Could COVID-19 push public transport systems into a ‘death spiral’? For all the talk of a ‘green recovery’ from the pandemic, some analysts worry commuters may be tempted to make a permanent switch away from buses and trains and to cars. Public transport systems are already struggling to cope with falling demand and ticket sales, as well as lowered passenger capacities due to social distancing requirements.

Needless to say, environmentalists argue that switching to cars would be bad for climate change, traffic congestion, and air pollution. Even switching to electric vehicles would not necessarily help (unless we’re talking about electric buses for public transport), as a majority of electricity is still generated by fossil fuels in most countries. Scaling back public transport systems would also disadvantage those on lower incomes who rely on them for mobility.

What do our readers think? We had a comment sent in by Alejandro, who worries the pandemic will have a “devastating effect” on public transport systems across Europe. Is he right to be concerned?

To get a response, we put Alejandro’s comment to Miloš Mladenović, Assistant Professor of Transportation Engineering at Aalto University in Finland. What would he say?

For another perspective, we put the same comment to Daniel Moser, Transport Policy Advisor at the Transformative Urban Mobility Initiative (TUMI) of the German development agency GIZ. How would he reply?

Next up, we had a comment from Maia, who wants to see transport become more sustainable and specifically mentions electric vehicles as an alternative to petrol. Is now the right time for cities and governments to be investing in fleets of electric vehicles for public transport?

How would Miloš Mladenović respond?

What would Daniel Moser say?

Can public transport recover from COVID-19? Is now the right time for cities and governments to be investing in fleets of electric vehicles for public transport? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: BigStock – (c) K.Sorokin
This debate is part of the ENERGY-SHIFTS project. By participating you are confirming you are 18+. Contributions to the debate may be directly quoted (anonymously) in the ENERGY-SHIFTS reports. If you do not want your contribution to be used, send us an email within two weeks of posting your comment.
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 826025.

17 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar

    Should make all city public transport free at point of use…. fund by major increase in car charges & tourist tax (hotels).

  2. avatar

    Better go straight to hydrogen.

    • avatar

      why? Hydrogen is less energy efficiënt and is most of the time a byproduct of natural gas.

    • avatar

      vehicules, engines and tanks are easy to modify, same as LPG, so is distribution network, tankers, trucks, technology readily available. No need for batteries material and recycling, research or technology leap, electrical grid rebuild, aso.

    • avatar

      euhm, using hydrogen in combusion engines isn’t a sustainable mode of transportation, because you’re still burning gas. A Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle is, but for that you also need a (relatively small) traction battery, an expensive fuel cell and electric motor. And it costs more to build the an electric vehicle.

  3. avatar

    burning H2 with O results only in H2O emission (water vapor). Standard vehicle 12V battery required. The overall pollution emited is less than cells or electric car building.

  4. avatar

    “And now, for a word from our sponsors”

  5. avatar

    Anyway, they’re probably too busy rewriting all the dictionary definitions of words like “human rights”, “vaccine”, “person”, “man” and “woman”.

  6. avatar

    If people are increasingly avoiding public transport, how does it help the situation to change the motive power of public transport? If I don’t want to take the bus because I’m scared of getting infected, it doesn’t make an iota of difference what the bus runs on.

  7. avatar

    Solution would be to build future buses and trains with individual traveling cubicles.

  8. avatar

    No, electric vehicles are not viable. Hydrogen vehicles are.

  9. avatar

    No the EU should encourage private transportation to help reduce the spread of the virus.

  10. avatar

    First we need to invest into clean sources of the energy. Electric bus working on electricity made from coal does not make much sense.

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