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A war on cars or visionary policy?

By Steven Bailey - 29 September 2015 245

light rail artist impression

Canberra’s MLAs are not exactly famous for lively repartee, but last week duty called for Liberal MLA Giulia Jones. She gave it a good hard crack, flexing her silver tongue and delivering an unbridled bombardment to the Greens.

“Mums and dads trying to get their kids to school and earn the double income needed to survive these days should not have to pay the price for this minister’s mung bean, soy latte vision of a utopian society where inner city yuppies can catch a tram to work.

“That is [the Greens’] view and it punishes those working the hardest to produce another generation of ratepayers and it is a disgrace. The idea of mode shift is anti mum and anti family, and it is arrogant.

“We know better than you what is good for you. The Greens minister is out of touch and dictatorial,” she said.

Whether it’s light rail or cyclists versus motorists, it seems that not a day passes in our quiet capital without some sort of public vitriol being expressed in the media.

Cyclists disobeying road rules or riding in the middle of the road, motorists overtaking dangerously, and the great light rail debate have all collided into a tinderbox of tension and political opportunism.

For others, the public discourse is more aesthetical in nature. For instance, I’ve never understood the shaved legs and spandex, but I’d never impose my ignorance on others – go for your life!

Canberra deserves a more sophisticated debate on public transport and whether we support light rail or not, a cross-party approach that pursued the best outcome for the future surely would have been fairer and more reasonable for the people of Canberra.

But instead, the battle lines have been drawn and we are beholden to a project that may be legitimately perceived as political pandering to a certain constituency.

Yes, Gungahlin is growing at a rapid rate, but perhaps partly because Tuggeranong has been so neglected. If you live in Tuggeranong and work in Civic, the morning traffic is far more arduous than from Gungahlin to Civic.

A massive influx of parking fees and fines coupled with a shortage of parking spaces; an unrestricted increase in speed cameras; an inadequate bus service; the introduction of 30 km/h speed zones; and un-enforceable mandatory distances for cars overtaking cyclists are but some of the punitive measures against Canberra drivers.

For some, it is a simple argument: people should be discouraged from driving, and people who instead use public transport and bicycles are morally superior to those who don’t.

I support a sophisticated, multifaceted, environmentally friendly, and efficient transport policy for the future, and will have more to add to this debate in the coming months.

What I don’t support is governments attempting to change people’s behaviour through arrogant assumptions and punitive measures instead of intelligent debate and incentives.

Giulia, let me know if you’d like a new speech writer; I’d be more than happy to help.

What’s Your opinion?

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245 Responses to
A war on cars or visionary policy?
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wildturkeycanoe 3:29 pm 15 Oct 15

“Your trip should not trash either your home, your destination or the length of the trip.”
But turning the tram corridor into a bustling highrise like the big brother cities, detracting from the plan of a bush capital in order to satisfy the environmentalists is okay? How carbon neutral will all this new construction and development be? The byproducts of this development which is needed to make the tram viable will be a blight on the greenery of a beautiful skyline. High density housing does not appeal to me as a better partner of the environment than the suburbia we have now, with its open parklands and green backyards.
Until the ACTs housing is under enough pressure to warrant any more of the ugly pop up rectangular prisms called unit blocks, nobody will build them, especially on property that will have skyrocketing rates. With interest rates inevitably to rise it would be difficult to sell them unless the government also reverses the culling of PS staff, who would be the likely majority of tram users.
A convenience store on every street corner as part of the “retail experience” touted as a feature of the rail route, would only disuade people from using the tram as their shopping needs are catered for locally. It will self destruct and end up being heavily subsidized by the taxpayer to save face and not be mothballed.

dungfungus 9:35 am 15 Oct 15

rubaiyat said :

Let’s get one thing clear.

Cheapest is rarely the best. I’m not immune to succumbing to the temptation of a bargain (having bought an Android phone) but experience teaches us useful lessons.

Get it clear in your mind what the objective is, the possible solutions and then spend more for better because in the long run, that pays handsomely.

This is not simply about a method of getting from one place to another as quickly as possible, ignoring where you are coming from and where you are going to and what you are doing to everything in-between.

As the Chinese Buddhist say, “The journey is the reward”.

Your trip should not trash either your home, your destination or the length of the trip. Roads, freeways, cars, and buses do that. When you take into account the damage that they do along with their extremely high cost, they are really a very bad solution to a problem of your own making.

Make the journey shorter, cleaner and more interesting and enjoy your City.

An electric Volvo in every garage and canola growing in the IKEA kitchen.
Ahh, life in Pleasantville is good.

chewy14 8:17 am 15 Oct 15

rubaiyat said :

chewy14 said :

Look, whatever you think of the BRT, there’s no possible way that it will ever approach the capital cost of the light rail. Surely you’re not arguing that it will? The governments own study show it won’t.

