Post-COVID travel behaviour is as the 'old-normal'

Author(s) P. Onderwater
Presented at the 41st Annual Southern African Transport Conference – 10 to 13 July 2023.


From early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed our lives and travel behaviour drastically, especially during the Lockdown period. Many people also expected that it would change our future travel behaviour post-COVID, as it was called: the ‘New-Normal’.

A longitudinal survey was conducted to investigate travel behaviour pre-COVID and during several phases of Lockdown, as well as travel behaviour expectations post-COVID. Although this survey was not representative of the South African population, there were interesting observations made about travel behaviour of the respondents. During the Lockdown period, the survey results showed a great reduction in work-related and private trips as compared to the pre-COVID levels. As the Lockdown restrictions eased, travel behaviour recovered greatly, and presently the situation is almost back to ‘Old-Normal’ levels.

This is also evident from the traffic data in South Africa (and worldwide for that matter), where actual traffic volumes show an almost complete recovery of private car and public transport use, although train passenger volumes are still below the pre-COVID levels, but for different reasons.

Most interestingly are the stated expectations of future travel behaviour in the ‘New-Normal’. During the first phases of COVID-19, the respondents expected future travel to be at a 60% level of their pre-COVID travels. However, this expectation shifted overtime to almost similar levels as pre-COVID (80-100%). Apparently, we are moving back to ‘Old-Normal’ behaviour, despite the intentions we had. This shows that ‘stated preference’ will not always reflect ‘revealed’ future behaviour.