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.