Monday, December 9, 2013

Infrastructure Plan Updated

The following is from a press release by ACT Government Deputy Chief Minister and Treasurer Andrew Barr. The report update is here, with Capital Metro discussed on page 28.


Building Canberra for our second century 

Today I released the 2013-14 Update of the ACT Government Infrastructure Plan detailing the continued significant investment being made in a range of major infrastructure developments as we move into our second 

The Infrastructure Plan Update provides an overview of key infrastructure projects that the ACT Government has funded through the 2013-14 Budget or is considering for funding over the next decade. 

As well as informing the community, the Plan is intended to advise the construction industry and other relevant business sectors of a continuing pipeline of projects. 

Transformational projects, such as Capital Metro and the City to the Lake project including new convention facilities and stadium, are in response to the increasing demand for high quality infrastructure from both a growing population and an increasingly diversified private sector. 

This investment will be a significant boost to our construction industry and the associated generation of new jobs will greatly enhance our economy. 

It is estimated that during the June 2013 quarter, there was $10.3 billion worth of private and public sector projects either underway or in the planning phase in Canberra and the region. 

The ACT Government’s 2013-14 Budget infrastructure investment program provides for $272.2 million over four years and includes new capital works, feasibility studies, forward design projects, plant and equipment, and information and communication technology investment. 

With our population expected to exceed 500,000 by 2056 this growth requires the right investment in the Territory’s future infrastructure to meet the needs that such a population will demand. 

The Update also showcases significant infrastructure projects being delivered by ActewAGL, the Canberra Airport, ACTEW, and the National Broadband Network.

Through ongoing delivery of this innovative infrastructure program, we are determined to make Canberra a great place to live and work. 

The Plan is available at economicdevelopment.act.gov.au


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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Emma Thomas meets the public for the first time as Capital Metro Project Director

Picture from Canberra Times

Emma Thomas, the new Project Director for Capital Metro, attended the Gungahlin Community Council meeting on Wednesday 12 November to talk to the public about the project. She handled her introduction to the community on such an important project very competently. She stood up and talked about what she saw as the benefits and challenges of Capital Metro - without a powerpoint display - just talked and then invited questions.

Most of the questions from the crowd of about 50 people (including a strong turnout by  members of ACT Light Rail) were reasonable, there were a few light rail sceptics in the audience and she answered those as well as the questions from believers. One person (who was having their questions texted to them) asked the predictable 'do we have enough density' question (we do, especially along the Northbourne Flemington corridor). Some discussion about the challenges (such as the Flemington/Northbourne intersection) involved several people and I'm sure that the duo of communications staff that accompanied Ms Thomas captured those comments for later study.

I especially appreciated her mention of how buses and light rail are used differently by passengers. Bus passengers tend to ride from end to end and not get off along the way, whereas light rail passengers hop on and off and visit multiple places on their journey. Several mentions of Dickson and a transport hub there, were also made. This is not by accident.

It is clear that the project team is still considering several options such as the placement of the Gungahlin terminus, and also taking into account future expansion (including from the town centre) of the network. 

She also assured one person that reading a book on light rail was far easier than on a bus! 

After the Capital Metro team left, and much later in the meeting, the GCC were discussing how they had setup a stall in the Town Centre and were surprised how many people they spoke to weren't Gungahlin residents, but visited to shop. I think that when Capital Metro starts operations, Gungahlin will benefit from more people from Dickson and along Northbourne visiting the Town Centre. 

I was impressed at the way Ms Thomas introduced herself to the Canberra public. It is vital that this project be delivered properly by the ACT Government. They do have form in poor project delivery. Capital Metro so far, seems to be the exception. The senior staff that have been recruited to date (Glenn Bain and Emma Thomas) have track records of success, and have been managing their interactions with the public very competently. This bodes well for Canberra. 

Read the Canberra Times article 'Light rail will benefit all Canberrans' here

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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Capital Metro Integration Study - Public displays

Capital Metro Integration Study Public displays
Capital Metro staff will be conducting public information sessions at the following locations: 

Thursday 24 October
11.30am–2.30pm
Civic Bus Interchange (near Platforms 3 and 4)

Friday 25 October 2013
4pm–7pm
Gungahlin Marketplace (outside Big W)

Saturday 26 October 2013
10am–1pm
Dickson Library

Alternatively you can provide your views on the issues being considered via an online survey
The Light Rail Integration Study is currently underway to identify and assess options for integrating the Gungahlin to City Light Rail Transit (LRT) into Canberra’s overall transport network. This includes the ACTION bus network, the bicycle path network and the pedestrian path network. Options for Bike & Ride, Kiss & Ride, and Park & Ride locations along the LRT route will also be taken into consideration.
Potential LRT stop locations will be assessed in terms of integration with the overall transport system, and the accessibility they provide to the population, employment and other attractions in surrounding areas. The design of LRT stops, and particularly features to promote usage and support transfers from bus and car to LRT, will also be investigated. The correct balance needs to be established between the spacing of LRT stops and the overall speed of the LRT. More stops, at closer spacing, will provide better access to the LRT from surrounding areas. However, as the number of stops increases the overall speed of the LRT reduces.
Options for changes to ACTION’s bus network to integrate with the LRT will be assessed. The objectives will be to improve overall efficiency while maximising public transport patronage.
The Light Rail Integration Study will help us ensure the Gungahlin to City transit corridor is effectively designed to encourage the ACT community to use LRT and that LRT successfully integrates with other means of transport.

(taken from the Capital Metro website)

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Canberra Airport and their vision for light rail



Stephen Byron of the Canberra Airport group recently released a concept video of his 'Connecting Canberra by light rail' proposal for an inner Canberra light rail network, servicing mainly the Parliamentary Triangle and areas between it and the Canberra Airport. He proposes construction in three stages, that would link to the (already built by then) Capital Metro running from Gungahlin to Civic. Accompanying this vision was a Canberra Airport run feedback/information gathering process.

As the Canberra Airport have not indicated if they propose to pay for any light rail construction, the plans are more of a conceptual contribution to the light rail discussion, than a shovel ready engineering proposal. What it does show is that there are competing visions and that the airport and Brindabella Business Park must be included in future light rail planning. 




