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Capital Metro a billion dollar idea going off the rails

By Peter Clack 13 October 2014 30

light-rail

The ACT Government plans to invite expressions of interest from 31 October for a private consortium to build, own and operate a light rail system for a period of 20 years.

The Capital Metro light rail, or tramway, will come into service in 2019 along a 12 km track between Gungahlin and Civic via Dickson. The ACT government has announced construction costs of upwards of $800 million.

Details of the likely operating costs (or losses) have not been made available, but the $800 million will have to be paid back somehow. Repaying construction costs over a period of 20 years will cost the public purse some $40 million a year before any interest or other operational charges are included.

This is one of the largest single capital investment projects in the history of self-government, a once in a lifetime opportunity to embrace a new vision for Canberra and to revolutionise and modernise the concept of public transport.  Such a light rail service should connect the city to the airport and unify the major town centres as well as giving access to national attractions in the Parliamentary Triangle. It should give significant advantages for public attractions and tourism and play a part in the commercial, social and cultural life of Canberra.

It’s a big-ticket item – but it needs some big ticket thinking.

The concept of light rail is and always has been a very seductive and attractive option for Canberra –the Walter Burley Griffin blueprint includes provision for tramways. But light rail must cater to the city’s entire transport and commuting needs and all residents, not just to resolve a traffic bottleneck for Gungahlin residents.

The likely public costs of building and running the system are vital and should be publicly available in order to inform and consult with residents. The cost of Capital Metro and the service must be seen against the ongoing annual outlays for the ACT government to underwrite ACTION bus services, currently more than $100 million a year. Yet as it stands, Capital Metro is unlikely to make any significant difference.

It is hardly encouraging that chief objective of Capital Metro website is reduce the use of motor vehicles. Getting people out of cars and onto buses has been a mantra of all ACT governments. They have embraced arguments which serve to demonise drivers and strive to banish motor vehicles.

This has been used to justify the selling off of hundreds of millions of dollars of public parking space across the city and the town centres. Car drivers are being forced to the margins of Civic and town centres, offices and businesses shops and entertainment. Drivers should not be discriminated against because the existing public transport doesn’t satisfy their needs.

Buses do not allow the essential freedoms and mobility to shop or to take their children to and from daycare, to manage their families or carry out other personal or official business during the day or to visit gyms or sporting events at lunchtime or before and after work.

Light rail does offer attractive options for commuters, especially if you live in gridlocked Gungahlin.

But does Capital Metro go far enough? Do we want a light rail system that is going to cost almost $1 billion to build and yet will service a small proportion of the population? Or should we have sought a bigger blueprint that embraces and unifies the city, the town centres and Canberra’s social and economic well-being?

(image www.capitalmetro.org.au)


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Capital Metro a billion dollar idea going off the rails
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BlackChariot 9:04 pm 15 Oct 14

Delusions of grandeur!

BlackChariot 8:59 pm 15 Oct 14

I recently had the opportunity to spend a day in Melbourne. Whilst there I experienced my first ever tram ride anywhere. Hopped on the 96 from St Kilda to the city centre on a pretty new and modern tram. Good experience. While in the city I watched the 96 trams come and go. I think there was one every 5 mins or so back to St Kilda. Each one was pretty full when it left. I started talking to the station attendant, who said that its pretty much like that all day every day. The light rail works well for Melbourne, especially when you consider that the equivalent of the Canberra population was probably in Bourke Street that day.

dungfungus 9:37 am 15 Oct 14

JC said :

dungfungus said :

And they all work in Canberra City and currently have no other way of getting to work, do they?
The trams will have to rob existing Action bus commuters to get any passengers.
What is the point in having two modes of pubic transport competing along the same route?

Firstly yeah people have other ways to get to work, cars for exmaple. Plenty going down Northborne Ave every day.

As for working elsewhere yeah many do, but what do many do these days that get the bus. Yep many change in the City so what is the difference.

As for competing with buses, who says that is what will happen? Common sense will say that the 200 series buses will be replaced by the light rail, though one would expect the Xpressos from the burbs to continue on through as they do today.

Re the cars going down Northbourne Avenue every day, most keep going through the city.
The axiom that all Capital Metro commuters from Gungahlin work in Canberra City is totally unfounded and false.
There is no case for modal shift from buses to trams either.

Postalgeek 8:24 am 15 Oct 14

So how many daycare centres/schools are located right on the route to generate the shift in commuter behaviour that is being touted?

rommeldog56 7:34 am 15 Oct 14

JC said :

rommeldog56 said :

Geez…..great logic there, JC.

Why wait ?

Maybe wait till the population density is much, much higher along ALL the corridore – not just selected little bits of it.

