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RiotACT Face Off: Does Light Rail measure up for Canberra?

By 7 July 2014 90

light-rail

Plans for Light Rail in Canberra have caused heated debate among our Rioters. A recent poll asking Are you in favour of Light Rail for Canberra? resulted in 48% voting No, 38% Yes, 11% Not Right Now and 6% On the Fence.

We asked former Chief Minister, Kate Carnell and Ex MLA, John Hargreaves ‘Do you think the benefit to cost ratio measures up for Light Rail in Canberra?’ and this is what they had to say…

Kate Carnell
kate-carnell-image

Trying to make public transport usable and affordable has been an ongoing problem for all ACT governments. Action buses has been reformed , upgraded , downgraded more times than I have had hot breakfasts – but it still operates at a significant loss and the sight of almost empty buses is a normal in Canberra. A number of Governments have also looked for other options – light rail being the most common possible ‘solution’. My government looked at a form of light rail when I was Chief Minister. Our rhetoric was a bit similar to that of the current government. It would be good for the environment, in courage innovation, would take Canberra to a new and exciting stage of its development – sound familiar?

The problem was we couldn’t make the business case work. Why? Because of the Canberra plan. We all know, Canberra is spread out with very few areas of medium or high population density. It is the BushCapital with lots of green spaces and buffer areas and very little high rise residential accommodation . And what do you need to make light rail cost effective – medium to high density nodes of population that can be linked to places where these people work.

I am not talking about a few high rise buildings , I am talking enough to house the thousands of people needed to make a mass transit system sustainable. It is also important to remember that these high rise buildings must be within walking distance of a light rail stop. If people have to drive to the stop and park , it will often be quicker to drive to work so the price differential between the light rail and parking in Civic will have to be huge. This will mean there will be pressure to keep fares low which will add to the viability problems of the system.

Canberra has grown since I was Chief Minister, but most of the growth has been in low density new suburbs, with the possible exception of Kingston and Civic. This means it is hard to see that a light rail is any more cost effective or affordable than it was 15 years ago.

John Hargreaves
JohnHargreaves-a

There is a lot of white noise going on about the light rail proposal and it seems as though the usual NIMBYs have come out in force. In this case though they are saying NOW In My Back Yard!

So if Belco and Tuggers people can’t have it, no one can. So… they blame the cost so that they are not outed as light rail deniers.

The tram is half empty if people continue to bag it, to continue to be selfish, to continue to conjure up excuses for not embracing it, to continue to have no vision for the city.

The tram is half full, if people understand that it is the start of something great for the city, something responsible for environmental sustainability, something really attractive for our now mature City.

Remember when people bagged out the Arboretum? A $20 million tree zoo, if I recall. Now everyone loves it. Remember the bagging the Gungahlin Drive Extension got? Now everyone loves it.
Remember the dam? Now everyone loves it.

So, how about we get positive, people! Take ownership in innovation, in vision and in courage. This light rail will be fantastic for the city, and for Belco, Tuggers, Molonglo and Woden, over time. Don’t give me all those NIMBY reasons why not, don’t give me alternative things to spend the money on, show me how we are looking to the future not backwards.

This project is not a competition with buses; it is a complementary rapid transport system. It can only enhance Canberra in the eyes of visitors and provide responsible commuting to the workplace.
I live in Tuggers and can’t wait for it to come down South. But as all roads lead to Rome, they start somewhere and that somewhere is the City to Gungahlin route.

Don’t be like that old Irish joke, “Paddy was asked which way to Dublin, replying “well, if I was to be going to Dublin, I surely wouldn’t be starting from here!”

Bring it on! For me the tram is half full!

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90 Responses to RiotACT Face Off: Does Light Rail measure up for Canberra?
#1
dungfungus10:09 am, 07 Jul 14

What happens to light rail infrastructure when there is a riot like the one last week in Jerusalem:
“Among the damage caused by rioters at the stations was the destruction of ticket machines, the destruction of rubber tracks by rioters who set fire to them, demolishing of the traffic lights at intersections of the road and the tracks, vandalism of the electricity and communication infrastructure, and the ransacking of at least one electricity control center……”

It could happen here also.

