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'.