From today masks are required to be worn on all public transport in Auckland and on all flights throughout the country.

Masks will need to be worn on all public transport in Auckland and in and out of Auckland and on domestic flights throughout the country from this Thursday, Minister for COVID-19 Response Chris Hipkins said today.

“I will be issuing an Order under the COVID-19 Response Act requiring the wearing of face coverings on all public transport into, out of and through the Auckland region, including for taxi and Uber drivers, and on all New Zealand passenger flights. This will come into force at 11.59pm on Wednesday 18 November,” Chris Hipkins said.

“Adding mask wearing to the toolbox of measures against the virus is a sensible precaution and the time is right to make the move.

….

From 11.59pm on Wednesday 18 November, the use of face coverings will be mandatory for:

  • people travelling on public transport services in into, out of the Auckland region (except for children – under 12 years of age);
  • the drivers of small passenger service vehicles in Auckland, such as taxis and app-based ride services, but not their passengers; and,
    people travelling on passenger flights throughout New Zealand.
  • Children and young people travelling to and from school are exempt from face covering requirements on school buses and other school transport.

A full list of exemptions will be on the COVID-19 Government website.

“We will take an ‘educate and encourage’ approach. Police can enforce the new rules – but this will be a last resort. Bus drivers and other transport workers will not be responsible for enforcing the new requirement.”

One of the immediate questions that comes up from rules like this is what it will do to public transport use, which has yet to fully recover. Will it put people off using PT? Only time will tell but based on the last time they were mandatory, during the second lockdown until we re-entered level-1 in early October, it might not have much impact at all. In fact, one of the the things we saw back then was as a general rule, PT use recovered as we moved up levels following the second lockdown compared to the first.

It’s also a good time just to see where we’re at with PT use.

We entered level-1 again on Thursday 8 October meaning we had nearly a full month with no restrictions. In total during October we had just under 5.3 million trips taken on PT. That’s about 59% of what we saw in October last year (8.94 million). As I’ve talked about before, it’s the rail network that is seeing the most impact due to the Kiwirail maintenance works both slowing down services and shutting down some sections of tracks resulting in rail boardings being just under half of what they were. With the line south of Puhinui once again reopen, it will be interesting to see what impact that has on usage.

Auckland Transport have continued publish daily data (updated weekly) on PT usage by mode. This is something they should be applauded for and from what I can find, this is the most open and transparent of any city in the world.

The data shows that on an average weekday, we recovered to just over 70% of normal by late October but it has slipped a bit since then. This has been accentuated by the scare last week that saw the government asking people to work from home on the Friday if possible – the usage levels for last week had been trending back up before that time.

On a 12-month rolling basis boardings have fallen from 103.6 million before the pandemic to just 66 million as of the end of October and we will continue to see that number fall for some time yet.

However, so far we appear to be doing better than most cities. I’ve published this before but have now updated them to the latest data. As a reminder, this is looking at the level of usage compared to the same month the year before.

Over time I do think we’ll see usage return to, and eventually exceed, what we were seeing before the pandemic.

Waka Kotahi NZTA have been conducting some regular research throughout the year on a range of aspects. The most recent was from late October so hopefully we’ll get a new one soon. One interesting finding is that work from home rates have been declining since lockdown.

It also appears that those working from home were most likely to be PT users while those who walk and cycle are more likely to have worked away from home.


Finally, on an unrelated note, tickets for City Rail Link’s “Boring Day Out” event at Mt Eden are available from 10am today. If it’s anything like the tunnel walk it will be popular and they’ll disappear quickly.

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46 comments

  1. Could we have vending machines which sell hop cards spread around the city or maybe all dairies should stock them. Maybe bus drivers could sell them but I know we would rather not have them handling cash. I have witnessed a few incidents of passengers trying to clock in with no credit on their card also trying to pay cash. It puts the driver in an awkward position. At times it gets nasty. Maybe some of the transport officers should make some bus journeys.

    1. I think some of the “rough characters” with zero balance cards have had them that way for a while. They see this as a way to get a free ride since the driver will just wave them through rather than cause a scene.

