Hundreds of thousands will be forced to drive to work in Sydney, clogging up roads

As lockdown restrictions ease, thoughts are beginning to turn to that first morning back at work waiting for the bus or train.

With social distancing now front of mind due to the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, many are wondering how usually jam-packed public transport services can be used safely.

Numbers will need to be dramatically reduced in New South Wales, according to reports, forcing hundreds of thousands of Sydneysiders to drive their own vehicles and clog up routes already riddled with congestion.

The number of commuters has plummeted in the last two months to its lowest level in a century, from more than 2 million per day to about 400,000 as a huge portion of the city worked from home.

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But trains, buses and ferries will fill up once again in the coming weeks as Premier Gladys Berejiklian warns the system is nearing capacity for safe distancing between commuters.

A cap as low as 12 people per bus is being considered by the government to ensure social distancing measures remain in place, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.

The publication reports the state government will reveal its plans to enforce a spacing of 1.5m between passengers on the transport network.

“We’re pretty much at capacity at this stage, but having said that we do have some plans in place to support the community,” Ms Berejiklian said on Friday.

“At this stage we are maintaining good social distancing but we’re going to be very strict on that moving forward.”

Public transport networks had been a dangerous vessel for the rapid spread of the virus in metropolitan sites around the world and Ms Berejiklian urged commuters to be safe on the network, with extra bike lanes and an increased number of car park spaces being considered to ease the burden.

Transport experts told The Herald Sydney’s roads are unlikely to cope if public transport commuters are forced to jump in their 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.

“You’re going to have the underlying problem that the road system cannot support all of the people that will need to come off public transport.”

Mr Hounsell said about 800,000 extra commuters will need to find alternative sources of travel given the expected social distancing rules to be implemented on public transport.

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