Greens not thrilled by movement on Light Rail

By 14 June, 2011 20

The Greens’s Amanda Bresnan is nonplussed by musings from the Government that light rail shouldn’t be ruled out of Canberra’s transport plans (as breathlessly reported by the Canberra Times).

“The Greens have been the strongest advocates for quality public transport for Canberra, and we’re glad that the Government is now at least talking about light rail again,” said ACT Greens Transport Spokesperson, Amanda Bresnan.

“But we’re concerned that the Government’s latest statements on light rail aren’t any kind of commitment. All the Chief Minister has really announced is that the Government ‘is not ruling out light rail’”.

“The Greens want a real commitment and real action from the Government. We want to see an implementation plan and funding commitments.”

“We’re always told that we can’t afford public transport, particularly light rail. But we always find the money for more major road construction.”

“The lesson to learn from other cities and from planning experts is that good public transport is the best way to tackle congestion and other transport challenges. I have suggested that the new ACT Auditor-General look into the Government’s assumptions about road building in the ACT.”

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20 Responses to Greens not thrilled by movement on Light Rail
#1
qbngeek2:43 pm, 14 Jun 11

I have always been of the opinion that Light Rail was a bit of a greenie wankfest, but on the weekend I went to Sydney and caught a train and then the light rail to the Powerhouse Museum from the Western Suburbs. I will admit that I had forgotten how enjoyable the train was. I used to catch it to work and home everyday when I lived in Sydney.

We need to get rid of the rubbish bus services and seriously look into light rail. There is no reason why it can’t be used from a few central locations in the city and branch out to the town centres and Queanbeyan/Jerrabomberra (with NSW funding) with key stops on the way. Then use bus services from the town centres.

One route I can think of immediately would be Civic – Russell – Airport – Fyshwick – Queanbeyan with an interchange with car parking at Queanbeyan. If that service and another service to Woden existed I would drop the kids off at care then park the car and ride the light rail.

Unfortunately it will never happen.

#2
Deref3:40 pm, 14 Jun 11

If and when a credible study shows that light rail is a viable option for Canberra, I’ll support it. IIRC, though, the studies that have been done show that, at our current population density, it’s a high-cost (was it $1B?), inflexible and impractical proposal.

Yes, qbngeek, I agree that it’s a pleasant way to travel. But if, your sig is anything to go by, you won’t be paying for it and I can think of better ways to spend $1B right now.

#3
Postalgeek3:48 pm, 14 Jun 11

qbngeek said :

If that service and another service to Woden existed I would drop the kids off at care then park the car and ride the light rail.

I think by the time it happens your kids will be dropping you off at care.

#4
bitzermaloney4:32 pm, 14 Jun 11

qbngeek said :

Unfortunately it will never happen.

Privatise it. Given the policital boundaries it’s the only way that it will work.

I recall a Japanese mob provide an unsolicited proposal for light rail through the major town centres in the late 90′s. It would have cost about $1b back then and required no outlay on the government other than the land to lay the tracks. I believe it also included a station in Jerra and/or Qbyn.

Needless to say it wasn’t even looked at properly.

On a more realistic and viable solution, why isn’t there a regular peak hour service from Bungendore to Kingston for the growing Bungendore population? Wouldn’t there be a reasonably partonage for 2 or 3 services in the AM & PM peak hours? Tracks are already there, all they need is a train or two.

#5
damien haas4:44 pm, 14 Jun 11

Deref said :

If and when a credible study shows that light rail is a viable option for Canberra, I’ll support it. IIRC, though, the studies that have been done show that, at our current population density, it’s a high-cost (was it $1B?), inflexible and impractical proposal.

The 2008 PWC report showed that light rail in the ACT would be economically viable, increase productivity and provide a return on investment. Did you not read it ? Sure it looked at a 54km ACT wide system and projected a cost of 1.6 billion – but also recommended that a network could be built in staged phases. This announcemet talks about a staged approach.

The government correctly assumes that no one reads these reports so when it says the study shows light rail is too expensive people accept it.

This recent announcement by Katy Gallagher is welcome, but really – another study ?

Much fuller respose on the ACT Light Rail blog here: http://actlightrail.blogspot.com/2011/06/gungahlin-to-civic-light-rail-yet.html

Short version – its a very welcome announcement but we need more detail and an engineering study.

Damien Haas
Chair, ACT Light Rail

(btw – had my RiotACT badge on my lapel when i was interviewed by Win today)

#6
The Frots4:53 pm, 14 Jun 11

Postalgeek said :

qbngeek said :

If that service and another service to Woden existed I would drop the kids off at care then park the car and ride the light rail.

