8 September 2016

The best arguments for light rail just aren’t very good

| Kim Huynh
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light rail

Tom Chen and Kim Huynh assess light rail on its merits and can’t find much reason to support it.

This is the challenge that we set ourselves: to impartially weigh up the arguments for and against the tram. Tom had no view on the matter. Kim started off very slightly in favour because he liked the idea of light rail bringing Canberrans together.

After examining a wide range of media articles and opinion pieces, material from the parties and lobby groups and reports by government and non-government organizations, we concluded that the best thing to do is stop the tram.

It’s unlikely to be worthwhile in economic, environmental, transportation or development terms. Plans to extend the system to Woden will only extend the ACT’s debt, deepen our disappointment and further divide our city.

 

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Here are five of the best reasons for light rail and why they are not persuasive.

5. We’re locked in

Given that contracts have been signed and work on the tram line has begun, Simon Corbell argues that it would be “reckless and lunatic” to cancel the contract.

However, just because we’ve started to spend money on light rail does not mean that we should continue to do so. An outlay of $220-$280 million for nothing is better than spending $939 million on a project that will benefit a small minority of Canberrans while in all likelihood imposing long-term costs on all of us.

Moreover, this so-called reckless lunacy could have been avoided if the Barr government had simply waited a few months before signing the light rail contracts. Perhaps the best hope for the tram is it having a strong mandate from the people. Achieving this mandate is now nigh on impossible. Even if Labor is re-elected on this issue there will be a sense that our hearts and minds were not won over but rather that our arms were twisted.

4. It’s good for the environment

The Greens have championed light rail as being good for the environment. However, light rail has no environmental advantage over electric cars or buses. Instead of light rail we could be funding more effective measures of reducing emissions and improving energy efficiency in homes and businesses.

For example, bicycle highways advocated by pedal power could go a long way to providing the sort of lifestyle and convenience benefits that many progressive voters desire without having anywhere near as much of an impact on the budget and the environment.

3. Light rail has greater capacity and therefore reduces congestion.

Each tram by Spanish firm CAF will have room for 207 occupants. This means that a light rail system can move many people with few trips, which is why light rail is so important to metropolises like Tokyo and Hong Kong.

However, rail in Tokyo and Hong Kong are successful because of high numbers of passengers and frequent services. This will not be the case in Canberra where users will have to regularly wait 15 minutes for the next tram.

Despite fears of an impending congestion crisis, Canberra’s buses have significant spare capacity. Canberra’s buses typically have room for 43-48 passengers, yet based on patronage data only 9 out of 92 bus routes carried more than 40 passengers on their trips and 75% bus routes are more than half empty.

In addition, a smaller carrying capacity is an advantage if it allows for more frequent trips and broader coverage.

Just as there’s no good reason to buy an oversized pair of boots, there’s no benefit and potentially much detriment in investing in light rail.

2. Light rail is good value

Another argument for light rail is its relatively low operation costs. However, the Capital Metro contract states that only 28% of the costs over a 20-year period relate to operating costs. The majority of the estimated $939 million bill for stage one between Gungahlin and Civic will go to infrastructure.

By their own analysis, the 2012 ACT Government submission to Infrastructure Australia found that the net social benefits of a bus network servicing the Gungahlin corridor is double that of light rail. Indeed, a 2016 review by the Auditor-General Maxine Cooper questioned whether the non-transport related benefits of the tram have been exaggerated to sell the business case because the transport benefits were so slim. Specifically, Ms Cooper found that almost 60 per cent of the ‘benefits’ of light rail were questionable because they were associated with wider economic and land benefits. The transport benefits amounted to merely 49 cents for every $1 spent.

1. The tram is good for development and the future of the city

For many, light rail represents not just transport infrastructure but the dream of a “modern, liveable and environmentally-friendly city”. Shane Rattenbury argues that light rail will increase property values near stations and facilitate denser apartment and townhouse-style living. Denser living in turn makes it easier to provide public services and amenities which will attract young people and innovators to stay and work in Canberra.

But density is not inherently good and nor is it best achieved in conjunction with light rail. Professor Jenny Stewart concludes that light rail alone is unlikely to deliver the benefits that Rattenbury hopes for. Rather than fueling cross town commutes which will increase congestion in the long run, we should be trying to provide for a balanced mix of housing, employment and recreation in closer proximity, thus reducing the need to commute. This has little to do with light rail and everything to do with good planning.

A better choice
Instead of throwing more and more money into the light rail system, Canberra should upgrade the ACTION bus network in which it has invested so much already. But it is not simply about more infrastructure or having the right routes, which is the focus of both major parties’ bus policies. Public transportation is ultimately about attitudes and behaviour. The use of mass transit in Canberra in 2013 was only 4.2%. The issue is not a shortfall of capacity, but one of uptake since the efficiency of Canberra’s roads means that driving is the preferred option.

A proponent of public transport should instead consider incentives to encourage the use of public transportation. A former finance manager from ACTION we spoke to agreed with our assessment that there were a lot of ways to improve delivery and patronage rates if only the major parties were willing to think outside the box.

For example, why not make buses free? One major factor that skews transportation decisions in favour of cars is the perception by users that driving is free (notwithstanding petrol, servicing and parking costs). The cost of making buses free for users is fairly cheap. In 2015, only 18% of ACTION revenue came from bus fares, amounting to $24 million. As it stands, four fifths of ACTION’s operating revenue is already subsidised by rates payers.

The capital of Estonia, Tallinn has a population of 400,000 and offers free public transportation for residents. By following this example, Canberrans can get a lot more out of our existing transportation infrastructure while spending a lot less than light rail.

Finally, in the long run, light rail will become a relic of the twentieth century. Mass transportation is better delivered by networks of autonomous vehicles that can take us from door to door in a convenient, safe, green and cheap way. This is technology being trialled right now in cities like Austin, Pittsburgh and Singapore.

Canberra’s public transportation system should be informed by our current desires and interests with a view to our future needs. The tram fails in all these regards.

What have we missed? What’s your impartial and considered assessment of light rail? What impact will the issue have on the 2016 election and on local politics more broadly?

Tom Chen is a research officer at the Australian National University. Kim Huynh is a RiotACT columnist and independent candidate for Ginninderra. Check out more at GoKimbo.com.au

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bringontheevidence said :

Ray Polglaze said :

I don’t know if anyone else has noticed this, but the poll with this article on light rail is proving to be amazingly stable as more people are adding their votes.

Since 20 September 2016, when there were 938 votes, another 250 people have added their votes to give a current total of 1 188 votes (as of 12 October 2016). That’s an increase of 27.7% in the total votes.

But as those votes have been added, only one percentage has changed. That is the percentage voting for candidates who are anti-light rail which has increased by 1% from 36% to 37%. All the other percentages have stayed the same.

So, even though there seems to be no way to establish that this is a representative poll, it may still be sending an important message.

The key question still seems to be what the Green and Labor voters who don’t like light rail decide to do with their votes.

If this poll is close to representing the actual public opinion in the ACT, and given that only 10% voted Green last time, the Greens may have 70% of their vote at risk over light rail.

That looks like living dangerously as a political strategy.

You’re assuming the Labor and Greens voters feel strongly enough about light rail to change their vote to conservative because of it?

Only if the unions instruct them to do so.

bringontheevidence11:52 am 13 Oct 16

Ray Polglaze said :

I don’t know if anyone else has noticed this, but the poll with this article on light rail is proving to be amazingly stable as more people are adding their votes.

Since 20 September 2016, when there were 938 votes, another 250 people have added their votes to give a current total of 1 188 votes (as of 12 October 2016). That’s an increase of 27.7% in the total votes.

But as those votes have been added, only one percentage has changed. That is the percentage voting for candidates who are anti-light rail which has increased by 1% from 36% to 37%. All the other percentages have stayed the same.

So, even though there seems to be no way to establish that this is a representative poll, it may still be sending an important message.

The key question still seems to be what the Green and Labor voters who don’t like light rail decide to do with their votes.

If this poll is close to representing the actual public opinion in the ACT, and given that only 10% voted Green last time, the Greens may have 70% of their vote at risk over light rail.

That looks like living dangerously as a political strategy.

You’re assuming the Labor and Greens voters feel strongly enough about light rail to change their vote to conservative because of it?

And contrary to what a lot of light rail supporters would have us believe, it is not the raging success it is made out to be in other cities/countries:

http://pilotonline.com/news/local/transportation/virginia-beach-light-rail-referendum-is-in-a-dead-heat/article_331993ae-3547-57f5-98a6-92ae820b8e87.html

Why couldn’t we have had a referendum this Saturday?

Laurel said :

Why is there not more speculation about the amount of corruption that must have been involved in setting up these $200 million that needs to be refunded if the project doesn’t go ahead?

I mean, according to all of the surveys and accounting, the project itself is guaranteed to be a loser for everyone except the government and their union and business buddies, but how did they manage to tack on the cherry of a $200 million debt that needs to be repaid?

Surely there must be some leakers among the readers who could at least obliquely outline a tasty story of what went on among those sweaty, greasy hands behind the closed office doors?

Any flies on the wall who could paint a picture for the public without overstepping the bounds of propriety?

It’s not speculation, it’s a well documented fact:

https://books.google.com.au/books?id=QbZEbihNOfUC&pg=PA104&lpg=PA104&dq=corruption+associated+with+light+rail+projects&source=bl&ots=dGInDJkIZY&sig=Xput0Og_EWHEevLIOBblOQhrdYc&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjW-e33l9bPAhVkwlQKHf6oBlwQ6AEIMzAF#v=onepage&q=corruption%20associated%20with%20light%20rail%20projects&f=false

And this:

http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/nsw/light-rail-company-has-bribery-background/news-story/9c2b401b7c29932e5cc0f1a73a5fd834

Ray Polglaze11:28 pm 12 Oct 16

I don’t know if anyone else has noticed this, but the poll with this article on light rail is proving to be amazingly stable as more people are adding their votes.

Since 20 September 2016, when there were 938 votes, another 250 people have added their votes to give a current total of 1 188 votes (as of 12 October 2016). That’s an increase of 27.7% in the total votes.

But as those votes have been added, only one percentage has changed. That is the percentage voting for candidates who are anti-light rail which has increased by 1% from 36% to 37%. All the other percentages have stayed the same.

So, even though there seems to be no way to establish that this is a representative poll, it may still be sending an important message.

The key question still seems to be what the Green and Labor voters who don’t like light rail decide to do with their votes.

If this poll is close to representing the actual public opinion in the ACT, and given that only 10% voted Green last time, the Greens may have 70% of their vote at risk over light rail.

That looks like living dangerously as a political strategy.

Why is there not more speculation about the amount of corruption that must have been involved in setting up these $200 million that needs to be refunded if the project doesn’t go ahead?

I mean, according to all of the surveys and accounting, the project itself is guaranteed to be a loser for everyone except the government and their union and business buddies, but how did they manage to tack on the cherry of a $200 million debt that needs to be repaid?

Surely there must be some leakers among the readers who could at least obliquely outline a tasty story of what went on among those sweaty, greasy hands behind the closed office doors?

