It wasn't too long ago that we stood shoulder to shoulder on crowded public transport and spent long hours commuting by cars in rush hour. But in the weeks since the nationwide lockdown on March 27, traffic volumes have dropped by up to 70pc while demand across the public transport network has fallen sharply.
As restrictions are gradually lifted, will the traditional commute ever be the same again and how can workers return to work safely in this pre-vaccine period?
Across Europe public transport authorities are grappling with the safety challenges of getting people back to work.
Remote working will continue to reduce demand but over time working from home comes with its own set of challenges and many may opt to return to the office as the Zoom environment proves no substitute for the social interaction with colleagues. For others, working from home will not be an option at all.
So can public transport be made safe and will commuters be convinced that it is?
A spokesperson for Bus Eireann told the Sunday Independent that to ensure the safety of staff and customers, they have introduced significantly enhanced cleaning regimes on board and in bus stations.
They have also ensured physical distancing is observed by restricting seating capacity and introducing revised queueing in bus stations around the country.
Similarly, Irish Rail has introduced a host of new measures to ensure the safety of passengers. Barry Kenny, of Irish Rail, is confident they can continue to provide a safe environment for customers through the various phases of the roadmap for reopening the country set out by the Government.
Such measures may reassure customers but will significantly reduce capacity, so managing demand will also prove a challenge. Staggering working hours may provide a solution, but it is likely the reduced efficiency of public transport and hygiene concerns will see more commuters seeking refuge in the perceived safety of the private car.
In the coming months, Conor Faughnan of AA Ireland, expects a surge in car usage as more people shun public transport. "Many people will be averse to using trams, trains and buses and will choose to use their car instead, hence a disproportionate modal share for the car."
Evidence from Wuhan, the original centre of the coronavirus, in the weeks following the end of their lockdown would support this view. Car sales are on the increase there and demand is particularly high for smaller models, suggesting that some families may be opting for a second car.
The Covid implications on car-sharing will also be felt in the short term. The success of car-sharing schemes is that they offer the use of a car without the costs and responsibilities of ownership, but customers may be wary that sharing increases the risk of infection so demand for these services is likely to decline.
Colm Brady, managing director of GoCar, believes they can alleviate any concerns that customers might have. "We have developed a thorough sanitisation process for our fleet of over 700 vehicles, which entails increased cleaning frequency and a strong focus on disinfecting vehicle interiors."
One of the great positives of this crisis has been more people cycling, including young children taking their first tentative bike ride. It has also highlighted how unfriendly our cities and towns are to cyclists and pedestrians.
Martina Callanan, of the Galway Cycling Campaign, argues that "our public space is designed for single-occupancy vehicles, not for elderly people wanting to keep mobile, or people using wheelchairs or parents with buggies walking to the shops or pharmacy. The huge interest in cycling that is being witnessed everywhere is because people feel safe when traffic is reduced".
These are concerns shared by cyclists and pedestrians nationwide. In response, local authorities and town planners across the country are considering measures to address these needs and ambitious schemes to reduce car use are under way in many urban centres.
This shift away from car usage in cities, may however, be short-lived as lower than normal congestion, coupled with a wariness of prolonged interactions with strangers, is likely to entice people back into their cars.
This is obviously bad news for the Government's commitment to substantially cut emissions. But more crucially, it is the negative impact it will have on the quality of our air, at a time when we know that improving air quality is vital, particularly in cities, due to the respiratory issues associated with Covid-19.
We have a rare opportunity to transform our cities and public spaces. To achieve this we need to be ambitious and reallocate street space from cars to cycling and walking.
Spending policy by the Government will need to support and encourage this transition but it is worth remembering that the inadequacy of cycling facilities around the country is due more to a lack of political will and opposition from vested interest groups than a lack of funding.
As cities try to reopen safely, cycling must be made a viable transport option. E-bikes and e-scooters must also be part of the solution, so legal clarity around the status of e-scooters is needed urgently.
Re-imagining the space in our cities will also bring valuable benefits that go beyond mobility and could prove a much-needed stimulus to economic activity particularly for bars, cafes and restaurants. Al fresco dining venues could minimise the risk of infection, allowing customers to return safely and provide much-needed support to our hard-hit hospitality sector.
The weeks of lockdown, especially being confined within a 2km radius from our homes, reminded us just how important our public spaces are. We have a rare chance now to repurpose this space and use this time to rebuild and refocus. To simply return to our pre-Covid cities and urban centres would be to squander this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.