Workers trudge back to the office but public transport still on the nose

Queensland workers are slowly heading back to the office everywhere except Brisbane, where levels remain stubbornly below pre-COVID levels.

May 17, 2021, updated May 17, 2021
Public transport remains on the nose for much of south east Queensland

Public transport remains on the nose for much of south east Queensland

And almost everywhere in the state, public transport remains a no-go.

According to Google mobility data, only Noosa, Townsville and Mackay have been able to embrace a return to public transport.

In fact, Mackay – a city that has for several years defied economic downturns – has not only returned to normal but is booming. Only visits to retail and recreational facilities were down on pre-COVID levels and even then, by just 2 per cent. In other facets of life Mackay is streets ahead of pre-COVID days.

The Google data shows Brisbane public transport patronage is down 23 per cent on pre-COVID and down 8 per cent on office visits. The result is the worst by far of any of the major centres in terms of returning to the office but on par with the rest of the south east in relation to public transport use.

The Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast and Toowoomba all showed a poor return to public transport with levels at more than 20 per cent below pre-COVID.

It’s a defiance of calls from major employers and even Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk who said getting public servants back in the CBD would help address the concerns of inner-city businesses and lobby groups about a drop in foot traffic and turnover.

“It means more people buying a coffee in the morning supporting local cafes, more people buying a meal supporting local bistros and more people doing a spot of shopping during their lunch break supporting local retailers,” Palaszczuk said.

Last month a Roy Morgan survey found that the movement levels in the Brisbane CBD had recovered to only 67 per cent of pre-COVID averages, but that was following the March lockdown and an ongoing mask mandate.

“The lockdown of the Greater Brisbane area in late March saw movement levels plunge to a low of only 30 per cent of normal over the period leading up to Easter,’’ Roy Morgan’s Michelle Levine said..

Brisbane’s public transport network is collecting around $10 million less in fares every month.

Suncorp, one of the state’s biggest employers, announced last week it would offer its employees the choice to work from home after a year of lockdowns and remote working.

Suncorp said more than 80 per cent of its workforce had embraced a hybrid work policy where staff moved between the office and home.

Suncorp executive general manager of people and culture Matt Leslie said the company encouraged people to plan their week and think about what tasks are best completed at home, and where they’ll benefit from a face-to-face conversation.

“It’s about ensuring our people feel connected and productive wherever they are,’’ he said.

Other banks have similar policies.






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