International study reveals the effects of COVID-19 on the experience of public transport

December 16, 2020

A team of European researchers working on a project about public transport as public space have recently completed a study on the perception and use of public transport during the first wave of COVID-19.

The study employed an extensive questionnaire along with 49 interviews conducted in Tallinn, Stockholm, Brussels, Munich, Berlin and Dresden from April to July 2020. The results reveal how the coronavirus pandemic changed more than just the number of people using public transport--the outbreak also altered the emotions, sensations, and overall experience of using public transport. In other words, it influenced the ways in which public transport is used and perceived as public space.

The study diversifies and complicates the dominant fear-centric narrative connected to public transport throughout the outbreak. It shows that using public transport at the time of the COVID-19 actually encompasses a vast array of experiences. The researchers also highlight the unequal opportunities and constraints that influenced individuals and communities during the state of emergency in spring.

The study revealed a strong divide along economic and educational lines. People in a better financial condition and with a higher level of education were more likely to give up public transport, i.e. work from home or use their personal car to drive to work. Importantly, those with the opportunity to avoid the use of public transport were also the ones who are most afraid of it. In contrast, continuing users of public transport - particularly the frequent ones - find it safer than those who have stopped using it completely.

"Almost half of the people who avoided using public transport entirely found that it is much more dangerous compared with other public spaces," says Tauri Tuvikene, a Senior Research Fellow at Tallinn University on one of the study's findings. "However, those who continued to use public transport found it as safe as or even safer than grocery stores and shopping centres."

One of the most important observations in the study was that the conditions on public transport were described more neutrally than was expected. When participants were asked to describe the atmosphere in public transport, they commonly referred to distancing, a calm environment and an emptier space that made their ride more comfortable. The narratives of study participants were mostly pragmatic, neutral and calm rather than being overshadowed by fear.

However, the desire to reduce physical contact does introduce new feelings of uncertainty. The necessity to keep one's distance from others raises questions about how to engage with others. For instance, is helping other passengers in need still the right thing to do? Or, is the opposite true now that there is a risk of infection? The new normal of keeping distance has not yet struck a balance with the already existing norms of public transport as a social space.

"Perhaps COVID-19 has made it more obvious than before that public transport is also a public space where people meet a lot of strangers, which can undoubtedly cause some tensions," says Tuvikene. "Many interviewees undoubtedly considered public transport a public space. However, it was considered less social than before the pandemics, as if public transport had been a remarkably social space before that."
-end-
The study was a part of the PUTSPACE (Public Transport as Public Space in European Cities: Narrating, Experiencing, Contesting) research project that was launched in 2019 and supported by HERA (Humanities in the European Research Area). In addition to Tallinn University, Åbo Akademi University in Turku, the Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography and the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB) take part in the project. HERA is a network that funds humanities researchers as well as unites over a few dozen European countries and the European Commission.

Read the full report on the study:
https://putspace.eu/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/PUTSPACE_COVID-19_REPORT_2020-12-16_FINAL.pdf

Estonian Research Council

Related Science Articles from Brightsurf:

75 science societies urge the education department to base Title IX sexual harassment regulations on evidence and science
The American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) today led 75 scientific societies in submitting comments on the US Department of Education's proposed changes to Title IX regulations.

Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, biopharma, and pharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2018 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.

Science in the palm of your hand: How citizen science transforms passive learners
Citizen science projects can engage even children who previously were not interested in science.

Applied science may yield more translational research publications than basic science
While translational research can happen at any stage of the research process, a recent investigation of behavioral and social science research awards granted by the NIH between 2008 and 2014 revealed that applied science yielded a higher volume of translational research publications than basic science, according to a study published May 9, 2018 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Xueying Han from the Science and Technology Policy Institute, USA, and colleagues.

Prominent academics, including Salk's Thomas Albright, call for more science in forensic science
Six scientists who recently served on the National Commission on Forensic Science are calling on the scientific community at large to advocate for increased research and financial support of forensic science as well as the introduction of empirical testing requirements to ensure the validity of outcomes.

World Science Forum 2017 Jordan issues Science for Peace Declaration
On behalf of the coordinating organizations responsible for delivering the World Science Forum Jordan, the concluding Science for Peace Declaration issued at the Dead Sea represents a global call for action to science and society to build a future that promises greater equality, security and opportunity for all, and in which science plays an increasingly prominent role as an enabler of fair and sustainable development.

PETA science group promotes animal-free science at society of toxicology conference
The PETA International Science Consortium Ltd. is presenting two posters on animal-free methods for testing inhalation toxicity at the 56th annual Society of Toxicology (SOT) meeting March 12 to 16, 2017, in Baltimore, Maryland.

Citizen Science in the Digital Age: Rhetoric, Science and Public Engagement
James Wynn's timely investigation highlights scientific studies grounded in publicly gathered data and probes the rhetoric these studies employ.

Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, pharma, and biopharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2016 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.

Three natural science professors win TJ Park Science Fellowship
Professor Jung-Min Kee (Department of Chemistry, UNIST), Professor Kyudong Choi (Department of Mathematical Sciences, UNIST), and Professor Kwanpyo Kim (Department of Physics, UNIST) are the recipients of the Cheong-Am (TJ Park) Science Fellowship of the year 2016.

Read More: Science News and Science Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.