It will come as no surprise that one of the main industries impacted by the Covid19 pandemic has been transit. Lockdowns, the closing of borders, and severe restrictions on accessible destinations have led to a significant drop in passenger numbers across all means of transport and all transit systems. Data from the American Public Transport Association (APTA) show that the first quarter of 2021 saw a 57% drop in passenger trips across the US, with Canada reporting a decline of 63%.

Now, the big question is when will things return to pre-pandemic levels, especially considering the rise of the Delta variant and lower than expected vaccination rates in some countries and communities. When will airports experience a return to the passenger numbers they saw before Covid19?

Near-term concerns

The bad news is that a new poll run over the last month by Mass Transit and Hitachi suggests that the picture will remain grim for the near term. Expectations for a quick rebound are low. Over half of all respondents (57%) expect it to take at least 12 months for passenger numbers to reach pre-pandemic levels, with 87% not expecting a return until the start of 2022 at the earliest.

And those who describe themselves as working in transport or travel and tourism are more pessimistic than most, with over 80% of respondents in transport and 65% of those in travel and tourism expecting it to take at least 12 months.

When passengers do start to return in something like standard numbers, there is little consensus on what proportion of pre-pandemic levels of passengers will come back.

But if there is little agreement on the detail, the overwhelming consensus (92%) is that it will be lower than we were used to seeing before the pandemic.

Opportunity in adversity

So, what might be done to restore some confidence, and what role might technology play? Given the expectation that it will take a while to recover, there may be time to implement some innovations to help travelers feel safer while improving operations, reducing waste, and enhancing the passenger experience. And when it comes to ways that stations and transit agencies could use new technology to improve, the greatest focus areas for respondents in the transit industry (42%) were around contactless or automated payments (72%), passenger volume control (51%), and dynamic scheduling to meet demand (50%).

To see how your expectations compare to your industry, complete this Hitachi survey on how transit and transportation will return following the pandemic and what smart solutions can help move us forward. You can complete the survey here: