BEST OF 2022: Light rail development opponents need to be part of the solution

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Light rail

An artist’s impression of light rail on Adelaide Avenue. Image: ACT Government.

Year in Review: Region Media is revisiting some of the best Opinion articles of 2022. Here’s what got you talking, got you angry and got you thinking in 2022. Today, Ian Bushnell argues light rail is coming, it’s time everyone gets on board.

This decade will be a significant and important one for the future of Canberra, particularly for its south side where the extension of light rail to Woden will be accompanied by new development.

Despite multiple elections, an acceptance from the Canberra Liberals that the issue is settled, and now an expectation from people in the Woden Valley that light rail is coming, there is still commentary opposing the project and the new housing and commercial opportunities it will bring.

While Adelaide Avenue and Yarra Glen are unlikely to replicate Northbourne Avenue, being a different urban context, the theme of most of the commentary is stridently anti-development, fearing green space and views will disappear in a mess of poorly designed multi-unit buildings.

Basically, there are some who see light rail as a Trojan horse for rapacious developers in cahoots with the government.

But it’s a narrative full of stereotypes that, at this stage of the issue, is not only passe but unhelpful.

The government has made no secret that as well as providing clean, efficient public transport, light rail drives development and creates the synergies for people to have homes near the city and for the accompanying businesses that will serve those new residents.

That economic activity will be a good thing for Canberra, providing homes and creating jobs that all go to supporting the lifestyle and services Canberrans enjoy.

Having said that, there are considerable engineering challenges for getting light rail to Woden, across the Lake and through the Parliamentary Zone and down Adelaide Avenue.

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And the development that it will encourage will require careful and sensitive planning to provide density and height levels that do not create the kind of concrete jungle that will negate the natural amenity and those views to the mountains.

Deakin and Yarralumla residents are rightly concerned for their Garden City suburbs, but they also cannot be enclaves that remain inaccessible to people who want to live close to the city.

While the deal that partitioned the North Curtin Horse Paddocks between the ACT and the Commonwealth may have rankled, that amount of land sitting between the City and Woden could not have remained untouched forever.

Those who oppose any development in the southern corridor are really banishing people to the outskirts of town where they will likely face higher costs and be less connected to what they need.

It is worth noting that the median house price in Canberra is more than a million dollars and rising. For many, buying a townhouse or apartment is now their only chance of homeownership.

Canberra also has the highest rents in the country and perpetually tight vacancy rates.

The Territory needs to build more housing that is in reach of people to buy and rent and where they want to live.

Simplistic calls for the government to flood the market with land for new housing estates ignore a host of fiscal, logistic, environmental and political issues that it has to juggle.

There are many factors that influence house prices, and some are beyond the ACT Government to control, such as tax settings and the cost of money.

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This doesn’t mean the government gets off scot-free. It and the Planning Authority are responsible for ensuring properly planned sustainable development.

They need to be held to account so they live up to that responsibility and so that the light rail project and the accompanying development can be the best that it can be.

Hopefully, the outcome of the planning system review will help.

Canberra is a city with special qualities and needs, but it remains a growing city and one that cannot be kept in aspic.

The challenge for its government, developers and citizens is to manage that growth so it doesn’t destroy the very things that we love about it.

Light rail is coming, so it would be best to get on board and be involved in making sure it works to everybody’s advantage.

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Thankyou Ian Bushnell for highlighting that house ownership is now out of reach of the average family in Canberra and that families will have to live in multi-story and units. Imagine if the ACT government had spent all the money squandered on tram tracks on liveable housing instead.

hi Maxblues, problem with your argument (that light rail is to blame for cost of housing) is that the cost of housing has also gone up in Darwin and Hobart. Neither of these capital cities has light rail (although Hobart is planning on having) so if your argument was valid we’d see affordable housing in these two cities. But jolly good try in the Let’s Blame Light Rail for Everything category.

Lets get the facts straight kids.
Bus Rapid Transit was a transport solution.
Tram was a development solution.

BRT looked better on paper and did more for transport.
Tram / “Light Rail” made fixed routes that were hard to change to encourage development (at the expense of the rest of Canberra).

Take a bus double its time with a tram. That’s not supporting or encouraging public transport but developers.

I’m not sure what your point is about doubling a bus. A tram carries at least four times as many passengers as a bus but for the cost of one driver. Even larger trams are coming for stage two. Loads more people will catch a tram that will never catch a bus, be it electric or RBT.

Yep, get rid of the Light Rail. How dare the government incorporate a mass transport system in a growing city! Bring back 100’s of buses and people in their cars. While we are at it get rid of the devil’s light ‘electricity’ and bring back oil lamps and carrier pigeons. And along those transport corridors (that the original architects of Canberra allowed for) we should allow horse drawn carriages to use them. At least these troglodytes will be able use the horse manure !


My vegetable garden would appreciated the horse manure. Shovel and wheelbarrow at the ready.

