Evaluating the “New Normal”: How the COVID-19 Pandemic Has Affected Mobility Patterns in Northern California

Research Lead: Giovanni Circella

UC Campus(es): UC Davis

Problem Statement: Over the past year, academic studies of COVID-19’s impact on the transportation sector have focused on preferences for and perceptions of different travel modes, changes in vehicle mileage, traffic congestion and pollutant emissions, public transportation operations and ridership, and equity considerations, among many others. Overall, some of the impacts of the pandemic are likely to be transitory whereas others might have longer-term consequences.

Project Description: In partnership with several planning agencies, the research team will construct short-range mobility scenarios for Northern California to help inform planning and policy-making processes. The project team will review the available literature on the impacts that the pandemic has had on different cities’ passenger mobility patterns (i.e., non-freight related travel), focusing on studies based on the analysis of both passively-collected data (e.g., location data from personal mobile devices and survey data (and their integration). The research team will use passively-collected data supplied by the Streetlight Data platform from various location-based services, and information from concurrent survey research being conducted by UC Davis researchers, to build a baseline and future multimodal mobility scenarios to explore the extent to which recent changes induced by the pandemic (e.g., increased telecommuting, remote shopping, mode shifts from public transit to cars, changes in vehicle ownership, changes in time of day of trips) might affect multimodal passenger travel (e.g., changes in vehicle mileage, trip patterns, transit ridership, and bicycling) in different geographic locations, at different times of day, and by multiple modes. Finally, the project team will draw insights and policy recommendations to help inform agencies’ investment and policy decisions.

Status: In Progress

Budget: $80,000