There’s only one thing dominating public discussion these days and that’s COVID-19. With concerns about the spread of the virus it’s already having an impact on if and how people travel as well as the city at large with the streets feeling much emptier than usual, especially for this time of the year. I can only imagine they’ll get emptier as more and more people and businesses (that can) start working from home.

Somewhat understandably it has led to questions about the use of public transport. The Mayor Phil Goff and Auckland Transport put out a statement yesterday about how they’re taking proactive steps to keep PT safe. They’ve also set up a page on their website that they’ll keep up to date.

As COVID-19 continues to spread around the world, we understand this can be a confusing time for Aucklanders and misinformation can quickly spread.

At this stage, no confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 have been linked to the use of public transport and the Ministry of Health has made it clear that there are no issues with people using buses, trains and ferries.

One of the steps they’ve taken is to install hand sanitiser stands at a number of major bus and train stations as well as ferry terminals. These are:

  1. Albany Busway Station.
  2. Constellation Busway Station.
  3. Smales Farm Busway Station.
  4. Akoranga Busway Station.
  5. Britomart Train Station.
  6. Downtown Ferry Terminal.
  7. Devonport Ferry Terminal.
  8. Panmure Bus and Train Station.
  9. Newmarket Train Station.
  10. New Lynn Bus and Train Station.
  11. Henderson Train Station.
  12. Waiheke (Matiatia) Ferry Terminal.
  13. Otahuhu Train Station.
  14. Manukau Bus Station.

Here’s the Smales Farm one yesterday.

While AT are saying it is safe to keep using PT, and I’ve definitely still had some busy trains and buses, other services are a bit quieter.

However patronage is lower than expected in what is usually the busiest month of the year, with over-65s using electronic ATHOP cards travelling less.

Goff said there was also “some scaling down particularly among university students” which he partly attributed to up to 4000 Chinese students unable to come to Auckland due to travel bans.

Auckland Transport has not released daily patronage figures for March, but said tertiary student trips were 12 per cent lower, with March “levelling off”.

This could end up being the quietest March we’ve seen in years and the rest of the year is probably heading for a similar fate as we start to see more widespread impacts to the economy. That will also likely raise issues with just how we afford public transport long term given over 40% of the costs of running it comes from fares. Human Transit author Jarrett Walker has written about this issue, noting:

This is a good time to remind ourselves, and our favorite journalists, that ridership is always volatile and heavily driven by factors outside an agency’s control. There are many things transit agencies can work on to improve ridership, but (a) those things together amount to a minority of the total forces governing ridership and (b) ridership isn’t the sole metric of success for transit agencies, and sometimes not even a predominant one.

However, transit agencies can do things that will cause ridership to fall further and stay down longer: They can cut service, as they will be tempted to do now.

It’s not hard to see the dangers:

  • Declining fare revenue, due to lower ridership.
  • Declining tax revenue, due to economic slowdown.

So what should transit agencies do if they start to run out of money? Cut service? If so, how?

First, let’s distinguish between service and capacity. If revenue falls, many urban transit agencies can trim rush hour capacity without affecting customer mobility very much. If you’re running a commuter bus every 7 minutes at rush hour, cut that to 10 or 12 or whatever the loads support. Because peak commuters mostly plan around the schedule, the impact on travel time is trivial, but you’ll save something. Peak-only service is very expensive, so you can save a lot by trimming that. What’s more, preliminary numbers I’ve seen show commute ridership falling much more steeply than all-day local ridership, which suggests that the peak should bear the brunt of any temporary service cuts.

By contrast, when you start cutting all-day and all-week service, by reducing frequencies, you start to dramatically reduce the usefulness of network, and this is the most efficient way to drive riders away. You also trigger social justice impacts, because lower income riders tend to be all-day, evening, and weekend riders, not just peak riders.

Remember, the riders you drive away due to service cuts will stay gone until the service improves again, while those who are just working from home will come back post-crisis if the service is still there.

Auckland Transport currently run a lot of peak service, particularly on the likes of the Northern busway and so scaling that back a little would be preferable to cutting off-peak services. This is from a few years ago but highlights the difference in the number of peak vs off peak buses.