Capital Retro5:25 pm 18 Mar 22

Plenty of male bovine manure around London Circuit at anytime.

The ideal solution has long past. It is like marrying someone, living with them for many years and then realising you made a mistake. You cannot recover in maturity what you squandered in your youth.

I was involved with Pedal Power advocacy for Light Rail Stage 1. The vision we were left with wasn’t far off your picture in the article. Did it happen? NO!
Trust is everything so don’t be surprised if Light Rail Stage 2 doesn’t suffer the lessons from its predecessor.

A real rail system would link the town with a 10-20 minute train.
Light rail would be 2 hours.

thoughtsonthesubject8:00 pm 16 Mar 22

Ian Bushnell forgets the most important part of the argument: the financial and environmental cost of the light rail extension to Woden. The government has wisely refused to specify either of these costs, otherwise it is unlikely that any election would have been won. The enormous cost (i.e. $93 million just for AECOM’s advise) means that essential public services have been run down to the extent that our police force doesn’t even have enough staff to attend burglaries and our hospitals emergency departments have the longest waiting time in Australia . Most affected are those with the greatest needs, like the homeless for whom charities provide old buses in winter to save them freezing to death at night.
And then there is the environmental cost: studies have shown that the greenhouse gases produced by the infrastructure for the tram extension to Woden and importing 16 additional trains from Spain will take many decades to make up by cars taken off the road, if at all. Electric buses cost a fraction of the $2-3 billion for the tram extension, are nearly twice as fast and produce no additional greenhouse gases. Moreover, they are flexible and can service new developments like the Brick Works, the Red Hill development and that planned for East-Lake. The light rail is not climate change resilient: the overhead wires will be down in storms to come, and an electricity outage or a tree over the rails will paralyze the whole line. Buses can drive around obstacles, help with evacuation and bus lanes used for fire trucks and ambulances. Finally, electric buses are manufactured in Australia and with rapid advances of technology, constantly updated. Let’s consider the morality of ignoring those in need in Canberra, adding greenhouse gases and wasting our money on a slow tram from overseas.

Wow what a great inaccurate rant.

Will just address a couple of points.

Firstly your claim about electric buses being made in Australia. Sorry to burst your bubble but there is no fully electric built bus made in this country. There are a couple of bus body builders (Volgren and Custom Denning) who can “build” an electric bus, but like our diesel buses the chassis and the drive gear is all foreign they just body the thing. Custom Denning can also supply a chassis but all the drive gear is still foreign. And most foreign drive gear is Chinese, though Siemens and a French company who’s name escapes me are also players in the game.

Don’t get me wrong we need electric buses but to argue against lightrail on the basis of buses being locally made is a long bow.

So too your claim about electric buses being twice as fast. The CAF trams we have here can do 70km/h and for anyone who has ridden them they have really good acceleration. The modern electric buses I have ridden would have equal acceleration would be hard to have any more and their speed is certainly not 140km/h.

And if you are talking journey times then stage 1 is like for like off peak bus vs old 200 buses and in peak is up to 20 minutes faster than the old 200 timetable.

Woden is going to have a slower journey but because it is going via the parl triangle which will serve more people and of course stop more. Depending on whew you are going that could be a good thing. Like when the 300 bus to Belconnen was rerouted and turned into a stopping service adding 10 minutes to its trip time.

If you want to compare travel times, you can’t on the one hand laud the Gungahlin leg as being faster whilst excuse the Woden leg of being slower because it’s taking a different route.

A bus option separated from other traffic with right of way on the Gungahlin leg would also be significantly faster than the previous buses.

And on the Woden leg, light rail is going to be slower despite having the additional right of way. The additional stops you mention only add functionality once urban infill occurs along the route because they are artificially creating a demand after the next stage is built. And an electric bus on that route would still be faster.

thoughtsonthesubject12:07 am 17 Mar 22

I am totally aware that not every single part of these buses is made in Australia, but the assembly and a significant part is. The tram is shipped totally equipped from Spain. Also, I have not said that the light rail can’t run fast. It can, but the route Civic to Woden has a great number of stops and unless you double the number of tracks (for which there is no room and it would double the cost) you cannot have an express tram. As others have already pointed out, most commuters between Woden and Civic simply want to get to their destination as fast as possible, and the express bus is nearly twice as fast as the time projected for the tram. (Note: the Sydney tram has not reached the projected time.) Moreover, at present passengers from Tuggeranong can stay on the same seat going to Civic or even Belconnen on the R4 express bus. That bus is projected to become a local between Lanyon and Woden (Major Projects Canberra, August 2019, p. 129) forcing passengers to change to the tram and considerably extending their commuting time. The tram might be useful in some environments, but not between Civic and Woden. It will be a white elephant for which every single Canberran will have to pay for many decades to come. And this burden will be most strongly felt by those who have to rely on government support to survive. Do you consider this to be good government?

