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Changes in mobility and the modal split during qurantine times in Vilnius

Many daily target points were closed in Vilnius for more than a month due to the coronavirus quarantine. For example, public and educational institutions as well as businesses organized a remote regime for employees and pupils, people were generally advised to stay home, and so they did.

Now, based on personal daily observations I can recon, that this resulted in the significant drop of daily journeys and presumably affected modal split too. The most affected mode in Vilnius would be public transport – number of passengers dropped very drastically despite in due time and fair initiatives from the City and the PT operator. Unfortunately, although the absolute number of trips is still lower, car is chosen more often than before, as it is considered the safest mode of travel by most of the society. Moreover, keen usual public transport passengers also had chosen to walk or cycle instead of taking the bus, and this is why the share of these modes presumably rose as well and provoked an even higher loss of PT share.

As it is obvious from numerous initiatives across the Europe and world, this hypothetical “jump” of non-motorized modes and benefits from clean air positively affected politicians to start some more radical changes in cities towards sustainability. Vilnius is not an exception.

The project of transit traffic loops for the Old Town of Vilnius (in the picture below) was planned to be implemented in summer 2021. The changes in Vilnius’ everyday lifestyle and mobility due to quarantine led to the decision to implement this project one year sooner – now the start is announced for 2020/07/01. With this project it is expected to reduce cars transit in the Old Town and thus to improve conditions for sustainable modes users.

Other positive decision is four streets closure for the car traffic. These streets will be closed till the 1st of October. The online survey shows that people generally are satisfied with the closure (26 %) and are positive for the the whole Old Town territory closure (17 %). Only 17 % were against this measure. The closure was inspired by success of Savičiaus str. closure in previous years and the corona-caused popularity of outdoor cafes and other activities. Recently the British newspapers The Guardian and published news about Vilnius closing streets and making place for open-air cafés to support restaurants and cafés to be able to operate with the distance restricitions caused by the measures for fighting the coronavirus.


Sources for more information (in Lithuanian):

Traffic loops in Vilnius Old Town

The closing of four streets from traffic in central Vilnius

Text: Dr. Kristina Gaučė, Vilnius
Cover photo credit: D. Umbraso/LRT nuotr.