With roads increasingly quiet and economic disruption starting to be seen, I also wonder what impact this is going to have on other areas we often talk about. For example, we should hopefully see a reduction in the number of deaths on our roads fewer vehicles on the roads that should also see a reduction in emissions. This is something that’s already been seen in China with this article from Forbes suggesting that already the reduction in factory and vehicle generated air pollution in China has potentially saved as many as 77,000 lives.

But people will ultimately still need to get around so perhaps this becomes a perfect time for the likes of AT to roll some quick win cycleway and safety projects. That would enable more people to get around safely while a reduction in crashes can help reduce the load on the medical system.

I don’t particularly want to speculate on what the long term implications of this are, if any so in the meantime, make sure you’re following the advice of health professionals.

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  1. Well whats the alternative to using PT for some anyway? My wife doesn’t drive, and has had a serious brain injury from cycling, plus her new job is a bit tedious to cycle to (Henderson to Penrose). She doesn’t have a drivers licence. So she pretty much must use PT – unless there is safer cycling options…

    I think we should get on with closing off lanes for bikes like they have done overseas already in response to the pandemic, so if PT no longer is an option, at least people can cycle around the city safely. Especially those who cant (or are not allowed to) drive, which is a large chunk of the population.

    1. Yes agree on all that. I’ve been cycling much more where I would’ve used the bus, partly because it makes sense to be as healthy as possible going into winter.

      Having masks available would reduce the risk substantially. I hope in the $12 billion announcement, somewhere, there’s money for paying local manufacturers to start/increase production of these sorts of items.

      I’m looking forward to seeing a health authority approved design for a fabric mask that’s machine washable, so you could use a dozen or so a day, which could at least contains the wearer’s infectious droplets.

      1. Jeez, careful Peter & Heidi, you’re almost describing an actual viable response to a climate change emergency;)
        There are so many “it’s too hard” responses to climate change when times are apparently good.
        Covid-19 is going to be hard. Thousands will likely lose their lives in NZ, even more will lose their livelihoods, but of course even then it can’t hold a candle to the carnage climate change will bring our great great great grandchildren.
        The epidemic might just show us the hard way what can be done, and show us our responsibilities on personal & community levels to those who do it really tough. Here’s hoping it will do way more good than harm in the long term.

      2. Having masks available would actually do very little to reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19, as the only suitable mask is an N95 ventilator mask – These are quite a physiological burden to use, which results in people not wearing them correctly or choosing to wear masks that are ineffective.

        Additional to that, masks have the unintended consequence of making people more prone to touching their face, or the front of the mask.

        That’s not to say that masks are of zero value… If you’re sick, definitely wear a mask even if only a PM2.5 or surgical mask. It’ll stop your germs from spreading.

        1. “Having masks available would actually do very little to reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19”
          From what I’ve seen from the reliable sources: That’s correct.
          COVID-19 is not airborne. A face mask might protect you from someone’s infected sneeze, although it’s likely to still get in your eyes or on your face to then be transferred to an orifice by the sweat wearing a mask can generate anyway. And the virus could then stay on your mask to then get transferred to your hand when you taker it off. The best reason for wearing a mask is if you’ve tested positive for the virus yourself.

          Better to leave the masks for the nurses and prevent them from experiencing a shortage.

  2. A lot of commentary at the moment is about the immediate effects of the coronavirus. Not many people are yet discussing how the government should respond to the world wide recession that follows. GA should start thinking about that and offer some ideas.

    Some of the common responses to downturns include the Reserve Bank lowering interest rates and the Government starting big infrastructure projects. Well now interest rates can’t go much lower so it’ll be unconventional monetary policy from here on. On the fiscal policy front civil construction projects can’t be brought forward because the industry is already stretched to capacity. If residential construction activity slows down then it’d be a great time for the government to step in and underwrite some high density housing, but that hasn’t worked so well for Kiwibuild…

    1. Yes. This is a practice run for the shocks we’re going to see from climate change, too. We need a plan for a circular, sustainable economy.

      I suspect that in hindsight, when shocks are dime a dozen, business bailouts that don’t come with strings of commitment to pollution reduction will be seen as frivolous.

      There’s investment that pays back, like cycling infrastructure. There are relief packages that keep society working. And then there are bailouts that enable businesses to continue with climate worsening BAU practices that shouldn’t continue. Be good if the government honoured the future generations that will pay off any money borrowed for these relief packages by ensuring the money is tied to improvements towards a circular economy and climate mitigation.

