All the Rapid Bus routes promised at the 2016 election to be delivered in 2018, along with light rail

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Map of the Canberra Rapid Bus network from mid-2018

 

The proposed Rapid Bus routes to be introduced in mid 2018 have received a thumbs up from the Public Transport Association of Canberra (PTCBR). 

TCCS Minister Meegan Fitzharris today announced that in 2018 Canberra would have nine rapid transit routes. Eight would be rapid bus, and one would be light rail. The announcement was made at the opening of the new $4 million dollar Dickson bus interchange, directly across the road from the Dickson light rail stop on Northbourne Avenue.

Announcing all eight rapid bus routes to be delivered at once is a bold move, and it really cements how serious the government is about public transport, and especially on integrating light rail and buses.”

The focus on expanding the rapid bus network in 2018 instead of introducing them individually over a multi-year period, isn’t something that the PTCBR anticipated. It’s a pleasant surprise. Announcing it at this brand new bus facility just reinforces how serious the government is about public transport policy.
This almost certainly a combination of a positive budget position, and the political direction on positive public transport policy (supported by results from the public that use it).  The budget surplus forecast by the ACT Government, has allowed the early delivery of expanded public transport, including light rail, demonstrating that sensible long term infrastructure investment is affordable.
With the buses currently operating on the Gungahlin rapid to be reallocated across the bus network when light rail starts, and eighty new buses on order, this rapid rollout can really kick start the new Transport Canberra philosophy of expanded local services feeding into rapid bus and light rail routes, that was introduced with Network 17.
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TCCS Minister Meegan Fitzharris announcing the new rapid bus routes at the opening of the $4 million dollar Dickson bus interchange
PTCBR believe that Canberrans will appreciate that light rail, expanded local bus services and more frequent rapids can shorten their overall travel times, and allow them to spend less time commuting, and more time with their families.
There was a great deal of focus on the governments light rail plans leading up to the last election, and not so great a focus on how similar the long term bus plans were from the Canberra Liberals and the ACT Government. The major difference is that several of the rapid bus routes proposed by the government are to become light rail lines over the coming decades.
This reflects increasing patronage, especially on routes such as Canberras most heavily used rapid bus, the Belconnen to Civic rapid, which is now also running to the Airport. Certainly a Belconnen – Civic – Airport light rail line is a sensible addition, creating a North South and East West light rail spine across the territory. This route becoming light rail may becomes a 2020 election proposal.
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Local bus entering the Dickson Interchange from Northbourne Avenue
The only slightly disappointing aspect that PTCBR could identify with this rapid bus network plan was that Queanbeyan doesn’t appear on the new rapid network. PTCBR recommend that a Civic – Fyshwick – Queanbeyan route be trialled. We firmly believe that cross-border discussions into establishing this route, operated by either Transport Canberra or a NSW operator be explored.
The new ticketing technology that Transport Canberra will adopt could assist this process. Queanbeyan buses do not use the NSW Opal technology, and if all three jurisdictions (ACT, Metro NSW, regional NSW) adopt a compatible ticketing technology, this could become logistically feasible.
Minister Fitzharris is demonstrating great confidence in Transport Canberra and their ability to service such a bold rapid bus plan in mid 2018. It’s the same bold approach from the Government that saw light rail delivered, and PTCBR expect that the Canberra public will also accept these changes. The rapid buses are becoming more popular as frequency and service hours are extended, especially the critical local bus services, and this bodes well for light rail.


Damien Haas is the Chair of the Public Transport Association of Canberra, the Canberra regions peak public transport lobby group. Their website is at ptcbr.org

To stay up to date with all public transport and planning issues in Canberra,join the PTCBR here and visit our Facebook Group.

 

Canberra Liberals support light rail and want a light rail stop in Mitchell

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Members of the Mitchell Traders Association on a WIN TV News Canberra report discussing their case for a light rail station

The Public Transport Association of Canberra are pleased that the Canberra Liberals are now supporting light rail in Canberra. This very welcome about face has occurred following representations by the Mitchell Traders Association to their local members after recently realising a light rail station was not going to be built in Mitchell as part of light rail stage one. The benefits of light rail for residents and businesses along the light rail stage one corridor have been supported at two elections, and it is pleasing that business owners in Mitchell, and the Canberra Liberals, now support better public transport options.

In the ACT Legislative Assembly on Wednesday 19 September, Shadow Transport Minister Andrew Wall MLA will table a motion (below) calling for a light rail station to be constructed in Mitchell, and compensation for businesses affected by light rail construction.

PTCBR are not sure why the motion by the Canberra Liberals motion is being made now, as TCCS Minister Meegan Fitzharris MLA has already indicated that a light rail stop in Mitchell will be built (the supporting infrastructure is in place) and that it is a matter of when it will be built.  The Mitchell Traders met with the Minister recently and were also told that a stop would be built.

Light rail will provide tremendous access directly to Mitchell by thousands of potential customers and employees. A light rail stop in Mitchell that can be built between stages one and stage two construction, would benefit everyone.

PTCBR also strongly support a light rail stop in Mitchell, and called for it during consultation several years ago, when the Mitchell Traders, and Canberra Liberals could also have asked for a light rail stop in Mitchell.

