Assessing Temporary and Long-Lasting Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Travel in California

Research Team: Giovanni Circella (lead), Susan Handy, Dillon Fitch, Yongsung Lee, and Patricia Mokhtarian,

University: UC Davis, and Georgia Institute of Technology

Problem Statement: The COVID-19 pandemic has quickly disrupted social and economic activities. Most states have implemented aggressive measures to contain the virus which have caused changes in household activities and mobility patterns. Some of these temporary changes may well persist even after the pandemic subsides. There is growing interest in understanding both the temporary and long- lasting changes that the COVID-19 pandemic has and will have on mobility in California, and how this new “normal” may affect travel behavior and the resulting impacts on equity and on the environment.

Project Description: This research will collect a large amount of data through a combination of quantitative and qualitative approaches. The quantitative component of the study will rely on a new survey of how travel behaviors and attitudes have changed and how people are adjusting. The qualitative component will include in-depth phone interviews to gather more details on household organization, home office/space organization, use of e-shopping, fast-delivery services, but also perspectives about future plans, changes in habits, and changes to preferences in regard to different community / neighborhood types and locations, among other topics. This study also leverages two previous surveys: the 2018 California mobility survey and the 2019 "8 cities" travel survey conducted by UC Davis. Resampling thousands of respondents from these two pre-pandemic studies will provide a comparative look at the effects of COVID-19. Researchers will also collect a third wave of data after the effects of the pandemic recede. This study design offers a unique opportunity to compare individual travel behaviors and attitudes before, during, and after the pandemic which will permit a rigorous assessment of the causal effect of the pandemic on mobility.

Status: In Progress

Budget: $190,000

Project Partner(s): Caltrans and California State Transportation Agency