COVID-19 TRANSAS Wave 4 panel survey results

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Blog & news

Llinos Brown, Jillian Anable and Greg Marsden

Since June 2020, the Transport, Travel and Adaptation Study (TRANSAS) has collect data in a succession of survey waves from its panel of individuals in 10 city regions. The results from Wave 4 of the survey (collected in June 2022) are starting to be disseminated to stakeholders in local authorities, consultancies and various policy teams within the Department for Transport.

The presentation is available to download (pdf) (76 pages, 9.5 MB), and is a first set of key results about how people have changed the frequency of use of different modes of transport since before Covid, attitudes towards public transport, levels of car ownership, trends in working from home and commute patterns, and responses to energy and fuel price increases.

A key finding is that car use is not back to ‘normal’ since the pandemic. Across our ten locations, the frequency of driving a car (at least three days a week) averages 88% pre-Covid levels, ranging between 76% in Glasgow and 94% in Edinburgh and Lancashire. This aligns with UK government statistics of car traffic levels on the strategic road network where, in November 2022, car use was at 92% during the week and 99% at weekends [Slide 13]. It is also true, however, that public transport patronage is lower still, with frequent (more than three times a week) train use at just over half, and bus use at around two thirds, compared to early 2020. Cycling is also lower on average but is a mode with much more variable trends across locations. Walking has remained stable with some places still increasing but others dropping back. The slide pack goes in to more detail about some of the journey purposes that have been most impacted. It also examined the impact of recent strike action on the railways.

Household car ownership is also lower than before the pandemic. Although 11% of households without a car in our sample did acquire a car since early 2020 and only 5% of households went from having at least one car to giving them up entirely, the biggest change was in those households who reduced the number of cars in the household. 17.5% of 2+ car households went down to 1 car only. This is an often overlooked but very significant household transition which could be a more focused target of decarbonisation policy. We find that ‘working from home’ is only cited by between 3% and 7% of those people giving up a car and is reducing over time, but ‘change in job’ is cited by more people (between 6% and 10%) and is increasing over time. We also find that 15% of households with at least one driving licence put off a decision to buy or replace a car or van due to fuel price rises. [Slide 40]

Our data shows that patterns of working from home were in great flux in June 2022 but with a clear pattern of hybrid working emerging among those with the option. The numbers working at home 100% of their working week is still 280% higher than before Covid, but is half of what it was in June 2021 when lots of restrictions were still in place. Still around half of the working sample do not have any option of home working. We are undertaking detailed analysis to investigate the impact on the frequency of use of all modes for all journey purposes by those working from home and do not just focus on the commute. In summary, it is clear that those who work from home all of the time travel less and have reduced their overall travel more than those who do not work from home or have a hybrid working pattern. Those who have not worked from home at all throughout the pandemic have seen the least amount of change in their total travel frequency. [Slide 55] The June 2022 Wave 4 data indicated a lot of uncertainty as to what the next 6 months working from home will look like and how commute patterns may settle down. We will be looking at this in Wave 5 which is in the field now (in December 2022) with results starting to emerge in Spring 2023.

Increases in the price of petrol and diesel were at their most rapid at the time of the Wave 4 survey. Our survey respondents reported this impacting the way in which they were using their car with 44% saying they drove slower or more efficiently, just over a fifth of car users saying they replaced some journeys with public transport, 38% by walking or cycling and 38% saying they didn’t undertake some journeys at all. However, out of food, home energy and travel, the greatest worry about costs over the next six months was for home energy with 50% of the sample saying they are worried or very worried, followed by 42.3% for food but ‘only’ 28.1% for travel. [Slide 74]

Previous reports from the TRANSAS study are available, and watch this space for further results from this and future waves of the study.

Suggested citation:

Brown, L., Anable, J. Bretter, C., Reiffer, A., Marsden, G., Docherty, I., (2022) COVID19 Transport, travel and social adaptation study (TRANSAS): Wave 4 preliminary results 15th December 2022 [PowerPoint Presentation Slide Pack]. Available at: