Life after the pandemic: what is the “next normal” for mobility?

Our Mobility Futures study shows how the rise in home working and changes in travel behaviour will transform life in the world’s major cities.
05 May 2021
Green commuting - Lady travelling in city
Guillaume-Saint
Guillaume
Saint

Global Automotive Lead

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The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken the world in an unprecedented and unforeseeable way, and people’s behaviours and attitudes continue to evolve. The accelerated move to remote working, combined with a reduction in people travelling on public transport and other shared mobility services, will transform the future of mobility in major cities across the world.

The disruption to everyday life has also produced an interesting and positive side-effect, with pollution levels dropping to almost pre-industrial levels, giving people a glimpse of the benefits of a cleaner, more sustainable urban landscape.

Kantar’s new Mobility Futures: ‘The Next Normal’ edition canvasses opinion from over 9,500 people in 13 major cities around the world to uncover future mobility trends and explore the impact of the pandemic on people’s behaviour and plans for remote working and travel. It compares current and expected preferences and behaviours to pre-COVID-19 times to uncover emerging patterns and trends and ‘The Next Normal’.

Home is the hub

At the time of the survey, around 2 in 3 people were working from home, and our data shows that on average more than half plan to keep working remotely, at least in part, after the pandemic. The indications are clear that remote working will play a significant part in the ‘New Normal’ after the pandemic restrictions lift.

Remote working now and in the future

Currently work from home (at least several times a month)

Will continue to work from home

Chicago

68%

49%

New York

70%

46%

São Paulo

69%

52%

Beijing

45%

32%

Mumbai

84%

57%

Berlin

56%

35%

London

65%

45%

Madrid

66%

45%

Milan

61%

46%

Paris

67%

52%

Copenhagen

67%

44%

Munich

59%

42%

Brussels

66%

50%

A window on travel

The pandemic has led to a significant decline in the number of trips made in major cities – a 30% drop in travel volume to work, places of education and leisure activities. Public transport has taken a serious hit, dropping by 5.6% in usage year on year, and scoring only 37 out of 100 for satisfaction (-7%), as a result of restrictions on its use, social distancing and people choosing other methods of transport.

Healthier modes of transport like walking and cycling have seen a noticeable increase in popularity, particularly in Europe (+4.8% YoY). With limited transport sharing options, Europeans have favoured walks and bike rides for their daily journeys.

Walking is the most preferred mode, and the most satisfying across all cities with satisfaction scores of 78 out of 100. In US cities, however, we saw only a slight increase in the use of healthy transport (0.6% YoY), mainly due to large distances and car-centric infrastructures.

In contrast to the move to healthier transport, we also saw an increase in personal car usage. Social distancing measures and health concerns led to more people choosing to drive alone during the pandemic to reduce exposure to the COVID-19 virus. Driving remains one of the preferred ways to travel, despite the negative environmental impact of petrol-powered cars, making driving the second most popular mode of transport after walking. Use of the car for trips increased by 3.8% during the pandemic and looks set to stick as the preference for post-pandemic travel. The various forms of car sharing that had previously seen growth also declined due to the restraints of social distancing, fear of contagion and reduced commuting.

Remote working now and in the future

Change in usage

Public transport

-5.6%

Sharing (Carpooling, car sharing, car rental car, ride sharing, bike sharing)

-2.2%

Car as a driver

+3.8%

Healthy modes of transport (walking, bike, e-bike, bike sharing)

+3%

The proportion of people claiming they will buy a new car this year did, however, decline from 29% to 25%, mostly motivated by people delaying the purchase rather than by giving up the idea of buying a car altogether. The good news is that those planning to buy are more likely to buy a car with an electric engine, toning down the negative effect on the environment of individual car usage.

Staying local

Mobility Futures also shows a shift to localism, linked to the combined effect of the rise of working from home and of people enjoying healthier modes of transport like biking, walking or e-scooters. The pandemic has created an increased focus on staying local and making shorter trips. This trend could positively impact the ‘15-minute city’ movement. Created by Professor Carlos Moreno, the 15-minute city concept aims to change city infrastructures, moving away from being car-centric, and offering all the amenities for people’s essential and daily needs within a 15-minute walk or bike ride. Our Mobility Futures data supports this, by revealing that walking and biking are currently the highest-scoring means of transport in terms of satisfaction, and are growing in terms of usage and preference. There is also a noticeable increase of e-bike adopters.

Steering the future

The popularity of working from home, a growing preference for healthy modes of transport, and a resurgence in commuting by car, means the next year will be pivotal in shaping the future of mobility. Some of the trends observed in Mobility Futures 2021 pose a considerable environmental risk that cities will have to address by pushing greener travel alternatives, like cycling and walking, in order to reduce their environmental impact. There are also opportunities to accelerate the transition towards electric cars with a positive trend on demand seen in the 2021 wave of Mobility Futures.

These wide-ranging shifts will transform the future of mobility in major cities across the world and the required transport infrastructures. Now is the time for cities to reconsider their infrastructure plans and adapt them in order to encourage more sustainable mobility in the post-pandemic future. The challenge for cities will be how to entice members of the public back onto these services to, reduce traffic congestion and limit environmental damage in cities.

Please get in touch to find out more about the detailed city and global reports and download our complimentary summary booklet.

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Mobility Futures 2021: The Next Normal
Discover how mobility will evolve in the world’s greatest cities due to COVID-19, sustainability and other trends.
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