Thursday, November 10, 2011

ACT Light Rail submission on ACT Transport Plan 2011-2031

ACT Light Rail today provided the ACT Government with their submission in response to the draft ‘Transport for a Sustainable City 2011-2031 transport planning document.

Mr Damien Haas, Chair of ACT Light Rail, said that the ACT Government plan was a disappointment in that it was locking Canberra into a high density, congested, car-dependent culture – while the government was trying to pretend that the future high density Canberra would be built around public transport.

He said that while ACT Light Rail were pleased that the ACT Government has finally issued its latest strategic transport document, some two years late, sadly there was too little actual planning provided for mass transit Public Transport in the form of light rail.

The Government have hired expensive foreign consultants to tell them what they want to hear – that buses are the way to go. They talk ‘light rail’ but really its ‘Bus-ness as usual’. Their own bid to Infrastructure Australia proved the benefits to Canberra – but today its the ‘Study that dare not speak its name’, not being referenced at all in their ‘strategic planning ‘ document Mr Haas said.

‘The entire plan really lacks a cohesive vision’, Mr Haas said. ‘Increasing density and buying more buses is the extent of their plan and it means that they are just surrendering to road congestion. Future generations will regard this as an opportunity squandered.’

The submission by ACT Light Rail also makes the following points:

·    The draft Transport plan discusses openly the aim that medium and high density housing will be built along ‘transit corridors’ which means bus routes.

·    By encouraging medium and high density housing, without providing the proper public transport to support it, Canberra will experience all the disadvantages of high density housing, and none of the advantages.

·    The draft Transport plan is also disingenuous when it talks of light rail. Where light rail is mentioned, it is scant, and promises yet more ‘studies’.

·    Not once is the Infrastructure Australia bid for light rail funding from only two years ago mentioned.

·    There are no real plans for how exactly the government will convince motorists to shift from cars to public transport. The 2031 target is still only 16% of trips taken by public transport.

·    The plan will actually reduce local bus services and increase trip times in urban areas.

·    The draft Transport policy has no funding models attached to it and states several times that buses are the future for Canberra’s public transport.

On the subject of funding, Mr Haas said that this was the area in which ACT politicians could show real vision and leadership. “They had no problem smiling for the cameras when Majura park funding was announced, we would like to see the same effort applied to securing funding for light rail, and we make several recommendations on how they can achieve that funding – ranging from issuing bonds, borrowing money (like they have for the Majura parkway) or entering into a Private Public partnership.” Mr Haas said he had tried to meet with the Minister to discuss this but his meeting was cancelled and not rescheduled. 

ACT Light Rail suggest that Transport for Canberra immediately start planning for light rail to be introduced into Canberra, and explore the funding models required for that to occur. To plan for a high density city without an appropriate public transport system to serve it, this Government is locking future residents into a more congested, car dependent, less sustainable future.

ACT Light Rail recommendations summary.

These recommendations are taken from the ACT Light Rail submission

1.  Given the lead-times for light rail and the fact this is a 2030 plan, this draft Transport policy document should make a definitive statement that ‘yes, the ACT is going down the light rail path’.
2.  An engineering study needs to be carried out immediately, so that a revised bid to Infrastructure Australia can be submitted.
3.  ACT Light Rail would like to see the ACT Government and federal political representatives apply the same level of effort to a bid for public transport funding, as was applied to the funding for the Majura Parkway.
4.  The ACT Government, in consultation with local communities and business, to take the lead in planning and transport requirements for town centres and neighbourhood hubs, so that in the future there will be adequate public transport access, parking and pedestrian safety.
5.   If the ACT Government truly wants to bring about a medium to high density ‘compact city’, they need to plan proper mass transit using light rail, and then encourage Transit Oriented Development.
6.  ACT Light Rail do not think cars or carparking in town centres should be banned, which is where we fear this plan is taking us. The ACT Government should not force people into using public transport. It should offer a better alternative to private transport.
7.  The Transport plan must contain details of a program to encourage active and public transport use by ACT residents. Every day residents are subjected to numerous advertisements for private cars, yet public transport advertising is almost nonexistent.  Advertise the alternative.
8.  In addition to increasing rapid and intertown services, local bus services must be increased to at least three times an hour, and not decreased to a once an hour minimum as proposed in the draft Transport plan.
9.  The ACT Government must have an active feedback mechanism, that can acknowledge and act on feedback received from residents and Community groups.
10. The draft Policy, while very densely stocked with positive goals and aspirational objectives, lacks a clear vision when it comes to public transport.
11. By providing a viable alternative to the private car, many families could shift from being two car families to single car families – saving an estimated $10,000 a year (NRMA figure).
12. With a light rail network established, Active transport would also grow as people are able to more easily take bicycles on light rail vehicles, and will be more open to walking.
13. ACT Light Rail recommend that instead of constantly dismissing light rail as ‘too expensive’ the ACT Government explore the many funding models available and commit to construction.

The full submission can be found here.

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