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3 years since light rail announced as ALP policy

By Damien Haas - 22 September 2015 34

andrew barr light rail
On 21 Sep 2012, the ALP announced that Capital Metro light rail would form part of the policy platform they would take to the 2012 ACT election.

It was covered by ACT Light Rail here.

The ALP and Greens won that election, and formed Government. Light rail commencing construction formed part of the agreement to govern between the two parties.

With that mandate, the Capital Metro program has proceeded on schedule. Bids to build and operate are being considered by the ACT Government right now, with construction commencing in 2016.

What’s Your opinion?


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34 Responses to
3 years since light rail announced as ALP policy
miz 7:39 pm 23 Sep 15

Rubaiat said ‘Tuggeranong Freeway.’ I think he/she is hereby #outed as an Adviser!

rubaiyat 7:16 pm 23 Sep 15

OpenYourMind said :

But rubaiyat, that expenditure on roads and road upkeep won’t go away.

Yes it can, you just can’t imagine that it can. Just like we couldn’t cut back on smoking, or drink driving, or use seatbelts, or stick to speed limits…

OpenYourMind said :

The mind numbingly expensive tram will be over and above these costs.

The $4 billion dollars every single year that Canberrans spend JUST on their cars, not the roads, not eye watering enough for you?

Ignoring that the Capital Metro project pays for everything, and is spread over 10 to 20 years.

OpenYourMind said :

Canberra is not London (where I have lived), it is Canberra.

No Canberra was a sheep paddock before it was a city. Apparently you weren’t consulted, because it got built.

OpenYourMind said :

It is not so massive now or in the forseeable future that some well designed roads (plus autonomous cars) won’t be able to cope with peak loads. Take a look at the roads in and out of Tuggeranong or Woden. For the most part they flow fine.

No need to spend any more money on roads then. Especially on mind numbingly expensive duplication like in Majura Valley, or Cotter Road or the Russell overpass.

OpenYourMind said :

The autonomous car discussion must really eat at you, because the very idea of it really derails your tram!

Of course, just like all that Clean Coal we are enjoying.

“Autonomous cars” is the phurphy the Automobile industry came up with because young people in cities are buying less, or no cars, and because there’s a sucker born every minute.

The pretense is that the problem is who’s driving, not the cars themselves.

OpenYourMind said :

Car companies and technology car companies are leaping into autonomous so fast the landscape is changing by the month. Now is about the worst time to contemplate embracing last century’s tram tech!

Car pooling under a different name is exactly the same dud it has always been. People don’t want to share last century’s car and be forced to go where other people want to go.

They may as well use public transport and not get stuck with the car.

rubaiyat 5:42 pm 23 Sep 15

Dreadnaught1905 said :

rubaiyat said :

When comparing whole of costs of competing systems, you really do need to compare whole of costs. Where is the $11-15,000/year that it costs the average commuter to run a car? .

I know you’ve used that figure once or twice before, and even cited the (really quite informative) RACQ publication that produced it, but I don’t think it’s applicable here.

The TCO for owning a car (and, let’s not forget that the $11-15,000/year includes interest and depreciation (which are not going to be applicable in many circumstances)) would only be useful as a comparative cost if it was assumed that all of those car owners would cease to own a car because of light rail.

In all seriousness, how likely is it that a significant percentage of light rail users are going to not own a car (that they currently own) because they catch a tram on their workday commute?

The costs will be reduced by less usage, certainly. However, as the RACQ publication points out that more than 50% of the costs of the vehicle are standing costs and not running costs, then I doubt the validity of using the numbers as a comparison.

The cost is real no matter how you try to ignore it. As the RACQ and NRMA point out, it is a huge chunk out of most people’s post tax income.

After mortgages, car loans are the single largest source of debt for Australians. What is worse they are paying for the running costs of cars with credit cards.

Any savings you choose to make, by using alternative transport, or simply cutting down the number of trips, or the size or number of cars in your household (the average is almost 3 and half are 2 tonne monsters), is like a massive tax free pay rise.

