Millionth passenger boards light rail amid growing uptake of public transport

Ian Bushnell 15 July 2019 41


Millionth light rail user Jordan Bradfield with Transport and City Services Minister Chris Steel. Photo: Supplied.

Canberra’s new light rail system has carried its millionth passenger as Transport Canberra reported growth in commuter numbers across the entire public transport network compared with last year, since full-fare services commenced.

To celebrate the light rail milestone, the Minister for Transport and City Services, Chris Steel visited the Alinga Street stop this morning to present lucky passengers with a free MyWay card with $20 credit to use for journeys across the network, including the millionth passenger, Jordan Bradfield.

Mr Bradfield said he had been a regular bus user and it was great to have the light rail going.

“I get it to work, it’s 15 minutes, it’s cheap, it’s easy, it’s fantastic to see that Canberra has a real piece of public transport infrastructure now,” he said.

“Hands down it’s an easier commute than I am used to, and it’s a lot faster than I thought it would be, I think there are fewer cars on the road now.”

Mr Steel said success of the service spoke for itself with patronage numbers for light rail higher than anticipated in the business case for the first year of operation.

“We now have record numbers of Canberrans using public transport, exceeding expectations,” Mr Steel said.

“As time goes on with operations, the data is becoming clearer, Canberrans are choosing to use light rail and more public transport,” he said.

The Minister is still examining commuter feedback from the new bus network which included a stream of complaints about inconvenient route changes or losses, but any adjustments are expected to be minor.

Transport Canberra said light rail had generated a significant uptake in public transport use in the Gungahlin to the City corridor, with 32 per cent more public transport journeys starting in Gungahlin in June 2019 than there were in June 2018.

“Patronage growth in the inner north has also been very strong, with light rail now accounting for 20 per cent of all passengers on Transport Canberra services, and we expect this number to continue to grow as the urban renewal projects along the corridor are completed,” Mr Steel said.

Since the completion of free travel, weekday journeys across the whole transport network to 30 June 2019 had increased by 6.1 per cent compared with the same time last year and weekend journeys had increased by 32.7 per cent.

“The number of people using weekend services is incredibly high with more services in the evenings and more convenient services with the same route and number seven days a week,” Mr Steel said.

“Overall the signs are very positive for the new network. With more services, coming more often we are seeing more people moving on public transport compared to this time last year.”

32 per cent more public transport journeys are now starting in Gungahlin in June 2019 than there were in June 2018.

32 per cent more public transport journeys are now starting in Gungahlin in June 2019 than there were in June 2018. File photo.

Ninety-five per cent of journeys being made were using MyWay cards, up from 89 per cent, with over a million journeys planned online using the new Journey Planner.

The Public Transport Association of Canberra said one million passengers on light rail was a tremendous achievement in such a short time since the service started operating, and proved that the claims public transport lobbyists had been making about light rail were correct.

“There are more people using light rail than there were bus passengers, fewer cars on the road, less congestion and a much more attractive Northbourne Avenue. This is all due to light rail being built,” Chair Damien Haas said.

“After years of public transport lobbying, this is a significant achievement and the early immediate success justifies that effort. Gungahlin and all of Canberra benefit from this first stage of light rail.”

He said the teething problems had been relatively minor, and the PTCBR was looking forward to seeing passenger data on bus services feeding the light rail stations.

Mr Haas said that the success of Stage 1 supported the case for light rail Stage 2 between Civic and Woden to be built sooner rather than later.

The Government has split the Woden route in two, hoping that the first section from Civic to Commonwealth Park can be approved quickly, while the more problematical second section across the lake and through the Parliamentary Zone can start later.

Both sections have been referred to the Commonwealth under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity and Conservation Act.


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41 Responses to Millionth passenger boards light rail amid growing uptake of public transport
Capital Retro Capital Retro 9:14 pm 16 Jul 19

“Build it and they will come” says someone. This is partly correct but to get the people to come, the options for travel they had before the tram have been dramatically curtailed.

