Our webinar on 4 December showcased the results of a major 6-wave survey into travel behaviour before, during, and after the Covid-19 pandemic.
On 4 December 2023, CREDS hosted a webinar showcasing the results of the Covid-19 Transport, Travel, and Social Adaptation Study (TRANSAS) – a major 6-wave survey administered by YouGov.
Despite the existence of National Data, the substantial Covid-19 TRANSAS dataset has allowed for a more detailed analysis and a deeper understanding of travel behaviour before, during, and after the Covid-19 pandemic.
The webinar looked to provide an overview of the study which sought to find out how society responded to the shock of the pandemic and what has been learnt. As part of this, three in-depth presentations were given on findings relating to car ownership, working habits, and staycation behaviour. The findings were presented by researchers and individuals who have analysed the data.
After a brief introduction by CREDS Director Professor Nick Eyre, Professor Jillian Anable commenced the event with an overview of the TRANSAS dataset. She delved into specifics, discussing the timelines of the conducted waves, the corresponding sample sizes and the funding bodies associated with the project.
Working from home: implications for travel behaviour
Dr. Christian Bretter, a Research Fellow in Environmental Psychology at the University of Leeds, delivered the first presentation. His research, utilising the TRANSAS survey data, aimed to address three key objectives. Firstly, he explored the association between working from home (WFH) and transport mode usage over time. Secondly, he explored the impact of working habits (i.e. whether an individual works from home or not) on shopping frequencies and behaviour. Lastly, he investigated the factors linked to current WFH patterns.
The analysis he presented indicated that those who were already working from home before the Covid-19 pandemic tended to walk more frequently, use public transport more often and rely on the car less frequently. Interestingly, the analysis contradicted the narrative that cycling activity reduced due to WFH, revealing that all segments, irrespective of WFH status, experienced a decrease in cycling frequency.
Furthermore, he discussed how individuals who underwent a more pronounced shift to WFH appeared to exhibit more substantial changes in parking and public transport usage, along with alterations in the frequency of visiting the supermarket (by car). Notably, the extent to which one worked from home during lockdown emerged as the most influential factor shaping current WFH behaviours.
Importantly, the findings highlighted that Covid-19 and the disruption it caused for working patterns have had a lasting effect on how people often use different transport modes.
Changes in car ownership
Dr. Nadia Naqvi, a Research Fellow in Travel Behaviour and Analysis at the University of Leeds, was second to present. She shared findings from her research on factors affecting changes in car ownership before (February 2020) and after (December 2022) Covid-19.
The analysis revealed that several different factors – ranging from household characteristics such as household size and the number of adults, socioeconomic factors such as household income and life events like relocation – are associated with car shedding and car adding behaviours. Additionally, it was suggested that a reduction in household income can increase the likelihood of car shedding for all types of households, whilst increases in income only affected car-free households.
Concerning public transport use, the research found that using buses and trains more frequently is associated to car shedding, especially for households transitioning to become car-free. Reduction in public transport is associated with car adding behaviour only for multi-car households. In addition to this, increase in car use and increase in walking can increase the odds of car adding.
Furthermore, her research indicated that working from home, whether fully or in a hybrid arrangement, increases the likelihood of car shedding, particularly for multi-car owning households.
The overarching finding suggests that while multiple factors play a role in both car shedding and car adding behaviours, the most noteworthy ones are public transport use, working from home, income and household size. However, Dr. Naqvi emphasised that the extent to which these factors are associated with car shedding and car adding seems to be influenced by the existing levels of car ownership in a household. This underscores the importance of tailored policy approaches that align with the varying levels of household car ownership in addition to better public transport system, and policies supporting remote working.
Staycations as an alternative to international travel
The final presenter was Phoebe Pitcher, a Graduate Transport Planner and former postgraduate student at the University of Leeds. Her research aimed to investigate whether individuals continued to opt for staycations as an alternative to international travel after pandemic restrictions were eased. A secondary objective of her research was to examine the socio-demographic factors associated with such substitution behaviour, specifically, the use of staycations as a substitute for international travel.
The presentation highlighted that, following the easing of travel restrictions, fewer people seemed to opt for staycations as an alternative to international holidays. Furthermore, the analysis suggested that there is no discernible trend of individuals exclusively choosing to staycation after having done so during the pandemic restrictions.
In terms of factors associated with holiday substitution, the research suggested that age, gender, concern about Covid-19, household income and having children appeared to significantly influence behaviour. Specifically, being female, of older age, having greater concern about catching coronavirus, having children and belonging to a lower household income category were positively associated with holiday substitution.
Finally, the presentation concluded by briefly discussing the implications of these findings, with a specific focus on the environmental impact resulting from a reduced reliance on staycations as a substitute for international holidays after the easing of pandemic restrictions.
After each presentation, a five-minute discussion and Q&A was hosted by Professor Jillian Anable and Professor Greg Marsden, aiming to emphasise the policy recommendations stemming from the research presented by each speaker. Throughout these discussions, they underscored the importance of comprehending and applying the lessons learned from Covid-19, even as we shift our focus away from the pandemic.
The event concluded with remarks from CREDS’ Director Professor Nick Eyre, expressing gratitude to the over 100 attendees, particularly for their insightful questions. He extended thanks to Professor Jillian Anable and Professor Greg Marsden, who had overall responsibility for the TRANSAS study, and acknowledged their dedicated efforts in initiating the research amid the onset of Covid-19.
Banner photo credit: Gabor Koszegi on Unsplash