, Professor, Humphrey School of Public Affairs
The COVID-19 pandemic and widespread social distancing measures have dramatically reduced public transit ridership, leaving transit agencies with massive revenue shortfalls. It is unclear how long it will take for transit to recover and whether transit will emerge fundamentally transformed for better or worse after the pandemic. This research aims to collect first-hand data about travel behavior decision-making process among downtown Minneapolis commuters -- one of the largest groups of potential transit users in the Twin Cities metropolitan region -- after the pandemic is largely contained and the stay-at-home order is lifted in the region. We will recruit a diverse sample of downtown commuters (N=500) virtually through various forms of digital marketing tools such as website, social media, email, and online video. Interested participants will be asked to install a mobile app from the Google Play Store (for Android) or iOS App Store (for iPhone) that semi-automatically collects daily activity-travel behavior. The app will be customized to have built-in survey functions to trigger context-specific questions about how participants make various trip decisions, e.g., trip cancellation, trip generation, mode choice, route choice, and destination choice; and how their COVID-19 experiences play a role in shaping these trip decisions. Such context-specific and decision-level data will be used to develop statistical models to provide deep insights into how the mobility impacts of COVID-19 may differ by individual socio-demographics and trip environments. Results from the research will help transportation planners and engineers to identify innovative and sensible ways to effectively promote the use of public transportation in the post-pandemic era.