Impacts of COVID-19 on GTHA travel behaviour & demand

head shot of Khandker Nurul Habib

Professor Khandker Nurul Habib

What are the impacts of COVID-19 on the travel demand and travel behaviour of residents of the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA)?

In May, UTTRI associated faculty Professor Khandker Nurul Habib initiated five new research projects to explore this question. Now the results are in!

Professor Habib and his graduate students in the Travel Demand Modelling Group have submitted seven papers detailing their research results to the Transportation Research Board.

Abstracts for the seven papers are shared below.

  1. What Happens When Post-Secondary Programmes Go Virtual for COVID-19? Effects of Forced Telecommuting on Travel Demand of Post-Secondary Students
  2. Will COVID-19 be the End for the Public Transit? Investigating the Impacts of Public Health Crisis on Transit Mode Choice
  3. The Impact of COVID-19 on Residential Relocation Decision in the Greater Toronto Area
  4. How About the Ride-sourcing Service Usage during the COVID-19 Pandemic? An Empirical Evidence-based Investigation for the Greater Toronto Area
  5. Modelling the Choices of Telecommuting (On-line Learning) of Post-Secondary Students: Learning from the Revealed Behaviour to Prepare for Greater Acceptance in COVID-19 Induced Contexts
  6. Assessing the Impacts of COVID-19 on Activity-Travel Scheduling: A Survey in the Greater Toronto Area
  7. Assessing the Impacts of COVID-19 on Urban Passenger Travel Demand in the Greater Toronto Area: Description of A Multi-Pronged and Multi-Staged Study with Initial Results

 


 

What Happens When Post-Secondary Programmes Go Virtual for COVID-19? Effects of Forced Telecommuting on Travel Demand of Post-Secondary Students

Kaili Wang, Sanjana Hossain, Khandker Nurul Habib

The outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) spreads globally, disrupting every aspect of normal activities. In the post – COVID era, as pre-emptive health and safety measures, all major post-secondary institutions in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) decided to go virtual in their 2020 fall semester. Post-secondary students will become telecommuters. This imposed telecommuting will shift their daily routines. This study first empirically investigates students’ activity-travel behavior during normal conditions using a dynamic econometric activity-based model (CUSTOM). Then it uses the estimated model to simulate student’s activity-travel patterns in typical and telecommuting scenarios. Students’ behavioral differences between the two scenarios are analyzed. It seems that students’ average school activities increase from 0.86 to 1.06 per day, with increased time allocated due to telecommuting. Students’ average number of total activities per day also increases from 1.89 to 2.13. However, trip rates will decrease from 2.98 to 1.80, due to eliminating commute needs to school. Morning peak hours will no longer exist for students. But this induces a spread afternoon & evening peak period by being active for discretionary travel during the afternoon. Besides, due to telecommuting, students will travel shorter distances for discretionary activities. As a result, densely populated zones will become popular destinations for their discretionary activities. This finding raises the flag that policy attention is needed for small businesses in densely population zones, as they will be challenged with practice health and safety guidelines for COVID-19 with the added demand from telecommuting students.

Will COVID-19 be the End for the Public Transit? Investigating the Impacts of Public Health Crisis on Transit Mode Choice

Sk. Md. Mashrur, Kaili Wang, Khandker Nurul Habib

COVID-19 had an unprecedented impact on transit demand and usage. Stiff and vigilant hygiene safety requirements changed peoples’ mode choice preferences during the COVID-19 time; specifically, transit modal share is radically impacted. Quantitative measurements on transit demand impact are urgently needed to facilitate evidence-based policy responses to COVID-19. Thus, we collected data (of around 1000 random individuals) through a web-based survey in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) on traveler’s modal choices before and after COIVD-19. The paper presents a firsthand analysis of the dataset to understanding transit users’ behavioral adaptation resulting from the COVID-19 spread. We found that during the pandemic transit use, the frequency dropped by 21% to 71% of various socio-economic groups in the GTA. The transit model share also dipped for all trip purposes. Around 70% of transit users who tried to avoid transit for COVID-19 switched to private vehicles if they had access to cars. More than 60% of those without cars switched to active transportation for all travel purposes. Also, ride-hailing services are the second popular substitutions for transit at this time. The survey collected respondents’ opinions on future transit usage. More than 80% agreed to return to public transit in the future. More than 80% of all respondents have positive attitudes towards all transit safety policies listed in the survey. Econometric models are estimated to capture relationships between transit model choice and various factors. We found that the daily number of new COVID-19 cases impact the choice of transit negatively. However, vaccine availability and mandatory face-covering onboard have positive impacts on transit mode choice.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Residential Relocation Decision in the Greater Toronto Area

Saeed Shakib, Jason Hawkins, Khandker Nurul Habib

This paper investigates the effect of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on residential relocation decisions in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). We hypothesize that the long-term decision process of households may change based on the experience of telecommuting, e-shopping, online learning associated with the pandemic. Some households might consider the pandemic as a reoccurring event and change their lifestyles. This study presents a survey and its results that are specifically designed to capture the impact of COVID-19 on residential relocation choice. We provide descriptive statistic analysis to show that the lifestyle of households was changed drastically through the COVID-19 pandemic. A stated preference (SP) choice experiment was also designed to explore the likelihood of this lifestyle persisting and altering the factors that households consider in residential relocation decisions. We use a panel mixed multinomial choice model to test our hypothesis and test COVID-19’s direct and indirect effects on residential relocation choice behavior. The empirical model reveals that households are considering telecommuting options as a factor to consider in residential relocation choice. We observe that different segments of the population are reacting differently to the pandemic condition. Overall, our early results show that households see the pandemic as more of a demand shock in the economy than a turning point in their lives that will change their lifestyle.