Depreciation is definitely real, your car loses money instantly after purchase and a large chunk each year, until it has to be disposed of. Then you buy another, if you haven’t wised up.

What people really fail to understand (they think the cost is just the petrol) is that they hardly use their cars.

Your car is doing nothing for over 98% of the time, except costing money to store it, at work and in the double garage that added $36,000 to the average house mortgage, or the extra rent on that parking space attached to your apartment.

It eats up your time to operate it.

You are doing basically nothing sitting on your own, stuck in traffic, staring up at all the public transport users reading books, newspapers or on their laptops or iPads.

New Yorkers boast how few of them own cars. We are not there yet but there is a strong trend for young people living in cities in Australia to not own cars, or just a small one, and instead use the money to enjoy themselves.

The car manufacturers are well aware of this “Hipster” trend and worried enough to be actively and underhandedly lobbying through astroturf organisations and misinformation campaigns against all alternative transport projects.

Which brings us here. If you are not one of the astroturf organisations, you are on their Xmas Card list.

OpenYourMind 3:45 pm 23 Sep 15

But rubaiyat, that expenditure on roads and road upkeep won’t go away. The mind numbingly expensive tram will be over and above these costs. Canberra is not London (where I have lived), it is Canberra. It is not so massive now or in the forseeable future that some well designed roads (plus autonomous cars) won’t be able to cope with peak loads. Take a look at the roads in and out of Tuggeranong or Woden. For the most part they flow fine. It’s only lack of planning with roads from the addition of Gunghalin that have really been a problem. The autonomous car discussion must really eat at you, because the very idea of it really derails your tram! Car companies and technology car companies are leaping into autonomous so fast the landscape is changing by the month. Now is about the worst time to contemplate embracing last century’s tram tech!

Dreadnaught1905 3:29 pm 23 Sep 15

rubaiyat said :

When comparing whole of costs of competing systems, you really do need to compare whole of costs. Where is the $11-15,000/year that it costs the average commuter to run a car? .

I know you’ve used that figure once or twice before, and even cited the (really quite informative) RACQ publication that produced it, but I don’t think it’s applicable here.

The TCO for owning a car (and, let’s not forget that the $11-15,000/year includes interest and depreciation (which are not going to be applicable in many circumstances)) would only be useful as a comparative cost if it was assumed that all of those car owners would cease to own a car because of light rail.

In all seriousness, how likely is it that a significant percentage of light rail users are going to not own a car (that they currently own) because they catch a tram on their workday commute?

The costs will be reduced by less usage, certainly. However, as the RACQ publication points out that more than 50% of the costs of the vehicle are standing costs and not running costs, then I doubt the validity of using the numbers as a comparison.

rubaiyat 3:19 pm 23 Sep 15

aussie2 said :

“ACT ALP: After eleven years and several failed pro-bus public transport policies, the ALP has accepted that light rail with integrated bus services offers the best mass transit option for Canberra’s future. The ALP now have a policy that proposes that if they are re-elected this (2012) year:
? They will begin an examination of constructing a light rail line with public private partnership options? If elected again in 2016, would actually begin construction of the Gungahlin to Civic light
rail link with an aim for completion by 2018.
? They will commit 30 million dollars over the next two years for further work on these proposals.
? The name of the proposed light rail is Capital Metro.
? Initial link will run from Gungahlin to Civic along Northbourne Avenue
? This initial link is costed at $614 million dollars”. Read it again to make sure you take it all in. Nowhere do I see mention of we will sign contracts before the next Election-quite the opposite. CantheTram have costed this 12km link at $2Billion over 30 years-this includes interest payable over that period. Mr Barr is being really generous with our money, offsetting the cost with $359m capital injection, and don’t forget the $159m to relocate public housing tenants away from Northbourne Ave. Our money, your money, NOT THEIRS! Did you know this is about a NETWORK? 120KM OF IT! Work that one out in a car centric city! Our poor kids and grandchildren saddled with all that debt. Did we learn nothing from Fed politics and Labor debt? What about Greece? Living beyond their means for years. Our debt addicted Leaders want to go some more. What kind of people would want that? Please speak out. Better still-write to dabblers2@hotmail.com and join the Canberra Public Transport Alliance NOW and get the FACTS!