  3. I was using park and ride and the Northern Busway to get to meetings. Three weeks ago I went back to driving. Last week I quit going to meetings at all and I phone in instead. It is better if we leave PT for those who have to be on it.

      1. Mrs mfwic has pointed out there seems to be fewer meetings. Mostly it is now phone conversations with two or three others and more group emails. I do struggle with large meetings by phone as you miss bits when the conversations break into many groups. In a room you just focus on what is relevant but by phone it becomes a confused noise. If the meeting is well run it is fine. The advantage I have is my work is usually one agenda item so I am an observer for the rest and ‘on’ for my bit.
        I have worked from home for over 20 years. I seems to me the main impediment to the growth of working from home has always been middle managers. They hate it as if everyone did it there might be less need for them.

        1. Yes, I find the same:) Hopefully the garbled audio/video quality will improve with better technology, and we’ll get better engagement of those on the screen/ speaker as it becomes more normal.
          One of the highlights of cycling to work is then cycling to meetings and getting a park outside the door:) I’d love to know how much time & money it’s saved overall

        2. Yes JohnB the tech should be improved. The real downside of not attending is you don’t get to make the same connections with new people. Every one of my jobs came about because at some point someone said “I know a guy who does that sort of stuff…”

  4. The Forbes study is important.

    “Even under these more conservative assumptions, the lives saved due to the pollution reductions are roughly 20x the number of lives that have been directly lost to the virus,” Burke writes, using statistics current on March 8… “But the calculation is perhaps a useful reminder of the often-hidden health consequences of the status quo,” he writes, that is—“the substantial costs that our current way of doing things exacts on our health and livelihoods.”

    1. Yes I think you are right Heidi. The idea of living in dense cities looks suddenly far too risky. I think we have seen our last apartment building and office building being started. Places like Commercial Bay will surely grind to a halt. Who wants to live or work or shop there?

      1. The rapid implementation of well organised and well resourced public health interventions more than offsets any additional risk from high density living. South Korea had an outbreak then brought it under control. Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore have things under control. All these places have past experience with SARS, Bird Flu, MERS etc. so they know what they’re doing.

        Meanwhile the USA has predominantly lower density living but no public health system to speak of. Confirmed coronavirus cases are rising exponentially and there may be many more that aren’t being picked up due to a lack of capacity for testing.

    2. Cool, I wondered when someone would do some analysis on that.
      It’s not really surprising, ay?

      And it really should give us a monster kick in the arse, and make us question all our daily choices, and stop fecking it all up for future generations.

      1. Yes. This is just from the reduction in air pollution, too. And we should note that some of that’s from transport and some from industry.

        On the transport side, there’ll also be fewer deaths from road trauma. If that ‘monster kick in the arse’ could lead to long-term traffic reduction, the deaths prevented through increased physical activity due to the improved safety would be very significant.

        1. I will be very surprised if the current mass-work-from-home event does not lead to significantly increased working-from-home in the future. All organizations have to have the technology and social protocols in place, and everyone gets to see the productivity impact. (A boost in many cases, says research.)

      2. It may also further cut back people’s rates of smoking tobacco as well as anything including Cannabis.
        Because the reports are saying that smokers are considerably more vulnerable for COVID-19 spreading to their respiratory system.

  5. I was going to spend some of my retirement savings on world travel but I am glad I decided before Christmas not to travel this year. I am hearing that a lot of the worlds airlines will go broke before May and I would guess it will be a long slow recovery for world travel to return to its pre virus levels. Also I expect travel will be more expensive. I may have to re explore New Zealand and reacquaint myself to the charms of Whanganui and Masterton. But I will be avoiding long distance buses for the next little while. Its one thing to travel for 5 or 10 minutes on a local bus with a bottle of sanitiser but completely different if your journey is to take 5 to 10 hours. Anyway I am staying put for the next little while awaiting to see the full scope of what we face. Stay safe and wash your hands.

  6. How long are we going to be able to keep PT running, its only a matter of time before we start to see driver shortages as people that run the services start to get put in self isolation.

  7. I don’t personally like that hand sanitiser stuff. I wish there were more places to wash your hands around the suburbs.

