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.

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.

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.