It’s been a little over 2 weeks since Sydney emerged from its longest and harshest lockdown, lasting 107 consecutive days before finally being lifted on Monday 11 October. For the first time in over three months families were reunited, friends gathered, and the city was buzzing once more with audiences who re-emerged and were ready to enjoy all that Sydney has to offer.

On the Monday that lockdown lifted in NSW, spend on Retail increased by +138% from the previous week with $100 million being spent, while the hospitality sector received a much-needed boost with $12.8 million spent on restaurants, pubs and bars on the day – up from just $1 million the previous week[1].

TorchMedia have closely analysed Transit patronage and mobility trends locally and globally to better understand changing commuter behaviour throughout the pandemic. Recent data from cities which reopened such as Sydney and Canberra, suggest that Transit audiences may be returning at a faster rate than what was seen following the lockdown in 2020.

So how did coming out of lockdown impact commuter behaviour in Sydney?

Over 620,000 trips were taken on public transport on Monday 11 October, +60% more compared to Monday patronage during lockdown. On Monday 25 October, just two weeks after restrictions were lifted, audience patronage grew to almost 920,000 daily trips across all modes – an increase of +138% from patronage levels recorded during lockdown.

Monday Oct 11th Patronage growth

Over 5 million trips in total were taken on public transport in NSW during its second week of freedom. For comparison, audience patronage for the entire month of September 2021 totalled 9.8 million trips – a clear indication that audiences are returning to public transport at great pace. Of the 5 million trips taken last week, 90% were taken during the workweek, up from 75% the week prior, with more workers heading back into their offices following further easing of restrictions which came into place from Monday 18 October. 

Taking a closer look at the audience rebound by mode

A closer look into the audience lift by mode paints an interesting picture which suggests that the modes which are also used for recreational travel were seeing the greatest increases post-lockdown. Sydney Ferries and Sydney Light Rail networks saw the highest increase in audience when comparing data from 2 weeks before lockdown was lifted to data from last week, 2 weeks after restrictions were eased.

Sydney Ferry weekday trips increased by +268% and Sydney Light Rail trips increased by +144%, with both networks playing a vital role in connecting people to key hospitality and entertainment precincts.

Weekly Patronage growth, Sydney Public Transport

Mobility back to pre-lockdown levels

Daily mobility levels for Transit which have been tracked throughout the pandemic and published in Apple’s daily COVID‑19 mobility trends report also depict a similar story of recovery. Last Friday 22 October, Transit mobility levels in Sydney soared to 75.28% – just 25% off the pre-pandemic baseline and comparable to average mobility levels captured in May 2021, before lockdown. 

Monthly Transit Mobility growth

Positive signs from Canberra post-lockdown

Canberrans rejoiced on Friday 15 October when their two-month lockdown came to an end. Google mobility reports showed a 71% reduction in public transport use during lockdown, and data from the report published 24 October shows a 12% increase already.

The Canberra Light Rail has been a wildly popular mode of transport for Canberrans since its launch. Patronage data after comparing the first week out of lockdown to the week prior indicates an increase of +113% in trips on the network.

With restrictions in Melbourne recently eased following their vaccination milestones reached last week, and Summer now only days away, it’s looking like we may all find a greater sense of post-pandemic normality than we’ve ever felt as we approach 2022 and continue to safely rediscover our cities.

Sources: 1. NAB Merchant Terminal Data Monday 11 October, Transport for NSW Opal Data, Apple Mobility, Transport Canberra MyWay Data, Google Mobility