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Locals should be tram’s priority

By Paul Costigan - 29 October 2015 40

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Just when most locals probably thought that there have been more than enough discussions and surveys about the Canberra’s new light rail (or trams), the ACT Government has launched another consultation on the topic.

But wait – do not despair just yet – this time the focus is not about whether or not, or when or how much; all those discussions are now behind us as the government rolls on to the first stages. This time the government wants to open up a new debate about the longer-term decisions on the tram network across the whole of Canberra.

When I first saw the media release and then accessed the online survey and forum page, my first reaction was — well best of luck with that!

I could hear the keyboards being hit by all the usual suspects who have spent the last year or more pounding away and filling column spaces endlessly.

Meanwhile the tram supporters know it is a great initiative but look at these forums and the intensity of the tram opposition with despair.

As I have stated before, I support the introduction of the tram network to Canberra. I support a fully integrated approach to transport including trams, buses, cycling, pedestrians and cars (and maybe even jetpacks!).

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The absence of trams in Canberra is a legacy of earlier planners who fell under the spell of cars, roads and Big Petrol. This all started with the NCDC in the ’50s and ’60s and their ambition to build LA style freeways across the capital. Subsequent planning authorities up to the present, remain dominated by road planners who love their roads and cars and put everything else as optional extras. Hence we still have a mish mash of infrastructure for cycling, a dangerous mix of cycling, cars and pedestrians and the present attacks on trees and open spaces in favour of parking.

I look forward to the day when Canberra, as well as having an integrated transport system, has a whole of government and a more healthy culture towards walking and cycling (real leisure cycling – not lycra racing) and the provision of the required infrastructure.

At last with this latest call for feedback we have the beginnings of a plan for a Canberra tram network. This should have been done years ago. But alas – sometimes things happen the wrong way around.

The priority for the network should be to link to the main town centres, Tuggeranong, Woden, and Belconnen, as fast as possible. The link to the airport can wait.

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The airport sale was a questionable deal that has left this major asset and all the land around the airport in private hands. If the owners of the airport now wish to have the tram join the airport, then that link should be funded by the major beneficiaries, the owners of the airport site.

A link to the nearest neighbours should be explored though discussions with the NSW Government about establishing a link to downtown Queanbeyan.

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The document has placed a priority on having the tram within the Parliamentary triangle. This should not be on the top of the list, if at all. The tram lines to Woden and later to Queanbeyan (Kingston) could provide more than enough linkages to this tourist haven.

Providing locals, especially those in the outer suburbs, with access to the tram must be the top priority.

In amongst the questions being asked are some loaded ones about land development. Obviously these have been embedded into the survey by the LDA/directorate to see if they could glean some form of credibility for selling off more of the cherished green spaces along the future tram corridors.

I would urge people to ignore those options. I suggest over time there will certainly be hoards of new developments along these trams routes. However these decisions should be based on honest and transparent engagements with the residents when the time comes.

The present practice by the LDA/directorate to constantly misuse results from generalised survey questions as a basis for many dubious land sales and developments continues to a major assault on the intelligence and good-will of the Canberra electorate.

The urgent change of culture within the LDA/directorate needs to happen to allow discussions on the trams not to be meshed with the LDA/directorates’ own style of propaganda that endangers the light rail initiative.

In fact I suggest the planning minister needs to take charge of planning and urban development and through real engagement with the electorate deal with the all the complex issues of city building. These debates are currently taking place elsewhere – in Melbourne and overseas – but not here in Canberra. Here it is ‘economic development‘ with everything else a very low priority.

But I digress! So back to trams and the proposed light rail network.

It is a fantastic thing that the government is letting people know that there is long-term general planning – or at least wishful thinking – being considered for a more comprehensive network of trams across Canberra.

I hope people will read the documents online. Curiously their main document is hidden away to the side of the main page under ‘document library’. I suggest it should also be a main link at the top of the page.

I urge people to ignore the wads of propaganda, to seek out the useful information and to participate in the survey to build up the body of opinions about this aspect of Canberra’s future transport options.

As I said earlier, just watch out for the trick questions and tick boxes that could result in responses that will be misused to justify later mass attacks on green spaces.

As for the forum, sadly I expect this will be dominated by the oppositional serial commentators – so I will be ignoring what is going on there.

What’s Your opinion?


