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Busways, Capital Metro and greenhouse emissions

By Leon Arundell - 3 June 2016 29

Bus stop

A Gungahlin to Civic busway offers greater overall economic benefits than Stage 1 of Capital Metro, and will probably cause fewer greenhouse emissions.

This story begins in 2012. Labor needed to win most of the four Greens seats at the October election if it was to avoid another term of minority government. The Greens had promised $200 million funding for light rail, in the belief that it would cost less than the $288 million Majura Parkway.

The Government’s April 2012 City to Gungahlin Transit Corridor Concept Design Report supported the Greens’ policy. Its simplistic review of costs and benefits concluded that light rail would provide higher benefits, despite an estimated cost of $860 million.

Then in August the Government produced a submission to Infrastructure Australia that dismissed bus lanes and transit lanes on the basis of unsubstantiated assertions, and included a cost benefit analysis that showed that a $249 million busway would provide benefits worth between $492 million and $1,188 million. Light rail would cost an extra $276 million, but would deliver less than $44 million worth of extra benefits.i

To release the report less than three months before an election would open a debate about methodologies, assumptions, costings and uncosted factors, as had happened a year earlier with the report on which the Government based its decision to build the $180,000 Civic Cycle Loop (which eventually cost $6 million).

The Government kept the Infrastructure Australia report from the public until long after the election. Instead of committing to a busway, Labor committed to spend $30 million on light rail and “committed to increasing the public transport share of all work trips to 10.5% by 2016 and 16% by 2026.” The 2015 ACTION Expenditure Review reported that by 2014 that share had fallen to 7.1%ii.

If the Government gets back on track to reach its 2026 commitment, then increasing bus patronage will mean that every bus displaced from the Gungahlin-Civic route will be back to full operation within a year.

But the Chief Minister announced on 20 October 2015 that the bus trips displaced by Stage 1 would be reallocated to “more buses, on more routes”. This means that, even though Stage 1 will operate on 100% renewable energy, there will be no reduction in public transport greenhouse emissions when Stage 1 commences operation.

The Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Capital Metro Stage 1 estimated that its construction would cause 60,853.76 tonnes of greenhouse emissions.iii

In a recent letter to the Canberra Times I asked why Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury welcomed the signing of a contract for a project whose construction will cause 60,000 tonnes of greenhouse emissions, that will not reduce public transport operating emissions and that will discourage public transport use by removing bus stops, and replacing direct services with connecting services that require walking between stops, waiting for pedestrian signals and wondering if the connecting service has already left.
I could have added that Capital Metro will offer less frequent services.

Mr Rattenbury replied, “The evidence shows that Leon Arundell’s assertions … are in fact wrong … When suggesting that light rail will increase emissions, or traffic, it should always be compared with the alternatives.

The only evidence he identified was a report by Steffen, Percival and Flannery that did not take into account emissions from light rail construction, did not consider bus rapid transit patronage, and based its emissions estimates on the curious assumptions that as few as 25% of bus patrons “whose current route is solely or predominantly down the Gungahlin-city corridor or the Dickson-City segment of the corridor will shift to light rail.

Footnotes:

i See Tables 50 to 53 of the 2012 Infrastructure Australia Submission – (PDF 3.1MB)

ii Table 28 of the 2015 ACTION Expenditure Review.

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29 Responses to
Busways, Capital Metro and greenhouse emissions
dungfungus 11:18 am 04 Jun 16

nealg said :

Let’s face it, a tram is just a large electric bus that is stuck driving on the same set of tracks, given priority over all other traffic. Buses are more flexible, can go around breakdowns or accidents.

From the Capital Metro home page;
– 7am-6pm weekdays the services will run every at least every 15 minutes most of the day and every 6 minutes during peak.
– Weekends and weekday evenings at least every 15 minutes.
– The journey time between the City and Gungahlin is anticipated to be 25 minutes or less.

Then in another spot on their web page;
– It is expected light rail vehicles will be capable of carrying a minimum of 200 people at a time, running at 10 minute intervals along the route with 5 minute intervals in the peak.

