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New study examines consumer behavior during pandemic to develop innovative transportation systems

New study examines consumer behavior during pandemic to develop innovative transportation systems

July 21, 2020 at 9:45am

COVID-19 has reshaped our daily lives. With social distancing guidelines and stay-at-home orders, many people have transitioned from in-store shopping to online shopping, from face-to-face interactions to Zoom meetings, and from commuting to working from home. 

Xia Jin, associate professor in the Moss School of Construction, Infrastructure and Sustainability, has seen first-hand how COVID-19 has affected our day-to-day activities. Jin, who specializes in transportation planning and demand forecasting, studies travel behavior to predict mobility needs and demand, helping state, regional and local agencies design and plan for better transportation systems. 

xia-jin.jpg“Transportation infrastructure is key to connecting the places where people live, work and interact. It supports the economic, social and cultural functions of cities," Jin said. 

Jin is investigating how COVID-19 has changed practices and perspectives in online classes and telecommuting through a research study being conducted by her and her research team at the College of Engineering & Computing’sTravel Behavior & System Modeling Lab

The study explores the role of virtual mobility and its impact on our daily activities and travel demands.

“This pandemic provides a rare and unique opportunity to look at how telecommunication technologies may substitute physical participation and reduce traffic,” Jin said. “Online shopping and distance learning were already on the rise, but COVID-19 essentially fast-forwarded the adoption and deployment of these activities.”

The 15-minute qualitative survey asks participants how their travel behavior has changed and what are their expectations of what life will be like when the pandemic is over or has slowed down.

“From the initial responses, the survey showed that many people adopted online shopping of grocery and food for delivery for the first time during the pandemic. In-restaurant dining had the largest hit,” said Jin. “On a positive note, many people commented that they liked some of the changes because they were able to spend more quality time with their families at home.”

Jin is using the responses being collected to better understand people’s behaviors, preferences and attitudes to develop strategies to mitigate potential impacts of the pandemic during the outbreak. Long term, the data will provide a foundation for transportation planning and policymaking that incorporates teleactivities and promotes sustainable mobility.

To participate in Jin’s research study, take the 15-minute survey.