There is only a fraction of the route along Northborne Ave that has businesses along it. Maybe wait till the benefits costs ratio gets to be greater than 1:1 mostly on economic grounds, not getting there because of fudged plusses such as social benefits, green things, etc, maybe wait until the ACT territory budget is in better shape instead of underwriting a PPP for the tram, maybe wait until/if technology makes it more affordable for the tram to be rolled out across all the city, maybe wait to see if busses become even more viable than thay are – and while on that issue, properly plan and cost a bus transit/priority system across the whole city as a viable comparison (keeping an open mind of course !).

The “build it and they will come” strategy is a joke and an impending possible financial calamity for all ACT Ratepayers.

It is disturbing that some in the ACT still think its a good idea.

It will and probably should come – but not yet – now is not the time.

Oh pleazze. Gee using your logic no road should be built until all the houses are built to utilise said road. Clearly it doesn’t work like that, so why would or should public transport be any different? In fact I will say now that lack of public transport in brand new suburbs forces people to seek alternatives, usually driving, which sets patterns that then become hard to change.

Oh as for Northborne Ave, it has had high density housing down it for years, and does have business splattered along it. Look at the intersection with Wakefield Ave and of course further down from Haig Park. Plenty of them.

As for financial calamity, I did the sums a few posts up. Say $800m construction, $800m interest over 20 years that equates to $230 per person per year. Hardly bank breaking is it when put in context rather than melodrama straight from the Liebral Party play book of scare mongering.

Your analogy to roads is absurd. We all use roads either directly or for transport of goods/services needed. Roads go in first because they are needed to get vehicles in to construct buildings, infrastructure, etc.

Its just not the interest either. The capital outlay (especially if its funded by the pvt sector) needs to be repaid too.

So, how many tram stops do u think will be necessary down Nothbourne to service the spread out biusinesses and residential so that people dont have to walk too far ? It will be a stop/start trip – about 3 minutes shorter than by express bus is the projection I heard.

and that $230 per person in the ACT per year. You do what the ACT Gov’t + ACTEW do with cost increases. Break it down per person (or per day by some) so it doesn’t sound like much. Well, it is. Add that to all the other increases the ACT Gov’t (+ the Feds + ACTEWAGL) are rolling out all the time. In aggregate, it’s heaps and is making Canberra almost unliveable now. The tram just doesn’t stack up economically – at least at the moment. Even this morning, an ex senior official in the ACT Treasury is reported this morning as saying so.

I reckon what we need most n the ACT is a voter intelligence/common sense/maths test before residents can vote at the next ACT election……….

OpenYourMind 6:40 am 15 Oct 14

JC said :

rommeldog56 said :

Geez…..great logic there, JC.

Why wait ?

Maybe wait till the population density is much, much higher along ALL the corridore – not just selected little bits of it.

There is only a fraction of the route along Northborne Ave that has businesses along it. Maybe wait till the benefits costs ratio gets to be greater than 1:1 mostly on economic grounds, not getting there because of fudged plusses such as social benefits, green things, etc, maybe wait until the ACT territory budget is in better shape instead of underwriting a PPP for the tram, maybe wait until/if technology makes it more affordable for the tram to be rolled out across all the city, maybe wait to see if busses become even more viable than thay are – and while on that issue, properly plan and cost a bus transit/priority system across the whole city as a viable comparison (keeping an open mind of course !).

The “build it and they will come” strategy is a joke and an impending possible financial calamity for all ACT Ratepayers.

It is disturbing that some in the ACT still think its a good idea.

It will and probably should come – but not yet – now is not the time.

Oh pleazze. Gee using your logic no road should be built until all the houses are built to utilise said road. Clearly it doesn’t work like that, so why would or should public transport be any different? In fact I will say now that lack of public transport in brand new suburbs forces people to seek alternatives, usually driving, which sets patterns that then become hard to change.

Oh as for Northborne Ave, it has had high density housing down it for years, and does have business splattered along it. Look at the intersection with Wakefield Ave and of course further down from Haig Park. Plenty of them.

As for financial calamity, I did the sums a few posts up. Say $800m construction, $800m interest over 20 years that equates to $230 per person per year. Hardly bank breaking is it when put in context rather than melodrama straight from the Liebral Party play book of scare mongering.

If you think the cost will stop at $800m for this short stretch, you have been taken for a ride. The cost has already jumped from the $600millions to the $800s. A similar stretch of light rail in the Gold Coast cost $1600million. ACT has 145229 households, so that’s $11,000 we have to find on top of our already high costs in rates, land taxes etc. All to service an estimated figure as low as 13,000 people. Our buses are already running incredible losses as well. This is economic disaster of the monumental kind.

And there are all sorts of arguments on why a tram is a bad idea, not least the difficulty of express trams not being able to pass multi stop trams, the onset of new tech such as telecommuting, electric cars that drive themselves, capacitor buses/trams etc.

We also have the destruction of Northbourne Avenue boulevard coupled with endless roadworks.

The tram is an economic white elephant and just a really, really bad idea.

JC 11:40 pm 14 Oct 14

rommeldog56 said :

Geez…..great logic there, JC.