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40 Responses to
Locals should be tram’s priority
1
CaptainSensible 8:35 am
29 Oct 15
#

Call me Captain Sensible – but wouldn’t it be better to spend this money on an INTERNATIONAL grade airport upgrade AND stick the buses down the middle of Northbourne Ave?
Who’s with me?

2
dlenihan 9:49 am
29 Oct 15
#

I’m sorry, that has to be one of the most biased surveys ever created. What every response is given, the results can only be spun for positive outlook for the subject.

Compliance planning at its very best.

Disgraceful.

3
dungfungus 10:43 am
29 Oct 15
#

Not exactly the same situation as Canberra but it may be the start of a trend:
http://www.bramptonguardian.com/news-story/6058427-brampton-council-votes-down-light-rail-transit-plan/
I agree with and support your statement that the absence of trams in Canberra is a legacy of earlier planners who fell under the spell of cars, roads and Big Petrol. This was a very positive move and many cities are envious of our ability to use our cars efficiently because of this.

4
chewy14 10:44 am
29 Oct 15
#

The tram is only feasible if high density developments occur along the route. Without the densification it doesn’t work, so you can’t actually be pro tram without being pro high density development in the corridor.

“If the owners of the airport now wish to have the tram join the airport, then that link should be funded by the major beneficiaries, the owners of the airport site.”

Ah, good to see you believe the main beneficiaries should pay for the tram. So seeing as the main beneficiaries of the Gungahlin to City route are landholders along the corridor, you’d obviously be supportive of a tram levy based on land value to householders in this area right?

Or is that only applicable when it’s other people that should be paying?

5
rubaiyat 2:00 pm
29 Oct 15
#

At last something sensible.

Canberra needs to fix several things. Sprawl being top of the list.

To fix sprawl we need a different urban plan and methods of getting around.

A tram within a higher density inner area is an obvious solution. A solution which is not just a shortsighted obsession with transport, ignoring why people need or want transport in the first place.

The existing city structure is not going to go away, as many seem to think is the immediate black and white consequence, but given a choice and the correct agenda the trend to a rich inner urban lifestyle will take off. The inner city life turns the old ideas on their heads. Rather than make everything and everyone far apart and then have to deal with how to get them all together again, make them close in the first place.

Currently we have the worst of both worlds. Continued land speculation in remotest rural demolition sites, and unco-ordinated high rise anywhere and everywhere. I suspect anywhere an opportunity arises and a politician sees something in it for the government or perhaps personal support in the next election, and when I say support I do not mean from voters.

Transport networks do have a way of co-ordinating the unco-ordinated. It becomes in the interests of all concerned, the developers, the government and the ultimate purchases of residential, office and commercial accomodation to cluster around the easiest and most attractive means of getting around.

That is why the design of the transport network is key, it has long term consequences. As we can see from the network of freeways which have divided the city and repelled development anywhere near where there are busy roads. The freeways have killed the regional town centres by making the connections too far apart and too random, especially as there are too many town centres. Some with no core reason for existence other than generic shops in generic Malls. The rest with too little commercial/office space to stand on their own.

The central most visible feature of most of the town centres is the car parking or access to the car parks which blot the landscape and kill any attempts at making open urban space that people can and will use. The cars, and also the buses as a spill over transport solution, continue to make that just too unpleasant, or bring people to the wrong locations within a centre.

Light rail is an obvious choice for consolidation and civic improvement because it is clean, pleasant, reliable and can work closely within urban pedestrian spaces. It is not going to be the total solution for all transport and does not need to be, only the closer inner higher density areas, reducing the cars entering and circulating in the inner city.

Cars and freeways tear apart a city and you can see how this has happened in Canberra. The freeways circle around the residential suburbs, rarely running directly anywhere because the planners paid attention to at least some of their consequences. They are noisy and dirty and unpleasant to be near. Hiding them to the edges behind earth berms has been a half hearted solution at best. You still can hear and sometimes smell them even at a distance, and when the cars enter the suburbs they still cause the same problems in the urban streets of constant noise and danger to children and any pedestrian who dares venture out alone.

The result is nearly everyone has decided it is safer to be inside the cars that have ruined everything, not outside them, a dangerous snowballing effect. A very unhealthy result and it is showing on our young children who are now almost overwhelming inactive and obese. It has also lead to the distancing of nearly everything, to the point where to get anywhere, even the most trivial, you HAVE to get in a car.

