How coronavirus will change the way we move around Swiss cities

The coronavirus pandemic is set to change mobility in Switzerland, with more cycling and less public transport usage - as well as more frequent working from home - a likely consequence of the pandemic.

How coronavirus will change the way we move around Swiss cities
How will the coronavirus change transport? Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

Despite declining infection rates and minimal fatalities in recent weeks, fear of contracting the coronavirus remains pervasive across Switzerland. 

The fear is particularly prevalent in public transport, where ventilation is often minimal and social distancing impossible. 

A study by Deloitte Switzerland has shown Swiss commuters are set to make the switch from public transport to other ‘private’ means of commuting, including bikes, e-bikes and cars. 

Working from home, which has exploded in popularity during the coronavirus lockdown, is also likely to remain long after the threat of a second wave of the virus is gone. 

Employee rights in Switzerland during the coronavirus: What you need to know 

The findings pose a challenge for Swiss policy makers who want to reduce traffic, particularly in the country’s largest cities. 

Both Zurich and Geneva have been recognised as having some of the world’s worst traffic congestion.

Drivers in the French-speaking city spend an average of 52 hours in relatively slow traffic every year while that figure is 51 hours in Zurich. 

A permanent shift from public to private?

One third of those surveyed said they will opt for more journeys on foot, by e-scooter or by bike. 

A quarter said they would permanently cut down on public transport use, as well as cutting ride sharing and taxi services. 

The desire to use private transport was particularly pronounced among younger people, with one in four under 30 saying they would drive a car more in the future, while just under a third said they would ride a motorbike more often. 

How will the coronavirus change transport in Switzerland? Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

Working from home is here to stay

As a result of the crisis, twice as many Swiss now work from home than they did before the outbreak. 

A third of those surveyed said they would continue to work from home after the crisis ends. 

A total of 41 percent of respondents said they felt they were more productive at home, while 31 percent said they felt the same. 

One quarter of respondents said they felt less productive when working from home than in the office. 

The authors said employers must respond to this desire by putting in place flexible working arrangements wherever possible. 

“People want to continue working from home more often in the future. Companies cannot avoid introducing or expanding more flexible working models,” said Matthias Thalmann from Deloitte Switzerland. 

“The accelerated flexibilisation of place of work and working time has positive effects because the employees become more independent of the location and can take their time management into their own hands. In addition, the traffic infrastructure is relieved and the climate is spared.”

In addition to a happier workforce, such a shift would ensure companies were better prepared for future crises – including a potential second wave of the coronavirus. 

“Our experience with customers has also been confirmed in this crisis: If companies have a good home office infrastructure and have equipped their employees with the necessary virtual resources and technologies, they can react quickly to new and unexpected situations,” said Veronica Melian from Deloitte Switzerland.

“As flexibility becomes more and more important, companies have to take action and close their technology gaps by finding and introducing solutions for virtual collaboration.”

Public transport and infection rates

In a separate study completed on Tuesday by ETH Lausanne, researchers found a direct link between mobility and higher likelihood of infection. 

The findings illustrated the importance of the lockdown measures, while also highlighting the potential for transmission that exists in small spaces such as public transport. 


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What is Switzerland’s ‘traffic calendar’ and how can it help me save time?

Want to know how to avoid traffic in Switzerland? This handy map will help you out.

What is Switzerland's ‘traffic calendar’ and how can it help me save time?

With narrow, winding roads and city and town centres which were designed long before cars were thought up, traffic in Switzerland can be terrible at the best of times. 

But things get particularly stuck on weekends and holidays, where people from Switzerland and abroad clog up the nation’s motorways, which can put a real dampener on your holiday plans. 

READ MORE: Swiss politicians call for ‘lost’ public holidays to be replaced

While most locals will be able to recognise when heavy traffic days are coming up so they can stay well away, new residents and tourists may have a harder time. 

To help out, Touring Club Suisse, Switzerland’s largest motor and mobility authority, each year comes up with the Traffic Jam Calendar, which lists the times of the year when traffic can be particularly bad. 

The calendar ranks days on four different traffic levels.

The standard days are in white, while slightly higher traffic days are in yellow. 

Days with a high traffic volume are listed in pink/orange, while very high traffic volumes are listed in red. 

Image: Touring Club Suisse

Image: Touring Club Suisse

The calendar shown above relates to 2022. The calendar for the current year can be seen here

When is traffic particularly bad in Switzerland? 

As can be seen from the calendar, the main days for bad traffic are in spring and summer. 

Not only are these the days when the weather is best, but they’re also peak tourist season for domestic and foreign tourists. 

READ MORE: When are the public holidays in Switzerland in 2022?

While there is not one very high volume traffic day in Switzerland from the start of September until the end of March, there are 32 from April to August. 

April alone has eight along with several high traffic days, due largely to the Easter holidays over the weekend of the 16th and 17th. In May, traffic ramps up before Ascension Day on the 26th. 

In June, Corpus Christi (3rd) and Whit Monday (6th) will both see high travel volumes. 

The situation is particularly serious in July and August however, where very weekend day has high traffic volumes. 

Even weekdays in these two months have increased traffic volumes, meaning that taking a day off and leaving earlier/coming back later will not be guaranteed to save you some time. 

Bottlenecks and delays: Which Swiss cities have the worst traffic?

Where is traffic the worst in Switzerland? 

While the traffic calendar goes into specifics about the days when wait times are worst, it says little about which locations are set to see traffic surges.

To fix this, TCS regularly releases information about upcoming holidays and where things are likely to get tight. 

In May, TCS released a map of the likely traffic hotspots for the Ascension (26th May) and Pentecost holidays (June 5th). 

As can be seen here, the roads around Zurich including the A1 and the A51 are particularly busy, as is the A1 near Geneva. 

The Gotthard Pass, often a site of traffic jams, is also set to be particularly busy. 

For holiday makers, the A13 in the east of the country is also tipped to see very high traffic volumes over the Ascension and Pentecost weeks. 

Image: Touring Club Suisse

Image: Touring Club Suisse

You can download the live road information for Switzerland as an app for iPhone and Android