So which schedule is it going to be, 10 or 15 minute intervals, 5 or 6 minutes in peak?
Using the 15 minute model, there will be 4 trams going to Civic every hour, trams capable of carrying 200 people. So if the 7500 individual one way trips expected to use this timetable eventuate, 800 people per hour would take over 9 hours to transport into Civic, then another 9 hours to return them all. That is not going to work. If they go to 6 minute peak intervals, you move 2000 people in an hour and get them all to Civic in a little under 4 hours. That works, but then you have to assume that peak hour is from 7AM to 10:45AM. Doesn’t everybody have to get to work by 9:30 or 10:00 in the morning? That means the last tram to take in order to arrive on time would be 9:00, assuming you still need to walk at least 5 minutes to get to your office from the tram stop.
If you go to a 5 minute interval, you move 2400 an hour, meaning 10:00 AM is the last peak hour tram departure, still too late for a work schedule.
I think with the patronage they are aiming for they will require more frequent services than they have proposed.

From the ACT Light Rail web page – “20 000+The number of passengers light rail can carry on just one corridor during peak hour”. Bollocks. If each tram only carries 200 people, that is 100 tram trips in the hour meaning a tram departs every 36 seconds. Logistically you cannot even load the tram in less than a few minutes, because people have to step on board, swipe on, allow others to get off at that stop etc. They quote figures that have no scientific basis. Even at their quoted 5 minute peak period intervals, you would be moving over 1600 people in each tram to reach 20,000 in the hour. Ludicrous and just a blatant lie in order to make the tram figures look better.
I wonder if any of these imaginary numbers were used to create the reports that convinced the Labor Party of the project’s viability.

Another consideration is the number of stops on the route affecting travel time. There are thirteen stops planned on the route. If passengers board at every stop along the way it could take approximately a minute to board or exit the tram, as one tries to navigate their way through the people standing in the aisles as only seventy seats are available. That 25 minute journey then only leaves 13 minutes of actual travel time so to make it the one kilometer per minute, it must travel at 60 kilometers per hour, not counting acceleration and deceleration speeds. It is going to have to take off pretty quick or go pretty fast to keep up with its timetable.

Honestly, all of these practicalities and the unknowns of passenger embarkations are going to make synchronizing the lights a nightmare for whoever has the unenviable job of programming it. Just one slow passenger, possibly an elderly person for example, holding up the tram for a minute or so because of mobility issues, will throw the whole system into chaos as the next tram pulls up behind it. With no way of overtaking to maintain its timetable, the traffic synchronization will be thrown out of kilter and dominoes will fall. Just one broken down car, one electronic malfunction, any number of reasons could cause transit chaos. This is not an inherent problem with buses which can maintain schedules by simply using alternative routes.

Great analysis of the wild assumptions the tram promoters have made for the transport system we don’t need.
The guff that our government put out about why we need this tram and how good it will be are mostly highly paid public officials or tram industry associates and unions who have a vested interest in this project.
Guess how they get around now? That’s right, employer supplied cars with employer provided private parking.
Will they all start swapping this perk for travelling in the trams with 100s of other standing strap-hanging commuters?
No.
I wouldn’t really care if I lived in Queanbeyan but alas, I am still in the “fast becoming unaffordable” ACT.

rubaiyat 10:25 am 04 Jun 16

brw The Tram stops with one exception, Dickson I think, are at traffic lights where there are already crossings.

But I agree, pedestrians, which includes anyone who has actually got out of a car, should be eliminated at all costs.

We seem to be approaching an hysterical peak as the trams loomed closer and ever more frighteningly real. At the opening of the line it will be necessary to vacate Canberra as the last vestiges of that immense horde, CanTheTram, launches a last desperate attack on the this devil’s work with their zimmer frames and colouring in science books.

rubaiyat 10:17 am 04 Jun 16

Kim Huynh said :

How will all these people get into the tram in the first place?
Won’t they have to install more crossings along the route so people can ‘safely’ get onto the tram.
These extra stops are going to cause lots of inefficient cars.

Currently the bus pull off to the side of the road, however not many people catch buses.
Estimate for tram is thousands per day.

I’ve already been on several buses that have hit passengers who tried to run for the bus and have been a bit too slow. I can’t imagine a tram hit would be any better.

I witnessed a child hit by a car in front of his mother and thrown a house length.

You are so right, with about one death per year per the entire Melbourne tram system and about the same for the entire NSW rail system, neither can compare to the efficient carnage of cars and therefore should be stopped by any reasonable rational person.