Any flies on the wall who could paint a picture for the public without overstepping the bounds of propriety?

devils_advocate5:05 pm 04 Oct 16

The issue of sovereign risk does not arise. The word is being misappropriated in this context.

The estimated $200m cost to ‘tear up the contracts’ is to compensate private businesses for their LOSSES associated with the project not going ahead. That is all they are entitled to at law. No matter who a business deals with – the government, private individuals – they are not entitled to compensation for ‘expectation losses’ or the profits they would have made had the contract gone ahead. No, they are just entitled to the losses they actually suffered in reliance on the contractual promises exchanged. That is precisely as it should be, and not what the concept of sovereign risk refers to.

Sovereign risk refers to situations where the Government either changes a law to be disadvantageous (usually to a foreign party) or otherwise confiscates assets or seriously modifies their rights or remedies; or simply defaults on its obligations. There is no suggestion that has happened here. No-one is suggesting the liberals will walk away from the contract, simply that they will cancel the ongoing agreement within the current framework of laws that exist.

anneenna said :

WHAT YOU WROTE
5. We’re locked in
Given that contracts have been signed and work on the tram line has begun, Simon Corbell argues that it would be “reckless and lunatic” to cancel the contract.
However, just because we’ve started to spend money on light rail does not mean that we should continue to do so. An outlay of $220-$280 million for nothing is better than spending $939 million on a project that will benefit a small minority of Canberrans while in all likelihood imposing long-term costs on all of us.

MY RESPONSE
Quoting the Financial Review, http://www.afr.com/…/breaking-act-lightrail-contract…
“Three peak business groups have asked the ACT Liberals to reconsider their promise to tear up the contract for the $783 million ACT light-rail project if they win next year’s election…The Business Council of Australia, the Australian Industry Group and Infrastructure Partnerships Australia have written to ACT Opposition Leader Jeremy Hanson, asking him to not break the contract for the rail project…the business groups warned of rising sovereign risk if the ACT project was canned which would only make infrastructure projects more expensive. “If the light-rail contract was cancelled, the cost and risk of doing business in the Territory would rise. It is in the ACT’s own interest to avoid sovereign-type risks in Australia’s infrastructure market.”
“The letter is signed by Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott, Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox and Infrastructure Partnerships Australia chief executive Brendan Lyon. Former assistant infrastructure minister Jamie Briggs described the ACT Liberal’s move to cancel the contract as “economic lunacy”. “As we have seen with the East West Link disaster in Victoria, tearing up legally binding infrastructure contracts raises sovereign risk, damages investor confidence and stifles economic growth,” Mr Briggs said in June.”

WHAT YOU WROTE
Even if Labor is re-elected on this issue there will be a sense that our hearts and minds were not won over but rather that our arms were twisted.
“Perhaps the best hope for the tram is it having a strong mandate from the people.”

MY RESPONSE
Labor and the Greens both campaigned on a platform of building the light rail for the 2012 election, and Labor won a decisive victory on that basis. Furthermore there have been discussions about the light rail through consultations in the community and through reports for over 10 years.

WHAT YOU WROTE
4. It’s good for the environment
The Greens have championed light rail as being good for the environment. However, light rail has no environmental advantage over electric cars or buses. Instead of light rail we could be funding more effective measures of reducing emissions and improving energy efficiency in homes and businesses.

MY RESPONSE
Light rail is vastly superior for the environment, it does not rely on an internal combustion engine which is only less than 30% efficient, furthermore there is much less friction between the wheels and the track (steel-steel) than between tyres and the road (rubber-concrete or asphalt), hence less energy is lost, not to mention no energy in transporting the fuel from the other side of the world or fueling conflict overseas. The power source is 100% renewable energy by 2020, thus this light rail will be Australia’s first pollution free and zero emissions public transport system.

WHAT YOU WROTE:
For example, bicycle highways advocated by pedal power could go a long way to providing the sort of lifestyle and convenience benefits that many progressive voters desire without having anywhere near as much of an impact on the budget and the environment.

MY RESPONSE
Bicycle highways are not practical for people who have mobility problems. Furthermore, a large proportion of the ACT population do not ride their bike in Winter or on rainy days.

WHAT YOU WROTE
3. Light rail has greater capacity and therefore reduces congestion.
“However, rail in Tokyo and Hong Kong are successful because of high numbers of passengers and frequent services. This will not be the case in Canberra where users will have to regularly wait 15 minutes for the next tram.”
MY RESPONSE
This is not correct. Light rail services will run at 6 minute intervals.

WHAT YOU WROTE
2. Light rail is good value
Another argument for light rail is its relatively low operation costs. However, the Capital Metro contract states that only 28% of the costs over a 20-year period relate to operating costs. The majority of the estimated $939 million bill for stage one between Gungahlin and Civic will go to infrastructure.

MY RESPONSE
As Richard Denniss says, do you always buy the cheapest food available? Then why should cost be the main criteria of choosing transport systems? The light rail will cost 1% of the ACT budget. It is hardly breaking the budget.

WHAT YOU WROTE
1. The tram is good for development and the future of the city
For many, light rail represents not just transport infrastructure but the dream of a “modern, liveable and environmentally-friendly city”. Shane Rattenbury argues that light rail will increase property values near stations and facilitate denser apartment and townhouse-style living. Denser living in turn makes it easier to provide public services and amenities which will attract young people and innovators to stay and work in Canberra.
But density is not inherently good and nor is it best achieved in conjunction with light rail. Professor Jenny Stewart concludes that light rail alone is unlikely to deliver the benefits that Rattenbury hopes for. Rather than fueling cross town commutes which will increase congestion in the long run, we should be trying to provide for a balanced mix of housing, employment and recreation in closer proximity, thus reducing the need to commute. This has little to do with light rail and everything to do with good planning.

MY RESPONSE
Agreed, so we can do both good planning and light rail.

WHAT YOU WROTE
A better choice
Finally, in the long run, light rail will become a relic of the twentieth century. Mass transportation is better delivered by networks of autonomous vehicles that can take us from door to door in a convenient, safe, green and cheap way. This is technology being trialled right now in cities like Austin, Pittsburgh and Singapore.

MY RESPONSE
Autonomous vehicles are dangerous. They do not navigate the changing conditions of roads well. They are unlikely to become the mainstay of public transport systems. They are also not cheap.
Light rail is more suited to todays era of using handheld devices while commuting as it is far more comfortable to read while travelling than on a bus.

Respect to you anneenna for this detailed response. I’ve been getting quite a few similar ones on my Belco sojourn. The one that interests me the most in the sovereign risk argument, which I think has to be taken into account as a cost of tearing up the contracts. I’m not sure exactly how much that amounts to and would be interested in more details. My political sense tells me that it’s preferable to listen to your constituency rather than peak business bodies (it’s not like they don’t have a dog in the fight). My economic sense tells me worrying about staying out of debt is more important than worrying about sovereign risk. And my moral sense tells me that if the government hadn’t been so dastardly and pushed ahead with the contracts a few months out from the election we wouldn’t be having this aspect of the debate.

On a related note, Kirsten Lawson of Canberra Times fame mentioned on the wireless yesterday that she didn’t think the tram would go beyond stage 1 if Labor was re-elected because no government would put itself through this again. Any thoughts anyone?

pink little birdie said :

Kim Huynh said :

I’d be interested in receiving more information (via the comments or info@gokimbo.com.au) about the impact of light rail on housing affordability along the light rail corridor. I’ve been speaking to young people and students in particular who are in favour of the tram and want to live near it, but who are not sure about whether or not they’ll be able to afford it. K

Your students support it because you work at a university with a high number of international students who mainly come from cities where they as young people they don’t drive.
This is where I am confused by your stance. ANU students who move here generally live on the northbourne corridor or gunghalin so it’s a huge benefit to those students.
The buses now don’t even have route maps at the interchange so catching a bus is rather challenging for infrequent or new users. A fixed line transport clarifies the route.
And makes transport more secure in routes and timings.

I sympathetic to your point. My concern is that as I understand it almost nothing has been put aside for affordable housing in the Northbourne corridor, so there’s a good chance despite the increased supply it will be harder for students and lower income people to live there. At the very least, the rates will be high which will be passed on to renters. A tram may well benefit those students who do live there, but we think bike highways and free buses would do so more. K

I’ll try to return to this argument and address some of the new and newish points that have been raised. But for now I’d point out that a) this is a great and important debate that b) we should have been having before the contracts were signed and construction started. Respect to all of us for a) and no respect to the government for b). K.

rommeldog56 said :

anneenna said :

Light rail is more suited to today’s era of using handheld devices while commuting as it is far more comfortable to read while travelling than on a bus.

Really. Most bus passengers can sit down to use their hand held devices and laptops. What about trams ? Many more tram passengers will be standing up compared to in buses. There are other comments on your post – but that will do.

Well no. Buses are generally much faster so wouldnt always have time to get a laptop out.

anneenna said :

Light rail is more suited to today’s era of using handheld devices while commuting as it is far more comfortable to read while travelling than on a bus.

Really. Most bus passengers can sit down to use their hand held devices and laptops. What about trams ? Many more tram passengers will be standing up compared to in buses. There are other comments on your post – but that will do.

anneenna said :

Agreed, so we can do both good planning and light rail.

Look at the planning in the ACT !! ACT labor, in anticipation of last weeks damning report into the LDA by the Auditor General, announced a new planning authority. Given the poor track record of planning by the ACT Labor/Greens Gov’t, you must be eternally optimistic (or a rusted on Labor/Greens supporter) to think that it will change. Good planning and Light Rail will not go hand in hand – unfortunately.

anneenna said :

As Richard Denniss says, do you always buy the cheapest food available? Then why should cost be the main criteria of choosing transport systems? The light rail will cost 1% of the ACT budget. It is hardly breaking the budget.

(1) I dunno about you, but I always buy the cheapest MOST SUITABLE food. In relation to the tram, BRT was much cheaper, just as fast and had a vastly superior Business Costs Ratio. So, your analogy to buying “the cheapest food available” is just silly.

(2) The 1% comment. Good grief. That has been widely discredited, but is still being used by ACT Labor. It is for stage 1 only. Despite announcing that Tram stage 2 will now go Civic-Woden and if re elected ACT Labor/Greens will sign contracts before the 2020 election, ACT Labor/Greens have not released what the cost will be for stage 2. They want a blank cheque from ACT voters/Ratepayers. Additionally, an ex head of ACT Treasury has recently estimated that all stages of the tram will cost about b$14.

anneenna said :

Labor and the Greens both campaigned on a platform of building the light rail for the 2012 election, and Labor won a decisive victory on that basis.

hahaha……no ACT Labor didn’t. As I recall, the Lib’s polled more votes than Labor. It was the Greens that got them over the line. It wasn’t “a decisive” victory at all. In fact, that it is a minority Government.

anneenna said :

Quoting the Financial Review, http://www.afr.com/…/breaking-act-lightrail-contract…
“Three peak business groups have asked the ACT Liberals to reconsider their promise to tear up the contract for the $783 million ACT light-rail project if they win next year’s election…The Business Council of Australia, the Australian Industry Group and Infrastructure Partnerships Australia have written to ACT Opposition Leader Jeremy Hanson, asking him to not break the contract for the rail project…the business groups warned of rising sovereign risk if the ACT project was canned which would only make infrastructure projects more expensive. “If the light-rail contract was cancelled, the cost and risk of doing business in the Territory would rise. It is in the ACT’s own interest to avoid sovereign-type risks in Australia’s infrastructure market.”
“The letter is signed by Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott, Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox and Infrastructure Partnerships Australia chief executive Brendan Lyon. Former assistant infrastructure minister Jamie Briggs described the ACT Liberal’s move to cancel the contract as “economic lunacy”. “As we have seen with the East West Link disaster in Victoria, tearing up legally binding infrastructure contracts raises sovereign risk, damages investor confidence and stifles economic growth,” Mr Briggs said in June.”

