POST ELECTION OPINIONS
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 13 2018 from M. Flint, Co-ordinator, Smart Canberra Transport
On Wednesday evening, senior executives of Transport Canberra addressed a meeting of the Inner South Canberra Community Council on the planned revision of the ACTION bus network and light rail Stage 2 (LRS1) (Civic-Woden), as they had done in the previous week at Tuggeranong and Woden Community Councils.
On buses, attendees at these meetings were not enamoured at all with the planned ACTION service, or lack thereof, to say the least.
On light rail, in response to the question of "How much is too much to pay for LRS2?", no figure was offered but implied "whatever it costs!", ie this Government does not care about how much it will cost. To illustrate the nonsense that is the Rattenbury/Barr election promise of the Woden link, based on the Governments own estimate of $1.3 billion to $1.6 billion for construction only, the total project cost (build+finance+20 years of operations) will be from $3billion to $3.7 billion.
These sums would be repaid over the 20-year operations period at from $150 million to $185 million per annum (on top of the $70 million a year for Stage 1, all out of the infrastructure component of budgets). These figures also translate into a 20-year subsidy of $25 to $31 per passenger who rides this limited form of transport.
All Canberrans should ask themselves the following question: "For $3billion to $3.7billion, would I rather see it spent on a single 12 km tramline to benefit only a very few, or on an extensive network of modern electric, flexible and technologically upgradable buses, capable of servicing all of Canberra and of benefit to all Canberrans?"
With the exorbitant amount of money that light rail will chew up, the ACTION network will never be any more capable than it is right now.
Costings in this letter are based on technical papers accessible on www.canthetram.org.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 12 2018 from Greg Cornwell, Yarralumla
I haven't heard nor read in your letters pages of anyone in favour of the proposed bus route alterations, so why the changes? Hidden agenda perhaps?
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 12 2018 from Paul E Bowler, Chapman
Yes Dale Welsby (Letters, July 11) the light rail will be around long after we mortals have passed on. However, the rails will be rusted, the wires will be down and the trams will be gathering dust in their dilapidated shed in Mitchell. And just outside the padlocked, rusting gate of the depot will be a large sign reading "How not to improve Canberra's public transport system"!
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 12 2018 from Eric Hunter, Cook
Dale Welsby (Letters, July 11) says the light rail will be around long after its "haters". He may be right, but I'll wager their children and grandchildren will still be paying for it with ever-increasing rates. And that's a key reason why the haters fight on while they're still here.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 121 2018 from David Jenkins, Casey
Yes, Dale Welsby (Letters, July 11), the tram will likely be around long after its detractors will not, or at least until its impracticality and true cost are revealed. But a little knowledge of Shakespeare would have warned you that "the evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones".
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 12 2018 from John L Smith, Farrer
Transport Canberra has now described the three main features of its new network: (1) frequent services catering to many different passenger trips - not fast services (2) lots of walking at the beginning and end of each journey underlying a claim that it covers almost the entire Canberra region (3) no new transport technology - light rail for the next 50-100 years.
There is a firm resolution for Stage 2 light rail to follow the Barton route, having all stops services consistent with (1) above. The estimate of $1.3billion-$1.6 billion is only for construction of Stage 2.
This was the message delivered to the community group that I attended in South Canberra. The meeting was also attended by Minister Rattenbury and two other MLAs, so they must be nervous.
That more frequent services at the expense of express services will increase commuter patronage is a moot point.
Independent estimates that include the costs for borrowing capital and 20-year operations of Stage 2 amount to a total cost of $3 billion-$3.7 billion in today's dollars. No one really knows if this will cover the expensive blowouts for the many contingencies.
With the likelihood of a $5billion Gungahlin-Woden light rail item in a future budget, planning increasingly in the hands of property developers who are the real beneficiaries, more frustrated commuters wanting to drive their car, and not one iota of transport technology vision, Mr Rattenbury has every reason to be nervous.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 12 2018 from Mike Quirk, Garran
Adina Cirson ("Property Council boss hits out at Barton light rail detour", July 10, p1) raises valid concerns about the extra travel time caused by a diversion of the light rail through Barton. However, along with the government, the PCA is affected by light rail fever, a condition resulting in irrational and delusional decisions.
Symptoms include supporting light rail despite poor cost to benefit ratios; delusions about its transformative benefits; failure to consider the opportunity cost of the funds not being used for alternatives including improving the coverage and frequency of the bus network which would be more effective in increasing accessibility and reducing car dependency; and failure to explain why it does not support a busway, a more efficient and cost-effective option.