Know any?

wildturkeycanoe 7:59 am 04 Jun 16

Let’s face it, a tram is just a large electric bus that is stuck driving on the same set of tracks, given priority over all other traffic. Buses are more flexible, can go around breakdowns or accidents.

From the Capital Metro home page;
– 7am-6pm weekdays the services will run every at least every 15 minutes most of the day and every 6 minutes during peak.
– Weekends and weekday evenings at least every 15 minutes.
– The journey time between the City and Gungahlin is anticipated to be 25 minutes or less.

Then in another spot on their web page;
– It is expected light rail vehicles will be capable of carrying a minimum of 200 people at a time, running at 10 minute intervals along the route with 5 minute intervals in the peak.

So which schedule is it going to be, 10 or 15 minute intervals, 5 or 6 minutes in peak?
Using the 15 minute model, there will be 4 trams going to Civic every hour, trams capable of carrying 200 people. So if the 7500 individual one way trips expected to use this timetable eventuate, 800 people per hour would take over 9 hours to transport into Civic, then another 9 hours to return them all. That is not going to work. If they go to 6 minute peak intervals, you move 2000 people in an hour and get them all to Civic in a little under 4 hours. That works, but then you have to assume that peak hour is from 7AM to 10:45AM. Doesn’t everybody have to get to work by 9:30 or 10:00 in the morning? That means the last tram to take in order to arrive on time would be 9:00, assuming you still need to walk at least 5 minutes to get to your office from the tram stop.
If you go to a 5 minute interval, you move 2400 an hour, meaning 10:00 AM is the last peak hour tram departure, still too late for a work schedule.
I think with the patronage they are aiming for they will require more frequent services than they have proposed.

From the ACT Light Rail web page – “20 000+The number of passengers light rail can carry on just one corridor during peak hour”. Bollocks. If each tram only carries 200 people, that is 100 tram trips in the hour meaning a tram departs every 36 seconds. Logistically you cannot even load the tram in less than a few minutes, because people have to step on board, swipe on, allow others to get off at that stop etc. They quote figures that have no scientific basis. Even at their quoted 5 minute peak period intervals, you would be moving over 1600 people in each tram to reach 20,000 in the hour. Ludicrous and just a blatant lie in order to make the tram figures look better.
I wonder if any of these imaginary numbers were used to create the reports that convinced the Labor Party of the project’s viability.

Another consideration is the number of stops on the route affecting travel time. There are thirteen stops planned on the route. If passengers board at every stop along the way it could take approximately a minute to board or exit the tram, as one tries to navigate their way through the people standing in the aisles as only seventy seats are available. That 25 minute journey then only leaves 13 minutes of actual travel time so to make it the one kilometer per minute, it must travel at 60 kilometers per hour, not counting acceleration and deceleration speeds. It is going to have to take off pretty quick or go pretty fast to keep up with its timetable.

Honestly, all of these practicalities and the unknowns of passenger embarkations are going to make synchronizing the lights a nightmare for whoever has the unenviable job of programming it. Just one slow passenger, possibly an elderly person for example, holding up the tram for a minute or so because of mobility issues, will throw the whole system into chaos as the next tram pulls up behind it. With no way of overtaking to maintain its timetable, the traffic synchronization will be thrown out of kilter and dominoes will fall. Just one broken down car, one electronic malfunction, any number of reasons could cause transit chaos. This is not an inherent problem with buses which can maintain schedules by simply using alternative routes.

Nilrem 5:25 am 04 Jun 16

Kim Huynh said :

How will all these people get into the tram in the first place?
Won’t they have to install more crossings along the route so people can ‘safely’ get onto the tram.
These extra stops are going to cause lots of inefficient cars.

Currently the bus pull off to the side of the road, however not many people catch buses.
Estimate for tram is thousands per day.

I’ve already been on several buses that have hit passengers who tried to run for the bus and have been a bit too slow. I can’t imagine a tram hit would be any better.

Yeah, and people suicide on front of trains. Better not have them. No one ever dies or is injured in car accidents.

gooterz 12:04 am 04 Jun 16

How will all these people get into the tram in the first place?
Won’t they have to install more crossings along the route so people can ‘safely’ get onto the tram.
These extra stops are going to cause lots of inefficient cars.

Currently the bus pull off to the side of the road, however not many people catch buses.
Estimate for tram is thousands per day.

