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Light rail rant

By Serina Bird Huang (aka Ms Frugal Ears) - 5 June 2017 22

I was ambivalent about the light rail. That is until I bought an apartment two minutes walk from one of the tram stops. Now suddenly I have become a huge light rail tram fan. I can’t wait until it is up and working so that the kidlets and I can whiz into Civic for the Multicultural Festival or other events, head up to Dickson for shopping, drop into the Capital Region Farmers Markets for some fresh fruit and veg, visit the Handmade Markets without having to park a kilometre away, or even venture into Gungahlin to see friends. I’m also banking of the light rail improving the value of my apartment.

But the roadworks and the interruptions are doing my head in.

Up until now, I have been mostly philosophical about the inconvenience that the major capital works have had on my life. Okay, so it takes around ten to fifteen minutes extra along Northbourne Avenue. One evening it took me 35 minutes to travel from Barton to Dickson – I could have driven half-way to Goulburn in that time. Some mornings the traffic up the side street where I live is so full of commuters dashing by to avoid Northbourne Ave congestion that I can scarcely get the car out of the parking lot to drive the kids to school. Then there was the time I had to take the car into be serviced at Mitchell – my Uber ride took 45 minutes and cost a fortune. Flemington Road was, and probably still is, a mess.

All of this I have taken in my stride. I have even decided to turn it into a bit of a positive and have started cycling into work. I don’t do it every day as it is a bit too hard for my unfit self to ferry kids the days that I have to drop off the preschooler across town at childcare. But I did use the Northbourne Avenue and associated congestion as an excuse to get into fitness. I love the slow ride through the magnificent Autumn colours that Canberra has to show. It is a special time.

So mostly I have accepted the light rail works. Until I realised that the intersection between Condamine St and Northbourne Avenue was being blocked off (i.e. near Fenner Hall and Hotel Rex). Not just for a day or two, but for two whole long weeks to prepare work for the light rail. To say this is a major inconvenience on my life is an understatement. It will necessitate a major detour. Further, it is not just me who will be doing a major detour – half of O’Connor and Turner has been full of motorists that are probably not from the inner north for months.

This is not the only intersection that will be blocked off. Previously the Northbourne Avenue/Girrawheen St in Braddon intersection (and associated bus stops) were closed from 4 May to 27 May. The next one is probably the Northbourne Avenue/Macarthur Avenue/Wakefield intersection, near the ABC, which is a busy intersection.

To be fair, as someone in the affected community I have been getting letters in the mail letting me know what is happening. I have been invited to briefing sessions. There is also a website, although I find it is more gloss about how fabulous the tram will be than providing easy to find updates on how residents and motorists are being affected. So there has been community engagement. I can’t complain that there hasn’t been. But still, from my perspective the construction sucks. It does not make it any easier, as a single mother with two kids, to get us up and around to where we need to be in the morning or at the end of a long day.

Rather than just be a whinger, I thought I ought to think constructively about what more the ACT Government could be doing to better prepare and support the community through this time. Here are some ideas.

  • Dedicated law enforcement for the traffic around the back roads along either side of Northbourne Avenue. Far too many motorists are using these narrow laneways to circumvent Northbourne Ave, and in doing so they are going above and beyond the speed limit. Often there are young children walking to school at this time (sometimes me and mine), and there are also many cyclists. Now that the days are getting shorter and it is darker, this is a fatal accident waiting to happen. There are often cars parked on either side of the street I live on and this makes it especially dangerous for cars to rev up and down along my street. ACT Police – you need to be doing more here. If roadworks make it difficult for motorists to travel along Northbourne Ave they will find another way.
  • Put on extra buses. To reduce congestion some extra express buses dedicated to the Flemington Road – Northbourne Avenue – Civic route could help. This could encourage people to be more sustainable, help decrease congestion and change commuting habits ahead of the advent of light rail. Would people use the extra buses? If there is already enough public transport along this corridor or not enough interest, why is the ACT Government building the light rail?
  • Acknowledge that Northbourne Avenue has become congested and do something about it. Don’t just wait until the light rail is here as the answer to all of our prayers. Does anyone really think that traffic congestion will stop once the tram is here? Yes, more people will travel in an environmentally sustainable and fun way (including tourists) – but it will make it harder for cars as well. What is needed is better roads to divert traffic from Gunghalin and Canberra’s northern suburbs away from Northbourne Avenue, and parking near tram stops to encourage people a little further away from the tram to use it. Perhaps in retrospect doing major roadworks in Horse Park Dr at the same time as work on Northbourne Avenue and Flemington Road wasn’t such a good idea, but moving forward, perhaps looking at the traffic congestion in an integrated way would help.
  • Better lighting and security for cycle paths. Now that I cycle home some nights my route forces me to pass through Haig Park colloquially known as ‘Rape Park’ by female friends who live in the area. I thought she was exaggerating until I read about a female cyclist being chased in this area. It is scarier than a Gruffalo book to cycle through this park at night – or early morning, when statistically most sexual assaults occur. No-one should have to endure this, especially not women. The light rail works are forcing more people to drive less (a good thing) and walk or cycle through unsafe territory (not so good). I know there is a consultation plan on the Haig Park redevelopment. But someone is going to get be hurt and/or sexually assaulted if action is not taken now, during the darkest months of the year.

