Analysis of COVID-19 Impact on Public Transport Usage based on Smart Card Data-A Regional Case Study in Australia

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IEEE Conference on Intelligent Transportation Systems, Proceedings, ITSC


The outbreak of COVID-19 has made a profound impact on mobility, especially for public transport users. Extensive research has been conducted on the change of travel patterns in major cities where public transport systems have been well developed and heavily used. However, in small cities, the public transport network is relatively sparse, especially in suburban areas, which makes the corresponding travel patterns differ from those in major cities. Therefore, proper investigation of the public transport usage in such small cities is still needed, especially under the COVID-19 impact. This paper aims to reveal the change of public transport users' travel patterns based on a comparative study of public transport usage Pre-COVID and during the COVID-19 period. The Illawarra, a coastal region close to Sydney in Australia is used as a case study. Smart card data is used to reveal relevant changes in both intraregion (in the Illawarra) and inter-region (between the Illawarra and Sydney) travels in consideration of heterogeneous user groups. The results show a significant decrease (around 47%) in public transport ridership by both train and bus. However, compared to intra-region ridership, the inter-region trips by train drop much more (around 62%). Moreover, heterogeneous age group passengers show different changes after the COVID-19 outbreak. The research findings are expected to provide valuable suggestions for policy making and public transport service adjustment when a similar crisis occurs again.

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