I’ve already been on several buses that have hit passengers who tried to run for the bus and have been a bit too slow. I can’t imagine a tram hit would be any better.

Mordd 12:02 am 04 Jun 16

The efficiency of trams is very high if they are full with about 2/3 standing. But a lightly loaded tram has a woeful efficiency, worse than a conventional car, let alone an electric car on “green energy”. They will only be loaded up for a short time each day so overall, they are not an energy efficient form of transport. Also note that the ACT govt has advised me that they will be trialling electric buses later this year, if these are on green energy they will overall be more efficient & less polluting than trams.

When autonomous electric cars become available, these will be more efficient than either (except for longer distance commuting where traffic density is relevant).

Note that the trams will only operate during the day, not later in the evening, see Metro’s FAQs. If trams are so good & efficient why are they not operating for very extended hours or 24/7?

Appart from the carbon dioxide emissions, the construction will, according to Metro’s EIS, need about 160,000 tons (the number of zeros is correct) of concrete & steel. This will need a 30T truck every 35 minutes for 2 years. What will this do to other traffic on Northbourne & Flemington? The govt has not been exactly shouting this fact from the rooftops.

The selection process for a transport option was deeply flawed as noted in the article & the process payed no account of the need for Due Diligence principles, surely an essential part of any project. As well as favouring the more costly option over express buses, it did not consider faster, cheaper, more efficient options becoming available in the slightly longer term (which would not need to have all the trees in Northbourne felled).

According to Capital Metro the trams will operate until 1am each day. I think that covers “later in the evening”. I would be happy for a 90-120 minute frequency service operating all night, but I doubt it would be patronised much outside friday/sat night, but on those nights its an option. Then again I would also like to see buses until 1am all night, and all night on intertown routes at least on friday/saturday nights, and buses till 1am on sunday night instead of this current BS of stopping at 7pm on sunday. Lets not pretend our current bus timetable is anywhere near what it should be though, it is lacking in many significant areas currently.

Also, best estimates of truly autonomous cars is 2030-2040 at earliest, with large scale uptake not predicted until closer to 2050. So that leaves 20-30 years in between for which a tram network is more than suited for.

ummmm_no 8:20 pm 03 Jun 16

The letter to the CT was a single 85-word sentence. Are full stops bad for the environment too?

rubaiyat 7:08 pm 03 Jun 16

As well as favouring the more costly option over express buses, it did not consider faster, cheaper, more efficient options becoming available in the slightly longer term (which would not need to have all the trees in Northbourne felled).

Your preferred option, totally pie in the sky, is to run along the side of tree lined streets at tree height.

[eyeroll] What exact result do you think that will achieve? [/eyeroll]

rubaiyat 7:03 pm 03 Jun 16

The efficiency of trams is very high if they are full with about 2/3 standing. But a lightly loaded tram has a woeful efficiency, worse than a conventional car, let alone an electric car on “green energy”. They will only be loaded up for a short time each day so overall, they are not an energy efficient form of transport. Also note that the ACT govt has advised me that they will be trialling electric buses later this year, if these are on green energy they will overall be more efficient & less polluting than trams.

When autonomous electric cars become available, these will be more efficient than either (except for longer distance commuting where traffic density is relevant).

Note that the trams will only operate during the day, not later in the evening, see Metro’s FAQs. If trams are so good & efficient why are they not operating for very extended hours or 24/7?

Appart from the carbon dioxide emissions, the construction will, according to Metro’s EIS, need about 160,000 tons (the number of zeros is correct) of concrete & steel. This will need a 30T truck every 35 minutes for 2 years. What will this do to other traffic on Northbourne & Flemington? The govt has not been exactly shouting this fact from the rooftops.

The selection process for a transport option was deeply flawed as noted in the article & the process payed no account of the need for Due Diligence principles, surely an essential part of any project. As well as favouring the more costly option over express buses, it did not consider faster, cheaper, more efficient options becoming available in the slightly longer term (which would not need to have all the trees in Northbourne felled).

Isn’t the efficiency of an autonomous car with nobody in it, shuffling home, circulating or to annoyingly park in another neighborhood actually negative?

This is the old false comparisons and logic:

Full cars (when does that ever happen?) vs off peak trams.

The speed of cars not in traffic, with trams in traffic.

