How COVID-19 Changed Transport in Australia
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit countries across the world, and one of the results of its impact is changing the way people move. Due to telecommuting, unemployment, and social distancing measures, the public transport and freight sectors have changed significantly in terms of activity. However, the world has also seen new transport developments such as the rise of micro-mobile transportation such as bicycles and electric scooters. Let’s look at how Australia’s transport system and activity changed during the pandemic.
Drop in public transportation
Although many people have been working from home due to the pandemic, many people have been wary of public transportation and have avoided trains, buses, taxis, and ridesharing services. As a comparison, Victoria’s total trips for buses, trains, and trams each day for May 2020 was 200,000 which is a significant drop from 2 million a day pre-pandemic.
Of course, Australia’s transport isn’t the only one that was badly hit. From the US to Singapore public transport, Global road transport dropped by almost 50% from 2019 to March of 2020, while flights dropped to 75% by April of 2020.
Although Australia has been recently slowly recovering with lesser restrictions, some commuters still fear public transportation’s safety. In fact, 58% of commuters surveyed a few months after the lockdown are extremely concerned about hygiene in public transport. Different cities have responded to this such as Melbournes’ nightly cleaning of trains and other cities’ strict enforcement of wearing masks and social distancing.
Increase in micro-mobility transportation
Pre-pandemic, micro-mobility is becoming a disruptor and trend in transportation for its portable, lightweight, and eco-friendly vehicles including bicycles, e-bikes, mopeds, and electric riding scooters. Because of its rapid popularity, it has pushed countries to establish regulations for rider safety on the road.
Although ride-sharing services for these micro-mobile vehicles were suspended or reduced, personal electric scooters and e-bikes have become an efficient and convenient alternative to public transport considering social distancing measures.
Prior to the lockdowns in Australia, one in five riders had never used an electric scooter according to micro-mobility operator Neuron Mobility. However, since the pandemic, electric scooter rides have increased. For one e-scooter trip distance increased by 23% in the country and New Zealand.
Intel company Moovit revealed in a 2020 report that Australians use scooters and bikes because it’s faster than walking and people can go to places that public transport can’t reach. Moreover, 47% of riders in Adelaide say they prefer scooters or bikes because it’s eco-friendly.
Ultimately, the demand for electric scooters in Australia has increased. In fact, Darwin locals say that they see the impact electric scooters bring to the city from locals visiting stores to tourists exploring the city. Joshua Sattler, Darwin’s general manager of innovation growth said, “E-scooters have become an alternative solution for residents, who can now take a quick ride to where they need to be, without working up a sweat.”
Aside from electric riding scooters, bicycles or e-bikes have also increased their popularity significantly as more people took up cycling. In fact, $500 to $1500 bicycles have been selling out quickly, especially during the start of lockdowns in Australia.
In other parts of the globe, the number of cyclists in the US has also doubled with bike traffic increasing to 151% in Philadelphia alone. Meanwhile, the UK’s Association of Cycle Traders saw a rise in repairing or retrieving old bicycles. As a result, just like electric scooters, bicycles have also been facing a surge in demand and a lack of bicycle units.
Electric scooter and bicycle surge are mostly due to the accessibility and affordability of these micro-mobile vehicles. Moreover, many people crave for exercise or outdoor activities during and after lockdown and cycling is a great exercise that allows you to be fit, go outdoors, and maintain social distancing.
Post-lockdown and post-pandemic impact
Since the lockdown has been lifted in some states in Australia and some states have eased public restrictions, what will happen to the transport changes that happened during the lockdown?
For now, there is still public concern regarding the health safety of public transportation, especially because of the new COVID-19 variant. So, many still opt for personal cars or micro-mobile vehicles. Moreover, since the capacity for public transportation has been reduced, the public has no choice but to look for an alternative, convenient, and safe transport like bicycles and electric scooters.
Electric scooter or bike-sharing services are also expected to rise. In fact, Wuhan has experienced a spike in bike-sharing services after lifting their lockdown. Given the vehicle’s popularity, this could also be true in Australia. Ride-sharing services have also been operational but have undergone strict protocols for the driver and passenger’s safety. Ridesharing service Didi Australia even went so far as implementing AI so that drivers can abide by the facemask rule.
Given these situations, it seems that micro-mobile transportation will become a normal part of Australian transport until post-pandemic.