Coronavirus: Half Of Public Transport Users Consider Switch To Cars

Almost one in two public transport users claim that they’ll consider getting a car once the nation’s lockdown measures are relaxed…

Ditching Public Transport?

Almost one in two people claim that, after the nation’s lockdown measures are relaxed, they’re unlikely to return to using public transport. Commentators are calling the trend ‘transport distancing’. Research conducted by Auto Trader, which included a survey of 3,000 people, has revealed that 56% of people relying on public transport believe that owning a car will become more important in the future. This figure rises to 64% when people in inner-cities are consulted.

The desire to abandon buses, trains and rapid transit is most pronounced amongst those aged between 18 and 24. Nearly three in four of the respondents said they had a greater desire for personal space as a result of the crisis. Among those who have a driving license but not a car, 56% said the pandemic had made them consider getting one. Conversely, only 2% of people say they have cancelled plans to get a car as a result of COVID-19.

Catherine Faiers, Auto Trader COO, says the findings were a testament to impact of COVID-19 on society. She said the research “highlights just how profound an impact Covid-19 has had on consumer attitudes towards transport”. She added, “it also confirms that the global pandemic will have far reaching consequences that last after the current restrictions have been lifted”.

Is It Just Anxiety?

Whilst Auto Trader’s research suggests a serious shift in public attitudes, things may be a bit more complex. We’re still currently in the thick of the pandemic narrative and lockdown measures are yet to be relaxed. As a consequence, anxiety is prevalent in society and routines have been well and truly disrupted. The survey is a reflection of people’s attitudes now. There’s no reason to believe these will remain in place indefinitely. Indeed, it’s quite likely that, as anxiety dissipates and people return to their day-to-day lives, people will become more confident about using public transport.

It’s also interesting that people think owning a car is going to become ‘more important’, even more so in inner-cities. The peak car phenomenon has been observed all across the developed world; it suggests that the total number of vehicles being used is unlikely to rise much further. This is a view shared by the world’s largest manufacturer of car components, Bosch. The company believes we may have already reached peak car. In addition, authorities around the world are pursuing pedestrianisation with zeal. London, Birmingham and Manchester are no exception to this trend. Some automakers are even ceasing production of city cars due to a lack of profitability. In this sense, then, people may have been responding to Auto Trader’s survey with anxiety in mind. So don’t worry, motorists probably won’t be facing a surge in traffic just yet.

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