Building back better: The COVID-19 pandemic and transport policy implications for a developing megacity

Sustain Cities Soc. 2021 Jun:69:102864. doi: 10.1016/j.scs.2021.102864. Epub 2021 Mar 20.


The COVID-19 pandemic has affected human mobility via lockdowns, social distancing rules, home quarantines, and the full or partial suspension of transportation. Evidence-based policy recommendations are urgently needed to ensure that transport systems have resilience to future pandemic outbreaks, particularly within Global South megacities where demand for public transport is high and reduced access can exacerbate socio-economic inequalities. This study focuses on Metro Manila - a characteristic megacity that experienced one of the most stringent lockdowns worldwide. It analyzes aggregated cell phone and GPS data from Google and Apple that provide a comprehensive representation of mobility behavior before and during the lockdown. While significant decreases are observed for all transport modes, public transport experienced the largest drop (-74.5 %, on average). The study demonstrates that: (i) those most reliant on public transport were disproportionately affected by lockdowns; (ii) public transport was unable to fulfil its role as public service; and, (iii) this drove a paradigm shift towards active mobility. Moving forwards, in the short-term policymakers must promote active mobility and prioritize public transport to reduce unequal access to transport. Longer-term, policymakers must leverage the increased active transport to encourage modal shift via infrastructure investment, and better utilize big data to support decision-making.

Keywords: Big data analysis; COVID-19 response; Longitudinal case study; Mobility behavior; Resilient transport systems; Social equity.