Despite unclear evidence around virus transmission, transit takes the greatest hit

Global cities have seen major decreases in mobility across all modes, but public transit fell the most and isn’t yet making a rebound. Though there is a great deal of fear around transit’s contribution to the spread of the virus, it remains unclear if it is a major contributor to infections. 

Some global cities have taken notable steps to make biking a more convenient alternative for transit riders who would otherwise switch to cars. Notably, U.S. cities have lagged behind in significant changes such as bike lanes. Not unrelated are the spike of deaths and injuries in some U.S. cities due to speeding cars on mostly-empty streets. Compounded with the potential to save thousands of lives annually by reducing transportation-based emissions, U.S. cities have mostly missed out on the chance to make safer cities by limiting their investment in improved sidewalk and bike facilities during the crisis.

U.S. cities’ transit services face major financial woes.The dangerous irony of reducing transit service due to fare revenue and transit worker shortages is that essential workers―already disproportionately people of color and disproportionately dependent on transit for their commutes―take more crowded buses and trains, increasing the risk of infection. In New York, subway usage is conversely correlated with income.

Long-term transportation trends are still uncertain, with potential interest in non-automotive transport, but also potentially higher levels of auto dependency. These trends appear global.