COVID-19 has changed the way consumers travel. 42% of the U.S. workforce is working from home, and no longer commuting to their offices. Consumers are overall spending less money on gas, as they aren’t traveling as far in their cars. Airports are less busy than normal as many have put non-essential travel on hold. As summer has progressed, consumers are preferring to travel by car to avoid crowds and maintain social distancing. To investigate how consumer travel has changed due to the coronavirus pandemic, we analyzed foot traffic across different transportation categories including airports, public transportation, and rental car locations.
Foot Traffic Impacted by Lockdown and Travel Restrictions
Weekly visits began to decline in March and then dropped significantly in April. However, foot traffic began to recover in May and June, possibly due to late spring or summer travel. All travel categories were impacted by COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions in March and April, but airports and car rental locations continued to receive more visits than others in the category.
Weekly Trends Show Consumers Prefer Renting Cars
Car rental locations were the least impacted in terms of weekly foot traffic, compared to other transportation categories like bus and train stations. At its lowest point, foot traffic to car rental locations was 75% lower than the week of February 2. For comparison, foot traffic to train stations was 89% lower compared to the week of February 2, and continues to recover more slowly than other transportation categories.
Airports Still Saw Largest Share of Monthly Visits
Given consumer apprehensions to avoid air travel, airports saw their share of unique monthly visits decrease. Share of visits to car rental locations increased from February to May, and decreased slightly in June to 28%. Other types of transportation, buses, and public parking remained consistent. Share of visits to trains slightly declined to 5% by June.
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Monthly Foot Traffic is Slowly Recovering for Transportation
The transportation category saw a significant decrease in unique visits from March to April, and began to recover slightly in May and June. In June, foot traffic to transportation-related locations was 46% lower than in February. According to our economic activity by category dashboard, transportation remains well below pre-COVID levels.
How Will Transportation Change in July and August?
Transportation will continue to be impacted by changing consumer trends. Based on current data from our economic activity dashboards, we predict that car rental locations will continue to see a large share of monthly visitors, and might even come close to pre-COVID-19 levels in July and August. Use of public transportation is likely to increase somewhat as the school year starts and some offices begin to reopen, but airports, buses, and trains will continue to be slowest to recover foot traffic within the transportation category.