While the PCA sees the light rail as crucial to the renewal of the Woden Town Centre, it does not provide evidence to support the contention. The substantial residential development occurring at the Centre illustrates metropolitan accessibility, rather than light rail, is of greater importance. Instead of supporting the superficially attractive but financially, environmentally and socially irresponsible light rail, the PCA should look what it can do to increase employment at the centre to generate a 24-hour population.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 12 2018 from Howard Carew, Isaacs
I was invited to a community consultation featuring light rail among other subjects. The invitation was from the Inner South Canberra Community Council.
Truthfully it was a delight in a Ballykissangel sort of Irish way.
The microphones did not work, the computer-driven information screen worked only in spasms, and the consultation had an Alice in Wonderland informality that I found delightful.
One lady from the NCA gave a dissertation regarding rock wallabies that received an appreciative reception. The ACT transport speaker had a way of answering questions that was so informative that after a while you forgot what the original question was.
Light rail complaints were addressed with the fact that it might be a little impractical now but in one hundred years it would be brilliant. Unfortunately some argued that the hundred years should refer to the 19th, not the 21st, century.
I suggested to the main speaker that because China had developed a road train of three carriages that followed a painted line on the road instead of having rails and had the potential to be autonomous and had no overhead wires and moreover was at one third of the cost of the Canberra proposed rail network should he not look at it.
Sadly that was beyond his purview. Truly the good-humoured attendees and the speakers would not have been out of place in an Alice in Wonderland scenario. Like the white rabbit I found I had a very important date and left early.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 12 2018 from Stan Marks, Hawker
Dale Welsby (Letters, July 11) makes the point that "The light rail will be around long after the many haters writing letters to the editor" and then comments "I think there is something in that".
Yes, Dale, there is. It highlights the fact that light rail is inflexible which is one of its worst features. With buses, if a particular route isn't working you change it or just cancel it. You can't do that with trams.
You are stuck with it. You have to be very confident that you have made the right decision, which is hardly possible given that the tram is being installed to keep Shane Rattenbury happy and not for operational reasons. As for opponents of light rail being "haters", as he says, the ones I know are not. There are plenty of real needs around the ACT without wasting money on trams that are far more expensive than buses and won't do the job any better.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 11 2018 from Dale Welsby, Calder
The light rail will be around long after the many haters writing letters to the editor. I think there's something in that, don't you?
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 11 2018 from Joy Sanyal, West Macgregor
I am utterly gobsmacked by ACTION's proposed bus network. How can someone with common sense propose such changes to an essential public service?
ACTION is proposing to punish people.
Already, I spend over two hours to commute to Russell from West McGregor.
Spare the XPresso services, ACTION, and show some common sense.
ACTION's survey on the change is deceptive as it ignores to collect data on every day user of the bus and settles on a lower frequency of use (three or four times a week) but includes "never use the bus" as a response category.
I use the bus every weekday and on some weekends.
The current network has already made things worse: commuters running from bay to bay at Civic interchange to catch a bus and missing to locate their service that is hiding at the end of a long queue and preparing to depart without waiting are now common scenes.
I am also concerned by the number of buses that now roam throughout the day flashing the "Sorry, not in service" message (perhaps a reflection of the state of our local government).
The current network has proved to be a faulty change to the previous one.
I have lived here for over 15 years but have never seen such wastage of public money (something for the ACT Auditor-General to consider).
All are happening under our elected representatives' ever "watchful" eyes.
If ACTION continues with this plan, I shall have one response for the minister at the next election, something the government will understand without fail.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 8 2018 from M. Flint, Smart Canberra Transport coordinator, ACT
In respect of "Future's coming down the track", it is so sad to see such an illustrious wordsmith as Mr Warden describing me and those like me in such disparaging terms as "unhappy homo subspecies" just because we disagree with his ideological and uninformed position.
And, contrary to what he apparently believes, "the vast majority of Canberrans" do not support light rail and certainly not those south of the lake.
On behalf of all Canberrans who have to foot the exorbitant bill for the trams, whether they like it or not, Smart Canberra Transport tries to bring some reality into the debate on light rail to counter the starry-eyed dreamers who seem to care so little for other people's money.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 4 2018 from Mario Serenellini, Weetangera
Ian Warden has done it again. Abusing the privilege of writing for a popular newspaper, he finds a way to offend whoever disagrees with his opinion, forgetting that a good journalist is allowed to support his ideas but not to offend those who disagree.
