New data shows king car has iron grip on ACT roads

Ian Bushnell 28 June 2021 111

The journey out of the Molonglo Valley can be a slow one. Photo: File.

Many Canberrans have fallen in love with their cars again, abandoning public transport and feeding traffic congestion on key corridors and into the suburbs, new government data has confirmed.

The figures show the ACT Government has its work cut out convincing people to return to public transport, and it is also urging workers to spread out their morning and evening commutes, and they’re asking employers to help them do it.

The Gungahlin, Woden and Molonglo regions are particularly affected, with some roads experiencing increases in traffic of more than 60 per cent compared with pre-pandemic traffic.

The government has been trying to encourage people back to public transport, but the ongoing uncertainty of the COVID-19 situation, which the current outbreak in Sydney won’t help, makes it difficult to change commuting behaviour.

READ MORE: Project asks us to move to bikes, electric bikes and e-scooters for daily commute

Transport Minister Chris Steel said COVID-19 had upended transport habits, and with more traffic and longer daily trips for many, it was a frustrating time to be on Canberra’s roads.

“To help tackle this congestion, we need to find ways to encourage Canberrans back onto public transport and help spread out the morning and afternoon peaks,” he said.

Mr Steel said this would be even more important as major infrastructure works in and around the city get underway later this year, including Stage 2A of light rail to Commonwealth Park.

He said the Transport Recovery Plan released in April included measures the government was taking to reassure people that public transport is safe and that they can start using it for their daily commute again.

“This includes promoting COVID-Safe etiquette, exploring fares and incentives for off-peak travel and continuing to make services more frequent and convenient,” he said.

The government also wanted to encourage employers to support more flexible working hours to help spread out the peaks.

“Allowing staff to come in even half an hour earlier or later can make a big difference. We will be leading by example with our own ACT Government workforce as well as partnering with other major employers to help drive this shift,” Mr Steel said.

He said the goal was to get public transport patronage back to its pre-COVID levels and keep growing it.

“Seeing more people choose public transport will be essential for managing congestion in the COVID recovery period and through the upcoming disruption associated with our major infrastructure builds which will have a further impact on traffic congestion and people’s daily commutes.”

Light rail

Light rail on Flemington Avenue. Less patronage has meant more traffic, particularly on Gungahlin roads. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

The data compares pre-pandemic traffic volumes with those during the COVID period and the present.

Many people have not returned to public transport since COVID first hit. The situation is being exacerbated by population growth, particularly in growing areas such as Molonglo and Gungahlin.

For example, data from trackers on the Federal Highway at Stirling Avenue and the Barton Highway show big increases in traffic – 27 and 13 per cent in both directions at Stirling Avenue, and 27 per cent in both directions for the Barton Highway.

Horsepark Drive is also well up on pre-COVID numbers, with the tracker at Well Station Drive showing a 37 per cent increase in north-bound traffic, while Flemington Drive and Well Station Drive is up 41 per cent.

Traffic levels are higher generally across the Gungahlin region, more so than other areas of the ACT.

READ ALSO: Confessions of a rat runner: it’s a road to nowhere

In Molonglo, the tracker at John Gorton Drive at Holborow Avenue shows a 62 per cent spike in morning east-bound traffic.

In Woden, the corner of Corinna and Callum Streets has experienced massive increases of 52 and 88 per cent in both directions.

The government says public transport patronage is still only at around 75 per cent of pre-COVID levels.

It says another potential factor is the ongoing trend of people working from home and using virtual meeting tools, which may be contributing to more short local trips, including to and from town centres closer to where people live.

Many roads in Civic have reduced traffic flows, which the government suggests could be due to workers conducting more virtual meetings and moving around the city less during the day.

Another area with less traffic is around Canberra Airport. Volumes on Morshead Drive remain very light, possibly from fewer people travelling by air and Brindabella Business Park workers not returning to the office.

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111 Responses to New data shows king car has iron grip on ACT roads
Aaron Chown Aaron Chown 2:05 am 03 Jul 21

If they looked like this, surely more people would use them.

Birna Ursidae Birna Ursidae 7:57 pm 02 Jul 21

We need more public transport options as well as reliable places to store bikes / scooters at destinations. The Tram is great, but there arent any reliable connections off it that make it useful if you arent on its route

Leon Arundell Leon Arundell 9:48 am 02 Jul 21

The ACT Government could reduce traffic congestion and emissions, at virtually no cost, by converting under-used bus-only lanes to T2 or T3 lanes for people who travel together by car. When two people travel together in a car, they halve their contribution to traffic congestion, and cause about the same emissions as two people travelling on public transport.
A second step would be to extend the Adelaide Avenue T2 lanes into congested road sections where they would provide real time savings for people who reduce congestion by travelling together. The 2016 census recorded a record proportion of Canberra commuters driving cars. Although walking, cycling and public transport had increased since 2011, those increases were matched by the proportion of car passenger commuters who switched to being car driver commuters.

Garry Inglebert Humperdink Galli Garry Inglebert Humperdink Galli 9:06 pm 01 Jul 21

Makes you wonder how much money they paid to be voted most renewable city in the world 😂🤣

Kayden Boucher Kayden Boucher 1:28 pm 01 Jul 21

Brenton Deane free advertisement

Chintarmanya Vivian Chintarmanya Vivian 9:15 am 01 Jul 21

Factor 1? Covid. And the cold and the flu. People on public transport love to share.