    2. +1
      All stations should have one or more.
      Busy areas should have them too.
      As for buses, there should a straight up $20 no change get a pre-loaded HOP card option from the driver (but not on NEX services which should have the above vending machines).

  2. I can’t help but think there is a bit of PT bashing here. Because 90%+ of the population never use PT they are happy to force mask use. But you don’t need to wear one at the supermarket, a concert, a rugby game, or a church. Seems a bit odd / popularist to me.

      1. Yes, I thought the number of Police at Britomart today was excessive. Police were also telling people they had to keep their masks on until they leave the station. While this is a good idea I do not think they can enforce it.

    1. You can choose to social distance by not going to concerts or rugby games. You can get your groceries delivered. But most people don’t have much choice about using public transport. When you have to stand close to other people the only way to achieve social distancing is by having everyone in a mask. Wearing one yourself isn’t enough.

      1. The purpose of masking is to slow down the spread of any future outbreaks and thus reduce the chances of another lockdown. Whether people are there by choice or necessity is largely irrelevant.

        I think there is a bit of targeting of PT going on, but if anything it is making people a little bit more comfortable using PT as they know at least it’s the one place everyone else has to wear as mask as well.

        1. You can contact trace work places. Tracing on PT has been hopeless. The day the last lockdown started Covid was spread on a bus and they had almost no idea who to contact. They resorted to public appeal.
          It is going to become even more important as vaccines come available as there will be pressure from the vested interests to open the border again.

        2. That previous comment was intended to add to Jimbos discussion below.
          Whether you exercise the choice yourself or whether the government chooses, you can get rid limit exposure at sports or concerts by restricting or cancelling. But with PT it is a compulsory activity for most people and the Government cant easily close it down. But yes I agree it should make people more willing to use PT. I am just surprised it has taken so long for the Govt to get here.

      2. Agree on concerts etc, although that doesn’t really stop a possible outbreak happening. You can get your groceries delivered, at $15 a pop! Not really fair on the demographic which is struggling to make ends meet.

        1. Surely we are trying to protect society not the individual. The individual is very safe in NZ at the moment as we don’t have much Covid, but society is at risk from a mass spread that could occur at a concert etc.

      3. Most those people are probably getting PT to work. PT is not optional because work is not optional. So shouldn’t masks be mandatory at work? I feel like we have had more workplace contagion than PT contagion.

    2. The virus is spread by air, and is far more likely to be caught in an enclosed space. Sadly, buses, planes and trains are prime examples of enclosed spaces with limited amounts of air, recirculated back at people, if at all. Also PT use involves close proximity, where people can be packed in tightly, with little personal space.

      Totally different from sports stadia where although there are lots of people, they are not having to breathe the same air. Their hot expelled air will largely rise up and not be forced back down. Churches, concert halls, also have lofty air reservoirs above people, and are less packed than buses.

      What we need, but what has not yet happened, is PT with air handling in reverse mode – ie air sucked out, not pumped in. But that would mean complete reengineering of the bus ventilation system. Easiest answer in the short term is: open the windows (if only bus designers had not stopped putting in opening windows…).

      1. My understanding is that the virus is spread by small droplets of water, not air. These don’t rise in the same way hot air does so there would definitely be risk in a church for example.

      2. Droplets of water yes, but supported in a gas that we just call air. The difference in air quality and volume between a bus and a church should be fairly obvious. If you’re contagious and singing in a church, you may well spread it to the people immediately in front of you and besides you, but the air is not circulated beyond that. The droplets fall to the ground and probably remain on the carpet for the next week…

        If you’re contagious in a bus, you’re not likely to be singing, but your air is likely to be circulated around the bus and potentially spread to all the other users of the bus, as the filtration systems on the bus are fairly rudimentary and probably not cleaned regularly. Turnover of passengers in a bus is also much higher – hundreds of different people could be in a space on a bus over a period of a single bus shift.

        But it is also do with the way / direction that we stand. In a church, you’re probably more likely to be spreading it just to the back of the head of the person in front (yuck, but true), although more likely to spread it widely before / after church when you’re meeting friends / shaking hands with the vicar / happy-clappy / speaking in tongues.

