Underground bus interchange proposal to unleash new wave of Civic development

Ian Bushnell 21 November 2018 36

An artist’s impression of an underground bus interchange entry. Images: Supplied.

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.

What it may look like underground.

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’.

Underground interchange site options.

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.


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36 Responses to Underground bus interchange proposal to unleash new wave of Civic development
Leon Arundell Leon Arundell 4:55 pm 29 Nov 18

The best place for an underground bus interchange would be directly under the Alinga Street light rail terminus. That would allow passengers to transfer direct between buses and light rail. It would also allow them to get to east Civic, or west Civic, without having to cross several lanes of 60km/h traffic. It would contribute towards the Labor’s commitment to “increasing the public transport share of all work trips to … 16% by 2026.” As a bonus, it would provide everybody with a faster, safer way to cross Northbourne Avenue.

Tjilpi1 Tjilpi1 4:50 pm 29 Nov 18

Two immediate reactions. 1 – It’s all about the real estate for 50 metres above the corner of Northbourne and London Circuit. 2. Oh goody, the homeless people camped outside the Jolimont Centre will now have somewhere better to sleep. In reality, it is another ACT Government ‘thought bubble’ floated to make it look like they are doing something in Civic.

Nick Swain Nick Swain 4:47 pm 29 Nov 18

With the money saved by NOT doing Stage 2 of the tram the underground area could also be used to better link east and west Civic – even a tunnel under City Hill maybe?

Capital Retro Capital Retro 7:18 am 26 Nov 18

Given that 8% of Canberrans use public transport (currently only busses) and there is nothing wrong with the current bus movement arrangements in the city why is this being considered at all?

    Queanbeyanite Queanbeyanite 8:03 pm 29 Nov 18

    You could have spend the $1.6 billion you wasted on a tram to Gungarlin, on realigning the existing railway from Kingston to that same underground interchange running it past the airport. You still would have had $10 million change for half a dozen bendy busses and a bit of white paint for a transit lane on either side of Northbourne.

Daniel O'Connell Daniel O'Connell 9:22 pm 25 Nov 18

The best justification is protection from the elements. I have spent many cold waits in the current interchange.

Nicole Wood Nicole Wood 6:48 pm 23 Nov 18

This would be awesome! But... at this rate by the time they build it we wont be using busses. 😒

Scott Humphries Scott Humphries 4:25 pm 23 Nov 18

Seems very similar to this sunken 'urban busway' proposal for Civic from 1970. Perhaps they could save the money from the feasibility study and drag out the old plans?

bj_ACT bj_ACT 4:16 pm 23 Nov 18

Glad to know where the public transport money is going from my fathers about to be removed bus route in Kambah.

Also that they can take away my disabled nieces bus in Tuggeranong south and dedicate the funds somewhere else.

In all seriousness, I think an underground bus station in the city has merit. It just seems wrong to take so much public transport away from the outer suburbs, force these people to use cars and focus the additional public transport services north of the lake.

Little Gezzy Bear Little Gezzy Bear 3:39 pm 23 Nov 18

The Blacktown underground bus station beneath the Westpoint shopping centre has always been dirty, drab, noisy, and somewhat stuffy. It serves its purpose but is not at all a welcoming place. Hopefully the ACT government can do better than Blacktown Council.

Capital Retro Capital Retro 2:48 pm 23 Nov 18

“Like any good University project outcome there are always some issues which go unaddressed ………..”

Like, where is the money coming from?

bikhet bikhet 11:00 am 23 Nov 18

Electric buses will be needed to the whole place doesn’t reek of diesel. But that won’t happen as it would show the tram was a waste of money.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 2:46 pm 23 Nov 18

    Excellent comment.

    I don’t think we will have to wait and see them splurge another half-billion dollars on this ridiculous and not needed fantasy to confirm the tram was a waste of money.

    JC JC 9:02 pm 23 Nov 18

    I personally don’t think this is needed and will become a rather anti social place with the number of users in Canberra.

    But as for the diesel fume comment having used the bus stations in Perth and Brisbane the fumes are no problem what so ever. Passengers are separated from the bus road by floor to ceiling walls and doors and they are very well ventilated.

Peter Bee Peter Bee 9:59 am 23 Nov 18

Waste of money driven my developer desire to cash in.

Amanda Evans Amanda Evans 9:32 am 23 Nov 18

This is a great idea which was originally put forward by Architecture and Landscape Architecture students at UC's School of Design & Architecture in 2004. Like any good University project outcome the are always some issues which go unaddressed which will be interesting to see how these are resolved in the design process.

Entries on both sides of Northbourne would allow the station to evenly collect patrons from both sides of the city which is a start.

Samantha Morgan Samantha Morgan 9:11 am 23 Nov 18

Just a city bus station where the shelters actually shelter would be a good start!

Chris Ellis Chris Ellis 7:10 am 23 Nov 18

Does that mean the developers are eyeing off the Melbourne and Sydney buildings?

    Alex Thomson Alex Thomson 8:32 am 23 Nov 18

    No, those are heritage listed

    Louis Sotiropoulos Louis Sotiropoulos 3:59 pm 23 Nov 18

    That means squat these days

    Cheryl Gay Cheryl Gay 6:44 pm 23 Nov 18

    Chris Ellis They’d better not be eyeing them off. I’ll be out there chaining myself to the barricades to save those 2 historic & beautiful buildings that need a lot of TLC to make them into the showpiece they should be. They used to be lovely.

    Colleen Hills Colleen Hills 7:56 pm 23 Nov 18

    Cheryl Gay I agree - there are some wonderful memories of being a kid round those buildings and even working in one when the then Electricity Authority was in West Row.

    Cheryl Gay Cheryl Gay 9:04 pm 23 Nov 18

    Colleen Hills I know you’ll chain yourself up alongside me Colleen. 🤣🤣🤣

    Colleen Hills Colleen Hills 9:06 pm 23 Nov 18

    Cheryl Gay with vegemite sangers

    Cheryl Gay Cheryl Gay 10:19 pm 23 Nov 18

    Colleen Hills Absolutely!

Bella Morgan Bella Morgan 7:07 am 23 Nov 18

They have too much new development there now

Soo Jay Soo Jay 7:06 am 23 Nov 18

Great idea. This was done in Brisbane and made such a difference.

Kris Currie Kris Currie 6:16 am 23 Nov 18

They should have a small police station there for undercover cops.

    Matt Donnelly Matt Donnelly 12:28 pm 23 Nov 18

    So the public can observe them coming and going from said station, thus blowing their cover?

Jen Dee Jen Dee 6:08 am 23 Nov 18

That sounds good

Dee Collins Dee Collins 4:37 am 23 Nov 18

So many grand ideas but so few basic amenities

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