#2
John Hargreaves Ex M10:13 am, 07 Jul 14

Kate has a couple of good points here. I think the issue of public transport has been a live one since well before self government but only on self government did it become such a visible issue. We spend a lot on subsidising the busses and have done a lot, between both sides of the Assembly in trying to make it an attractive alternative to taking the polluting motor car as a commuting vehicle.

Where Kate is absolutely right is that for light rail to work, and indeed a rapid bus system, there needs to be thousands of people living on or near the transport route.

So what comes first, chook or googie?

The light rail proposal suggests that “if you build it, people will use it”. I agree with this preposition. we need now to encourage the development sector to get behind the proposal and build higher rise accommodation along the proposed routes. And if this means tearing down some dreadful old and tired buildings along Northbourne, so be it. I’m all for preserving the heritage stuff but not all the horrid, ugly monstrosities which line our main thoroughfare.

Have the public housing tenants rehoused into state of the art accommodation, and release the land for the enticement of the generation of apartment dwellers who will not need a car.

I am a fan of St Kilda Road near the City precinct of Melbourne – let’s just get on and do it…

#3
dungfungus10:17 am, 07 Jul 14

Johno says:
“Remember when people bagged out the Arboretum? A $20 million tree zoo, if I recall. Now everyone loves it. Remember the bagging the Gungahlin Drive Extension got? Now everyone loves it.
Remember the dam? Now everyone loves it.”
You must have different news feeds to the rest of us Johno because a lot of us are still bagging the arboretum and the cost is approaching $100 million (not $20 million).
The bagging your government was getting over the GDE was mainly because you wouldn’t do it 4 lane from the beginning.
And the dam, well there was calling for a dam for ages but it took a 100 year drought to get people moving. Let’s not talk about the cost either lest it be a precendent for cost blowouts on the light fail.

#4
rosscoact10:36 am, 07 Jul 14

dungfungus said :

What happens to light rail infrastructure when there is a riot like the one last week in Jerusalem:
“Among the damage caused by rioters at the stations was the destruction of ticket machines, the destruction of rubber tracks by rioters who set fire to them, demolishing of the traffic lights at intersections of the road and the tracks, vandalism of the electricity and communication infrastructure, and the ransacking of at least one electricity control center……”

It could happen here also.

I’m speechless

#5
mountainman12:00 pm, 07 Jul 14

I agree with Kate here! But really we should just firm up Action it needs a royal commission ha, or recruit a very good CEO to change the culture and create new systems.

#6
dungfungus12:17 pm, 07 Jul 14

rosscoact said :

dungfungus said :

What happens to light rail infrastructure when there is a riot like the one last week in Jerusalem:
“Among the damage caused by rioters at the stations was the destruction of ticket machines, the destruction of rubber tracks by rioters who set fire to them, demolishing of the traffic lights at intersections of the road and the tracks, vandalism of the electricity and communication infrastructure, and the ransacking of at least one electricity control center……”

It could happen here also.

I’m speechless

I assume you are commenting on my suggestion that “it could happen here” ridiculous?
Well, it wasn’t that long ago that there was a riot at Parliament House which was instigated by trade unionists and the front doors and lobby were trashed. Also, a mentally disturbed man drove a 4WD into the great hall at the same address. Imagine what would have happened if the vehicle was loaded with explosives?
Another mentally disturbed man regularly smashed windows at the Legislative Assembly building, eco-extremists destroyed crops at the CSIRO etc.
Are you still speechless?

#7
HiddenDragon12:50 pm, 07 Jul 14

From Kate:

“….. And what do you need to make light rail cost effective – medium to high density nodes of population that can be linked to places where these people work.

I am not talking about a few high rise buildings , I am talking enough to house the thousands of people needed to make a mass transit system sustainable. It is also important to remember that these high rise buildings must be within walking distance of a light rail stop. If people have to drive to the stop and park , it will often be quicker to drive to work so the price differential between the light rail and parking in Civic will have to be huge. This will mean there will be pressure to keep fares low which will add to the viability problems of the system….”

That sums it up very nicely, and no amount of spin, “vision”, wishful thinking or heavy handed planning and social engineering will change those facts of life. One way or another, there will be a high price to pay.