Nowhere do I see that this is actually from the Canberra ANTI-Public Transport Alliance!

The FACTS are that 54% of Canberra is already roads and that Canberrans spend over $4 billion dollars every year just on cars.

Over the next 30 years that will be well over $120 billion, and that isn’t some made up B.S. about a non-existent Tram network of your concoction, that is from Bureau of Stats figures on actual expenditure for the existing (not even projected) cars.

It doesn’t even cost in the roads themselves, their upkeep and all the people killed or hospitalised by cars.

Nor the immense amount of money that will it cost to clean up the environmental damage caused by cars that will make the Mr Fluffy clean up look like petty cash.

watto23 9:48 am 23 Sep 15

Holden Caulfield said :

Communism is great in theory too.

Yeah but the issue is communism has been used as a tool to keep the plebs in place happy by a dictator. In Europe there are quite a few successful Socialist style countries. If you look at America and its capitalism, its great for many, but those that miss out are far far worse off and the USA has far more issues in society than Australia.

In theory you can have a democratic communist country, reality is those in charge will always abuse their power. We’ve had enough evidence of that at work in Australia, its just far more noticeable in a communist country.

Holden Caulfield 1:36 am 23 Sep 15

Communism is great in theory too.

aussie2 8:02 pm 22 Sep 15

“ACT ALP: After eleven years and several failed pro-bus public transport policies, the ALP has accepted that light rail with integrated bus services offers the best mass transit option for Canberra’s future. The ALP now have a policy that proposes that if they are re-elected this (2012) year:
? They will begin an examination of constructing a light rail line with public private partnership options? If elected again in 2016, would actually begin construction of the Gungahlin to Civic light
rail link with an aim for completion by 2018.
? They will commit 30 million dollars over the next two years for further work on these proposals.
? The name of the proposed light rail is Capital Metro.
? Initial link will run from Gungahlin to Civic along Northbourne Avenue
? This initial link is costed at $614 million dollars”. Read it again to make sure you take it all in. Nowhere do I see mention of we will sign contracts before the next Election-quite the opposite. CantheTram have costed this 12km link at $2Billion over 30 years-this includes interest payable over that period. Mr Barr is being really generous with our money, offsetting the cost with $359m capital injection, and don’t forget the $159m to relocate public housing tenants away from Northbourne Ave. Our money, your money, NOT THEIRS! Did you know this is about a NETWORK? 120KM OF IT! Work that one out in a car centric city! Our poor kids and grandchildren saddled with all that debt. Did we learn nothing from Fed politics and Labor debt? What about Greece? Living beyond their means for years. Our debt addicted Leaders want to go some more. What kind of people would want that? Please speak out. Better still-write to dabblers2@hotmail.com and join the Canberra Public Transport Alliance NOW and get the FACTS!

rubaiyat 7:16 pm 22 Sep 15

I’ve got a little more time now. I’ll try and read the report in more detail but the list of mistaken assumptions, miscalculations and false data is growing longer.

Like with all modelling and reliance on other data it is GIGO, Garbage In Garbage Out. Not that I want to slight Kent’s efforts or say most of them are deliberate, they just come from limited perspective and experience that has coloured the approach and results.

You do have to be careful of industry data or projections of unbuilt systems, such as proposed autonomous cars. Even the suggested notion that cars will be filled to capacity or near capacity, even half capacity flies in the face of long practice and attempts at changing driver behaviour. The whole idea of cars to people who use them to get around is the unplanned spontaneity of jumping in and going wherever you want. That gets killed stone dead once you introduce any form of ride sharing.

The “ideal” system of autonomous cars is in practice far from “ideal” particularly when it will not be universal. You only need some manually operated vehicles in the mix to break down all the assumptions of closer vehicle spacing and traffic flow as well as supposed safety benefits. It is not an army marching and turning in lock step. Even with tighter traffic spacing, individual cars will never get the same road density (actually track) that Light Rail/Trams (even buses) do.

