Relocating is already a challenge, but relocating during a pandemic adds a new level of difficulty. After years of surveying based in AIRINC’s Cambridge office, I was honored to accept a position at our Hong Kong branch late last year. From the beginning, I was excited to move to a vibrant global city, but the logistics proved more challenging than expected as a novel coronavirus (at the time still unnamed) spread in January. Even before being declared a pandemic, COVID-19 was having a broad and unpredictable impact across the globe.
During a recent survey quarter, I had the pleasure of surveying Athens, Greece. While I was on-site, I encountered several protests and demonstrations, which allowed me to really feel like an assignee, navigating the change of social disruption.
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Western rideshare apps have struggled in Turkey. Protests by taxi drivers and government opposition have left these ridesharing companies in a state of uncertainty over the last year. On my recent trip to Ankara and Istanbul, I experienced this firsthand. In Ankara, I tried to use a popular local rideshare app but gave up because it was only available in Turkish despite claims that they support English-speaking users. Apart from the local rideshare app, there was no other rideshare presence in Ankara, and I was entirely reliant on local taxis.
The Bandra Kurla Complex in Mumbai, referred to by many as BKC, has continued to develop and is fast becoming the new business and residential heart of Mumbai. Originally intended to serve as an alternate business district to help decongest south Mumbai, commercial office stock has increased at phenomenal rates in the past five years. BKC now houses India’s Stock Exchange and the Indian headquarters of many large multinational companies.
Mumbai has long been known as a city with high levels of air pollution from the choking congestion and horrendous traffic conditions. During my recent survey, I confirmed that this reputation has yet to change! The construction of the elevated lines of the Mumbai Metro project continues to aggravate traffic problems along SV Road in the expat areas of Bandra, Santa Cruz, and Khar. Additionally, rush-hour gridlock in Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) is being impacted by the work on the BKC Metro station project where there will be a new Metro Line 3 and 2B interchange.
On my last survey, a five-week trip across Africa, I visited Lagos, Nigeria and Cairo, Egypt, two of the most notorious traffic destinations in the world. These locations lived up to their hype, and I spent a lot of time sitting in traffic. However, I was surprised to find that Nairobi, Kenya’s traffic was almost as bad despite lacking the same level of notoriety. Nairobi’s three main issues are a shortage of stop signs and traffic lights at intersections, poor road quality, and incredible amounts of construction that disrupt traffic routes.
During my survey of Bangkok, I found the multiple transportation systems available for use extremely helpful, especially in comparison to other Southeast Asian cities. In Yangon, Hanoi, and Ho Chi Minh City, I was entirely dependent on taxis and rideshare apps, as there are no functioning rail systems, the buses are difficult for foreigners to use, and the cities are not particularly pedestrian friendly. Conversely, in Bangkok, I used a much more balanced mix of rideshare, metro (MRT), Skytrain (BTS), and walking.
Despite the availability of options, public transportation in Casablanca feels prohibitive. The bus system is not really an option for expats or visitors as the vehicles are old and falling apart. The tram is modern, but stops are limited, and it doesn’t connect with major malls, hotels, or restaurants.
In Cairo, expatriates typically use a driver rather than relying on public transportation options. During my August survey I found that, even though taxis have meters, drivers are frustratingly unwilling to use them when driving expats.