COVID-19, Commuting, and E-Shopping: Understanding Current and Future Impacts in California

Research Lead: Jean-Daniel Saphores

UC Campus(es): UC Irvine

Problem Statement: COVID-19 prompted large shifts in travel behavior. Widespread business closures and stay-at-home restrictions caused commuting to drop (with a documented reduction in vehicle miles travelled) while telecommuting and e-commerce have soared. As the economy progressively re-opens, it is important to understand the extent and permanence of changes to commuting and shopping travel patterns. For example, social distancing restrictions will likely impact public transit ridership, potentially jeopardizing the state’s ambitious efforts to reduce car use; and changes in shopping patterns will have widespread implications for freight and supply chains, freight movement, the environment, in-store shopping, and land use planning.

Project Description: To understand how COVID-19 changed grocery shopping and explore implications for transportation and environmental justice, in May 2021 the researchers surveyed California members of KnowledgePanel®, the largest and oldest U.S. probability-based panel. The team asked how frequently Californians grocery shopped before and during the pandemic, and how they may grocery shop afterward in-store, online with home delivery (“e-grocery”), or online with store/curbside pick-up (“click-and-pick”). The study's results have implications for travel, food logistics, and parking management.

Status: Completed

Budget: $119,107 (plus $33,000 supplemental funding from Caltrans)