How About the Ride-sourcing Service Usage during the COVID-19 Pandemic? An Empirical Evidence-based Investigation for the Greater Toronto Area

Patrick Loa, Sanjana Hossain, Yicong Liu, Khandker Nurul Habib

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed the nature of day-to-day life in cities worldwide. In the transportation sector, COVID-19 appears to have impacted modal preferences. In particular, people seem to be less willing to use modes where they may encounter strangers (such as public transit) and modes that involve coming into contact with shared surfaces (such as ride-sourcing). Given the transformative impact that ride-sourcing services had on urban mobility before the pandemic, it is crucial to understand the effects of COVID-19 on the use of ride-sourcing moving forward. Using data from a web-based survey, this study combines descriptive analysis with two ordered logit models to investigate the impact of COVID-19 on the utilization of ride-sourcing services in the Greater Toronto Area, including how often ride-sourcing is used and the earliest point in the pandemic that a person would consider using ride-sourcing. Generally speaking, the use of ride-sourcing has decreased since the start of the pandemic, however, there are also people who are using ride-sourcing more often than they did before the pandemic. The results indicate that the perception of risk, the tendency to take precautions when leaving home, and socio-economic factors influence the earliest point in the pandemic where a person would consider using ride-sourcing. Overall, it appears that ride-sourcing usage will gradually increase as restrictions are lifted, however, it is unlikely to return to pre-pandemic levels until COVID-19 is no longer considered a public health threat.

Modelling the Choices of Telecommuting (On-line Learning) of Post-Secondary Students: Learning from the Revealed Behaviour to Prepare for Greater Acceptance in COVID-19 Induced Contexts

Sanjana Hossain, Kaili Wang, Khandker Nurul Habib

As post-secondary institutions across the world shift to online course delivery to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19), telecommuting has become essential for the students. However, little is known about what factors should be targeted through policies so that there is greater and easier acceptance of such mandatory telecommuting among the students. This paper presents an empirical investigation of the telecommuting frequency choices of post-secondary students in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area. It uses data from a large-scale student travel survey and a split-population ordered extreme value model to identify the factors that affect students’ choice of higher weekly telecommuting frequencies. The model results reveal that age, gender, student status, living situation and personal attitudes significantly affect the choice of telecommuting among the students. In addition, stricter activity-travel scheduling constraints, transit pass ownership, car access, monthly travel cost, and poor transit accessibility lead to more frequent telecommuting, whereas heavier course load, living with roommates, owning a bike, and taking regional transit to school encourages them to telecommute less frequently. Based on these findings, it is anticipated that policies like careful redesign of the course loads, promoting positive attitudes towards telecommuting among specific student groups and provision for subsidized transit passes can lead to the greater acceptance of telecommuting among the post-secondary students and enhance their online learning experience in current and post COVID-19 situations.

Assessing the Impacts of COVID-19 on Activity-Travel Scheduling: A Survey in the Greater Toronto Area

Alireza Dianat, Jason Hawkins, Khandker Nurul Habib

The COVID-19 lockdown provided many individuals an opportunity to explore changes in their daily routines, particularly when considered in combination with an ever-changing Information and Communication Technology (ICT) landscape. These new routines and alternative activities have the potential to be continued in the post-COVID era. Understanding the changes in routine is essential for transport planners to accurately model activity-travel scheduling. This study seeks to understand the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown on activity-travel behavior and the utilization of alternative solutions from ICT. A particular focus is anticipating the long-term implications of this disruption on activity-travel scheduling. Focusing on five of the most repetitive activities in the daily schedule (working, grocery and non-grocery shopping, preparing/eating meals, visiting family/friends), this study investigates the changes in frequency and mode of completing these activities during the lockdown and shortly after reopening. Through a combination of graphical and statistical analysis, we find an increased preference for home food preparation over online ordering and that individuals are wary of in-person shopping until a large proportion of the population has received a vaccine against the virus. Respondents prefer to work at home, provided they have access to suitable home office supplies (e.g., desk, chair, computer monitor). Those with children also require adequate childcare before considering a return to the workplace.

Assessing the Impacts of COVID-19 on Urban Passenger Travel Demand in the Greater Toronto Area: Description of A Multi-Pronged and Multi-Staged Study with Initial Results

Khandker Nurul Habib, Jason Hawkins, Saeed Shakib, Patrick Loa, Sk Mashrur, Alireza Dianat, Kaili Wang, Sanjana Hossain, Yicong Liu

The COVID-19 outbreak created a context that was not considered by most urban transportation planners and modellers. It created a complete halt of urban lifestyle and resulted in a total disruption of travel behaviour. While we are still not out of the thick of it, it is of great importance that we take a detailed approach to capture the impacts of such a disruption with great care. This paper presents a study design to comprehensively measure the effects of COVID-19 induced Lockdown on changes in travel behaviour/demands and its dynamics. The study is designed for the Greater Toronto Area, and the paper also presents the results on a common portion of four specialized travel surveys comprising a sample of around 4,000 survey respondents in the study area. The empirical investigation presented in the paper is on the general pandemic response, in terms of daily activity-travel adaptation behaviour), in the context of around four months of complete Lockdown to stop spreading of COVID-19. Empirical investigation reveals that the Lockdown did not cause any substantial increase in unemployment, but it did force the majority of the residents to telecommute and practice flexible office hours. Results of the survey presented in the paper, thus, can be generalized to a very large scale, if not 100 percent (as many workers did commute as they needed to be at the workplace) implementation of telecommuting, with additional restrictions on out-of-home movements (imposed by the closure of businesses and social distancing). Overall, results show that Lockdown influences people to engage in more family-oriented activities. However, such choices are largely influenced by age, gender, household car ownership, and even the urban form of the cities.


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