Once you get in that car it is hard to get people to ignore the car and actually enjoy their lives. They haul them everywhere they go and have to go back to wherever they parked them so they never stray too far away from them. The reverse of the “freedom” the people think they have bought with cars. Exacerbated by the way the cars get you from A to B reasonably efficiently but ruin both the starting point, everything in between AND the destination. Classic example was Gininderra Village. Initially it was a cute rural cluster in a lovely landscaped setting, a really nice place to get away from it all. Then came the freeway, the extra car parking and ultimately Federation Square and all its car parking jammed in behind. As Joanie Mitchell said “They paved paradise to put up a parking lot”. A once favourite place on weekends that we barely go to anymore.

As a Scout leader I was dismayed to see what “camping” has become. For the kids, parents and leaders it is almost always out of the boot of the car. The consequence being either they park all over the ‘beautiful countryside” and ruin it, or never go anywhere that doesn’t have a car park. End result the kids barely walk and usually drop out of Scouting in their early teens before real exercise becomes a real possibility.

Insanity. But so normal that it appears as “the only way” for many. Evidenced by the constant diatribe on this forum and others against any suggested alternatives.

Trams support pedestrians and do it in a pleasant generally non-intrusive way. I am concerned that the proposed Light Rail line runs down the middle of 6-8 lanes of heavy traffic, with probably the same route elsewhere. It won’t be able to do what it does best, create clean, pleasant urban spaces AWAY from heavy traffic, inside and close to the higher density living spaces and the vital urban streetscapes. It can’t because the existing corridors will continue to be ruined by the torrent of cars that have killed it.

I proposed it before and propose again that there be a few loop lines running around the inner suburbs in tighter streets where cafes and apartment living has sprung up and can expand. Not the current plan. The only merit the current plan has is that it is at least a move to a cleaner transport system than we currently have and can accomodate the increasing traffic streaming out of Gungahlin, without destroying everything in its path as freeways do. Better than nothing but not THE best.

6
mcs 2:26 pm
29 Oct 15
#

CaptainSensible said :

Call me Captain Sensible – but wouldn’t it be better to spend this money on an INTERNATIONAL grade airport upgrade AND stick the buses down the middle of Northbourne Ave?
Who’s with me?

We already have international capability at the new airport – we just don’t have any international airlines willing to fly here.

7
JC 2:31 pm
29 Oct 15
#

CaptainSensible said :

Call me Captain Sensible – but wouldn’t it be better to spend this money on an INTERNATIONAL grade airport upgrade

We have that already, just no airline wanting to fly here. Yet… But the rumour mill is saying Singapore very soon with Jetstar starting to fly domestic shortly (only once a day to Melbourne) and maybe to NZ.

8
dungfungus 3:38 pm
29 Oct 15
#

CaptainSensible said :

Call me Captain Sensible – but wouldn’t it be better to spend this money on an INTERNATIONAL grade airport upgrade AND stick the buses down the middle of Northbourne Ave?
Who’s with me?

Are you related to Captain Risky? (the guy on the car insurance ads) because the logic is similar.
Even the pull of catching a tram from City to Gungahlin is not going to be the genesis of international flights to Canberra.
Ironically, the airport is already international grade but the “build it and they will come” maxim failed (like it will for the light rail).
Rarely is Canberra Airport referred to its original name of Canberra International Airport anymore.
Replacing trams with buses down the Northbourne Avenue median strip will necessitate most of the work required for the trams namely excavations, relocations of services. Even though buses are lighter than trams they both have similar axle loadings and if there are parallel lanes/tracks extra strengthening is required.

9
Heavs 4:29 pm
29 Oct 15
#

What is the effect going to be on the ‘Dickson Parklands’?

10
HiddenDragon 6:46 pm
29 Oct 15
#

CaptainSensible said :

Call me Captain Sensible – but wouldn’t it be better to spend this money on an INTERNATIONAL grade airport upgrade AND stick the buses down the middle of Northbourne Ave?
Who’s with me?

Well, yes – having buses down the middle of Northbourne – on lanes strictly for buses (and emergency vehicles in emergency situations) – would seem to be a sensible, practical solution for a Government which is apparently losing sleep over traffic congestion, but it will never satisfy the people who like big shiny new things, and who think buses aren’t sufficiently smooth and Continental for sophisticates such as themselves.