What rubbish. What a scare campaign totally without basis. Just look at who the letter was sent by. What do u expect them to say. It will take a lot, lot more than the cancellation of 1 contract for the “cost of doing business in the ACT to rise”. If u want to look at the an example of what is rising the cost of doing business in the ACT, take a look at the MOU between the ACT Labor/Greens Gov’t which effectively gives Unions input to the a ACT Govt tendering process that is inappropriate. No doubt that input would favor tenderers whose workforces are more highly unionised.

justin heywood5:00 pm 03 Oct 16

anneenna said :

1000 words

Wow, aneena, tell us all of what you think.
But I’ll address your first point, that cancelling the Light Rail could result in rising ‘Sovereign Risk’ for the ACT and affect our credit rating

My response: The tearing up of contracts would be a one-time occurrence, disappointing a few large companies that stand to make millions out of the deal and not a few property owners along the route.

But, thinking longer term, the Government already spends about $300m a year more than it earns, and that’s with soaking ratepayers are hard as they can and selling off as much land as they can.

How much longer can they continue to do even that, let alone throwing a huge infrastructure project into the mix?

At the current rate of over-expenditure, how much of a ‘Sovereign Risk’ will the ACT be in ten years? Neither this government (or the opposition) has spoken much about getting the budget under control.

I’m not too worried by what the infrastructure boosters have got to say.
They aren’t paying for it.

WHAT YOU WROTE
5. We’re locked in
Given that contracts have been signed and work on the tram line has begun, Simon Corbell argues that it would be “reckless and lunatic” to cancel the contract.
However, just because we’ve started to spend money on light rail does not mean that we should continue to do so. An outlay of $220-$280 million for nothing is better than spending $939 million on a project that will benefit a small minority of Canberrans while in all likelihood imposing long-term costs on all of us.

MY RESPONSE
Quoting the Financial Review, http://www.afr.com/…/breaking-act-lightrail-contract…
“Three peak business groups have asked the ACT Liberals to reconsider their promise to tear up the contract for the $783 million ACT light-rail project if they win next year’s election…The Business Council of Australia, the Australian Industry Group and Infrastructure Partnerships Australia have written to ACT Opposition Leader Jeremy Hanson, asking him to not break the contract for the rail project…the business groups warned of rising sovereign risk if the ACT project was canned which would only make infrastructure projects more expensive. “If the light-rail contract was cancelled, the cost and risk of doing business in the Territory would rise. It is in the ACT’s own interest to avoid sovereign-type risks in Australia’s infrastructure market.”
“The letter is signed by Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott, Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox and Infrastructure Partnerships Australia chief executive Brendan Lyon. Former assistant infrastructure minister Jamie Briggs described the ACT Liberal’s move to cancel the contract as “economic lunacy”. “As we have seen with the East West Link disaster in Victoria, tearing up legally binding infrastructure contracts raises sovereign risk, damages investor confidence and stifles economic growth,” Mr Briggs said in June.”

WHAT YOU WROTE
Even if Labor is re-elected on this issue there will be a sense that our hearts and minds were not won over but rather that our arms were twisted.
“Perhaps the best hope for the tram is it having a strong mandate from the people.”

MY RESPONSE
Labor and the Greens both campaigned on a platform of building the light rail for the 2012 election, and Labor won a decisive victory on that basis. Furthermore there have been discussions about the light rail through consultations in the community and through reports for over 10 years.

WHAT YOU WROTE
4. It’s good for the environment
The Greens have championed light rail as being good for the environment. However, light rail has no environmental advantage over electric cars or buses. Instead of light rail we could be funding more effective measures of reducing emissions and improving energy efficiency in homes and businesses.

MY RESPONSE
Light rail is vastly superior for the environment, it does not rely on an internal combustion engine which is only less than 30% efficient, furthermore there is much less friction between the wheels and the track (steel-steel) than between tyres and the road (rubber-concrete or asphalt), hence less energy is lost, not to mention no energy in transporting the fuel from the other side of the world or fueling conflict overseas. The power source is 100% renewable energy by 2020, thus this light rail will be Australia’s first pollution free and zero emissions public transport system.

WHAT YOU WROTE:
For example, bicycle highways advocated by pedal power could go a long way to providing the sort of lifestyle and convenience benefits that many progressive voters desire without having anywhere near as much of an impact on the budget and the environment.

MY RESPONSE
Bicycle highways are not practical for people who have mobility problems. Furthermore, a large proportion of the ACT population do not ride their bike in Winter or on rainy days.

WHAT YOU WROTE
3. Light rail has greater capacity and therefore reduces congestion.
“However, rail in Tokyo and Hong Kong are successful because of high numbers of passengers and frequent services. This will not be the case in Canberra where users will have to regularly wait 15 minutes for the next tram.”
MY RESPONSE
This is not correct. Light rail services will run at 6 minute intervals.

WHAT YOU WROTE
2. Light rail is good value
Another argument for light rail is its relatively low operation costs. However, the Capital Metro contract states that only 28% of the costs over a 20-year period relate to operating costs. The majority of the estimated $939 million bill for stage one between Gungahlin and Civic will go to infrastructure.

MY RESPONSE
As Richard Denniss says, do you always buy the cheapest food available? Then why should cost be the main criteria of choosing transport systems? The light rail will cost 1% of the ACT budget. It is hardly breaking the budget.

WHAT YOU WROTE
1. The tram is good for development and the future of the city
For many, light rail represents not just transport infrastructure but the dream of a “modern, liveable and environmentally-friendly city”. Shane Rattenbury argues that light rail will increase property values near stations and facilitate denser apartment and townhouse-style living. Denser living in turn makes it easier to provide public services and amenities which will attract young people and innovators to stay and work in Canberra.
But density is not inherently good and nor is it best achieved in conjunction with light rail. Professor Jenny Stewart concludes that light rail alone is unlikely to deliver the benefits that Rattenbury hopes for. Rather than fueling cross town commutes which will increase congestion in the long run, we should be trying to provide for a balanced mix of housing, employment and recreation in closer proximity, thus reducing the need to commute. This has little to do with light rail and everything to do with good planning.

MY RESPONSE
Agreed, so we can do both good planning and light rail.

WHAT YOU WROTE
A better choice
Finally, in the long run, light rail will become a relic of the twentieth century. Mass transportation is better delivered by networks of autonomous vehicles that can take us from door to door in a convenient, safe, green and cheap way. This is technology being trialled right now in cities like Austin, Pittsburgh and Singapore.

MY RESPONSE
Autonomous vehicles are dangerous. They do not navigate the changing conditions of roads well. They are unlikely to become the mainstay of public transport systems. They are also not cheap.
Light rail is more suited to todays era of using handheld devices while commuting as it is far more comfortable to read while travelling than on a bus.

devils_advocate12:27 pm 15 Sep 16

madelini said :

chewy14 said :

Flashy said :

chewy14 said :

This isn’t a debate about cars vs trams, its about various public transport options.

Cars and trams are various transport options.

Canberra has a ridiculously high rate of car usage, the highest in the nation, I’m for anything that can reduce this number, the tram being one of them.

chewy14 said :

If your focus was about public transport and moving people then you’re clearly against this project due to the cost benefit analysis showing a return of 49cents in the dollar.

I’m surprised I need to spell this out for you, but I’m not against the project. I implied my focus was effectively transporting people in a more environmentally beneficial manner.

The results of a CBA is just you trying to put words in my mouth.

Yes, cars and Trams are transport options. And?

I specifically mentioned PUBLIC transport options to differentiate. The tram clearly doesn’t stack up as a public transport project.

From your second statement you want to now value the environmental benefits rather than public transport as the top priority. But as the CBA shows, even these benefits are minimal and could be achieved far easier with better investment in environmentally aimed projects. The opportunity cost of the Tram means there isn’t any money available for other areas, including the environment.

The thing is, the areas that will be predominantly serviced by the light rail already have excellent bus routes. If people aren’t taking the busses, they’re hardly going to take the tram.

Unless, of course, in addition to withdrawing existing bus services, they start imposing increasingly punitive parking charges…

chewy14 said :

Flashy said :

chewy14 said :

This isn’t a debate about cars vs trams, its about various public transport options.

Cars and trams are various transport options.

Canberra has a ridiculously high rate of car usage, the highest in the nation, I’m for anything that can reduce this number, the tram being one of them.

chewy14 said :

If your focus was about public transport and moving people then you’re clearly against this project due to the cost benefit analysis showing a return of 49cents in the dollar.

I’m surprised I need to spell this out for you, but I’m not against the project. I implied my focus was effectively transporting people in a more environmentally beneficial manner.

The results of a CBA is just you trying to put words in my mouth.

Yes, cars and Trams are transport options. And?

I specifically mentioned PUBLIC transport options to differentiate. The tram clearly doesn’t stack up as a public transport project.

From your second statement you want to now value the environmental benefits rather than public transport as the top priority. But as the CBA shows, even these benefits are minimal and could be achieved far easier with better investment in environmentally aimed projects. The opportunity cost of the Tram means there isn’t any money available for other areas, including the environment.

The thing is, the areas that will be predominantly serviced by the light rail already have excellent bus routes. If people aren’t taking the busses, they’re hardly going to take the tram.

wildturkeycanoe12:38 pm 13 Sep 16

“Melbourne’s Metro network received consistently low reviews from users and is at the bottom of the ladder nationwide for cleanliness, its creaky Myki smartcard ticketing system and fare prices.” – link : http://www.news.com.au/finance/work/train-passengers-reveal-the-best-and-worst-commutes-in-australia/news-story/b9098d886b2e3da9a068ad06344994cb
Is this what we are bringing to Canberra with the light rail network? Dissatisfied passengers fed up with delays, uncleanliness, crowding etc. ? $60 per week in fares? Sounds like driving might be a lot better after all.

AmeliaFrantz11:21 am 13 Sep 16

Although this is probably a separate issue, I think it’s useful to mention. Something that I’m yet to see mentioned anywhere in discussions of public transport use in Canberra is access to public transport for primary, secondary and college students. I don’t know how public transport funding is dispersed in Canberra, so this may not even be relevant. But, I do think that free access to public transport for all students up to year 12 before and after school would go a long way in making access to education more equitable, equal and accessible for all students. In saying this, I know there are debates around level of parental income and whether people should have to pay for access to resources and services. However, I don’t think this argument is useful when thinking about access to education…

devils_advocate said :

dungfungus said :

Surely the people that choose to live there will want to travel beyond the City, Dickson and Gungahlin and they will use their Audis and BMWs to do that so road congestion will increase, not decrease.