No doubt that it is cheaper but it is not half as cheap. The much shorter Belconnen BRT many years ago wasn’t. But BRT is cheap in many ways more than cost. Which is why, after having wasted a lot of money on them, some cities are ripping them up and replacing them with LRT.

chewy14 said :

And seeing you are suggesting that one of the main benefits of the Light Rail is not transport but corridor development related, surely you’d support a precinct charge for people living along the route to pay for it? Why should such a private benefit accrue from public funds? Particularly when there are far cheaper options available to cover the stated goal of providing better public transport?

I agree that the money should come from increased development, but a lot of objectors to the Light Rail are objecting to that, perhaps as a way of sabotaging the LR.

There is secondary income however. As the land value increases along the length of the LR, rates increase and there is also taxes on increased commercial activity. Finally there is a major benefit from transport savings that flows through to discretionary spending which attracts GST.

You will really have to turn up that hearing aid, the objective has been, a cleaner more sustainable Canberra and more development and residences at the heart of Canberra that doesn’t continually destroy more countryside and cause commuting problems. To that end you need a clean, convenient transport system, for the first time in Canberra.

chewy14 said :

I think you’d find a lot more people would be supportive if the main beneficiaries actually contributed proportionately to its cost.

They do, but a lot of energy is going into lying about the cost, widely exaggerating it, denying benefits they have never experienced, and attacking the changes as being “different” to what (some) people think is the universal and eternal “way of things”.

Most of the objections are coming from older, conservative, men living in Tuggeranong. They have taken it upon themselves to see that change won’t happen especially if it improves Canberra and by comparison makes Tuggeranong seem even more of a dowdy backwater than it already is.

There are also the Abbottonian anti-environmentalists. They absolutely insist on executing their genetic instructions to destroy whatever they can get their hands on and teach all those smartarses a lesson.

OK firstly, the BRT was costed in the government’s own study at $300-$360 million and the light rail at $700-$860 million.

Now, my maths may have failed me but saying that it’s half the cost on those figures is actually being generous to the light rail.

Now of course, cheapest is not always best but when the difference is so great in cost when there is no difference in delivery and performance of the “transport” then the societal and development benefits of light rail have to be very large to overcome that difference in cost.

And if that difference has been assesed to be there, a precinct charge should have been the first thing instigated to pay (at least partially) for it. Yes, the government will recover some costs through higher taxes and it’s own land sales along the corridor but each land holder along that route is likely to be given a gift of tens/hundreds of thousands of dollars in increased property prices. How anyone can justify that sort of public spend for such a large accrual of private benefit, I don’t know.

And those crusty Tuggeranong residents that you talk about, would surely have nothing to complain about if they were only paying a much smaller percentage of the cost due to the fact they only derive a smaller benefit? The answer to removing their opposition is staring you right in the face.

This project could be a game changer for transport in this city but the government’s plan and sales job has so far been extremely poor.

rubaiyat 8:03 am 15 Oct 15

miz said :

Rubaiyat, Chewy and Skyring are on the money. I too commute by bus daily and it is great. ACTION is moving to low-emission buses.
Sure they are not all at that stage, but it is better environmentally to continue using what you have compared to the impact of the manufacture and acquisition of a new fleet (not to mention financial implications). And it’s just plain silly to say that buses ‘wreck the roads’ and are ‘urban assassins’! Our roads are there to be used and we pay our rates for their maintenance. In any case, my full bus would equate to at least 20 cars off the road, which actually saves on wear and tear.

Are you aware just how over engineered roads are to cope with heavy vehicles like buses and trucks.

The vast amount of damage to roads and the expensive maintenance and repairs required is due to heavy vehicles.

I have personal experience of the damage they cause. I smashed my glasses and a knee when I tripped over a bitumen wave in the road opposite the ACT Assembly. This was caused by the buses braking as they at the zebra crossings. I then noticed the same waves existed at every bust stop in the city.

I was picked up by a lovely woman from the ACT Electoral office who patched me up, and I passed on the message to the ACT government. The roads all got repaired, but will be back to what they were before too long.

I use the buses because they are my best option most of the time, but I do not like them. Short of a proper transport system we have to put up with them. Certainly they should not form the transport “solution” if they can at all be avoided.

btw Those low-emission buses were a non-show patch job.

According to JC no more were ordered and they have not been successful anywhere else.

I look forward to a Transit spine of Light Rail, where it is suitable, crossed and extended by a fleet of Australian designed and built electric buses. Canberra will be a much better place for it.


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