    1. InterCity have just put out this message “Handwashing is the best way to keep yourself and others safe during your travels. Wash and dry your hands carefully after touching public surfaces, and before and after eating.” Great idea if one has good off bus facilities for this. Not the case at SkyCity depot. At the Taupo stop – which is an important interchange – the toilets are nearly 200 metres from the bus stop. And there is no basin at all in the disabled toilets. This should be a wakeup for all transport operators to improve their facilities.

  8. I would imagine all PT will be closed by the end of next week. NZ simply does not have the capacity in things like ICU beds to deal with this. And Kiwis are not obedient like they are in Asian countries.

    1. “I think we have seen our last apartment building and office building being started.”

      “I imagine all PT will be closed by the end of next week.”

      Graeme, would you mind if I set up a Covid-19 hardship fund that you put a dollar into every time you’re wrong?

  9. It’s time to shift some manufacturing back to NZ and to relocate other manufacturing away from China.

    [The remainder of the comment has been deleted by admin for violating user guidelines]

    1. Hmm. Aren’t you the same guy who’s always bringing partisan, one-eyed, support for the National party here? I seem to recall that it was under National party governments, especially the short period when one Jennifer Shipley was the (unelected) PM, that NZ was particularly opening-up trade with communist China.

      As for manufacturing; the ship of having much done in NZ has long sailed I’m afraid. Even if free trade ends with China (which I doubt); most manufacturing in NZ will still not be able to compete with that in other developing nations like India, Mexico, Indonesia, the Philippines. The wages, property values (thus rates or rents)are too high and the local markets and labour pools are too small.

      1. “Partisan, one-eyed, support for the National party”.

        Hardly. National have a lot to answer for.

        At least their last administration has proven to be more competent than this current lot.

        When it comes to China both National and Labour are guilty of seeing things through rose tinted glasses.

        They’ve both been proven wrong when it comes to thinking engagement with them would see them change their ways.

        That’s clearly failed.

    2. We’ve always had the opportunity to ‘break free’ from China, it’s just society has voted with their wallets for a number of years, making it clear that they prefer cheap goods from China over expensive goods from NZ.

      1. That’s true. Maybe now consumers will change their view as to what’s in our best interest.

        I’ve certainly made more effort over recent years to support local manufacturers.

        I hope other people will do the same.

        1. Turns out there is a coffee growing place up north and atea plantation in the Waikato. There is definately scope for more localised trade.

        2. And bananas are easy to grow, and so much tastier than the imported ones.

          I’m with you on supporting local manufacturers, Vance.

        3. @Luke & Heidi:
          Agricultural Commodities like Coffee and Banana’s aren’t manufactured goods. You can’t wear coffee nor bananas on your body and you can’t plug coffee nor bananas into your wall socket.

          In any case; while it maybe possible to crow those crops in some places in NZ: Overall the climate is far from ideal for it and NZ growers of those crops will always struggle to compete for any meaningful share of the NZ market with crops imported from better suited and lower-cost tropical countries like Ecuador or Colombia.

        4. I agree. Greater local manufactured product would be good. Ironically NZ did have this pre-1984 which former Prime Minister Sir Robert Muldoon tried to protect. The open consumer driven free-market we see today which came about with neo-liberal Labour and National governments in the years since, is the ‘price’ we now have to pay.

          It is difficult to find products which don’t have ‘Made in China’ on them. The current Coronavirus pandemic and the effect on China and the world economy, shows just how vulnerable both we and many other countries, have made ourselves.

          Hopefully with the massive reduction in air travel available now, this will now have New Zealanders looking to holiday here in NZ and spend more here, helping to stimulate the local economy – especially with petrol prices now being so low.

        5. @Brian.
          You’re looking through the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia.
          I guarantee that if you were hypothetically given a time machine to live in Muldoon’s NZ; you wouldn’t like it for long. Yes; people’s futures were generally more certain. But for the most part it wasn’t a nice place. Living standards were lower and imported goods like appliances, clothing, automobiles, etc. were an awful lot more expensive. If you lament NZ being bland, boring, inward-looking & narrow-minded now; it was far, far worse back then. And the Muldoon era was also one of societal suspicion, intolerance and division.