Here is a map of the full light rail network proposal from the Canberra Airport. It is important to understand that the airport is located at a transport bottleneck where Majura Road, the Monaro Highway, Limestone Avenue and the road to Queanbeyan all merge. Its a road congestion bottleneck, and it is also where the people trying to access the airport and the recently constructed Brindabella Business Park have very few public transport options.  Better transport solutions are needed.

The Airport proposal covers the Parliamentary Triangle and then runs through the suburbs near it and through the industrial area in Fyshwick, to the Airport. It also runs from the Airport, through Russel and along Constitution Avenue to Civic. It also proposes a line out past ANU and taking in the area along the Lake Burley Griffin foreshore where the 'City to Lake' proposal would locate a new Convention Centre and sports stadium. 
Stage 1

The proposed first stage would link the Capital Metro Civic interchange with a line running down Constitution Avenue through Russell, past Duntroon to the Airport. It appears that the Airport see light rail as more tram-like and on-road, rather than the separate reserve model that will be used on the Gungahlin to Civic route. 

This would be a good second line to construct, as both Russell and Brindabella Business park require good public transport connections to resolve parking demand (especially when paid parking is introduced in Russell). Constitution Avenue is also undergoing urban renewal, with a significant residential construction program occurring in Campbell on the Anzac Parade/Constitution Avenue area. 

More residents in high density housing, more office space being constructed and paid parking coming in - it's a trifecta of demand creation for public transport

The link out of Civic to the west takes in ANU and a revitalised Civic West area, rapidly filling up with new residential space and refurbished office space. This area is undergoing refurbishment as the stock of mostly 30 year old plus office stock is updated or converted to residential, or pulled down and replaced with a mix of the two. 
Stage 2

Stage 2 proposes a link that runs between a terminal in Russell, across the lake and through the Parliamentary Triangle in Barton, then across the lake again, veering west along the foreshore and connecting to the City West extension from Stage One. 

Its a good idea, especially the servicing of Russell and Barton and alleviating parking demand in the major government departments in that area. Unless you drive in from Woden or Tuggeranong. It would require significant investment as the construction of bridges across the lake would not be inexpensive. Perhaps parking revenues from the Parliamentary Triangle paid parking could be directed towards this. 

The Canberra Times were particularly interested in the bridge construction angle of this stage. They sought ACT Light Rails views on this and published an article the day after the airport light rail proposal came out, exploring this aspect of the plan. 

Damien Haas, of lobby group ACT Light Rail, praised Canberra Airport managing director Stephen Byron for proposing the light rail extension. Mr Haas said additional bridges might have to be built across Lake Burley Griffin to accommodate light rail.

"Once Civic to Gungahlin is in, I think bridge-to-bridge would be a logical extension,'' Mr Haas said.

"Certainly, probably the major investment would be putting those two bridges in and that would satisfy a lot of public transport issues in the parliamentary triangle.''

Mr Haas said a light rail connection between Civic and the airport would need high rates of usage to be viable.

"The only way that light rail from Civic to the airport would work would be with the commuting volume of both Russell and Brindabella Business Park workers using it,'' Mr Haas said.


This proposed second stage would require on-road running and not seperate-reserve running. Much of it, for example, the long sections across the lake, would of course be on their own reserve. 

Demand for this stage would come not only from commuters working in Russell, Civic West and Barton, but also from out of peak hour demand from tourists and workers making trips to Civic and back to their office during the day. On weekends and especially at special events around the lake this stage would be used heavily. 
Stage 3

The third stage is the least likely to ever eventuate, and it's doubtful that a version of this exists on even the ACT Governments secret light rail routes file (if it exists). It proposes another loop from the airport, to Fyshwick, along Canberra Avenue and then instead of going all the way along Canberra Avenue to Parliament House, it veers east towards the Kingston Foreshore along then turns west up to Kingston and Manuka before turning again to go to Parliament House and then down Kings Avenue to meet up with the 'Lake Loop' proposed in Stage 2. 

Other aspects of the Canberra Airport light rail plan show a proposed High Speed rail terminal at the Canberra Airport, instead of Ainslie Avenue. 

Conclusions

It is a bold plan from the Canberra Airport, and they should be commended for the effort they have put into their contribution to the debate. The Civic to Airport line has great merit, especially as their are significant demand factors from employees at both Russell and Brindabella Business Park, and also from the redevelopment along Constitution Avenue and the new office and residential demand that will come from that. The introduction in paid parking at Russell will help drive that demand for public transport. 

The second and third stages are more problematic. A line out of Civic across the lake will be required if the true potential of light rail for mass transit is to be realised - by running a line out to Woden and Tuggeranong to take the load off ACTION buses, and enable ACTION to increase local area frequency to light rail stations along that route. 

The odd route of the airports proposed stage 3 western loop section do not seem likely to eventuate. It would be more logical to run a light rail line from the Queanbeyan/Canberra border near HMAS Harman, all the way along Canberra Avenue to Parliament House, and then meet with a line running from Civic to Tuggeranong. These are long term goals.    

Ultimately the role of light rail in Canberra needs to be determined. Do we want light rail to serve as mass transit or as an on road tram-like service that operates in inner Melbourne suburbs? 

We already have a bus service that can perform that role. Canberra would be best served by building light rail where it can serve as a mass transit technology, and allow the flexibility of ACTION Buses to connect to it. We can then leverage both our existing transport infrastructure and new transport infrastructure in the most effective way and increase public transport patronage and access to transport options for urban redevelopment and planned growth of our city over the long term. 

The Canberra Airport proposal has great merit in that it offers the same long term vision, as others in the public transport debate sphere. Like all proposed routes for light rail, some compromises will have to be made, but ultimately it is best to integrate our existing transport options into our new transport options in the way that will best drive patronage.  


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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Capital Metro key part of City Plan vision




The territory government is putting a lot of work into 'visions' and should be commended. The corollary is that planning regulations and zoning to bring this about need to occur (and that includes integrated and enforceable Master Plans), and of course 'funding'.