#8
JessP2:05 pm, 07 Jul 14

dungfungus said :

Johno says:
“Remember when people bagged out the Arboretum? A $20 million tree zoo, if I recall. Now everyone loves it. Remember the bagging the Gungahlin Drive Extension got? Now everyone loves it.
Remember the dam? Now everyone loves it.”
You must have different news feeds to the rest of us Johno because a lot of us are still bagging the arboretum and the cost is approaching $100 million (not $20 million).
The bagging your government was getting over the GDE was mainly because you wouldn’t do it 4 lane from the beginning.
And the dam, well there was calling for a dam for ages but it took a 100 year drought to get people moving. Let’s not talk about the cost either lest it be a precendent for cost blowouts on the light fail.

+1

Lets not do it. Please.

#9
Postalgeek2:59 pm, 07 Jul 14

dungfungus said :

rosscoact said :

dungfungus said :

What happens to light rail infrastructure when there is a riot like the one last week in Jerusalem:
“Among the damage caused by rioters at the stations was the destruction of ticket machines, the destruction of rubber tracks by rioters who set fire to them, demolishing of the traffic lights at intersections of the road and the tracks, vandalism of the electricity and communication infrastructure, and the ransacking of at least one electricity control center……”

It could happen here also.

I’m speechless

I assume you are commenting on my suggestion that “it could happen here” ridiculous?
Well, it wasn’t that long ago that there was a riot at Parliament House which was instigated by trade unionists and the front doors and lobby were trashed. Also, a mentally disturbed man drove a 4WD into the great hall at the same address. Imagine what would have happened if the vehicle was loaded with explosives?
Another mentally disturbed man regularly smashed windows at the Legislative Assembly building, eco-extremists destroyed crops at the CSIRO etc.
Are you still speechless?

I think you would then discuss risk probabilities. Risk has not ceased development and deployment of transit systems in the past e.g. planes crash, brought to a standstill by terrorism and volcanos, but millions still fly them. And cars, well, if you want to talk about regular grinding halts, the M5 is a prime example. Many arguments to be made against light rail, as opposed to other transit systems, but I don’t think risk of riots is a particularly persuasive one.

#10
Kalliste3:39 pm, 07 Jul 14

I can’t believe how different these opinions are. Kate’s is based on facts and a history of how her government considered it and that the same issues affect us now.

John’s is a bunch of emotional spin with no facts to back it up whatsoever.

As someone who lives in gungahlin, I’m not sure why I’d waste time catching a bus and then the light rail (or walking and then light rail) that would take more time than I currently take to catch the bus now.

I was also originally for the rail, until further information became available, now it seems like a massive waste of money and I don’t want my rates increasing for a service I don’t see a need for.

#11
AgentK4:33 pm, 07 Jul 14

dungfungus said :

rosscoact said :

dungfungus said :

What happens to light rail infrastructure when there is a riot like the one last week in Jerusalem:
“Among the damage caused by rioters at the stations was the destruction of ticket machines, the destruction of rubber tracks by rioters who set fire to them, demolishing of the traffic lights at intersections of the road and the tracks, vandalism of the electricity and communication infrastructure, and the ransacking of at least one electricity control center……”

It could happen here also.

I’m speechless

I assume you are commenting on my suggestion that “it could happen here” ridiculous?
Well, it wasn’t that long ago that there was a riot at Parliament House which was instigated by trade unionists and the front doors and lobby were trashed. Also, a mentally disturbed man drove a 4WD into the great hall at the same address. Imagine what would have happened if the vehicle was loaded with explosives?
Another mentally disturbed man regularly smashed windows at the Legislative Assembly building, eco-extremists destroyed crops at the CSIRO etc.
Are you still speechless?

A riot at Parliment house? Please. That was a far from being a riot. Despite the media sensationalism.

All your points are speculative and border on the ridiculous.

Are you suggesting we should not risk building the light rail because there might be a riot and that riot might damage the rail infrastucture?

I suggest you don’t risk leaving your home. You never know when one of these “maybes” could strike.

