The impact of the COVID-19 crisis on travel behavior of students

Activity: Talk or presentationScience to science


The shift of higher education teaching and examination from on campus to distance learning, as well as the legal framework (lockdowns, travel warnings, border closures) caused a massive change in the everyday mobility of students in higher education, affecting them worldwide as well as in Austria equally. Though various researchers have already conducted surveys on how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting mobility behavior, previous surveys mostly have been based on the entire population. With approximately 375,000 people in Austria, the group of higher education students represents a significant number of people, which has not yet been surveyed separately in previous surveys.

To evaluate the effects within this group, we invited all 71 Austrian higher education institutions to participate in our survey, 38 of which supported the distribution of the online-questionnaire. The questionnaire was designed to cover two phases – the time before the crisis (i.e. before March 2020) and a phase during the crisis (i.e. November 2020 – February 2021). These phases not only align with the winter terms 2019/20 and 2020/21 but also with the development of the COVID-19 situation in Austria as the second phase matches with the second wave of infections. This allows the identification of patterns and similar developments within participant subgroups.

In total, 2,031 participants completed the survey. The results show similarities to the general population with declining numbers of journeys made and average distances travelled. Respondents refrained from using public transport with 51.5% claiming that they feel less comfortable there since the beginning of the crisis. Respondents reported that prior to the crisis, 42.8% percent of their paths to be study-related. As the higher education sector was converted to distance learning, this share decreased to 8.9% - a reduction by almost 80%.
Period14 Sept 2021
Event titleEuropean Transport Conference 2021
Event typeConference
Degree of RecognitionInternational