Although a stop was discussed in the consultation processes, no Mitchell stop was planned or appeared in the business case. The many new businesses that now front Flemington Road will benefit from a light rail stop, and better integrated bus services to link with the bus routes that already travel through the Mitchell precinct.

Although it is very positive that Mitchell Traders and the Canberra Liberals now support a light rail stop in Mitchell, it is a valuable warning to other parts of Canberra that will see light rail extended to their town centres over the coming decades. The best time to engage in consultation for an infrastructure project is when it is being planned, not when the bulldozers are visible from the window of your business.

Business and commercial and residential property owners along the corridor for the second stage of light rail from Civic, through Parkes and Barton to Woden, are urged to take part in consultation processes and express a view on stop locations and possible routes.

Oddly, the Canberra Liberal motion also calls for more all day parking in Mitchell. More parking seems to be at odds with a call for more public transport. More short term parking would be better for customers than more all day parking.

The motion also asks for compensation for business losses due to light rail construction activity. Although it is unfortunate for any business to suffer a downturn due to infrastructure provision, the benefits that these businesses will accrue from light rail running past their door, will be many.

PTCBR (and its predecessor ACT Light Rail) have always supported a light rail stop in Mitchell, and hope that the Canberra Liberals motion and the ACT Governments existing stated support for a light rail stop will see budget funds provided for a stop to be built in the very near future. Bipartisan support for public transport is always positive.

 


Motion moved by Shadow Transport Minister Andrew Wall on 19 Sep 2017:

MR WALL: To move—That this Assembly:
(1) notes the important contribution that businesses in Mitchell make to the ACT economy and the considerable amount of revenue collected by Government from Mitchell traders through rates, payroll tax and other fees and charges; and
(2) calls on the ACT Government to:
(a) construct a light rail stop at Mitchell;
(b) explore what compensation can be offered to businesses severely
impacted by the construction of light rail;
(c) construct additional all day car parking in Mitchell (especially for
workers on the eastern side of Mitchell);
(d) detail how Mitchell will be serviced by buses following the operation of
light rail;
(e) include Mitchell on a regular schedule for street sweeping;No 31—19 September 2017 541
(f) improve the urban services delivered in Mitchell, such as footpath and
streetlight maintenance; and
(g) undertake consultation with businesses in Mitchell about
implementing urgent minor capital works in the public realm.

To stay up to date with all public transport and planning issues in Canberra, join the PTCBR here and visit our Facebook Group.

Canberra companies building our light rail

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Construction at the light rail station site in Hibberson Street on 15 Sep 2017

Light rail stage one construction by Canberra Metro is well underway, with tracks being laid and the depot in Mitchell approaching completion. In the ACT Legislative Assembly on Thursday 14th Sep, Transport Minister Meegan Fitzharris MLA read out a list of Canberra companies that are helping to build light rail stage one. She advised the Assembly that:

  • 58% of the contracts for stage one have been let to Canberra owned companies.
  • Of the 137 local contracts, they are shared between 114 local companies.

That is a great result for a project where one of the objectives was to grow local expertise in building light rail.

You can watch the Minister read out a list of local companies to the Assembly at this link.

To stay up to date with all public transport and planning issues in Canberra, join the PTCBR here and visit our Facebook Group.

Light rail patronage in Sydney exceeds expectations, so let’s plan ahead properly in Canberra

Sydney has recently seen it’s public transport demand boom, with demand exceeding capacity on several popular light rail lines. Forward planning and a coordinated integrated transport planning strategy may have seen this coming, and treasury may have allowed further vehicle to be procured, adding capacity into the network.

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Sydney Morning Herald look at the capacity issues in Sydney

See ‘Why trams on Sydneys booming inner west light rail aren’t running more often‘ here

Long term urban trends and planning policy Australia wide are for high density residential housing adjacent to transport corridors. As well as alleviating resdential housing demand, this is leading to increased public transport patronage, but sometimes one policy area isn’t aligned with another (and this includes treasury).

In Canberra, although we don’t have planning and transport under the same minister, the ministers, senior bureaucrats and planners of both areas are across the issues concerning others. This is a recent change, that only occurred in the last few years (and planning policy and bureaucracy is evolving again…), but is already proving itself with the careful approach taken with light rail stage one.

PTCBR are expecting patronage on Gungahlin to Civic light rail stage one to exceed expectations. That is one of the reasons we are lobbying hard for integrated bus service planning to start ASAP. If our predictions are correct, planing for Woden to Civic light rail stage two must include extra light rail vehicles above those that might have been ordered simply to satisfy current/predicted Woden to Civic patronage. Vehicle ordering lead times are significant, and experience interstate has shown more demand not less.

Let’s enjoy the benefits of dramatic uptake in public transport use, without suffering the disadvantages.

To stay up to date with all public transport and planning issues in Canberra, join the PTCBR here and visit our Facebook Group.

Electric and hybrid buses introduced to Canberra for a 12 month trial

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Volvo Australia Bustech hybrid diesel electric bus

Transport Canberra held a media event on Friday 25 August 2017 to announce that new electric and hybrid buses would be entering regular fleet operations from Monday. They will be trialled for twelve months. Two of the three buses from Carbridge and Volvo have been in Canberra for a few weeks, and have been wrapped with AOA branding visibly proclaiming their drivetrain, and equipped with Nxtbus and MyWay equipment as well as the regular fitout of TCCS specific signage in the passenger area. The third bus, from Carbridge, will enter service in December.

