Monday, December 21, 2015

Liberal party support extending Capital Metro across border into Queanbeyan

'Rapid services by 2031' map from 2012 Transport for Canberra report
The Queanbeyan Age has not carried many stories on light rail or Capital Metro that spring readily to mid, but they did carry a report on 18 December 2015 about the keenness that Liberal MP for Eden-Monaro Peter Hendy has for seeing the Capital Metro light rail extended from Canberra across the border into Queanbeyan.

The Transport for Canberra report from 2012 was the first ACT Government policy document to publicly show a Queanbeyan link to any Canberra public transport network.

The NSW Liberal party has a strong track record in recent year on investing in public transport infrastructure and tackling reform in the various workforces, organisations and bureaucracies that comprise that sector. It has proved remarkably successful. Recent heavy and light rail projects are actually being delivered upon, unlike the previous decades in which transport projects would be announced at an election and then promptly ignored until the next elections photo opportunities beckoned.

Light rail in Sydney's CBD and the Dulwich Hill extension are two excellent examples that compare favourably with Capital Metro, and the new rail line into Sydney's west indicates that transport technologies that are scalable will best suit a rapidly expanding city.

Investment in public transport infrastructure is something that the Federal Liberal and NSW Liberal parties understand is important to the community. Could Stage Two of Capital Metro run into NSW? Federal funding could bolster that ambition from NSW representatives.

Federal funding could see light rail cross the border from Canberra into Queanbeyan

If CANBERRA’S light rail line proceeds federal funding could be used to expand it’s reach to Queanbeyan, federal member for Eden-Monaro Peter Hendy said.
Dr Hendy said should a “spare line” be available, it should run from the airport through to Queanbeyan.
“It is a major population centre in the region,” Dr Hendy said.
“I intend having further discussions in the future with Andrew Barr about those issues, but we’re a long way from talking about commitment of money on that,” he said.
The idea was floated as part of a federal funding wishlist put forward by the Queanbeyan City Council in the lead up to the next election in 2016.
At December’s Planning and Development Review Committee meeting councillors agreed on the list, to be formally submitted as a wishlist for the community to election candidates.
Dr Hendy said while the Ellerton Drive Extension project was a main priority, having been given $25 million from both federal and state governments, it would not affect other projects put forward for funding.
“There are other road and transport proposals that, in the long run, really do need to be seriously looked at.”
While Dr Hendy stopped short of saying Queanbeyan had been spoilt in the past, he did say he was willing to use his “very good relationship” with the Prime Minister and federal treasurer to help Queanbeyan and the seven councils in the Eden-Monaro electorate.
“I think I’ve got a voice that gets listened to,” he said.

You can read the full story at the Queanbeyan Age website here.

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

Friday, December 18, 2015

500 car spaces, 5 storeys, 17 million dollars - Park and Ride?

Park and Ride is a simple idea where enough car parking is provided at a transport node that would encourage people to drive a short distance and then use public transport for the rest of their journey. It is a popular model that is proven to work around the world. In Canberra we have a limited form of Park and Ride that has limited success. It can certainly be done better.

Ideally Park and Ride can act as an interchange for integrated bus and light rail services, as well as providing a safe place for commuters to park their cars while they travel to their place of work or study. In a perfect world they would be located with local shopping centres or other services to enable passive surveillance and safety.

The ACT Government is strongly anticipating that Park and Ride will be a key feature of it attracting new public transport users to Capital Metro Stage One, and not just the existing bus passengers that will transfer from the rapid bus service.

Calvary Hospital in Bruce, Belconnen has had a parking shortage for several years as its facilities have expanded, and surface parking has not met the increasing demand. Despite the hospital being located on the Belconnen to Civic bus route, few workers and patients use that service. Overflow parking has spilled onto the surrounding native bush with cars parked illegally and in less than optimal conditions.

Several years ago the ACT Government approved a project to build a multi-storey carpark with 500 spaces. It has just been completed, two months early and at a cost of $17 million. The building is a fairly straightforward design. It is exactly the type of facility that should be considered for Park and Ride sites along the Capital Metro Stage One route.

For people to choose public transport over their private car, it must be reliable, frequent and attractive. Good parking facilities like the new Calvary facility are far more attractive than an asphalt or gravel surface carpark.

You can read about the Calvary carpark at the ABC Online link here.

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

1995 faxes a bus plan to the Canberra Liberals 'Northbourne Avenue Options paper'

Remember the single lane GDE fiasco? Canberra Liberals Transport spokesman Alistair Coe has released an 'options paper' proposing a single bus lane up Northbourne Avenues median strip, instead of Capital Metro Stage One. After three years of criticising the Capital Metro Stage One light rail project, the Canberra Liberals have finally released an alternative plan. And that is it.... buses! Along the Northbourne Avenue median!