The Capital Metro light rail and the benefits it will provide of scalable public transport, Transit Oriented Development and bringing about a cultural shift away from the car as the primary transport choice - to public transport - are key parts of this vision. 


Please get involved with this consultation process.





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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Chair of the Capital Metro Project Board and Capital Metro Project Director announced today


Media Release on two Senior Capital Metro appointments:

Two important project leaders have been appointed to the Capital Metro Project, to drive and direct the development of Canberra’s first light rail line, Minister for the Environment and Sustainable Development, Simon Corbell, announced today.  
“The Independent Chair of the Capital Metro Project Board is John Fitzgerald, while the Capital Metro Project Director is Emma Thomas,” Mr Corbell said.  
“Their appointments follow an exhaustive recruitment process, and will bring a wealth of experience and talent to this transformative project.”  
The Capital Metro Agency was established in July 2013. Mr Corbell said it was critical to find the right people to advance the project’s development, and the government is confident it has found two exceptional people in Mr Fitzgerald and Ms Thomas.  
“Both have extensive experience in infrastructure programs, and in senior management at agency and board levels,” he said.  
Mr Fitzgerald is a Specialist Advisor to KPMG, and is also the Chair of the Sydney Convention Centre and Entertainment redevelopment. He has a strong financial background, including spending the last 12 years in the infrastructure sector with the Victorian Department of Treasury and Finance. Mr Fitzgerald oversaw 20 infrastructure projects, including Eastlink in Melbourne.  
Ms Thomas comes to the Capital Metro Project from a position as Deputy Chief Executive, Public Transport, in South Australia. She has extensive experience in helping to deliver large road and rail projects, including involvement with the Gold Coast Rapid Transit Project. Ms Thomas was also previously the South Australian Rail Commissioner, and the Deputy Chief Executive of the Department of Main Roads and Transport in Queensland. She led $5 billion worth of procurement, contracts and construction work in Queensland, including major road programs around post-flood recovery.  
“The Capital Metro Project will create a light rail transit system from Gungahlin to the City, catering for projected population growth in North Canberra, and easing traffic congestion along Northbourne Avenue,” Mr Corbell said.  
“The light rail line will give Canberrans an efficient and environmentally-friendly transport alternative - a sustainable transport solution that will also stimulate development activity along the corridor.  
“I look forward to working with Mr Fitzgerald and Ms Thomas as the ACT Government delivers this project for the national capital.”  
Statement ends: Thursday, 3 October 2013

Thursday, September 12, 2013

ACT Light Rail meet Jeremy Hanson


The Canberra Liberals went into the 2012 Assembly Election with a very scant policy on public transport, and with Jeremy Hanson assuming the role of Opposition Leader in 2013, ACT Light Rail thought it would be a good idea to meet with him and sound him out on his ideas concerning public transport and light rail in Canberra.

The meeting was very wide ranging over a number of policy areas concerning Canberra, but I will focus on transport policy for this article.

In a nutshell, the Hanson led Liberals will continue to oppose the Capital Metro project. They have a number of grounds for this stance:
  • They aren’t convinced of the economic case for light rail put by the Government
  • They support redevelopment along Northbourne but do not believe it would receive any advantages from light rail
  • They have doubts about the ALP government’s ability to deliver the Capital Metro project on time and on budget
  • They believe that the money can be better spent elsewhere
  • With the Territory budget not in surplus, they don’t believe we should be spending money on projects of this size

ACT Light Rail are well aware of these positions as they are consistent with the barrage of press releases on the Capital Metro program issued by MLA Alistair Coe several months ago. As we said at the time, the position is understandable, except that the Canberra Liberals have no better public transport position or policy alternative to offer.

Disappointingly Jeremy didn’t mention the Infrastructure Canberra proposal from their 2012 Assembly election policy platform. That policy was very appealing as it looked to create a body that would oversee major capital and transport infrastructure, with forward planning and an integrated approach (unlike the current method with multiple departments overseeing multiple major projects, and little forward planning outside the electoral cycle).

He conceded that he liked the concept of light rail, but felt it would be better suited to Canberra at some point in the future. This argument is one that really surprises me from a politician (although I have heard it many times before). It is either lip service to fob off public transport advocates or a genuine belief that a light rail system is required, if the latter is the case, then it’s a matter of making it a policy priority and working to deliver a community benefit.  

We did get into a discussion on the relative merits of the current Capital Metro proposal serving Gungahlin and Civic, but not other parts of Canberra such as Tuggeranong. Our position is that we may never use a sewage pipe in Theodore, but we don’t oppose infrastructure being built there. Borrowing money to build infrastructure is not the same as borrowing money to run day to day operations.

One area of Capital Metro that ACT Light Rail and Jeremy Hanson agree on is the poor site chosen for the Park and Ride to service the Capital Metro. Current plans indicate it will be located next to the Mitchell Resource Transfer facility. Locating the Gungahlin area park and Ride in Mitchell is not a good idea. Once a driver from Nicholls reaches Mitchell, human nature dictates they will continue driving to their destination. It would be better to build a multi storey carpark in the Gungahlin Town Centre at either end of Hibberson Street with the ground floor dedicated to retail and services that commuters would need. A well designed park and ride could service current Gungahlin retail parking requirements and future transport driven parking demand.

Jeremy Hanson also observed that in his recent campaigning for the Liberals in Canberra, only one person had spoken to him about light rail. He see’s no political advantage in supporting it, and doesn’t believe a pro light rail position would enhance the Liberal vote in any way. He believe that voters want two cars per family and a double car garage, that they love their cars and aren’t interested in public transport or light rail. He points to the 8% public transport patronage figure to support this belief.

This belief will cost the Liberal Party votes as the population of the Northbourne Avenue-Flemington Road corridor increasingly densifies, as the opportunity for that is created by a proper mass transit technology in light rail. The voters choosing to live near public transport are more likely to be able to have a one car family and live in a medium to high density housing form that is not a suburban block with a standalone home and a double garage.

Policy differentiation does matter to voters and the Labor Party capitalized on this last year with the initial Capital Metro proposal. A single Green MLA determining government forced the ALP into bringing forward a plan that may not have survived four years of majority Labor government in the territory. The differentiation in policy here is clear – the ALP had public transport policy, the Canberra Liberals do not.

