Since the easing of lockdown restrictions on May 15, some businesses have asked their employees to return to work, with more likely to follow suit in the coming weeks. That means the peak hour commute is once again going to be a part of everyday life for many Sydneysiders.
However, public transport networks at peak capacity have been linked to coronavirus outbreaks in places like New York and London, so NSW authorities have urged people to avoid PT at rush hour, only travelling between 10am and 2pm. Since this is unlikely to be practical for those who work a typical nine-to-five, there have also been strict caps placed on the occupancy of public transport vehicles, so commuters can still practise social distancing.
The numbers outlined in the state government's ‘Covid safe transit plan’ are dramatically decreased from normal operation:
- Buses can only take 12 passengers;
- Train carriages will only take 32 passengers; and
- Ferries will take 45 passengers.
There will also be the introduction of a green spot system. Here’s how it works: passengers are only permitted to sit on seats that have a large green spot on them. This denotes a safe distance from other seated passengers, so PT users can observe physical distancing protocols.
However, early indications suggest few commuters are following the rules, which came into effect on Monday, May 18. Transport for NSW guidelines for bus drivers and train staff reportedly do not allow them to actively remove passengers from a vehicle if it is over Covid-safe capacity.
NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian said in her morning press briefing on May 19 that enforcing these rules was as much the responsibility of passengers as it was for transport staff. Berejiklian urged Sydneysiders to show "common sense" when it came to using public transport at peak times by deciding not to board a vehicle if it had reached its Covid-safe limit.