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data set which is routinely updated, the rest, which are mainly about punctuality and reliability, are several months out of date.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!

MEDIA RELEASE – Public Transport Association of Canberra calls for explicit targets in forthcoming ACT Transport Recovery Plan

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The Public Transport Association of Canberra (PTCBR) has called for explicit mode share targets to be included in the ACT Transport Recovery Plan, which has been foreshadowed in the newly released ACT Transport Strategy 2020.

“There is a lot to like in the new Transport Strategy, in particular the commitment to the development of a light rail spine along the high-demand routes between Canberra’s town centres,” said PTCBR Chair Ryan Hemsley.

“However, we are concerned that the Strategy is silent on the issue of measurable targets and accurate data to evaluate the success of the proposed approach.”

“Now might be a good time for the ACT Government to consider the establishment of an advisory group, comprising community representatives and experts in the transport industry, to assist in the ongoing delivery of key transport projects consistent with the Strategy.”

The Transport Strategy forms part of a suite of city-shaping documents released by the ACT Government in recent years. Other key documents include the ACT Planning Strategy 2018, the ACT Climate Change Strategy 2019-45, the ACT Housing Strategy and the draft Urban Forest Strategy 2020-45.

“The ACT Government’s Climate Change Strategy gives us a pretty good indication of where we need to be in terms of public transport usage by 2045.” added Mr Hemsley.

“With the added risk of a post-COVID congestion nightmare, we sincerely hope that the Transport Recovery Plan provides us with a clear path towards a more sustainable transport future.”

The ACT Transport Strategy 2020 can be viewed here.

Ryan Hemsley is the Chair of the Public Transport Association of Canberra, the Canberra region’s peak public transport lobby group.

MEDIA RELEASE – Public Transport Association of Canberra celebrates one year of light rail

media_release_7

The Public Transport Association of Canberra (PTCBR) today celebrated the first anniversary of Canberra’s light rail network and called on the ACT Government and National Capital Authority to accelerate the planned construction of the network’s expansion to Woden, in order to provide the economy with a much-needed boost during this difficult economic period.

Mr Ryan Hemsley, PTCBR Chair said “Patronage estimates from early March showed Canberrans flocking to the first stage of Canberra’s light rail network, with an average of ~16,000 daily boardings. This is ahead of the ~15,000 daily boardings that the business case projected would not be reached until 2021.”

“This project has proven that there is an untapped demand for high-quality public transport services in the ACT. We believe that similar patronage increases can be expected as future stages of the network are rolled out in the years ahead, providing benefits to both current and future generations of Canberrans.”

Looking ahead to Stage 2 and beyond, Mr Hemsley said “With the projected economic slowdown, the task of starting on light rail to Woden has become all the more urgent. This project will have the double benefit of stimulating the economy in the short term, while providing improved public transport options in the medium to long term. It will also help the ACT meet its planned reductions in carbon emissions, by being powered solely by electricity from renewable sources.”

“Social distancing measures also present an opportunity for both the ACT Government and National Capital Authority to conduct important works during a rare period of reduced traffic, such as upgrades to London Circuit as part of Stage 2A and the modifications to Commonwealth Avenue Bridge that will future-proof it for Stage 2B.”

“We call on both the ACT Government and National Capital Authority to work collaboratively, so that that these projects can be fast-tracked in a manner that provides the greatest long-term benefit, while minimising disruption to road users in the short term.”

On the issue of social distancing, Mr Hemsley said “We support Transport Canberra’s approach of retaining current public transport service levels during the crisis. This approach minimises the risk of overcrowding and enables people to successfully practice social distancing while in transit.”

“As restrictions are lifted in the months ahead, we urge the ACT Government to consider increases to select services to ensure that social distancing can continue for as long as is required.”

Ryan Hemsley is the Chair of the Public Transport Association of Canberra, the Canberra region’s peak public transport lobby group.