Cash sales have been removed from trains, buses, and stations in Wellington to help stop the spread of coronavirus and give commuters and public transport staff peace of mind.
Greater Wellington Regional Council made the announcement this evening and the changes will come into force on Monday.
There will be a 50 per cent discount on all monthly passes during April, May and June to encourage train customers to make the leap to Eftpos.
Council chair Daran Ponter says 10-trip and single tickets will continue to be sold but customers will be asked to cross off each trip themselves under an honesty policy.
The tickets will be available from staffed stations and will also need to be purchased using Eftpos.
"Any customers buying a monthly pass for April will be able to start using it in March. Aside from occasional spot checks at railway stations, we will be trusting customers to have the right ticket to travel," Ponter said.
For the health and safety of bus drivers and passengers throughout the region, cash payments would also be removed from all Metlink buses and customers asked to use a Snapper card, Ponter said.
"We understand the move from cash to Snapper is new for a small number of customers and we would like to support them as best we can, so from 23-30 March any passenger boarding a bus without a Snapper card will be given a Snapper card preloaded with $5," Ponter said.
There are no changes in the use of SuperGold Cards on Metlink trains and buses.
The regional council is following direction from the Ministry of Health and the NZ Transport Agency which are taking the national lead on Covid-19 in the public transport space.
But the council is making judgment calls in the meantime about some measures to take, like going cashless.
There are 35,000 Snapper cards ready to be deployed so the system can go cash-free.
The crisis management team is also considering restricting passengers boarding to the rear of buses.
"This will slow down the boarding process but again, it potentially removes the interaction with the bus drivers, Ponter said.
"The drivers have got so many people on their bus making so many trips a day, they are potentially quite significantly exposed, and we want to minimise that if at all possible."
Wellington City is only just recovering from a bus driver shortage that exasperated problems with the 2018 new network rollout, now termed the "bustastrophe".
The shortage triggered an array of cancellations across the network.
In the current environment, Ponter said it could take just one bus driver to get infected to trigger cancellations if other drivers had to self-isolate.
That's because bus drivers meet at the beginning of their shifts and share breaks together, just like others do in their workplaces.
"In that scenario which we are also working with operators on, one driver could take out 20 drivers and at that point the network would really start to suffer", Ponter said.
The crisis team was in discussion about all aspects of operations, including how drivers took their rest and meal breaks.
Train drivers were less vulnerable because they were more isolated, Ponter said.
Ticket collectors, however, are more exposed because they have to work their way through carriages making hand-to-hand contact with passengers.
But this interaction is reduced by those who use monthly passes on the train network, about 60 per cent of users.
Ponter said social distancing on public transport would be difficult, although in some respects it might happen as a result of decreasing patronage.
On Monday there were 9 per cent people on the bus network than on the same day the previous week.
"We haven't gone into school holidays, we haven't gone into the university break, we can only presume that it is a consequence of people making choices to work from home or potentially making choices not to take public transport," Ponter said.
Ponter urged people to not travel on public transport if they felt unwell.
"We don't want to see public transport as the conduit of the virus."
Cleaning measures stepped up
Metlink has rolled out new precautionary cleaning measures across trains, buses and ferries to give passengers further peace of mind as they travel across the region.
The measures are in addition to existing cleaning schedules and include:
• Daily cleaning of all trains with key focus on handrails and buttons.
• Daily cleaning of driver cabs.
• Weekly cleaning of air-conditioning filters.
• Daily cleaning of touch surfaces.
• Daily cleaning of driver cabs.
• Daily cleaning of air-conditioning systems.
• Twice daily cleaning of all touch surfaces and toilets.