28 June 2021

New data shows king car has iron grip on ACT roads

| Ian Bushnell
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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.

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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.

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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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Leon Arundell9:48 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.

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!

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 Retro5:29 pm 29 Jun 21

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

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.

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

russianafroman1:36 pm 29 Jun 21

Cars are the superior transport option, simple as that. People take public transport when they’re forced to.

michael quirk7:45 am 29 Jun 21

The ACT government should liaise with the Federal government to develop an strategy to reduce travel. The joint strategy should look at ways to influence employment location including incentives to locate at preferred locations well served by public transport, particularly the town centres (Belconnen, Tuggeranong, Gungahlin and Woden) and a number of well located group and local centres .

The strategy should encourage increased working from home. It should abandon the light rail extension and use the funds to improving the frequency and coverage of the bus network (including a busways strategy), to upgrade cycleways and footpaths and the amenity of centres.

1.5 hours from Queanbeyan to Mitchell (3 buses) and 1 hour home again (70 klm roundtrip). Over $120.00 p/f in fares. Or 20 minute drive at 4:30am and 25 minute drive home at 1pm ($50.00 p/f for fuel). Easy choice!

That’s because the Queanbeyan services is not run by ACT, it is a NSW transport service and is charged at NSW Per KM rates, which are designed for Sydney roads. The alternative is the park and ride at Canberra Outlet Centre Fyshwick, ACT are never going to provide services to NSW, this article is about ACT run Transport Services, not lack of interstate options.

Well you certainly wouldn’t ride your bike. After being hit by a car on my bike back in March the Barr Governments changes to CTP has left me and my family out of pocket and worse off. For a city trying to pursue alternative travel options they sure don’t support adequate protection for those willing to step out of their cars.

The recent ‘chooseCBR’ debacle response on RiotAct shows that Canberra MLA’s monitor this forum (and why wouldn’t they?) and are able and willing to respond when they need to backpedal and shift blame on their poor decisions.

How about some of them show some backbone and come her to discuss the woeful state of Canberra’s roads, public transport and parking issues?

Problem is that public transport use in Tuggeranong, Belconnen and Woden dropped by 5% even before Covid hit.

How about the Transport Minister accept they stuffed up much of the 2019 bus changes and implement a bus service that makes your peak period commute faster, not one that made it slower for many areas of Canberra.

For what we spent on the light rail we probably could have made the existing bus system free for quite a few years (5, 10 or whatever).

Then after many years of using public transport, hopefully the people will have built habits and suitable lifestyles and will continue to use it when the fees gradually come back.

Instead the government will probably go down the path of punishing drivers to force them to change by using tactics such as raising parking fees, removing parking spaces, lowering speed limits and setting up intersections to intentionally disadvantage cars.

Catch public transport with coughing, spluttering plebs. No thanks. No public transport where I work. No bike paths. Only way is by car. Back in 2005, living in Queanbeyan, I took a Dean’s bus to the city, then an Action bus to Woden. The weekly tickets worked out to be more expensive than filling up my car’s petrol tank. Recently bought a 4WD ute. Will never use public transport again.

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