Agreed. You could argue that there are currently some public housing tenants that might make use of it however as far as I understand the public housing is being demolished. And even then, people on housing benefits usually get concessional travel. So in summary, the only people that will be able to afford to live along the rail route will be too wealthy to use it.

And surely people who live along Northbourne will largely walk into town rather than bother with the tram. Or they might cycle. Canberra is soooooo going to be subsidising Gungahlinites to travel into town by tram. Sooooooo not looking forward to my rates going even higher than their current $78 week just because Labor and the Greens wanted “funky” (their transport chief’s word) transport. Frankly, guys, you could be perfectly adequately hipster funky by just having some Lonsdale Street Roasters coffee and the affectation of winning that cameo in a local film production. No need to spend a billion dollars on your transport cred – shouldn’t some bike stands be sufficient?

Consolidator12:24 pm 12 Sep 16

In my recent travels to Europe my research found that various governments are having a variety of dangerous, costly and inconvenience issues with the ‘unitended consequences of Light rail which include:

EQUIPMENT

1. Lack of standardisation in most areas (similar to our national rail standards between states)
2. Limited competitors in the areas of maintenance, refurbishments and replacements
3. Require large expensive holdings of spare parts or long delays in obtaining replacements
4. High cost of new Street and Station cameras, control centres, staffing and maintenance
5. Rails overtime become twisted and bent due to changing weather extremes, accidents, etc.
6. Light rail require more expensive traffic lights at intersections with longer time configurations holding up traffic
7. New land and large servicing facilities will be required with costly and ongoing overheads
8. Electric overhead cables/catenary are highly susceptible to damage by storms, accidents and malicious people
9. Catenary Poles add additional risk to motorists and pedestrians with substantial cost to general maintenance
10. Catenary and relevant poles are unsightly and require constant safety checks against electrical discharge
11. Non-Catenary trams have issues with overhead batteries if not properly charging during braking
12. Overhead cables/catenary provide birds dangerous perching issues

HEALTH and SAFETY

13. Higher demand for ambulance, hospital or general medical treatments for injuries sustained whilst travelling
14. Light Rail is a higher soft target risk for terrorism or malicious attacks
15. Dangerous for elderly or standing people due to the jerkiness of ride
NOISE
16. Rail is much noisier than electric buses and will require curfews in the late evenings and early mornings
17. Residents close to light rail will need compensation for sound-proofing their homes
18. Value of properties in noisy light rail corridors will fall due to lack of prospective buyers

TRAFFIC

19. Commuters will find alternative routes through residential areas causing the need for hazard reduction measures to protect children and pedestrians
20. Electric overhead cables dangerous for high emergency vehicles such as Fire Engines and large trucks at intersections
21. High cost of additional and temporary street signage
22. Light rail throughout the world has a record of taking longer (i.e. a 2 year job will take at least 4 years) to build than other modes of transport leading to long and costly street closures for businesses, residents and the commuters’
23. Light rail is slower than other forms of road transport and electric buses are replacing rail in built up areas around the world
24. Light rail is inflexible and cannot be rerouted during an incident
25. In the case of a serious accident Police will require a total shutdown of services (back to the buses)
26. Light rail is susceptible to lightning and other power failures, long delays in maintenance
27. Larger and more expensive lifting/cranage equipment required if tram becomes inoperable

LEGAL

28. Higher risk of lawsuits for injury compensation
29. Costly new legislation, education and training will be required and then policed
30. On the spot fines will require additional and costly enforcement
31. Courts will have additional cost for extra resources from contested cases, subsequently pushing out other more important cases.
COMMUTING
32. Longer commutes from home and business to the Rail Point and back in all sorts of weather extremes
33. Limited seating capacity for passengers, majority have to stand and pack in during peak times

COST

34. Only services a small portion of the community by disrupts most
35. Overall establishment cost is prohibitive
36. Ongoing cost of, upgrades, maintenance and finally removal is prohibitive
37. Small returns from commuters, will be highly subsidised.
38. Someone has to pay and it won’t be the users, higher rates and across the board fees
39. Other services will suffer and that will depending on political preferences
40. 14 CAF trams (66 pax seated) will cost $65 million or $4.65 million each on 2016 prices
41. Electric Buses (48 pax seated) will cost on average of $600,000 each depending on supplier which there are many.
42. Phase 1 Infrastructure 698 million initial cost plus all ongoing costs of maintenance, upgrades, cleaning, security, etc
43. Phase 2 Infrastructure City to Woden will include new bridge or strengthening of existing bridges across Lake Burley Griffin.
44. Phases 3-7 will cause financial stress on every household over the longer term

devils_advocate9:00 am 12 Sep 16

dungfungus said :

Surely the people that choose to live there will want to travel beyond the City, Dickson and Gungahlin and they will use their Audis and BMWs to do that so road congestion will increase, not decrease.

Agreed. You could argue that there are currently some public housing tenants that might make use of it however as far as I understand the public housing is being demolished. And even then, people on housing benefits usually get concessional travel. So in summary, the only people that will be able to afford to live along the rail route will be too wealthy to use it.

pink little birdie said :

Kim Huynh said :

I’d be interested in receiving more information (via the comments or info@gokimbo.com.au) about the impact of light rail on housing affordability along the light rail corridor. I’ve been speaking to young people and students in particular who are in favour of the tram and want to live near it, but who are not sure about whether or not they’ll be able to afford it. K

Your students support it because you work at a university with a high number of international students who mainly come from cities where they as young people they don’t drive.
This is where I am confused by your stance. ANU students who move here generally live on the northbourne corridor or gunghalin so it’s a huge benefit to those students.
The buses now don’t even have route maps at the interchange so catching a bus is rather challenging for infrequent or new users. A fixed line transport clarifies the route.
And makes transport more secure in routes and timings.

I think you will find that overseas ANU students, predominately from Asia, live on campus or close by so they won’t need a tram for anything.

I don’t recall seeing any government initiated promotion of perceived benefits of a tram for ANU students either.

pink little birdie9:37 pm 11 Sep 16

Kim Huynh said :

I’d be interested in receiving more information (via the comments or info@gokimbo.com.au) about the impact of light rail on housing affordability along the light rail corridor. I’ve been speaking to young people and students in particular who are in favour of the tram and want to live near it, but who are not sure about whether or not they’ll be able to afford it. K

Your students support it because you work at a university with a high number of international students who mainly come from cities where they as young people they don’t drive.
This is where I am confused by your stance. ANU students who move here generally live on the northbourne corridor or gunghalin so it’s a huge benefit to those students.
The buses now don’t even have route maps at the interchange so catching a bus is rather challenging for infrequent or new users. A fixed line transport clarifies the route.
And makes transport more secure in routes and timings.

Arthur Davies6:07 pm 11 Sep 16

A few more facts to add to the list:-

Stage 1 will only be easily accessible to 2% of Canberrans, Statement by Metro. If fully implemented it would only serve 10% of Canberrans. Yet we all have to pay for it, as trams cannot get down suburban streets to serve existing community centres. This came up at Metro’s launch & the answer given was that “if Canberrans who live in existing suburbs want good transport, they will have to move to a unit on Northbourne Av”, unbelievable arrogance in my book. I checked the stats & less than 3% of all Melbournians use the trams (the figures are higher in the inner city but still not shattering).

I queried the Metro chief engineer regarding the bridge’s ability to carry trams , as I doubted that they could. I was told that the trams crossing the lake will have to be battery operated as the NCA will not allow overheads wires. The bridge will carry trams but a traffic lane would have to be closed each way, the bridge would not support a mixed lane, that will do wonders for the traffic flow! Or else a new bridge would be needed, much more likely. I queried Shane Rattenbury on this point recently at the Dickson shops & he told me that the “Govt has not yet decided on this level of detail”. A couple of billion dollars or so has essentially been committed without proper engineering assessments of the options. Breathtaking even for this Govt.

The environmental impact of building stage 1 alone is enormous. According to Metro’s EIS it will take about 168,000 tons of concrete & steel for the 12km route. That is a 30T truck every 35min for 2 years, this is hardly benign & it does not take account of the trucks carrying away the trees & the spoil from the site.

There are better, cheaper, & faster alternatives which need fewer resources. Initially electric buses & later high tech solutions like autonomous cars & overhead rapid transit.

These more modern alternatives are likely to make the tram a “stranded asset” long before the the end of the stage 1 contract in about 22 years. But the contractor will have locked in payments regardless of the number of passengers using the system (why else is the govt fighting so hard to not publish the whole contract even though the bid is accepted & the numbers are no longer “commercial in confidence”.

Trams are very efficient when they are fully loaded during peak times (200 passengers in this case with 2/3 standing for up to half an hour). But when they have only a few passengers during off peak times, the efficiency drops dramatically to a point where a car with 1 or 2 people is more efficient (again I looked up tram technical data). In fact according to the published timetables the Gold Coast trams stop running in the evenings & are replaced by buses!

If the Woden line were to go ahead, virtually no one lives close to the centre of Adelaide Av, so patronage would be very low. So are we to see Northbourne Av development along Adelaide Av too? The Govt is very silent on this point.

The ACT auditor has cast some doubt on the level of development that will result from trams. After all Canberra’s development to date has all occurred without trams, no reason to assume it would not continue without them.

The maximum capacity of the trams in stage 1 is about 3,000 passengers per hour, that would take a long time to empty a sports stadium after a big game (to say nothing of the fact that trams are not scheduled to serve most stadiums in the current plans).

The point of making public transport free is interesting, I wonder what it is current cost of collecting fares vs the revenue gained? I would be interested in the numbers.

Metro’s EIS noted that traffic speeds would be reduced due the trams & the associated traffic light changes etc.

The issue of safety has also been addressed by Metro, it has been noted that the trams will increase danger but they did not quantify it. However the consultants on the Sydney rail project have predicted an extra of 1.14 average deaths per annum for their trams (Canberra Times report).

I believe a major full, open, scientific, independent, investigation into ALL transport options is essential before any more money is spent (it should have been done before letting contracts, but it was not).

HiddenDragon5:59 pm 11 Sep 16

dungfungus said :

HiddenDragon said :

dungfungus said :

HiddenDragon said :

Mordd / Chris Richards said :

HiddenDragon said :

It would be a little easier to feel resigned to, or even moderately supportive of, the idea of multi-billion dollar tram network for Canberra if we had a government which had – in its very long life – shown that it could develop an economy which could truly afford to pay for it.

Instead, all we have is essentially the same economic model which has long prevailed – federal spending via the bureaucracy and military/security services, tertiary education (again, largely dependent on federal spending and policies, including immigration), with a property/retail/services sector which is typically Canberra-centric (and still heavily reliant on a well-heeled captive market) and, as the very small cherry on the cake, a relative handful of excellent creative/knowledge based companies – which all-too-often end up relocating to be closer to relevant markets (not in pursuit of tram transport).