I think by the time it happens your kids will be dropping you off at care.

LOL> Sadly, I think your right!

#7
Gungahlin Al4:59 pm, 14 Jun 11

Deref said :

If and when a credible study shows that light rail is a viable option for Canberra, I’ll support it. IIRC, though, the studies that have been done show that, at our current population density, it’s a high-cost (was it $1B?), inflexible and impractical proposal.

In fact, the last study done showed that – even if the entire network was built at once (a patently ridiculous prospect) – there would be a strongly positive benefit-to-cost ratio. Feel free to read up on what it actually says: http://www.tams.act.gov.au/move/light_rail

But here’s the bottom line:
The economic appraisal framework used to appraise the economic viability of
the Canberra Light Rail is based on generalised multimodal cost benefit
analysis (CBA) methodology. Like all CBA frameworks, the multimodal
approach requires the appraisal of projects on an incremental basis, ie
comparing the Project Case to the Base Case.
The cost benefit analysis undertaken on the Canberra light rail system
indicated a positive economic net benefit (that is a benefit cost ratio (BCR) of
greater than one) against all three discount rates prescribed by Infrastructure
Australia, with a mid-point BCR (based on a seven per cent discount rate) of
1.62. While this presents a net economic benefit to society it should be noted
that delays in implementing this project, and as such delays in realising the
benefits, will necessarily increase the BCR to the extent that the differential
between the base case and the test case will grow, reflecting such things as
increased congestion in the base case over time.
As implied from this, the net present value (NPV) of the Canberra light rail
project is positive under all discounting scenarios, ranging from $2,825m to
$227m, with a mid-point estimate of $1,014m (based on a seven per cent
discount rate).

But we said at the time that it was ludicrous (if not mischievous) to propose a full-bottle project, and the ACT Government should instead have been looking at a staged approach, first using the route(s) where the problems and therefore returns were greatest.

So now Katy and Simon are proposing Civic to the budgeted to build EPIC Park-n-ride, and this makes perfect sense, focussing on Northbourne where the problems are manifest and the solutions severely constrained. Pity the commitment wasn’t made before all those blocks along Flemington Road started selling – they could have cashed in nicely via the higher prices that a guaranteed express PT route would have secured (a factor specifically NOT built into the PWC analysis BTW – at the ACT Government’s request they told me).

As an aside, one of the regular doubters of rail as a solution has always been 2CC’s Mark Parton. He’s in South America at present and sent me the following message today: “Fascinating to see the difference between traffic in Bogota and Buenos Aires. They are worlds apart because of rail. Now granted it’s a subway system, but it was built when the city was much smaller.”

My response to this was “aren’t we lucky we don’t have to dig expensive tunnels because Mr Griffin had the foresight to plan a nice wide corridor down the middle of all major roads?”

#8
Thumper6:05 pm, 14 Jun 11

Another report into light rail?

#9
aussielyn6:35 pm, 14 Jun 11

The plans for the new suburb of Eastlake include ripping up the railway track to the existing Kingston Railway Station. This will make harder to use the centre of Wentworth Ave for a transit way able to be converted to light rail. The Railway master plan puts the new station location just over the Monaro Highway rail underpass. The railway line & Station is in the way of development. A bus transit lane will be built on Canberra Ave.
All those commuters to the ACT at Qbyn, Googong, Bungendore & other developments will just add to a more congested Canberra Ave.
Of course the first part of a transit way/ future light rail must be the northern section.
Where is strategic transport planning!
PS Damian, when you see the surveyors on Northbourne Ave you can be optimistic

#10
Watson8:10 pm, 14 Jun 11

Gungahlin Al said :

My response to this was “aren’t we lucky we don’t have to dig expensive tunnels because Mr Griffin had the foresight to plan a nice wide corridor down the middle of all major roads?”

The big difference will of course be that the train will have to stop at every red light too, and there’s plenty on Northbourne. But it would still be a whole lot better than being stuck in traffic on a bus.

#11
Gungahlin Al9:50 pm, 14 Jun 11

Watson said :

Gungahlin Al said :

My response to this was “aren’t we lucky we don’t have to dig expensive tunnels because Mr Griffin had the foresight to plan a nice wide corridor down the middle of all major roads?”

The big difference will of course be that the train will have to stop at every red light too, and there’s plenty on Northbourne. But it would still be a whole lot better than being stuck in traffic on a bus.

Yes Watson it will be better. And if the cross-overs are where the stops are, then there’d be little difference. The key thing is that as long as the Northbourne lights are green, then a train (or bus if a bus lane) could go straight through and maintain speed – no delays from traffic. And no delays to traffic whenever they stop either. Same for cycleway down the middle. Everyone wins.