The buses are externally very similar to regular buses in the TCCS fleet. Most people wont even know they are travelling on one (except they will wonder why it is so quiet…).

The Carbridge BYD Toro is made in Malaysia from Swiss body components and a Chinese BYD drivetrain. There are around 15,000 of the same drivetrain in operation worldwide, but only around 10 in Australia at present. Two will be trialled in Canberra.

The Volvo B5R is one of around 20 in Australia, with an Australian made Bustech body. It is a diesel electric hybrid bus. One will be on trial in Canberra.

(note that the specs are slightly different to suit Transport Canberra requirements)

Representatives from Carbridge and Volvo Australia attended the media launch. It is of great interest to both companies as not only are electric and hybrid buses the future of buses, fleet replacement of Canberra buses will see the older Renault and Dennis buses phased out and newer buses phased in. The results of the trial could influence future fleet replacement tender requirements.

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Carbridge BYD Toro electric bus

Ride, presentation and interior

Both buses have fairly standard passenger bus interiors. They have been fitted with bike racks, Nxtbus and MyWay equipment in use in all Canberra buses. Both buses have rear door exits, that are wide and quite usable (and the ‘No Entry’ stickers have NOT been applied).

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Interior of Volvo hybrid bus
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Interior of Carbridge BYD Toro bus

The only clear difference between the two is that the Carbridge has a noticeable step between the low floor front passenger area, and the rear area. The Volvo stepup is not as high, and has a slight incline. The Carbridge representative advised this would change in future versions, as battery packs and drivetrains were updated.

Both buses are new, and have the new car smell. The squeaks and rattles are possibly amplified and more noticeable because…

They are so quiet. They hum.

The Carbridge is so quiet that you can hear a person in the back row of the bus speaking from the front of the bus, while the bus is driving through Civic. Out on the road, all you can hear is the hum of the drivetrain (or maybe its tyre noise?).

This video of the Carbridge travelling along Parkes Way to the Arboretum shows how quiet it is.

This video of the Volvo hybrid bus travelling around the Arboretum shows how quiet the bus pulls away and transitions to diesel power

The Volvo bus is a diesel electric hybrid. It takes off under electric power and the diesel engine kicks in as it needs it. The diesel engine also powers the battery pack. It is a quiet bus, and although it is not as quiet as the Carbridge, it is much quieter than a diesel bus, as it doesn’t rev away as it takes off from a standing start. It just glides away. The video shows this quite well. On the road, I doubt a passenger will notice.

The ride of both buses is very good. Around London Circuit and on Parkes Way the Carbridge was very smooth. Around the Arboretum the Volvo was also very smooth and rode well. The Carbridge is perhaps firmer than the Volvo. A full load of passengers and a few months of operation might make a difference.

Canberra bus drivers are renowned for their lead foots and quick application of brakes. They might need to watch that on these buses as they just GO. Full power is available as soon as the accelerator is depressed. As the accelerator is released, brakes apply automatically. I spoke to the driver of the Carbridge bus and he admitted he was being careful, as it was a new bus. Both drivers were very very keen to show off the buses (always a good sign).

There might need to be a period of adjustment and training for drivers of these buses. The snappy speed and quick braking abilities of both buses, might need to be tempered with a full load of Canberrans glued to their smartphones – unless they want to be thrown all over the place as a P plated Hyundai cuts in front of a bus at a set of lights.

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A large rear door and bold AOA wrap letting us know what powers this bus

The future?

This trial is significant. The ACT Government is committed to better public transport, transitioning to fully renewable sources of energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The trial of electric and hybrid buses is a key component of the longer term policy goals in these areas.

The average Canberra bus travels around 350 kilometres a day. Times that over a year, over an entire fleet of buses and that is an awful lot of diesel fuel consumed, and a lot of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases emitted. Despite recent improvements in diesel engine technology, fully renewable sources of power are better for a range of reasons.

Electric and hybrid buses are being trialled worldwide, and significant technological advances are made every year. As fleets are ordered, manufacturers are likely to offer models with features that public transport operators demand. The cost of fully renewable electric power may be similar to the cost of a diesel hybrid bus that generates power as it operates. Data collected in a trial can determine this.

Importantly, for public transport to be sustainable it must be used. Making public transport frequent, reliable and attractive will attract and retain patronage, Passengers want a comfortable ride that arrives on time and when it is needed.

The two buses used in this trial are both attractive and comfortable. The heaters work well on both. The seats are comfortable and there are ample hanger straps. Disabled access is good; both have low floor entrances, and flipup seats in the front passenger area to cater for prams and wheelchairs. Both buses have bike racks fitted. They are also quiet and the electric bus is fume free. The hybrid bus only operates its diesel engine when the bus is on the road, so it will also be fume free when at a bus interchange.

The days of buses idling and pouring diesel fumes into the atmosphere are on their way out. This will offer significant advantages for urban and transport planners in the future. The lack of noise these buses emit means that residents living near bus interchanges will barely notice them coming and going.

If the trial proves that these types of buses is successful, then the familiarity of the buses will make their adoption fairly seamless from a passenger perspective, and pretty straightforward from a driver perspective. The drivers position and instruments are very similar, the only difference being immediate power, lots of torque, and that the brakes are applied when the accelerator pedal is lifted.

