7 August 2016

Why Canberra needs transit lanes – part one

| Leon Arundell
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Northbourne Ave

Well planned transit lanes are the quickest and most cost-effective way to reduce congestion and support the Governments commitment to “increasing the public transport share of all work trips to 10.5% by 2016 and 16% by 2026.” An Australian Studyfound that the number of carpoolers … increased approximately 23.4 per cent since the introduction of the transit lane.” I estimate that transit lanes can cut four minutes from the time it takes to drive from Gungahlin to Civic, and up to six minutes from bus travel times.

Transport Minister Meegan Fitzharris endorses the advice of transport network analyst Dr Mahmoud Mesbah Namini, that “we should not only look at one project or scheme, we should look at all the schemes.”

So why did she refuse to evaluate transit lanes, claiming that “there is no clear Australian data on the impact transit lanes have on people’s travel behaviour,” in the letter she sent me on 24 June?

Could it be that she believed that reducing congestion would undermine public support for light rail?

Case study: Northbourne Avenue approach to Macarthur Avenue

Morning peak traffic on Northbourne Avenue backs up as far as 500 metres from the Macarthur Avenue traffic signals to the former Tourist Information Centre.

It takes up to five minutes for a car or bus to travel from the back of this queue to the Macarthur Avenue intersection.

A typical one minute green phase of the Macarthur Avenue traffic lights allows one bus and 120 other vehicles to pass through the intersection. Vehicles at the back of the queue crawl forward 200 metres. Then they wait another minute while the lights are red. In the next cycle they progress another 200 metres, past the Pavilion On Northbourne.

Once past the Pavilion, they can get through in the next green phase.

Shadow Transport Minister Alistair Coe says that jump-start intersections make bus travel faster. A jump start bus lane would reduce congestion delays for buses, but would increase congestion delays for general traffic. To give buses enough time to merge ahead of the general traffic would require the green phase to be delayed by five seconds. This would reduce it from 60 to 55 seconds, and would cut the general traffic throughput from 120 to 110 vehicles per cycle. After half an hour, this change would add more than two minutes to congestion delays.

Converting the entire left lane to a bus lane would reduce bus delays by up to five minutes. But during each green phase it would cut the number of other vehicles passing through from 120 to 80. After half an hour, this would add ten minutes to congestion delays.

But if the bus lane terminates at the Pavilion On Northbourne, buses will still save about three minutes. 120 vehicles will still get through in each green phase, because general traffic will still be able to queue in the left lane from the Pavilion to the traffic lights. There will be no increase in overall congestion.

Buses at the front of the lane will still have to wait for an extra cycle of the traffic lights.

If we extend the bus lane by one bus length into the final 200 metre queue, a bus at the end of the lane will save an extra two minutes because it will get through without having to wait for another traffic light cycle. Any increase in general congestion will be negated because faster bus journeys will encourage some car drivers to switch to buses.

Each car driver who switches to buses will reduce congestion not only at this intersection, but also at every other intersection along the route.

If we make this a T3 lane rather than a bus lane, then drivers and passengers who travel in cars with three or more occupants will also benefit from faster travel. Each car driver who becomes a car passenger will further reduce congestion, at every intersection along the route.

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This might veer away from the original discussion, but are there any T2 and T3 Signage in Canberra at the moment? Not bus transit lanes, but actual T2 and T3? I haven’t seen any ….

The solution for Northbourne Ave is (or perhaps was) simple:

1. Ban – at least at peak times – all cross traffic (and right turning traffic onto Northbourrne) at all intersections South of Mouat/Antill except McArthur/Wakefield, Barry/Cooyong and London Circuit;
2. Allow U turns at all of the above intersections;
3. Convert the left lane to a trial T2 Lane (with dedicated off road bus stops) and tighten to T3 or T4 if it gets too congested;
4. Allow jump start lights at each intersection for traffic in the T2+ Lane
5. Allow left turning traffic onto Northbourne to enter Northbourne on red lights after stopping and when safe to do so and to travel for 50 metres in the T2 Lane after entering
6. Allow left turning traffic off Northbourne to travel in the T2 Lane for 50 metres;
6. Install advisory speed signs recommending average speed required (at or below 60km/h) to reach a green light at the next intersection (believe it or not the powers that be actually think their lights are synchronised);
7. More controversially, abandon light rail – if possible – and build only one (non stopping) express bus lane down the middle which runs Southbound (am) and Northbound (pm) and which has automatic priority and green lights at all intersections.

Although I was a long term fence sitter on light rail, I can’t understand how such an expensive system will result in public transport that will take almost as long to get from Gungahlin to the City as the new rail system from Western Sydney.

Sadly, this Government appear unable to solve even the most basic problems. After 15 years they appear increasingly arrogant and, at times, I wonder even if they have swapped sides with the Canberra Libs. … and no I am not a Liberal voter.

A new political party has apparently been formed to contest the upcoming ACT Legislative Assembly.

Its the “Canberra Community Voters Party” headed up by(ex ?) jurno and lobbyist, Richard Farmer who said on 2CC that one of the aims of the “Canberra Community Voters Party” was about improved and visible decision making by the ACT Govt. Here is an article about the genesis of this new ACT political party :


Also, here is a link to an article that lists the parties that will contest the ACt election :


At least there are some choices………

Reprobate said :

Lets cut 4-6 minutes of travel time by adding an extra destination every day.
How long does it take to travel to someone else’s house and wait for them? I’m sure its longer than 4 minutes.

Good point, gooterz.
But the time savings offered by transit lanes would be enough to convince some people to travel in the same car, if that also saves on driving and parking costs, or if they live and/or work at the same place.

Lets cut 4-6 minutes of travel time by adding an extra destination every day.
How long does it take to travel to someone else’s house and wait for them? I’m sure its longer than 4 minutes.

Its not “too complicated”. Personally, I just think that everyone is over this tram thing – its been done to death over and over again. I agree with u that the other options were not fully investigated nor costed. Its blindingly obvious that a similar solution re congestion could have been obtained at a fraction of the cost. Evidence Infrastructure Australia’s rejection of the tram business case, the ACT Govt’s own Environmental Impact statement that says that the tram will worsen congestion along Northborne Ave (so no doubt worsening the traffic delays at the intersections you mention) and the tram Business Case that shows a paltry benefits Costs Ratio of 1:1.2, etc etc etc…….

But the tram is not really about public transport – its about raising revenue now from the infill and satisfying the developers.

But none of that matters due to the apparent apathy of ACT voters/ratepayers and their rusted on support for Labor/Greens in the ACT Legislative Assembly and the fact that contracts have now been signed.

wildturkeycanoe6:18 pm 13 Jul 16

Haven’t seen this until just now but agree fully. This government doesn’t want to improve congestion with ideas such as this and synchronising lights, because if the idea didn’t come from them and actually works, they would look silly for not implementing it decades ago. Common sense isn’t found in politics, ever.

Where have all the RIOTers gone?
Is this too complicated for you to dispute, or so blindingly obvious that you all agree with it?

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