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RiotACT Face Off: Does Light Rail measure up for Canberra?

By Canfan 7 July 2014 91

light-rail

Plans for Light Rail in Canberra have caused heated debate among our Rioters. A recent poll asking Are you in favour of Light Rail for Canberra? resulted in 48% voting No, 38% Yes, 11% Not Right Now and 6% On the Fence.

We asked former Chief Minister, Kate Carnell and Ex MLA, John Hargreaves ‘Do you think the benefit to cost ratio measures up for Light Rail in Canberra?’ and this is what they had to say…

Kate Carnell
kate-carnell-image

Trying to make public transport usable and affordable has been an ongoing problem for all ACT governments. Action buses has been reformed , upgraded , downgraded more times than I have had hot breakfasts – but it still operates at a significant loss and the sight of almost empty buses is a normal in Canberra. A number of Governments have also looked for other options – light rail being the most common possible ‘solution’. My government looked at a form of light rail when I was Chief Minister. Our rhetoric was a bit similar to that of the current government. It would be good for the environment, in courage innovation, would take Canberra to a new and exciting stage of its development – sound familiar?

The problem was we couldn’t make the business case work. Why? Because of the Canberra plan. We all know, Canberra is spread out with very few areas of medium or high population density. It is the BushCapital with lots of green spaces and buffer areas and very little high rise residential accommodation . And what do you need to make light rail cost effective – medium to high density nodes of population that can be linked to places where these people work.

I am not talking about a few high rise buildings , I am talking enough to house the thousands of people needed to make a mass transit system sustainable. It is also important to remember that these high rise buildings must be within walking distance of a light rail stop. If people have to drive to the stop and park , it will often be quicker to drive to work so the price differential between the light rail and parking in Civic will have to be huge. This will mean there will be pressure to keep fares low which will add to the viability problems of the system.

Canberra has grown since I was Chief Minister, but most of the growth has been in low density new suburbs, with the possible exception of Kingston and Civic. This means it is hard to see that a light rail is any more cost effective or affordable than it was 15 years ago.

John Hargreaves
JohnHargreaves-a

There is a lot of white noise going on about the light rail proposal and it seems as though the usual NIMBYs have come out in force. In this case though they are saying NOW In My Back Yard!

So if Belco and Tuggers people can’t have it, no one can. So… they blame the cost so that they are not outed as light rail deniers.

The tram is half empty if people continue to bag it, to continue to be selfish, to continue to conjure up excuses for not embracing it, to continue to have no vision for the city.

The tram is half full, if people understand that it is the start of something great for the city, something responsible for environmental sustainability, something really attractive for our now mature City.

Remember when people bagged out the Arboretum? A $20 million tree zoo, if I recall. Now everyone loves it. Remember the bagging the Gungahlin Drive Extension got? Now everyone loves it.
Remember the dam? Now everyone loves it.

So, how about we get positive, people! Take ownership in innovation, in vision and in courage. This light rail will be fantastic for the city, and for Belco, Tuggers, Molonglo and Woden, over time. Don’t give me all those NIMBY reasons why not, don’t give me alternative things to spend the money on, show me how we are looking to the future not backwards.

This project is not a competition with buses; it is a complementary rapid transport system. It can only enhance Canberra in the eyes of visitors and provide responsible commuting to the workplace.
I live in Tuggers and can’t wait for it to come down South. But as all roads lead to Rome, they start somewhere and that somewhere is the City to Gungahlin route.

Don’t be like that old Irish joke, “Paddy was asked which way to Dublin, replying “well, if I was to be going to Dublin, I surely wouldn’t be starting from here!”

Bring it on! For me the tram is half full!


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91 Responses to
RiotACT Face Off: Does Light Rail measure up for Canberra?
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Ironbark 10:56 pm 01 Oct 14

Ms Carnell has some of the right arguments for derailing the tram. Mr Hargreaves does what he is best at: name-calling and lack of a substantial or intelligent argument.

