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Technical Report

Analyzing the Long-Term Impacts of COVID-19 Disruption on Travel Patterns

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Publication Date: 2020

The rapid spread of COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. spurred many state governments to take extensive actions for social distancing and issue stay-at-home orders to reduce the spread of the virus. Washington State and all other States in the PacTrans region have issued stay-at-home orders that include school closures, telecommuting, bars/restaurants closures, and group gathering bans, among others. These actions create significant changes to daily life and while some travel patterns will gradually restore by the end of outbreak, some may remain changed for a much longer period.

Behaviors that may see a lasting response include commuting, grocery shopping, business meetings, and even social interactions. Working from home for 2-3 months may change people’s attitudes toward telecommuting, and some may continue to do so a few days a week once the stay-at-home orders are lifted. Some employers may also shift their telecommute policies and provide/encourage working from home. In recent years, with the growth of e-commerce, many grocery stores had started to offer home deliveries; however, online grocery shopping experienced a fast and sudden boom during the pandemic. This has resulted in quick service adoption, and therefore some people may continue to do online grocery shopping once things go back to normal. Moreover, as people shift to online grocery shopping, they may proactively make a list and place orders less frequently compared to them going to store, resulting in fewer shopping trips. Some business meetings and even personal gatherings may also move online as people learn about and try alternate ways of communicating during the outbreak. Some may also consider enrolling in distant learning programs instead of attending in-person educational programs. There may also be significant changes in modes of travel. Some transit commuters may choose other modes of transportation for a while, and people may choose to drive or bike instead of taking a ride-hailing trip.

The goal of this research is to understand how COVID-19 disruption has affected people’s activity and travel patterns during the pandemic, and how these changes may persist in a post-pandemic era.

Authors: Dr. Andisheh Ranjbari, Parastoo Jabbari, Don MacKenzie
Recommended Citation:
Mackenzie D., Jabbari P., Ranjbari A. Analyzing the Long-Term Impacts of COVID-19 Disruption on Travel Patterns. Pacific Northwest Transportation Consortium (PacTrans). 2020.