I am looking forward to the light rail being up and running. But right now I can’t wait until it is over.

Are you over the light rail construction?  What do you think about the construction and consultation?

What’s Your opinion?


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22 Responses to
Light rail rant
dungfungus 9:48 am 09 Jun 17

JC said :

dungfungus said :

MarkE said :

Once again someone is asking for more money on things they want from a government plunging deeper into debt.
What is the difference between a light rail and a long bus in a bus lane? It is really nothing more than a big, expensive, inflexible bus.
What do you think all the level crossings are going to do to the traffic on Northbourne Ave?

Melbourne tram drivers appear to be paid more than ACTION bus drivers so there wont be any cost savings there.
http://yarratrams.com.au/about-us/careers/driven-women/a-career-loaded-with-benefits/

Yeah but doesn’t mean Canberra ones will be paid the same. You will find Melbourne tram drivers are paid so much because of them nasty unions and being able to hold a large city to ransom.

Won’t be able to do the same here especially as it will be privately operated. And whilst Melbourne has been private for many years they inherited the public service work practices etc.

Good point there.

Yeah, with public transport catering to only 8% (and falling) of Canberra’s population it would be a moot point for the TWU to hold a small city like Canberra to ransom.

tim_c 9:30 am 09 Jun 17

dungfungus said :

chewy14 said :

1. Dedicated law enforcement? But this would cost money, a white van is all you need to fix this problem and they already exist….

2. More buses? People don’t catch the ones already running, I don’t know how this would fix the issue….

“a white van is all you need to fix this problem”

That is really “off”.

1. Actually, I’d say that’s spot “on”. Although Chewy neglected to mention that Canberra has now rolled out a third-world speed enforcement system (speed bumps are appearing everywhere) which really will solve all the problems, right?

2. That’s been my number one question about light rail since it was proposed (and to this day remains unanswered) – if people won’t get in a bus, what makes you think they’ll get into a train??

wottaway 9:04 am 09 Jun 17

Well, boo-hoo-hoo, what did you expect to happen during the construction period?..the last thing Canberra needed was light-rail, likewise Sydney. All those things you are looking forward to could probably be done already in a bus. Even if you do have to wait five minutes.

JC 7:38 pm 08 Jun 17

dungfungus said :

MarkE said :

Once again someone is asking for more money on things they want from a government plunging deeper into debt.
What is the difference between a light rail and a long bus in a bus lane? It is really nothing more than a big, expensive, inflexible bus.
What do you think all the level crossings are going to do to the traffic on Northbourne Ave?

Melbourne tram drivers appear to be paid more than ACTION bus drivers so there wont be any cost savings there.
http://yarratrams.com.au/about-us/careers/driven-women/a-career-loaded-with-benefits/

Yeah but doesn’t mean Canberra ones will be paid the same. You will find Melbourne tram drivers are paid so much because of them nasty unions and being able to hold a large city to ransom.

Won’t be able to do the same here especially as it will be privately operated. And whilst Melbourne has been private for many years they inherited the public service work practices etc.

dungfungus 5:59 pm 08 Jun 17

MarkE said :

Once again someone is asking for more money on things they want from a government plunging deeper into debt.
What is the difference between a light rail and a long bus in a bus lane? It is really nothing more than a big, expensive, inflexible bus.
What do you think all the level crossings are going to do to the traffic on Northbourne Ave?

Melbourne tram drivers appear to be paid more than ACTION bus drivers so there wont be any cost savings there.
http://yarratrams.com.au/about-us/careers/driven-women/a-career-loaded-with-benefits/

Tjilpi1 5:19 pm 08 Jun 17

These are all good ideas and I hope the authorities will take them up. I too live close to the light rail route (stage two) and am not looking forward to the construction phase or the inevitable apartment building and higher rates to follow because of the ‘value uplift’ that this project will bring. People need to have a say on the route for Stage Two before consultation closes on Sunday.

