Back to school impacts people movement

[28 August] Mobility over the last week has reflected more of a return to the normal, as schools start to reopen and life returns to normal for many. Unfortunately, the last week of the summer holidays was marred by prolonged rainfall and several weather warnings were in place. These factors combined to deliver a reduction in overall driving activity in NI for the first time in some months, however the weekly average remains well above the baseline norm at 138%, a drop of 7% on the previous week.

School reopening puts a significant number of people back to work, limiting the volume of journeys made by teaching staff and parents. Early indications from the TomTom Traffic Index are that the schools reopening has increased congestion in our cities with congestion levels in Belfast and Dublin on Wednesday up by 17% and 21% respectively on the previous week. The 27% congestion level in Belfast means a 30-minute trip will take 27% more time than it would during uncongested conditions. The latest figure in Dublin is 35%. In addition, the weekly tracking shows that the morning congestion continues to grow.

Public transport use within Belfast continues to grow and will continue to increase as school pupils return. To cater for the additional demand on service and ensure social distancing on board is possible, Translink is adding an additional 500 bus services to the schedule.

Average footfall in retail and recreation locations saw weekly growth of only 1% however this is mitigated by the impact of the weather, as these locations also include beaches and outdoor activity centres. The early part of the week saw footfall only 5% below the baseline, boosted no doubt by parents preparing for back to school. In addition, high levels of footfall in the early part of the week can be attributed to the Eat out to help out scheme, driving footfall to cafes, restaurants and bars.

The correlation between weather and activity in parks is clear again this week, with an average mobility figure of 98%, a drop of 21% from the previous week. Workplace and grocery and pharmacy locations see little change week on week.