Publication Detail

Investigating the Temporary and Longer-term Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Mobility in California


Research Report

National Center for Sustainable Transportation

Suggested Citation:
Circella, Giovanni, Xiatian Iogansen, Keita Makino, Junia Compostella, Mischa Young, Jai Malik (2023) Investigating the Temporary and Longer-term Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Mobility in California. Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California, Davis, Research Report UCD-ITS-RR-23-02

This study investigates how the COVID-19 pandemic has transformed people’s activity-travel patterns, using datasets collected through three waves of surveys in spring 2020, fall 2020, and summer 2021. With this dataset, it was possible to investigate evolving behavioral choices and preferences among respondents at different timepoints: fall 2019 (recollection of the past), spring 2020, fall 2020, summer 2021, and summer 2022 (future expectations). The study highlighted a large shift among California workers from physical commuting to working remotely in 2020, which was followed by a transition towards hybrid work by summer 2021. The shift to remote work and hybrid work varied considerably across population subgroups, and was most popular among higher-income, better-educated individuals, and urban residents. In terms of household vehicle ownership change, those tech-savvy and variety-seeking individuals were more likely to increase or replace household vehicles, while those who are pro-environment and pro-active are less likely to do so. COVID health concerns show concurrent effects of encouraging the adoption of a more pro-active lifestyle during the pandemic, but also leading to an increased desire to own vehicles in the future. Regarding shopping patterns, the number of respondents who shop online at least once per week increased nearly five-fold between fall 2019 and spring 2020, but such magnitude somewhat diminished by fall 2020. In general, the pandemic has generated a mix of short-lived temporary changes and potential longer-term impacts. The study provides various strategies to help increase transportation and social equity among various population groups as the communities recover from the pandemic.

Key words: COVID-19 Pandemic, Travel Behavior, Remote Work, Hybrid Work, Vehicle Ownership, Shopping Behavior, Survey Method, Longitudinal Data, Cross-sectional Data