Mike Glew 4:57 pm 08 Jun 17

Didn’t buses run up and down northborne before you moved in. What’s that you say? You didn’t use them??? This is the nonsense that will put early 20th century plans into motion in the 21st Century using trains Sydney didn’t want to replace perfectly good buses making travel from suburbs such as Kaleen into the city far more difficult than they are now and costing the government a fortune. Who voted for this? Because I certainly did not.

MarkE 10:24 pm 06 Jun 17

Once again someone is asking for more money on things they want from a government plunging deeper into debt.
What is the difference between a light rail and a long bus in a bus lane? It is really nothing more than a big, expensive, inflexible bus.
What do you think all the level crossings are going to do to the traffic on Northbourne Ave?

chewy14 6:45 am 06 Jun 17

Holden Caulfield said :

dungfungus said :

chewy14 said :

1. Dedicated law enforcement? But this would cost money, a white van is all you need to fix this problem and they already exist….

“a white van is all you need to fix this problem”

That is really “off”.

No, I think it’s more a case of timing and misunderstanding.

My bet is chewy14 is referring to the white vans that monitor speed and are a common sight on Canberra roads. I seriously doubt any connection is being drawn with events from London, which is what I think you’re suggesting.

Well, I had no idea what dungfungus was referring to so you’ve cleared that up.

On a Canberra post referencing the wish for more active police enforcement for people speeding through backstreets, I was most definitely referencing our friendly speed camera vans.

Spiral 10:10 pm 05 Jun 17

For those of us who will probably never use the Light Rail, who will be paying for it for the rest of our lives, and will find it makes our travel around Canberra more difficult, your complaints sound a bit like someone whining that all the cash in their wallet makes it uncomfortable to sit.

Holden Caulfield 5:20 pm 05 Jun 17

dungfungus said :

chewy14 said :

1. Dedicated law enforcement? But this would cost money, a white van is all you need to fix this problem and they already exist….

“a white van is all you need to fix this problem”

That is really “off”.

No, I think it’s more a case of timing and misunderstanding.

My bet is chewy14 is referring to the white vans that monitor speed and are a common sight on Canberra roads. I seriously doubt any connection is being drawn with events from London, which is what I think you’re suggesting.

ChrisinTurner 5:18 pm 05 Jun 17

Remember that the Government’s own EIS said congestion along Northbourne will increase once the tram is operating. However, without congestion nobody will use the public transport. New York is removing traffic lanes to increase congestion so more people will use the subway and the buses, and making more room for bicycles and pedestrians.

Holden Caulfield 2:14 pm 05 Jun 17

I get it. And I understand it is frustrating. But…

Gungahlin suffered for years (and still is) with constant roadworks. Fyshwick had infrastructure projects for years with the realignment of Parkes Way, Majura Parkway and Monaro Highway.

It’s part of living in an evolving city.

As for the ideas to help ease the congestion. Well, they all cost money, and the light rail project is more than likely going to exceed its budget as it is, without any extra services that weren’t afforded to other locations who have previously suffered inconvenience due to infrastructure projects.

In short, deal with it and be thankful you live in a relatively safe and stable city, where a few extra minutes inconvenience during a cold winter are problems worth ranting about.

Just wait until the NCA screws up Comonwealth Avenue Bridge!

dungfungus 1:33 pm 05 Jun 17

chewy14 said :

1. Dedicated law enforcement? But this would cost money, a white van is all you need to fix this problem and they already exist….

2. More buses? People don’t catch the ones already running, I don’t know how this would fix the issue.

3. Acknowledge the Northbourne congestion and do something? The congestion is actually one of the desired outcomes of the light rail to force people to use it in the future, why would they try and fix it?

4. Better lighting? A good point, although this applies Canberra wide with many areas not having sufficient lighting for safety reasons.

“a white van is all you need to fix this problem”

That is really “off”.

chewy14 11:04 am 05 Jun 17

1. Dedicated law enforcement? But this would cost money, a white van is all you need to fix this problem and they already exist….

2. More buses? People don’t catch the ones already running, I don’t know how this would fix the issue.

3. Acknowledge the Northbourne congestion and do something? The congestion is actually one of the desired outcomes of the light rail to force people to use it in the future, why would they try and fix it?

4. Better lighting? A good point, although this applies Canberra wide with many areas not having sufficient lighting for safety reasons.

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