Capital Retro12:42 pm 17 Mar 22

Are you sure that no electric busses have been built in Australia, JC?

Probably I am wrong again because chewy would have been all over you already.

Capital Retro,
I usually only “jump” on people who show deliberate and repeated ignorance over an issue.

To that end, your link is exactly what JC and Thoughtsonthesubject are talking about.

JC’s point is around the line you would draw to say something is “made” here, vs just importing parts and assembling.

How much of a product needs to be manufactured here before you can claim it’s “made” here? I’ll leave it to you to answer.

Sorry buddy, the Gungahlin LR is only quicker because of network design. Traffic lights give LR priority. Buses travelled on the roads with other traffic and never received that advantage. The other issue, which is significant is that the bus stopped at every bus stop along the way. If LR stopped as frequently, it too would be slower. So really, it’s not an a fair comparison.

As for the Woden leg, LR isn’t going via the triangle. That was only an option.
Mark Parton has put out a video which compares travel times for bus vs LR. I suggest you watch it.

Capital Retro9:36 pm 17 Mar 22

Well, I guess “Australian designed and built” means “made in China”.

How ignorant of me to think it meant something else.

Or you could have read your own link and seen the bus was from the exact company JC discussed above before posting.

Kenberans stage two is going via the parl triangle on state circle. Sure it’s in the edge but it still will have stops close enough to service all the office buildings.

Capital I mentioned that bus specifically in my post. My words “Custom Denning can also supply a chassis but all the drive gear is still foreign”.

Is that not clear enough?

Ken one more thing re traffic light priority yes buses may have also been speed up if given the same priority. However another point i have made elsewhere is buses on that corridor were already operating at 5 minute frequencies in the peak and were at capacity. Often snowing bus full signs inbound. The only way to provide greater capacity which is what lightrail has done is to provide more buses. Provide more buses then you then have to wind back traffic light priority as other traffic still needs to get across.

The trams we have have a advertised capacity of 276 and operate at 5 minute frequencies in the peak so around 3300 per hour. The articulated buses used in Canberra have an advertised capacity of 110 each so to carry 3300 people you would need 30 an hour or one every 2 minutes. There goes half your priority.

Use bigger buses I hear you say, Brisbane is using bi articulated ones, sure we could do that which would reduce the 30 buses to something less but bigger vehicles then create bigger issues at the bus interchanges like congestion and besides one criticism of light rail is it is so inflexible because it doesn’t continue into the suburbs like (some) bus routes do. Even if standard articulated buses were used we couldn’t justify 30 an hour running into the suburbs either.

So not quite as simple as saying buses would be faster given the same priority. There are many other factors to consider which most here don’t. Some just google a sound bite and voila there is the evidence.

Capital Retro11:18 am 18 Mar 22

Did you read the headline on the link?

It said: “Australian-made electric bus helps drive NSW fleet conversion”.

I know it might be a bit weird for you but some of us manage to read beyond headlines to comprehend an issue.

thoughtsonthesubject4:06 pm 18 Mar 22

Have you taken into account that with Covid and hybrid working arrangements, peak hour traffic has been much reduced? Home-working arrangements are more and more in demand: even some Unions are asking for it as a condition of employment. Last year the Chief Minister held an enthusiastic speech in the Assembly asserting that in future people would go to offices only 1-2 days a week and the government would build offices all over the ACT so people could use one near home. He argued that only with flexible work arrangements top people can be attracted to Canberra. Commercial companies are already adopting this pattern for it can save them a large amount of office rent.
All this quite apart from the fact that with the rapid advance of technology, it is absurd to lock yourself in with one producer and one model of 20th century technology. The electric bus market is highly competitive, and when new buses are acquired, those with the latest technology can be chosen. Sooner or later buses will be carrying their own solar panels on the roof and a system detecting how many people are waiting at what station will permit determining the frequency and size of buses required. Driverless shuttle buses are already being trialed in Newcastle and elsewhere.

thoughtsonthesubject4:09 pm 18 Mar 22

Have you taken into account that with Covid and hybrid working arrangements, peak hour traffic has been much reduced? Home-working arrangements are more and more in demand: even some Unions are asking for it as a condition of employment. Last year the Chief Minister held an enthusiastic speech in the Assembly asserting that in future people would go to offices only 1-2 days a week and the government would build offices all over the ACT so people could use one near home. He argued that only with flexible work arrangements top people can be attracted to Canberra. Commercial companies are already adopting this pattern for it can save them a large amount of office rent.

Capital Retro5:32 pm 18 Mar 22

Then attack the journalist who wrote the story, not me.

With the amount they are funding the light rail we could start out own electric bus parts factory.

Maybe we could get a time travelling tramway. Who knows.
Did it ever reach 300km/h?

You are the one who linked it here as if it means something and it’s been explained to you now a few times.

