Public transport usage plummets as more stay home

Covid-19 pandemic has led to vast changes in city travel, with nearly 21% drop in 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 yesterday.

Based on data collated from 750 million Moovit users, public transport ridership has fallen by an average of 62 per cent 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 nearly 21 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, Taipei and Seoul each saw their numbers fall by more than 40 per cent, while Tokyo's fell by 77 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 about 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 provide data on China.

Singapore's transit ridership shrinkage of about 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-hour crowds."

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."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 26, 2020, with the headline Public transport usage plummets as more stay home. Subscribe