Thursday, April 19, 2012

How you can bring about Light Rail in Canberra

Thank you to those who have visited the website in the last few days and left comments. you can stay in touch by using an RSS feed or 'liking' or joining our facebook page - Light Rail for Canberra

We are happy to talk to your organisation or community group about light rail and the benefits of public transport. 

How you can bring about light rail in the ACT

Ultimately the discussions about costs are only one part of the public discourse. The real decision is a political one

You can have your say on this issue.

  • Contact your local MLA and tell them that you want Light Rail
  • Contact the candidate running in your electorate at the next Assembly election and tell them that you want Light Rail. 
  • Ask them what they are doing to bring that about. 
  • Let ACT Light Rail know what your candidate tells you. We want to support those candidates that are pro-public transport
ACT Govt artists impression of light rail on Hibberson St Gungahlin

Media begin to question Government on inflated light rail costings

Yesterdays press conference, held on Northbourne Avenue,  where Minister Corbell announced the costings for Bus Rapid Transit and Light Rail from Gungahlin to Civic has probably not delivered to the Government the response it was seeking. It was probably seeking universal endorsement for its Bus rapid Transit option. Instead, dodgy figures have been exposed and questions are being asked. 


The problem with the report costings are that they are overinflated and not in comparison to other light rail builds. Yes - there is extra expense involved in acquiring light rail vehicles and depots, but the costings also fail to include figures for the extra buses that would be required to meet the service levels the government claims it will deliver. Misleading rhetoric will not win your argument Minister Corbell. 

The second problem is that although the ACT Treasury, the ACT transport bureaucrats and the ACT Government LOVE BUSES - no one else does. They can patiently explain BRT all they like to the public and deliberately skew figures to make it appear 'cheaper' but it is wasted effort. The public listens and then says - thank you, but we want light rail. This is also the outcome of every report they commission - which also says that light rail is the best outcome for Canberra. 

How you can bring about light rail in the ACT

Ultimately the figures are only one part of the public discourse. The real decision is a political one. You can have your say on this issue. Contact your local MLA and tell them that you want Light Rail. Contact the candidate running in your electorate at the next Assembly election and tell them that you want Light Rail. Ask them what they are doing to bring that about. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

It costs 870 million for 12 kilometers of Light Rail ?

Apparently it s so expensive to build public transport infrastructure in Canberra, that 12 kilometers of light rail, from Civic to Gungahlin, would cost 870 million dollars. That is twice the cost of building the proposed Majura Parkway - a six lane freeway quality road that does not exist yet. How has the ACT Govt arrived at this figure?

Thanks to a journo advising me of the Ministers Press Conference this afternoon, I managed to attend and listen to it in entirety. I had already read the press release – which did not contain the reports figures in it.

As a general rule, The ACTGOV like to issue a press release ahead of the actual report, so that journos dont have time to read it. This avoids the possibility of any informed questioning. I raised this with a Transport for Canberra employee at the launch, who told me the report and figures would go live after the press conference. Great. Plus one for ‘open government’.

When Minister Corbell announced that BRT would cost 300 million and Light Rail would cost 870 million I was just stunned. How on earth could he arrive at these figures ? How can a two lane light rail system travelling 12 kilometres  cost more than twice the cost of the Majura Parkway ?

I wish the journos had asked him.

Post press conference I talked to journos and expressed ACT Light Rails disappointment. Based on Minister Corbells comments today, it is clear that the ALP are going to implement BRT. This being the case – why didnt they just say so a year ago, and spend that intervening year doing it. I’m sure the commuters of Gungahlin would appreciate that. Instead we delay any decision until – oh wow – an election year!

I then went back to my office and discovered the reports were now online. I downloaded and digested the reports that had been kept from the public and media until after the opportunity to  ask Minister Corbell informed questions had passed.

Both reports make for interesting reading. Go here:

I recommend the Concept Study for close scrutiny. Light rail – 700 to 870 million. 700 is a pretty high figure. Much higher than previous estimates. But lets take out say 200 million for the worlds finest, cutting edge, light rail vehicles rolling along on unobtainium coated wheels. Would it REALLY cost 500 million to build a 12 kilometre line ? 

The cost per kilometer of building light rail in Canberra compared to other cities building light rail. 

Canberra: $58m -$70M per km (according to the ACT Government today)
Gold Coast: $18m - $22m per kmSydney: $15m per kmManchester (UK): $24m per km

Yes, thats correct. triple the cost of the Gold Coast.  

Perhaps the ACT Govts consultants URS might like to revisit their costings.

Then we arrive at the sleight of hand accounting trick that has been used to inflate the cost of light rail: do not count any vehicle cost for BRT, and make 20 percent of the 870 million LR figure the cost of LR vehicles. This is disingenuous at best as there are only a limited number of 100 plus passenger capacity vehicle in ACTIONS fleet, and IF the BRT was to achieve the service levels of the report – significant numbers of 100 plus passenger buses would need to be procured. Apparently these buses are FREE.