#12
switch4:40 pm, 07 Jul 14

Think the artists responsible for these pictures will ever get the catenary right? They usually show no wires, while the above picture has two wires above each track. Two wires will quickly get entangled with the pantographs and bring the whole system to a grinding halt. One is the correct number, and needs a lot of additional poles etc to hold it up, also not shown above. I know many others have pointed this out in the past, but surely it’s about time they got a more realistic picture in their advertising. It’s not like trams are new untried technology.

#13
bundah5:19 pm, 07 Jul 14

John Hargreaves Ex MLA said :

I am a fan of St Kilda Road near the City precinct of Melbourne – let’s just get on and do it…

Well i’m a fan of realistic outcomes so the thought of being burdened with a white elephant is leaving me perplexed.

#14
rommeldog565:40 pm, 07 Jul 14

HiddenDragon said :

From Kate:

“….. And what do you need to make light rail cost effective – medium to high density nodes of population that can be linked to places where these people work.

I am not talking about a few high rise buildings , I am talking enough to house the thousands of people needed to make a mass transit system sustainable. It is also important to remember that these high rise buildings must be within walking distance of a light rail stop. If people have to drive to the stop and park , it will often be quicker to drive to work so the price differential between the light rail and parking in Civic will have to be huge. This will mean there will be pressure to keep fares low which will add to the viability problems of the system….”

That sums it up very nicely, and no amount of spin, “vision”, wishful thinking or heavy handed planning and social engineering will change those facts of life. One way or another, there will be a high price to pay.

I’m no fan of Kate Carnell, but what she said in the Face Off was very accurate and well substantiated in understandable terms, IMHO. Kate wins, hands down.

#15
Pandy6:45 pm, 07 Jul 14

When Northbourne Avenue is wall to wall 6 story stone buildings with copper sheeted Mansard roofs, and all of the gum tress cut down in the median strip and replaced with something oh la lay Parisian trees, that will be the right time to build light rail.

Cr%ppy C grade multi story one bedroom flats just does not cut the croissant for me.

#16
wildturkeycanoe7:12 pm, 07 Jul 14

“Remember when people bagged out the Arboretum? A $20 million tree zoo, if I recall. Remember the bagging the Gungahlin Drive Extension got? Remember the dam?”
Is John Hargreaves trying to promote the light rail or giving those opposing it more ammunition?
The Arboretum has come under scrutiny for its policies and costs for access. The GDE is precisely the reason the government thinks light rail is needed due to the mass of cars that occupy it at peak periods, so is he saying they flopped with all the money spent on it as it didn’t solve any problems, another White Elephant he wants us to recall? [Not to mention the catastrophic collapse]
The Cotter Dam extension had it’s share of flops too, with it’s delays and damage from floods.
How can these memories possibly convince us that another multi-hundreds of millions of dollars is needed to be spent on yet another useless piece of infrastructure they still can’t substantiate with data proving it to be of benefit?

#17
justin heywood7:27 pm, 07 Jul 14

bundah said :

John Hargreaves Ex MLA said :

I am a fan of St Kilda Road near the City precinct of Melbourne – let’s just get on and do it…

Well i’m a fan of realistic outcomes so the thought of being burdened with a white elephant is leaving me perplexed.

+1. How about we accept that Canberra is not Melbourne (athough let’s be thankful it’s a Melbourne vibe they’re after and not Venice).

Canberra’s layout suits road transport, not light rail. For much less money we could have a world-leading bus system.

#18
urchin8:26 pm, 07 Jul 14

i remain confused why prominent people weighing in on this issue persist on presenting the public with a false choice – light rail or business as usual. instead of taking extreme positions, why not compare light rail with rapid bus transit?

a recent post by shane rattenbury dismissed rapid bus out of hand. light rail is faster, can carry more and is better for the environment, he said. and he is right enough on those counts. but *how much* faster? *how many* more? and *how much* better for the environment (than the passenger cars it will presumably replace)?

The answer to the first two questions, according to the gov’ts own report, is “not a hell of a lot”. speed is a couple of percent faster, capacity is a few percent higher.

