The drop in public transport use will be sustainable

Public transport will probably not regain the level of use that was theirs before the outbreak of the health crisis. New behaviors and the rise of teleworking will deeply disrupt the entire sector.

Ridership on public transport, be it buses, subways or streetcars, was hit by the COVID-19 outbreak last year. At the height of the first spring containment, it was limited to 7% of a normal level! Then attendance increased to 50% in June, reaching 80% just before the second confinement in November. According to Thierry Mallet, president of the Union of Public and Rail Transport (UTP), the level is currently between 55% and 65%. At the microphone of France Inter, who is also Managing Director of Transdev announces that the sector has recorded significant losses between 3.5 and 4 billion euros. And companies are negotiating with the state for compensation, while the public authorities want to continue to maintain a high level of supply.

Telecommuting is a game-changer

Thierry Mallet has identified two changes that will last: the first, it is these passengers “who no longer want to resume transport for fear” of contamination. The second is teleworking, a tidal wave that affects city centers in particular. He sees an opportunity: by combining teleworking and the rise of soft mobility in the heart of cities, the public transport offer can be deported to the outskirts. This will represent additional purchasing power for suburban dwellers, as traveling by bus will always be cheaper than owning a car.

Restore air to saturated networks

The drop in attendance is also viewed favorably in Paris and Île-de-France. The phenomenon makes it possible to give a little air in a saturated network, and moreover there are fewer passenger incidents and delays on the lines. Île-de-France Mobilités estimates that if all the inhabitants likely to telework went there, this would result in the equivalent of a 10% drop in attendance. In this context, Thierry Mallet pleads for an improvement in the quality of service and frequency.

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