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Study | Continued remote working will transform the commuter culture post pandemic

Post pandemic commute

With the popularity of working from home on the rise combined with public transport stigma, cities could soon experience vast changes in transport infrastructure

More than half of commuters around the world plan to continue working remotely, at least in part, after the pandemic. This, together with a growing preference for healthier modes of transport, but also a resurgence in commuting by car, means the next year will be pivotal in shaping the transport infrastructure and the future of mobility. New research from Kantar’s Mobility Futures study, based on deep analysis conducted across almost 10,000 city dwellers ahead of June’s Movin’ On World Summit on Sustainable Mobility brings to light the major global mobility trends for the upcoming decade, 

  • The pandemic resulted in a 30% drop in travel volume to work, places of education and leisure activities
  • 50% of commuters anticipate continuing to at least in part work remotely post-pandemic
  • Public transport has experienced a 5.6% loss of share as hygiene concerns became a factor
  • Car usage has experienced a 3.8% increase in share of journeys during the pandemic and looks set to stick as preference for post-pandemic travel
  • A 5% shift in share of journeys across Western Europe to healthy modes of transport, walking, cycling and scooting, during the pandemic, with an increase in those saying it will be their preferred mode of transport

In the newest research, conducted as the world starts to think about life after the pandemic, city planners and transport infrastructure professionals adapt to the new travel patterns. Kantar predicts that remote working will play a significant part in the ‘New Normal’ after pandemic restrictions lift. Currently, around 2 in 3 residents of major urban areas are working from home globally and the study shows that on average half plan to keep working remotely in the future. 

Healthier modes of transport have seen a noticeable increase in this period especially in Europe. With limited transport sharing options, Europeans have favoured walks and bike rides for their daily journeys.  Kantar has observed a 4.8% rise in the use of healthy modes of transport in Europe, with walking being the most preferred of these means and scoring a 78 out of 100 on the satisfaction chart. US cities however have seen only a slight increase in use of healthy transport means (0.6% YoY), mainly due to large distances and car-centric infrastructures.

The pandemic has created an increased focus on localism and shorter trips. This trend could positively impact the ’15-minute city’ concept moving away from being car-centric and offering all the amenities for people’s essential and daily needs within a 15-minute walk or bike ride. Kantar data supports this by revealing that walking and biking are currently the highest scoring means of transport in terms of satisfaction.

Despite the health-kick, there has also been an increase in car usage. Social distancing measures and health concerns led to more people choosing to drive alone during the pandemic to reduce exposure to the COVID-19 virus. Driving remains one of the preferred ways to travel, despite the negative environmental impact of petrol-powered cars, with usage growing +3.6% YoY and preference +1.9% YoY – making driving the second most popular mode of transport after walking. 

In contrast, public transport has taken a serious hit during the pandemic, dropping by 5.6% YoY in usage and scoring only 37 out of 100 for satisfaction, as a result of restrictions on its use, social distancing and people choosing individual means of transport (i.e. walking or biking). The challenge for cities will be how to entice members of the public back onto these services in order to, reduce traffic congestion and limit environmental damage in cities.

Anang Jena, Executive Vice President and Practice Lead – Automotive and Mobility, South Asia, Kantar, said,
The pandemic in India has fundamentally changed the way people process and consume mobility, especially with more serious manifestation in current wave. There will be an inherent psychological restriction towards public transportation which is likely to be fairly long term, especially amongst those who had opted for public transportation even if they could afford personal mobility solutions such as personal vehicles. The large part of India’s migrant population will continue to rely on public mobility solutions with a lot of caution and sensitivity. Public mobility suppliers need to gear up to address these sensitivities going forward. The last mile connectivity will continue to thrive as social distancing practice can be applied effectively – this could create a clear and significant opportunity for e-mobility. The propensity towards personal mobility is likely to increase further, we are likely to see and witness acceleration of purchase process for those who were at initial stages of vehicle acquisition. This is currently hampered due to lockdown and restrictions, however, openness to own a vehicle sooner than later would need auto makers to devise new ways for customers to experience and acquire vehicles. There is always a boom after a lull. Automotive industry will positively experience that; however, the precise time and period of this occurrence would only be best guess scenario.

Guillaume Saint, Global Automotive & Mobility Practice Lead said:
The global pandemic has fundamentally changed the way people move in cities. With more people working from home, we’ve seen a significant drop in public transport in favour of driving alone. While this is a temporarily safer measure, it does pose sustainability and congestion challenges in the future if cities don’t focus on environmentally friendly and efficient city infrastructures. However, we’ve seen an increased shift to localism with an increase in people enjoying healthier modes of transport like biking, walking or e-scooters as well. With this wide-ranging shift in plans and attitudes, now is the time for cities to reconsider their infrastructure plans and adapt it in order to encourage more sustainable mobility in the post-pandemic future.

Kantar’s Mobility Futures study surveyed over 9,500 city dwellers from 13 global cities about their current travel experiences and desired modes of transport. Learn more about Kantar’s Mobility Futures 2021.


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