13 June 2019

Canberra's on board as light rail passenger numbers already hit 2021 target

| Lachlan Roberts
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More than 83,000 people boarded the light rail last week. Photos: George Tsotsos.

Transport Canberra says it is already hitting its 2021 business case passenger numbers for light rail, as the number of people boarding the service continues to grow.

The second week of paid travel between 3 June and 9 June saw more people hop on the light rail service compared to the first week, with an average of 14,311 boardings on each working day last week.

A total of 83,862 boardings were recorded along the light rail route last week, 6,000 more than the first week of paid light rail travel.

Only 77,668 people boarded the service during the first week of paid service from 27 May to 2 June, almost 30,000 fewer boardings than the weekly average during the first month of free services.

During the month of free travel, the service recorded an average of 106,279 boardings per week and a daily average of 17,297 on working days, causing Transport Canberra to add more vehicles running on the network.

Due to increased passenger demand during the free travel month, Transport Canberra added one extra service to the morning peak time and three more were added to the afternoon peak times.

A Transport Canberra spokesman said the number of services running since the introduction of paid fares had not changed.

Transport Canberra expects patronage across the entire network to increase week on week from previous years.

Transport Canberra blamed the significant drop in patronage numbers during the first week of paid travel on the Reconciliation Day public holiday and the three coldest days of the year, stating “historically we see reduced patronage across the [transport] network due to poor weather and holidays”.

The spokesperson said more data was needed to determine trends on the light rail network but said Transport Canberra was happy with the popularity of the light rail.

“It is still too early to draw on conclusions based on this data, and we are continuing to monitor it weekly,” the spokesperson said. “Transport Canberra is very pleased light rail is so popular and we are already hitting our 2021 business case passenger numbers.

“Over the first five weeks of the new network, journeys across the entire new network are up 12 per cent compared with the same period in 2018.

“In the first week of paid service, there was a nine per cent increase in passenger journeys, and boardings are up 13 per cent compared with the same period in 2018, so Transport Canberra expects that patronage will continue to increase week on week from previous years.”

Minister for Transport Meegan Fitzharris said she was delighted to see more Canberrans using the new light rail services but also public transport more broadly.

“Overall, our data is showing there are more people, more often using the new integrated public transport network, which is what it was designed to do,” she told Region Media.

“It was also great to see the number of people taking advantage of the free month of travel – providing Canberrans with the opportunity to try out light rail and see what it was all about.

“We will be keeping a very close eye on patronage over the rest of this year to understand how Canberrans are using their public transport network and how we can continue to encourage even more uptake of public transport, including the network, routes, and our fare structures.”

Have you used light rail yet? What has your experience been? Comment below.

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Is a tram a good idea when a new stop will cost hundreds of thousands, if not a million dollars or more, to somewhere useful like Mitchell which has been completely bypassed by the new tram. Or for a bus you can just plonk a sign at the side of any road for probably less than $2000, even at inflated government rates. The tram can’t do this because you tap on and off at the stop instead of onboard like a bus, which is why the stops are ridiculously expensive. Buses can drive around problems, or simply make a turn if you want to change the route permanently or temporarily. Buses can be powered by electricity, hydrogen, bio diesel or whatever by simply swapping a bus and can even have a mix of any or all options. Buses can turn down any street and drop you where you need to go, not just where the tram track ends. Buses can even have their own lane on any existing road with the simple cost of a few signs and road markings, no need to rip up trees, underground infrastructure and nature strips. Trams are a really dumb, expensive and restricted option. Trams are yesterday’s technology today. We could have had free (no extra cost) public bus transport without the unpopular route changes for decades instead of a useless tram to nowhere, now that would be innovation.

If that was the case then most other cities wouldn’t use light or heavy rail or a tram network. Whilst buses have their uses they can’t compete with rail on a heavily used man route, which is why they’re used in cities across Australia and around the world.

Trains are a really good method of transport. Perhaps you have not used them enough to realise the benefits. They have a defined route and their own track which means you don’t have all the usual traffic delays of traveling by road, so the journey is more timely and to schedule. They are quieter and smoother to ride. The track is much cheaper to maintain than a road. By taking passengers and cars off the roads there is less damage to the road by heavy vehicles and road traffic is less congested. They move more passengers than would be possible with buses unless you want fleets of them blocking the road for you! Trams are a good idea and full marks to Canberra government for getting them over the line. When the network is complete the benefits will be even more obvious.

Does anyone know when they’ll finish the road and paths along Northbourne? The cycle lane had been diverted for 18 months longer than they said it would be so far. I asked the metro people but they haven’t responded.

This highlights the core issue of the Public Transport re-design.

The trick played on Commuters was always about making the Rapid routes much faster for 35% of Canberrans and getting the numbers up.

The real problem is the ACT Government and Canberra Transport have given up on the people outside the Rapid network who were harder to service by Bus. These are generally the less wealthy and the people who don’t get other government services. These changes have been very unfair on many Canberrans.

So the first week was down because it was a four day week and there was some bad weather. Well who’d have thought?

If significant numbers of people are only using the service to commute to work on nice days and switching to private cars on bad days then the argument that the service aims to reduce the need to build roads has just been killed off.

The problem with most infrastructure is that it needs to cope with peak demand, not average demand. If you have two or three separate systems for moving people around the city then they all need to cope with peak demand. That kind of luxury costs more than this rate payer can afford.

Capital Retro11:22 am 13 Jun 19

Credible predictions made 2 years ago are being realised now and it’s not good news for Canberra LRT;


Thank you, good find.

Light rail has not been a rational choice anywhere it has been advocated in this country in recent times. It has relied on populist politics and the very selective acceptance of facts and opinion to get over the line.

Light rail is somehow a deep seated fantasy that appeals to many in the community. A kind of sentimentality for a Victorian era opulence. Perhaps it’s a reaction to today’s ultra tech world of the internet.

Capital Retro4:01 pm 13 Jun 19

And those tram salesmen are very skilled. It’s hard to knock back a “fact finding” tour to Europe.

Capital Retro8:46 am 13 Jun 19

Those 15000 people a day would be really 7500 x 2 – in other words 7500 commuters travelling return, daily.

That’s 1.88% of Canberra’s population and a fare collection of about $16 million pa which will not even cover the wages and electricity.

What a success it is.

Fail. Read again. It is about 14000+ boarding so 7000+ Passengers.

Capital Retro7:50 pm 13 Jun 19

Oh, they walk back do they?

Could all those naysayers who called it a waste of money please put up their hands. A bit higher please, I can’t see you…

You can’t see the forest because the trees are in the way.

Capital Retro2:45 pm 13 Jun 19

You mean the money trees at the Arboretum?

Um, what are you talking about?

They are never going to turn a profit on operation of the light rail, the fact that they’ve had slightly more people using it than they thought is irrelevant.

And in fact the paltry amount of 14k using it (Actually more like 7k both ways) for the billion dollars spent on it actually outlines how bad value it really is.

It’s a number designed to be good news. What is the bus and car traffic delta on Northbourne

Bus is easier. Delta in peak hour (8-9) is 20 down to zero which in turn is helping make Northborne flow so much better as traffic doesn’t have to stop behind them when they stopped to pick up passengers.

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