Factor 2? From Gungahlin to Majura Park, it will take me 1 hour and 9 minutes. Car? 17 minutes.

I know I am not good with math, but one option is more "agile" than the other. And with less bullhonkey involved.

Amy Pendragon Amy Pendragon 12:44 am 01 Jul 21

It's ok..pretty soon the Barr govt will come up with legislation stating that you can't drive on a road where a cyclist is riding.

Kerry Graf Kerry Graf 6:19 pm 30 Jun 21

That suggests that light rail or buses aren't meeting the populace's needs.

To make public transport work, you need frequent services, relatively direct routes and denser housing, all of which are under the ACT government's control.

Jen Fidan Jen Fidan 5:54 pm 30 Jun 21

It’s about 30 minutes to drive, 2 or more hours by public transport with multiple changes and waiting round for the next bus each way. And I can’t take my dog on the bus.

Mark Newman Mark Newman 10:02 am 30 Jun 21

And this current labor/greens government plan on spending 4-5 times more on the light rail than Canberra roads. Time for a change in government.

    Finally Relented Finally Relented 10:31 am 02 Jul 21

    Mark Newman not the "pay for everything, rich get richer" libs as they stand. Ugh.

    Paul Magarey Paul Magarey 11:09 am 05 Jul 21

    Not true. The roads budget is way bigger than the light rail spend.

Scott Chynoweth Scott Chynoweth 6:36 am 30 Jun 21

Mark Newman they'll just make it harder and more expensive to get a park as they usually do

Martin Ross Martin Ross 1:31 am 30 Jun 21

I’m a car driver in both respects- private and public transport. So you can’t change what I do and I’m bloody glad I left Canberra for over the border where we aren’t so restricted on our way of life

dragon2020 dragon2020 10:36 pm 29 Jun 21

This Labor government is delusional. They took away the express buses so they could fund their pricey light rail it now takes 2-3 buses and at least 40-60mins to get where you need to go. And if you thought you could just hop on a bus as spur of the moment need, you’d have to had bought a myway card first. They don’t take cash or card!

Nathan Worrell Nathan Worrell 9:56 pm 29 Jun 21

I live in Griffith, it takes longer to walk to the nearest bus stop than it takes to drive to Civic or Woden. Used to be one on my street, now the nearest one is over a kilometer away and at the bottom of a steep hill. Good luck to any elderly or mobility impaired neighbours who have to walk that every day.

Martin Stanton Martin Stanton 5:38 pm 29 Jun 21

I can't get a direct bus from south Tuggeranong to Fyshwick...I have to take the 1 1/2 hour trip to Woden then onto Fyshwick. The last time I did this it cost about 90% of the cost of fuel to run a car and took over 4 times as long, I can't spend an extra 140 minutes traveling each they can't see why workers don't use the bus!!

Jackie Tomich Jackie Tomich 5:25 pm 29 Jun 21

Public transport needs to improve and be a viable option.

Futureproof Futureproof 4:51 pm 29 Jun 21

Perhaps with the benefit of hindsight, the government should have invested in Electric buses with tram wheels, front and rear, then at the termination point, the wheels go up and off the bus goes on normal bus roots. It then returns when it needs recharging, tram wheels down, to once again being a tram again, getting recharged in the process

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 5:29 pm 29 Jun 21

    That wouldn’t look sexy enough for the pea-brains running this place.

tfx1 tfx1 4:01 pm 29 Jun 21

Can I humbly suggest a simple solution for fixing the Canberra bus system. Contract it out to Brisbane City Council. It is a bigger, more populous city than Canberra and yet it has a bus system that works very effectively. Some of the simple things are they have little busways, primarily at lights which allow buses to get through on one change of lights whereas cars can take 2 or 3 changes in peak hours. They also have major dedicated busways which are add-ons such as the south-eastern busway which winds either side and underneath an already created motorway. Very little in the way of land acquisition costs and entry and exit points from the suburbs roughly every kilometre. They would also have to be in charge of the industrial relations and employment conditions of those working for the bus system. A previous chief minister has acknowledged that failing to get on top of the bus drivers Union was the greatest problem. Brisbane would not have trouble in Canberra.

Amanda Snarf Barron Amanda Snarf Barron 3:56 pm 29 Jun 21

Now mostly a car user but I was a heavy public transport user in the past. Here's my perspective.. As an apprentice I had to start just before 6am in Civic. Not an unreasonable request in Australia's capital city right?

Wrong! The bus service got cut. There is still a need for more early morning/late night services.. yet ticket prices go up and up.

Canberra is a car town but people do still use and rely upon public transport. The others on my bus were cleaners, security, hospitality and tradies. Folks without licenses or (often) much money

Unfortunately with more people choosing cars the routes are more unprofitable and get cut further.

Public transport is a public service and I dgaf about that argument.. fund it regardless

jgsma jgsma 2:35 pm 29 Jun 21

Not just COVID for me – since the bus route changes I don’t use public transport any more as it’s too inconvenient

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