Rebuild Tomorrow’s Mobility Survey: Covid-19 & Its Impact on Travel Behaviour in Metro Vancouver

Rebuild Tomorrow’s Mobility SURVEY: COVID-19 & its impact oN TRAVEL BEHAVIOUR in Metro Vancouver

Between June 10th to July 5th, we conducted a survey of resident in Metro Vancouver, concerning their lifestyle changes and travel behaviours during the initial Phase 1 (work-from-home state) and the following recovery phase 2 of the pandemic. It was conducted online by means of voluntary participation and was distributed mainly by our partner organizations and social media. There were 958 responses in total and the survey has a confidence rating of 95%.

From the questionnaire, the five key takeaways were:

  • The Benefits of Remote Work

“I think the government should offer incentives to employers that allow staff to work from home once or twice a week.”

  • A Slower Pace of Life

“Since the pandemic, I’ve been actively trying to live hyperlocal. I avoid all unnecessary travel and keep my outings for socializing and errands. I’ve also been reconnecting with area parks and green spaces and feel much happier and healthier doing so.”

  • Health is the New Mobility Decision Factor

“I feel the risks are low when sharing (car share) vehicles, and take precautions to wipe down the steering wheel and high touch points myself.”

  • Shift towards Individual Transportation

“I walk and bike everywhere now but because of my physical condition it is not easy, especially for further distances. For that reason I’m looking to buy a car again, but it is unaffordable for me at this time.”

  • Support for Shared Mobility

“I am worried that the pandemic will have negative effects on support for transit – I think it’s really important to continue the trend of increasing transit and decreasing vehicles on the road.”




Similar to other cities impacted by the virus, Metro Vancouver saw an immediate decrease in overall mobility demand of up to 70% once the state of emergency was declared in mid-March. The survey confirmed this with almost 72% of participants indicating that they are reducing the number of trips they are taking in Metro Vancouver and 17% of participants are not travelling at all. crop

Professor Cathy Macharis from the Vrije Universeiteit Brussels and Head of the Research Group MOBI established the 4 A’s of sustainable urban mobility practices, which include Awareness, Act and shift, Avoidance, and Anticipation to help cities reduce the external costs of mobility. Most effectively is the Avoidance strategy in reducing our carbon footprint, however, pre-Covid it proved extremely difficult to convince people to avoid any travel. Now, as a result of Covid-19, avoidance is the primary response for most of us.


In the 2016 census, only 8% of Metro Vancouverites indicated they worked from home full time and 13% of our survey participants did so, before the pandemic. The survey indicated that a large proportion of all jobs (80%+) in Metro Vancouver are able to be completed online. In addition to working from home, employers have also embraced the idea of flexible hours to reduce their staff travel during peak hours. This flexibility trend is an added advantage for our urban mobility systems. Karen New, the Director of Information Systems at Vancouver’s own Modo explains,

“Uniformity is the enemy of sustainable transportation. If everyone in a neighbourhood needs the same mobility at the same time, then any transit network becomes unpleasant & overcrowded twice a day, and unsustainably empty in between.”


When we initially released the survey, we were concerned that it would indicate that a large portion of transit riders plan to shift away from transit and buy a personal vehicle. This originated from a previous survey conducted by the Mustel group which indicated that 36% of Vancouver respondents planned to increase their car use.

Only 14% of the 331 (car free) participants were on the market for a new car because of health safety concerns. While this sounds small in percentage, it’s worth noting that this could translate into an additional 122,500 cars in Metro Vancouver! However, 59% of all respondents indicated that they weren’t interested in purchasing a car, and were looking to use alternative solutions and modes. crop 1


Health concerns exhibit the most dramatic changes from having a 9% influence pre-Covid19 to a 61% influence today. Pre-Covid winners of decision-making, such as convenience and speed of a transport mode, have significantly reduced in relative importance. 

The main reason for the health and safety concerns within transportation is, not surprisingly, physical distancing. It is obviously much harder to control physical distancing in a vehicle shared with strangers. The BC Center for Disease Control discourages anyone who has come in contact with a person infected with Covid19 from “use of public transportation including buses, taxis, or ride sharing”, but we also know that public transit is used by a large portion of essential workers. crop 2


The number one priority for survey respondents (69%) is to support public transit during this difficult time, and encourage Translink to keep high service levels. In response to the pandemic, Translink has significantly reduced service levels in an effort to reduce operational costs. The cities in the region as well as the provincial and federal government have yet to financially assist TransLink, which is losing around 2 million dollars a day. We believe that funding should be used to support our public transportation networks AND the development of MaaS systems in the city, which ties in with priority number three: 42% of Vancouverites are looking to create an affordable and flexible mobility offer that includes shared mobility. The integration of the two systems would make it more resilient overall.

Another 65% of participants are asking the cities of Metro Vancouver to repurpose infrastructure and allocate more road space to active mobility. This is a drastic increase in percentage compared to the 24% of Vancouverites that supported active mobility in TransLink’s 2050 Transport online Survey that was conducted last year. Cities in the region have already transformed road space for outdoor patios, a bike lanes, pop-up plazas as well as a couple of streets to help residents socially distance. In order to further push the limits of change, we’d recommend discussing the usage of parking space requirements parked cars. The land costs associated with parking could be repurposed or reassigned and put towards enabling healthier lifestyles.

To rebuild tomorrow’s mobility we need a transportation network where infrastructure favours people over vehicles. A system that prioritizes services providing access to shared bikes, buses, cars over individually owned vehicles. We need more resilience in the transportation ecosystem so it can continue to provide access to services for our residents, reduce our region’s carbon footprint, and remain the circulatory system for our local economy.


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