Politicians need to stop viewing public transport as a social service and view it as an alternative to the private car. Once they share this mindset, they will understand that investment in transport infrastructure does not disadvantage drivers to the advantage of public transport users, it provides an advantage to all.  

The Canberra Liberals have legitimate concerns over the ability of the current government to deliver the Capital Metro project on budget and on time, as it does not have a good record of major project delivery. The other objections are ideological and need revisiting. The management of a four billion dollar economy provides the Territory with opportunities to satisfy all areas of public need from hospitals to transport and everything in between. Delaying a much needed modal shift to light rail is not in the long term interests of the territory and would lead to lost opportunities to redevelop Northbourne Avenue, increasing road congestion and a loss of productivity that will continue to grow.

Last year they had the opportunity through their Infrastructure Canberra policy proposal to develop a coordinated leadership role in Canberra’s growth. Their current opposition to Capital Metro needs to be revisited as it will not be viable at the next Assembly election, when the construction work for light rail along Northbourne will have begun in earnest, and contracts for rolling stock and depot construction will have been signed.

Jeremy Hanson did point out that ultimately the Canberra Liberals support or opposition to light rail would be a policy decision, not a political decision. ACT Light Rail believe that the Canberra Liberals are on the wrong side of politics and policy on this matter, and the votes that are won by investing in an integrated public transport network will go to the parties that support and promote a livable city for all residents, not just those forced by location and economic necessity to be a two car family due to a lack of public transport alternatives.





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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Light rail the best choice for Canberra’s future - Speech to the ACT Legislative Assembly

This was first published at the ALP website here. ACT Light Rail will happily publish the Canberra Liberal response if it is provided. 

Light rail the best choice for Canberra’s future - Simon Corbell MLA

Speech to the ACT Legislative Assembly during budget debate on the Capital Metro project 15 Aug 2013

Labor went to the 2012 election with a specific policy to develop light rail along the transport corridor between Gungahlin and the City. ACT Labor chose this initiative because after over a decade of analysis, investigations and reports into rapid transport for our City, it was time for our city to make a decision. To make a decision which was the best, long term choice for our city. Labor chose light rail for our city.

We chose light rail because -
Canberrans are concerned about growing congestion, they are frustrated by it, they know it has a direct impact on their quality of life, their productivity, their time with family and friends.
Canberrans are concerned about costs, the cost of running a 2, 3 or even 4 car household, the costs of petrol, insurance and registration. They want better choices, better alternatives that provide convenient, reliable and fast public transport.

Canberrans are also concerned about housing. Canberrans want more housing choices close to where they work, where they shop, where they use cultural, social, community and professional services. And they want more affordable housing.

Canberrans are also concerned about our cities impact on the environment. They want smarter, greener transport which reduces pollution, noise and greenhouse gas emissions. They want transport which is sustainable.

Labor understands these concerns, we know we need to take long term decisions to respond to them. That is why the Government has chosen light rail as the best choice for our city.

It is why we announced and campaigned on the development of the Capital Metro project. It is why in this budget we are delivering on that commitment, investing in the establishment of the Capital Metro Agency and laying the foundations for the design, procurement and delivery of this project which can transform the way our city develops into the future.

Development of Capital Metro project will help tackle Canberrans concerns about congestion. Analysis undertaken as part of the development of the Gungahlin to City transit corridor business case demonstrates that currently peak period delays on Northbourne Avenue are estimated at 16 minutes from Gungahlin to the City. Put another way this equates to a morning peak journey time along the corridor of 26 minutes southbound and 20 minutes northbound.

By 2031 without dedicated transit in place, travel times in the morning peak will be 57 minutes southbound and 27 minutes northbound. That’s right, in less than 20 years Gungahlin residents will face travel times of nearly one hour to get from the Gungahlin Town centre to the City.

With Capital Metro built the current delay of 16 minutes during peak periods is estimated to be reduced by more than half, to approximately 6 minutes, a greater time saving than that achieved by bus rapid transit. Total journey times will also decrease, by 2031 with Capital Metro in place total southbound journey time in the am peak will be 41 minutes, instead of the 57 minutes anticipated under the business as usual scenario.

Yet the Liberals say bus rapid transit is better, despite inferior travel time savings compared to those Capital Metro can deliver. The Liberals have other questions to answer - How do they propose BRT to work? Where will the bus lane go? Down the middle of the Northbourne Avenue median? Do the Liberals really think the NCA will approve bulldozing of the Northbourne Avenue median into a 2 lane road? Perhaps the Liberals propose that one current traffic lane in each direction of Northbourne be turned into a bus lane instead? Shrinking Northbourne Avenue from 3 lanes for general traffic to 2? Further, do the Liberals still support using bus lanes for T2 or T3 private cars as well, like they did for the Belconnen to City and Woden to City bus lanes last year? How will that work when it comes to buses apparently offering a fast, convenient and reliable public transport service along the corridor?

The question must also be asked why should anyone believe the Liberals at all when they say they support BRT, when they opposed the Bus Rapid Transit proposal for the Belconnen to the City corridor when it was proposed in 2005.

The Gungahlin to City corridor already has the one of the highest levels of public transport use in the City, yet it is very unbalanced. While it is high in the North Canberra district, it is very low in Gungahlin, where car dependency is very high, with 9 out of every 10 journeys being made by car. This pattern of car use is consigning residents in Gungahlin, often on lower incomes and facing the costs of mortgages and raising a family, with the burden of having to maintain a 2, 3 or even 4 car household. As fuel prices continue to increase in the coming decades, and without a viable transport alternative, we will be consigning these households to financial and social vulnerability and isolation.

Labor will not let this happen. Development of Capital Metro will provide a reliable, convenient and frequent mass transit corridor which will give Gungahlin residents transport choice and reduce the number of journeys they need to undertake by car, as well as the number of cars they must, rather than choose, to own.

Canberrans don’t want to wait until we have congestion like Sydney or Melbourne or Newcastle, they want long term decisions for a better future and to avoid the congestion nightmares cities face when they grow. This is why Labor says Light Rail is the best choice for Canberra’s future.