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Carbridge instruments

Mechanically the buses are probably less work than a diesel bus. However that can be determined over the yearlong trial. Both types of bus will be operated out of the Tuggeranong depot, and some equipment specific to electric and hybrid buses has been installed out there, and some modifications to the TCCS bus tow truck have also been carried out. Both Carbridge and Volvo will be keen to ensure that any technical support will be available promptly.

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Electric power for the Carbridge buses at the Tuggeranong depot

Conclusion

This year long trial of two different technologies will provide invaluable data and experience to Transport Canberra and ACT Government policy makers. The trial coincides with the introduction of light rail stage one from Gungahlin to Civic and a massive shift in Canberra’s transport patterns.

The failure of the previous electric bus tender earlier this year was unfortunate, but when you are sailing close to the cutting edge that can happen. We can’t let the fear of failure stop us from exploring a better future. The two models selected for this trial are from manufacturers with proven track records, and Volvo is one of the biggest truck/bus manufacturers in the world. Both want to make this work.

Light rail will radically change public transport in Canberra, with the heavy lifting carried out along a mass transit light rail spine that will in several decades extend to all town centres. While the rapid buses may be replaced by light rail, buses will always have a major role in servicing our suburbs, delivering passengers to light rail and taking children to school. Integrated transport and active transport will lessen the requirement for people to own two or more cars, and will build a reliable public transport network that can shape urban planning around transport corridors.

These new electric and hybrid buses are a key part of our public transport future.

Reporting on the electric and hybrid buses

A local newspaper reported on the electric and hybrid bus trial launch here

WIN TV News Canberra ran this report on Friday 25 Aug 2017

Nine TV News Canberra ran this report on Friday 25 Aug 2017

Transport Canberra and City Services Minister Meegan Fitzharris MLA office issued a media release on 25 August 2017:

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Electric buses join Transport Canberra fleet

Two of the three electric or hybrid buses Transport Canberra will use during its alternative fuel bus trial have arrived in the ACT, wrapped and ready to roll into action.

Minister for Transport and City Services, Meegan Fitzharris said the first two buses, one Carbridge electric and one Volvo hybrid will start service as part of the Transport Canberra bus network in the coming weeks.

A second Carbridge electric bus will join the fleet in December 2017.

“The ACT Government is committed to looking at new and innovative ways to improve our public transport system to manage Canberra’s growth, reduce congestion and protect our liveability,” Minister Fitzharris said.

“These buses are another example of the ACT Government’s forward thinking in regards to both public transport and minimising human impact on the environment.”

“Recent improvements in technology mean electric and hybrid buses are becoming more economical and operationally viable, which is why we believe it is the right time to run this trial.”

The two plug- in electric buses by Carbridge carry battery technology developed in China and have been specially built in Malaysia for this trial. Similar vehicles are currently used at the Sydney and Brisbane airports to provide passenger shuttle services.

The Volvo hybrid vehicle contains a diesel engine, battery bank and energy recovery systems.

The trial, which will see all three buses run as part of the bus network until the end of 2018, will enable the ACT Government to assess the viability of using alternative buses within the bus network to see if they can progressively replace the existing fleet.

These buses have been installed with the necessary equipment like MyWay ticketing, CCTV, bike racks and the NXTBUS real time information system.

For more information on the trial, visit http://www.transport.act.gov.au. The Parliamentary Agreement between Labor and the Greens includes the promotion of integrated transport.  

Statement ends

To stay up to date with all public transport and planning issues in Canberra, join the PTCBR here and visit our Facebook Group.

First rails are laid for Canberra light rail stage one

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Transport Canberra announces rail finally being laid

Since work began on light rail stage one along the Flemington Road and Northourne Avenue corridors, the installation of rail has been seen as a significant milestone. The contract between the ACT Government and Canberra Metro specified rails in the ground in July as a KPI. And they were.

Several test sections were laid in July, and as the workforce assembled for the construction has been building its skillset, the rails are due to be permanently installed from next month. The first images below are of the rails as they appear now, and largely as they will appear when service commences.

The last images are of the initial test sections, and show how they are laid and installed into the surface bed. The surface rust will disappear once light rail vehicles start running along the rails.

(Update with photos from this news article)

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The test track slabs for the light rail have been laid. From left, Mark Jones deputy project director, and Glenn Stockton Canberra Metro CEO, next to the epoxy compound that encases the rail to both secure the rail in the track slot and as part of the stray current management system. Photo: Jamila Toderas
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The epoxy compound both secures the rail in the track slot and helps to manage stray currents. Photo: Jamila Toderas

The following images were recently taken (Aug 2017) of the test sections.

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The following images were taken in July 2017 of the initial test sections.

early test section 6early test section 5early test section 4

early test section

early test section 3

early test section 2

To stay up to date with all public transport and planning issues in Canberra, join the PTCBR here and visit our Facebook Group.

PTCBR meeting 29 August 12.30PM

 

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A meeting of the Public Transport Association of Canberra (PTCBR) will be held on:

Tuesday 29 August at 12.30 – 1.30PM 

Room 8 at the Griffin Centre, Genge Street in Civic.