This is the transport policy for all Canberrans that we have been promised after three years of hand-wringing doom forecasts from the Canberra liberals over light rail. It really isn't good enough.

All we have been offered is an options paper proposing buses as a better option, that uses nine of its eighteen pages saying why light rail isn't suitable. The actual proposals are relegated to two to three pages each. No proper costings are provided aside from figures hastily plucked from somewhere that lack any explanation.

Is it really the Canberra Liberal transport policy though? The words 'Canberra Liberals' do not appear anywhere on the paper. Not once. The closest it comes to acknowledging the source of the paper is referring to 'the opposition'. Why? Perhaps the Canberra Liberals party room read it and experienced the same sense of 'is this it?' that ACT Light Rail members did upon reading it.

Download the Canberra Liberals bus paper here.

Lets look at the three options:

Option 1 - move the cycle lane into the Northbourne Avenue median strip, with bus priority measures along the corridor.
Option 1

Option 2 - A single lane bus lane along the Northbourne Avenue median strip, with the cycle lane remaining on road. The bus lane would be one-way, and would reverse direction in the mornings and afternoons.
Option 2

Option 3 -  A single bus lane in the Northbourne Avenue median strip flanked by cycle lanes either side.
Option 3

The ACT Light Rail position on these suggestions is that these proposals are twenty years too late. They may have been appropriate in the 90's when Gungahlin was first established, but the population of both people and cars has grown too much for this small target approach.

The major flaw of these options are that they are a 'Northbourne Avenue only' solution. They propose no works outside that corridor. They offer no solutions to Gungahlin residents, on already congested roads and congested buses at capacity. They only run along Northbourne Avenue. The Federal Highway section and Flemington Road are ignored. The rest of Canberra is ignored.

The people of Gungahlin are already experiencing public transport congestion on their rapid bus services. Often the buses cannot stop to collect passengers as they are already full. Nothing in this option paper resolves this bus capacity issue.

The plan also ignores any discussion of the cost of tearing up contracts, as promised by the Canberra Liberals if they form government following the 2016 Assembly elections.  It has cost the Victorian Government 1.4 billion dollars to tear up the East Link contract. This needs to be factored into the Canberra Liberals proposal.

The cost of removing/replacing services under Northbourne is not factored in. Whether it be light rail or a single lane of bitumen, they will be impacted.

Lacking any real costings except vague figures of between $20 and $100 million, the paper doesn't carry anywhere near enough detail to be a genuine alternative policy proposal.

Alistair Coe said "Whilst it is fairly expensive, it is still a fraction of the cost of light rail and it also doesn't have the operating expenses," 
"Our transport planning is going to be based on genuine options, genuine cost-benefit analysis and genuine consultation with the community."

A plan costing $100 million that brings no benefits to the community is simply wasting public money. Transport infrastructure needs to be based on a triple bottom line approach  that takes in the social, economic and environmental costs and benefits. The options paper lacks credibility in all three of these areas. For three years the Canberra Liberals have promised an alternative transport plan for Canberra. A single bus lane up Northbourne's median strip is not a plan. It's desperation.

Are there any positives? Yes. People can now see the lack of vision displayed in transport policy by the Canberra Liberals. This is such a small target approach it is hard to believe that the party room endorsed it.