Why wait ?

Maybe wait till the population density is much, much higher along ALL the corridore – not just selected little bits of it.

There is only a fraction of the route along Northborne Ave that has businesses along it. Maybe wait till the benefits costs ratio gets to be greater than 1:1 mostly on economic grounds, not getting there because of fudged plusses such as social benefits, green things, etc, maybe wait until the ACT territory budget is in better shape instead of underwriting a PPP for the tram, maybe wait until/if technology makes it more affordable for the tram to be rolled out across all the city, maybe wait to see if busses become even more viable than thay are – and while on that issue, properly plan and cost a bus transit/priority system across the whole city as a viable comparison (keeping an open mind of course !).

The “build it and they will come” strategy is a joke and an impending possible financial calamity for all ACT Ratepayers.

It is disturbing that some in the ACT still think its a good idea.

It will and probably should come – but not yet – now is not the time.

Oh pleazze. Gee using your logic no road should be built until all the houses are built to utilise said road. Clearly it doesn’t work like that, so why would or should public transport be any different? In fact I will say now that lack of public transport in brand new suburbs forces people to seek alternatives, usually driving, which sets patterns that then become hard to change.

Oh as for Northborne Ave, it has had high density housing down it for years, and does have business splattered along it. Look at the intersection with Wakefield Ave and of course further down from Haig Park. Plenty of them.

As for financial calamity, I did the sums a few posts up. Say $800m construction, $800m interest over 20 years that equates to $230 per person per year. Hardly bank breaking is it when put in context rather than melodrama straight from the Liebral Party play book of scare mongering.

JC 11:29 pm 14 Oct 14

dungfungus said :

And they all work in Canberra City and currently have no other way of getting to work, do they?
The trams will have to rob existing Action bus commuters to get any passengers.
What is the point in having two modes of pubic transport competing along the same route?

Firstly yeah people have other ways to get to work, cars for exmaple. Plenty going down Northborne Ave every day.

As for working elsewhere yeah many do, but what do many do these days that get the bus. Yep many change in the City so what is the difference.

As for competing with buses, who says that is what will happen? Common sense will say that the 200 series buses will be replaced by the light rail, though one would expect the Xpressos from the burbs to continue on through as they do today.

rommeldog56 8:51 pm 14 Oct 14

JC said :

rubaiyat said :

Don’t put the art before the horse, fix what is wrong with Canberra’s planning, THEN build a Light Rail that will work as promised.

Umm that is exactly what they have been doing along this corridor, and also why it will only work along this corridor. Bit hard to ‘fix; established areas.

Many of the issues you have raised have been fixed. The density of housing along Flemmington Road and the Gungahlin town centre is quite dense, with room for more. Northborne Ave is also quite dense with business splattered along it. They have a road network that could feed a park and ride near the racecourse, which is how light rail in car dominated US works. So how much longer should we wait? Maybe wait until the whole corridor is developed and people have set their travel patterns maybe? If so too late. Frankly now is the time.

Geez…..great logic there, JC.

Why wait ? Maybe wait till the population density is much, much higher along ALL the corridore – not just selected little bits of it. There is only a fraction of the route along Northborne Ave that has businesses along it. Maybe wait till the benefits costs ratio gets to be greater than 1:1 mostly on economic grounds, not getting there because of fudged plusses such as social benefits, green things, etc, maybe wait until the ACT territory budget is in better shape instead of underwriting a PPP for the tram, maybe wait until/if technology makes it more affordable for the tram to be rolled out across all the city, maybe wait to see if busses become even more viable than thay are – and while on that issue, properly plan and cost a bus transit/priority system across the whole city as a viable comparison (keeping an open mind of course !).

The “build it and they will come” strategy is a joke and an impending possible financial calamity for all ACT Ratepayers. It is disturbing that some in the ACT still think its a good idea.

It will and probably should come – but not yet – now is not the time.

dungfungus 1:31 pm 14 Oct 14

JC said :

rubaiyat said :

Don’t put the art before the horse, fix what is wrong with Canberra’s planning, THEN build a Light Rail that will work as promised.

Umm that is exactly what they have been doing along this corridor, and also why it will only work along this corridor. Bit hard to ‘fix; established areas.

Many of the issues you have raised have been fixed. The density of housing along Flemmington Road and the Gungahlin town centre is quite dense, with room for more. Northborne Ave is also quite dense with business splattered along it. They have a road network that could feed a park and ride near the racecourse, which is how light rail in car dominated US works. So how much longer should we wait? Maybe wait until the whole corridor is developed and people have set their travel patterns maybe? If so too late. Frankly now is the time.

And they all work in Canberra City and currently have no other way of getting to work, do they?
The trams will have to rob existing Action bus commuters to get any passengers.
What is the point in having two modes of pubic transport competing along the same route?
This is the main reason a PPP won’t work.
The proposal is a lemon no matter what way it is tarted up.

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