For the report to be credible, these figures need to be added to the 360 million cost of  BRT.

The rest of the report is quite the read. Turning the rego office in Dickson into a shopping mall/bus station. I hope someone got a bonus for that idea.

No one has ever said light rail is a cheap option, but it is the best long term option. The concept report says that – on page 55.

And if anyone thinks this ALP government can actually deliver Bus Rapid Transit for 300 million, I refer you to every significant project this government has tackled and ask if any have been delivered on budget or on time. Its an empty cupboard of achievement.

Northbourne Avenue study update - BRT ever closer

Just once I'd like to read the report BEFORE the media release with the spin the government wants put on it, is reported as 'news'.

The latest update on the Northbourne Avenue study has been released. I'm yet to see the actual report the media release is based on, and I'd lay money that the Canberra Times hasn't either. 

Artists impression of a light rail vehicle travelling down Northbourne Avenue. Image from the Canberra Times. 

Although this seems positive for Light Rail, recall the parameters the government placed on the Gungahlin to Civic transport study - placing an unreachable passenger per hour figure on the light rail option.

I will be reading the actual report as soon as I can download it.

Some highlights from the latest media release:

Transport plan could halve commute to Civic

April 18, 2012  Lisa Cox

Environment Minister Simon Corbell will also announce initial costs for the construction of both light rail and bus rapid transit along the corridor.
The government's modelling shows that bus rapid transit would cut morning peak hour delays for motorists from 16 minutes to eight minutes. The light rail option would reduce that delay even further to six minutes.
Currently, an average trip along the southbound corridor takes drivers 26 minutes during the morning peak, while for buses it's 28. Rapid transit would travel along the route in under 15 minutes, creating an incentive for motorists to switch to public transport.
''What our analysis shows is that we can significantly reduce congestion, improve people's travel times and provide better transport choices for people with either RBT or light rail on the Gungahlin to city corridor,'' Mr Corbell said.

Mr Corbell will also provide the government's early estimates for what each option will cost.
Canberrans will be asked to have their say on the different proposals during a five to six-week consultation process.
Mr Corbell said planning and construction of either rapid bus transit or light rail would be a five to seven-year process.

''This is the most detailed economic and engineering analysis that's ever been done in the city of rapid bus transit and light rail,'' he said.

No need to read the report Corbell has already decided buses:

Mr Corbell says the study presents a range of options.
"You can for example develop bus rapid transit and then transition it to light rail over a period of time," he said.
"So you can for example build a bus rapid transit corridor which provides a dedicated right of way, dedicated roadway for the buses separating them from the general traffic. You can build the dedicated bus stations and then convert all of that corridor to light rail at a later point in time when it's economically feasible to do so."


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Walk it off

One arm of the active transport trifecta is walking. any user of public transport has to accept that some walking will be involved in their trip from A to B. the increasing residential density on Canberra's town centres mean that some people will actually be able to walk to their place of employ. This is a good thing. Walking is a good habit to inculcate in children - sadly many parents 'have to' drive their children to school, and then drive on to work. Some sound planing and trust in childrens independence and responsibility could see many children incorporate walking to school, riding bicycles or using public transport (or all three) instead of being delivered and collected every day by car dependent parents. 
Encouraging people to walk more often is a problem that concerns not just public transport advocates, but public health professionals and researchers. The health and societal benefits are substantial. More walking means better health and a decrease in resource use across the board. It is also a vital way to stay in touch with your community. 

Recently Slate magazine looked at the issue from a US perspective. They call it 'The crisis of pedestrianism'. It is a fascinating article, and is the first of four similar articles over the next few weeks. I urge you to read it and think about walking a little further today than you did yesterday. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

Light rail for Constitution Avenue... one day

A disturbing trend in ACT Government publications related to urban transport is the use of imagery of light rail. Its on the front cover of recent transport studies, it is in the Northbourne Avenue Study material (although the study is designed to exclude light rail as an option). Yet another image to build the meme has been released today as part of the upgrade to Constitution Avenue announcement. 
Artistic impression of Parkes Section 3 looking west along Constitution Avenue: The long term vision aims to provide a vibrant, mixed-use grand boulevard with an integrated transport system, broad tree-lined footpaths, outdoor dining and on-street parking. 

The announcement is mainly to trumpet the fact that the Commonwealth has given 42 million dollars as a centenary gift, to fund the Constitution Avenue upgrade. It is one of Canberra's most important streets - and runs from London Circuit to Russell. It also crosses Anzac Avenue. Linking the main CBD to a major employment center (Russell), and passing a major education institution (CIT). It is heavily trafficked by cars and buses, and is an ideal part of a light rail network as it would carry a large volume of passengers.

Sadly, the biggest commitment the ACT Government actually makes to light rail is using the imagery in its publications. An actual commitment to it would require spending some money on infrastructure not related to buses.