Many relying on public transport for essential travel

A week into the COVID-19 lockdown, public transport use in Canterbury has, as expected, drastically decreased, yet many are still using it for travel to essential services.

Our Councillor Phil Clearwater, who leads the Transport portfolio, said that the government moved quickly to ensure that public transport continues to operate during the Level 4 restrictions, funding the service and enabling free fares until the end of June.

“The rationale is not only to provide public transport as an essential means of travel, but also to retain jobs and to keep vehicles operational so that we can scale the service up again as soon as is possible. Without this funding, the impact on the public transport industry would have been drastic,” he said.

“There is an army of workers making sure that our community retains access to the essential services that so many rely on. From mechanics to bus drivers, cleaners to customer service staff, the work that the bus operators and their staff are doing is so important.”

Buses being used for essential services

Passenger numbers have decreased from 48,845 on a Tuesday last March, to 3,250 on the same day this week. Councillor Clearwater says that while the numbers may be low, they are not insignificant.

“Those 3,250 people need public transport. The buses may look empty much of the time, but every one of those people that are on board is there because they have an essential journey to make. This is where much of the need is. We’re carrying nurses to hospital, chemists to the pharmacies and checkout operators to the supermarket.”

“In most case, the buses are running to their Sunday timetables, and we’ve put on extra morning and evening services on some routes to help people reach their workplaces. During the day, we’re also carrying family members to the supermarket, and we’re helping those without alternative transport to get their flu jabs or to fill a prescription,” he said.

Measures to keep passengers safe

Councillor Clearwater said that across the public transport service, additional measures have been put in place to keep staff and passengers safe.

“To minimise the risk of COVID-19, all high contact surfaces are regularly thoroughly wiped down with commercial-grade sanitiser, and this extra cleaning will be carried out as long as is necessary.

“Passengers are asked to register their journey on our contact tracing website so that they can be contacted if required. People can do so at ecan.govt.nz/trace.

“Customer and staff wellbeing is our first priority, and we know how essential a functioning bus service is to the people of Greater Christchurch. I would like to pass on my sincere thanks, on behalf of Environment Canterbury, for the work being done by bus operators to provide this essential service,” he added.