What are the implications of the corona crisis on traffic systems?

The corona crisis may be causing upheaval, but it is also generating scientific findings and exciting research questions like: what are its implications on traffic systems?

An empty parking spot near TU Library. (Photo: Marjolein van der Veldt)

At Delta’s request, TU Delft traffic experts Dr Sascha Hoogendoorn, Prof. Serge Hoogendoorn and Prof. Hans van Lint, all from the Faculty of Civil Engineering and Geosciences (CEG), started brainstorming on the implications of the coronavirus measures on their specialist area. Is the crisis leading to lasting changes in our society’s transport systems?

Sascha Hoogendoorn is seeing a rapid rise in home delivery services. “People are ordering much more online and having it delivered. The Netherlands was behind other nations such as the USA, Great Britain and countries in Asia. If people now experience the convenience of home delivery and jump the hurdle of online ordering, you can expect a lasting change. It could have a major long-term impact. Neighbourhood supermarkets are already disappearing. Will the larger supermarkets follow suit? Or will there be a rebound to small-scale and local? There will be clear consequences for urban traffic flows.”

‘Working at home could become the norm’

Her colleague Serge Hoogendoorn is interested in what the massive scale of working at home will bring. “We know that some forms of nudging (a subtle push to change behaviour, eds.) do cause lasting behaviour change. Perhaps this will also be the case for working at home when this crisis is over. It could be that after the crisis it becomes the norm and will be combined with video conferencing.”

Hans van Lint heads the DiTT lab (Data Analytics & Traffic Simulation Lab) and tries to measure the impact of these types of behaviour change and to create models using the data. “Imagine if 5% to 10% of people continue working at home after the corona crisis. This is a reasonable percentage. What would happen to the traffic flows? We could simulate this if we had survey data.”

The researchers are also working on the implications for public transport. People are currently avoiding public transport and are taking the car, bicycle or walking further. “The demand for public transport has dropped and the supply has also been reduced,” says Serge Hoogendoorn. “Even newer forms of mobility, such as Uber, are suffering. The question is the extent to which these effects will slow down the introduction of new forms of mobility. Take Mobility as a Service (MaaS) for example. The idea behind MaaS is that planning, booking and paying for all available forms of transport is done on an app. These could be shared bicycles, cars and scooters or trains, trams, taxis or water taxis. At some point, people could even share their own cars or bicycles. All these different forms of transport could be combined and customised to accommodate travellers’ preferences and improve the mobility system.”

Editor Tomas van Dijk

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