          But most importantly: It was utterly economically unsustainable. It was a continuation of an inherited system that relied upon very generous terms of trade with the UK, which the UK couldn’t itself sustain and inevitably abandoned before Muldoon had waddled into office. It was extremely inefficient and often saw people getting paid for low production (in some cases NOTHING) and/or getting paid for low quality work. A country simply can’t maintain a good macroeconomy with low productivity, previously it was being underwritten by the British (whose economy stagnated for us) but after 1973 the chickens were coming home.

          As much as you might hate what Roger Douglas did and how he went about it: It can’t be denied that things had to change. If he had done nothing: NZ’s economy would’ve collapsed twice as hard in the ’80s. NZ could’ve well become a failed state.

        6. @ Luke – Regarding coffee… I really like what comes out of PNG and also Yunnan, China. The diversity of the ground chemistry is something that can’t be replicated here.

        7. Jon – Lol. Gotta get your priorities right. The taste of plums differs greatly according to the soil they’re grown in, too.

          But have you tried NZ coffee? 🙂 I was surprised to discover that I really really like my home made dandelion coffee. I just get too lazy to make it.

          But really, supporting local manufacturing and produce isn’t about the things that are fringe for our climate – it’s probably better to keep importing them from developing countries, and pay them fairly. It’s about supporting local manufacturers and producers who use sustainable practices for the bulk of our purchases. In farming, it’s so that there’s less transmittal of pests and diseases into New Zealand. For both produce and manufacturing, it’s so there’s less carbon wasted in transport, and so we’re more resilient in a crisis.

    3. Vance – COVID-19 is a glimpse to what is to come as the planet continues to warms. Its time for everybody to take of their ‘here and now’ tinted glasses in regards to planet warming and start adapting to the effects of planet warming.

      As an island nation, we need to stay planning to be become more self sufficient in manufacturing and food production by rebuilding our national domestic economy if there events that global manufacturing, supply chains, travel and economies are disrupted by unpredictable weather patterns and planet warming related health issues.

      If COVID-19 being a moderate man induced pandemic, can disrupt global manufacturing, supply chains, air travel and up set global financial markets, what happens when you add the disruptive affects of planet warming, especially if a planet warming induced viral pandemic happens. As the world’s permafrost regions increase their melt rate, releasing methane and other gaseous emissions, nasty virus like pathogens, that have been lay dormant for thousands of years will also be released.

  10. Based on what is government’s overseas have needed to do to control COVID-19, our response is far inadequate.

    I strongly support public transport, but urge people that now is the time for social distancing.

    If you need to take public transport to get to work, or to get essential supplies so be it, but for those who have a car sitting in the driveway, or a bike in the shed, please use them instead. Not only for yourself, but to reduce passenger density for those who have no choice.

    Every should also start planning for the situation where all public transport is shutdown (excl where there is very limited alternatives like the gulf islands, and travel between the north and south island). This could happen in a couple of weeks.

    1. Scott, the fewer victims of road trauma presenting to the medical system, the better.

      Those who have a car sitting in the driveway and who usually use PT should leave the car sitting in the driveway. Healthy choices are to work at home, to travel offpeak so there’s less crowding and more distance on PT, to wear masks, or to walk or cycle.

      Your advice – to use the car – is not good. It will increase vehicle travel. And as I posted in Reducing Traffic, increased travel is associated with increased deaths and serious injury. That’s the last thing the hospitals need.

      We should go further, and finally implement, as default, the speed limits that are recommended by the ITF, Vision Zero, Austroads and now we have committed to in the Stockholm Declaration. This will lower the death and serious injury rate.

      Doing so will also enable many more people to cycle, meaning they won’t have to drive or take PT.

      Challenges can be turned into opportunities, and this is such an example. We need to free up hospital beds; the country understands the urgency. So the political difficulty of doing what we need to do anyway is eliminated, and the public get to experience the benefits of lower speeds.

      1. Heidi, While in the long term some of these ideas have merit. But this is not a time be be opportunistic and push though policies that were signed up for with no doubt little consideration to the fine print of what was agreed.
        I think an increase in people driving to work will have little affect on DSI if any. In reality there would be a bigger increase in DSI if everyone cycled vs jumped in the car (yes there would be better long term health outcomes) but I’m talking about the short term.