Northbourne Avenue is the front door to the National capital. Yet right now our front door is suffering from deteriorating amenity. The current high level of car and bus congestion means the environment for residents who live on the corridor, pedestrians, cyclists and those waiting to catch buses is compromised by high levels of traffic, noise and pollution, discouraging walking and cycling trips and the development of a urban form envisaged by the National Capital and Territory Plan. It should feel and be safe to walk down the Avenue at day and at night, yet currently it is alienated and made inhospitable by the cars, noise and pollution and lack of street level activity.

Capital Metro will drive a transformation of residential and commercial development in the Gungahlin to City corridor. The business case for Capital Metro recognises the level of redevelopment activity along the corridor will move beyond the business as usual levels due to the investment certainty and improved amenity that will be provided by light rail. Such assumptions are consistent with the experiences of other cities around the world, such as Portland in the United States. BRT was not considered to be able to achieve the same level of redevelopment activity for 2 important reasons. Firstly the economic analysis concluded that market forces are less likely to promote densification of residential and commercial activity around BRT links and secondly government planning strategies in relation to zoning, densities and the locations of services were considered to be more likely influenced and supported by the development of Light rail infrastructure.

North Canberra and Gungahlin are already seeing much higher rates of growth than other parts of our city. North Canberra has grown at a rate of 2.6% pa and Gungahlin at a rate 6.8% pa, much faster than the overall ACT growth rate of 1.4% per annum.

This is why Labor has chosen the Gungahlin to City corridor as the first stage for the Capital Metro network. It is where the population growth is, now and where it will be into the future. The population of Gungahlin is projected to be 73,000 people by 2021, and ultimately, to 90,000 and there will significant population growth in the City Centre as well as more people choose to live closer to jobs, services and facilities.

Labor knows we must plan for major growth in our population over the next 2 decades, this means taking the long term view on transport, because high levels of population growth increases demand for transport infrastructure and services.

By 2031 there will have been a 28% increase in the number of people living in the Gungahlin to City corridor, 14,261 more people, and another 5447 in the City itself, or more than double the current City centre population. The number of people who have jobs located in the corridor will also dramatically increase, with another 23250 more people working in the city and the corridor by 2031.

These increases cannot be met by buses, business as usual is not good enough. We need transport infrastructure with the capacity and frequency to meet this big increase in population and jobs. It is another reason why Light rail is the best choice for our city’s future.

Light rail will drive higher levels of development in the corridor. It is the most effective means of realising the strategic direction of the ACT Planning Strategy, which targets increased residential densities along transport corridors and in our major centres, like the City, Dickson and Gungahlin. Under the higher density scenario developed in the Gunaghlin to City Business case it is projected that population growth will be 78% in the corridor and 237% in the city centre. This means another 39,653 more pople living in the corridor, another 7947 living in the city centre, 22029 more homes in the corridors, 4967 more in the city centre. 

This demonstrates the potential for light rail to transform where people live as our city grows. It means housing choice, improved affordability and a sustainable pattern of development which allows more journeys by walking cycling and public transport. This significant uplift in development potential also brings jobs, jobs in construction, jobs in the service and supply industries, jobs in maintainance and cleaning and municipal services.

Yet the Liberals say BRT is better and we have spent too much money on studies. Why should we believe them? in 2008 they issued a policy paper, called Getting Light Rail on track. It contained bold and sweeping statements like “ it’s Time to take Light rail Seriously” and the Liberals committed $8 million to undertaken engineering studies, integration of bus and light rail connections, planning and rezoning and patronage assessments. Why should we believe the liberals now when they say the Government has spent too much on studies when they proposed a multi million dollar investigation only 4 short years ago?

In this budget the Government establishes the Capital Metro Agency, to drive the realisation of this project. Developing a big infrastructure project is a significant undertaking, it requires robust governance, detailed investigation and due diligence and a team of committed and experienced professionals to make it happen.

Labor is making that investment. It will continue to make that investment and it will deliver a project that has the long term future, not short term politics, of our city and its citizens front and centre.

Canberrans deserve infrastructure investments that will meet their growing needs for reliable and convenient rapid transit, for sustainable transport, and infrastructure which will shape our urban form consistent with the strategic plans we have laid out for a more sustainable and equitable future. Capital Metro is a critical infrastructure project that will meet the aspirations Canberrans have for the future of their city, and which only Labor has the imagination and determination to realise.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Infrastructure Australia want worse road congestion before better public transport?


The Canberra Times are running an article titled "Canberra light rail plan: 'Not enough traffic' says Infrastructure Australia report" which, if accurate, contends that Canberra must have worse road congestion before it can receive funding to improve its public transport infrastructure.

The Infrastructure Australia view that Canberra's road congestion must become worse, before public transport improvement is warranted, is extremely disappointing. Canberra already has a declining rate of bus based public transport patronage and the introduction of light rail is the modal shift required to encourage drivers to use public transport for trips to work, ahead of their private car.

By focussing solely on one aspect - road congestion - Infrastructure Australia overlook the other compelling factors which make Capital Metro so important.

  • Unlike buses, light rail will be able to cope with the patronage increases that urban redevelopment along Northbourne Avenue will allow. 
  • Further transit oriented development will not only contribute to treasury coffers, but also alleviate urban sprawl. 
  • Gungahlin residents will have an alternative to a slow road journey and a battle for limited parking in Civic and the Parliamentary Triangle. 
  • Shifting commuters from road to light rail will alleviate road congestion significantly on Northbourne Avenue and decrease rat running in adjacent areas. 
  • The cost benefit analysis of Capital Metro shows that for every dollar invested in light rail, two dollars thirty will be returned to the territory. 

ACT Light Rail are disappointed in this recent report from Infrastructure Australia. We feel that building for the future is essential in planning transport infrastructure. Capital Metro from Civic to Gungahlin will underpin a public transport renaissance in Canberra, and ACT Light Rail urge the ACT Government to work with Infrastructure Australia to progress the project.