It’s like force-feeding geese to get pate.

Capital Retro Capital Retro 9:11 pm 16 Jul 19

According to earlier reports, paid travel on the tram commenced 27th May 2019. That means it has been operating in this mode for 7 weeks (49 days) and has carried 1,00,000 passengers. That is 20,400 per day.

Damien Hass suggests on this thread that only 11,000 people travel on the trams each day.

We need a fact-checker urgently.

    chewy14 chewy14 10:24 am 17 Jul 19

    It’s the difference between people and passengers.

    The same person can use the light rail every day but would be counted twice for passenger numbers.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 12:55 pm 17 Jul 19

    I accept what you are saying but that doesn’t apply in the context of the latest Transport Canberra spin.

    And the “same person” pays for each journey, right?

    chewy14 chewy14 6:48 pm 17 Jul 19

    The 1 million passengers are actually 1 million journeys on the tram.

    The amount of actual individual people using it is not given although it’s more likely to be close to that 11000 figure.

    And yes, you would pay for each journey unless it’s within the specified 90minute period.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 10:58 pm 17 Jul 19

    So Transport Canberra is feeding us false information then. I notice the usual apologists for the trolley folly have been silent on this one.

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 6:36 pm 16 Jul 19

None of these carefully selected and presented statistics go to the question of whether other transport options – taking advantage of the hitherto unused central strip of Northbourne Avenue – could have achieved similar, or even better results, at lower cost to the ACT Budget and with less sacrifice of bus services.

That is the real question for any further extension of the tram network, particularly given the other pressures on ACT Government spending.

    canberrian canberrian 11:02 pm 26 Aug 19

    Very true. And the answer is a slow tram 100 year old design which is already a pain for many cities around the world is not a viable solution. Its only an eye-candy, if it all and to print on new apartment sale brochures.

Stephen Saunders Stephen Saunders 5:13 pm 16 Jul 19

It must be agony for the diehard band of ageing tram-haters, already in pain over their rates bills, and having to watch as young Canberra fluently adopts light rail in droves, with barely a second thought. Just like any other normal city.

Even the Canberra Times, consistently wrong and stupid about rail both before and after the 2016 election, has tentatively to concede that there might be something after all in this newfangled ‘Stephenson’s Rocket’ concept.

I’m more confident now that we’ll get to Woden, although Bad Scotty and Sally Barnes will still do everything possible to sabotage the project.

    canberrian canberrian 11:10 pm 26 Aug 19

    Do you personally use the tram for commute ? Have you yet spoken to anyone who say their commute time is reduced at least by 30% ? Have you not seen traffic jams on Northbourne ? Why are you happy about these ridiculous rate bills and rent raises due to the tram ? Why are we using 1902 technology and plans for 2019 problems ?

Jorge Garcia Jorge Garcia 4:00 pm 16 Jul 19

Just goes to show: Build it and they will come. How long did we spend talking about it? And how long will we spend talking about the southern lines?

Nathan Lofthouse Nathan Lofthouse 1:47 pm 16 Jul 19

It's the same 96 people riding back and forth, transport canberra cancelled their visas and wont let them get off + 4 passengers

Meg Joy Meg Joy 7:13 am 16 Jul 19

The people lucky enough to live along the tram line who only want to go that way with minimal transfers were always going to get a good service. But people in every other geographic area who need to move around the rest of Canberra are suffering badly from the now-terrible bus services (some of which dump them at the tram and would be very annoyed their travel stats are being used in this way). Those other people in other areas have been dissed and they are definitely NOT feeling 'better connected'

Jill Lee Bee Jill Lee Bee 6:50 am 16 Jul 19

Now fix the bus service in the south. Thanks

    Jorge Garcia Jorge Garcia 4:12 pm 16 Jul 19

    Jill Brown I hate the negative comments around this post but I agree with yours. Some elements of the bus timetable changes are a debacle... and include several route abandonments where there are no alternative services. Perhaps RiotAct could run a story on that?