        1. Don’t call me opportunistic, Stu. The dictionary says, “Opportunists are people who see a chance to gain some advantage from a situation, often at the expense of ethics or morals. An opportunist seizes every opportunity to improve things for himself.”

          I have no lack of ethics or morals. And I am campaigning on behalf of the vulnerable, not myself. It takes a lot of hard work, and there is nothing in it for me personally, bar heartache and an unwelcome realisation of other people’s immorality.

          So I resent the use of the term, and I’d appreciate an apology.

          The people who have been opportunistic are the incumbent industries and their complicit media who have used the opportunity of ignorant NIMBY’s, amplifying those voices over the voice of reason and evidence, in resisting the implementation of cycling infrastructure and safer speeds.

          AT, Council and Government’s fear of this tendency of the media has allowed irrational extremists from preventing basic improvements to our network. And yes, it is extremist to protest to retain a substandard and inequitable system that’s unsafe, unhealthy, and contributing to the demise of the climate.

          What we need to do is clear. It’s well known that countries will implement more caring, people-focused policy after crises that affect them all. To take the opportunity to do so now is the right thing to do.

          We can always consult about it later. And for once, the consultation will be fair, because people will have experienced two systems, and know what they’re being asked about.

          To resist it, and allow the opportunity to pass on the basis that it wouldn’t be fair somehow – is denying children a shot at safe and healthy streets. I cannot forgive that.

        2. Heidi. I certainly never meant to accuse you of anything regarding your morals or ethics. You have always shown the highest of morals and ethics and of course caring for others as shown by your posts. So I apologise for the wrong word used.
          All I meant is now is not the opportunity to push through agendas which may help in the long term (e.g. for climate change) but are irrelevant to dealing with the current situation.

      2. “Your advice – to use the car – is not good. It will increase vehicle travel. And as I posted in Reducing Traffic, increased travel is associated with increased deaths and serious injury.”

        As seen today, there is, and likely will continue to be a steep reduction in Traffic, mainly driven by more working from home, but also from less social activities etc. This mean we will likely improvement in the metric’s you are concerned about. Also, the general reduction in travel will mean there is less congestion, so the normal congestion relief aspects of PT are not as important.

        Personally I feel your concern about the impact of traffic crashes on hospital loads, is overblown. In NZ 76% of road fatalities are from rural roads. I assume that serious injuries mirror this trend. Most people changing from PT to driving will be in urban areas, so harm is compliantly low.

        I feel the risk of increased social interaction via PT use in a pandemic exceed the risk harm of traveling by car.

        Your comment about wearing masks, ignores that our own government isn’t recommending masks be worn be the general healthy public, and that masks are extremely hard to come by.

        I think you are very optimistic that transport changes can piggy back on a public health emergency. Our officials are occupied by the emergency, and lower hanging fruit. For example a Ban on extreme and contact sport would be easier to implement to reduce hospital load.

        1. You could be right that the traffic volumes are so low that traffic crash hospitalisations will really lighten the load. That would be fantastic. I guess it will be a constantly changing situation.

          Some cities are rolling out instant healthy transport infrastructure as a response to Covid 19. Bogota, for instance: It probably comes down to whether the transport authorities are minded to do so, and nimble enough. It would be nice to think our transport authorities are minded, and nimble enough, to provide us with these healthy and safe transport options. Can a leopard change its spots?

          I suspect our Ministry of Health isn’t recommending masks because they’re not available. Manufacturing them is something they should organise. Meanwhile, this is interesting:

        2. Scott – it would be pretty sensible as an emergency measure to make it easier to use a bike at the moment. There has been an explosion in bike use in a number of other cities.

          I agree at some point we will probably have to limit or shut down PT to reduce the spread of the virus.

  11. Certainly noticed traffic has been lighter the last couple of days. Of course that compares to the heavy traffic we were seeing late Feb / early March. I expected worse traffic as people revert from buses to cars. If PT were to stop, then AT should open bus lanes etc back to traffic.
    The Forbes report is interesting. One thing I think it missed pointing out is that it is the same 77,000 people “saved” that are most at risk by Covid-19. Yes the pandemic will do at lot to reduce emissions in the short term through stopped travel and trade and sadly maybe in the long term with population decrease.

