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SLOCAT preliminary analysis of impact of COVID-19 on regional mobility

The Partnership on Sustainable, Low Carbon Transport (SLOCAT) has published a preliminary analysis of the early impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on passenger mobility in urban environments. The analysis looks at how different regions and income groups are affected, and seeks to provide a preliminary answer to the question of how COVID-19 is impacting urban mobility and transport modes.

SLOCAT is an international multi-stakeholder partnership that enables collaborative knowledge and action for sustainable, low carbon transport. Although the knowledge tools, data analyses, policy advocacy and multi-stakeholder gatherings proposed by SLOCAT are universal, its geographical footprint is targeted at the Global South. Its primary focus is on land transport including both motorized and non-motorized, passenger and freight transport.

SLOCAT’s analysis of mobility shows that regions and income groups are impacted differently: Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), for example, record the largest impact for the majority of aspects. Among income groups, high-income countries experience the biggest differences compared to the baseline.


Mobility to public transport stations by region. Source: SLOCAT

Exploring queries for transport modes across all regions, a reduction of 60 to nearly 80% compared to the baseline of 13 January 2020 for driving, public transport and walking can be identified.

The decline started on 8 March 2020 and the biggest downtrend was reached in early April. Public transport has seen the largest decline, reaching a 76% reduction in April 2020 at its lowest point.


Source: SLOCAT analysis based on Apple (2020). COVID-19 Mobility Trends Reports.

Asia was the epicenter of the early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak. The overall mobility trend in Asia shows that the mobility changes there happened less rapidly than in other regions. In a few cases, there is already a sign of recovery for a few Asian countries.

Mobility to public transport stations has reached pre-COVID-19 levels in Mongolia and Korea. Vietnam is also very close to the baseline, after having very low levels in the first three weeks of April 2020. Countries such as Korea and Vietnam are currently often referred to as success stories in terms of their treatment of the COVID-19 pandemic.

LAC seems to encounter the largest impact in terms of percent changes in trips to major destinations. Mobility disruptions happened very quickly from the week of 16 March 2020, and levels have stayed more or less the same since then. Trips to public transport stations decreased significantly in every LAC country without any exception.

However, this preliminary analysis confirms what can be observed in many cities around the world right now: The most visible impact is the very strong decline in the use of public transport. The percentage change of trips to public transport stations is the highest. For this specific impact and many others, the strongest impact can be recognised in LAC and in high-income countries. This preliminary analysis identifies that a few countries in Asia already see a tendency towards recovery of mobility use. However, only time will show how mobility and transport modes are going to evolve in the coming weeks and whether any of the so-far temporary trends will be carried forward, SLOCAT said.


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