Coronavirus derails public transport ridership worldwide

A view of an empty Muzium Negara MRT station during day three of Movement Control Order enforcement in Kuala Lumpur, on March 20, 2020.
A view of an empty Muzium Negara MRT station during day three of Movement Control Order enforcement in Kuala Lumpur, on March 20, 2020.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SINGAPORE - Public transport in major cities around the world has taken a hit from the Covid-19 outbreak, with ridership falling by as much as 90 per cent in some places.

According to data collated by Israeli mobility app company Moovit, public transport ridership has decreased significantly in major cities around the world.

"With many residents working from home, avoiding transit to minimise their exposure to the disease, and vast changes in local transit services, the way people travel within their cities has been altered," the company said in a statement Wednesday (March 25).

Based on data collated from 750 million Moovit users, public transport ridership has fallen sharply since the beginning of the year when the coronavirus outbreak started to spread.

Some cities are worse off than others. Singapore, for instance, has seen its public transport ridership slip by 20 per cent since January. While modest in relation to the decrease seen in other places, the shrinkage comes on the back of a continuous rise in public transport ridership for the past several years.

Hong Kong, long seen as a sister city to Singapore when it comes to transit, saw its ridership fall by more than 40 per cent.

Italy, which is arguably the worst hit by the pandemic, has seen its commuting numbers plunge by more than 90 per cent in cities like Florence and Naples.

The United States, where the virus is starting to take a significant toll, has seen transit ridership drop by 50 per cent or more. Ridership in San Francisco for instance, has plunged by more than 70 per cent, while in New York City, it has fallen by 60 per cent.

In South-east Asia, Bangkok's transit ridership has fallen by nearly 50 per cent, while Kuala Lumpur's has plummeted by 76 per cent.


Moovit, which claims to be the world's largest repository of transit and urban mobility data, did not have data on other key Asian cities such as Seoul, Taipei and Tokyo. Nor did it have data on China.

Singapore's transit ridership shrinkage of 20 per cent was cited earlier by Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan, who also said "transport ambassadors" will be deployed at MRT stations to ensure trains were not too crowded.

Engineer Ng Guan Hong, 50, said he has been working from home on alternate days, so "I still take public transport to work".

He noted that trains are less crowded now, and he takes some precautions to stay safe. "I do not wear a mask but I make sure I wash my hands once I reach my office," he said. "And I report to work slightly later to keep away from peak crowd."

Author Jimmy Chua, 36, said: "My wife and I work from home these days. But once every few days, we still take the MRT to shop or for meals."