Minister for Capital Metro, Simon Corbell has responded with the following:
"The Canberra Liberals’ options paper for Northbourne Avenue is a band-aid solution that will leave Canberrans with ongoing traffic congestion, no long-term public transport solutions and no plan for the development of Canberra.
Deputy Chief Minister Simon Corbell said the proposal ignored the price of tearing up light rail contracts, which the Canberra Liberals have said they would do at any cost.
“Not only is the proposal a band-aid solution for Canberra’s public transport, it also ignores many millions of dollars of potential cost for tearing up light rail contracts, which the Canberra Liberals have said they would do at any cost,” Mr Corbell said.
The Federal Liberal party has previously dismissed the Canberra Liberals’ threats to tear up light rail contracts as ‘economic lunacy’.
“When the Federal branch of your party is rejecting your toxic policies that will increase the ACT’s sovereign risk and waste taxpayer funds there is something very wrong,” Mr Corbell said.
“With average 57-minute travel times from Gungahlin to the City in 2031, the Canberra Liberals’ proposal would have Canberrans stuck in congestion on Northbourne Avenue and Flemington Road instead of solving the problem.
“The Canberra Liberals’ proposal has no plans for beyond Antill Street through to Gungahlin, which will leave Gungahlin residents with the same transport options and congestion they have now.
“This is a band-aid solution to a problem that Infrastructure Australia says will cost the ACT $700m per year by 2031. The Canberra Liberals’ plan is too little too late to fix the growing cost of congestion in our city.”
Minister for Roads and Parking Mick Gentleman said that these proposals would do little to relieve congestion in the short term, and has no plan for Canberra’s expected growth.
“What we’ve seen from the Canberra Liberals is a half-baked document with numerous mistakes and inconsistencies that doesn’t even attempt to solve our long-term problems. The proposal at this stage can’t be taken seriously,” Mr Gentleman said.
“With any of these three options, buses would still need to regularly interact with traffic. Adding more lanes of traffic will only increase congestion.”
There are few dedicated priority traffic signals for buses on Northbourne Avenue included in the proposal, which will increase travel times for buses on Northbourne Avenue.
“The proposal fails to recognise that many trees on Northbourne Avenue will still need to be cut down, and doesn’t address how the Canberra Liberals will put a roadway down the median without removing trees or utilities,” Mr Gentleman said.
The trees on the median of Northbourne Avenue will need to be removed soon due to health issues, and are expected to be replaced with 4-5 metre tall semi-mature plantings during the construction phase of Capital Metro stage one.
“We know light rail fits with the National Capital Plan and the National Capital Authority has been willing to come to the table and work with the ACT Government to find a design that fits with the Griffins’ plan,” Mr Gentleman said.
“The Canberra Liberals have proven with this proposal they have no idea how to improve Canberra’s public transport network.”
The Transport Canberra – Light Rail Network plan, which outlines possible future stages of a light rail system, including to Woden, Canberra Airport, and the Parliamentary Triangle was released for consultation by the ACT Government in October.
The ACT Government is in the final stages of assessment of bids from two international consortia to build, maintain and operate Capital Metro stage one, with a preferred bidder expected to be announced early next year."
This was covered by the Canberra Times here.

ABC Online reported on it here.
WIN Canberra carried this TV report

ABC Canberra carried this TV report

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

Monday, December 14, 2015

Canberra Liberals censoring discussion of public issues

Canberra Liberals and Opposition Leader Jeremy Hanson once told ACT Light Rail Chair Damien Haas that no one had ever said to him they wanted light rail. I guess if you choose not to listen, then you wont hear what people say.

Several members of ACT Light Rail have reported that comments relating to light rail they had left on several Canberra Liberal facebook pages, including Jeremy Hansons had been deleted, and that they had been blocked from leaving further comments. 

Today ACT Light Rail Chair Damien Haas responded to a post on Jeremy Hansons facebook page relating to a misleading photoshopped image of Northbourne Avenue that had been supplied in a press release to the Canberra Times. The comment was deleted and Mr Haas blocked from making further comments on Jeremy Hansons facebook page.

Comment deleted, person blocked. 

Aware that this censorship was occurring to other people, Mr Haas took a screenshot after leaving his comment on Jeremy Hansons facebook page on 12 December. Several minutes later, the comment was deleted and Mr Haas discovered he had been blocked from making further comments.

It is true that people on the 'Light Rail for Canberra' facebook page making offensive comments have been removed, along with their comments. Debate is intended to remain focussed on policy not people. Potentially defamatory comments are also removed.

Several Canberra Liberals are members of ACT Light Rail. Some are pro-light rail, yet opposed to Capital Metro Stage One for various reasons. None have been blocked from commenting on items in the Light Rail for Canberra facebook page. Comments they have made have been debated, not deleted. They have been engaged with, not erased.

Is this is the future of public debate in Canberra? Policy formed in a vacuum of awareness because you are deaf to other views and ideas? Actively censoring people that debate with you so that on your facebook page only a narrative of opposition to progress exists? It is actually very sad. It is also an interesting window into the mind of those that seek to govern us.

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

What would Northbourne Avenue look like without trees? Truth vs fiction

In an increasingly desperate campaign against better public transport for Canberra, the Canberra Liberals released an image of what they want Northbourne avenue to look like. They desperately want to portray urban renewal as a bad thing. By resorting to misleading the public they do the cause of open debate on important issues no service.

With Capital Metro Stage One running down Northbourne, in around a decade we will have the tree lined grand boulevard Burley Griffin imagined. Or we can stay with what we have now, a run down grotty car filled river of bitumen.

Canberra Liberals image. 
Poles too close together (around 20 feet apart), an infinite light rail platform, and all cars photoshopped out except for those at the lights.

An unaltered photo taken in November 2015 of Plenty Road, Mellbourne. 
Semi-mature gum trees on a median far narrower than Northbourne Avenue

 More photos of light rail and gum trees can be seen here.

In a press release accompanying the photoshopped image, Mr Coe said:

"The opposition commissioned some work with regard to various options for Northbourne Avenue. One of those options that is on the table, the only one from the government, is light rail," he said.
"We think it is important to show people what it is going to look like and we think this is probably a pretty fair representation. A lot of the images that we have seen so far from the government have gums overhanging high voltage power lines."
Mr Coe said artist's impressions released by the government showed fully matured trees of a similar height to those that will be cut down.
"You see very implausible pictures of light rail going down the Northbourne median and we think this image might better capture what light rail will look like under the government's proposal.
"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder," he said.
"It does go to show that a tree-lined straight road is a boulevard. A straight road without trees resembles a highway.
"I think that's what we start to get there with this Northbourne Avenue image. It becomes a straight expanse going for many kilometres."

