The NSW minister for transport, Andrew Constance, has called on Sydneysiders to avoid using trains and buses at peak times, as recently eased restrictions in the city have prompted some offices and workplaces to reopen.
Currently, the network is serving just 25 per cent of its usual number of passengers – around 570,000 a day compared to the normal average of 2.2 million a day. This has allowed those still using public transport the space to observe physical distancing rules. However, as more people head back to work in the coming weeks, NSW authorities are concerned that increased use of the PT network could lead to a spike in instances of community transmission of the coronavirus. In major cities elsewhere in the world, most notably New York and London, the spread of infection has been linked to overcrowded public transport.
Constance encouraged people intending to use public transport to only travel off-peak – after 10am and before 2pm – on trains and buses. Ferries and light rail services are currently less in demand, so commuters should adjust their journeys to make use of these services instead if possible, Constance added. From today, digital timetables and transport apps, such as TripView and the Opal app, will also have real-time information on the number of passengers on the network, so commuters can decide whether or not to travel.
However, many commuters might want to avoid public transport altogether, choosing instead to drive into the city. To accommodate the anticipated influx of car traffic, pop-up overflow parking will be offered at Moore Park, and depending on demand, also at Sydney Olympic Park. Shuttle services into the city will be operating from these pop-up car parks, with enhanced cleaning and strictly limited vehicle capacities to ensure journeys are 'Covid safe'.
There is also expected to be an increase in the number of cyclists on the roads, so an additional 10.3 km of temporary cycle lanes will be added to Sydney roads in the coming weeks to ensure those deciding to pedal into the city can do so safely.
Finally, Constance urged Sydneysiders to err on the side of caution and to be patient with transport staff as restrictions might need to be periodically enforced to ensure the public’s safety. “Complacency can kill,” Constance said, adding that avoiding a spike in community transmission on NSW's public transport networks was the state government’s highest priority.