Demand for public transport slumps under Alert Level 2 guidelines

While public transport timetables have returned to normal across the country this week, passenger numbers have not.

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Auckland Transport admits empty seats means there is financial pressure. Source: 1 NEWS

Auckland, New Zealand's largest city, has seen only a third of its usual travellers, with some 1 NEWS spoke to saying they could count the people on their bus trip on one hand.

"This morning there were probably only five people on the bus with me. It's been easy to spread out," one person told 1 NEWS.

It's not just Auckland experiencing the slump.

"I was expecting it to be really busy but they're not that [busy], there's still empty seats," a Wellington passenger says.

In Auckland, public transport use is down almost 70 per cent on the same time last year.

"I think the levels in fairness... have been as expected," Auckland Transport's Stacey van der Putten says.

"We always thought that we'd start off at 30 per cent at Level 2 and we do expect that to grow as people get more confident and move about a bit more."

Cantabrians are being urged to avoid buses where possible and services in Christchurch are only getting 45 per cent of usual business.

Transport commentator Matt Lowrie says the drop isn't surprising.

"The big drivers for public transport usage are schools, universities and people going to the city centre," he says.

"We're seeing at the moment people are still working from home. They're still doing as much as they can away from the office.

"And if that continues, and it's likely to for sometime, we'll see public transport lower than what it has been in the past."

But an extra 50 buses are on the road in Auckland to support school services in particular.

The principal of Macleans College sent the school vans out to help too, but they only picked up a couple of students.

"The buses that've come through the main bus bay here have not been very full at all, and that tells me the students knew they had to do something else," he says.

"Most of our families have elected to drive their kids to school."

Safety concerns are a factor for some, with passengers voicing concerns about social distancing.

Wearing masks isn't mandatory as it is in some places overseas.

Auckland Transport admits empty seats means there is financial pressure.

"Of course there is, and that's being worked through on what that looks like, but we do expect patronage to build," Ms van der Putten says

For now, even at peak times and with after school demand, Alert Level 2 is not business as usual.