Amid the global wave of COVID-19 in the past nine months, India saw the highest drop in work, social and household travels among nine countries, including China and the US, reflecting the disruptive changes brought about by the pandemic in the patterns of mobility across the world, according to survey consultancy firm EY.
The changing mobility pattern has further raised pertinent questions about the nature and shape of cities and transport networks.
"Amid this health crisis, the consumer is heavily conflicted over mobility; not having to commute to work has given many a new sense of autonomy as well as a few hours of their time back every day," EY said in a statement.
As far as India is concerned, the survey found that the country "witnessed the highest drop in work travel of nearly 69 per cent, followed almost parallelly by social travel that declined by 59 per cent and household travel that fell by 58 per cent".
"The drops are substantial, as India which is the world's biggest democracy with a population of 138 crore, parallels the levels of work-related decline of 70 per cent in a small country of Sweden with a population of only a crore," it added.
EY said the decline can be attributed to the strict lockdown measures in India to control the pandemic, resulting in steep declines across travel segments.
"The survey results also indicate an overall reduction in average weekly travel time by 40 per cent from 6 hours to 3.7 hours per person," it added.
EY India Partner and Automotive Sector Leader Vinay Raghunath said, "The change in mobility industry dynamics and consumer behavior will push sector stakeholders to think through new operating models that leverage digital platforms and help ride the next wave of mobility growth." EY had conducted a survey, as part of the Mobility Consumer Index, this month with 3,300 consumers across nine countries, including India, China, the US and the UK, to explore the impact of COVID-19 on consumer attitudes and behavior towards mobility. Five hundred respondents from India participated in the survey.
Of the nine countries surveyed, EY said India and Singapore have witnessed the maximum decline in average weekly commute time.
"India felt the steepest decline of more than 5 hours, from 81 per cent to just 27 per cent, while in Singapore, it fell from 61 per cent to 19 per cent," it said.
EY added that a long-term decline in commuting time could mean a lower peak demand and less strain on public transport systems and road networks.
It also said, "This profuse reduction in use of public transport and road networks brings forth a challenging situation for the trains, buses and subway operators that find it difficult to generate enough revenue to meet their operational costs." EY said one of the few positive impacts of the early days of the pandemic due to the lockdown was the sudden drop in air pollution in large cities.
"Emissions fell drastically, skies cleared and the residents of New York, London, Shanghai, Mumbai and other major metro cities that are usually traffic-clogged global cities enjoyed clean air for the first time in decades," it said.
EY's analysis indicates that monthly per-capita emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) fell globally across all three travel segments, broadly tracking the decline in journey numbers already noted. Emissions fell substantially, by 56 per cent for work travel, 58 per cent for social and household travel and 62 per cent for leisure and entertainment, the statement said.
EY India Partner (Automotive Sector) Som Kapoor said the changed scenario with regard to reduced emissions points towards the need for newer non-polluting mobility avenues like electric vehicles.
"Rightly directed efforts will certainly catapult the growth of this much-awaited mobility model," Kapoor added.