  12. It will be interesting to see if AT / Transdev actually do start cleaning the trains better than what they currently do. Some of the trains I have been in recently are disgusting with big brown stains on the seats and all over the floors. The walls and windows also don’t look like they get wiped with all the sticky marks on the windows and splatter down the walls. On hot days some of the carriages really stink like stale vomit / urine / sweat. Dread to think what is living in the seat fabric and carpets..

  13. Petrol prices have also dropped below the psychological $2 barrier, makes car usage more appealing to many.

  14. The huge upheaval and disruption to normal every day life as a result of the Coronavirus epidemic could actual be a catalyst for a lot of good and just what has needed to happen to bring about much needed big changes, such as meaningful action for climate change. Rather than just the usual talk about change and carry on with business as usual, this once in a generation event could actually show how we could be doing things differently or better, e.g. working from home, which could help address traffic congestion problems.

    However this Cornavirus shows the downside to having more people using public transport with the much higher risk of catching illnesses in a confined and/or dirty environment.

    It also potentially shows the downsides to moves towards intensified living, with having more people living much closer to each other. Many new housing developments have houses crammed so closely together in such narrow streets, that self isolating from others will be a difficult task. An infected person could sneeze, and with the neighbouring house being either attached or within hand shaking distance, viruses and disease could easily spread.

    I always remember my Grandfather saying years ago that cramming lots of people into a confined space is not a good idea for the risks it brings, particularly if the area becomes a slum, with the risk of spread of disease, vermin, fire (think recent Australian bush fires), as well as noise and pollution.

    This is one of the reasons why the suburbs evolved and developed into bigger sections with stand alone houses, from the crammed Victorian era housing. We seem to have gone full circle. Yes, not everyone wants or needs land around them, especially a quarter acre which takes an hour to mow the lawn. But not everyone wants to be crammed into tiny houses with no land around them with no privacy or peace and quiet, in tiny narrow streets with cars parked all over the oversized footpaths.

    I still strongly believe much greater action and incentives need to be made by the Government to encourage more people to live in regional areas rather than having more and more of the population trying to move into overcrowded, overpriced and congested cities like Auckland, Wellington and Tauranga. All the Government departments, agencies, SOEs should be required to relocate to regional cities or towns. Would a centrally located town like Taupo be a better place for Auckland University – cheaper land and housing and lots of outdoors activities as well as plenty of bars and cafes.

    Huntly could have more jobs created with a project like converting the existing power station into a modern waste to energy plant and developing a large recycling centre as well. Huntly is close to Auckland and the existing transmission lines and road and rail infrastructure is there, with plenty of potential to improve the cheap housing stock with a large employer were to be established to replace the former coal mining and other former state sector jobs.

    The big upheaval and changes in the weeks and months ahead will be interesting and perhaps an opportunity to really start making some big changes to way our society functions moving forward.

    1. More people attend Auckland Uni than live in Taupo, not to mention all the staff. You would instantly create a housing crisis in Taupo bigger than anything we currently have in our main cities.

      1. Well obviously if the university were to be moved there, a lot more houses would be built to service it. There is a massive amount of greenspace land around Taupo which is far cheaper than land in Auckland. The the university just recently spent $5 million on a new house for the vice-chancellor:

        The university constantly bemoans a lack of funding, yet spends this sort of money on one house. Meanwhile the cost of living in Auckland is horrendous for students (and many other people).

        It will be interesting to see how viable the university remains without the income it derives from foreign students which are being kept away due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

        1. It may be expensive for tertiary students to live in Auckland. But it’s also a much bigger market for part-time work to meet those expenses and it has a much higher supply of rental accommodation. Plus; it’s a lot easier for students living in Auckland to make those important social connections for life & career post-graduation.

          Life is a lot easier for students attending Massey in Palmerston North than students who attend Auckland (and don’t live with their parents). But compare how well prepared for adult life graduates from the two universities are.

        2. The greenfields land around Taupo wouldn’t be cheap if you zoned it all for housing, which you would need to do to house 40,000 extra residents.

          Auckland is likewise surrounded by cheap land… its cheap because you can’t build houses on it by law. If you change the laws so that you can, it won’t be cheap.

          And by the way, self isolation means avoiding ” face-to-face contact closer than 2 metres for more than 15 minutes”. It’s a virus, not miasma!

