Canadians Wary but Optimistic About Public Transit as a Direct Result of COVID-19

June 10, 2020

Jennifer Yellin
SVP & Managing Director – USA

Note – the results below are based on an online survey conducted from March 6- March 8, 2020 and repeated again from May 1-May 3 among a nationally representative sample of n=1000 Canadians.  

Compared with the previous wave, Canadians are now increasingly likely to feel that public transportation modes present a greater health risk compared with other modes (e.g. car).  While this is noted across all modes of public transportation, perceived risk has increased most dramatically for subways and buses.

“This suggests that public transit agencies have a significant challenge to demonstrate to customers what measures are currently in place to ensure their safety and find ways to reduce risk of transmission. As the pandemic has unfolded, perceptions have worsened,” says Jennifer Yellin, SVP and co-lead of Northstar’s Transportation Practice.  

While Canadians are now more concerned about taking public transportation, they are also more likely to feel that transportation companies are taking the appropriate steps to reduce customers’ risk of contracting COVID-19.  Gains since March are most strongly noted for train and public transit agencies.   “What this suggests is that Canadians notice and appreciate the safety and health measures that are being put into place,” Yellin adds.

For the most part, Canadians are no more or less likely to anticipate taking the subway, long distance bus or train, or using domestic air travel compared with in March.  On the other hand, compared with the initial wave of research, there is an increasing reticence to consider flying to the United States or take a local bus.  Yellin notes “This bodes well for transportation agencies and suggests a general sense of optimism among Canadians – with the right steps and communications to customers, recovery is possible.”


For more information, contact

Jennifer Yellin, Senior Vice President, Northstar Research Partners;

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