|Pandemic turning riders into drivers, studies show|
New evidence suggests that U.S. consumers remain wary of using shared mobility services, such as public transportation, taxis and ride hailing, in light of COVID-19. At the same time, traffic statistics show more people are warming up to the idea of driving a personal car.
The IBM Institute for Business Value surveyed more than 18,000 U.S. consumers in May and early June. Fifty-three percent of respondents who regularly used public transportation said they would reduce or discontinue using these services.
This marks an increase from the 20 percent who said in an April survey that they no longer would use public transportation and 28 percent who said they would decrease their usage.
About half of people who use shared mobility services said they would decrease or completely stop their usage. That was in line with survey results from April.
IBM said that there is "a rise in preference for personal vehicles," with one in four respondents saying they would use their personal vehicles as their only mode of transportation. An additional 17 percent said they would use their personal vehicles more than they did before the coronavirus pandemic.
Traffic trends bear that out. A Virginia company called Urgently, which offers a software platform for roadside assistance, predicts higher-than-normal automobile usage as the U.S. economy reopens.
In a report released this week, the company said traffic, after dipping 41 percent below average in April, returned to pre-pandemic volumes the week of June 7, a week earlier than previously forecast. "Based on current forecasts, Urgently expects traffic to continue to increase, reaching as much as 130 percent of historic volumes by mid-July," the company said in a news release.
In an Urgently survey of 531 U.S. consumers, 27 percent expect to increase use of personal vehicles as stay-at-home orders lift and the economy reopens, and close to 23 percent plan to cut down on using public transportation.
In the latest IBM Institute survey, 60 percent of respondents who don't own a personal vehicle but want to use one said they would buy one. Renting might be the compromise some have settled on – the other 40 percent said they would rent a vehicle until shared mobility options became safe.
Consumers also seem to be putting importance on following coronavirus safety protocols. Nearly half of people who said they would decrease or stop using shared services said they would not use such services at pre-pandemic levels unless passengers wore masks and practiced social distancing.
More than one-third said that transit services' "trustworthy use of disinfectant policies and methods would make a difference in their behavior," although this difference was not specified.
IBM also provided suggestions to companies in the auto industry for taking consumers' shifted mobility preferences in stride, such as adopting digital services and facilitating transparent communication with customers.
-- Krystal Hur