‘People in Tier-1 cities better aware of pandemic’

IIT Hyderabad and IIT Bombay conduct joint study on the impact of COVID-19 on daily commuters

A joint IIT Hyderabad and IIT Bombay study on the impact of COVID-19 on daily commuters during the transition phase between pre-lockdown and lockdown periods has indicated that people in Tier-1 cities were more aware of the pandemic.

The study, useful in understanding the decision-making behaviour of commuters while selecting their preferred mode of transport during a pandemic, required analyses of travel and visit behaviour changes that occurred during the third week of the outbreak in India.

The research team comprised Dr. Digvijay S. Pawar and Dr. Pritha Chatterjee, assistant professors, department of civil engineering, IIT Hyderabad; and Professor Nagendra Velaga, department of civil engineering, and Ankit Kumar Yadav, research student, IIT Bombay.

The data related to daily commute and visit behaviour was collected through an online questionnaire. Over 1,900 people participated in the study. The researchers received a majority of responses from Tier-1 cities (63.6%) followed by Tier-2 (20.6%) and Tier-3 cities (15.8%). “Given the uncertainties in the minds of the commuters regarding their travel behaviour due to social distancing, it is important for policy makers and local transport authorities to understand the change in travel pattern,” Dr. Pawar said, while emphasising on the importance of the study in shaping relevant policies related to COVID-19.

In Tier-1 cities, it was found that around 12% of respondents switched from public to private modes of travel during the third week of COVID-19. This shift was about 9% in Tier-2 cities and around 7% in Tier-3 cities.

‘Lockdown reduced risk’

The researchers said they believe that the lockdown declared by the government has decreased the risk of exposure to the coronavirus due to decrease in crowds in modes of public transport: buses, Metros and trains.

Nearly 48% of respondents said they did not travel to work during the third week of March, whereas 28% had the same frequency of travel to work. When enquired about cancellation of trips between cities using major mode of transportation, around 18% respondents said they cancelled their flights, while 20% cancelled train journeys. This indicates that the awareness of COVID-19 is higher in Tier-1 cities followed by Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities.

Elaborating on other studies being planned, Dr. Chatterjee said, “We are also trying to understand the effect of COVID-19 on transportation-related emissions. The data on reduction in vehicle miles travelled and vehicle type will be used to quantitatively model the reduction in traffic related emissions.”

The researchers recommended spreading more awareness of the ill effects and spread of COVID-19, especially among the weaker sections of society. The rapidly changing nature of this pandemic is a threat to public health and making human life more challenging, the researchers said.

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