The Canberra Times reported on the photoshopped image here.

 Capital Metro Minister Simon Corbell said the image was "misadvertising".
"There will be over 1,000 trees planted along Northbourne Avenue, the Federal Highway and Flemington Road as part of the light rail project," he said.
Mr Corbell said semi-mature trees would be planted along Northbourne Avenue, to "ensure the restoration of the avenue occurs in a very quick manner".
"The only people who are being irresponsible are the Liberals with this grossly misleading image released today, which clearly shows a wide medium available for tree plantings, but with no trees in it," he said.
"If they seriously believe that the National Capital Authority will approve a project without any tree plantings on Northbourne Avenue, they've simply got rocks in their heads."

ABC Online reported on the photoshopped image here.

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

Friday, December 11, 2015

ACT Light Rail submission on the Light Rail Network Plan

ACT Light Rail have been waiting for the Light Rail Network Plan for some time, and were very pleased when a draft was released by Planning Minister Mick Gentleman some months ago. The consultation period for the Light Rail Network plan closed on Friday December 11, 2015. ACT Light Rail prepared a submission on the plan, and provided it to the ACT Government.

You can read the ACT Light Rail submission here in full.

You can read the draft Light Rail Network Plan here.

We decided to issue a press release to bring wider attention to the Light Rail Network Plan, and its objectives.

Media Release - 11 Dec 2015

ACT Light Rail submission on the Light Rail Network Plan

The public transport lobby group ACT Light Rail made a submission to the ACT Governments 2015 Light Rail Network Plan today, on the final day of the consultation process.

ACT Light Rail is a community based public transport lobby group, calling for better public transport in the Capital Region. Their membership is drawn from Community Councils, and members of the public and exceeds 700 people. They believe that light rail as the backbone of public transport; with integrated bus services and active transport provide the best public transport solution for Canberra.  

Chair, Damien Haas said “We support the proposal to construct a light rail network across Canberra over a twenty five year period, and look forward to community consultation over the selection of further stages, noting that the draft plan includes priorities for proposed routes, such as the Parliamentary Triangle and the Airport.”

He said that as well as being the best public transport option for Canberra, light rail was an important city building tool “Canberra has the challenge of a rising population, increasing car dependency and decreasing public transport rates. Only by a modal shift to light rail (supported by integration with buses and active transport) can this growth be managed while avoiding a city choked by congestion. Better public transport options will help Canberra avoid the negative consequences to liveability, health and productivity that congestion causes (and prolongs).”

On the proposed timing, he observed, “The twenty five year population and residential growth forecast in the Light Rail Network Plan provides a sensible basis for identifying light rail network expansion, especially into greenfield areas. ACT Light Rail would like to see public transport options provided before residents move in to new areas, rather than after. This approach will positively impact on land value, support the development of active communities and shape the housing stock of new communities as well as establish public transport as the primary transport option. “

“We looked at the Light Rail Network Plan in detail and support its objectives. We believe that light rail will be an important city building tool, but that it must integrate with other public transport such as ACTION Buses, taxis and Uber to fully maximise those benefits.” Mr Haas added, confident that was the Governments intention.

ACT Light Rail also provided observations on the proposed light rail routes, and recommendations for additional routes that could be incorporated to address current and future land use changes.

In their detailed submission, Mr Haas said that: 

·      ACT Light Rail supports the ACT Governments Capital Metro Stage One project, and the draft Light Rail Network Plan.
·      ACT Light Rail supports the proposed light rail routes as outlined in the draft plan.
·      ACT Light Rail supports planning light rail rotes around ‘future needs’.
·      ACT Light Rail recommends that the routes may need updating, as large scale residential developments such as Googong, and the redeveloped CSIRO Ginninderra Field Station will create transport demand that light rail may be best placed to respond to.
·      ACT Light Rail supports a business case for each corridor; and would ask that the ACT Government ensure that there is ongoing funding for this task in the budget cycle.
·      ACT Light Rail supports seeking Commonwealth funding for light rail, but do not believe this should hold back network development
·      ACT Light Rail supports the ACT Government exploring alternative funding models, including land value capture, congestion charges and toll road funding being used to expand public transport.
·      ACT Light Rail supports the Parliamentary triangle route, commencing after extension of Capital Metro Stage One to Russell.

ACT Light Rail will place their submission on their website at for the public to read. They have a Facebook group: Light Rail for Canberra, with over 700 members. 

