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'. 

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