How are we all going in the latest COVID lockdown? Hope you’re all managing okay.
The curfew is back in Melbourne, 9pm to 5am each night.
I personally hate curfew. It stops my very low risk after-dark walks (including to the supermarket, which is quiet at those times). But I’ll adapt – and I’m coming around to the view that last year the curfew got everybody to pay attention, and help kerb behaviour like sleepovers and parties.
Anyway. As part of the curfew, for the next two weeks at least, some public transport services are being cut. They are Night Network services, specifically between 1am and 5am on Saturdays, and between 1am and 6am on Sundays.
I don’t think they should have done this. In normal times, some essential workers use these services. Right now, with lockdown and a curfew, it’s probably far fewer. But any who are impacted will be impacted severely – and this is the time we should be doing all we can to support those people who have to work.
And if you’re wondering, it’s probably not saving any money. The Herald Sun (18/8/2021) reported: the RTBU said all members rostered to work night shifts will still be paid.
Making this worse is that the comms on this has been ridiculously bad.
You’d think in this age of short attention spans, they’d have figured out how to get the key information into the headline of an article, or into the text of a tweet. But no.
The DOT article’s original headline for instance, could easily be interpreted as the cancelling of all weekend services. The vital detail was in the second paragraph (with a typo which is still there days later).
While the curfew is in place, all night public transport on Friday and Saturday nights will be paused. This means that trains, trams and buses will not run between 1am and 5am on Saturdays and between 1am and 6am on Sundays for two weeks from Friday 20 August.
It took until Wednesday afternoon for that to be clarified, with the above text modified to say: This means that trains, trams, buses and V/Line night coaches will not run…
Meanwhile, Public Transport Minister Ben Carroll’s tweets are usually well thought out, but on this occasion, it was vague enough that a lot of people got the wrong end of the stick, and it got ratioed to the max. The replies show a lot of people thought it affected normal (non-Night Network) services.
The reaction compared to last year’s cuts – which were far worse – is striking. Last year, almost nobody seemed to notice.
I’m not sure I can work it out, other than perhaps last year the focus was (rightly) on the unfolding COVID disaster rather than the curfew and related impacts.
But it’s good that it’s got some attention this time round.
In this Channel 9 story (below) the government said they expected “less than 600 people” to be affected.
How many people use Night Network normally? Well we don’t know, because most patronage data is secret in Victoria. But we do know the Night Buses are not well used – this has prompted a very welcome route revamp which will switch most Night Bus routes to be 24-hour versions of regular routes. It was was due to change on 27th August, but is now temporarily postponed due to the curfew cuts.
We also know that in 2016, shortly after NN started, patronage was at about 35,000 trips each weekend. This suggests that during lockdown, ridership is under 2% of normal, though the 600 may refer to just 1am to 5/6am when services will be cut – NN includes some services outside those times which will still run.
But it’s still around 600 people impacted, and most of those 600 are likely to be essential workers – the people who ensure the services we all rely on keep running during the lockdown. They’re authorised to travel, and it’s important that they can.
And in times of crisis, we should be standing by them.