Transformation of urban mobility during COVID-19 pandemic – Lessons for transportation planning

Syed Masiur Rahman, Nedal Ratrout, Khaled Assi*, Ibrahim Al-Sghan, Uneb Gazder, Imran Reza, Omer Reshi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Introduction: The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic is a global threat that started in Wuhan, China, in 2019 and spread rapidly to the globe. To reduce the spread of the COVID-19, different non-pharmacological control measures have been conducted in different countries, which include social distancing, distance working, and stay-at-home mandates. These control measures had affected global transportation and mobility significantly. This study investigated the short-term changes in urban mobility, tropospheric air pollution, and fuel consumption in two major cities of Saudi Arabia, namely, Riyadh and Jeddah. Methods: In this study, the dynamics of the number of trips and trip purposes in different provinces of the country were analyzed, focusing on the pandemic period and the lockdown program. These changes impacted fuel consumption and, consequently, air pollutants. The quantity of fuel consumption and its trend was projected considering a few possible fuel consumption and emission scenarios. It is also expected that fuel price plays a role in fuel consumption. The spatial and temporal distributions of the remote sensed tropospheric Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) levels in different provinces were presented to depict the short 19 and long-term impact on the air quality due to the changes in mobility. Results: The significant reduction in urban mobility has been observed since the beginning of the first partial curfew in March 2020 compared to that in 2019. The air pollutant levels (such as NO2) in 2020 after the pandemic were generally less than those of 2019. The fuel consumption has been following a decreasing trend in 2020 starting from January due to dynamic fuel price and the additional influence of pandemic. Based on the current online shopping pattern, it is argued that there will be some permanent behavioral changes in urban mobility, which will decrease some shopping trips at least immediately after the recovery from the pandemic. Conclusions: This study concluded that the availability of global urban mobility data, remote sensed based tropospheric air pollution data, and global fuel consumption database are important sources of information to investigate the impact of COVID pandemic, especially for the developing countries which suffer from scarcity of pertinent urban mobility information. It seems that, at least in the study area, the spread of COVID-19 is a complex phenomenon in which several exogenous factors, in addition to the curfew protocols, affect the spread of the virus.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101257
JournalJournal of Transport and Health
StatePublished - Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to acknowledge the support of King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM) .

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Ltd


  • COVID-19
  • Fuel consumption
  • Gas emissions
  • Pandemic
  • Urban mobility

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Transportation
  • Pollution
  • Safety Research
  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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