13 mai 21

Post-Covid users okay with shared mobility, not with extra cost

Mobility users are remarkably willing to use shared mobility solutions again after the pandemic, a Spanish study shows. But only if the right sanitary measures are taken – measures for which they do not want to pay extra.

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During lockdown last year, commuting into work dropped by as much as 80% in Spain. As elsewhere, various modes of transport were differently affected: public transport the most, private (and corporate) cars the least. 

Long-lasting effects
Would this drastic change in transport habits have long-lasting effects on the willingness to use (and pay for) shared mobility? That was the question a group of Spanish scientists sought to answer. 

The result, Post-COVID-19 travel behaviour patterns: impact on the willingness to pay of users of public transport and shared mobility services in Spain, can now be read in full in the European Transport Research Review. The researchers hope it will help mobility operators deploy the right strategies in order to retain users. What follows is a brief summary.

The researchers conducted a nationwide survey among mobility users for their Willingness To Use (WTU) certain mobility modes after the pandemic, if the operator implemented certain sanitary measures, and if yes, whether they were Willing To Pay (WTP) extra for those measures. 

  • The WTU remains very high for public transport (89.7%), with 64.3% expressing a WTP for extra precautions, most notably extra services to avoid crowding (70.6%), and more cleaning and sanitising (52.1%). This would indicate that people are not too worried about sharing public transport or that they have no choice but to use this option. 
  • The WTU bike- and scooter-sharing remains reasonably high (67.7%), perhaps because these are ‘open-air’ transport modes. That might also explain why the WTP for extra sanitary measures is relatively low (36.4%). The measures most in demand are the provision of covers for handlebars and steering wheels (51.3%), and masks, gloves, and sanitary gel (38.1%). Similar but lower results apply for moped-sharing, with the additional request for helmets that don’t touch mouth, nose, or eyes. 
  • The WTU taxis and ride-hailing services is similarly high (66.4%), while there is a 48.9% WTP more for the cleanliness and sanitation that would put users at ease. The results for car-sharing mirror those for taxis and ride-hailing. 

Some conclusions: 

  • Overall WTU public transport remained very high. And while WTP is low for all modes of transport, it is highest for public transport.  
  • The WTU shared mobility decreases as user age increases. Conversely, student-age users are most willing to use shared mobility. 
  • Women have a higher WTU taxis and ride-hailing (75.4%, vs. 66.4% for men).
  • People with a higher income are statistically more WTU taxis and ride-hailing, and less WTU public transport, bike-sharing, and scooter-sharing. 

Increasing frequency

As the study shows, certain measures really do help to re-establish the public’s confidence in shared mobility options. Based on the results, the researchers postulate that the extra costs needed to safeguard WTP will be moderate. 

  • For public transport, they are mainly related to increasing the frequency of service to avoid crowding, and thorough sanitation of vehicles. 
  • For sharing services, the researchers recommend that operators continuously sanitise their vehicles – and continuously advertise this fact. Other visible measures include offering disposable gloves and steering wheel covers, and hand gel.

However, users expect these measures to be implemented while maintaining pre-pandemic prices. That threatens to leave the operators stuck with the bill for the extra sanitary safeguards. 

Image: Man on Madrid Metro (Credit: Shutterstock)

Authored by: Frank Jacobs