The wide-eyed enthusiasm for trams servicing the length and breadth of Canberra (i.e. so that the “little people” out in the suburbs can have access, too), seems to be strongest amongst those who have a very idealised view of the world. Anyone who has actually lived in a suburban location in a city which has trams/trains as well as buses will know the advantages of those forms of transport as well as the disadvantages, and will understand why, in practice – as opposed to theory and spin – any likely tramline will make a marginal difference to the way the great majority of Canberrans travel around town.

11
rubaiyat 10:09 pm
29 Oct 15
#

dungfungus said :

Replacing trams with buses down the Northbourne Avenue median strip will necessitate most of the work required for the trams namely excavations, relocations of services. Even though buses are lighter than trams they both have similar axle loadings and if there are parallel lanes/tracks extra strengthening is required.

Occassionally we agree.

Bus Rapid Transit will actually mean laying bitumen down what is now green space and a whole lot more infrastructure at the stops, because buses have a much lower capacity and crowd the stops. The lower capacity and relative disorganisation of multiple untracked vehicles actually causes congestion during peak hours as they all try to pull in and pull out.

All for the cost of not much different from Light Rail with substantially lower capacity.

They are used and have been more successful in third world countries where wages are lower and capital cost and technology is a bigger impediment and environmental standards much lower.

To increase their overall capacity (and complexity) some cities have experimented with angled pullovers and overtaking lanes but this creates virtual bus terminuses at nearly every stop and really chews up space, probably the whole central verge plus some. It really jacks up the cost and in practice makes just another point of congestion and physical danger to waiting passengers.

People forget we already have dedicated bus lanes, fairly comprehensive bus terminuses and not enough drivers. Doesn’t take much to look at those to see how well they work in practice and how the public loves them. Hint: Not much.

Seeing how the vast majority of opponents here of Light Rail don’t give a flying …. about the environment, I suppose there is no point in mentioning for the millionth time that buses stink, pollute, are noisy and energy inefficient. Their single redeeming feature is that given all of the above, they still are nowhere as bad as cars and freeways.

12
Pork Hunt 10:39 pm
29 Oct 15
#

CaptainSensible said :

Call me Captain Sensible – but wouldn’t it be better to spend this money on an INTERNATIONAL grade airport upgrade AND stick the buses down the middle of Northbourne Ave?
Who’s with me?

So you want to give ACT money to Snow for his airport?

13
chewy14 6:49 am
30 Oct 15
#

rubaiyat said :

dungfungus said :

Replacing trams with buses down the Northbourne Avenue median strip will necessitate most of the work required for the trams namely excavations, relocations of services. Even though buses are lighter than trams they both have similar axle loadings and if there are parallel lanes/tracks extra strengthening is required.

Occassionally we agree.

Bus Rapid Transit will actually mean laying bitumen down what is now green space and a whole lot more infrastructure at the stops, because buses have a much lower capacity and crowd the stops. The lower capacity and relative disorganisation of multiple untracked vehicles actually causes congestion during peak hours as they all try to pull in and pull out.

All for the cost of not much different from Light Rail with substantially lower capacity.
.

By not much different you mean less than half right?

We’ve been over this previously, the costs from the government’s own report are:

BRT : $300-350 million
LRT: $700-$750 million

As for the rest of your complaints they’re also incorrect. The BRT system has almost the exact same performance characteristics as the tram. Complaints about buses causing congestion or capacity issues because they’re “untracked” is just wrong.

14
wildturkeycanoe 10:52 am
31 Oct 15
#

Bus Rapid Transit will actually mean laying bitumen down what is now green space and a whole lot more infrastructure at the stops, because buses have a much lower capacity and crowd the stops.
How will the tram run down Northbourne without all the ripping up of the green space you are referring to? Buses use the existing bitumen,which if made a dedicated lane increases travel time and lessens the need to be waiting around at stops. There will be no need to change the corridor to accomodate this and with increased services creates jobs for more drivers. Going with more friendly fuels and even electric is feasible just like wireless trams, with the bonus of being flexible and usable everywhere.

15
Masquara 2:20 pm
31 Oct 15
#

Note that the Barr Government have not mentioned charging the Snows for the airport link …

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