As the clock rolled over to the new decade, many of us were left wondering — would this be the fresh start we all so desperately hoped for after the chaos of 2020? In the transportation world, expect less "new year, new you" and more "adjusting to the new status quo." One of the hardest hit industries, transportation has weathered the COVID-19 storm with decreased ridership, urban exoduses, and a loss of the traditional commute as workforces go digital.
We have come a long way, no doubt. 365 days ago, mask use was an abstract thought most often assigned to hospitals. Now we swap them with ease, selecting colours, patterns, and materials just like any other accessory. Populations are becoming better at managing COVID-19 risk mitigation factors — we see hastily implemented countermeasures replaced by long-term, sustainable changes to how we work and play. 2021 represents an opportunity to look at what will stick in transportation, and how it will permanently shape our world.
The transportation mode of the year will be cycling, for both work and fun. Offering a host of benefits at a relatively low entry price, this solo activity experienced a resurgence for COVID-19 commuting, errands, and exercise. A related prediction? Expect to see a municipal investment into more cycling-friendly infrastructure.
A different approach to city planning
COVID-19 highlighted opportunities and obstacles for municipal roadways — a catalyst for serious change. Look for cities to reorganize compressed transit routes, open up new corridors for active transportation, and create more usable outdoor spaces. With car owners opting for their private rides over public transit, expect battles for space as streets are reclaimed with cycle lanes, outdoor dining areas, and bike share docking stations.
The transportation industry will see major players streamline offerings to grab more market share while being mindful of spending. Expect big moves in touch-less delivery and optimized logistics chains. Acquisitions and buyouts in 2020 set the stage for pared-down operations from some big players, like Uber, who sold off their autonomous vehicle group to competitor Aurora… but retained sizeable stakes in the new business. Streamlining, but still following the trends.
More electric vehicles
While electric scooters and bikes are still gaining traction through municipal adoption and provincial pilot programs, expect a sizeable Canadian uptick as individuals look for efficient options to compete with transit. With some experts speculating the shared model (like that of Bird or Lime) may see some changes — such as a more COVID-19 friendly subscription service — municipalities may become more welcoming to the new transportation options.
Government investment in transportation innovation
Think more pilot projects, testing facilities, and tinkering as all levels of government respond to the year that was 2020. Driven by various factors, this will allow governments to recoup some economic losses, shift to new purpose-built infrastructure, provide new jobs, and leverage the power (and collaborative approach) of public-private partnerships. Advancing towards innovation will open the door to new opportunities at a time when normal is anything but defined.
And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.