But yet you keep doubling down, rather than admitting your error.

No wonder you so stubbornly refuse to accept the evidence on other issues, maybe the saying about an old dog and new tricks is true.

This is a fair summary of the challenges but the tram south is not the solution. It is the dumbest idea an ACT Government has had since painting the grass at Bruce stadium. Covid has blown apart the assumption we all need to work in Civic. There will only be electric cars and buses available before the tram is finished. No-one wants flats from the Lodge to the Hyperdome (remember, the plan says to extend to Tuggeranong for more billions). No-one wants the Parkway and Adelaide Avenue closed simultaneously (also planned). Why should we accept a 30-year loss (and still going up) to deliver slower, less flexible transport that is already superseded? It’s just stupid.

Trevor Willis3:54 pm 16 Mar 22

The artists impression includes many fully grown trees. The Northbourne avenue route of the Gungahlin line killed some 300 trees and now consists of ugly looking dead weeds. The Woden Valley plan is the greatest waste of money that Mr Barr and his merry green men could think of. Solar energy used in buses to go on various routes makes much more sense and many more people not living near the tram stops will not be penalised by lack of nearby access to public transport.

Andrew Sutton8:28 pm 15 Mar 22

Whilst the majority are clearly frustrated by this ongoing waste or money with redundant technology, we as a population have had at least two opportunities to say no through the ACT elections by voting for a change in government. The majority stayed with the Labor/Greens coalition so we are now stuck with it.

thoughtsonthesubject12:33 am 17 Mar 22

There is a good reason why people voted for the tram: the government wisely refused to tell them the financial and ecological cost. Like asking people whether they would like a brand new car and the majority will say “yes”. But ask them whether they would like a brand new car and pay $100.000 and the majority will say “no.” Further, to distract the public from the most important point, namely the cost and the effect on essential public services, they created virtual tram rides and an internet page which among other dubious claims assures the reader that every Canberra will profit from the tram. And all this and other advertising and promotions paid for by the rate payers …

I think we can assume a higher level of knowledge in the Canberra voting population than you give them credit for. We’re mostly a pretty well educated bunch and understand that major infrastructure projects have costs involved but are necessary so that future generations can enjoy the same level of living standards that we enjoy now.

I keep hearing this argument about people voting for LR etc. It’s not that simple. LR was only one of the policies of that the ALP & Greens took to the election.

The ACT has elected an ALP Government for over 20 years and at times the ALP has been in coalition with the Greens. My point here is that they were going to be elected with or without LR.

Just because they were re-elected, doesn’t mean LR is good policy.

That’s the funniest thing you’ve written in a while.

As repeatedly shown on these threads, most commenters in support of light rail have absolutely no idea how major infrastructure projects are planned, built and funded. People are far too often easily impressed by something shiny and new.

Also ironic that you think just building any infrastructure will maintain standards of living for the future.

As usual, you ignore the fact that this is only true if the projects are economically viable and make sense. Which on the government’s own figures light rail doesn’t.

And that’s even ignoring the fact that light rail is a predominantly land development project rather than a transport one.

So instead of maintaining living standards for future generations, we are indebting them for decades on a project that isn’t needed yet, with funds that would be better utilised elsewhere.

If you think that multiple elections where a majority of people voted for light rail aren’t evidence that Canberrans support light rail or that they are not intelligent or educated enough to work out the cost and the value of major infrastructure projects, then you’re really on a hiding to nothing. Hopefully you won’t keep banging on about if over stage 2A, 2B, 3 and 4 as they progress. Or maybe there’ll just be this dwindling cohort of ageing baby boomers rattling their wheel walkers and yelling “We’ll all be rooned!” The rest of us will move on thanks.

Funny I would have said the vast majority of anti light rail people have no idea how the project has been funded and how it is operated.

Evidence is the number of people who reckon $1.5b has already been spent and taken away from other projects. When in fact the whole project is funded with an up front payment that mostly came from a federal government asset recycling scheme with the remainder paid over a 20 year period with all farebox takings going to the Government.

And also the number of people that cannot fathom the concept that the value of a dollar today won’t be the same as it will be in 20 years. So even if the final figure is $1.5b which includes construction, finance, operations, maintenance and mid contract vehicle refurbishment that doesn’t have the same value as $1.5b today. But alas.

Can’t see where I’ve suggested Canberrans aren’t supportive of light rail, although it’s definitely debatable as Ken points out above.

People vote for plenty of policies that make no objective sense, so I don’t know how you are trying to link people voting for something to them understanding an issue.

In fact as the government’s own information shows how poor the project return is, you actually make my point for me.

People are easily conned into voting for shiny new things, because they aren’t intelligent enough to separate their own short term pleasure from the longer term economic realities.

And yes, as the future stages of light rail are almost certainly not viable, I will continue to oppose them using the actual evidence and economic assessments.

