May 11, 2022

Melbourne commuters increase use of public transport as experts ease fear of coronavirus infection

However, Mr Morton is among a growing number of experts who say Melbourne commuter levels will never reach the heights of the pre-coronavirus peak.

Professor Graham Currie, chair of public transport at Monash University, said people choosing to work from home, an increase in car travel and a lingering fear of getting infected on public transport were reducing patronage.

Occupational hygienist Andrew Orfanos, who assesses and controls workplace hazards such as airborne infectious diseases, said ventilation on trains was “fairly good” and air circulation air was often better than in some indoor environments.

Mr. Orfanos, triple vaccinated, said he took public transport himself. He said the biggest danger remained an overcrowded car in which someone was coughing and sputtering.

“The message is if you’re symptomatic, don’t come to work,” he said.

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“Do not take public transport if you are coughing and sneezing. Our perceptions since COVID have changed so much that even if you tried to take public transportation while you’re sputtering…there would be people trying to throw you off the train or bus.

The network reported more than 1.4 million trips in 24 hours on Thursday, up 2% from Wednesday and a notable increase from Tuesday, when ridership hovered at 56% of the pre-COVID baseline. , at the back of the public Labor Day holiday.

The last time public transportation ridership in the state topped 63% of pre-pandemic usage was March 16, 2020, when more than 1.5 million rides were recorded — on the same day, a state of emergency has come into effect to try to curb an explosion of coronavirus cases.

Professor Currie, who has led research into how people will get around after COVID-19, has predicted Victoria’s public transport will lose 114 million annual trips after the pandemic and the city’s roads face a worsening congestion as commuters desert the network in favor of their cars, in a revolution led by well-educated, high-income people who had the ability to work remotely.

A tram on Swanston Street on Sunday. Epidemiologist Catherine Bennett says wearing a properly fitted mask on public transport is a great “equalizer”.Credit:Chris Hopkins

Mr Morton recently undertook an analysis which found that when most people who worked within four miles of the General Post Office in the CBD worked from home on a weekday, it “essentially halved total traffic to the network”.

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“The lion’s share of people who work more than four kilometers from the GPO actually drive to work rather than using the public transit system,” he said, pointing to new government figures that show that traffic congestion has reappeared.

In the near future, Professor Currie predicts that one in five people will stop traveling in the CBD, as work-from-home arrangements will increase by 75%.

“We think public transport levels will go up to 80% [of pre-COVID levels]but I don’t think it will ever be 100% back to what it was,” he said.

“I’m often asked when we’ll see this happen and my answer is, when we’re no longer in a pandemic.”

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