Now, what about the cost? how much does that extra couple percent cost us? somewhere on the order of $200 million+. Oh and with rapid bus transit other busses–not ones just going gungahlin-civic–can take advantage of the improved infrastructure. all those busses heading up and down northbourne can use it, even if they don’t turn onto flemington road.

their own report seems to make the case for rapid bus transit blindingly obvious. it is cheaper, faster to build, more able to withstand downturns and more flexible.

the only arguments in favour of rail are a marginal increase in speed and capacity, “aesthetics” (all in the eye of the beholder) and a warm & fuzzy feeling.

having a tram will not suddenly transform canberra’s image in australia and throughout the world. it will not bring about a massive increase in tourism.

i personally love trains and i live quite near where the train will be running–and even I don’t support it. it will take ages to get built and when it finally is built, they will have to jack up fares to a ridiculous degree in order to pay for the inevitable cost overruns. in the meantime they will cancel or reduce existing bus services so that we have no choice but to ride this white elephant to and from work each day or drive.

light rail is a nice dream but it ain’t practical. go with a bus rapid transit system, cut morning commutes in half with the same fares and people will flock to it.

#19
Frustrated8:52 pm, 07 Jul 14

dungfungus said :

Johno says:
“Remember when people bagged out the Arboretum? A $20 million tree zoo, if I recall. Now everyone loves it. Remember the bagging the Gungahlin Drive Extension got? Now everyone loves it.
Remember the dam? Now everyone loves it.”
You must have different news feeds to the rest of us Johno because a lot of us are still bagging the arboretum and the cost is approaching $100 million (not $20 million).
The bagging your government was getting over the GDE was mainly because you wouldn’t do it 4 lane from the beginning.
And the dam, well there was calling for a dam for ages but it took a 100 year drought to get people moving. Let’s not talk about the cost either lest it be a precendent for cost blowouts on the light fail.

But, you only picked the Labor/Minority Govt spends.

If you want to whinge about spending, lets look at the shonky deal done by the Carnell Govt to redesign the Bruce Stadium. Raiders barely get up above 10k for their home games for example.

#20
dungfungus10:09 pm, 07 Jul 14

bundah said :

John Hargreaves Ex MLA said :

I am a fan of St Kilda Road near the City precinct of Melbourne – let’s just get on and do it…

Well i’m a fan of realistic outcomes so the thought of being burdened with a white elephant is leaving me perplexed.

The average speed of a Melbourne tram is 11 kmh.

#21
Walker10:21 pm, 07 Jul 14

Kate, your trail of logic through to viability doesn’t convince me, this part:

“If people have to drive to the stop and park, it will often be quicker to drive to work so the price differential between the light rail and parking in Civic will have to be huge. This will mean there will be pressure to keep fares low which will add to the viability problems of the system.”

I don’t see the sequence. We could pick through it, but before that, question the initial premise on which it rests. Just how is staying in a car through to the jam part, better?

On density, what are the relevant thresholds? In some parts seems like we’re there and it’s not like it’ll get any thinner.

Over to John. Some call it “spin,” it seems more fair to argue that your words are mostly about attitude and mentality, so far, relevant factors for sure. And yes there’s too much “noise” in some quarters, negativity and rancid mob mentality, maybe it’s too infectious.

Still, as the face off progresses, you’ll need a bit more meat for us to chew on, it seems, you can’t make it all about the vibe as such.

Those things, and this question to you both or to anyone: What else was looked into? (In Kate’s time, or later?). Other methods, other routes, and so on.

As urchin says in a way, why just two options? Is there anything else?

#22
260410:22 pm, 07 Jul 14

urchin said :

having a tram will not suddenly transform canberra’s image in australia and throughout the world.

Agreed. People who argue that we need light rail to prove that we’re a real city, or that we’re sophisticated, need to grow up and stop thinking that an $800 million tram will fix their self-esteem issues. Your Sydney-based friends who currently laugh at Canberra aren’t going to stop because of a tram.

No-one who currently makes fun of Canberra is going to stop just because

#23
OpenYourMind10:30 pm, 07 Jul 14

John Hargreaves, I appreciate your well reasoned argument, however a potential $800million is a completely unacceptable expense for the people of Canberra right now. Lots of Canberrans are doing it tougher than ever. The public service is reducing in size, there are few jobs, no salary rises and rises in utility bills and horrendous rates rises of 10+%. Sending the city into debt for a tram when the current bus service (which services most of the city) is running at losses in the 10s of millions per annum smacks as a terrible choice.

