The Enduring Effects of COVID-19 on Travel Behavior in the United States: A Panel Study on Observed and Expected Changes in Telecommuting, Mode Choice, Online Shopping and Air Travel
The explosive nature of Covid-19 transmission drastically altered the rhythm of daily life by forcing billions of people to stay at their homes. A critical challenge facing transportation planners is to identify the type and the extent of changes in people's activity-travel behavior in the post-pandemic world. In this study, we investigated the travel behavior evolution by analyzing a longitudinal two-wave panel survey data conducted in the United States from April 2020 to October 2020 (wave 1) and from November 2020 to May 2021(wave 2). Encompassing nearly 3,000 respondents across different states, we explored pandemic-induced changes and underlying reasons in four major categories of telecommute/telemedicine, commute mode choice, online shopping, and air travel. Upon concrete evidence, our findings substantiate significantly observed and expected changes in habits and preferences. According to results, nearly half of employees anticipate having the alternative to telecommute and among which 71% expect to work from home at least twice a week after the pandemic. In the post-pandemic period, auto and transit commuters are expected to be 9% and 31% less than pre-pandemic, respectively. A considerable rise in hybrid work and grocery/non-grocery online shopping is expected. Moreover, 41% of pre-covid business travelers expect to have fewer flights (after the pandemic) while only 8% anticipate more, compared to the pre-pandemic. Upon our analyses, we discuss a spectrum of policy implications in all mentioned areas.