May 18, 2020
Pop-up car parks and bike lanes in Sydney’s CBD will be part of the Berejiklian government’s plan to cope with the influx of commuters and students emerging from the COVID-19 lockdown.
The government was on Sunday frantically finalising the plan in order to reveal how it would deal with people increasingly returning to work and students going back to school full-time.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian will release the plan on Monday. Senior government sources said she was “nervous” about it because she feared a “London or New York public transport outbreak.”
The plan will have three key elements, including enforcing social distancing on public transport, more parking for the extra cars expected on the roads and temporary cycleways.
Pop-up car parks, similar to temporary ones used for major sporting events, as well as utilising close to empty commercial car parks in the CBD will be part of the plan.
The government anticipates a significant increase in people driving to work or dropping their children to school in a bid to avoid catching public transport.
It is also anticipated that more commuters will choose to ride to work. The City of Sydney will announce details of a cycleway plan on Monday with Transport Minister Andrew Constance.
But despite the plan, government sources said there needed to be fewer people on public transport.
One senior government source said: “I think the messaging for the next six months will still be if you can work from home, you should. Public transport is one of the key risks in terms of the virus spreading.”
There was one new COVID-19 case in NSW in the 24 hours to 4pm on Sunday. Nationally, there were nine new cases, taking the total tally to 7045 with 98 people having died.
The government is expected to impose physical distancing measures on the transport network, with a cap as low as 12 people per bus being raised as an option. There could also be a cap on people boarding trains.
Speaking about the plan on Friday, Ms Berejiklian said the government would be “very strict” about social distancing.
Ms Berejiklian cited overseas public transport as “the main reason” COVID-19 had spread across some metropolitan areas, and pleaded with NSW to steer clear of buses and trains during peak hour.
Parking Australia chief executive Stuart Norman will have an urgent meeting with the government to discuss how commercial car parks can help with the thousands of extra vehicles on the road.
Mr Norman said the Berejiklian government had been the most proactive government in the country and its deferral of the parking space levy was critical in helping the parking industry.
“Even with social distancing measures in place, the reality is that not everyone will be able to catch public transport like they used to,” Mr Norman said.
Mr Norman said car parks in Sydney were 90 per cent empty since restrictions were introduced.
“If pop up car parks are something they are considering we will work with them once commercial capacity is full or near to full,” Mr Norman said.
“But we would oppose the NSW government going into competition with the parking industry.”
“This is a golden opportunity to build out Sydney’s cycling and walking networks. Lots of other cities are building pop-up cycle lanes rather than pop-up car parks,” Mr Metcalf said.