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

Sunday, November 29, 2015

ABC TV special on Capital Metro light rail - Fast track to the future or a new set of problems?

ABC TV Canberra have assembled a program looking at Canberra's largest infrastructure program to date - Capital Metro Light Rail. It runs from Gungahlin to Civic (and a Russell extension is 99% certain). To say that it has become controversial is an understatement.
The ABC TV Program broadcast on 27 November 2015

The program 'Fast track to the future or a new set of problems?' takes a look at the project, the problems it is intended to address, the way in which light rail can be used as a tool for urban renewal and city building, the funding and cost issues, and the political issues. Several critics are lined up and asked questions.

Although not a direct transcript, the ABC site has a good summary of the program. I would direct you to their website to read it.

It would be easy to criticise some aspects of the program, but there are people that have concerns and doubts regarding the light rail project and those concerns need to be listened to and addressed. In the ABC program the critics were given their opportunity, and so were the supporters. The politicians stated their case for and against.

Ultimately light rail is a tool that we can use to address real problems we have now, and use it as a tool to build a better Canberra for our future. If we build light rail we can prevent future problems that congested cities experience.

There are two major flaws with the ABC program, the first was the 'pearls on a string' example. The reporter and his subjects completely ignored Mitchell, the race track and EPIC. Urban renewal along the route also creates the conditions further pearls can be attracted to. After dismissing the route, the reporter at the end quickly mentions the extension to Russell that serves CIT in Reid, the Convention centre and Russell's tens of thousands of employees.

The second flaw was positing that it is either light rail or car/bus. It is not. The light rail option will bring integrated public transport - that is light rail as the mass transit backbone, more frequent local bus services and active transport (walking and cycling). The bus option delivers what we have now - declining public transport patronage. Although extending the network was discussed, integrated transport was not.

Overall, the report was a good summary of the issues and politics of the Capital Metro project. It is controversial, it is bold, it is going to change our city and its culture - and it is needed.

The observations of Dr Burke towards the end ring true - for the system to work we must get on and build light rail stages two, three and four as soon as possible. We have to build through the Parliamentary Triangle, to Woden, and create a network that works for Canberra. Light rail will start to make more and more sense.

Finally, this bizarre comment by Leo Dobes cannot go without comment.

"How many people will die because of the tram?"

This sadly, indicates the level to which opponents of light rail will sink to attack a project that will deliver benefits to our city for many generations. It was a truly sad spectacle for which he should be ashamed.

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

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Canberra Liberals position on Capital Metro light rail

Alistair Coe "There are no circumstances whatsoever in which the Canberra Liberals will go ahead with light rail. Absolutely none. If we get elected in October of 2016 it will be to stop light rail."

Reporter "Why are you painting yourself into a corner over this though? If you get to the next election and construction is two or three months down the track and you have to pay a compensation fee for cancelling the contracts, it may be cheaper to just let it go?"

Alistair Coe "I simply do not accept that it's going to be cheaper to allow light rail to go ahead than to simply stop the project." 

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

Friday, November 27, 2015

Gum trees and light rail - an example in Melbourne

Tram heading towards Bundoora from stop at Plenty Road and Kingsbury Avenue.

The central median of Northbourne Avenue will be used to host the Capital Metro light rail tracks. Many of the existing trees will be removed and replaced with new trees when light rail construction has been completed. Over time, they will grow and become a majestic feature of the avenue into our Nations Capital.

View from footpath at the side of the road. Catenary wires are almost invisible, all I see are trees.

An example indicating how this may look can already be seen. On Plenty Road in Melbourne a light rail line runs down the median strip of a six lane arterial road. It has stops about a kilometre apart. These photos were taken around the tram stop at the intersection of Plenty Road and Kingsbury Avenue in the northern suburb of Reservoir in Melbourne.
Tram pulling away from stop at Plenty Road and Kingsbury Avenue.

Bus interchange servicing several local bus companies and services in the northern suburbs of Melbourne.

Across the road from this tram stop is a bus interchange. To the left of this interchange is the Latrobe Uni health Centre. Latrobe University is about a two kilometre walk away. It is actually just behind the bus interchange, but its a hike into the main university complex. This doesn't seem to have an impact on patronage, as students use this stop heavily.
Give me a tram among the gum trees!

I can see a tram pulling into the stop! Thank you Google maps. 

Visualising how Northbourne Avenue will look when the current gum trees are replaced can be difficult. I know it wont look pleasant when construction is underway, but trees will grow, and they will look beautiful. Northbourne Avenue will be iconic.  

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

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Canberra Liberals view of the anniversary of the Capital Metro Business Case

Ten lanes of traffic and a narrow median strip - and no light rail
The Canberra Liberals have issued a press release on their assessment of the Capital Metro light rail project.


