The Fence

Andy Taylor on COVID-19 and transport


Andy Taylor is the Director of Strategy at iMOVE partner Cubic Transportation Systems, and is on the Board of Directors at the MaaS Alliance.

Prior to the pandemic, Andy travelled extensively, extolling the benefits of Mobility as a Service. We found about his work, his career path, and more in our November 2018 interview, Andy Taylor: MaaS messenger.

How has he seen the impact of the pandemic, both personally and professionally?

What are the main effects or changes due to COVID-19 that you’re seeing right now in transport?

It’s been a time of massive changes not only in public transport, but in people’s perceptions of what will happen next and what it means for mobility in the future. I’ve been asked several times what I think will happen and how can agencies globally recover from losing around 90% of their ridership. The simple answer is – I don’t know. No-one does. The only thing I can offer with any degree of certainty is that flexibility and resiliency will be two key tenets of transport networks in the future. As to how we get there, we will have to wait and see.

On a personal level the impact of COVID has been quite a change. Over the last years I have spent most of my working time travelling around the world promoting and discussing MaaS and trying to change perceptions to embrace multi-modal solutions. My last flight was March 5th – 10 weeks ago.

At first, I missed not travelling, but now I’m embracing my own new normal, and I have to say I’m enjoying it. I’ve been walking for an hour a day, I have a regular routine, I’m eating healthier and not surviving on airline and hotel food, I call my mum in the UK every day for a chat to see how she’s coping, and I get time to relax in my own home.

I’m sure this new normal will change over time, but I hope I can make sure that some of my new routines are resilient enough and flexible enough to be kept going when things return to normal.

What changes would you like to see in transport when the world rights itself post-pandemic?

As we emerge from this pandemic, I would like to see cities and regions embracing what will be needed by all the travellers in a city – a choice for flexibility in how they travel.

Now is the time that Mobility as a Service can become a staple of travel in that it can give the user the chance to use their personal preferences in how they move from A to B. People may not want to travel on busy trains and buses, so options for micro mobility and ride hailing combined with public transport can be an option.

Better information shared amongst the users of a MaaS system can also help people make better choices not only in how they travel, but when and by which route. We’ve spent many weeks listening to experts about how we need to ‘flatten the curve’ to stop medical facilities becoming overrun – now we need to flatten the curve of demand on the transport network in order maximise the available capacity to make travelling safer, more comfortable and to not return to pre-pandemic situations of congestion and peak demands on networks that stretch the limits of the current infrastructure.

And what changes do you think will happen in transport post-pandemic?

Evidence from cities and regions that are emerging from the pandemic have a common factor in place – the return of the single user occupancy private vehicle. People have been seen to be ditching public transport in favour of private transport, which in turn has led to congestion and increases in greenhouse gas emissions.

This is unsustainable.

I hope that public agencies can take this time as we slowly emerge to realise the impact of this modal shift to start to put in place policies to prevent this wholesale adoption of private car use and to examine policy nudges that favour teleworking, better integrated public and private mobility options and incentivisation to travel in a more socially and environmentally responsible manner.

Now is the time to start planning for resiliency and flexibility we want in the transport networks of the future.

Like this interview? Click here to see the rest of our interviews about the effects of COVID-19 on the transport sector.

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