Agenda:
  • Chairs report – and awarding of honorary membership to John Mikita of Transit Graphics
  • Update from Transport Canberra and City Services on buses and light rail stage two.
  • Canberra Metro – Light Rail Stage One construction.
This week test track for light rail has been laid, progress on light rail stage two was announced and electric/hybrid buses are being prepared for service on our roads.   
 
This meeting is a good opportunity for PTCBR members to learn more about recent public transport developments in Canberra, and ask questions to the people building and operating it. 
 
 
Membership forms will be available at the meeting if you wish to bring along someone you feel may be interested in joining our association. 
To stay up to date with all public transport and planning issues in Canberra, join the PTCBR here and visit our Facebook Group.

Light rail stage two consultation shows strong support for Barton route

The summary report for Woden to Civic light rail stage two has been released to the public and placed on the Yoursay website. The summary report followed extensive community consultation (that PTCBR contributed significantly to). There are no real surprises from the report with overwhelming public support for light rail to travel between Woden and Civic, through City West and the major employment hubs of Parkes and Barton.

Although roughly half the public supported a dogleg to the Canberra Hospital, at the Woden end, that option is unlikely to be taken up due to “uncertainties raised about how convenient it would be to (access) the hospital entrance and the implications for the future southern extensions of the network”. These are concerns that the PTCBR raised in its submission to the ACT Government on stage two

Although it may seem that many people use public transport to access hospitals, it is not supported by data. Rerouting the Woden terminus to the hospital would also impact options to extend light rail from the Woden Town Centre to Tuggeranong in the future. 

There was also strong support for access to Manuka Oval from light rail, and more stops in Barton to cater to the workforce there. By using this route many national attractions such as Old Parliament House, the National Gallery, National Library and Reconciliation Place are in walking distance from light rail stops. The report also indicates that pedestrian access to light rail stops along Adelaide avenue require research and careful design. lrs2map.jpgAt the conclusion of this stage of the consultation process, it it appears that the light rail stage two route likely to be selected, is very similar to Route 2A from the initial options offered for community consultation in May this year.

The next step in this process is for Transport Canberra to complete the business case for light rail stage two.

The summary report can be found here.

The media reported on the report announcement here:

TCCS Minister Meegan Fitzharris office issued this media release on 21 August 2017

Strong community support for light rail to Woden

As the Government progresses its technical and expert analysis, community engagement on Stage 2 of the Light Rail network shows Canberrans have a strong preference of which route they’d like to take to Woden.

Minister for Transport and City Services, Meegan Fitzharris said that the result of the consultation demonstrates strong support for Light Rail Stage 2 to travel to Woden through Parkes and Barton.

“We have had an overwhelming response to the online survey on Your Say, with 4772 people providing their thoughts on preferred route options, alignment and stops,” Minister Fitzharris said.

“The report indicates that 75 percent of respondents support a route that travels through Parkes and Barton.”

Community feedback indicates the key reasons for support include:

  • it capitalises on tourism, education and employment hubs, and proximity to cultural institution;
  • it provides service to a large number of commuters;
  • it allows for future stages to continue further south towards Fyshwick and Queanbeyan.

“I would like to thank everyone who has provided feedback on Light Rail Stage 2,” Minister Fitzharris said.

“As the project progresses, more opportunities will be provided for Canberrans to have their say and engage on broader issues identified along the southern corridor and related transport issues for Canberra.”

At the same time the Government will continue to combine the findings of its expert analysis with the community’s views to develop the business case for Stage 2 of Light Rail.

The business case will be considered by the Government in late 2017/early 2018 while in the meantime Stage 1 of light rail continues to progress well.

To view the Light Rail Update, including the consultation summary report, please visit:

https://www.yoursay.act.gov.au/LRS2

Statement ends

To stay up to date with all public transport and planning issues in Canberra, join the PTCBR here and visit our Facebook Group.

Colliers survey shows strong support for Canberra light rail by commercial property owners

Colliers International is a multinational property sales and management operation with a strong presence in commercial property in Canberra. Earlier this month they released a report based on a survey of commercial property owners about  Canberras Light Rail project. http://www.colliers.com.au/~/media/Australia Website/Files/Research/ACTLightRail_SurveyResults.ashx

Download the report here.

Who did Colliers survey?

The survey consisted of submitting ten questions to ninety property owners along the Northbourne – Flemington light rail route (out of 110 property owners). 36% of owners responded to the survey.

Colliers felt there had been a lack of engagement with commercial property owners, particularly along the Northbourne Avenue and Flemington Road light rail corridor.

Colliers survey focus was on the impact of light rail on commercial property in the short, medium and long term. The primary objectives of the survey were for Colliers to understand the following:

  • Do property owners believe that the light rail project will ultimately benefit Canberra?
  • Whether the major infrastructure project would benefit commercial property values and tenant retention along the corridor.
  • Have owners of properties along the Stage 1 route considered repurposing or disposing of their properties given the ACT Government’s land release program along the corridor?
  • Is there cause for concern of an oversupply of dwellings given the significant number of mixed-use developments forecast along the corridor?
  • What are the major concerns for commercial property owners along Stage 1?

 

What did the survey find?

Overall the survey results show support for the light rail project and its positive benefits. However, some of the findings from the survey are a little startling for supporters of better public transport, and show that more work needs to be done communicating with business and property owners about the benefits that light rail will bring. Some of the responses are contrasting and reflect the differing views of respondents overall.

