As COVID-19 continues to spread both locally and internationally, on Saturday the Prime Minister introduced a new four-level alert system. Each new stage gets progressively stricter in what measures will be taken,
In announcing the system, the PM also announced we’ve moved to Level 2. One of the measures included in there is:
- physical distancing on public transport (e.g. stay at least one metre away from other passengers and leave the seat next to you empty if you can)
In more detail it mentions
Changing how we get around
We are asking everyone to limit your movement around the country to help us help us track and contain any spread of COVID-19. This means cutting non-essential domestic travel.
On public transport, including domestic flights, keep as much space between you and others as possible. Try to stay at least one metre away from other passengers, and leave the seat next to you empty if you can. Where possible, sit in a window seat in a row by yourself.
The number of people using public transport has already noticeably dropped, particularly as many workplaces that can have already started getting people to work from home and I we’ll almost certainly that trend accelerate in the coming weeks as more follow, as well as other institutions like universities.
The reduction in usage will mean there are less passenger fares coming in to help pay for services but I think now the need now for more physical separation makes it even more important that Auckland Transport (and other regions) don’t slash PT services to save money. We’ll need those extra services to provide enough space for people.
- Buses will not accept cash fares
- You can get a free HOP card from one of AT’s service centres.
Over the weekend they added another measure to the list, saying from Tuesday, passengers will be required to use the rear door for boarding and alighting.
What I find interesting about these measures is they’re all things that would benefit both passengers and bus operations even if we weren’t in this crisis – well for the boarding, allowing all door boarding.
Given they’re focused on keeping staff safe, I hope they’re also looking at changing how trains are operated with train managers. It’s surely not ideal now to have them walking up and down the isle of the train and operating the doors. Ideally we wouldn’t have train managers but if we are keeping them on trains then they should the same procedures as happens in most cities overseas. That means they’re in the drivers cab at the rear of the train and they signal to the driver that the doors are clear from there. This has the added advantage of closing all passenger doors at the same time thereby speeding up our horrendously slow dwell times a bit.
They should also have the driver open all doors on all services so passengers don’t need to push the button. This currently happens on peak services but often not on off-peak ones.
In addition to the changes above, AT are also recommending that people use auto top-up (or I guess top-up online) so that you don’t need to use the top-up machines.
For those in Wellington, here is Metlink’s information. Like AT they’re removing cash sales – although from trains too given that’s still a manual system. To encourage train users to switch to buying tickets using eftpos before their journey they’re also offering monthly passes half price however the note
“Ten-trip and single tickets will also continue to be sold but we will ask customers to cross off each trip themselves under an honesty policy.
I have seen some suggestions that PT should close completely. I’m sure that’s what will happen in some of the higher levels of the alert system but until we get to them it pays to remember that many people simply won’t be able to work from home and until those higher levels restrict working further, people still need to get to their jobs. Equally, many people might not be able to use other forms of transport.
Of course, for as many as can we should be encouraging people to use bikes. AT need to quickly implement a pop-up bike network, perhaps even going as far as Philadelphia has and closing some streets to encourage it.
— Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia (@bcgp) March 21, 2020
I also wonder if they should be making walking easier by removing the need to push beg buttons at intersections. Ideally this would be by making the pedestrian crossing phase a permanent part of the traffic light cycle. And it is again another thing that should remain once this crisis is over.
For those of you that are working at home still
Experts recommend keeping your daily rituals even while working from home. pic.twitter.com/ktHuEaXMLT
— Tomáš Bella (@kvasinka) March 16, 2020