    Jeff Smith Jeff Smith 5:26 pm 16 Jul 19

    Yep - Even the new Transport Minister admitted on Radio this morning that he had caught the Kambah Buses that now meander their way very slowly via Cooleman Court and no one from Kambah got 'on or off' at Cooleman Court. This is just one example of some of the terrible routes under the new Bus design.

    Jorge Garcia Jorge Garcia 5:42 pm 16 Jul 19

    Three bus stops have been abandoned at Narrabundah Lane and during my in morning walk I often see buses running along that road with the "Not in Service" sign on the front. There is no way to get from Tuggeranong to Fyshwick - My sister had to turn down jobs because of that... I can go on... We could have a great bus service if the planners showed some creativity.

Tim Cole Tim Cole 11:16 pm 15 Jul 19

It was always going to take a million trips. More importantly, is it in line, ahead or behind the forecasts?

    Lauryn Roberts Lauryn Roberts 7:20 am 16 Jul 19

    Tim Cole the free travel pushed up the numbers.

Mark Lan Mark Lan 10:56 pm 15 Jul 19

“Since the completion of free travel, weekday journeys across the whole transport network to 30 June 2019 had increased by 6.1 per cent compared with the same time last year”

This figure doesn’t seem very rosy. With the new Tram, more connections to make to get to a destination and the supposed uptick of passengers in the North, 6.1% seems to be quite small aint it? Based on this figure, there must be some significant desertions in the south or in most burbs outside the Tram corridor.

Show us some breakdown perhaps. Aggregates can be very deceiving and can deceive just about anyone.

These can spin this however they like, but something is not right. It seems to me that some people are just desperate to be re-elected next year.

    JC JC 8:33 pm 16 Jul 19

    I’m certain if I gave you a 6% pay rise you would be quite Rosy.

    And any figure needs to be taken in context. For most of the last decade there has been next to zero growth in public usage and in a couple of years a decline.

astro2 astro2 9:29 pm 15 Jul 19

Seems like the way forward; not just for Canberra, but other cities and regional centres that need to diversify their transport options. it’s been equally popular in other areas that have invested in the infrastructure. Can’t rely on just buses for ever (as useful as they are for some transport purposes they’re not the only answer to the city’s needs.) There will always be naysayers and however well used the light rail is, they won’t be happy. So congratulations to Transport Canberra on this occasion.

    chewy14 chewy14 10:35 am 17 Jul 19

    Except that the cost in no way justified by the benefit and we’ll be saddled with paying for this largesse for decades. If they move forward with future stages, the costs will be truly astronomical and the lost opportunity costs for us as a city truly horrendous.

    Sure it’s popular as everyone knew it would be when you propose gold plated infrastructure. That doesn’t mean that it’s worth it.

    If you offered people a ride in a limousine to work every day I’m sure it would be popular too.

    But that’s not how you determine the viability of major infrastructure and transport projects. You could almost say it’s no way to run a railroad.

Paul Kitson Paul Kitson 9:17 pm 15 Jul 19

Great outcome. I have used it a maybe a dozen times and I think it is great. I can get from Gungahlin to Civic quickly and the ride is relaxing. I was a very serious skeptic at the start and thought it was too expensive (I hoped the LIbs would win the lats election justto kill the contract). But infrastructure development had to happen somewhere and this is a good start.

    Lauryn Roberts Lauryn Roberts 7:19 am 16 Jul 19

    Paul Kitson this government is too used of Comcare driving their buts around at our expense.... They should try some public transport.

    I mean Canberra has only been around 100 years!

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 3:51 pm 16 Jul 19

    Lauryn Roberts which government? The ACT government? They don’t use Comcar! Good rant though.

Peter Norton Peter Norton 8:41 pm 15 Jul 19

They gave the lucky passenger a $20 credit on his pass!!!! What an insult to him giving up his time and privacy to appear in their promotional efforts. What would it have cost them for free travel for 6mths or something meaningful?