The ACT is an entity with a four billion dollar economy and growing. While it would be sound for the federal government to provide funding for Canberra's public transport future, if necessary, the ACT Government could come up with a funding model that did not rely upon federal funds.

The projected construction cost of 600 million dollars over four years is roughly the same amount of money spent on Gungahlin roads in the same period, so the ability to build this ourselves is already there. All it requires is political will


Keep up to date on Canberra light rail developments on our facebook page



Friday, July 12, 2013

Alistair Coe on the wrong track

The role of an Opposition is to hold an elected government to account for actions and to propose alternate policies, basically to offer an alternative to the government of the day. Alistair Coe is a very intelligent and hard working MLA, so it is difficult to understand his latest press release opposing the Capital Metro project.

GOVERNMENT IRRESPONSIBLE ABOUT LIGHT RAIL

The document which the ACT Government is using as the basis of their decision to build light rail does not provide the substance required to justify the project, said ACT Shadow Minister for Transport, Alistair Coe.
“The Government’s decision making process for light rail has been irresponsible at best, negligent at worst,” said Mr Coe.
“The Government claims to have based its decision to construct light rail on a Concept Report produced last year.
“However, the Concept Report is very light on details and by no means comprehensive enough to justify spending ‘$700 - $860 million’ on light rail.
“The Government is treating the Concept Report as a ‘tick of approval’ for light rail.
“However, even the report’s assessment of light rail is ‘…there is no benefit or harm.’ (URS Australia, page 30)
“If the Government has based their decision to build light rail on this report, then taxpayers should be very concerned.
“The Government should release the scope of the report given to the authors and any other documents used to influence their decision to spend so much money on light rail,” concluded Mr Coe.
 
ACT Light Rail will now examine these statements, a line at a time.  

“The Government’s decision making process for light rail has been irresponsible at best, negligent at worst,” said Mr Coe.

The decision making process was incredibly slow. It took over a decade. The government has arrived at its decision after three failed public transport policies based on improving ACTION Buses so that patronage would reverse its decline. Admitting a need for modal change was a big policy shift.

“The Government claims to have based its decision to construct light rail on a Concept Report produced last year. 
 
The URS report was a concept report, but it was the last of several contemporary reports, including the PWC report into a Canberra wide light rail project. These reports all recommend light rail, as it enhances public transport patronage, reduces road congestion and will raise productivity in the ACT.

 “However, the Concept Report is very light on details and by no means comprehensive enough to justify spending ‘$700 - $860 million’ on light rail.

The concept report offered several alternatives for the corridor. An engineering study has been completed which the government has now based a budget on. A figure of 600 million, not the figure used in the press release.

“The Government is treating the Concept Report as a ‘tick of approval’ for light rail. 

It is not what the decision was based on. The decision was based on economic, social and political factors.  The ALP/Greens agreement to govern, is the approval required for the project to proceed.

“However, even the report’s assessment of light rail is ‘…there is no benefit or harm.’ (URS Australia, page 30)
“If the Government has based their decision to build light rail on this report, then taxpayers should be very concerned. 

The URS report also said that 'Light rail transit generates the best overall outcome for Canberra'. Taxpayers should be concerned at the Governments ability to deliver the project on budget and on time, as it has a demonstrably poor record in major project delivery. This is where the focus of the Opposition should lie.

“The Government should release the scope of the report given to the authors and any other documents used to influence their decision to spend so much money on light rail,” concluded Mr Coe.

We agree with Alistair on this point. These documents should be made public.

The role of Opposition is demanding and generally Alistair Coe does a very good job. Over the years the ALP Government has a poor record on public transport and major project management, so his concerns are justified. However, continually opposing the Capital Metro project on spurious grounds is not a sustainable strategy. The points in his press release are easily dismissed.

ACT Light Rail would ask the Canberra Liberals "What is your alternative public transport policy?"


Friday, July 5, 2013

Capital Metro cost benefit stacks up

Minister for ESDD Simon Corbell has issued a press release arguing the financial case for light rail. This follows several days of pressure from Canberra Liberals MLA Alistair Coe on the financing model that Capital Metro will use.

The press release is as follows:


Capital Metro cost benefit stacks up

The ACT Government’s Capital Metro light rail project delivers a benefit cost outcome similar to, or better than, other light rail projects that are going ahead around Australia, Minister for the Environment and Sustainable Development, Simon Corbell said today.

“According to Infrastructure Australia’s own costings methodology, the benefit cost ratio for Capital Metro at our medium growth scenario was 2.34; this is similar to, or better than, the benefit cost ratio for other light rail projects going ahead in QLD and NSW,” Mr Corbell said.

“The Gold Coast light rail project, for example, has a benefit cost ratio of 1.63, and Sydney’s Inner West light rail project between Lilyfield and Dulwich Hill is understood to have a benefit cost ratio of 1.0.

“Benefit cost ratio is a key indicator of a project’s viability. A ratio greater than 1 demonstrates that economically, for every dollar spent there is a positive economic return.

“A ratio of 2.34 shows that for every dollar spent, there is a return of just over two dollars.

“It’s also important to note that the Infrastructure Australia report, that Opposition Transport spokesman Alistair Coe keeps referring to, has not ruled out light rail, rather it has named a ‘Canberra Transit Corridor’ as an early stage infrastructure priority (page 100).

“Transforming and integrating the city’s public transport system is a big investment that will deliver benefits to Canberrans, and to the economy, for decades to come,” Mr Corbell said.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Infrastructure Australia supports Civic to Gungahlin project



Today's release of the 2013 Infrastructure Australia 'COAG Report on National Infrastructure Plan', contains very good news for Canberra's light rail supporters. In the list of infrastructure projects receiving support, there are at least 10 rail submissions (p.98) and 'City to Gungahlin', or what is now known as 'Capital Metro' is one of them. This is a far better response than the previous light rail submission which was rejected as it did not meet the criteria for support or funding.

Confusingly, there is a reference on p.41 to 'Northbourne Avenue bus lanes', but ACT Light Rail believe this reflects ALP policy up until the ALP/Greens 'agreement to govern' following the Assembly election late last year. ACT Light Rail are keen to hear Minister Corbells response though.

