Is COVID-19 the death of mass public transport?

With social distancing likely to be the norm over the next two years, the notion of sardine-packing residents into trains, buses and trams is obviously no longer viable if Australia is to contain outbreaks of COVID-19.

Indeed, New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian has recommended state residents who use public transport should “consider different ways to get to work” given “constraints” on capacity during peak hours as social distancing is observed:

“In the past we would have encouraged everybody onto the public transport network but in the COVID environment, we’ll ask you to consider getting dropped off,” she said.

“Buses and trains are pretty much at capacity during the peak so you might want to think about a different way you do your route in the morning.”

This has led to concerns about Australia’s major cities becoming overrun with traffic congestion as lockdowns ease:

Transport experts have warned Sydney’s road network is unlikely to cope if everyone swaps their bus or train commute for a car.

“We are looking at basically ‘carmageddon’, where all the roads are full with the people that were on buses and trains [but are now] in cars,” University of Technology transport expert Mathew Hounsell said…

“There will be roughly 800,000 people now needing to travel without using public transport, they can’t all go onto the roads,” Mr Hounsell said.

Sydney’s and Melbourne’s transport systems were already operating at breaking point before COVID-19, thanks to 15 years of extreme immigration-driven population growth. Clearly, they will not be able to cope with a sudden surge of travellers on roads.

The only solution is for a large chunk of the population to continue working from home.

Unconventional Economist
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Comments

  1. A few people have told me that now they can work from home, why be stuck inner city Melb and Sydney
    Many will leave the big 2 cities if you want to rent your place out, you’ll have to halve your rent to find a tenant, many places in Melb and Sydney will never find a buyer or tenant ever again in their lifetime
    And private schools at 20k to 40k per year, people will have to home school
    Anyway as long as the kids can read and write there will be no jobs anyway it’s not even waste people won’t be able to afford the fees

    The world has changed forever and I don’t think the roads will ever be as busy as they were.

    The Indians out Melb west southwestm when they are in negative equity they’ll just jump on a plane and go home

    I got taken for a drive by a property guy, from Melb to Torquay via Geelong.

    We discussed what do all these people do for work virtually all in the resi construction chain and that’s finished

    You’ll find emerging markets where these immigrants are from will be the next countries to boom, they’ll just pxxx off home

    Our banks will be left holding all these properties

    If our banks don’t collapse they’ll be zombie just sucking everyone dry, home loan rates have to rise

    IF anyone taking a loan now things rates will stay at these levels for 30 years LOL

    Prices 100% will fall by half

    • Unless the 1ndians go to places like Canada from here, they’ll stay for the purpose of ‘saving face’.

      Here they can always claim they are a CEO of a transport company doing the needful.

      • Some are sure, but a lot aren’t and COVID has provided them with the excuse to explain to their parents why they had to come back.

        A lot will just head to another country where slave labor is needed. bcnich on the money IMO, a few developing countries will open the floodgates and adopt our ponzi model for cheap labor and they’ll head there – they’re renown for this. Rinse and repeat.

        Furthermore, the anecdata Tarneit/Truganina real estate listing watch is becoming an incremental bloodbath.

        https://www.realestate.com.au/buy/in-tarneit, vic 3029/list-1?activeSort=list-date

    • As I’ve told you before bcnich…the only trouble with you is you’re not bearish enough for me. Knock down sh#$holes in Sydney at half price are still about 75% too much. Pet insurance, private trainers, celebrity chefs, real estate programs, the whole shebang is a hideous aberration and is going down down.
      The bigger they are…..

    • Yeah I saw a real vision interview with Raoul Paul today and he was talking about the EM no brainer trade that’s last 10-15 years after we get everything shaken out in the short term. India was one of the countries heat mentioned really liking along with Morocco. I immediately wondered if that would draw the Indian diaspora home. Our what % might go back and what psychology like face, might prevent people from leaving

    • surflessMEMBER

      Vietnamese have similar success in flatting the curve and they have a society that rides on the daily scooter commute. And there is also the humble bicycle but I doubt that will ever go beyond the fringe of the mamil.

    • TheLambKingMEMBER

      I have been commuting on a Vespa now for over 15 years. Ever since living in London and have 5 packed tubes go past me at Pimlico Station, then getting on the 6th on and having to squash myself into a steaming hot tube in the middle of Winter – so 2C outside and about 35C inside the tube, and being a sweaty mess by the time I got to Canary Wharf.