    Tom Munro Tom Munro 3:09 pm 16 Jul 19

    Actually they gave everybody on the that light rail service a $20 myway card

    Chris Conserdyne Chris Conserdyne 3:57 pm 16 Jul 19

    Peter Norton It’s only meant to be taken as a token gesture, to commemorate the occasion. Has more appeal than simply giving away commemorative postcards

    Jorge Garcia Jorge Garcia 4:07 pm 16 Jul 19

    Peter Norton I actually think its a generous gift received for just turning up at the right time... The month for free was a nice gesture too...

D.c. Haas D.c. Haas 6:04 pm 15 Jul 19

Excellent results for light rail, and the bus patronage increase is truly impressive 🚌🚊👍

    Justin Watson Justin Watson 7:36 pm 15 Jul 19

    Seon Ferguson You were eventually going to have no choice to drive to work, Car parking is only going to get harder to find and more expensive. At least they planned ahead and built it before people started complaining about car parking.

    John Tozer John Tozer 8:17 am 16 Jul 19

    D.c. Haas - What? 3.5% of Canberra’s population and less than 20% of Gungahlin’s uses a tram that costs all of us $47 million this year and you say that’s success????

    Jeff Smith Jeff Smith 12:15 pm 16 Jul 19

    It amazes me that the head of the Public Transport association is always happy to congratulate Canberra Transport on Light Rail but he doesn't stand up for the Tuggeranong Commuters who lost their Bus Service under the new network. Such a sad misuse of his role to represent public transport in Canberra.

    D.c. Haas D.c. Haas 12:29 pm 16 Jul 19

    John Kerry Tozer think big picture. Let's say that the 11000 people using light rail every day, drove instead.

    Where would you suggest they park?

    Would you be happy to sit in traffic with another 11000 cars around you?

bj_ACT bj_ACT 6:00 pm 15 Jul 19

Of course numbers are up. But it’s at the expense of all the dumped people who don’t live within walking distance of a Rapid Bus service.

It’s like hospitals only choosing to service the easy patients and then claiming they are having improved health outcomes than before the change. Transport Canberra are just so false.

    JC JC 8:36 pm 16 Jul 19

    Law of diminishing returns at play.

    bj_ACT bj_ACT 1:04 pm 17 Jul 19

    Surely you want to live in a somewhat equitable society?

    Buses are run as a loss making service, paid for by taxpayers from right across the city.

    What next, we shouldn’t try and educate disabled children because it costs more than children with average IQs.

    Come on JC, your better than that.

michael quirk michael quirk 1:54 pm 15 Jul 19

It is not surprising light rail has been popular for those living along its route. It is gold plated infrastructure which has diverted funds from higher order needs- health, housing, education and bus based public transport. A busway on the Civic to Gungahlin corridor would have delivered similar transport and city development objectives. The government fudged the figures to justify the project.

With the proposed extension to Woden it has failed to consider alternatives. The losers, if light rail is extended, include those using the health system, those in need of affordable housing and the users of the substandard bus network.

If the community were given an informed choice of alternatives it is doubtful they would prioritise light rail over these more fundamental needs.

Good governance requires a detailed assessment of the light rail extension. Rhetoric is no substitute for analysis.

    Limestone_Lizzy Limestone_Lizzy 1:51 pm 16 Jul 19

    citation needed

    chewy14 chewy14 10:31 am 17 Jul 19

    The citation is the government’s own business case for stage 1.

    It only had a cost benefit ratio of 1.2, which has now apparently risen to 1.3 but still well below the typical level for investment in these types of projects.

    Which is the main reason that the project was assessed and rejected for federal funding by Infrastructure Australia. The payback was far too low, leading to significant lost opportunity costs. And even that figure included some heroic assumptions which are usually excluded because they are notoriously difficult to quantify.

    Not only that, the bulk of the benefits accruing from the project weren’t even transport benefits, they were associated with land development benefits and value capture. Benefits that will be far less available for the Stage 2 route as the government doesn’t own as much land along that route to flog off.

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