Urban mobility trends from COVID-19

The way we work and move around cities has been altered by COVID-19, but the periodic reduction in case numbers and restrictions on movement have given us some insight into how permanent these changes may be, with definite trends in mobility emerging.

Our Mobility Trends reports provide insight into people’s views of what daily life will look like once the public health risk has eased.

Where we'll work


Of respondents expect to do most of their work back at their workplace

Number of days people expect to work from home

Why we’ll head back to the workplace

In July 2020 the top-rated reasons were to create separation between work and home. By January 2021 the main reasons were maintaining relationships and increasing collaboration.

How we’ll get around

Even once the immediate public health risk of COVID-19 has passed, many people expect to decrease their public transport use, preferring private vehicle travel.

Public transport daily use

Fewer people in Melbourne, Brisbane and the Greater Washington Area intend to use public transport every day compared to their pre-pandemic use. On average, daily public transport use for Australians is expected to be 22% below pre-pandemic levels.

Private vehicles daily use

More people in all cities except Montreal intend to use private vehicles every day compared to their pre-pandemic use. On average, daily private vehicle use for Australians is expected to be 16% above pre-pandemic levels.

Public transport regular use

More people in all cities except in the Greater Washington Area expect to use public transport regularly (ie several times a week). 

Private vehicles regular use

More people in all cities except for Brisbane and Montreal expect to use private vehicles regularly (ie several times a week). 

July 2020
January 2021
July 2021
January 2022

*GWA and Montreal were not included in the January 2021 and July 2021 surveys

Online shopping

Who's shopping online more

  • 53% are shopping more online now than before COVID-19 (38% same, 3% less)
  • 60% of women are shopping more online, compared to 47% of men

Growing freight movements

And like parcel delivery services, freight traffic is also expected to increase.

Freight traffic has been largely unaffected during the pandemic and over the next two decades, road freight volumes are expected to grow by 56%.*

*Australian Government, Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics, Australian aggregate freight forecasts, 2019.

Peak-hour is back

The traditional pre-pandemic peak hours have already returned to the broader road networks in capital cities.
Workday travel patterns by month*




2019  2021

*Source: TomTom 

Shifting the peak - small shifts equal big impacts

The rapid return to traditional peak hours alongside reduced public transport use signal an opportunity to shift people’s travel behaviour to avoid congestion returning to pre-COVID levels.

Our traffic analysis shows that small shifts in travelling away from traditional peaks can mean big gains in efficiency and time savings.

Weekday travel-time savings—PM peak, CityLink (Monash Freeway)

Weekday travel-time savings—AM peak, M2

Flexible work

Flexible work could help spread peak-hour traffic and prevent congestion to returning to pre-COVID-19 levels of worse. Such changes could improve the efficiency of transport networks if implemented on a large scale.

Across surveyed cities in Australia and North America the most commonly available and utilised type of flexible work is working remotely followed by varied start and finish times and varied leave options.

Availability and uptake of flexible work options for – Australia


Availability and uptake of flexible work options for – North America