Argument for

Barbara Norman, Tony McMichael, Peter Newman and Will Steffen: Light rail has benefits for all in a sustainable future

The Canberra Times, August 4, 2014, Times2 p5


  • economic, health, social and environmental benefits must be included in any triple bottom line cost-benefit analysis
  • rail is booming across the world as cities everywhere are finding that car and bus access is not working well
  • light rail frees up space for building walkable and lively centres of activity that then attract investment
  • increase in land values associated with modern light rail can be used to help fund the light rail; such funding cannot be generated by bus rapid transit
  • light rail offers analternative to reliance on cars, thereby increasing levels of daily physical activity, reducing congestion and stress on the roads, curbing vehicle exhaust air pollution, and reducing cyclist and pedestrian injuries
  • significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions
  • improving accessibility brings significant social benefits and is core to a more livable and equitable city

Extracts from "Commuter numbers 'could double' under light rai1" The Canberra Times, July 23, 2014, p3.

Australian National University climate change and land use expert Will Steffen told Tuesday's light rail forum that cities had reaped health and environmental benefits from better public transport options as more people moved to rail and trams.
"There is a much bigger mode shift from car transport to public when you go from a bus system to a tram or light rail system", Professor Steffen said.
Steffen backed the planned 13-stop line from the city to Gungahlin due to its potential to remove cars from the road and decrease congestion through effective traffic management.
Looking towards further development "You can get big systems, with the same vehicle or train acting as a tram in denser areas and travelling at 50 or 60 km/h. When it goes out on a longer stretch [to link ACT town centres} it could go much faster."
"People who have to go to work need direct and rapid services."

Response by Dr John Smith retired CSIRO scientist

Steffen claims that "there is a much bigger mode shift when you go from a bus system to a tram or light rail system". But do you get that mode shift if you go from a bus-way system to light rail?
Steffen cites the faster speeds possible with light rail vehicles when travelling between town centres. But the government's plan is to introduce high density apartment and commercial buildings all along the transit corridor, so you can't have express light rail services. Buses are superior becaue there can be express and local services without interference.

Extracts from "Light rail has a strong foundation in the territory", Shane Rattenbury, The Canberra Times, June 21, 2014, Forum p9.

Light rail historically attracts more passengers than buses. Light rail is quieter, pollutes less, and is already compatible with our plans for a renewable energy future. Light rail takes up less space and can carry more passengers, which will be increasingly valuable as our town centres become more populated.
Light rail will stimilate jobs, the economy, and quality redevelopment.

"Light rail to deliver 'over 3000 jobs' ", The Canberra Times, June 2, 2014, p1, p4.

Extracts from "How far should you walk for transport?", The Canberra Times, Kirsten Lawson, May 23, 2014, p5.

Emma Thomas, the project director of Capital Metro, said a fast joourney was front and centre of planning for the rail line, which meant ... not too many tram stops.
Tuggerenong resident and active comminity member Russ Morison said the city's bus network had always aimed to pick up as many people as possible along the route, but it was time for planners to get their heads out of the 1970s and into the 21st century. He fears that when the light rail line is extended beyond the city into the other centres, the same mistakes could be made, and said the key to attracting the stream of workers out of cars and onto public transport was a fast travel time. Mr Morrison ... said his personal view was that light rail should be built on the major arterial roads and fly over intersections where there are traffic lights. He proposes "gigantic-park-and-rides", not in town centres, but on the major routes into the city. For Tuggeranong, he envisages park-and-ride apaces in Kambah, Cotter Drive and Lanyon.

"Seize this opportunity to revive heart of Canberra", The Canberra Times, Catherine Carter (Property Council of Australia), Times2, April 21, 2014, p5.

The ACT government's release of The City Plan is an opportunity for Canberrans to reimagine and reinvigorate our city's heart.
The city centre should be seen by all Canberrans as the principle focus of economic, social and cultural functions.
The ambitions laid out in the plan provide for more people living in the city centre, less traffic, better connections across the city and to the lake, and a modern built environment.
Lighthouse public sector projects such as light rail can act as incentives for more investment from the private sector.

"On track for change", The Canberra Times, ROSS PEAKE investigates, Forum, March 29, 2014, p1.

The ACT government's reply to critics centres on the benefits of high land values along the rail corridor and the likelihood of attracting more high-tech companies that see the value of easy access for their employees and clients.
Emma Thomas, project director of the Capital Metro Agency, states "this is something that can really turn the heat up on the whole of investment and industry in Canberra and give us better opportunities for employment".
In Canberra we suffer from car addiction ... why not, given the woeful state of public transport?
The bus service may have to be halted to ensure the light rail is patronised as much as possible. Where a bus might take 100 passengers, a light rail car can carry 300.
Thomas sees an opportunity to redevelop Northbourne Avenue. "For me, ... having that community housing in our face on Northbourne Avenue in the state that it's in - it needs some sort of uplift. It's almost like a slum that Canberra has set up in the middle of the city."
Professor Barbara Norman, professor of Urban and regional planning, University of Canberra, said the light rail system will provide cetainty for investment from industry. "This enables people to have confidence to build medium-density developments and hopefully some innovative urban form flanking that area, which all is very consistent with creating a more healthy city".

"Light rail brings a bold new vision for our city", The Canberra Times, COMMENT, Daniel Bennett, design consultant for the Canberra Metro Agency, Times2, March 24, 2014, p5.

Reviewed by John L Smith, Farrer ACT

Bennett bases his case on "undisputed benefits ... from moving away from reliance on the private car towards low-emission public transport". He does not consider any other form of public transport other than light rail. He states that all the other urban components have to be integrated with the light rail so that it acts as a "city shaper" to create "vibrant corridors", but for it to work "as many people as possible have to be able to walk or cycle to it".
Aided by a colour photograph of some streamlined light rail cars Bennett then tells the reader that an "integrated place for people to live, work and play" will arise, implying that light rail is an essential pre-requisite.
Bennett makes the amazing statement that light rail "does not need to rely on major interchanges" so that his concept is a "once-in-a-generation reshaping of Canberra" exclusive of the majority who live outside the "vibrant corridor".

Transit Corridor