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.