As of 11.59pm last night New Zealand entered “Level 4” of the alert system that guides our response to the Covid-19 virus. This means we are now formally in “lockdown mode” and you must not travel, unless you work in an essential service or you are accessing an essential service.

From a transport perspective, there are some very significant impacts.

  • Construction of all new projects either has ceased or will cease very shortly. This includes construction of City Rail Link.
  • Maintenance and renewals of existing roads can continue, to maintain essential transport connections.
  • Public transport is now free across the whole of NZ and will remain so until June 30th, but should only be used by those getting to work in an essential service, or those accessing essential services like supermarkets and pharmacies.

It will be a strange next few weeks and everyone’s fingers are crossed that our lockdown is successful and New Zealand avoids the horrific scenes that have been seen in many other countries around the world.

Auckland Transport’s latest information is available here and service timetables are here. Of particular note is their advice for those who will need to use public transport in the next few weeks:

Follow these tips along with Ministry of Health guidelines to keep safe while using public transport.

  • In alignment with new national policy while at Alert Level 4, all public transport (bus, trains and ferries) contracted by AT will be free from the morning of Thursday, 26 March.
  • From 11.59pm on Wednesday, 25 March 2020 public transport services will only be available for those working in essential services, for medical reasons, to access essential services including get to the supermarket, and to move essential goods. For details on what is considered an essential service visit the COVID-19 government page.
  • You must now use the rear door to get on and off the bus. This is to help ensure everyone is kept as safe as possible by minimising the physical contact between customers and bus drivers.
  • While travel will be free people should continue to tag on and off using their AT HOP card. This will allow Auckland Transport to monitor passenger numbers and make fast adjustments to services if required due to changes in demand.
  • Essential workers may be asked, while travelling, to show who they work for. Where practical people should carry some form of identification showing who they are, who they work for, and their job (e.g. a business card, letter from their employer, or other work ID).
  • If you use a wheel chair or other mobility device, or require driver assistance, you can still use the front door.
  • If you do have to travel, please stay at least 2 metres apart from others. Look out for stickers telling you where to sit which we will be adding to services.

If you do need to use Public Transport for Essential travel, here are some useful tools:

  • Where possible, we ask that you use an AT HOP card to travel.
  • Download the AT Mobile app for the latest notifications. AT Mobile is the best way to keep up to date with alerts on disruptions and changes to services.
  • By saving your regular journeys and stops in AT Mobile, you will also receive alerts and information specific to the services and stops you use. Watch this short video on how to save stops. We need your permission to send these notifications, so please remember to turn this on when opening AT Mobile for the first time. Watch this short video on how to save stops.

Remember that you can go for a walk or bike ride outside to get fresh air – and it’s almost certainly a good idea for your wellbeing if you do so. But make damn sure you stay two metres away from anyone else and avoid touching anything that someone else may have touched (benches, handrails etc.) I hope that people perhaps reconnect with their local communities and neighbourhoods over the next while and there’s a new appreciation of how important it is to be able to easily and safely walk around.

We will keep posting fairly regularly over the next while, although there may not be a lot of transport news to report. We are also intently aware that many of the normal debates and discussions that we have on this site seem rather unimportant compared to current events. Please forgive us if we don’t always get this 100% right, we’re trying our best.

(Credit to Todd Niall for the picture at the top of this post)

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  1. Anyone walking to their essential work near the viaduct harbour please note the default setting for te wero bridge is “up”. Bridge controller job is not essential. Allow extra time to walk around.

    1. Given that the coastguard, Yachting New Zealand, and Civil Defence have all said that boating or sailing are really, really stupid ideas, why is the default setting up? Surely the default should be down?

      Also, transport network maintenance and operations are essential work. Is the bridge not transport because it only allows walking and cycling?