        But in a bus, we’re all facing in many directions – especially if crammed and standing. Opposite each other across an aisle, etc etc. This is nothing new – we’ve probably all been in the situation where one day you notice someone sneezing on a bus and next day you have a cold.

        1. “If you’re contagious and singing in a church, you may well spread it to the people immediately in front of you and besides you, but the air is not circulated beyond that. The droplets fall to the ground and probably remain on the carpet for the next week…”

          It would be convenient if you were correct.

          USA, one infected person, 61 people at choir “Within 12 days, 52 had contracted the disease.”

          “In Germany, a rehearsal at the Berlin Protestant cathedral choir sickened 59 out of its 78 singers. ”

          https://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/covid-19-coronavirus-superspreader-infected-52-people-in-25-hours-at-choir-practice/L5X3YSLHHPNW6WZQ37ZD644PKE/

        2. Guy – the droplets are relatively heavy so don’t hang around in the air all day like say measles. The real risks are proximity to people for a period of time and also the amount of talking going on.

        3. Well, the really relevant stats are that public transport systems all round the world are failing financially, as people stay away en masse, as everyone gets how bad they are in terms of virus transmission.

          London Underground got down to volumes of just 4% of usual passenger numbers at one stage, and have had to be bailed out to stop them going bankrupt – probably similar to most city transport systems around the world. They’re currently at 24% of volume this week – still an unaffordable business model.

          The thing is, I think it is quite easy to wear a mask on a bus – less so to wear a mask in a choir. Sort of defeats the purpose. But banning people from going to church and from singing at church is a pretty big step to take, impinging on people’s religious beliefs and all that. Easier to impinge on people’s uber rights – and yes, obviously, both parties in a taxi should wear a mask, seeing as we don’t have physical barriers. I have taken one uber in Wellington where the driver had rigged up an airtight plastic barrier in his Camry, but I don’t think it is common.

          In terms of stats and scientific reports, the following site has much info, courtesy of Doctor Fauci et al:
          https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/Novel_Coronavirus_Reports.html
          There is one report on a church spread of Covid in their Morbidity and Mortality weekly report:
          https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6920e2.htm?s_cid=mm6920e2_w
          And an advisory from CDC re Public Transport:
          https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/face-masks-public-transportation.html
          where they say:
          “Traveling on public transportation conveyances increases a person’s risk of getting and spreading COVID-19 by bringing persons in close contact with others, often for prolonged periods, and exposing them to frequently touched surfaces. Air travel often requires spending time in security lines and busy airport terminals. Travel by bus, train, and other conveyances used for international, interstate, or intrastate transportation poses similar challenges. Social distancing is often difficult on public transportation. People may not be able to distance themselves by the recommended at least 6 feet from individuals seated nearby or those standing in or passing through the aisles on airplanes, trains, or buses.
          Transmission of the virus through travelers has led to—and continues to lead to—interstate and international spread of the virus which causes COVID-19. Appropriately worn masks reduce the spread of COVID-19—particularly given the evidence of pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic transmission of the virus.”

        4. Guy – agree, there is definitely an argument for allowing Churches to go unmasked for social and practical reasons in the same way I’d advocate for pubs to remain unmasked.

  3. It’s inconsistent. Mask use should be mandatory anywhere you are unable to socially distance. Or not.

    But this is outrageous:

    “the drivers of small passenger service vehicles in Auckland, such as taxis and app-based ride services, but not their passengers; ”

    This is deep car dependent thinking here. The rule is completely biased towards supporting the freedoms of the “legitimate citizens” – (people dependent on cars, whether driving themselves somewhere or passengers) – while requiring the rest of us to make changes to protect public health.

    1. Generally agree, although I’d exclude places where the primary purpose is socialising, such as pubs, restaurants and cafes. One of the main reasons for eliminating the virus is for us to be able to have those freedoms again.

      1. What’s missing from the decision-making is planning for the people who feel quite restricted now. People with conditions – and there can be quite a range of conditions, requiring a range of solutions – that mean they don’t feel they can venture out now.