October 30, 2015 | Alistair Coe MLA

This weekend marks one year since the release of the Capital Metro Full Business Case, making it a good time to re-evaluate whether light rail is viable in Canberra. The Business Case demonstrated exactly why light rail shouldn’t be built, and a year on, there is only more evidence to discredit the project, Shadow Minister for Transport Alistair Coe said today

“Over the last year, questions raised by experts, further studies and unexpected events should cause the ACT government to re-evaluate light rail. We need to remember the wafer thin Benefit Cost Ratio (BCR) is likely to worsen from 1.2 with even just a minor cost blowout or incorrect assumption,” Mr Coe said.

“Contrary to further evidence to support light rail, there is much to discredit it:
Economist and former ACT Treasury public servant, Dr David Hughes critiqued the Full Business Case and described the project as ‘worse than folly’. He also noted that ‘unsubstantiated and implausible claims about light rail’s effects on land use and the ACT economy’ were included in the Full Business Case.

Economist and Associate Adjunct Professor at the Australian National University, Dr Leo Dobes noted there was a ‘disturbing lack of facts on the table’ when it came to the cost-benefit analysis included in the Full Business Case.

“Furthermore, the Capital Metro Environmental Impact Statement indicated that traffic would not improve as a result of light rail. TAMS responded to this saying even with light rail there would be no significant traffic improvements. Also, the Heritage Council decision protecting 17 properties along Northbourne Avenue limits the government’s ability to redevelop land on the corridor and hence reap any benefits.

“The case for light rail is getting worse and the government knows it. This issue needs to be put to Canberrans at the October 2016 Election,” Mr Coe concluded. 

See also 'Huge week for transport reform in Canberra - Light rail, Buses and Uber' here.
See also 'Canberra Liberals left behind in transport debate' here.

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

Friday, October 30, 2015

Huge week for transport reform in Canberra - Light Rail, Buses and Uber

Chief Minister Andrew Barr steps out of an Uber car
In the space of one week the Labor Greens Government has successfully laid down massive transformative changes in Canberra's public transport. Outside of an election campaign, there has never been this amount of change in public transport in Canberra before. It is very positive. 

The changes the ACT Government has announced this week:
These changes are far reaching and will radically transform Canberra's public transport from a bus and taxi solution to a truly integrated public transport system with Capital Metro light rail at its backbone, supported by buses, taxis and Uber ridesharing. This will take the city a long way towards achieving the increase in public transport use figures that the Government are aiming for in the Transport for Canberra 2031 target.

These changes provide us all with better options and choices - and make driving one person in one car to a parking space and leaving it there all day, no longer the first choice. 

The Uber agreement is an acknowledgement that disruptive technologies can be embraced instead of rejected. Other jurisdictions have  implemented regulations in an attempt to stop Uber ridesharing and preserve taxi monopolies. 

Often this action has arisen as a result of pressure on legislators from taxi license holders. Taxi licenses are often artificially limited, creating a market in licenses. Many people invest in licenses as the license value has historically increased. This is not a good outcome. The intent should be to provide enough taxis to meet demand, not limit taxi licenses to preserve taxi license value.

iPhones, iPhone apps and the Uber business model have led to a rise in ridesharing. it is almost impossible for governments to ban Uber and similar services like On Tap. The ACT Government has negotiated with Uber and reached an agreement. 

Canberra is the first capital city in the world where Uber and the local authority have reached an agreement before Uber has commenced operations.

The agreement is light touch regulation, it primarily means that Uber drivers in Canberra will have to undergo background checks, including criminal history checks. This satisfies public safety concerns.

Associated with the Uber agreement is a recognition that the existing taxi industry needs to adapt. The Government in an attempt to support evolution of an existing industry to meet the challenges of a new industry, will change taxi license fee regulations so that taxi license fees are halved from 20 thousand dollars a year to 10 thousand dollars a year and next year to 5 thousand dollars a year.

The Canberra Liberals are yet to announce any public transport policy, aside from cancelling light rail contracts (described as economic lunacy by the Federal Liberal government). 

The Chief Ministers press release:

Today the ACT became the first jurisdiction in Australia to introduce regulated ridesharing.

From midnight tonight, Canberrans can access a new form of safe, flexible and alternative on-demand transport.

Ridesharing in the ACT will allow drivers to carry passengers through services such as Uber.

This will improve travel options for Canberrans, reduce fares for the community through competition, and drive further innovation in the demand responsive transport industry.

I recently meet with senior executives from Uber in San Francisco who welcomed the responsiveness of the ACT Government to ensure their arrival in the capital.

These are world leading reforms which highlight the ability of the ACT Government to design reforms that can become a platform for other governments around the world to follow.

As announced on 30 September 2015, rideshare and third party taxi booking services can now begin operation under strict conditions and oversight by Access Canberra.