      1. Yes, seems nutty, doesn’t it? I guess in absolute terms pedestrians and cyclists have an alternative route. Boats… erm… not so easy…

  2. I can anticipate the April-20 ridership post:

    Number of people taking the train: 0
    Cycling: 0
    Buses: 0
    Other: 2

    You can all thank me later.

      1. Yes and I believe they say it takes 2 weeks to form a habit. We might see a continuing growth of walking and bike riding as people take it up now and find it is actually a wonderful thing to do.

  3. I’m worried about people at risk of domestic violence or neglect. I know social workers are still working. Thanks, guys!

    I’m just wondering if someone could make a link with transport? For example, a child or teenager who normally slips away to a friend’s place when stepfather starts drinking won’t have that option now. The best hideout might be auntie’s place, which could be too far away to walk.

    It would be nice if the transport messaging could include this:

    “From 11.59pm on Wednesday, 25 March 2020 public transport services will be available for those working in essential services, medical reasons, to access essential services including get to the supermarket, to move essential goods and for those escaping any situation of risk, such as potential domestic violence. For details on what is considered an essential service visit the COVID-19 government page.”

    The person at risk might not read it – but their friend’s parent may have, the people passing the bus stop who might otherwise tell the child off may have, and the bus driver should have.

    1. Heidi, I suggest contacting the Covid website to suggest this. The guidance seems to be a work in progress that evolves every day.

    2. Agree. Some people really find it harder than others to be cooped up and they don’t perhaps change to going for walks or have a bicycle.

        1. I’m not sure denying access to an addictive substance would be guaranteed to reduce violence.

        2. No, I’m not sure either. Denying access to it might lead to violence but so does alcohol availability. They’ll have research on which one has the bigger effect and which one could be more easily dealt with another way. I just imagine in the past the options have been limited by the need to keep freedoms for the whole population, whereas this situation we’re in requires attention to the most vulnerable rather than attention to our freedoms.

        3. Will be interesting data from this perhaps as wine and beer can be sold in supermarkets. Compare to the trust areas that would have liquor stores (more local access) with spirits, RTD’s & such that perhaps can be more of a youth drink available too (though have the 1 in 1 out may slow this a bit.

        4. You can also buy online from the likes of Glengarry. O expect lots of small liquor shops to set up delivery now….
          Probably should have limited to Supermarkets. Certainly shouldn’t have banned it. The vast vast majority of us drink moderately and don’t abuse people. We also don’t have to worry about drink driving from work to home now.

    3. I’ve noticed some people getting touchy.

      Last night I got some supplies from my local superette and some awful, aggressive pom was angrily arguing & cursing with the owners before being kicked out of the shop (hopefully banned).

      And I imagine that already some people really can’t hack the boredom and limited company of social isolation, even in the age of social media and the internet.

      No sure if banning booze will alleviate things, for many people it actually helps cheer them up. Banning cigarettes would definitely make things worse….

    4. So true. I reckon it’s the worst aspect of this pandemic. The stats show domestic violence victims tend to live in larger household groups than average, with poorer personal health, with lower incomes, and therefore I’m guessing less job security, higher stress, more needy dependants etc etc.

      It makes people in this position typically susceptible to viral infection, more likely to have a severe reaction to it, and even if they don’t get infected the isolation measures will probably fuck them over anyway.
      I really hope we learn something solid from all this.

  4. I also wish the need to keep physical distance when walking to essential services could provide a directive to people to not park on places which are intended for pedestrians, like footpaths, berms and plazas.

    All part of being kind, but sometimes kind needs to be spelt out.

    1. Ah you are never too old to learn new skills.

      There is a chain we must must break, and it needs us all to do it.

  5. We keep being told to we just need to remove the cars and then magically all the pedestrians and cyclists would appear. Instead, I find the streets the quietest I can ever remember and no cyclists or pedestrians around. I guess it was all fake news…

    I expect by week 5 there will be lots more people walking and on bikes enjoying not having lots of cars around.

    1. Who’s been saying that under a full lockdown there would be lots of cyclists and pedestrians? The whole point of the next four weeks is to limit movement and contact.