So rather than being paid for – to an appreciable degree – by government revenues derived from sectors of the Canberra economy which are substantially independent of federal government decisions, this herd of white elephants will (if the status quo persists after 15 October) see the ACT Government putting its sticky fingers ever deeper into the pockets of Canberra households and the businesses which are still hanging on here.

Well, since every blames Shane for this, why not acknowledge another of Shane’s pet policies will also deliver a massive windfall for the ACT budget. I’d say he has more than paid for the Light Rail if you really insist on looking at it this way: http://reneweconomy.com.au/2016/act-could-make-windfall-gains-from-bold-100-renewables-target-56838

The operative word in all of that is “could”.

Some time in the last decade (I think) we had people talking about Canberra as the centre of a world leading IT hub which was going to generate hundreds of billions of dollars (that was the scale of what was talked about at the time) in revenue and which would see, in effect, a new Silicon Valley on the Molonglo. I know that excellent intellectual property is generated in the ACT, but multi, multi billions of IP revenue for the ACT economy each year, with a large, resultant export-funded private sector employment boom – still waiting.

It’s manana economics, as usual, for the ACT, and a tram-related boom is just the latest example of wishful thinking. Still, given the current fashion for dystopian films and TV series, the Gungahlin tramline could give us an edge in that niche market – must be about time for a remake of Fahrenheit 451.

Similarly, I can’t see why the government claims there will be big demand for very expensive home units in Northbourne Avenue just because there are trams running past the front.

Surely the people that choose to live there will want to travel beyond the City, Dickson and Gungahlin and they will use their Audis and BMWs to do that so road congestion will increase, not decrease.

Indeed – perhaps it should become a condition of employment in the ACT public sector to live on the tramline and use it for the daily commute, and (for those sufficiently privileged to have it) to give up employer-provided parking, such as this –

http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/act-ministerial-staff-enjoy-free-civic-parking-but-space-running-low-for-new-politicians-20160908-gr028r.html

Well, it is already a condition of employment in the ACT PS that they vote Labor so why not force them to live in the tram gulag too.

There’s a lot of Canberra households which are at least partially dependent for their income on ACT Government spending, and we’ll no doubt be hearing more scare-campaign stuff about “slashing and burning” in the days until 15 October. Some of those households might be starting to think about how the long term costs of the tram will squeeze funding for the area(s) they are employed in – a particular issue, I would guess, for those who do the non-trendy, unglamorous jobs which many of their fellow Canberrans truly value, but which senior politicians only seem to take an interest in at election time, or when something goes badly wrong.

HiddenDragon said :

dungfungus said :

HiddenDragon said :

Mordd / Chris Richards said :

HiddenDragon said :

It would be a little easier to feel resigned to, or even moderately supportive of, the idea of multi-billion dollar tram network for Canberra if we had a government which had – in its very long life – shown that it could develop an economy which could truly afford to pay for it.

Instead, all we have is essentially the same economic model which has long prevailed – federal spending via the bureaucracy and military/security services, tertiary education (again, largely dependent on federal spending and policies, including immigration), with a property/retail/services sector which is typically Canberra-centric (and still heavily reliant on a well-heeled captive market) and, as the very small cherry on the cake, a relative handful of excellent creative/knowledge based companies – which all-too-often end up relocating to be closer to relevant markets (not in pursuit of tram transport).

So rather than being paid for – to an appreciable degree – by government revenues derived from sectors of the Canberra economy which are substantially independent of federal government decisions, this herd of white elephants will (if the status quo persists after 15 October) see the ACT Government putting its sticky fingers ever deeper into the pockets of Canberra households and the businesses which are still hanging on here.

Well, since every blames Shane for this, why not acknowledge another of Shane’s pet policies will also deliver a massive windfall for the ACT budget. I’d say he has more than paid for the Light Rail if you really insist on looking at it this way: http://reneweconomy.com.au/2016/act-could-make-windfall-gains-from-bold-100-renewables-target-56838

The operative word in all of that is “could”.

Some time in the last decade (I think) we had people talking about Canberra as the centre of a world leading IT hub which was going to generate hundreds of billions of dollars (that was the scale of what was talked about at the time) in revenue and which would see, in effect, a new Silicon Valley on the Molonglo. I know that excellent intellectual property is generated in the ACT, but multi, multi billions of IP revenue for the ACT economy each year, with a large, resultant export-funded private sector employment boom – still waiting.

It’s manana economics, as usual, for the ACT, and a tram-related boom is just the latest example of wishful thinking. Still, given the current fashion for dystopian films and TV series, the Gungahlin tramline could give us an edge in that niche market – must be about time for a remake of Fahrenheit 451.

Similarly, I can’t see why the government claims there will be big demand for very expensive home units in Northbourne Avenue just because there are trams running past the front.

Surely the people that choose to live there will want to travel beyond the City, Dickson and Gungahlin and they will use their Audis and BMWs to do that so road congestion will increase, not decrease.

Indeed – perhaps it should become a condition of employment in the ACT public sector to live on the tramline and use it for the daily commute, and (for those sufficiently privileged to have it) to give up employer-provided parking, such as this –

http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/act-ministerial-staff-enjoy-free-civic-parking-but-space-running-low-for-new-politicians-20160908-gr028r.html

Well, it is already a condition of employment in the ACT PS that they vote Labor so why not force them to live in the tram gulag too.

gooterz said :

If light rail tanks the ACT economy we would likely be the only place in Australia that the feds wouldn’t really care about. They’d love an excuse to move federal parliament to either Canberra or Sydney.
Just look at how quickly either major party slashes jobs in the ACT from federal departments and tries to push to remote corners for vote buying, Canberra bashing or trying to boost unemployment, when other companies go under.

The whole light rail project assumes that population will increase, people will need to travel as much and that the economy will be steady for the next 20-30 years. If any of these don’t hold true the ACT budget is in serious trouble.

I think you mean Melbourne (where Federal Parliament was originally) or Sydney but your point is valid.

The ACT budget is already in serious trouble and the BS AAA credit rating is on “watch” status.

I doubt if the light rail will extend past the current city to Gungahlin stage ever.

If light rail tanks the ACT economy we would likely be the only place in Australia that the feds wouldn’t really care about. They’d love an excuse to move federal parliament to either Canberra or Sydney.
Just look at how quickly either major party slashes jobs in the ACT from federal departments and tries to push to remote corners for vote buying, Canberra bashing or trying to boost unemployment, when other companies go under.

The whole light rail project assumes that population will increase, people will need to travel as much and that the economy will be steady for the next 20-30 years. If any of these don’t hold true the ACT budget is in serious trouble.

Flashy said :

chewy14 said :

This isn’t a debate about cars vs trams, its about various public transport options.

Cars and trams are various transport options.

Canberra has a ridiculously high rate of car usage, the highest in the nation, I’m for anything that can reduce this number, the tram being one of them.

chewy14 said :

If your focus was about public transport and moving people then you’re clearly against this project due to the cost benefit analysis showing a return of 49cents in the dollar.

I’m surprised I need to spell this out for you, but I’m not against the project. I implied my focus was effectively transporting people in a more environmentally beneficial manner.

The results of a CBA is just you trying to put words in my mouth.

Yes, cars and Trams are transport options. And?

I specifically mentioned PUBLIC transport options to differentiate. The tram clearly doesn’t stack up as a public transport project.

From your second statement you want to now value the environmental benefits rather than public transport as the top priority. But as the CBA shows, even these benefits are minimal and could be achieved far easier with better investment in environmentally aimed projects. The opportunity cost of the Tram means there isn’t any money available for other areas, including the environment.

HiddenDragon5:36 pm 10 Sep 16

dungfungus said :

HiddenDragon said :

Mordd / Chris Richards said :

HiddenDragon said :

It would be a little easier to feel resigned to, or even moderately supportive of, the idea of multi-billion dollar tram network for Canberra if we had a government which had – in its very long life – shown that it could develop an economy which could truly afford to pay for it.

Instead, all we have is essentially the same economic model which has long prevailed – federal spending via the bureaucracy and military/security services, tertiary education (again, largely dependent on federal spending and policies, including immigration), with a property/retail/services sector which is typically Canberra-centric (and still heavily reliant on a well-heeled captive market) and, as the very small cherry on the cake, a relative handful of excellent creative/knowledge based companies – which all-too-often end up relocating to be closer to relevant markets (not in pursuit of tram transport).

So rather than being paid for – to an appreciable degree – by government revenues derived from sectors of the Canberra economy which are substantially independent of federal government decisions, this herd of white elephants will (if the status quo persists after 15 October) see the ACT Government putting its sticky fingers ever deeper into the pockets of Canberra households and the businesses which are still hanging on here.

Well, since every blames Shane for this, why not acknowledge another of Shane’s pet policies will also deliver a massive windfall for the ACT budget. I’d say he has more than paid for the Light Rail if you really insist on looking at it this way: http://reneweconomy.com.au/2016/act-could-make-windfall-gains-from-bold-100-renewables-target-56838

The operative word in all of that is “could”.

Some time in the last decade (I think) we had people talking about Canberra as the centre of a world leading IT hub which was going to generate hundreds of billions of dollars (that was the scale of what was talked about at the time) in revenue and which would see, in effect, a new Silicon Valley on the Molonglo. I know that excellent intellectual property is generated in the ACT, but multi, multi billions of IP revenue for the ACT economy each year, with a large, resultant export-funded private sector employment boom – still waiting.

It’s manana economics, as usual, for the ACT, and a tram-related boom is just the latest example of wishful thinking. Still, given the current fashion for dystopian films and TV series, the Gungahlin tramline could give us an edge in that niche market – must be about time for a remake of Fahrenheit 451.

Similarly, I can’t see why the government claims there will be big demand for very expensive home units in Northbourne Avenue just because there are trams running past the front.

Surely the people that choose to live there will want to travel beyond the City, Dickson and Gungahlin and they will use their Audis and BMWs to do that so road congestion will increase, not decrease.

Indeed – perhaps it should become a condition of employment in the ACT public sector to live on the tramline and use it for the daily commute, and (for those sufficiently privileged to have it) to give up employer-provided parking, such as this –

http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/act-ministerial-staff-enjoy-free-civic-parking-but-space-running-low-for-new-politicians-20160908-gr028r.html

justin heywood5:07 pm 10 Sep 16

bigred said :

… Except for amusement factor I see very little is being added to the outcome of the discussion…

The amusement factor is strong though. It’s amusing to see the True Believers trying to find ways to dress up the whole boondoggle as prudent management.

I’m sure some of them have convinced themselves that they always wanted a light rail out to Gunghalin.

bigred said :

There is very little middle ground on the light rail issue. You are either for it or against it and will be voting soon on that basis. Except for amusement factor I see very little is being added to the outcome of the discussion. I expect it is time to start giving awards for the most outrageous statements made. In my mind, the confected outrage over saving the dying trees on Northbourne Avenue wins, especially when the same folk not that long ago were advocating felling trees on O’Çonnor RIdge for a road that was intended to ease congestion.

Your post has already trumped the statement that you nominated.

