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

Woden Consultation session for light rail – Woden Library Apr 3rd

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If you are a Woden light rail supporter, I urge you to come along on Monday night to the first PTCBR meeting in Woden.
The ACT government will be starting public consultation in 4 – 6 weeks time about stage two of light rail to Woden. We want talk to our members and come up with useful advice and input to this planning process. The planning of light rail is not in isolation, as other planning issues such as the Woden Master Plan and access through the Parliamentary Triangle will be looked at before rails are laid.
We may not cover every issue in this first session, but it will be a good way to come up with some informed views and meet fellow PTCBR members.
Also: we will have some special members only swag to distribute. So if you aren’t yet a member, consider joining.

 

 

PTCBR launches on 20 March 2017

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The Public Transport Association of Canberra is holding it’s first public meeting and formal launch on Monday March 20 at 12.15PM at the CMAG Theaterette in Civic.

PTCBR were very pleased when TCCS Minister Meegan Fitzharris agreed to speak at the event.

The PTCBR Committee invite all members and supporters to attend. Coffee will be served following the launch.