      1. My neighborhood was absolutely full of pedestrians yesterday, probably five times more than I have every seen before. And cyclists too, not masses but I found myself not being the only bike on the road. For the first time mine was not the only bike at the supermarket.

        Almost no cars, and empty carparks, but lots of couples and families walking around.

    2. Amongst incredibly stiff competition, this might be the single most dishonest comment I’ve ever seen on this blog.

    3. Raises some interesting thoughts that raise some questions.
      Is it OK to cycle long distances for an escape when we are told we can’t do the same in a car? Both have the same level of isolation.
      How big is your “local area”? Can you go to a supermarket that is not the closest so you can get a better selection or a fancy one to get nicer meat since my butcher is sadly closed? Can I go out west to get a bottle of spirits 😉 ?
      What about beaches and parks. An empty beach is great for a walk or run with or without dog in tow. Is it fair that some of us can enjoy a walk to the local beach while for others it is not possible as they are not allowed to drive?
      My experience today was no cars on the local roads as I went for a walk to the beach and everyone avoided you like you had the plague (maybe we need to reinvent that term to “avoid like the ‘rona”). We are so lucky in NZ that we have open spaces and are not holed up in dense concrete jungles.
      There were plenty of families out cycling too. Interesting still only on the footpath even though the streets are empty.
      Take care everyone and be kind.

      1. I’m disappointed I don’t live close to a beach, and a bit jealous of people who do, but that sort of “fair” simply shouldn’t be a priority right now.

        1. Spending time in parks or natural environments is critical for both physical and mental health, Robert.

          “In a study of 20,000 people, a team led by Mathew White of the European Centre for Environment & Human Health at the University of Exeter, found that people who spent two hours a week in green spaces — local parks or other natural environments, either all at once or spaced over several visits — were substantially more likely to report good health and psychological well-being than those who don’t. Two hours was a hard boundary: The study, published last June, showed there were no benefits for people who didn’t meet that threshold. The effects were robust, cutting across different occupations, ethnic groups, people from rich and poor areas, and people with chronic illnesses and disabilities.”

          The exercise requirements for good health are higher than this, too, and although they don’t need to be in natural environments, they do need to be in safe environments. With so many exercises unavailable to us during Level 4, (eg team sports, gyms, and boating), walking and cycling locally are critical activities for public health.

          Yet the geographical spread of both natural environments, and safe transport infrastructure, is quite inequitable in Auckland.

          Poorer people are more often already in overcrowded and substandard housing, so the inequity of our public physical environments will simply exacerbate the larger mental and physical toll this pandemic will place on poorer people.

          Since it looks possible that NZ’s response will involve pulsed containment periods regularly – perhaps for a year or more – until a vaccine is available or another pathway has been shown to be effective, this is a real and substantial concern.

        2. Heidi. We dont agree on a lot of things but on this I 100% agree. Going for a walk on a beach or park lifts people’s spirits, mental and physical wellbeing. I do understand why they set the rules but it is not like the boating ban where you are putting others in danger. I saw some mixed interpretations of the rules today. Jacinda originally said it was ok to drive to beach. Then said it wasn’t. Now they are saying you can drive to a local beach although not on official site. What is local?
          I am sure this as well as what defines an essential service will evolve in the coming weeks. I think there could be a new category called safe service where people can work in isolation like online shopping. There are some odd definitions. Who really thinks Lotto is essential!

        3. In West Auckland booze shops are essential. I usually buy beer and wine from the socialists in Hobsonville. But they are closed so I would have to drive deep into the wilderness of West Auckland to visit a socialist shop there. Bizarre.

        4. There is though some rationale about strictly staying local.
          If there is a community outbreak then being able to set up zonal boundaries makes the track and trace process much more efficient, therefore effective. What happened in Germany that in spite of a promising start to the tracking process, the rise in cases was out ran the build up of tracking capacity.
          Our current low numbers gives us an incredible advantage that we must not squander.