Postalgeek 2:42 pm 04 Aug 14

housebound said :

miz said :

Even with their push polling, the Govt only got 55% support for light rail – see today’s CT
Hardly a resounding endorsement.

Does anyone even know anyone who was polled for the government’s push poll in today’s CT? Does anyone know what questions were asked, or how the regions were divided (other than north and south). With more than 1000 people being interviewed, most of us would know or know of someone who’d been polled.

If it was the automatic call I received a number of weeks ago, the question was loaded. IIRC the light rail question went something along the lines of ‘Do you support the development of public transport, like the Light Rail’. Yes, I support development of public transport. No I don’t support Light Rail at this time for a number of reasons, and its not because the tram doesn’t stop outside my house. So I answered ‘no’, as a screw-you for phrasing the question in that manner. I resent support for the Light Rail being tied to support for public transport in general, the ‘if you’re not with us, you against public transport’ sentiment is manipulative and counter-productive.

dungfungus 10:29 am 04 Aug 14

davo101 said :

dungfungus said :

Why Fairfax Media put this in the SMH baffles me.

Because they think people searching the SMH might also be interested in the story (which also appears under Canberra Times, The Age and Brisbane Times URL’s as well).

Whatever.

davo101 8:45 am 04 Aug 14

dungfungus said :

Why Fairfax Media put this in the SMH baffles me.

Because they think people searching the SMH might also be interested in the story (which also appears under Canberra Times, The Age and Brisbane Times URL’s as well).

Masquara 10:29 pm 03 Aug 14

gooterz said :

5. Having light rail both physically divides both sides of Northbourne, but while not being able to cross the street easily both sides will feel joined by the sense of entitlement of having light rail over the rest of Canberra who don’t. It will also mean that the other Australian cities will stop laughing at us.

Good point. Almost all those cross streets across Northbourne will become entirely pointless. Imagine how annoying it will be for pedestrians – and cyclists, and motorists – to have to detour into Northbourne (hello! That’s actually more motorists pouring “into Northbourne”!!) and travel north or south for several blocks to reach a spot where they can cross the road. Why don’t they run the light rail through a corridor that won’t cause major traffic hassles?

Also a good point about the Northbourne trees. They are a feature of Canberra and a welcoming avenue. Yes, Avenue.

dungfungus 8:04 pm 03 Aug 14

Here’s the guts of the “survey”, courtesy of the SMH.
Why Fairfax Media put this in the SMH baffles me. It’s more negative than the CT report yesterday.
http://www.smh.com.au/act-news/canberrans-not-completely-on-board-light-rail-project-poll-20140803-zzx8i.html

gooterz 7:07 pm 03 Aug 14

miz said :

They are, and I quote:
“1. Canberra has a vision and light rail plays a big role
2. We can’t keep building more roads for more cars
3. Diversifying the economy and creating jobs
4. Better health and environment
5. Connecting communities”

If you translate these:

1. Light rail is a vote against an evil Abbott because ACT politics is the same as federal politics. ITs also part of the Griffin legacy, which is totally still current being designed 102 years ago. For those playing at home this was the same year that sliced bread was invented by Otto Frederick Rohwedder.
2. Just look at how badly we managed the GDE extension, imagine how much fun we can have with light rail. You really shouldn’t trust us building more roads for more cars.
3. If we build light rail we boost the Canberra rail construction business by like a billion percent. Plus with all the roadwork there is the added benefit of very unreliable transit between civic and Gungahlin, so employers will have to employ more people because some of them will struggle to get to work.
4. We’re knocking down and killing all the tree’s on Northbourne. This will greatly reduce the chance that you will get hit by a falling branch on Northbourne by about a million percent. Plus you have the added benefit that the poorer you are the less junk food you can afford. By going massively into debt we’re going to make you really darn healthy.
5. Having light rail both physically divides both sides of Northbourne, but while not being able to cross the street easily both sides will feel joined by the sense of entitlement of having light rail over the rest of Canberra who don’t. It will also mean that the other Australian cities will stop laughing at us.

