As a direct result of COVID-19, Canadians are switching their travel habits from public transit to either staying at home or relying more on their cars.

A Northstar public opinion poll among 1,000 Canadians found that 40% feel riding public transit poses a high health risk due to the virus. This is in comparison to 48% of Americans who completed a similar study.

More specifically, approximately 30% of Canadians report decreased usage of public transportation (subways, buses and light rail) as a direct result of COVID-19; again, this is compared with 30 to 40% of Americans who are using public transit less often.

"People's movement away from public transit is likely to have long-term consequences," says Jennifer Yellin, SVP and co-lead of Northstar's Transportation Practice.

"The implications include lost revenue for public transit authorities, which is ultimately used to upgrade and maintain systems. There is also the potential for increased traffic and congestion on roads, which could result in increased pollution and have longer-range environmental impacts. The ultimate question is whether these riders will return to public transit or stick with their cars long-term."

Interestingly, those who are at the greatest risk from COVID-19 (older Canadians) are the least likely to believe they are personally at risk of contracting the virus: 30% of Canadians 55+ compared with 39% of 18 to 34 year olds. "This group is likely less concerned about personally contracting the virus due to their decreased mobility – as many are retired and are less likely to be traveling, including taking public transportation," posits Yellin.

This study was conducted online from March 6-March 8, 2020 using an amalgamated group of best-in-class panels. The study was conducted among a nationally representative sample of Canadian residents, aged 18+.

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