Building back better: the COVID-19 pandemic and transport policy implications for a developing megacity

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Marc Hasselwander
  • Tiago Tamagusko
  • Joao F. Bigotte
  • Adelino Ferreira
  • Alvin Mejia

Colleges, School and Institutes


The COVID-19 pandemic has affected human mobility via lockdowns, social distancing rules, home quarantines, and the full or partial suspension of transportation. Evidence-based policy recommendations are urgently needed to ensure that transport systems have resilience to future pandemic outbreaks, particularly within Global South megacities where demand for public transport is high and reduced access can exacerbate socio-economic inequalities. This study focuses on Metro Manila – a characteristic megacity that experienced one of the most stringent lockdowns worldwide. It analyzes aggregated cell phone and GPS data from Google and Apple that provide a comprehensive representation of mobility behavior before and during the lockdown. While significant decreases are observed for all transport modes, public transport experienced the largest drop (−74.5 %, on average). The study demonstrates that: (i) those most reliant on public transport were disproportionately affected by lockdowns; (ii) public transport was unable to fulfil its role as public service; and, (iii) this drove a paradigm shift towards active mobility. Moving forwards, in the short-term policymakers must promote active mobility and prioritize public transport to reduce unequal access to transport. Longer-term, policymakers must leverage the increased active transport to encourage modal shift via infrastructure investment, and better utilize big data to support decision-making.


Original languageEnglish
Article number102864
Number of pages12
JournalSustainable Cities and Society
Early online date20 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


  • COVID-19 response, Mobility behavior, Resilient transport systems, Social equity, Big data analysis, Longitudinal case study