These arrangements will ensure public safety with appropriate criminal and driving history checks, the requirement of roadworthy vehicles, and specific CTP and third party property insurance coverage in place.

To ensure a level playing field for existing taxis and hire cars, the ACT Government has introduced immediate changes to significantly reduce a range of fees and charges including:

· a $10,000 per year reduction in the fee to lease a Government-owned taxi licence;

· a reduction in the annual hire car licence lease fees, from $4,600 to $100; and

· the elimination of the $350 annual taxi and hire car operator accreditation fee.

Taxis will retain their exclusive role in providing rank and hail service to passengers in the community and the provision of wheelchair accessible taxi services.

The Minister assisting the Chief Minister on Transport Reform, Shane Rattenbury, said that taxi industry reform is part of broader government improvements to the public transport system in the ACT, with benefits to the economy, the community and the environment.

For more information on the Taxi Industry Innovation Reforms and to view the On-demand public transport reform document, economic modelling by the Centre for International Economics and public submissions received as part of the community consultation, please visit:

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

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Light rail will mean more ACTION buses on more routes

The commencement of light rail services with Capital Metro Stage One in 2019 will immediately release a great number of buses in the ACTION fleet for reallocation. This will mean that bus services in Canberra will be expanded. New services will be created to feed into the light rail nodes, but it will also be a tremendous opportunity to create new services in other parts of Canberra, and expand existing services (hopefully by increasing local bus service frequency).

Integrating light rail, buses and active travel will be the key to increasing public transport patronage. It will transform our city.

This press release was issued by the Chief Ministers office on 28 October 2015.

More buses on more routes when light rail starts

The introduction of light rail will benefit all of Canberra, not just those who live and work along the light rail corridors, with more than a million kilometres of bus travel reallocated when stage one starts running.
The first stage of the light rail network will free up around 1.2 million kilometres of bus travel every year. To put that in perspective, that’s about the same distance as travelling the circumference of the Earth 30 times.
It makes sense to re-allocate these kilometres to provide more buses, on more routes, for the benefit of the broader community.
Transport Canberra, the new agency I announced yesterday, will work with the community to get these freed-up buses where they’re needed most. It will also be responsible for the design of future bus networks and planning.
This will improve services across the whole of Canberra, as well as quickly transporting people onto the light rail corridor.
To manage Canberra’s growth, reduce congestion and protect our liveability, we need to improve our public transport system.
The ACT Government’s transport plan, which we released yesterday, will improve our public transport system so it becomes more convenient, efficient, affordable and reliable – a genuine alternative to driving.
The plan will be delivered by, Transport Canberra. It will be responsible for integrating buses with the new light rail, ensuring a single ticketing system, a central contact for information and coordinated timetabling.
Transport Canberra will be responsible for assessing how the bus network can best integrate with light rail. That means being able to step off a suburban bus and straight onto a light rail train to quickly move between town centres – saving people time and hassle.
Transport Canberra will coordinate buses and light rail planning, timetabling and fares and will develop a single ticket for use across the system.

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

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Privatising ACTION buses rejected by ACT Government, reform still needed to improve bus services

Shane Rattenbury - Minister for Transport Reform
The recent announcement of the creation of Transport Canberra, a single agency to oversee ACTION buses and Capital Metro, followed on from policy work performed by the ACT Government aimed at improving public transport service delivery and realising efficiencies. Introducing light rail will bring about a massive change to public transport usage and patronage. Transport Canberra will begin work on integrating light rail and ACTION services from July 2016. Light rail will commence services in 2019.

As part of this process, a review into ACTION bus services was commissioned and delivered by MRCagney. The major focus of the report so far has been on the recommendation that privatising ACTION Buses be considered. It advises that the privatisation of ACTION buses would cut costs and improve services.

The government has rejected this option. The government has announced that it will be  retaining ACTION in public ownership and will attempt to bring about service improvements and industrial reform through negotiation with the workforce.

Earlier in 2015, Minister Rattenbury said that 'no option was off the table' in regard to reform of the ACTION bus service.

ACT Light Rail would hope that transport reforms are focussed on expanding bus services to support light rail operations. Introducing light rail is proven to increase bus patronage. Gold Coast bus services have seen a patronage increase of 22% alongside the light rail line. Reducing ACTION Bus services will lead to a continued counter productive spiral in use. Strategies to encourage bus patronage need to be introduced to arrest decline. Light rail is one of these strategies. Paid parking in the Parliamentary Triangle is another.

Punishing people into using public transport is not going to work, but providing a better option than private motor vehicle use can work. Public transport that is reliable, frequent and attractive will attract increasing patronage.

Reform is needed in ACTION. Its workforce is well paid and the fleet is relatively modern. Issues with timeliness and satisfaction are worrying. Performance and productivity must be improved, and this must be a condition of any new enterprise bargaining agreement.  If there is a change of government at the Assembly election in 2016, the privatisation of ACTION may be revisited.