miz 7:06 pm 03 Aug 14

Dungfungus, I only found out about the Erindale consultation by accident – someone I know emailed me directly. No idea how (if) it was advertised.
Since seeing your post I found it on the time to talk,website which indicates there is another one at Tuggers this Friday 1130 to 230 (not a great time unless you work in the area)
see
http://www.timetotalk.act.gov.au/consultations/?engagement=capital-metro-light-rail-project-early-designs
Weirdly, there do not appear to be any consultations in Woden! Bit of a problem there I would think.

rommeldog56 6:51 pm 03 Aug 14

+ 1 re living in Tuggeranong (near Erindale) and not knowing anything about this “consultation”. Usually, these things are posted on RiotAct ! I would have loved to go and voice my view.

Does anyone know what sort of feedback they received ?

dungfungus 5:54 pm 03 Aug 14

miz said :

I have just been to the light rail ‘consultation’ (aka sales pitch) at Erindale. The promotional booklet provided sets out what they call ‘five reasons why Canberra needs light rail.’
Now I am REALLY concerned, as these five ‘reasons’ are not what a reasonable person would call ‘reasons.’

They are, and I quote:

“1. Canberra has a vision and light rail plays a big role
2. We can’t keep building more roads for more cars
3. Diversifying the economy and creating jobs
4. Better health and environment
5. Connecting communities”

First, ‘vision’ is not what any sane person would call a ‘reason’.
Second, these are all just motherhood statements to encourage people out of their cars and onto public transport – they apply just as equally to, for example, rapid bus transit, or even walking or riding bikes.
They do not justify ‘why Canberra needs light rail’ (as opposed to any decent public transport service) at all.
Finally, my biggest problem with the light rail proposal is that they are going down the same problematic road as ACTION, in providing a main trunk and expecting people to have interrupted journeys by travelling to the main trunk.

While this ‘main trunk’ philosophy appears rational to many, including some Rioters, I believe it is the most significant reason why ACTION is under-utilised. Interrupting a journey makes the journey longer and more complicated, forcing people to wait, in Canberra’s extreme weather, more than once. Why would you do that, when you can get in your car?
Rather, I put that the best thing that ever happened to public transport in Canberra is Xpresso services. These services actually offer decent competition to driving, and therefore value for money, because they are sufficiently direct. Consequently they are popular and well patronised.
Unfortunately light rail proponents state that they, too, expect people to go ‘the wrong way’ towards a trunk route connection (such as an interchange to station), and get off the nice warm bus and onto a tram. This is no different to what ACTION offers right now – except that it will cost a fortune.
It would be far better value for money expanding Xpresso routes to off peak and weekends.
It is apparent to me that the light rail proponents have no clue whatsoever about what is wrong with the current bus network, and consequently are falling into exactly the same trap as ACTION . . . only much more expensive, for years and years to come.

I live in the Erindale area but I didn’t receive any notification of this Capital Metro “consultation”. Would you please advise how you were made aware of it?
In the last week I have noticed a lot of door to door survey people in my area. They seem to have discussions and select only certain addresses to doorknock. I always get the usual Foxtel, ActewAGL, Salvos etc. doorknockers but lately it’s as if there is a sign out the front saying “Ebola infected house”.
The ACT Labor minority government are slow learners if they are still using the “vision” sizzle to sell the steak. Every disaster that they have blown ratepayers money on (TransACT, Rhodium, A better Place etc.) has been “visionary”. I think the National Arboretum whwre they about to waste $2 millon on another “public art atrocity” is in that category.
I think ratepayers should start working on Labor MLAs to rein in the rabid runaway tram conductor or risk losing support at the next election.

miz 2:11 pm 03 Aug 14

I have just been to the light rail ‘consultation’ (aka sales pitch) at Erindale. The promotional booklet provided sets out what they call ‘five reasons why Canberra needs light rail.’
Now I am REALLY concerned, as these five ‘reasons’ are not what a reasonable person would call ‘reasons.’