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According to the survey results, commercial property owners believe:

  • light rail is likely to provide a significant economic boost to local business
  • will increase employment
  • encourage domestic and international investment in Canberra
  • that Canberrans will use light rail to commute to and from work
  • the light rail network should expand from Civic to Woden, then the Airport
  • light rail will create increased activity and better amenity
  • lead to better tenant retention in the long-term
  • will not lead to an oversupply of residential property
  • light rail will improve the value of their property

While there was strong consensus of the benefits of light rail, respondents had some concerns about the project believing that newer technologies may supersede light rail and affect the long-term viability of the project

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Map from Colliers survey report showing property growth categories

Matthew Winter, manager at Colliers International, said respondents also had different views on when to proceed with future light rail stages and which town centres should be priorities. “Owners indicated the light rail network should expand from CBD to Woden next (33%) and Canberra Airport (30%).

The survey also supported the urban renewal benefits of light rail, Winter commenting that “Despite not necessarily supporting the proposed technology, half the owners surveyed said now is the right time for light rail to be implemented and indicated the project would serve as a catalyst to reinvigorate tired gateways,”.

With the business case for stage two of the light rail project to Woden ( a tired town centre in dire need of urban renewal) being prepared now, this support from commercial property owners is encouraging.

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Work to be done in communicating light rail objectives

The responses from the property owners also show that there is still significant work to be done in communicating the benefits of light rail to the business community. Almost half the respondents believe light rail would have little to no impact on traffic congestion, a fundamental objective of the light rail project for Gungahlin residents and those commuting by car and bus along Northbourne Avenue, Canberra’s most congested road.

Property owners also believed there was a lack of information about transit times and fares, that may lead to prospective passengers commuting by car instead, finding it a cheaper and more direct option, despite traffic congestion. They also believed that people would use light rail to commute to and from work, assuming the stops were near office locations and “Park and Ride” locations were provided.

Property owners also expressed concerns that a slow light rail service and the possibility of interchanging to other travel modes in order to reach final destinations may also be impractical for most.

Winters also observed that “Given the strategic land release programme of the ACT Government along Northbourne Avenue and Flemington Road, many owners noted the likely demand from developers for these opportunities and had investigated possible options,” including sale or conversion of their properties.

“This seems to support the notion that further amenity and infrastructure along the corridor will have a positive benefit for owners through improved tenant retention, increased accessibility, and provide a solution to the current parking shortage, particularly in areas such as Braddon.”

Winter said “Overwhelmingly, owners believe light rail will improve the value of their property.”

How useful is this survey?

PTCBR has contacted Colliers and asked when a survey of Woden property owners will be conducted. It would also be beneficial to expand the survey (if repeated) to include property owners within the TOD corridor, roughly a kilometre from the route. They advised that they are planning to conduct future surveys (including follow-ups), particularly once the direction of Stage 2 is confirmed. This may include Woden and Barton owners subject to the route.

Although the survey size is small, it is focussed on a specific demographic that shapes how the corridor will grow. Their views are very useful for the current project, and in planning communications strategies for future stages of the light rail network In Canberra.

The Public Transport Association of Canberra is the regions peak public transport lobby group. Their website is at ptcbr.org and a robust discussion on public transport and planning takes place at their Facebook page.

Membership in PTCBR is $20 a year for adults and $10 a year for any concession card holder.

ACT Assembly extends third party insurance to light rail

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On Wednesday August 1st 2017 some important legislation covering a few practical elements for light rail operations, was passed in the ACT legislative Assembly. This regulatory update permits licensed car drivers to legally operate light rail vehicles. The Road Transport Reform (Light Rail) Legislation Amendment also extends third party insurance to light rail vehicles and passengers. In a sensible move, Segway riders are also now subject to drink driving legislation.

TCCS Minister Meegan Fitzharris’ office issued a press release with more detail:

Light rail on track for a safe and successful future

The first stage of reforms to the ACT’s road transport legislation to support the safe operation of light rail was today passed in the Legislative Assembly.

The Road Transport Reform (Light Rail) Legislation Amendment delivers legislation to support the safe operation of light rail vehicles in the Territory’s road environment through integration with the ACT’s road transport legislation and road rules.

Drivers of light rail vehicles will be required to hold a full car licence and be provided with extensive training on operating a light rail vehicle.

If a driver is detected breaking a road rule, such as running a red light or speeding, they can be issued with an infringement notice and face a fine and potentially lose their licence.

Light rail vehicles are also covered by the ACT’s compulsory third party insurance scheme, ensuring that a person involved in an accident with a light rail vehicle is treated the same as if the accident involved any other type of vehicle.

A driver of a light rail vehicle is subject to the same requirements applying to drivers of vehicles involved in an accident. A police officer can require the driver to be tested for alcohol and/or drugs.

The bill also subjects a user of a segway-type (‘personal mobility’) device to two drink driving laws: consuming alcohol while riding, and riding while intoxicated.

“This is a significant step forward in the delivery of a modern and sustainable public transport network in Canberra,” said Minister for Road Safety Shane Rattenbury.

Minister for Transport and City Services Meegan Fitzharris also welcomed this significant step in the light rail project.

“An integrated public transport network with both light rail and buses is the way of the future and an essential part of how cities operate,” Minister Fitzharris said.

