Resilience of Different Public Transport Modes during and after the COVID-19 Pandemic: An analysis of Turkish metropolitan cities


  • Ela Babalık Professor at the Middel East Technical University,Department of City and Regional Planning, Ankara
  • Bersu Aktaş Research Assistant, Istanbul Technical University, Departmant of Urban and Regional Planning


public transport, Post-pandemic, COVID-19, health crisis, resilience




The Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) had a major impact on urban mobility and travel behaviour. It has been well documented that in the days of the COVID-19 outbreak, public transport has proved to be the most vulnerable transport mode throughout the world (see, for example, Das et al., 2021; Gutiérrez, Miravet and Domènech, 2021; Parker et al., 2021). Crowded vehicles, stations and stops were to be avoided to keep personal safe space and distance. In response to this concern for safe distancing, the change in travel behaviour has favoured personal transport modes, including both motorised and non-motorised.

This paper presents an analysis of public transport before, during and after the COVID-19 pandemic in a number of Turkish metropolitan cities. The aim is not only to examine the overall public transport usage, but also to carry out a comparison between different modes of public transport. Therefore, metropolitan cities that operate a diversity of public transport modes are included in the study. In particular, cities that operate both bus systems and urban rail systems, such as metro, light rail and tram, are analyzed with a view to observe differences between modes in terms of vulnerability as well as resilience, i.e., the capacity to recover after the pandemic.

In addition to the analysis of different performance levels in different public transport modes in the face of this health crisis, the paper also presents how the operators responded to the crises and whether their responses have been effective in the resilience of public transport systems in recovering from this crisis. This latter analysis contributes to ongoing research (see, for example, Gkiotsalitis and Cats, 2021; Shortall, Mouter and Van Wee, 2022) on the adaptation of transport service providers to this crisis and hence on the policies of increasing the resilience of public transport.

To carry out this analysis, detailed ridership data was collected for seven cities in Turkey, from 2018 to 2023. In addition, interviews were made with transit operators with a view to understanding different policy responses during and after the pandemic. Results of both the performance analysis of different public transport systems and the operators’ policy responses to improve these systems’ resilience provide valuable insight into how transport policies should be formulated in order to be prepared for and respond effectively to possible future health crises. The paper is intended to contribute to the main theme of the Congress by discussing whether certain modes of public transport and certain policy responses have been “game changers” in the face of the public transport “crisis” during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.


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