      The first thing I did when I got back to Melbourne was buy another Vespa. I have no idea why more people don’t do it. Free parking. Less than $1 per day in petrol. Half the travel time. With wet weather gear (and a knee cover) over the suit (jacket rolled up under the seat) I travel rain, hail or shine!

      • China is asshole

        Why would you choose a scooter when u can pick up a cheap secondhand 250cc or LAMS motorcycle? Much safer than a vespa given the extra power and almost as economical. Looks less pansy too

        • Are vespas licences cheaper / different, and are they maybe easier to ride for beginners only doing commutes? (Serious question, I’ve never ridden either vespas scooters or motorbikes)

          • In Vic rego/insurance is cheaper for smaller engines.
            Licences are the same.
            Scooters are easier in general because they’re all auto.

          • Cheaper to register/licence in Europe, yes, Oz, no… Personally, I find scoot handling atrocious on typically potholed Oz roads (those little wheels really don’t handle the rough stuff too well). Mind you, most motorcycle crotch rockets aren’t much better, with their manic racer handling and continual desire to smack you in the face with the instrument cluster. These days I run an ancient Moto Guzzi. *THE* crotch rocket in its day, very sedate by modern standards and fits between traffic as well as a scoot.

          • Know IdeaMEMBER

            I went for a supermoto for city commuting. Every day was an adventure in keeping two wheels on the ground simultaneously.

        • drsmithyMEMBER

          If you’re not already into bikes, scooters are easier to ride and if you go for a 50cc, don’t require a special license.

          Practically they’re usually better as well – more storage space and better protection from the rain.

          Even a 125cc scoot will do 100km/h, though personally I’d recommend looking for a 180cc+.

        • TheLambKingMEMBER

          Why would you choose a scooter when u can pick up a cheap secondhand 250cc or LAMS motorcycle? Much safer than a vespa given the extra power and almost as economical. Looks less pansy too

          Because scooters have a running board, so protect you from road mess and water. Which means that you can get away with wearing normal pants. I have leg covers to protect from wind and rain as well. With a ‘proper’ motorbike you need to change into ‘proper’ motorbike clothes. I live within 10k’s of the city so never get above 60kph – and I feel it is like riding at pushbike speeds where I am wearing much less protection.

          I would not advice getting a 50cc scooter. They don’t get off the lights quick enough and you get idiot drivers wanting to pass you. A 150cc Vespa pretty much drags every car on the road to about 40kph so you get past the idiots.

          Looks less pansy too

          A Vespa is a classic piece of Italian machinery! But in all honesty. I have a knee rug and wear a fluro vest on top of my jacket. I care more about my warmth, dryness and safety than I do about my manliness 🙂

      • Horrible drivers one of them. Wet weather and tram tracks the other reasons. Part of the reasons I didn’t get the Fireblade out of the garage much when i was living there.

      • drsmithyMEMBER

        The first thing I did when I got back to Melbourne was buy another Vespa. I have no idea why more people don’t do it.

        Because the typical Australian driver treats riders with indifference at best and contempt at worst.

        I’ve spent 20 years on bikes (5 of those in Sydney, which has some of the most aggressive drivers in the world IMHO) and my spider sense is quite well developed, so I’ve avoided most dangerous situations before they can develop. But I can certainly understand why someone getting onto a little 50cc or even 200cc scooter for the first time would be intimidated by a driving public who will generally treat them with indifference at best, contempt at worst.

          • drsmithyMEMBER

            If I ran the country people would be able to get scooter license 12-18 months before even a learner car license and would be _required_ to hold one for at least 12 months before being able to apply for a learners. I’d also make Victoria’s park-your-bike-anywhere-it-isn’t-in-the-way rules apply everywhere.

            If nearly everyone in a car had spent a year on a bike, I reckon the roads would be a lot safer.

  2. ebikes. Look at the number of bikes in some European countries, and our weather is far better. They also don’t have impatient ute drivers though

    • commuted in Melb rain hail and shine and 45 deg in Melb 9 years.

