COVID-19 has undoubtedly had a massive impact on our transport networks and the lastest data shows just how significant that has been. Although in most cases the raw numbers themselves don’t tell the full picture.
Waka Kotahi have been publishing weekly data on traffic volumes. In Auckland that’s just for one section of motorway but it gives a good indication as to what’s happening. As you can see below, just prior to lockdown traffic volumes started falling, presumably as companies started anticipating a change. This is something that can be seen in some of the other data too. As lockdown came in, volumes fell through the floor and has increased again when we moved to level 3 and then for the first few days of level 2. Some reports yesterday suggested traffic in level 3 is still about 30% down on the same time last year.
Heavy traffic appears to be following a similar trend but is closer to being back to where it was prior to lockdown.
One thing you may have noticed, particularly with the light vehicle graph, is the shark teeth like movements prior to lockdown and also last year. Looking at the raw data which is also on the page linked above, you can see that this is just the weekday data with the weekends excluded. It shows that traffic volumes at this location pick up steadily throughout the week with Friday’s much busier than Mondays.
Auckland Transport have published the April ridership data and while a big drop was expected, it’s still shocking to see. In total there were just 515k trips on PT during April compared with over 8 million in April last year – that’s nearly 94% down but again, not unexpected. For trains, more people caught one a on a workday prior to lockdown than did so for the entire month of April
I have monthly data back to the beginning of 2002 and even back then, when Auckland’s PT network and levels of usage was much poorer than they are today, it was never even close to being that low – the lowest month since the beginning of 2002 was in January 2006 when we had only just over 3 million boardings.
February now looks to be the high-tide mark for this cycle of PT growth. When combined with the results we saw for March, it shows that COVID-19 has already wiped about 11 million PT trips off our annual totals.
The indications I’ve seen suggests that PT followed a similar trajectory to what the road graphs above show. It seems that usage on Monday was only about a third of what it was the same time last year.
It has been noted by some that at 33%, PT is much lower compared to last year than roads are at 70%. Some of this may be related to fear but it won’t be the only reason. For example, typically the largest users of PT are (in no particular order) tend to be city centre workers, university students and school students. Yet we know that many city offices are still fully or partially closed, universities are not back in the classroom till next semester and some parents seem to be holding off sending their kids to school. We likely won’t get a better picture as to what the real long-term impacts are until we see level 1.
AT have also published the April cycling data it does need some explanation. Overall they count a 4% decrease in bike movements during April which obviously isn’t anywhere near as severe as roads or PT but it also doesn’t likely reflect that many roads were so quiet during lockdown they were easy to ride on and so I suspect many just used the roads instead of the likes of the NW cycleway, which was also full of a lot of walkers.
One of the results in the chart above is a big increase in cycling on Tamaki Dr, which is where AT put one of their temporary cycleways before removing some of it to appease the truck drivers. The numbers show it was very much needed with daily cycleway usage along the route regularly soaring and setting a new record for Auckland’s counters.
As a comparison, here’s the NW cycleway at Kingsland which was much lower after having a stellar February and beginning of March.
Heart of the City’s network of pedestrian counters give us some fascinating insights into what’s happening with walking. Generally it follows the same trends we discussed earlier in which numbers dropped off in the week before lockdown then plummeted in lockdown. Numbers came back slightly in level 3 and again now in level 2 but are still well below the previous normal. The graph below shows the six counters on Queen St from the beginning of the year.
For all modes it remains a case of wait and see what happens. I doubt anyone can predict what the long-term impacts are on demand.