“While the physical side of the project continues to develop in clear view of the community, having the legislation in place to ensure the network is convenient and safe is also crucial to the success of the project.”

 

The Public Transport Association of Canberra is the regions peak public transport lobby group. Their website is at ptcbr.org and a robust discussion on public transport and planning takes place at their Facebook page.

Membership in PTCBR is $20 a year for adults and $10 a year for any concession card holder.

How do we best use a million extra bus kilometres across Canberra after light rail starts in 2018?

The days and weeks after light rail stage one begins operation in 2018 provide a rare opportunity to significantly boost our ability to expand Canberra’s bus services. The benefit to all residents of Canberra from light rail replacing overtaxed buses trundling along the Northbourne – Flemington corridor will be immediately apparent. To people in that corridor they now have access to a brand new frequent, reliable and attractive transport technology. Across Canberra, the bus network will benefit from an injection of a million extra bus kilometers a year.

Since the decision to implement light rail was taken, a bold and flexible approach to bus policy has also occurred. This is a positive sign for public transport. Using the Red Rapid buses, and the million kilometres a year they were driving on that service, across the network will effectively add a fleet of high quality, disability compliant buses at little extra cost in equipment or staffing.

How do we best realise this opportunity?

Several high priority transport tasks can be addressed by this one million bus kilometres a year for the rest of Canberra.

Expanding Rapid Bus services: This is a government commitment, and the phased rollout of Rapid Buses will further strengthen the business case for future light rail lines on some of those Rapid Bus routes.

Increasing local bus services: Expanding the reach and frequency of existing local bus services in the suburbs of Gungahlin and adjacent to Northbourne Avenue is essential. A large proportion of those extra kilometres must also go to the rest of Canberra. Residents of suburbs in Belconnen, Woden and Tuggeranong will benefit from increased local bus service frequency. This will particularly benefit Woden residents, and those living adjacent to the second stage of light rail.

Guaranteeing connections: Reducing overall travel time of people losing their suburb to Civic bus service becomes easier when frequency increases. Connecting to frequent light rail services that provide a less than ten minute wait for a connection, is a compelling reason to not drive. Even Woden, Belconnen and Tuggeranong residents will benefit from shorter connections between transport modes.

Much of the fear mongering leading up to the 2016 election implied that once light rail started, that ALL bus services from Gungahlin and suburbs adjacent to Northbourne would disappear. This is simply wrong. Expanding the frequency of these local bus services has always been the intention. Some routes may change and no longer run directly to Civic, and instead connect with the Dickson light rail and bus interchange. That increases options and reduces overall travel time. Information on these changes should be provided by TCCS soon.

A bright transport future

Increasing public transport patronage reduces private car use. Every person that uses public transport removes those car kilometres, resource usage, carbon emissions and parking demand from society. We all benefit from these resources being used more efficiently and sustainably.

The car dependent Canberra we are slowly moving away from is a result of the car focussed NCDC urban planning and several decades of declining bus services, only recently addressed. As patronage declined, bus services were further reduced. Some of the disastrous Stanhope/Hargreaves era bus timetable implementations damaged patronage so badly that confidence in a bus only solution to Canberra’s public transport future, evaporated. Rising private car use only made overall transport issues worse.

Post-Stanhope and a new focus on urban issues over esoteric ideology by the Gallagher government were welcomed by public transport and planning advocates. The introduction of light rail is the modal shift Canberra needs and is the primary way to deliver a bright transport future to Canberra. Densification along transport corridors will also lessen the insatiable demand for greenfields land for standalone housing.

The current government has shown incredible commitment to delivering a better future for Canberra in the transport and planning space. The public has supported this radical change at two consecutive elections. Light rail is coming and this is now accepted on both sides of the Legislative Assembly.

Recent bus policy has been flexible and responsive, with a focus also placed on active travel to support the shift in thinking about how we move around our suburbs and city. Light rail alone and buses alone wont resolve transport challenges, an integrated approach is the best way. That has been the policy approach of the Barr government, supported by the Greens and capably implemented by Transport Minister Meegan Fitzharris. This is incredibly positive and should be applauded.

Although being built first in the area that most needed better public transport, light rail wont reach all of Canberra’s towns for two decades or more, but the bus network will always be required to service the suburbs that most of us live in. Using the flexibility of buses, and the certainty of mass transit light rail gives Canberra the best opportunity to deliver first world public transport options, and reduce car dependency (whether we drive it or it drives itself…).

That injection of an extra million bus kilometres a year into our public transport system starting in 2018 must be well used. The current signs indicate that it will be.

Damien Haas is the Chair of the Public Transport Association of Canberra, the regions peak public transport lobby group. Their website is at ptcbr.org and a robust discussion on public transport and planning takes place at their Facebook page.

Membership in PTCBR is $20 a year for adults and $10 a year for any concession card holder.

Woden light rail community consultation has started

The ACT Government have announce a comprehensive community consultation program for the Woden light rail stage of the light rail network. Four choices of route have been identified, with two different routes through the Parliamentary Triangle in Barton, and termination in Woden at Callam Street or the Hospital, being the details that are to be determined.

ABC News have an article on this announcement here

The Public Transport Association of Canberra (PTCBR) are pleased that community consultation on the second stage of Canberras light rail network has commenced. This second stage will run from Woden to Civic and provide a much needed boost to public transport services to Woden residents, and to workers in the Parliamentary Triangle.