They are, and I quote:

“1. Canberra has a vision and light rail plays a big role
2. We can’t keep building more roads for more cars
3. Diversifying the economy and creating jobs
4. Better health and environment
5. Connecting communities”

First, ‘vision’ is not what any sane person would call a ‘reason’.
Second, these are all just motherhood statements to encourage people out of their cars and onto public transport – they apply just as equally to, for example, rapid bus transit, or even walking or riding bikes.
They do not justify ‘why Canberra needs light rail’ (as opposed to any decent public transport service) at all.
Finally, my biggest problem with the light rail proposal is that they are going down the same problematic road as ACTION, in providing a main trunk and expecting people to have interrupted journeys by travelling to the main trunk.

While this ‘main trunk’ philosophy appears rational to many, including some Rioters, I believe it is the most significant reason why ACTION is under-utilised. Interrupting a journey makes the journey longer and more complicated, forcing people to wait, in Canberra’s extreme weather, more than once. Why would you do that, when you can get in your car?
Rather, I put that the best thing that ever happened to public transport in Canberra is Xpresso services. These services actually offer decent competition to driving, and therefore value for money, because they are sufficiently direct. Consequently they are popular and well patronised.
Unfortunately light rail proponents state that they, too, expect people to go ‘the wrong way’ towards a trunk route connection (such as an interchange to station), and get off the nice warm bus and onto a tram. This is no different to what ACTION offers right now – except that it will cost a fortune.
It would be far better value for money expanding Xpresso routes to off peak and weekends.
It is apparent to me that the light rail proponents have no clue whatsoever about what is wrong with the current bus network, and consequently are falling into exactly the same trap as ACTION . . . only much more expensive, for years and years to come.

TaxedContractor 12:48 pm 03 Aug 14

housebound said :

miz said :

Even with their push polling, the Govt only got 55% support for light rail – see today’s CT
Hardly a resounding endorsement.

Does anyone even know anyone who was polled for the government’s push poll in today’s CT? Does anyone know what questions were asked, or how the regions were divided (other than north and south). With more than 1000 people being interviewed, most of us would know or know of someone who’d been polled.

Let’s have a quick look at this article for some figures, this is actually a debate about the pros/cons of “the local council train set” so it should be a fair enough place to view the opinions of various locals.

Of 76 responses we have the following outcomes:
42 against
6 for – although 3 of these are from Mr Hargreaves himself so should probably be ignored
3 alternative suggestions
2 not decided
23 various comments on topics not really related to the tram itself.

Seems to be a little off the 55% positive spin result from the Gov’t funded report… Seems more accurate to say there is at least 55% against, even taking into account 33% of the replies weren’t even really voting as such. Ignore these responses (and Mr Hargreaves’s) and we are now looking at 42/48 against – 88%.

To analyse another spin article from last week:

http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/light-rail-figures-indicate-strong-patronage-during-peak-times-20140729-zy5du.html

Some of the best projections come from running some figures:

Estimated cost to build $1b, no-one believes the $614M est based on Canberra’s history – Bruce Stadium, Cotter Dam, Gungahlin Drive, Majura Parkway…

Give it a 20 year life – doesn’t sound too unreasonable. Still looking at $50M per year to pay for the initial investment.

Passenger figures of 13,700/day – gives us 5 million trips a year based on 365 days of full operation. Given the new parking meters have failed to collect revenue Canberra wide on at least 2 occasions since June we could probably guess that the train won’t be 100% operational over its lifetime. Also doubtful these passenger figures will be achieved on public holidays, weekends etc but lets give them the benefit – not like these figures are in any way accurate anyway.