I’m not opposed to a tram network in Canberra. I’m opposed to the horrendous cost of it coupled with the potential for all public transport to be changing across the world as electric vehicles and self driving options begin to take to the street.

Please Canberra, reconsider light rail before our lovely city plunges into debt.

#24
gazket11:37 pm, 07 Jul 14

People wanted Gungahlin Dr a few greenies held it up, Labor originally built “one of the most expensive non tunnelled single lane roads per kilometre in Australia’s history.” Labor don’t have a good record of build infrastructure to original projected costs.

Federally run Labor infrastructure projects B.E.R, pink batts, NBN blowouts ,Satelite band width rip off, $698 set top boxes for pensioners. There’s so many failures I’ve forgotten some. No one has faith in Labor locally or Federally TO BUILD ANYTHING.

How about fixing the rail line to Sydney that would be more useful to Canberrans, we could at least get to Sydney in under the current rail 4.5 hours and get our fuel and goods here cheaper by rail.

#25
bundah11:48 pm, 07 Jul 14

dungfungus said :

bundah said :

John Hargreaves Ex MLA said :

I am a fan of St Kilda Road near the City precinct of Melbourne – let’s just get on and do it…

Well i’m a fan of realistic outcomes so the thought of being burdened with a white elephant is leaving me perplexed.

The average speed of a Melbourne tram is 11 kmh.

Hmm I wonder how that would compare to buses with dedicated lanes. My personal favourites would be miniature choo choo’s or a team of huskies which would make far more sense than a white elephant…

#26
milkman7:26 am, 08 Jul 14

urchin said :

light rail is a nice dream but it ain’t practical. go with a bus rapid transit system, cut morning commutes in half with the same fares and people will flock to it.

This. +10000000000000.

#27
Garfield8:09 am, 08 Jul 14

Kalliste said :

I can’t believe how different these opinions are. Kate’s is based on facts and a history of how her government considered it and that the same issues affect us now.

John’s is a bunch of emotional spin with no facts to back it up whatsoever.

+ 1

#28
watto2311:17 am, 08 Jul 14

gazket said :

People wanted Gungahlin Dr a few greenies held it up, Labor originally built “one of the most expensive non tunnelled single lane roads per kilometre in Australia’s history.” Labor don’t have a good record of build infrastructure to original projected costs.

Federally run Labor infrastructure projects B.E.R, pink batts, NBN blowouts ,Satelite band width rip off, $698 set top boxes for pensioners. There’s so many failures I’ve forgotten some. No one has faith in Labor locally or Federally TO BUILD ANYTHING.

How about fixing the rail line to Sydney that would be more useful to Canberrans, we could at least get to Sydney in under the current rail 4.5 hours and get our fuel and goods here cheaper by rail.

NBN is a failure because it doesn’t suit a political parties ideologies or financial supporters. Otherwise Australia would have been the real winner there and it would have generated a lot of business. Its a shame their is so much short sightedness in politics these days.
I could argue the stop the boats is a failure too, but unless you were of a certain political persuasion you wouldn’t agree.

#29
watto2311:24 am, 08 Jul 14

I agree that Tuggeranong residents seem to oppose this on price, but would probably support it if it started in Tuggeranong first.

My opposition to it as I’ve stated in many posts, is the speed of the transport. I don’t use public transport because it takes too long. When an hour+ is needed to say commute from Tuggeranong to civic and the same journey in reasonable traffic takes half the time, i’m willing to pay for the privelege so that i can have an hour a day free to do something else.

The proposed system, doesn’t cut transit times that much. too many stops, too many traffic lights as well. Its not like the bus lights at traffic lights work for anyone other than motorcyclists.

#30
HiddenDragon12:09 pm, 08 Jul 14

After the plug for Tesla on last night’s Four Corners, I’m wondering if they also manufacture, or plan to, electric buses – if such are available, or likely to be in the not-too-distant future, that would weaken considerably the claimed sustainability advantage for Canberra trams.

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