ABC summarises the key stats from the MRCagney report
Other recommendations from the MRCagney report were:

  • the Government would save almost $5.5 million each year by bringing ACTION driver pay and conditions in line with other operators
  • Changing trip caps and moving to distance-based fares would save ACTION money
  • Outsourcing would deliver savings of as much as $47 million each year 
  • Outsourcing vehicle maintenance and other functions were the most plausible options for improving efficiency and attractiveness of services 
  • 116 bus services after 8pm on weekdays could be removed from the timetable due to low patronage 
  • Bus drivers would go back on an award rate as opposed to generous EBA conditions if the network was privatised

Observations from the report:

  • Canberra's buses recorded an operating loss of $11 million last year 
  • ACT taxpayers paid $7.20 in public funding per passenger, twice what other similar public and private bus operations received
  • since 1999 fares paid per passenger dropped 23%
  • Cost per passenger has increased 38% over a 4 year period
  • Only 17 per cent of ACTION's costs are recovered through fares, significantly lower than other public and private networks in Australian and New Zealand.
  • Gross operating cost levels are 40 per cent above the levels of private operators, and 10-15 per cent above the levels of other public operators
  • One of the major problems hampering the performance of Canberra's bus networks,  is an "expensive and inflexible" enterprise agreement with drivers  
  • The average number of passengers on the services was 5.2, a low rate for services running 62 hours per day
  • Customer satisfaction dropped from 87% to 65% over the last 5 years
  • Bus patronage increased at only half the rate of population. 
  • 97 per cent of Canberra's population is served by at least one route
  • 15.2 per cent is served by only one route
  • On-time running of bus services has been "well below the target set by the ACT government"
  • total gross costs have grown considerably and the network's trends compare unfavourably with most metropolitan bus operations in Australia. 

ABC Online reports: ACTION buses to merge with Capital Metro as ACT Government ignores privatisation recommendation:

"Canberra's bus network will merge with Capital Metro, as the ACT Government ignores a strong recommendation to privatise ACTION.
A Government-commissioned report into the functioning and costs of running ACTION buses found savings of almost 50 per cent a year, or $47 million, could be made if the network was outsourced.
The MRCagney report recommendation was also strongly supported by the views of the World Bank on government-run public transport.
"All the evidence indicates that the adoption of an outsourcing policy is highly likely to be substantially more effective than other plausible policy options in improving the cost efficiency and enhancing the attractiveness of the services ... increasing patronage and fare revenue," the report said.
But, in response to the report, the ACT Government said it would instead merge both ACTION buses and the proposed Capital Metro system into a single agency known as Transport Canberra.
"Retaining the ACTION bus service in public hands also maintains the Government's full capacity to devise bus routes that meet community needs including for disadvantaged groups, rather than focussing solely on questions of efficiency," the Government said.
"The Government's chosen approach will keep the public asset in public hands and protect fair working arrangements for our workforce."

"The Government is also already taking forward MRCagney's practical recommendations around discouraging the use of cash [to speed up boarding buses] by trialing the cashless 202 from Gungahlin and promoting all-door access at busy corridors."

The Canberra Times report that "ACT government won't sell ACTION buses despite calls from expert review"

The ACT government has rejected expert calls to privatise ACTION, instead promising to improve services and increase public transport use by combining buses and light rail in a new stand-alone transport agency.

The report, received by the government in March but not released until this week, said privatisation would take several years to complete and would involve significant transition costs to the taxpayer. A sale would be in line with World Bank research on the cost of running public transport systems.
The new Transport Canberra agency will begin working on integration for buses and trams from July 1, 2016. Trams are set to begin running by 2019 or 2020.

Assistant Minister for Transport Reform Shane Rattenbury said any changes to pay and conditions for drivers and crews would require negotiations with unions as part of a new enterprise agreement, due in 2017.
"Clearly an expenditure review is focused on delivering business efficiencies," he said. "The government has looked at this review in light of that and our broader goals of making sure we're delivering a transport system that assists those in our city experiencing transport disadvantage.
"This is a public asset and the government wants to retain ownership of it so we can continue delivering services."

Mr Rattenbury said customer service would be central to any decision making by the new agency.
Decisions are still to be taken on whether the ACTION brand will be retained for Canberra's buses, or how existing senior public servants, including Capital Metro Agency director Emma Thomas, will be incorporated into the new agency. ACTION management, which has been part of the Territory and Municipal Services Directorate, has been reorganised this year.
The new agency could also prompt a stand-alone public transport ministry to be created before the October 2016 election, potentially allowing retiring Deputy Chief Minister Simon Corbell to hand over responsibility for the tram line.

ABC Canberra News report from 27 October

WIN News report from 27 october

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