We’ve made some COVID changes … what might stick?
How time flies. We have now reached the first anniversary of the COVID pandemic. It has caused some change in the transport world, but is it too soon to say that the change will remain? Or will we return to our pre-pandemic ways?
COVID has caused illness, death, and substantial disruption to our society. The long-awaited distribution of vaccines, a falling global infection rate, and the knowledge that Australia has the infection under control are all reasons to feel optimistic and we can perhaps breathe a collective sigh of relief.
What we’ve learnt
Like many other terrible and disruptive events, COVID also presents an opportunity for us to reflect on things that we have learnt over the last 12 months.
Some of the things we have seen play out are:
- Getting on top of the traffic congestion problem (for a while at least!)
- (Re)discovering the importance of ‘local’; local community, local services, local environment.
- Seeing the good and bad of supply chain resilience play out in front of our eyes.
- The community modified its behaviour on a massive scale.
- Some of us learnt to work from home, and
- Many organisations finally realised their ambitions for a paperless office.
Working from Home. It’s working?
The exciting prospect for iMOVE that every one of these learnings can contribute improvements to our national transport and mobility capability. The one with arguably the greatest impact has been the enthusiastic and permanent embrace of workplace flexibility.
The potential impact and importance of the working from home (WFH) paradigm was recognised by many of iMOVE’s participants and nine of them have formed a loose coalition to examine its impact in more detail. iMOVE participants are particularly interested in the effects of WFH on the demand for movement, both now and in the future.
Understanding the demand for movement, and any changes that are occurring is crucial for the managers of our road and rail networks, our traffic, and our public and private transport systems. And because those systems support the movement of people and goods, changes in the travel behaviour of people working from home effects everyone’s travel experience.
iMOVE participants have initiated several projects to explore and understand the impact of WFH on the transport system:
- Working from Home: Revising metro strategic transport models – (commenced July 2020)
- Encouraging continuation of work from home post-pandemic – (commenced Dec 2020)
- Working from home: Changes in transport demand in Perth – (commenced Dec 2020)
We hope to bring you some early findings from these projects soon but we can already see sustained enthusiasm from employees and employers for the continuation of WFH. The question is though, ‘How much?’.
This is important to our participants in the transport sector because WFH creates a way to mitigate congestion on our road and rail networks. It also raises the question of whether the next billion dollars of infrastructure spend should be directed to physical infrastructure or communications infrastructure. In a world of flexible working arrangements which investment (of taxpayer dollars) creates the greatest national benefit?
And then there is the impact of COVID on freight and supply chains, but we will have to save that story for another time.