No doubt you’ll keep supporting them no matter what, using meaningless political buzzwords and spin.

Lastly, well done on throwing some ageist denigration in there in substitute of an argument. As I’m not a Baby Boomer, it doesn’t affect me, but it definitely reflects poorly on yourself.

The ACT election wasn’t a one question referendum.

It’s a pity that it wasn’t because this false claim that Canberra voted for Light Rail will now continue infinitum.

The ALP acheived just one seat more than the Canberra Liberals. They are only in power because of the Greens support, or should I say the Greens are in power with the support of the ALP.

LR was just one policy. There were many policies, but ultimately, the ALP/Green coalition was always going to be re-elected, as they have been for the past 20 years. There are many people who would have voted for the Government but opposed LR.

I actually agree with you that a lot of anti light rail people don’t know how these projects are funded and operated.

But their actual arguments that it’s too expensive for what it delivers is correct even if they don’t know exactly why.

“And also the number of people that cannot fathom the concept that the value of a dollar today won’t be the same as it will be in 20 years.”

Also, you didn’t possibly write that with a straight face, when it’s one of the key reasons why light rail isn’t viable and the opportunity costs of committing that money today is huge.

And that’s without even starting on the future stages with far less benefits and far higher costs.

Oh dear “People are easily conned into voting for shiny new things because they aren’t intelligent enough to separate their own short term pleasure from the economic realities.” No they’re not mate, they’re really not, however you’ve just made a statement with no evidence at all that reflects extremely poorly on yourself. The anti-light rail shtick is becoming increasingly desperate.

Oh dear.

The evidence is literally written in my comment champ.

” the government’s own information shows how poor the project return is,”

You know, the government’s own economic analysis showing the project isn’t viable. And the fact that they haven’t released a robust business case for future stages despite committing to it blindly.

About as blindly as those who slavishly support light rail no matter what the evidence says.

As I said, not too intelligent and easily conned.

Not it’s not “written in my comments champ.” For starters there is no evidence that “the government’s own economic analysis showed the project isn’t viable.” The evidence showing how well patronised light rail stage 1 has been clearly refutes what you’re attempting to prove. This makes it difficult for your argument to stack up. So more wildly hyperbolic claims about the lack of intelligence of the Canberra voter come tumbling out. Just to make it clear, you have provided no evidence of your claims about the intelligence of the Canberra voter just because they don’t agree with your, increasingly untenable, position on light rail. Democracy has won out in this case and you’ll probably just have to accept the will of the people. Blind insults don’t help your case. They just make you appear to be a sore loser.

You clearly show your ignorance on this issue again with your last comment, although as we’ve already identified, this is par for the course for light rail proponents.

For starters, the government’s assessment of light rail Stage 1, shows its not an investment grade project to anyone with any experience in the area. It’s why the Auditor General savaged the project business case in their review and why Infrastructure Australia objectively assessed that the project wasn’t worthy of addition to their priority infrastructure list for funding.

Future stages are far worse.

“The evidence showing how well patronised light rail stage 1 has been clearly refutes what you’re attempting to prove”

Hilariously you also clearly haven’t actually looked at the patronage data recently which is well below government projections over the last few years because of COVID.

Even though as we’ve previously discussed, patronage is barely relevant to the viability of this project as it was justified on land development benefits rather than transport ones.

If the government offered a free door to door limousine service it would also be well patronised.

So just to make it clear, I have repeatedly provided you with links and other evidence showing how unviable the light rail project is and you’ve repeatedly responded with meaningless buzzwords and political partisanship.

I don’t need to insult you Astro, your comments are there for all to see.

And you’re right that there are losers here, although it isn’t me. It’s the ACT taxpayer and future generations that have to pay for this folly.

ChrisinTurner4:48 pm 15 Mar 22

The Greens wanted trams because there was no such thing as fully electric buses. Now the LRT to Woden will divert $billions away from hospitals, schools, police and city services to provide public transport that will take twice the journey time, with half the seats and half the frequency of service. The operating subsidy per boarding will double. Hamburg is a good example of a bus-based efficient public transport system, or go to Brisbane.

Bull dust. Fully electric buses have been a thing for over 25 years now! I rode my first one in Auckland in 1997. Sure they were very niche at the time as they were new technology. They became mainstream around 10 years ago and in parts of Europe started to become the norm about 5 years ago. Like all bus technologies in the recent years Australia has been about 5-10 years behind the rest of the world in adapting technologies and in the case of hybrid buses we basically skipped it..

All this crap about electric buses instead of light rail ignores the bleeding obvious that light rail is a high capacity trunk medium and buses be they diesel, hybrid, hydrogen or electric are lower capacity local/feeder mediums.

Take Gungahlin for example the old buses there was a bus every 5 minutes in peak, a combination of rigid and articulated and many often showed bus full signs by the time they got to Dickson. They were at capacity. When at that capacity when frequency then adding more buses solves nothing and create more problems. Pre covid those dozen buses were replaced with light rail which had double the capacity (not all seated or course) and even then in peak hour they were packed.

