IIT Hyderabad, IIT Bombay join hands to study COVID-19 impact on commutation

Research will help in spreading awareness about ill-effects of COVID-19

local train station amey Passengers at a suburban railway station in Mumbai | Amey Mansabdar

Researchers at IIT Hyderabad and IIT Bombay are studying the impact of COVID-19 outbreak on daily commute during the transition phase between no lockdown and lockdown period. According to Digvijay Pawar, assistant professor of transportation engineering, the research titled 'Study on Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on work trips during transition to lockdown period' will help policymakers and local transport authorities understand the changes in travel pattern during the lockdown period given the present uncertainties in the minds of the commuters related to movement, given social distancing. 

The study analysed changes in travel behaviour related to daily commuting during the third week of COVID-19 outbreak in India during the no-lockdown period. The data was collected through an online questionnaire survey in which more than 1,900 people participated. Responses flowed mainly from the tier-1 cities (63.6 per cent) followed by tier-2 (20.6 per cent) and tier-3 cities (15.8 per cent). In tier-1 cities, it was found that about 12 per cent of the respondents switched from public to private mode during the third week of COVID-19. This shift was about 9 per cent in tier-2 cities and about 7 per cent in tier-3 cities. Moreover, nearly 48 per cent of people said they did not travel to work during the third week of March, whereas 28 per cent had the same frequency of travel to work. 

When enquired about cancellation of trips between the cities using major mode of transportation, around 18 per cent said they cancelled their flights whereas, 20 per cent of the respondents cancelled train journeys. On a positive note, it indicates that awareness about COVID-19 is higher in tier-1 cities, followed by tier-2 and tier-3 cities. The respondents were enquired about their safety perception towards the use of public and private modes of transport, where 93 per cent said the private mode of transport is safer compared to the public mode.

This research will help in spreading more awareness about the ill-effects and spread of COVID-19, especially among the lower strata of the society. This study is quite useful in understanding the decision-making behavior of commuters while selecting their preferred mode of transport during a pandemic like COVID-19. The rapidly changing diaspora of this pandemic is a threat to public health and is making human life more challenging. However, the researchers believe that the lockdown decision taken by the government has decreased the risk of exposure to the coronavirus, due to the decrease in crowded settings observed in public transport (like buses, metro, trains)."  

The research team at the institute consisted of Pawar and Pritha Chatterjee from Department of Civil Engineering, Professor Nagendra Velaga, Department of Civil Engineering, IIT Bombay and Ankit Kumar Yadav, a research student at IIT Bombay.  The institute, under Chatterjee is also making an attempt to understand the effect of COVID-19 on transportation related emissions and the data on reduction in vehicle miles travelled and vehicle type will be used to quantitatively model the reduction in traffic related emissions.