Last year at this time, the idea of attending a concert, a big game, or even going for dinner and catching a movie, sounded heavenly, yet unattainable. Today, with many “regular” social opportunities re-emerging, and large numbers returning to their office work places, people are either taking advantage of their increased public transportation freedom, or they're making the choice to remain shut in.
It takes a certain “type”
Depending on your personality type, you may be ready to hop back on the bus, or keep playing it safe, and continue to hit the brakes. According to renowned psychiatrist Carl Jung, there are five (5) broad traits that make up basic personality, and these are:
1. Openness: People who are high in this trait tend to be more adventurous and creative, while those who are low in openness tend to be more traditional and see things in black and white.
2. Conscientiousness: Highly conscientious people tend to be organized and mindful of details, while unconscientious people don’t think about how their behavior affects others, and don't always adhere to societal rules.
3. Extroversion: People who are high in this trait, are outgoing and tend to gain energy in social situations. People with low extroversion (introverts) are more reserved and have less energy to expend in social settings.
4. Agreeableness: Highly agreeable people are cooperative, while those low in this trait tend to be more competitive, and even manipulative.
5. Neuroticism: Individuals who are high in this trait often experience mood swings, anxiety, irritability, and sadness, while those low in this trait tend to be more emotionally stable and resilient.
While these 5 personality traits have a high extreme and low extreme, generally, most people fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. And it’s the unique combination of these traits, that make us who we are, and determines our mental and emotional readiness to return to the big, bad, bustling world, now that we're able.
Transit by type
As an example, take those who are low on the openness scale but high on the neuroticism scale. There's not a chance that these "types" would be getting back on a crowded bus, regardless of the safety measures taken. Instead, they'd opt for safer, lower-risk modes of transportation like on-demand microtransit, bicycling, walking, or even ridesharing, over a big-bus alternative.
Open, extroverted, agreeable types, in contrast, likely wouldn't hesitate to ride public fixed-route transit, with its multiple stops, and continuous flow of passengers, entering and exiting the bus. They’re just ready to live life as normally as possible again, and don't see the behavior as risky.
The numbers speak for themselves
Over the past year or so, many transit authorities across the United States have been conducting ridership surveys and gathering data - to better predict transit use volumes in the coming months. While the results are mostly positive for the future of transit providers, and the industry, there's no denying the measurable setbacks suffered. According to the American Public Transit Association (APTA), data collected from more than 100 transit systems reveals that even a significant rebound in transit use, is still a long way from returning ridership to pre-pandemic levels.
APTA President and CEO, Paul Skoutelas recognizes that every transit agency was heavily hit by the pandemic, with nearly one third of regular transit riders abandoning public transit. However, he expects ridership to come back eventually.
"Once we get through the summer, back to this September, when kids get back to school and businesses bring their workforces back, we expect that number to continue to rise"
- Paul Skoutelas, President and CEO, APTA
In or out?
Knowing what we know about our various personality types, it's easy to predict who will be comfortable hopping on the bus and resuming old routines, and who will not be putting themselves out there and at (perceived) "risk". Regardless of whether your personality type renders you in or out of public transit favor, the numbers speak for themselves, and industry experts are hopeful. Public transit ridership will rise, and our new normal will eventually just become, normal.