I know you and the nay sayers won’t admit it but that Gungahlin line is 100% the right solution for that trunk route.

I’ve said here a few times I don’t think Woden is quite as sensible as the second route, it should be Kingston and then Belconnen but alas like everything in this town north south politics comes into play.

All three major parties (both locally and federally) support light rail as a fixed line (electric) service which connects to the bus service ( which will also transition, over time, to electric vehicles) The Roads budget diverts billions away from hospitals, schools, police and city services. Light rail is neither half the carrying capacity of a bus, nor half as frequent as the bus service.. (You obviously don’t know much about buses.) If you take your own advice and “go to Brisbane” you will find that their Metro electric bus service connects with their rail service.

CrisinTurner, I have 2 replies to your post
1. Technology moves faster than the Greens can think; and
2. I ask the question: how capable are ACT hospitals in the event any one of us are hit by a tram?

Capital Retro9:23 am 15 Mar 22

“Yes, it will be lovely to catch the train to woden hospital…..”

Actually, it’s the tram but as far as I am aware it is not planned to run it past TCH.

Capital Retro8:40 am 15 Mar 22

Light rail is actually a tactic of the urban renewal strategy that the ACT Labor/Green government is pursuing.

Light rail in Canberra was never about “public transport” and this is now freely admitted by the government. At the time the decision was made, trams were the only “emission free” mode of transport available. The fact that they are incredibly expensive, totally inflexible and slower that busses wasn’t on the agenda.

You are a few years too late old boy. Urban renewal was always a major part of light rail and the reason why the Gungahlin line was first cab off the rank.

Oh your negatives, extremely expensive, yes they are but so too are roads and creating parking spots not to mention the environmental damages of the gas guzzles you constantly support.

Inflexible, yes they are. But that’s actually a good thing for a trunk route. Ads certainty and allows a higher capacity option like light rail to be used.

As for slower, well on the Woden route they will be but not because light rail is slower but because it’s going to go via a different route to serve more locations and stop more. Refer to your initial point about urban renewal. But on the Gungahlin route they are not slower. In fact they are up to 20 minutes faster than the peak hour timetabled travel time for the old 200 buses.

JC – spot on…….

So you agree that it isn’t a predominantly public transport project based project but rather a land development one.

So why on earth then would we move forward with it when the government’s own figures show the economic return is so woeful?

Particularly when the private benefit to landholders along the route is so large, significantly subsidised by all other taxpayers?

Along with the fact that the demand for it, particularly on future routes doesn’t exist yet?

You were on another thread recently backing the government for not building the road bridge across the Molonglo because it wasn’t needed yet (until now). Why is your position the opposite for light rail?

Seems strange.

Capital Retro1:08 pm 16 Mar 22

No, light rail was always a part of urban renewal. Stop trying to spin it the other way.

My “gas guzzler” is necessary to have because I, like hundreds of thousands of other Canberrans, have no need to use the tram and the bus services are totally inadequate.

Chewy my position hasn’t change actually. My position has always been the route to Gungahlin was required, though it wasn’t when Kate Carnell proposed it in the late 90’s.

With Woden, again I’ve been like a broken record that I don’t think that is a sensible second route. I believe an extension to Kingston, thus servicing the parl triangle and high density Kingston housing would be viable and needed now. But due to politics Woden is the route.

And the bridge construction needs to start now, but it isn’t needed today nor in the last few years.

I need a car too, just don’t need to drive it to the city to park everyday. Just not a gas guzzler. I don’t have a hybrid or electric but am sure looking forward to the day when I next replace my car to get one.

Except the other routes you mention similarly won’t stack up. There IS no next stage that makes sense now based on demand and economics and there won’t be one for some time.

Even the Gunghalin route didn’t make sense when they built it, but you could just barely scrape a case together that the Government’s significant land holdings on the route made urban infill opportunities far greater and likely quicker.

Although Covid has completely smashed that type of assumption too but I wouldn’t be critical of them not predicting COVID impacts.

So your argument should be the same as that of the Molonglo bridge, build it when needed.

Light Rail is a solution looking for a problem.

Capital Retro6:38 am 18 Mar 22

You have choices, I don’t.

thoughtsonthesubject11:56 pm 18 Mar 22

The route to Gungahlin would not have been necessary if they had – as promised – built offices for government departments like Woden and Belconnen. Plots that were originally reserved for offices were turned into flats and the place became a bed town for Civic. Cancelling direct buses further forced people to use the tram.

Fastest, most efficient public transport option to travel to Woden is by BUS! Always will be.

The assumptions in this article are wrong on many levels.

The Canberra Liberals’ support for LR is not universal. It is based on them being in Opposition for 20 years and the the Government continually having the numbers via it’s alliance with the Greens.

