The ACT Government wants to put the city bus interchange underground, unlocking a renewal opportunity for the current unsightly area and opening up a new development front above any new facility.
The City Renewal Authority has issued a tender for a feasibility study for the proposal, which the tender documents say will be pivotal to the success of Canberra as an exemplar of integrated precinct renewal.
“A new integrated interchange would remove bus traffic from street level within the retail core of Civic, resulting in the establishment of an active people-centric and improved public environment which supports property investment,” the documents say.
“Concurrently the initiative will create new development rights above the underground interchange, together with precinct improvements that will likely stimulate wider property renewal and investment.”
The feasibility study will determine whether an underground facility, protected from the weather and with direct connections to the new light rail, would be a practical long-term option for the city centre.
City Renewal Authority chief executive officer Malcolm Snow said the study would explore the potential costs, benefits and challenges of replacing the existing street-level bus interchange with an efficient underground facility.
“The existing interchange has served Canberra well but with the rate of growth in Civic and along the Northbourne corridor it’s timely to consider how a bus interchange will best operate in the long-term as this growth continues,” he said.
“We are doing this feasibility work now because it’s important to consider this option while we still have government-controlled future development sites available within Civic.”
The CRA controls two future land release sites in Civic that will be considered in the study – on the City Hill corners of London Circuit and Northbourne Avenue.
“Creating a new bus interchange under one, or both, of these sites could help manage the future growth of Canberra’s public transport network while providing better street-level urban design outcomes for Civic,” Mr Snow said.
In May this year, the CRA explored concept designs for an underground bus interchange, with renderings in the tender documents showing possible entry ports, the interchange itself and above-ground development.
The study, due by August next year, will produce a ‘blueprint’ for a ‘world-class public transport experience – integrating pedestrian movements and interactions with light rail, bus service, bicycle, parking and road network solutions’.
A key consideration will be to maximise development potential and land-use mix within and surrounding the Bus Interchange precinct to support the economic development and renewal
potential within Civic.
As well as development opportunities, the study will also look at how a future transport will operate, including intercity bus services, financial feasibility, and a timeframe for implementation if the project is considered to be viable.
It will also look at possible delivery models, with Mr Snow saying these could include public-private partnerships, construction by government or even packaging the construction of a public facility with the sale of the above-ground development rights.
The study will take concurrent city projects into account such as Light Rail Stages 1 and 2 and the Canberra Theatre Precinct Redevelopment, as well as other Government planning strategies such as City Hill and West Basin.
Mr Snow said a modern, integrated underground bus interchange offered a wonderful opportunity to significantly improve the way public transport users access and experience Civic.
“It would also allow us to use the site of the current interchange as a more attractive, lively and people-friendly space,” he said.
“For this project to move to further stages we need to make sure that an underground bus interchange would meet the needs of the public transport network, and improve the experience for users, as Canberra continues to grow over the coming decades.”
He said the Chief Minister and the Transport Minister had both been informed of the intention to do a feasibility study and supported the CRA looking at innovative options to improve public transport access and urban renewal outcomes for Civic.
The tender for the feasibility study closes on Thursday 13 December 2018.