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Preliminary findings of a University of Sydney survey on the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on Australians’ travel activities suggest over 80 percent of respondents are concerned about hygiene on public transport.
Researchers from the Institute of Transport & Logistics Studies (ITLS) at the University of Sydney Business School surveyed a sample of 1073 Australians in the first two weeks of April this year, to provide the first disaggregated data on household travel and activities across Australia during the pandemic.
“COVID-19 has created disruption to travel and activities unlike anything we’ve seen since World War II,” said Professor David Hensher, Director of ITLS and one of two authors of the research.
“Our survey reflects people’s trust in both state and federal governments and general compliance with travel restrictions across the community,” said Associate Professor Matthew Beck, co-author of the study.
“This level of trust and community spirit needs to continue as governments look to ease restrictions.”
Traffic congestion likely as Australians preference private cars
Before the pandemic, weekly household trips averaged 23.9 per week and dropped by over 50 percent to 11 each week.
Respondents considered travel by their private cars was the most comfortable option (+84 percent) while buses were the least comfortable (-42 percent) followed by trains (-33 percent).
Associate Professor Matthew Beck from ITLS said this was indicative of many people’s anxiety over hygiene levels on public transport, which could see more private cars on the roads as Australians slowly head back to office buildings.
“To avoid levels of congestion that exceed those experienced prior to COVID-19, governments need to encourage work from home as much as possible. Businesses also need to be flexible with remote working and think about how they might stagger the hours of the day staff travel to and from work.”
Work from home shows the ‘two-speed economy’
Almost half of the survey respondents had the ability to work from home and were either given the choice or told by employers to work remotely.
The number of people working zero days from home unsurprisingly fell from 71 to 39 percent over the two week period, while the number of people working five days a week from home increased from 7 to 30 percent.
“It’s very possible that this creates a two-speed economy where there are significant gaps between those who are able to work from home and those who can’t,” said Associate Professor Beck.
70 percent of survey respondents’ reported their employment was impacted by COVID-19.
Many impacted by international travel restrictions
One-third of Australians had air travel interrupted throughout April, the majority of which was personal travel (94 percent) to international locations (63 percent).
“With the timing of when international borders will re-open, and potential hesitation with travel outside of Australia, the way which we enjoy our travel may change dramatically,” said Associate Professor Matthew Beck.
“With many parts of Australia suffering from the all too recent bushfires, domestic tourism may be a more preferable option that cannot come too soon for those communities.”
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