        5. There’s lots of good rationale about staying local. For social connection, feeling of ownership, responsible care of the local environment, and of course, to limit the spread of the virus.

          Creating a liveable city for everyone means making EVERYONE’s ‘local’ place safe, walkable and pleasant, with plenty of natural plantings and places.

          This crisis highlights the work we’ve got ahead of us, because lots of Auckland is not safe and not endowed with nice or natural places.

          The things that could be making a huge difference right now in allowing people to live locally AND get enough exercise and natural environment time for mental health are:

          A clear direction to get the cars off the berms and any grassy areas, so people can give each other a wide berth while walking. Also the mental health benefits of walking barefoot on grass, climbing trees, and having picnics or making a little kids’ play area on grass are well documented. Grass and trees are part of nature so these resources need to be put to better use than storing cars.

          Reducing speed limits in urban areas to 30, and coning off lanes for cycling, so more people can enjoy this exercise. As Dr Ashley Bloomfield said during today’s media session, “Cycling is Great!” And it is – if the roads are safe enough for all demographics to feel they can cycle. Currently that’s not the case. Even though there’s less traffic, things aren’t safe: the wide empty roads are meaning some people are really speeding, so we need to reduce the number of lanes and make it safe.

          Quickly putting in modal filters to create low traffic neighbourhoods. And the place to start is in those areas without enough parks and beautiful places to walk in nature. A set of streets that were simply fumey ratruns before can now become public spaces, with clean air and low traffic volumes. If the modal filters could be trees in pots, even better!

          I can understand people wanting to drive somewhere nice to walk if there’s nothing local. So if government don’t want them to do so during what looks likely to be a long containment period:

          Prioritise these suggestions as urgent and essential work!

        6. Saw multiple people just going when the lights were red today in Herne Bay…sat at red for a sec, decided no cars were coming and went…this sort of thing could be disastrous

        7. Robert
          Maybe you won’t be so disappointed in about 20 years time when some who are currently very close to a beach will have that beach at the base of their stairs to their second level.

    4. Tonnes of walkers, couples, families out walking around here all day, people never seen before. Went for a cycle just around 5pm. Yes it is a bit unclear to me cycling for a break/exercise is like a walk but better. Only issue I can see is the danger is for accident is more than a walker so could end clogging up hospital space (in saying so much less cars it was safer for me, would depend on who and where I guess)?
      Heard on news that police would look at a groups on beach of say 20 or more and would check that out as it would seem like a gathering and all too close & likely not be part of “your bubble”. We need to use common sense in this regard.

    1. miffy, we should really do that, eh, but as a zoom call… so we can see each other to give kind encouragement. 🙂

      1. We are planning on giving it a bit of a go. We have just finished 3 weeks of isolation and today is the first week of our fourth. We have family members with impaired immunity so we we started it ourselves when things looked grim. Some of us work from home and one is finishing High School thru Te Kura so we can do it. We had one trip out to walk the beach at Long Bay a week and a half ago in our group. That stops the stir crazy feeling. 10 years ago we bought a 2nd hand elliptical machine that is well used, the exercise does reduce worrying. I am still busy with work so that helps. So long as the Les Mills thing isn’t too difficult we were going to try, otherwise it will be youtube yoga 🙂

  6. I have enjoyed having the time for a short walk in the morning. I make it about as far where that photo has been taken. But I’m also struggling to comprehend the vast and world-changing impact this is going to have on people and businesses, possibly even political systems and social structures. It’s hard to think we were hand-wringing over a recession a few months ago, given the D word – something very few people alive can remember – is now almost inevitable.

    I hope you are all taking care of yourselves.

  7. I’ve been loving my solitary walks through the inner city. Though I probably range a bit farther than Jacinda would like. One thing I’ve noticed is just how bloody noisy those illuminated electric ads on the bus stops are.

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