You also need to be very wary of industry data, and it looks like a lot of the premises contained were from car manufacturers.

VW has just been caught massively defrauding the emissions results in their cars, particularly the diesels.

The car/oil/road transport industry has a long history of misleading both their customers and government bodies on safety and environmental standards, even using massive dirty trick campaigns to get their way. A huge grain of salt is needed with everything that comes from them.

HiddenDragon 6:07 pm 22 Sep 15

The events of last Monday are a salutary reminder (following several others at federal and state level in recent years) of the danger of overplaying the “mandate” card – the public can change its mind radically and quickly.

rubaiyat 5:40 pm 22 Sep 15

KentFitch said :

Thanks for the reminder, Damien, but I think you’ll find they announced a different (faster, decongesting, cheaper) light rail project:

– average end to end speed was promised to be at least 40km/hr (open operational tab here: http://pandora.nla.gov.au/pan/143280/20140408-1315/www.capitalmetro.act.gov.au/news-and-publications/frequently-asked-questions.html ), now promised at 28km/hr, but most likely will be same as GC (21 km/hr)

– the rationale (and business case) was based on congestion reduction and improved travel times, now their EIS tells us both will be worse with light rail than without: http://www.projectcomputing.com/resources/cacs/faq.html#eisapend

– cost was $614M, including a 30% contingency now $783M, next month, who knows

I believe Simon Corbell initiated the light-rail project with noble objectives and in good faith. There is no shame in admitting it hasn’t panned out. It is however, shameful and irresponsible in the extreme to ignore the evidence, refuse to consider alternatives, continue wasting resources on a project that your own agency acknowledges will fail to meet your own objectives, and sentence Canberrans to a debt that will knobble government spending on worthy initiatives for decades.

Please no more exaggerated costs and scaremongering of death and debt!

The existing debt obviously has nothing to do with the Light Rail. It exists because of many bad decisions in the past, mostly to do with freeways or road duplication or upgrading of inconsequential intersections or stubs of road. Along with all the other cheap thinking that goes into things like Mr Fluffy and outer fringe suburbia packed with badly oriented inappropriate housing. All are major environmental problems for the next generation to clean up at huge expense.

One thing I agree on however is the misnomer of Light Rail. Fewer stops in the middle of a wide busy road that still does not deliver on speed is bad design plastered on top of bad planning.

Studies have shown that more frequent stops at easier to get at locations a la the Melbourne trams deliver better results for commuters with little or no affect on overall journey times.

But overall I’m actually glad that someone at last is actually sitting down and doing some calculations instead of plucking random conjectures out of mid-air. It allows an unusually rational debate to take place on the merit of the various proposals.

There isn’t room here to tackle everything in the second link, but I will just point out the major omissions.

When comparing whole of costs of competing systems, you really do need to compare whole of costs. Where is the $11-15,000/year that it costs the average commuter to run a car? Where is the whole of costs of roads and freeways, they don’t just appear from nowhere as gifts with no strings attached from some generous benefactor.

The author has no trouble citing whole of cost for Light Rail, with some emotive exaggeration and slights, but fails to do that for the competing proposals. Especially as he is really pushing the untested autonomous car and exaggerates the case by bumping up the occupancy rate to almost double what is well researched as only 1.2 occupants per peak hour car in Australia. Frankly I don’t believe we even reach that in Canberra, just based on simple observation of peak hour cars on Adelaide Ave, Northbourne Ave and the Tuggeranong Freeway.

Which is one of the key issues of differing transport systems.

Cars have a reverse loading pattern which is why they are so bad at moving commuters. At peak hours they have a low occupancy and high congestion reducing traffic speed. The larger the number of commuters the more the system binds up. Which is why they are so inefficient and costly in practice. They also dump the means of transport at either end of trips, doing nothing but adding cost and using up real estate for 95% of the day.

Mass transit systems have a huge capacity moving to schedules with high reliability. They have high occupancy in peak hours concentrated into the same transit corridors with no speed penalty. It is a simple matter to ramp up the capacity with more carriages or more frequent services.