Shadow Transport Minister Alistair Coe has issued a media release titled 'Wheres the Light Rail?'. Instead of searching on the word 'Canberra' in the text, it would perhaps be more profitable to read the full report. Doing this reveals a very different picture that supports light rail in Canberra.

Simply by reading p.34 'Better Use of Urban Networks', you can find the very reasons Canberra needs Light Rail discussed in a broader national context.

Action 1: Better Use of Urban Networks
Capital cities across Australia struggle with under performing, legacy transport and infrastructure networks, many of which were not designed with the needs of a 21st century population and economy in mind.

Better use of urban networks will be critical to lifting infrastructure productivity, optimising network performance, managing limited capital budgets, and deferring costly new investment in ‘mega’ projects.

It recommends actions, that ACT Light Rail support, that can only be achieved with a light rail project, and not a bus only solution. These are:
    ⁃    manage transport demands
    ⁃    integrate bus and light rail
    ⁃    encourage Transit Oriented Development
    ⁃    investment in public transport

P.40 contains even more support for the principles behind the Capital Metro project with an observation about the future uses of government investment in transport being directed toward public transport:

"Although cars are presently the dominant form of private travel, we need to shift the balance of investment and regulation to prioritise higher volume or higher value transport options. This could involve priority for buses, commercial and freight vehicles at peak times and improving the efficiency and convenience of our transport network.

The smarter solutions to our urban transport needs focus on freight, commercial and public transport, and for local trips, cycling and walking.


Public investment in urban transport should focus on public transport, with expansions to the urban road network funded by users, not all taxpayers.


Australia’s cities are growing at different rates. Appropriate public transport solutions depend on the size of our cities.
The national priority list has identified well developed proposals that would support liveability in our cities and benefit growing urban areas."


The report also mentions that 'the project needs to be accompanied by a change in the pricing of parking in Civic and other centers in Canberra.'

By encouraging investment in public transport, Infrastructure Australia send a clear signal to those who would be keen to provide finance to the ACT Governments Capital Metro project, that the Federal Government has a long term plan to invest in public transport infrastructure.

ACT Light Rail are not opposed to further bus lanes in Canberra, we see the full integration of bus and light rail as the only way to service Canberra's public transport needs. We do believe that investment in Capital Metro needs to occur, and the ACT Government has signed an agreement to govern committing to construction commencing prior to the expiry of this current Assembly term.




Northbourne Avenue is Canberra's most congested road, and the Gungahlin to Civic corridor is the first route planned for Capital Metro, as it will alleviate the most urgent road congestion problem in an area that requires urgent attention to public transport infrastructure. 

ACT Light Rail have met with senior ESD staff and are convinced this Government is carefully planning and implementing a program to deliver on that commitment. Avoiding project management debacles such as the GDE are what the Opposition demands, and what the ACT public expect. by proper planning and good management, that can be achieved.

The COAG report sends a clear signal that the project has the support of Infrastructure Australia.



Please follow the Light Rail for Canberra facebook page for more frequent updates.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Capital Metro - First link to cost $614 million

Minister Simon Corbell and ESD Capital metro acting project Director Glenn Bain have been subjected to questioning on Capital Metro costs in an Assembly estimates committee hearing.

Out of the questioning a few key pieces of information have emerged:
  • The total cost of the Capital Metro program will be $614 million
  • $200 million has been set aside to relocate utilities along Northbourne Avenue (the UBS report said 3-4% of project cost)
  • $54.5 million for trackwork (teh ABC says $100 million).
  • $27 million for stations
  • $11 million for each vehicle (the ABC says a dozen vehicles will cost $55 million)
  • $7 million for annual operating costs
  • A park and Ride may be built in Mtchell
  • A light rail/bus interchange could be built where  the Dickson Motor Vehicle registry is located.
  • An engineering study has been completed.
When Hansard is available I will correct the figures. 

It is fortunate that the Opposition has been able to elicit this information. ACT Light Rail met with Glenn Bain some time ago and advised that the government needed a communications strategy to keep the Canberra public informed on progress.

The media have reported this here at the Canberra Times and ABC News online.

Please visit the ACT Light Rail facebook page for more frequent updates on Light Rail in Canberra

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Corbell updates Canberra on Capital Metro progress

Minister Corbell has released a media statement on Capital Metro progress:

Work to establish light rail in Canberra and transform the city’s public transport network is on track, Minister for the Environment and Sustainable Development, Simon Corbell said today.

“The recruitment process for the critical role of Project Director to lead the new Capital Metro Agency, and for a Project Board Chair, will commence in the coming weeks,” Mr Corbell said.

“Coordination of research for a property strategy for the light rail corridor is already underway. The urban redevelopment of this corridor will be transformative, providing a stimulus and confidence in the market for development and growth."

“Opportunities to increase residential and commercial intensities along the corridor on Northbourne Avenue are being investigated. Options being looked at include public housing redevelopments and the Dickson Group Centre.“

The redevelopment of land currently occupied by EPIC and Thoroughbred Park, and the relocation of these facilities, is another option also being considered.

“The $330,000 Network Integration Study has also commenced, which investigates options for stations and stops, and the way in which the light rail service would run in relation to existing modes of personal and public transport,” he said.

Funding allocated in this year’s budget for the Capital Metro light rail project includes:
  • $5 million for preliminary design studies
  • $12.3 million for the establishment of the Capital Metro Agency; and,
  • $1.4 million for a master planning process (which will investigate and identify issues for a future Canberra-wide light rail network)
“Immediate priorities for the Capital Metro Agency include developing procurement and financing options for the light rail infrastructure and operations.  As part of this process, the market place will be approached once an appropriate level of information is developed,” Mr Corbell said.

“Capital Metro is a unique infrastructure project that will provide a template for growth and transport options in Canberra for years to come.”

For more frequent updates on Capital Metro and light rail related news, please visit our Facebook page 'Light Rail for Canberra'. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Alistair Coes Capital Metro questions answered - 8 weeks later

At the meeting with Shadow Minister for Transport, MLA Alistair Coe last week,  Mr Coe provided us with a copy of the answers he had received from Minister Corbell  to the Questions on Notice that he had asked back in February (note that these answers were received in April). People with an interest in light rail in the ACT will find this useful, so I am publishing those questions and answers here (as I cant find them on Hansard). 


