Mobility reimagined

Tracking transportation trends in the United States using mobile app and location data

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COVID-19 has disrupted consumer behavior in nearly every way imaginable. Since the pandemic began, we at Foursquare have been monitoring the impact of the pandemic in real-time using foot traffic data and sharing key trends (past editions here). After months of staying at home, we’re seeing consumers start to venture back out into the physical world. But how exactly are they moving around?

We decided to dig into the data to get a better grasp on the rapidly evolving transportation landscape. We’ve partnered with Appotpia, the leading app intelligence company By combining our two datasets, we’ve been able to validate the trends we’re seeing in the data and build a more comprehensive view of consumers’ changing preferences.

So what did we find? Largely driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, people in the U.S. are shifting away from public transportation and ridesharing. Instead, they’re opting for more isolated modes of transportation such as driving and biking. Top public transit schedule apps have seen their demand halved from one year ago, and visits to subway and train stations remain below 50% of pre-pandemic levels — showing a lack of interest in public transportations. However, certain markets seem more apt to start using subways, trains and buses again, and we’ve ranked the cities where we expect public transportation to recover most quickly. Ridesharing saw a significant dropoff in usage during the height of the pandemic as people stayed home and avoided contact with others. While rideshare demand has recovered significantly, downloads of leading rideshare apps are still down 21% year over year, perhaps indicating people are still hesitant to ride in a car with other people.

Those who previously commuted via public transit or rideshare may now opt for a more isolated mode of transportation – driving. Indicators from both Foursquare and Apptopia show a returned interest in acquiring new and/or used vehicles. Visits to auto dealerships are back to pre-pandemic levels, and usage of apps like CarGurus and Carvana are up year over year. And as the summer months usher in good weather across the U.S., outdoor forms of isolated travel, including bikes and scooters, are seeing an increase in usage. While scooters are making their typical comeback from the winter months, it’s bikes that are the inexpensive travel method of choice. Usage of bike rental apps is up year over year, and visits to bike shares and shops have recovered from the pandemic.

The Takeaways?

  • The ways in which people move around the world are changing rapidly. People are adopting new modes of transportation, and the times when they’re out and about. These shifts have widespread implications for a variety of sectors:
  • Mobility players can capitalize on changing preferences by adapting strategies and messaging, or use this data to contextualize their own performance.
  • Publishers can reach commuters while they’re in transit, taking advantage of moments of receptivity when people are on the go.
  • Brick and mortar brands can engage commuters along their journey, using advertising and push notifications to influence the places people go on their way from point A to point B.
  • Investors can enable the future of mobility, amplifying the growth of brands and services that tap into consumer behavior.

Download the report today for the full analysis.

Methodology

Apptopia provides competitive intelligence for the mobile app economy. Apptopia was founded on the belief that the mobile app community requires transparency to level the playing field and make way for innovation and industry advancements. In this report, Apptopia analyzed usage of the following mobile apps: Uber, Lyft, MBTA, MTA, Transit, Moovit, Citymapper, SpotHero, ParkMobile, Bird, Lime, Capital Bikeshare, Citi Bike, Bluebikes, Bay Wheels, and Divvy Bikes in 2019-2020.

Foursquare is the leading independent location technology platform. Foursquare analyzes consumer behavior based on foot traffic data from millions of Americans that make up our always-on panel. All data is pseudonymized, aggregated and normalized against U.S. Census data to remove any age, gender and geographical bias. In this report, Foursquare analyzed foot traffic to metro stations, train stations, gas stations, auto dealerships, bike rentals, and bike shops in 2019-2020, using rolling 7-day averages to account for fluctuations by day of week.