Cars and roads require ever more demolition of the city they serve. Extra roads and lanes don’t increase capacity arithmetically they get more and more inefficient as well as intrusive and disruptive to the people who have to live with them.

The author makes some very specious comments about the commuter density based on some casually posed photos he gathered on comparative road usage. The case for the cars is actually worse because they are just parked in the street not moving and jostling for lanes as they normally do. Even bicycles flow more smoothly than cars.

When we get down to it, we are discussing Light Rail not cars, buses or cycles. The last btw can be married up with LR. Bikes can travel with passengers. Light Rail has 3 to 4 times the capacity of buses, even more if you extend the carriages. Light Rail has well over 200 times the capacity of cars and with its scheduled operation does not create enormously wide polluting, noisy, deadly, divisions in cities like freeways loaded with cars. You can easily and safely cross Light Rail/Tram lines which is why they fit so well into inner urban neighbourhoods. Not so with freeways or bust roads.

I also question using US data. The neglect of public transport in the USA is striking, as is the resultant effect it has had on their cities. We don’t have their ghettoes and don’t want to have them.

Finally the author sees the problem as patching the existing urban plan, whereas most of the proponents see the Light Rail as part of a deliberate shift away from long commutes and suburban sprawl eating up the countryside. The aim is to have clean, shorter, more convenient travel for a denser urban layout with improved liveability for its citizens. Not have the city killed off by the foul deadly transport system, freeways and roads, that is supposed to serve it.

The final straw for me was the scaremongering with Light Rail accidents. Cars, buses and trucks, particularly the Double B trucks prone to jack knifing, kill large numbers of people on our roads every year but mostly go uncommented.

The whole vast NSW rail system, commuter, freight, light rail and country had one fatality in 2014 which was the last period I could find statistics for. The same for the whole Melbourne tram system.

KentFitch 3:30 pm 22 Sep 15

Thanks for the reminder, Damien, but I think you’ll find they announced a different (faster, decongesting, cheaper) light rail project:

– average end to end speed was promised to be at least 40km/hr (open operational tab here: http://pandora.nla.gov.au/pan/143280/20140408-1315/www.capitalmetro.act.gov.au/news-and-publications/frequently-asked-questions.html ), now promised at 28km/hr, but most likely will be same as GC (21 km/hr)

– the rationale (and business case) was based on congestion reduction and improved travel times, now their EIS tells us both will be worse with light rail than without: http://www.projectcomputing.com/resources/cacs/faq.html#eisapend

– cost was $614M, including a 30% contingency now $783M, next month, who knows

I believe Simon Corbell initiated the light-rail project with noble objectives and in good faith. There is no shame in admitting it hasn’t panned out. It is however, shameful and irresponsible in the extreme to ignore the evidence, refuse to consider alternatives, continue wasting resources on a project that your own agency acknowledges will fail to meet your own objectives, and sentence Canberrans to a debt that will knobble government spending on worthy initiatives for decades.

rubaiyat 2:58 pm 22 Sep 15

MERC600 said :

I don’t reckon it will fly, if you get my drift.
Mr Barr , as the election gets closer, will start to mention how cash strapped we are.
Downturn in the economy will leave less GST for the feds to play with.
The Grants Commission will have less numbers to play with.
Our population number is declining.
Mr Fluffy was not in the 2012 election platform.
Nobody believes the union poll, indeed it shows some desperation..
Even with a new Pm , those dweadfull Libs will continue their public service cuts.
Who wants to go down in history as losing a labour Govt in a labour town.

GST goes to the States and Territories, not the Federal Government.

MERC600 1:00 pm 22 Sep 15

I don’t reckon it will fly, if you get my drift.
Mr Barr , as the election gets closer, will start to mention how cash strapped we are.
Downturn in the economy will leave less GST for the feds to play with.
The Grants Commission will have less numbers to play with.
Our population number is declining.
Mr Fluffy was not in the 2012 election platform.
Nobody believes the union poll, indeed it shows some desperation..
Even with a new Pm , those dweadfull Libs will continue their public service cuts.
Who wants to go down in history as losing a labour Govt in a labour town.

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