        3. Many students at Auckland Uni live at home with their parents, their cost of living would go up if it were moved to Taupo.

          Incendentally, where would you locate the marine sciences departments? Taupo isn’t particularly useful for anything to do with the ocean.

      2. All you’re suggesting, Brian, is our shifting a failed urban model to another area. We can do better than that, for people everywhere.

        We need sustainable development, both regional and urban. People wanting a small town or small city lifestyle should have opportunities available to them – cycling and walking should be the main form of transport in smaller places, but unfortunately car domination is the norm.

        The compact city strategy is encouraged by climate, equity and public health authorities, Brian. The utopia of suburbia, with its fresh air and space, has unfortunately come with car dependency, far higher paved areas and emissions per capita.

        For public health, we need active travel.

        And in terms of Covid, see Logarithmic Bear’s comment above. The countries that have shown the most competency to deal with the situation are the ones with high density living. It is not a barrier to good public health.

        1. I agree with you. Sustainable environmental friendly urban and transport planning around public transport, walking and cycling in regional centres needs to happen as the planet warms. By doing this, builds localized small to medium businesses employing local workers and builds localized economies that can adopt to natural disaster or health emergency.

    2. I may be proven wrong: But I doubt this Pandemic will be such a shock to the system.

      It will be a setback for the economy but think for the most part: it will be back to normal in about 5 years time. The Spanish ‘Flu didn’t prevent the roaring ’20s.

    3. Brian, your description of being “crammed into tiny houses with no land around them with no privacy or peace and quiet, in tiny narrow streets with cars parked all over the oversized footpaths” is not the experience of those who live in good compact developments. In fact it’s quite the opposite, with high quality shared outdoor spaces and privacy being key design aspects, and eliminating reliance on cars.
      Are you suggesting that closing Auckland University would result in the betterment of the city? Or that investing a a few billion on its replacement in Taupo is a sensible investment? Have you got any equivalent examples or rationale to back that up?

    4. There are going to be more viral related global pandemics as the planet warms. COVID-19 pandemic, whilst man induced, coupled with disruptive unpredictable weather patterns, is a glimpse to what it will be like as the planet warms.

  15. What i’m really terrified of is that this will have a long term negative impact on people’s view of PT.

      1. I think they’ve got more on their mind that PT patronage and they will have for some time to come.

        1. Well, hey. We’ve got a bigger crisis than Covid to worry about, Christopher. One they’ve let slide into DANGER ZONE…

          Gee if you want a government capable of fighting one fire at a time only, with no long term understanding of how each crisis impacts on the next, you don’t have high enough standards.

          I think the bloke next door can do that. What I expect of our government is something a little bit more sophisticated.

    1. Good point, I’d bet this is now the end of Light Rail for Auckland. Simon Bridges on news last night saying that to stimulate economy major road building projects should get underway. I have bad feeling that we will be seeing the East West link construction starting soon 🙁

  16. My grandfather was 12 when the Spanish flu hit at the end of WWI. He went to a school in Beresford Street that was demolished years later to build the central motorway. When the flu hit a jeweller in Queen Street organised food for households where everyone was ill and my grandfather was one of the many volunteers who delivered the food to people’s front porches. He told me that one night just after 5pm he was walking along Karangahape Road going to their home in Grafton Road when he realised he was the only person on all of Karangahape Road. As Heidi said follow the advice of the experts and look out for your neighbours.

    1. If the time and cost of commute to work coming down a bit defines whether it’s a great time to be alive or not then I guess you are right.

  17. Interesting post and comments. One thing is we should see less normal colds and flu & other sicknesses this winter as a result of isolation and increased hygiene practices. Perhaps this will continue with people washing hands better, seems quite bad,; you notice people not washing hands after going to the loo.

  18. Question: if buses (and private cars) over the bridge reduce significantly, d’ya think that they might do a temporary lane closure to vehicles so we can walk and ride bikes to work between city and shore? I’ll still be week on/week off in the city, but if I could avoid bus, I’d rather. PErhaps use those buses sitting idle as temp safety barriers, like they did for bridge rides?

  19. As a data point, my work now tells me I am not allowed to PT for social safety of the office team. I’m calling this a bit alarmist, for the moment, but perhaps better safe than sorry.

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