. According to Hertz and Europcar for example, long-term car rental subscriptions in Finland have increased by more than 50% during the first wave of the outbreak.
In this context, short term response measures and longer-term resiliency solutions need to be put in place to mitigate the impact on transport systems.
Short term response measures
As the pandemic has unfolded we’ve seen street space allocated in new ways with more space given to citizens who choose to walk, cycle or scoot - providing them with safe and connected networks whilst alleviating the need to use cars.
Cities such as Berlin, Bogota, Brussels and Budapest have all embraced pop-up bike lanes and the benefits they bring of enabling social distancing and encouraging physical exercise. Meanwhile in Helsinki, Ramboll is helping the city authorities to pilot the transformation of a busy coastal road into a street that prioritises pedestrians through the installation of street furniture and traffic calming measures. The idea is to create attractive, safe, and less congested recreational spaces for the city’s residents that encourage walking over car use.