      Hampton->Glen Waverly
      Hampton/Sandy->South Mel and Rich

      Stunning to me more people didn’t ride [lest there be jeers “[email protected] @BbOuT tHA [email protected]! oneone1111” I’m clearly not talking about trades etc. I’m talking about the 9/10 single occupant vehicles]

      Also, too, why is this conversation being framed as a “return to work as normal” paradigm. Why is not WFH part of the permanent solution ALONG with reduced immigration

      • NoodlesRomanovMEMBER

        Current senior management culture in a lot of companies simply don’t trust people to work from home.

        I manage a lot of outsourced work – I don’t care if it took someone 15 minutes and he went to the beach for the rest of the day, I still get my agreed deliverable, and mgt doesn’t bat an eyelid. If I try to get a permanent employee 2 days work from home a week, I’ve got no chance unless they are looking after a family member with terminal cancer.

        • Senior mgmt are fundamentally lazy, and have been squeezing out office space to get easy win cost savings for decades. Reversing that will require real effort – simpler to just stagger workers’ physical presence in the office.

  3. I think the answer is: turbocharged immigration. It must be, right? 😉

    Literally the end of mass transport could be the end of mass migration. Think about it …

  4. The Melb CBD office I work (ed) in is nearly as packed as PT when everyone’s there, so no chance we can get everyone in there until social distancing is over – and we can’t be only ones. If you do a job at a desk with a computer you’ll be WFH most of the time for years to come I reckon, so PT numbers are going to be way down.

    • Which gives those who have to use public transport a chance maybe at social distancing. I agree anyone who can WFH should

      • People who can wfh is probably 70% cbd workers, and a lot of the others are just there to service that 70% e.g with coffee and lunch.

        • Poor café owners – they are basically doomed unless they can re-negotiate the rent.

    • I work in the CBD (IT) as a contractor and have been WFH almost continuously since July 2018. Changed to a “Big 4” bank job in Feb and had about a month of “in the office” time before the CCP virus changed us all back to WFH.

      The only negative I see with WFH is that I actually tend to work more.

  5. MichaelMEMBER

    Personally, I find the idea that we’ll be spending the next couple of years maintaining an empty radius of a metre and a half, delusional. Our world simply doesn’t work that way and, if it is to, then you can forget any sort of clinging to current standards of living.

    • Michael, yes to both your points. I am continually amazed at the lack of social distancing when I do my weekly shop in the syd burbs, so people just can’t / won’t do it…..until there is a need to do it, should a second wave occur….then it will be as you then mention, forget our current standards of living…. a brave new world….maybe forever….

      • Actions (no social distancing) speaks louder than hashtagged words (#stayhome #inthistogether #newnormal)

    • Arthur Schopenhauer

      Yeah. It was evident on the weekend. People are going to be people. We’re a social animal.
      I find the lack of masks surprising. Once way to get a big of distance is to wear a mask. The whole supermarket aisle clears in 10 seconds.
      This crisis is going to stretch out for months, if not years.

      • Because people have worn mask in previous years when there have been tens of thousands of deaths from the flu?

        What’s really different now?

        Maybe don’t let the media (who needs more viewers) dictate your reality. Apply commonsense.

    • The novelty has worn off.

      The reality is there was nothing really to be worried about – nothing more serious than the usual yearly flu (yes I know Corona isn’t the flu).

      There will be a new novelty to distract us from our boring Sisyphus lives soon enough.

      I hear there’s a new season of the Voice soon, with a contestant in a wheel chair. Feels!

    • Point BreakMEMBER

      Absolutely. If there was an e-bike etf I’d have a crack. The battery tech is amazing now. Give it 10 years and entire roads will be dedicated to e-bikes.

  6. Maybe politicians missed the memo that the general public don’t get government cars with drivers.

  7. The only solution is for a large chunk of the population to continue working from home.
    the other solutions include: Sydney and Melborne losing 1m people each, more than 1 person starts using a car at the time, …

  8. Has everyone stopped using public transport in Tokyo?

    I think masks should be made mandatory but the government will have to admit that they lied about their effectiveness because they didn’t want people hoarding them.

  9. People can’t be allowed to work from home. If everyone does that the consumer economy dies and the land policy we have of cramming people into big cities on the eastern seaboard goes with it.

  10. Jevons ghostMEMBER

    All this agonizing! In the final analysis the outcome will be one of the following: all of the above, some of the above or none of the above. So don’t worry, be happy.