There is very little middle ground on the light rail issue. You are either for it or against it and will be voting soon on that basis. Except for amusement factor I see very little is being added to the outcome of the discussion. I expect it is time to start giving awards for the most outrageous statements made. In my mind, the confected outrage over saving the dying trees on Northbourne Avenue wins, especially when the same folk not that long ago were advocating felling trees on O’Çonnor RIdge for a road that was intended to ease congestion.

creative_canberran7:38 pm 09 Sep 16

Well written piece. Pro-light rail brigade are just so narrow minded. And I think it has a big chance of costing Labor power in this election. If it weren’t for the bigger assembly, I’d be more sure, but we just don’t know how the numbers are going to play.

Fact, government’s own cost-benefit analysis and transport planning reports don’t support light-rail – yet.

Light rail will be an important investment one day. But Canberra’s size, and prevailing economic conditions do not support it this decade or even the next.

Sydney’s new light-rail has a cost-benefit of 3:1 or better. Our’s struggles to manage 1:1.5, and that figure is based on very iffy criteria and assumptions.

chewy14 said :

This isn’t a debate about cars vs trams, its about various public transport options.

Cars and trams are various transport options.

Canberra has a ridiculously high rate of car usage, the highest in the nation, I’m for anything that can reduce this number, the tram being one of them.

chewy14 said :

If your focus was about public transport and moving people then you’re clearly against this project due to the cost benefit analysis showing a return of 49cents in the dollar.

I’m surprised I need to spell this out for you, but I’m not against the project. I implied my focus was effectively transporting people in a more environmentally beneficial manner.

The results of a CBA is just you trying to put words in my mouth.

HiddenDragon said :

Mordd / Chris Richards said :

HiddenDragon said :

It would be a little easier to feel resigned to, or even moderately supportive of, the idea of multi-billion dollar tram network for Canberra if we had a government which had – in its very long life – shown that it could develop an economy which could truly afford to pay for it.

Instead, all we have is essentially the same economic model which has long prevailed – federal spending via the bureaucracy and military/security services, tertiary education (again, largely dependent on federal spending and policies, including immigration), with a property/retail/services sector which is typically Canberra-centric (and still heavily reliant on a well-heeled captive market) and, as the very small cherry on the cake, a relative handful of excellent creative/knowledge based companies – which all-too-often end up relocating to be closer to relevant markets (not in pursuit of tram transport).

So rather than being paid for – to an appreciable degree – by government revenues derived from sectors of the Canberra economy which are substantially independent of federal government decisions, this herd of white elephants will (if the status quo persists after 15 October) see the ACT Government putting its sticky fingers ever deeper into the pockets of Canberra households and the businesses which are still hanging on here.

Well, since every blames Shane for this, why not acknowledge another of Shane’s pet policies will also deliver a massive windfall for the ACT budget. I’d say he has more than paid for the Light Rail if you really insist on looking at it this way: http://reneweconomy.com.au/2016/act-could-make-windfall-gains-from-bold-100-renewables-target-56838

The operative word in all of that is “could”.

Some time in the last decade (I think) we had people talking about Canberra as the centre of a world leading IT hub which was going to generate hundreds of billions of dollars (that was the scale of what was talked about at the time) in revenue and which would see, in effect, a new Silicon Valley on the Molonglo. I know that excellent intellectual property is generated in the ACT, but multi, multi billions of IP revenue for the ACT economy each year, with a large, resultant export-funded private sector employment boom – still waiting.

It’s manana economics, as usual, for the ACT, and a tram-related boom is just the latest example of wishful thinking. Still, given the current fashion for dystopian films and TV series, the Gungahlin tramline could give us an edge in that niche market – must be about time for a remake of Fahrenheit 451.

Similarly, I can’t see why the government claims there will be big demand for very expensive home units in Northbourne Avenue just because there are trams running past the front.

Surely the people that choose to live there will want to travel beyond the City, Dickson and Gungahlin and they will use their Audis and BMWs to do that so road congestion will increase, not decrease.

I’m conflicted when it comes to light rail. I’m not opposed to it as an abstract concept, but I am absolutely opposed by its current incarnation. The number of Canberrans that it is going to benefit is tiny compared to those who contribute to it by way of rates. Those who live and work along the Northbourne corridor are unlikely to have need to take the tram often; those in Watson and Hackett will have to travel to tram stops or catch a bus there, and people who live in Dickson, Downer, Braddon, Lyneham, Turner and O’Connor and also work in the city are more likely to walk than catch the bus currently, so why would they take the tram?

As well as this, there are lots and lots of people who live in Gungahlin but don’t work in the City, so the amount of time that they would spend on the tram is minimal. Those living in the City would very rarely have the need to go to Gungahlin town centre, unless they work there, and I’m not sure many people do that. The second stage of the plan is expected to go to Woden, but that doesn’t solve any of the existing problems; it’s trying to placate some of the southside, that’s all.

If the tram went somewhere useful, like the airport, or linked the City with somewhere like the sports stadium, I would understand that. Something that is designed to link various hubs, that have the potential to benefit more than just those who live in walking distance of a station. Sheffield in the UK is a city not that much larger than Canberra (population of maybe 450k) – they have a tram that links Hillsborough Football Stadium (for premier league matches) with the city centre and train station, then goes out to Don Valley Stadium (concerts and other large events) and the enormous shopping centre on the outskirts of the city. It works, but not because they sought to replace the bus network; because they realised what people travel for and created a solution to lighten parking constraints in those places, among other things.

I live in Tuggeranong, and while I’m not opposed to a tram per se, I am absolutely opposed to the current incarnation.

Matt Watts said :

I note that the ALP seems to now be panicking over the issue, as they released a graph demonstrating that, over the life of the project, only 1% of ACT expenditure would be directed to light rail.

The great misdirection in their campaign, however, is that a few months ago Capital Metro confirmed the 1% figure was only for Stage 1 (that is, the only light rail ‘project’ officially in existence). We don’t know how much Stage 2 would cost, let alone the entire ACT network (should it proceed). Hugely disappointing that ACT Labor feels obliged to mislead the community in such a sneaky way.

Yep – I asked a sitting labor member campaigning at local shop last weekend. I asked if the 1% was for all tram routes or just for stage 1.

They said all. I asked “then u must know the total cost of all the routes then” ?

The answer was “ummmmm….maybe the 1% is just for stage 1.”

the 1% is just more spin from ACT Labor/Greens.

I am persuaded by the well-researched post presented above and also by today’s comments from the former executive director, Policy Co-ordination and Development Division, ACT Treasury. Someone who is an independent expert and unmotivated by self-enrichment to spruik light rail.

To summarise and quote from his article:

“- The whole-of-life cost of the first stage is estimated at $1.78 billion.

– The total costs would be higher – in excess of $2 billion

– fare box revenue will recover less than 10 per cent of the project cost.

– the cost of the project, in the main, will need to be covered from the existing budget;

– If the priority for the budget is to be to fund light rail, what expenditures and investments will the government relegate or abandon?

– if the government committed to the plan today, it will be committing to a whole-of-life expenditure of approximately $14 billion

– The cost of LRNP will be about 38 per cent of the Territory’s annual output.

– In proportionate terms, relative to the size of the respective economies of the Commonwealth and the AT, LRNP is six to 12 times larger than NBN.

– LRNP will consume all the budgetary capacity – to meet the investment challenges in health and education.

– all other areas of budget expenditure, including social and community services, arts, municipal services, and maintenance and upgrade of the existing infrastructure will suffer.

– corrective measures in the form of major cuts to other expenditure, or massive increases in taxation, or just abandoning the project, will be unavoidable.”

http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/act-election-2016/a-failure-to-fully-canvass-the-light-rail-project-could-prove-costly-for-the-act-20160908-grbkiw.html

With regard to housing affordability – light rail will certainly decrease housing affordability. Rising land values along the tram route has been claimed as a benefit. It will give a windfall gain to property owners intending to sell and benefit speculators.

It is not a benefit for people already living in those areas who don’t wish to move. This is because rising property values create rising rates. Residential rates have risen by more than 60% since 2011-12 and will continue rising. Along with higher rates, higher land values also result in higher building costs and higher rentals.

Rising rates and rising rentals means less affordable housing.

So an outcome of this project will be that people on lower incomes are financially pressured through rates increases to move out of the area to more affordable housing, while only richer members of the community will be able to move in. Who benefits from that? Property developers and real estate agents – the very people with a vested interest in spruiking light rail.

It is incredible that a policy so harmful to the most vulnerable people in our community is being pushed by a Labor Party simply to gain Greens support to stay in power.

That isn’t a bad poll result for the anti-light rail stance, considering the number of ACT Light Rail minions on Facebook who were directed to this site to vote.

I note that the ALP seems to now be panicking over the issue, as they released a graph demonstrating that, over the life of the project, only 1% of ACT expenditure would be directed to light rail.

The great misdirection in their campaign, however, is that a few months ago Capital Metro confirmed the 1% figure was only for Stage 1 (that is, the only light rail ‘project’ officially in existence). We don’t know how much Stage 2 would cost, let alone the entire ACT network (should it proceed). Hugely disappointing that ACT Labor feels obliged to mislead the community in such a sneaky way.

It will be the cause of many traffic accidents. Melbourne still has serious tram car accidents (the tram being in the right matters not) and everybody there is used to trams.
Why we couldn’t have something like the Bay Area Rapid Transport (Bart) system in San Francisco? It is above the roads, seems to work well and is inexpensive to use.
Having ground level trams (and lets call them what they are, they’re trams.) servicing a very small section of the population of the ACT, at a price we can’t afford at this time and will cause a serious road safety hazard is not a well researched idea.

Flashy said :

“Kim started off very slightly in favour because he liked the idea of light rail bringing Canberrans together.”

This sounds like a fake stance to give weight to what you are arguing. Because this is an argument piece not a neutral presentation of facts like you state it is.

If you have ever actually been on public transport (I’m from Melbourne) there is nothing about them that ‘brings people together’. However, they are effective in moving people in a more environmentally friendly manner than cars.

This isn’t a debate about cars vs trams, its about various public transport options.

And one of the main selling points for the tram is wider community social benefits (bringing communities together) rather than as a solely public transport project.

If your focus was about public transport and moving people then you’re clearly against this project due to the cost benefit analysis showing a return of 49cents in the dollar.

HiddenDragon12:48 pm 09 Sep 16

Mordd / Chris Richards said :

HiddenDragon said :

It would be a little easier to feel resigned to, or even moderately supportive of, the idea of multi-billion dollar tram network for Canberra if we had a government which had – in its very long life – shown that it could develop an economy which could truly afford to pay for it.

Instead, all we have is essentially the same economic model which has long prevailed – federal spending via the bureaucracy and military/security services, tertiary education (again, largely dependent on federal spending and policies, including immigration), with a property/retail/services sector which is typically Canberra-centric (and still heavily reliant on a well-heeled captive market) and, as the very small cherry on the cake, a relative handful of excellent creative/knowledge based companies – which all-too-often end up relocating to be closer to relevant markets (not in pursuit of tram transport).

