The Signal: How soon after lockdowns end will you feel comfortable stepping into a cramped subway car? Early indications are that the ways people get around in a post-COVID world are shifting. Chinese traffic data shows that daily traffic in early April (once the country had recovered from the worst of its COVID-19 outbreak) was consistently above that of a year prior. Car purchases in Wuhan have also rebounded. All of which suggests that people will continue to avoid public transportation post-COVID, instead favoring private vehicle usage.

Public transit systems around the world will be forced to operate at reduced capacity to stay safe for commuters. LA’s Metro system, for example, is running its modified Sunday service every day of the week in response to fewer travelers. But even if we take into account a reduction in daily commuters on account of the WFH trend, there will still be billions of people who will need to move around on a daily basis.

While this dynamic could push many people into private car ownership, affordability will be a major stumbling block. We spoke with Thomas McLennan, a senior policy advisor at the British Vehicle Rental & Leasing Association, who predicts that we’ll see a sharp increase in consumers’ leasing and sharing vehicles, as opposed to owning them.

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