        It is important to ensure we can socialise, I agree. So what could we do to balance the risks, and make sure that everybody has basic mobility and basic access to services, yet still allows the able bodied people without health conditions and enough capacity in their budget and time to go out and socialise?

        Maybe it’s a limit on group sizes still.

        Requiring people who are in taxis or ride shares to wear masks would be a pretty simple one.

        1. There’s a safety issue here. You can’t have vulnerable people being turned down rides home at 2am.

        2. “There’s a safety issue here. You can’t have vulnerable people being turned down rides home at 2am.”

          Completely agree here. Are AT providing masks on buses for these situations?

    2. Here again, its our reliance on cheap second-hand cars as taxis that is the problem. Countries that have a more grown-up attitude towards taxis always have a barrier between driver and passenger – think of the London TX4 taxi, the New York cabbie, the Hong Kong Toyota Crown etc. All have a plexiglass sneeze proof / knife proof screen between the two compartments. Not the cramped converted Prius we seem to have ended up with in NZ.

        1. Yeah, I went to other places in England often, but tend to avoid minicabs as a rule because they’re well dodgy… In small towns maybe they’re common, but in cities, proper taxis rule:
          Glasgow: https://www.glasgowtaxis.co.uk/home-article/
          Nottingham: https://www.energylivenews.com/2020/01/17/nottingham-to-trial-wireless-charging-for-electric-taxis/
          Birmingham: https://visitbirmingham.com/information/product-catch-all/toa-taxis-p1322541

          The point I’m trying to make here is that NZ has inherently un-covid-safe taxis.

        2. “In small towns maybe they’re common, but in cities, proper taxis rule:”

          Nope, private hire vehicles outnumber taxis by a foctor of 4 to 1 in London and 3 to1 in England. Private hire vehicles outnumber taxis in every region of England

          https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/833569/taxi-and-phv-england-2019.pdf

          Taxis are inherently Covid unsafe vehicles, and New Zealand is no different to the rest of the world in this regard.

        3. Are you ever wrong Sailor Boy, or are you one of those people who always have to be right? Maybe things have changed since I’ve been away from the UK, but the proper black cabs were by far more numerous than minicabs in London – actually, don’t think I ever caught a minicab in London. Where I lived, it was wall to wall black cabs all day long.

          But my point is that the black cabs that are throughout the UK, have a solid perspex partition – making them Covid resistant – not inherently unsafe at all. That’s why people are still taking cabs in the UK. If you can’t understand that simple fact, there’s no hope for you.

          I’ll leave it there. You’re exhausting to deal with. Good bye.

    3. I’m glad they included air travel NZ wide which is definitely a small, close quarters with the circulating of germ air for long periods of time situation. If they hadn’t then this really is biased against “public” transport.

  4. when they required masks last time, I remember that by the end of that period I was often the only one on the bus wearing a mask. Today it was about 50% of people. If you even happen to meet a policeman on the bus the minister said the police will have ‘educational approach’. It’s a classic example of a requirement that is not a requirement. and in reality many people simply don’t care

  5. Must say I am somewhat surprised to see there are no signs here at Henderson train station to remind people of the mask requirement.

    1. And how many of those will take any notice of the signs ? as most have their noses stuck in their idiot phones . And the only way they would take notice of a sign is by them walking into it .

      1. Regular reminders are a proven way to change and induce behaviours we want to see. They have signs all around the station reminding people of the need to follow Covid instructions but none saying what those instructions are.

        1. What they really need is a clear voice announcement say every 10mins telling people to wear their masks , not like the garbled announcements you get for train arrivals/departures . And basically telling people to wear them or they will get nicked , and don’t worry what the fine will be as most times when you go to court the fine is a joke .

        2. I’ve never had to go to court before but I imagine it is something the vast majority of train passengers would want to avoid, even if the fine is a joke.

        1. Jezza most people don’t walk around reading their books , unlike those with their phones in 1 hand and a coffee in the other . And those with books usually stand to one side to read them .

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