So rather than being paid for – to an appreciable degree – by government revenues derived from sectors of the Canberra economy which are substantially independent of federal government decisions, this herd of white elephants will (if the status quo persists after 15 October) see the ACT Government putting its sticky fingers ever deeper into the pockets of Canberra households and the businesses which are still hanging on here.

Well, since every blames Shane for this, why not acknowledge another of Shane’s pet policies will also deliver a massive windfall for the ACT budget. I’d say he has more than paid for the Light Rail if you really insist on looking at it this way: http://reneweconomy.com.au/2016/act-could-make-windfall-gains-from-bold-100-renewables-target-56838

The operative word in all of that is “could”.

Some time in the last decade (I think) we had people talking about Canberra as the centre of a world leading IT hub which was going to generate hundreds of billions of dollars (that was the scale of what was talked about at the time) in revenue and which would see, in effect, a new Silicon Valley on the Molonglo. I know that excellent intellectual property is generated in the ACT, but multi, multi billions of IP revenue for the ACT economy each year, with a large, resultant export-funded private sector employment boom – still waiting.

It’s manana economics, as usual, for the ACT, and a tram-related boom is just the latest example of wishful thinking. Still, given the current fashion for dystopian films and TV series, the Gungahlin tramline could give us an edge in that niche market – must be about time for a remake of Fahrenheit 451.

I’d be interested in receiving more information (via the comments or info@gokimbo.com.au) about the impact of light rail on housing affordability along the light rail corridor. I’ve been speaking to young people and students in particular who are in favour of the tram and want to live near it, but who are not sure about whether or not they’ll be able to afford it. K

devils_advocate10:19 am 09 Sep 16

rommeldog56 said :

Its far, far too early to announce this as a major green energy/Rattenburry achievement yet. But a good attempt to deflect attention from the cost of the tram.

The costs of solar power generation are probably not a great comparator to the tram. Off the top of my head, a few differences are that
1) investment in solar power capacity does not crowd out other generation capacity (whether in a solar ‘farm’ or rooftop pv) whereas once you run a monorail down northbourne that land cannot be used for anything else;
2) solar is not a pure public good – it has public good elements in that higher solar generation takes pressure off the grid for everyone else, but the costs and benefits can more easily be privatised to the investors; whereas the costs of the tram are public but many of the benefits are being privatised;
3) solar is a series of relatively smaller, shorter-lived investments that can be scaled according to demand, whereas the monorail is a massive behemoth of a thing; and
4) solar is developing technology and there may be first mover advantages, whereas a monorail has already been done by Brockway, Ogdenville and North Haverbrook.

“Kim started off very slightly in favour because he liked the idea of light rail bringing Canberrans together.”

This sounds like a fake stance to give weight to what you are arguing. Because this is an argument piece not a neutral presentation of facts like you state it is.

If you have ever actually been on public transport (I’m from Melbourne) there is nothing about them that ‘brings people together’. However, they are effective in moving people in a more environmentally friendly manner than cars.

This article by Kim contains more common sense in the one story than I’ve seen in a long time. The whole concept of light-rail in Canberra is crazy, but the proposed extension to Woden Valley,especially even contemplating using the Commonwealth Ave. Bridge, borders on stupidity.

devils_advocate9:06 am 09 Sep 16

chewy14 said :

If they wanted to take this path, they should have put in place a tram levy for residents along the route and see how many residents supported them at the ballot box because of it.

To be fair, a lot of residents will kind of have a de facto tram levy when their land gets re-valued and their rates go up. However they’ll still have the option of selling out their (potentially rezoned) land for a massive windfall gain, whereas the rest of Canberra will be saddled with this white elephant for decades.

octagonalman8:14 am 09 Sep 16

Hi Kim, on point 3, can you please look into Northbourne Avenue congestion? I heard that’s the original reason for light rail as a technical solution, as an additional lane on Northbourne Avenue for buses would cost around the same as light rail and throughput in peak time is already a problem with the density of scheduling bus services.

Mordd / Chris Richards said :

Well, since every blames Shane for this, why not acknowledge another of Shane’s pet policies will also deliver a massive windfall for the ACT budget. I’d say he has more than paid for the Light Rail if you really insist on looking at it this way: http://reneweconomy.com.au/2016/act-could-make-windfall-gains-from-bold-100-renewables-target-56838

There are far too many “ifs” in this linked article. Also, its not independent – from the renewable energy sector.

Does anyone seriously believe that the prospect of “free” electricity is real – there is no such thing as a free anything. What will happen to the renewable energy providers financial viability ? Even in the unlikely (IMHO – because all this is somewhat illogical and defies the pub test I’m afraid) will any “free” electricity be passed onto ACT consumers and local businesses by ACTEWAGL ? That isn’t mentioned in the linked article or by the ACT Govt.

I would assume if you claim that this will be a saving to the ACT budget that will more than pay for the Tram, that any savings will not be passed onto consumers/businesses by ACTEWAGL or the ACT Govt.

Its far, far too early to announce this as a major green energy/Rattenburry achievement yet. But a good attempt to deflect attention from the cost of the tram.

With some minor exceptions, I’m really grateful for the feedback and constructive criticism that I’ve received via the RiotACT for this and other articles. I’m not an ideologue. Even though Tom and I have come out strongly against light rail, we started off with open minds and will continue to keep our minds open to different arguments and new evidence. I’m looking forward to reading and engaging with Mordd’s opposing position. And I have faith that these sort of exchanges can lead at some stage to more vibrant ideas and effective policies. Gees, do I sound like a politician? I must admit that I’ve considered taking the Mal Maninga ‘bugger it’ option more than once. Go the Raiders on Saturday. Kbo

Holden Caulfield said :

Ever since light rail was proposed by the ACT ALP I’ve been saying make the buses free instead. The theory of light rail is awesome, I think, but I can’t ever see it delivering benefits in line with the cost (which will blow out further, no doubt).

Holden Caulfield said :

Ever since light rail was proposed by the ACT ALP I’ve been saying make the buses free instead. The theory of light rail is awesome, I think, but I can’t ever see it delivering benefits in line with the cost (which will blow out further, no doubt).

Absolutely. If the Canberra public were asked, “Would you like $1 billion plus spent subsidising bus fares, so you can travel for a very small fare to anywhere in the city (& save on various infrastructure costs), or would you like to be charged for a $6 billion (all up) light rail and still be charged at a steep fare when you travel?” – what would the answer be?

Mordd / Chris Richards8:36 pm 08 Sep 16

HiddenDragon said :

It would be a little easier to feel resigned to, or even moderately supportive of, the idea of multi-billion dollar tram network for Canberra if we had a government which had – in its very long life – shown that it could develop an economy which could truly afford to pay for it.

Instead, all we have is essentially the same economic model which has long prevailed – federal spending via the bureaucracy and military/security services, tertiary education (again, largely dependent on federal spending and policies, including immigration), with a property/retail/services sector which is typically Canberra-centric (and still heavily reliant on a well-heeled captive market) and, as the very small cherry on the cake, a relative handful of excellent creative/knowledge based companies – which all-too-often end up relocating to be closer to relevant markets (not in pursuit of tram transport).

So rather than being paid for – to an appreciable degree – by government revenues derived from sectors of the Canberra economy which are substantially independent of federal government decisions, this herd of white elephants will (if the status quo persists after 15 October) see the ACT Government putting its sticky fingers ever deeper into the pockets of Canberra households and the businesses which are still hanging on here.

Well, since every blames Shane for this, why not acknowledge another of Shane’s pet policies will also deliver a massive windfall for the ACT budget. I’d say he has more than paid for the Light Rail if you really insist on looking at it this way: http://reneweconomy.com.au/2016/act-could-make-windfall-gains-from-bold-100-renewables-target-56838

HiddenDragon5:49 pm 08 Sep 16

It would be a little easier to feel resigned to, or even moderately supportive of, the idea of multi-billion dollar tram network for Canberra if we had a government which had – in its very long life – shown that it could develop an economy which could truly afford to pay for it.

Instead, all we have is essentially the same economic model which has long prevailed – federal spending via the bureaucracy and military/security services, tertiary education (again, largely dependent on federal spending and policies, including immigration), with a property/retail/services sector which is typically Canberra-centric (and still heavily reliant on a well-heeled captive market) and, as the very small cherry on the cake, a relative handful of excellent creative/knowledge based companies – which all-too-often end up relocating to be closer to relevant markets (not in pursuit of tram transport).

So rather than being paid for – to an appreciable degree – by government revenues derived from sectors of the Canberra economy which are substantially independent of federal government decisions, this herd of white elephants will (if the status quo persists after 15 October) see the ACT Government putting its sticky fingers ever deeper into the pockets of Canberra households and the businesses which are still hanging on here.

Holden Caulfield4:29 pm 08 Sep 16

Ever since light rail was proposed by the ACT ALP I’ve been saying make the buses free instead. The theory of light rail is awesome, I think, but I can’t ever see it delivering benefits in line with the cost (which will blow out further, no doubt).

devils_advocate said :

reddy84 said :

The recent sale of Dickson on Northbourne for $40m is but the first example of this. The light rail line creates certainty for developers, invites investment, and with it, more people living closer to the city centre.

Those benefits could and would have been achieved in the absence of the light rail. I would argue that reducing the concentration of public housing along Northbourne Ave has improved surrounding land values more than light rail ever could/will.

Exactly, the government’s own analysis shows the vast majority of those benefits could have been achieved with a BRT at less than one third of the cost.

And this point also ignores the fact that a large proportion of these benefits accrue to private citizens paid for by the public purse. Why should someone in Belconnen or Tuggeranong pay for someone in the Inner North to have their property price rise by $100K?

If they wanted to take this path, they should have put in place a tram levy for residents along the route and see how many residents supported them at the ballot box because of it.

CBRFoodie said :

Pankration said :

Neither are you are impartial–Kim is openly campaigning against the light rail and Tom is his bloody campaign manager. This is just an insidious piece of self-promoting propaganda so shameless it would make Goebbels blush.

lols
OK, just to be up front, I’m pro-Light Rail and Pro-Labor (not going to pretend I’m an independent impartial foodie looking at the pros and cons of a city-wide public transport infrastructure project with non-partisan eyes…)
But seriously, I recently spent a few weeks in Melbourne and the sooner Canberrans/workers/students/tourists/etc. can catch a reliable (as only light rail can be, once the tracks are laid and people and businesses start naturally congregating on the lines) public transport service for a lunch or night out to a restaurant or bar and can catch the reliable light rail back afterwards the better! I also have an engineering degree and reckon, as an engineer, a light rail network, on balance, would clearly have been an enormously attractive transport asset in Canberra for a long time and in 50 years everyone will be wondering what all the fuss was about and why we hadn’t built it earlier, just like they now do in the Gold Coast and in Sydney (which made the terrible mistake of replacing one of world’s best tram networks with buses in the 1950s and regretted it ever since). Let’s not repeat the mistakes of others. Also our light rail will be much better than Sydney or Melbourne trams ever where/are/can be because they will be largely separated from increasingly congested motor-vehicle traffic.