As for opponents of development banishing those on the “outskirts” with higher costs (assume transport costs) and causing them to be less connected, the author mustn’t be aware that a trip on public transport is not distance priced. It’d costs the same for a trip from Tuggeranong as it would from say – a new LR stop on Yarra Glenn.

Those of us who live on the “outskirts”, don’t live in some hillbilly backwater. I’m even using the internet to make this comment! We go grocery shopping in real shops and no longer need to set traps to catch our food. We no longer rely on spells and potions to cure our ills. We now have fully qualified GPs and even Pharmacies.

It should also be noted that those in the development corridor, could easily catch an electric bus (when they are purchased), if they Government were to restructure it’s bus network. It’d be just as clean as LR and a lot easier and cheaper to add a few extra bus stops than to build a train track.

The big kicker is that buses are not restricted to 70 kph.

As a public transport system, LR offers nothing that a decent bus service couldn’t offer, if only the Government wanted it’s bus network to be successful.

Those who live on the outskirts often find it takes far too long (for many a good reason) to use public transport, so they end up driving. Which is far higher cost when further out due to greater fuel use, and not to mention cost of parking etc.

Think you will find that was the point the author was making not that public transport uses distance based charging, which you mostly correctly point out.

Though I do recall when buses in Canberra were based on the number of changes made and when the 333 was double fare to travel from Belconnen to Woden. Obviously in those days people who lived further out did pay more to use public transport over greater distances. It was 4 fares to go from Kippax to Erindale.

Ian, I’m very disappointed that an intelligent socially responsible person such as yourself could be so taken in by this ridiculously costly, outdated inappropriate technology. This city was designed as nodal centres with rapid transit and green corridors between them. It is a ghastly mistake that generations to follow will be left paying for in many ways.

HiddenDragon7:24 pm 14 Mar 22

“The LRT project is a bold and visionary step toward diversifying the Canberra economy; one in which workers will be less reliant on the vagaries of public service employment policies. A successful project will see the Canberra economy expand and diversify as knowledge workers move into the attractive, connected and convenient Gungahlin corridor, and less skilled workers follow to provide support services (e.g. restaurants, entertainment and other services) for the new knowledge economy.”

That was some of the hype, from six and a half years ago, for the Gungahlin line.

The reality, as articles on this site and elsewhere in local media acknowledge, is that Gungahlin remains a collection of dormitory suburbs with a patchy town centre economy – hence the regular, bleating calls for a major public sector employer to be relocated there – and so much for the fantasy of a mini-Silicon Valley on the Monaro Plains.

Absent an absolute earthquake in the world view of the people who run this town, and regardless of the spin about diversification, the ACT’s economy will continue to rely very heavily on federal public sector spending and incomes and the resultant businesses which feed on a generally well-heeled captive market.

In essence it’s a population Ponzi Scheme and transport is part of that – but could we please stop pretending that light rail is unquestionably the best, or even the only, option for serving the Ponzi and that anyone who opposes light rail is thus also against all development – that is just passe and unhelpful.

We know there is no business case for the tram bcause it was built for political reasons, not rational economic reasons. Greens want a tram. Labor needs Greens support to govern. Therefore Canberra gets a tram. Greens means trams.
Former Labor ACT Chief Minister Jon Stanhope made this very clear when he pointed out the outrageous costs and debt to be paid off by every Canberran now and into the future.
Besides the costs, we have now all experienced the disruption to traffic into the city caused by the tram. As well as the ugly apartments. Is it a mistake we learn from, or repeat south of the lake?

Lachlan Maclean3:36 pm 14 Mar 22

It’s like 100% of the taxpayers are footing the bill so that <20% of them can have the OPTION to use a system that the rest of us couldn't care about.
I guess that's progress for you.

Which taxpayers are you referring to? There is Commonwealth funding going towards the project…

You are making the assumption the costs are being “shared” equally.

There was no secret that stage 1 was about driving development, so a large portion of the initial costs (bearing in mind this is being paid for over 20 years) is being paid by the land sales, and the remaining 20 years by the higher rates that being near the light rail generates through high land value.

Except none of the landholders along the route are forced to stay there and pay higher rates. So they’ve been gifted hundreds of thousands of dollars each, all paid for by every taxpayer.

It’s about as unfair and inequitable as you can get.

An element of rates is tied to property values. Higher property values=more rates.

That doesn’t relate to my point.
It just shifts the costs to someone else in the future, when current landholders have already reaped the massive taxpayer subsidised benefit today. They don’t have to pay anything.