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Capital Metro - Our Assembly discusses it - Hansard April 2013

As ACT Light Rail suggested in our previous post, the ACT Government are not very effective in communicating with the public about the work occurring on the Capital Metro light rail project. We present more Hansard, for your analysis. In answers to the questions asked, the Minister discusses the composition of the agency to oversee Capital Metro and the governance of the project. 



This debate occurred in April and can be found at http://www.hansard.act.gov.au/hansard/2013/pdfs/P130409.pdf

Transport—light rail

DR BOURKE: My question is to the Minister for the Environment and Sustainable Development. Minister, can you tell the Assembly how the light rail project already committed to by the government ties in with the city plan and the city to the lake plans announced last month.

MR CORBELL: I thank Dr Bourke for his question. One of the main themes of the city plan released for public comment last month is transport and movement— providing multiple modes of transport, supporting sustainable growth and improving access and movement within the city centre. An important aim of the plan is to ensure that the transport needs of the community are integrated into it. The boundaries and directions of the city plan will be influenced by a number of major initiatives, including the capital metro project, the analysis along Northbourne Avenue, the Constitution Avenue upgrade and the broader city to the lake proposals. The objective of the city plan is to unlock the potential of Canberra’s city centre and better integrate it with public transport, with residential development and with better recreation spaces, and link also to the important economic and social drivers of the ANU and the CIT campuses.

The capital metro project sits very well within this overall framework. Indeed, decisions about capital metro will inform the way the city grows and develops, and its overall planning framework, and vice versa. Capital metro, as members will know, is at this stage intended to terminate on Northbourne Avenue at a terminus between Alinga and Bunda streets. In line with the government’s commitment to a future Canberra-wide network, future stages are anticipated to connect through the city to points south of the lake or points to the east, or both, such as Kingston via Barton; Woden; Tuggeranong; and so on.

The city plan therefore provides us with the opportunity to understand how the capital metro project will mesh with development in the city centre. We need to look, for example, at how we treat some important roads like London Circuit and Vernon Circle. The National Capital Authority, in its Griffin legacy amendments to the national capital plan, has set out what it believes is necessary for the future use of those two important streets. The government will now have to consider how the extension of the capital metro project in future stages engages with London Circuit or Vernon Circle. These are the types of issues that the government will be paying very close attention to.

We also need to appreciate, of course, that if certain uses are ultimately decided as appropriate for parts of the city centre, such as a new convention centre or a new city stadium, there will need to be adequate provision of effective and efficient public transport to move large numbers of people quickly to and from those locations. Once again, the capital metro project and the work that is currently underway in relation to it will help inform how the city plan and the city to the lake project work together to achieve something that I think we should all be supportive of, and that is a more active, a more vibrant, city centre that takes best advantage of its best address, which is Lake Burley Griffin.

MADAM SPEAKER: A supplementary question, Dr Bourke.

DR BOURKE: Minister, how will a light rail system contribute to the development
of our city in its second century?


MR CORBELL: I thank Dr Bourke for his supplementary. What is important about this project is to understand that it is not just a project around transport provision, as critical and as important as it is. It is also an important project in the context of the development of our city—where development takes place, where people choose to live. If we are able to leverage the potential of a light rail project in the way many other cities have around the world, we will see many more people choosing to live close to this corridor.

That changes the pattern of settlement for the city. It potentially has implications as to how rapidly and how quickly greenfields development occurs over the coming period compared to a business as usual situation. It means that potentially more people are choosing to live in apartments, townhouses, row housing and so on close to a highly efficient, permanent and rapid public transport spine.

These are the types of issues that we need to have regard to when we look at the overall cost-effectiveness of a business plan around the capital metro project. It is not just about moving people; it is also about leveraging development opportunity, changing and potentially more efficiently delivering forms of development that meet people’s need and that are more efficient for the territory to deliver.

These are the types of issues at stake. That is why I am proud to be part of a government that is prepared to take this step, to make the shift, towards a more sustainable future and towards a future that focuses on transit through light rail as a
key tool in leveraging not just better public transport for people but also a more sustainable form of development across the city.

MADAM SPEAKER: A supplementary question, Mr Coe.

MR COE: Minister, how much has been spent to date on light rail and how much do
you expect the total project to cost taxpayers?

MR CORBELL: I note that Mr Coe has asked this of me in a question on notice. I am pleased to advise Mr Coe that I have the answer to his question. $913,000 was spent in 2011-12 and to date $76,000 has been spent in 2012-13.

MADAM SPEAKER: Supplementary question, Ms Berry.

MS BERRY: Minister, how is the Capital Metro project proceeding since you
announced it last September?

MR CORBELL: Again, I thank Ms Berry for her supplementary. Significant work has been undertaken within government to set the framework and the groundwork for governance and oversight of this very important project. Given the complexity of the project, the government has agreed to the establishment of a Capital Metro agency to be established from 1 July this year, which will be overseen by a project board. The government has agreed that I will be the responsible minister for this project.

The agency will be headed by a project director, who will directly report to the board. The board will be a decision-making one concentrating on strategic issues relating to the successful progression of the project. The government is currently in the process of recruiting a project director to lead the new agency and a suitably qualified person to chair the board.

In the interim, a senior executive of the ACT government service has carriage of the project, ensuring that the necessary financial, legal, governance and administrative arrangements are set in place in the initial life of the new agency. We will soon be undertaking detailed risk analysis to understand and manage the risks presented by the project and identify appropriate mitigation strategies.

We have begun coordination of research for what will become the property strategy for the corridor, recognising the significant redevelopment potential along the corridor. The government is also in the process of developing a land release model that is able to quickly react to market requirements, attentive to social and environmental impacts of urban renewal along the corridor.

Work is also underway on a range of preliminary engineering investigations, transport planning, and economic and financing studies. This highlights that the government is getting on with the job of delivering on this important election commitment and implementing a strong and robust governance framework to guide the future development of the project.