Simple math now shows that each trip will cost $10 to recoup investment costs alone – that is $20 per day to travel just part of the full trip to work. Add bus fares to/from tram stations and the inconvenience of walking half way through Civic twice a day and I’m betting most of those will revert back to buses/cars within 2 weeks of it opening.

Add in operational costs – let’s guess 20-30 full time employees as drivers, ticket collectors, help/info phone line, maintenance crews etc and there is another $1M or so per year to fund. Then we have the electricity costs, maintenance parts – costs just keep going up and up.

Funny how the more they try to sell it the worse it looks…

dungfungus 12:17 pm 03 Aug 14

rommeldog56 said :

miz said :

Even with their push polling, the Govt only got 55% support for light rail – see today’s CT
Hardly a resounding endorsement.

55% is a fairly resounding for vote i would think ?

If you believe the results and havent had the benefit of seeing what questions were asked, the demographics, location of those asked, etc.

So, if the result is reflective (and I do not, in any way, shape or form !) then where does that leave the ACT ?

Maybe with a population that is too well paid, too apathetic or too stupid to see the bleeding obvious ?

I thought the Labor minority government was only using the 2012 light rail promise as a stunt to get the support of The Green after the election.
Now, I am not so sure.
Simon Corbell is fanatical about it to the extent he is conducting meaningless polls that somehow reflect a majority is in favour of the project and he is beating up the story/photos of a “local” company digging pot holes in Gungahlin to convey the impression that real progress is being made.
Capital Metro Agency have been employing a lot of people and all this means it will be difficult to even shelve (let alone withdraw from) the project before the planned “investment ready” stage.
Andrew Barr is confident the project can be financed by a PPP (Public Private Partnership) despite rail industry experts stating fom day one that it is not viable.
Corbell also supports PPP (Pet Project Promise).
I think it is high time Corbell explained the economics of running the light rail without clouding the figures with “value added” inputs and all the hype that he claims makes it a winner.

rommeldog56 7:06 pm 02 Aug 14

miz said :

Even with their push polling, the Govt only got 55% support for light rail – see today’s CT
Hardly a resounding endorsement.

55% is a fairly resounding for vote i would think ? If you believe the results and havent had the benefit of seeing what questions were asked, the demographics, location of those asked, etc.

So, if the result is reflective (and I do not, in any way, shape or form !) then where does that leave the ACT ?

Maybe with a population that is too well paid, too apathetic or too stupid to see the bleeding obvious ?

milkman 6:51 pm 02 Aug 14

Masquara said :

And it’s easy to have “vision” when you’re risking other people’s money.

And this, fundamentally, is what the Greens are about.

Masquara 3:06 pm 02 Aug 14

When you’ve lost the argument, you haul out “where’s your vision?” …

I’m sure Sydney’s Monorail proponents had heaps of “vision”, John! And it’s easy to have “vision” when you’re risking other people’s money. If this light rail is commercially and socially viable, let Terry Snow realise the vision!

housebound 11:29 am 02 Aug 14

miz said :

Even with their push polling, the Govt only got 55% support for light rail – see today’s CT
Hardly a resounding endorsement.

Does anyone even know anyone who was polled for the government’s push poll in today’s CT? Does anyone know what questions were asked, or how the regions were divided (other than north and south). With more than 1000 people being interviewed, most of us would know or know of someone who’d been polled.

miz 9:05 am 02 Aug 14

Even with their push polling, the Govt only got 55% support for light rail – see today’s CT
Hardly a resounding endorsement.

dungfungus 10:13 am 14 Jul 14

VYBerlinaV8_is_back said :

gooterz said :

Its not a highspeed rail link to Sydney.

Which would be far more useful…

….or less useless.

VYBerlinaV8_is_back 9:20 am 14 Jul 14

gooterz said :

Its not a highspeed rail link to Sydney.

Which would be far more useful…

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