PTCBR urge the government to quickly proceed with a business case and final routes, taking into consideration the best options for Canberra, and Woden residents.

As well as addressing road congestion and providing better public transport options, Woden light rail stage two through the Parliamentary Triangle is a tremendous opportunity to provide easy tourist access to the national attractions.

PTCBR are pleased at the extensive consultation agenda that the ACT Government have set in motion, and are confident that the final route chosen will provide the best transport options for Canberra, and tourists that visit the national capital.

If all goes to plan, the construction of light rail from Civic through the Parliamentary Triangle and to Woden, could commence as soon as the first light rail from Gungahlin starts making its way to Civic in 2018.

PTCBR urge all Canberrans, not just Woden residents to take part in this community consultation process, light rail will eventually stretch right across Canberra, and it is important that people have a say in how it is planned and delivered..
Aware that the consultation process was to occur, PTCBR convened a meeting of its members in Woden in April to look at the issues around bringing light rail to Woden. Initial results were posted to the PTCBR Facebook group, and further comments were provided that are incorporated in this report .
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Map of Woden light rail – indicating alternative routes through Barton and stops in Woden TC or the Hospital

The ACT Government has established a website with more information, maps and newsletters for the consultation process. It is at  http://www.yoursay.act.gov.au/LRS2 and also hosts a survey where you can share your thoughts on the route.

The government are keen to determine which of the route options would serve Canberra better.Lets take a look at the options.

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Which side of London Circuit should light rail travel

Connecting to the Gungahlin –  Civic light rail stage, this new extension would leave the Alinga Street terminal on Northbourne Avenue and enter London Circuit. There is no firm decision on whether light rail around London Circuit should go to the left or the right, although a preferred option would be as close to ANU and New Acton as possible. The left option would go past the Assembly and the retail heart of Civic.

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Which route would serve Canberra best?

Light rail along Commonwealth Avenue is a fairly straightforward engineering challenge with the bridge already known to be able to handle light rail. A stop near Albert Hall would be logical.

A bigger and more complex engineering challenge concerns the route of light rail through the Parliamentary Triangle. One option is to go around Capital Circle from Commonwealth Avenue to Adelaide Avenue, or to route light rail through Barton. The Barton option would bring light rall along King Georges terrace in front of Old Parliament House, across Kings Avenue then to National Circuit.

It would then loop along National Circuit past several hotels and large federal government office blocks to Canberra Avenue. It would then turn up Canberra Avenue to Capital Circle and then straight to Woden along Adelaide Avenue.

Once entering Woden Town Centre the options for a light rail terminal are either in Callam Street, near the ACTION Bus interchange, or the Canberra Hospital by continuing along Callam Street to Hindmarsh Drive and then turning east along Hindmarsh Drive.

The community consultation timeline runs from May 1st to June 11th 2017. Several community consultation sessins are planned for community councils and shopping centers.

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Community consultation timeline for Woden light rail

PTCBR urge all Canberrans to engage with the community consultation process.

To stay up to date with all public transport and planning issues in Canberra, join the PTCBR here and visit our Facebook Group.

Outcomes of initial PTCBR Woden light rail consultation session

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PTCBR held an initial consultation session on Woden light rail at the Woden Library on 3 April 2017. The session was facilitated by PTCBR Chair Damien Haas and Deputy Chair Robert Knight, and attended by three committee members and six PTCBR members. Initial results were posted to the PTCBR Facebook group, and further comments were provided that are incorporated in this summary.

The summary contains key findings of participants views, light rail stop suggestions and general comments about Woden light rail stage two.

Download the summary from here.

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As the first public meeting to discuss Woden light rail, it generated significant interest and some useful ideas for the light rail planners were identified.

At the consultation session itself, and in the following days as the ideas were discussed among the PTCBR membership, some key themes emerged:

  • The route from Civic to Barton was straight forward, with a major stop at Albert Hall seen as logical.
  • No clear preference on light rail out of Civic via London Circuit or directly through Capital Hill was identified, although stops needed to be closer than a kilometer apart
  • The route through the triangle to Adelaide Avenue had several different options, and really needed to be examined in an NCA and engineering context.
  • Any route needed to focus on the Barton workforce for light rail stops.
  • A route around the lake foreshore to Yarraumla and Cotter Road could be looked at.
  • A tunnel under Parliament House, with a light rail station there was suggested.
  • A direct route along Adelaide Avenue was preferred over a route through suburbs.
  • Going through/over/under the roundabout directly into Callam Street was preferred.
  • A light rail station at the bus interchange in the Woden Town Centre was preferred
  • Major upgrades to cycling/walking paths near light rail stops would be needed.
  • Fewer light rail stops than the Gungahlin stage, but better integrated as bus stations with services.
  • Park and Ride with retail services would be needed.
  • Bike and Ride with secure bike lockers would be needed.
  • Linking cycle paths with light rail stations was a priority.
  • More frequent local bus services, especially linking the hospitals (Deakin based private and Canberra Hospital) and TAFE with light rail.
  • Express services from Woden stopping at Parliament would be a good idea.

All comments made, including ideas for stop locations are included in the full report.

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Handout for participants to use at Apr 3rd session