#12
Watson9:57 pm, 14 Jun 11

Gungahlin Al said :

Yes Watson it will be better. And if the cross-overs are where the stops are, then there’d be little difference. The key thing is that as long as the Northbourne lights are green, then a train (or bus if a bus lane) could go straight through and maintain speed – no delays from traffic. And no delays to traffic whenever they stop either. Same for cycleway down the middle. Everyone wins.

It may even prompt them to try synchronise those lights again!

#13
Grail11:10 pm, 14 Jun 11

Let’s get busses running on the proposed routes first, see if we get anyone using them.

Of course, the fact that we can’t run a bus service in this town speaks volumes about the real world feasibility of a light rail system.

All the models used so far have been based on the “field of dreams” approach – that is, if you build the light rail system, the customers will magically appear. See Figure 5 of the Economic Notes on the report found at http://www.tams.act.gov.au/move/light_rail

If someone could explain to me why people would use a tram when they don’t use a bus, I’d really appreciate it.

Note that I recently travelled to London, Paris, Budapest and Amsterdam. To say that public transport in those cities was awesome would be an understatement. But the you have to realise that the density of living in those cities is far higher than Canberra has or will have in the next 20 years.

#14
Chief Ten Beers11:11 pm, 14 Jun 11

I hope they bring in some sort of Light Rail so I can drive on the parkway with a lot less cars on it.

#15
damien haas7:34 am, 15 Jun 11

Grail said :

If someone could explain to me why people would use a tram when they don’t use a bus, I’d really appreciate it.

People prefer light rail and overall public transport patronage increase. Some recent research can be found here: http://trb.metapress.com/content/m164h38516v8354v/

Ive heard some transport consultants dismiss this as a ‘cultural feedback effect’ yet the evidence shows repeatedly that when you build light rail attitudes to using public transport do change.

#16
damien haas7:37 am, 15 Jun 11

aussielyn said :

PS Damian, when you see the surveyors on Northbourne Ave you can be optimistic

What I have learnt from public transport lobbying – it doesnt matter what a politician says – its what they DO.

Im still seeing more spent on Kingston Foreshore marinas than light rail engineering studies.

#17
Thumper8:37 am, 15 Jun 11

Subway, tube, mind the gap and all that cool stuff.

Come on, you know it makes sense.

We could even have station names like Civic Gate, Belconnen Gate, Woden Gate, The Dickson Isslington, etc..

See, makes even more sense now….

#18
Innovation8:39 am, 15 Jun 11

I agree that if people don’t catch buses now, especially when those buses travel in express lanes and direct routes, why would light rail be any better? Can light rail carry more passengers per driver, are the running costs cheaper, is it cleaner?

Apart from Northbourne Ave (if light rail runs down the middle and gets buses off the road), I don’t see the benefits of light rail – although there might be a psychological attraction to some.

#19
Gungahlin Al9:17 am, 15 Jun 11

Innovation said :

I agree that if people don’t catch buses now, especially when those buses travel in express lanes and direct routes, why would light rail be any better? Can light rail carry more passengers per driver, are the running costs cheaper, is it cleaner?

Apart from Northbourne Ave (if light rail runs down the middle and gets buses off the road), I don’t see the benefits of light rail – although there might be a psychological attraction to some.

Yes it can – a massive jump in pax per staff member. Yes it is cleaner – electric means no running costs while stationery, and energy production pollution is shifted out of the city area, and can be powered by renewables to boot.

Yes it is more comfortable, and less prone to erratic driver bahaviour, or stop-start surges caused by mixing it up with drivers many of whom in Canberra behave suboptimally. So more people use them.

The problem with our express lanes here is that they run out, and then the buses are mixing it up with the very traffic they need to be avoiding.

Many commentators think that the push for light rail is some big boys with their big toys fascination or romanticism. They seem incapable of believing that the support could be based on a clear vision of a logical solution to a relatively simple problem, or basic research. And they are happy to see whatever is necessary being spent on building more bigger roads in a never-ending cycle.

#20
Chop719:48 am, 15 Jun 11

Don’t know if the 1st route we should have is the NSW -ACT link. I would have thought we would link ACT town centres 1st and then look at other extensions ie Dickson, Kippax, Erindale, Airport etc.

Then getting 2 governements NSW and ACT to agree on a QBN link would be hard enough.

That being said, I love catching a tram to the MCG or the city loop on rail around Melbourne, so easy for a 2 hour ticket :)

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