BRT with few stops, hence inconvenient, vs trams with regular stops that pick up and drop off passengers closer to their destination.

The reality is:

Vast numbers of cars with only 1.2 passengers congested and creeping along in peak hour traffic and doing SFA 95% of the time except littering the city. Waste and waste.

In low demand off-peak periods fewer trams run less often but still often enough to pick up the fewer passengers and at the same speed as during peak periods. Because they run to a regular schedule people know when to catch one at the stops.

Large numbers of cars with mostly no passengers driving ridiculous and unnecessary distances, bound up in heavy traffic, the default around the world, in peak hours everywhere, with unpredictable times of arrival and problems parking at huge cost, chew up enormous amounts of fuel and create enormous noise, greenhouse gases, noxious pollution, particulates, deaths and accidents.

They make the routes they take through cities practically impassable and a hell for everyone else.

Canberra is still working its way towards the awful results of car bound cities around the globe but it is just getting there and seen will be equally as bad as all the rest. The short sighted knee jerk reactionaries here are just “Agin’ it, because…” that is what they do. It is the old “Nobody is taking ma car outta ma cold dead hands!” of the unthinking oppositionists everywhere. Especially as it offends their religious attachment to “Burn, baby, burn!”.

Most transport is common trips and you only need to move the people with the fewest number of vehicles possible without dividing or ruining the city in the process. Don’t haul 2 tonnes of steel around with you and drop it off somewhere for the day only to haul it all back. Just take yourself, preferably still getting your daily exercise in the process.

Arthur Davies 3:11 pm 03 Jun 16

The efficiency of trams is very high if they are full with about 2/3 standing. But a lightly loaded tram has a woeful efficiency, worse than a conventional car, let alone an electric car on “green energy”. They will only be loaded up for a short time each day so overall, they are not an energy efficient form of transport. Also note that the ACT govt has advised me that they will be trialling electric buses later this year, if these are on green energy they will overall be more efficient & less polluting than trams.

When autonomous electric cars become available, these will be more efficient than either (except for longer distance commuting where traffic density is relevant).

Note that the trams will only operate during the day, not later in the evening, see Metro’s FAQs. If trams are so good & efficient why are they not operating for very extended hours or 24/7?

Appart from the carbon dioxide emissions, the construction will, according to Metro’s EIS, need about 160,000 tons (the number of zeros is correct) of concrete & steel. This will need a 30T truck every 35 minutes for 2 years. What will this do to other traffic on Northbourne & Flemington? The govt has not been exactly shouting this fact from the rooftops.

The selection process for a transport option was deeply flawed as noted in the article & the process payed no account of the need for Due Diligence principles, surely an essential part of any project. As well as favouring the more costly option over express buses, it did not consider faster, cheaper, more efficient options becoming available in the slightly longer term (which would not need to have all the trees in Northbourne felled).

rubaiyat 2:56 pm 03 Jun 16

Whats worse ?

The obvious manipulative actions and spin by this ACT Labor/Greens Government or the fact that ACT voters and Ratepayers take it hook, line and sinker and continue to vote them and their developer/Union mates, back in, as they will in the upcoming Legislative Assembly election ?

Doesn’t it concern you that if the Liberals get in and look after their developer/used car dealer mates and will put in a Light Rail system like their NSW counterparts, you will be left with that hook, line and sinker dangling from your “Oh they lied to me” expression?

Nilrem 2:55 pm 03 Jun 16

This debate has got to the point where if you oppose light rail, you are supporting those who would turn Canberra into one big car park. Whatever your motivations, Leon, have a look at your newfound allies in your crusade against this project. They don’t care about public transport or emissions. Their policy response, if they get their way is to keep building more roads. Is this the outcome you want to work for?

Grail 12:13 pm 03 Jun 16

So light rail will cause more emissions because the buses it displaces will be used elsewhere?

But if there was a bus corridor instead, you would be perfectly fine with existing routes being axed in order to provide busses and drivers for the inter-town route?

Is that what you are saying?

rommeldog56 10:33 am 03 Jun 16

Whats worse ? The obvious manipulative actions and spin by this ACT Labor/Greens Government or the fact that ACT voters and Ratepayers take it hook, line and sinker and continue to vote them and their developer/Union mates, back in, as they will in the upcoming Legislative Assembly election ?

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