Just think how awesome it would be to catch a light rail service with your family to a restaurant or sports event and not have to worry about driving/drinking/parking/etc! Tens of thousands of Melbournians do it every day – there’s a very simple reason it is much more attractive to live/rent/work/etc. next to a tram line in Melbourne or Sydney.

“Tens of thousands of Melbournians do it every day – “

And hundreds of thousands don’t.

Possibly the weakest arguments I have ever seen against an infrastructure project.
5. We’re locked in – Please, name one infrastructure project that doesn’t require long-term investment and a government at some point in time to commit funding. It’s not like you can operate a hospital without ever committing to building the thing, can you?
4. It’s good for the environment – Electric buses also have large costs, as does a city-wide charging infrastructure for electric cars. All of these solutions cost money, and yet all have benefits for the environment. Surely given this fact, it would make more sense to move people as efficiently as possible, minimising the costs, and maximising the benefits. Switching all of Canberra to electric cars would not be a cost-effective measure by any stretch of the imagination.
3. Light rail has greater capacity and therefore reduces congestion. The average car has five seats, yet carries an average of 1.1 to 1.2 people. ie. at around 20-25% occupancy. Occupancy varies along routes, as people get on and off. 90% occupancy along a route typically means nearly empty at one end of the route, and completely unsafe crushing volumes at the other end. A light rail vehicle taking up the space of 5-6 cars, carrying 30-40 people is at least 6 times more spatially-efficient than car-travel.
2. Light rail is good value. Wider economic benefits aren’t controversial – their true value is just hard to predict. Not including them would be like building a hospital and not including the benefits gained by people being able to recover from illnesses.
1. The tram is good for development and the future of the city. Everything argument that you’ve said here is included in the business case for the light rail.

There isn’t a word in this article that could possibly be called ‘impartial’. Nice try.

Another argument is that an alternative to light rail, like bus rapid transit with separated bus lanes, has been on the table last decade, was opposed by the Libs and then shelved. If you are going to behave like that, and block alternative options, it’s a bit rich to come out in support of those same ideas later when faced with a different (light rail) option. There needs to be some consequences of irresponsible opposition, and I don’t mind one of those being light rail.

devils_advocate2:55 pm 08 Sep 16

CBRFoodie said :

Just think how awesome it would be to catch a light rail service with your family to a restaurant or sports event and not have to worry about driving/drinking/parking/etc! Tens of thousands of Melbournians do it every day – there’s a very simple reason it is much more attractive to live/rent/work/etc. next to a tram line in Melbourne or Sydney.

The moment you are catching a tram to a sports event or restaurant with your ‘family’ from and to the same destination, for those living along the tram route, it becomes cheaper (and far more convenient) to get a taxi. Or better yet an uber.

devils_advocate2:51 pm 08 Sep 16

Kim, rather than having a negative campaign against the tram, this could be your opportunity to pick a signature issue and put your name to it (like with Trump’s wall, but less xenophobic and divisive). Eg. Free public transport.
You could refine the details later – e.g. free all the time or just at peak hours? Limit of free trips per day per person?
You could also sell the benefits – e.g. lowering traffic congestion, freeing up carparks to those in genuine need, and reducing barriers to employment.
Presenting people with a meaningful alternative might be better than the scare campaigns being run so far.

Pankration said :

Neither are you are impartial–Kim is openly campaigning against the light rail and Tom is his bloody campaign manager. This is just an insidious piece of self-promoting propaganda so shameless it would make Goebbels blush.

lols
OK, just to be up front, I’m pro-Light Rail and Pro-Labor (not going to pretend I’m an independent impartial foodie looking at the pros and cons of a city-wide public transport infrastructure project with non-partisan eyes…)
But seriously, I recently spent a few weeks in Melbourne and the sooner Canberrans/workers/students/tourists/etc. can catch a reliable (as only light rail can be, once the tracks are laid and people and businesses start naturally congregating on the lines) public transport service for a lunch or night out to a restaurant or bar and can catch the reliable light rail back afterwards the better! I also have an engineering degree and reckon, as an engineer, a light rail network, on balance, would clearly have been an enormously attractive transport asset in Canberra for a long time and in 50 years everyone will be wondering what all the fuss was about and why we hadn’t built it earlier, just like they now do in the Gold Coast and in Sydney (which made the terrible mistake of replacing one of world’s best tram networks with buses in the 1950s and regretted it ever since). Let’s not repeat the mistakes of others. Also our light rail will be much better than Sydney or Melbourne trams ever where/are/can be because they will be largely separated from increasingly congested motor-vehicle traffic.

Just think how awesome it would be to catch a light rail service with your family to a restaurant or sports event and not have to worry about driving/drinking/parking/etc! Tens of thousands of Melbournians do it every day – there’s a very simple reason it is much more attractive to live/rent/work/etc. next to a tram line in Melbourne or Sydney.

reddy84 said :

Your arguments against light rail are too simplistic and conveniently brush over the wider economic benefits of a fixed transport corridor. If you want a case study, have a look at increased land value and development opportunity that occurs every time the NSW Government nominates an urban renewal corridor which does work in conjunction with rail infrastructure.

To touch on your last point, planning alone cannot always deliver the home/work life balance that many hope for, especially when living away from the city centre. It is not ‘good planning’ that determines where jobs are, it is the market. The majority of jobs in any city will always gravitate toward its economic centre as it provides an environment for knowledge sharing and collaboration, this is called agglomeration economics. BITRE have researched this quite extensively and have found that a city’s economic centre coincides with where the majority of city trade occurs. It is impossible to plan against the market to ensure that jobs are dispersed enough to not need commuting, unless of course you are just talking about moving public service offices, but even that has wider economic effects.

Im not sure why we are getting so hung up on the transport benefits alone in regards to light rail, there are so many more benefits. The recent sale of Dickson on Northbourne for $40m is but the first example of this. The light rail line creates certainty for developers, invites investment, and with it, more people living closer to the city centre.

By the way, it would be great if I only ever had to wait 15 minutes for the next bus or tram.

Tallinn has a population density of 2,618 people per sqm, Canberra is about 450 people per sqm. Free public transport increased patronage by only 3%.

The ACT Government’s own data shows the return on each $1 spent on Stage 1 would be $1.10. That’s not much.

The big problem with light rail is that it is being used as a driver of economic development of ACT Government-owned property along the Northbourne corridor, rather than being used to address transportation needs per se. Some would say this is irrelevant; it is not irrelevant if we are to have an ACT wide network without the same cost benefit along Northbourne. Unless the ACT Government has a plan to sell off land all over the shop (e.g. Belconnen Way, etc.), there is no possible way for there to be a positive economic return.

I would also point out that 12 or so stops between Civic and Gungahlin is too many for it to be classified as “rapid” mass transit. That means the transport economics will be less than what we are being promised.

Developers along the corridor should ask themselves whether they will be compensated when the 12 stops are reduced in number, and it is their property which might miss out. (The answer, of course, is no.)

devils_advocate1:56 pm 08 Sep 16

reddy84 said :

The recent sale of Dickson on Northbourne for $40m is but the first example of this. The light rail line creates certainty for developers, invites investment, and with it, more people living closer to the city centre.

Those benefits could and would have been achieved in the absence of the light rail. I would argue that reducing the concentration of public housing along Northbourne Ave has improved surrounding land values more than light rail ever could/will.

Mordd / Chris Richards1:38 pm 08 Sep 16

Very disappointing and I see you cherry picked facts to suit and ignored other important ones. I will reply with my own op-ed soon laying out the opposite argument.

Your arguments against light rail are too simplistic and conveniently brush over the wider economic benefits of a fixed transport corridor. If you want a case study, have a look at increased land value and development opportunity that occurs every time the NSW Government nominates an urban renewal corridor which does work in conjunction with rail infrastructure.

To touch on your last point, planning alone cannot always deliver the home/work life balance that many hope for, especially when living away from the city centre. It is not ‘good planning’ that determines where jobs are, it is the market. The majority of jobs in any city will always gravitate toward its economic centre as it provides an environment for knowledge sharing and collaboration, this is called agglomeration economics. BITRE have researched this quite extensively and have found that a city’s economic centre coincides with where the majority of city trade occurs. It is impossible to plan against the market to ensure that jobs are dispersed enough to not need commuting, unless of course you are just talking about moving public service offices, but even that has wider economic effects.

Im not sure why we are getting so hung up on the transport benefits alone in regards to light rail, there are so many more benefits. The recent sale of Dickson on Northbourne for $40m is but the first example of this. The light rail line creates certainty for developers, invites investment, and with it, more people living closer to the city centre.

By the way, it would be great if I only ever had to wait 15 minutes for the next bus or tram.

Tallinn has a population density of 2,618 people per sqm, Canberra is about 450 people per sqm. Free public transport increased patronage by only 3%.

Pankration said :

Neither are you are impartial–Kim is openly campaigning against the light rail and Tom is his bloody campaign manager. This is just an insidious piece of self-promoting propaganda so shameless it would make Goebbels blush.

So, we want Independents to come up with policies and to explain those. That’s what the OP does I would think.

If you want to look at something from the ACT Labor/Greens Government that “would make Goebbels blush”, have a look at the business case/benefits costs ratio for tram stage 1 or the fact that ACT Labor/Greens have changed tram stage 2 to be to Woden on the eve of the election, what about the appointment of the ACT Lib’s Brendan Smyth to be some sort of international ambassador for the ACT , etc. It is the spin that comes out of the ACT Labor/Greens Gov’t that would make Goebbels blush, not whats in the Op or anyone who has a contrary view.

devils_advocate9:39 am 08 Sep 16

Pankration said :

Neither are you are impartial–Kim is openly campaigning against the light rail and Tom is his bloody campaign manager. This is just an insidious piece of self-promoting propaganda so shameless it would make Goebbels blush.

Apparently it really stings the tram fanatics when someone introduces some rational analysis into the discussion. Also, does Godwin’s law apply if only Goebbel’s name is invoked?

devils_advocate9:36 am 08 Sep 16

Excellent and even-handed analysis Kim, and written in a very accessible way.
Very good point about it not being a capacity problem, but a utilisation problem – more could be done to get Canberrans onto public transport. I agree the buses should be free, the other key deterrent is the reliability factor.
RE: the costs of driving, that could use some more analysis. When deciding between driving or taking the bus, it is not the average cost of operating the car that matters, but the incremental cost. In a place like Canberra, everyone needs a car to get around, even if they don’t use it during the week. So, the main costs of operation – registration and insurance – are fixed costs. The variable cost (petrol, some incremental wear and tear) is very low.
The local council tried to “fix” this – i.e. to force people to catch the bus – by imposing punitive parking fees everywhere. But faced with a choice of paying around $10-$12 a day to park (and gaining a much much shorter commute with greater flexibility), and $5-6 a day to catch the bus (and face the prospect of 2-3 hours commuting time with no flexibility to pick up kids from childcare or do groceries) people made the obvious choice.
People are not always rational but in this town the choice to drive a private car is really a no-brainer.

Neither are you are impartial–Kim is openly campaigning against the light rail and Tom is his bloody campaign manager. This is just an insidious piece of self-promoting propaganda so shameless it would make Goebbels blush.

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