Linda Seaniger3:07 pm 14 Mar 22

Get on board how? If you get involved with public consultation the planners don’t listen. Their objective is solely to cram as many townhouses and apartments on the most minimal spaces and well designed landscape areas for relaxation are not considered necessary. You only have to look at the development that’s happening around Belconnen and Woden at the moment there’s no decent small areas of open space between building where kids can play outside or the elder sit outside and enjoy community life.
We just have ugly boxes. Has anyone ever noticed that we are never a candidate for the best city in Australia any more we were a planned city and envied by countries around the world, we should have been proud of that and maintained that status quo. instead it’s all now about helping the developers build as cheaply as possible profit from the land sales. Rates are skyrocketing and yet we lack decent health facilities, road infrastructure and maintenance, our green spaces are often totally neglected and not mowed. . When is our labor government ever going to listen and start managing our city properly?

Tom Worthington2:48 pm 14 Mar 22

Happy to support light rail, as long as it doesn’t have rails. 😉 Brisbane’s Metro will have double-articulated rubber tired electric vehicles, on a dedicated road lane. If Canberra did that, a new bridge would not be required over Lake Burley Griffin. The cost and carbon emissions would be lower, plus the system could be implemented quicker.

A new bridge is still required over LBG. The current one needs a major upgrade. Source btw is NCA not ACT gov.

High inflation makes it unaffordable now. We’re entering a period similar to the 70s entirely due to government action over the last two years.

The opposite is mostly true though. With fuel costs going through the roof fats efficient public transport and preferably one not reliant on oil is even more essential.

It was the 70’s fuel crisis that lead to the electrification of the Brisbane suburban train network and the development of Perth electrification. And major upgrades to the tram fleet of Melbourne.

Capital Retro5:27 pm 18 Mar 22

That was when electricity was plentiful, reliable and cheap. Thank you coal.

Capital Retro5:35 pm 18 Mar 22

A unique aspect of a few of Paris’ Métro lines is the use of rubber tires instead of steel wheels. Metro trains travel along a fixed guideway track, but are still electric with power supplied by one of the guiderails.

Barr is a Francophile so when he finds this out, look out!

Damien McGrath12:25 pm 14 Mar 22

I love light rail. Smooth, quiet, doesnt get caught in traffic, good for the climate. Two elections have been fought and won to build light rail. So just accept the people’s choice. As for expense – how much do you think roads cost?

Don’t talk sense. You will be howled down.

Elections are never decided on one issue.

This is an ALP/Greens town. The Government has held power (at times with the Greens) for over 20 years. Being almost guaranteed to win Government due to the nature of the electorate doesn’t mean it’s policies are universally popular or even good policy.

With the Opposition in minority and the Government unlikely to lose an election any time soon, it’s even more important that individuals speak up and have their say.

A white elephant is still white, even if you paint it red white and blue.

Ian going to the obvious argumentum ad populum.

Any news when public transport going to return to the original timetable?
Not that I would use it as over the past 30 years its gotten slower and slower. A slow tram to civic is still a slow tram to civic. Try again Ian

Love the photo of the tram tracks next to the beautiful trees. That wont happen of course – everything green will be obliterated for the poles for the wires and some nasty looking grass plants will line the tracks, looking dead and brown. Scrap the trams, save the trees, use electric business instead and save Canberra a billion dollars.

Save the trees? Not sure if you noticed but there aren’t that many trees on Adelaide Ave and none in that area to save. The ones in the pic, will of course be all new. As for the poles if I stand and look down Northborne Ave what I see is row after row of street lights, young trees and native grasses. The street lights and of course the 6 lane road are a bigger blight on the landscape.

Yes of course, it’s ok if they chop down trees for roads isn’t it but not for rail. Scrap the roads, save the trees, save the environment and use electric light rail.

Strange that you’ve written this light rail booster article but forgot to mention the only real thing that matters.

Where’s the business case justifying the project?

This isn’t a piece of social infrastructure, the government’s own figures for light rail stage 1 shows it wasn’t viable and the vast majority of claimed “benefit” was from land development.

It’s not a public transport project, it’s a land development one.

Which is then far less relevant for any future stage because of the government’s limited land holdings on future stage routes.

Along with the massive reduction in usage caused by Covid which will continue, why are we building such an inflexible and enormously costly white elephant?

Stephen Saunders8:55 am 14 Mar 22

No hope, Ian. The support of both parties and the clear support of the electorate in two consecutive elections means nothing to these instant urban-transit experts. 400 cities across the world must have got it wrong. Or perhaps it is a form of cyber warfare by Putin? Why, I hear right now their plaintive chant outside – What do we want, Third world transit, When do we want it, Back then.

Or perhaps it’s the government’s own supporting information that shows it isn’t viable.

As for “instant urban transit experts”, I agree there’s plenty of them on the pro-light rail side. Apparently economics and planning don’t matter when they can have something shiny, new and expensive.

This is exciting. Modern transport option not requiring a 20 square metre patch of bitumen for storing my car when I visit Civic. Also means I can have a wine or 3 with mates and get home with less risk. Cannot wait for the half-way Tavern to be built near the Cotter Road intersection.

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