Are masks discouraging PT use?

It’s been a week since the ACT Government’s mask mandate came into effect. Anecdotally, the buses are a little quieter, but it’s also school holidays, which sees a usual drop off in patronage as students stay at home, and parents take time off work.

Fortunately, dataACT updates Transport Canberra passenger data every day! It’s the only transport data set which is routinely updated, the rest, which are mainly about punctuality and reliability, are several months out of date.

So let’s compare this week and last week’s passenger figures. The mask rule began on 28 June.

DateLocal RouteSchool ServiceLight RailPeak ServiceRapid RouteOtherTotal
4/07/20214027017149
3/07/20213,67204,58607,21141915888
2/07/202113,80809,50222417,57652041630
1/07/202114,68409,09430217,74447342297
30/06/202115,253129,27131418,81846744135
29/06/202115,20809,03631018,68245643692
28/06/202114,41108,20727017,72844741063
27/06/20213,05603,91007,03330014299
26/06/20214,63505,34809,08350519571
25/06/202119,9883,41911,19525021,43162756910
24/06/202117,8173,4469,97532619,76138351708
23/06/202122,0164,34611,88135923,55257462728
22/06/202122,3874,39911,81736624,05658263607
21/06/202121,8344,45711,24534623,23052861640
Source: Daily Public Transport Passenger Journeys by Service Type, ACT Government Open Data Portal

You can see that the data helpfully breaks it down by type of service. Not quite sure why there were 12 kids on a school bus last Wednesday though!

This suggests there’s been a pretty big drop off between the last two weeks, but it’s important to account for school holidays too. To do that, I’ve excluded school services, and compared it to the holiday period in July 2019 (as 2020 was a bit of a write-off).

DateTotal (excl school services)1 week earlierReduction
Monday28/06/2021410635718328.2%
Tuesday29/06/2021436925920826.2%
Wednesday30/06/2021441235838224.4%
Thursday1/07/2021422974826212.4%
Friday2/07/2021416305349122.2%
3/07/20211588819571
4/07/20214914299
Monday8/07/2019576626632113.1%
Tuesday9/07/2019616136949311.3%
Wednesday10/07/2019607666940312.4%
Thursday11/07/2019577616903516.3%
Friday12/07/2019552146580316.1%
13/07/20192168324182
14/07/20191602718444

Or for those of you who like charts:

So the answer is yes! The July drop-off is markedly greater this year than in 2019. This isn’t particularly surprising, a number of Canberra businesses have reported slower trade as well. And of course, from a public health perspective, it’s probably better the buses are a little less crowded, at least during this high risk period.

What’s important is this doesn’t translate into yet another permanent dip in PT usage and increase in car traffic. Unfortunately, we can’t tell whether the mask rules have had a similar impact on car traffic, because the road traffic data only goes up to April this year!


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