Australia opened its newest carpark last week – a 1,000-space “pop-up” facility in parkland on the edge of Sydney’s central business district.
This temporary carpark at Moore Park is part of an urgent attempt to accommodate the city’s return to work as its Covid-19 lockdown ends.
Hundreds of thousands of commuters who previously used public transport to travel to work are now expected to find alternative options such as driving, cycling, walking, or working from home.
The mass shift in commuting has been caused by new limits on the number of passengers on buses, trains and ferries, as well as people’s attempts to avoid social contact.
But analysts believe it could cause traffic gridlock and lead to a shortage of car spaces in the city centre.
The New South Wales (NSW) state government has started opening a series of pop-up carparks and is planning temporary bike lanes to accommodate the post-lockdown changes in commuting.
It has limited buses to carrying up to 12 passengers, while train carriages are allowed 32 people and ferries may carry 45.
City office towers have also been improving shower facilities for people who cycle or jog to work.
But transport experts have warned that it will be impossible to find the extra capacity to allow the city to safely return to work in large numbers. Instead, the government may need to try to reserve public transport use only for those who have no other option, and encourage people to work from home or change their travel hours.
Dr Geoffrey Clifton, a transport expert from the University of Sydney, said a sudden shift from public transport to private car use would clog Sydney’s roadways.
“You can’t shift everyone who was taking public transport,” he told The Sydney Morning Herald.
“They can’t fit any more on the roads. Unless people stay home, it’s not going to work.”
Australia had 7,185 cases of Covid-19, with 103 deaths, as of yesterday. There were 3,092 infections and 48 fatalities in NSW, the most populous state in the country.
Lockdowns have been rapidly unwinding across Australia in recent weeks. Cafes, bars and restaurants in NSW will be allowed to serve up to 50 people at a time from tomorrow, up from a limit now of 10.
The state government also announced last Thursday religious services and funerals would be allowed to have up to 50 participants, while weddings would be allowed 20.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she was pleased that people have not been rushing back to their pre-Covid-19 work routines.
“People are still working from home, and I anecdotally know that many businesses are considering some staff coming back and some working from home on a rostered basis,” she said.
“We have to live with this pandemic and I am very pleased that there hasn’t been a mad rush, that people who are considering their options are doing it in a very considered way.”
A report by the Institute for Sensible Transport, which advises on transport planning, found that 597,013 people in Sydney typically used public transport before the pandemic.
Under strict social distancing restrictions, about 500,000 of them will need to find other options.