This time he has gone too far with his malicious words ("Future's coming down the track", Sunday Canberra Times, July 1), labelling whoever opposes the light rail project as the unhappy homo subspecies, Canberran miserabilist and Canberran beancounterroides, hiding with his macaronic Latin unacceptable insults to a large number of Canberrans.
I am an opponent of the project. I base my opposition on my academic qualification in town planning matters and my involvement with the study of densification of our town on behalf of the NCDC. Therefore I am deeply offended by the way Mr Warden classifies me as an inferior miserabilis human being and ask from him an immediate public and written apology.
Mr Warden supports a public transport system that my grandfather, in Rome 100 years ago, used to call modern, only to justify his own vision of the future of Canberra as the monkey copy of big cities with, in his words, their "swaggers, scandal, vice and glamour".
And why not, I dare to add, increased criminality and destruction of a family-friendly urban setting? That is not my vision.
Waiting for the unlikely apologies from Mr Warden, I suggest he finds a city that best responds to his vision. And stay there. For ever.
I will not miss his insults and his articles.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 8 2018 from J Sever, Higgins
Ian Warden's article on Canberra's first tram (Sunday Canberra Times, July 1) asks if this is the most exciting time to live in Canberra.
After 50 years here, sadly I can answer yes. Getting a tram probably is the most exciting thing that has happened.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 5 2018 from P. J. Bewley, Barton
Interesting and entertaining as they may be, letters to The Canberra Times from John Smith, David Jenkins and Jack Kershaw (Letters, July 4) simply encapsulate the fact that no amount of post-hoc rationale for the implantation of a tram network in Canberra will ever justify the folly of the uber-expensive system.
Let's face it, the tram system was the brainchild of the Rattenbury party, and the only reason for committing us to a tram system in the first place was to keep the Labor Party in office. The adoption of trams was the simply price we all paid (through increased rates and taxes, reduction in services, etc) to retain a Labor government.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 4 2018 from Jack Kershaw, Kambah
From the use of trams to blatantly increase the value of Territory recreational-open-space land along Commonwealth Avenue's West-Basin side, for occupation by view-blocking apartments; to the loss of the wonderful arboreal ambience of Commonwealth Avenue south; to the very high cost, inconvenience and visual desecration of inserting tram lines into the Commonwealth Avenue bridge; to the destruction of the Parliamentary Triangle's important twin-bridge symmetry (especially viewed from Parliament House); to having naff red, slug-like trams going right across the Parliamentary Zone, despoiling its ambience and the important two-way Land Axis (Capital Hill-War Memorial) views; to the largesse (and profiteering) of having trams going deep into Barton; to the high cost of special overhead-wires-free rolling stock; and to the exclusion of people and visitor places like New Acton, the ANU, the National Museum precinct, and Lennox Gardens from the route, the ACT government's planned Central National Designated Area section of its proposed Civic-Woden light rail system is a failure.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 4 2018 from David Jenkins, Casey
The 2018 Canberra Stupidity Festival continues apace with the recent predictable revelation that the stately cedars on Commonwealth Avenue will meet their demise at the end of a chainsaw as the relentless destructive swath of The Tram continues southward.
Of course, this is just the cherry on top of the absurdity cake, given the tram's ludicrous opportunity cost delivers a pitiful cost-benefit ratio making neither financial or economic sense and, of course, ultimately failing in its most essential criterion by delivering significantly slower travel times between Woden and Civic, all without the flexibility that a bus service offers. I wonder whether the parliamentary committee currently inquiring into the effects on the parliamentary triangle is happy to have the main approach to Parliament House looking like a linear garbage tip similar to the one on the northern approaches to the city.
Meanwhile, the ACT government seems to be overcome by some sort of unstoppable delusional collective hysteria akin to the Miracle of Fatima. Worshipping a tram; who would have thought?
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 4 2018 from John L Smith, Farrer
our reference to the submission by the Planning Institute of Australia (PIA) to the light rail Stage 2 inquiry "Planning experts have raised new options" (Editorial, July 2) neglected to mention its recommendation that "The City to Woden light rail route should not depart from the longer-term ACT Light Rail Network Plan without strong justification and a review of the network".
While this recommendation is sensible, the PIA was adhering to "the framework of the Griffin Plan which was designed for light rail". It is time that we recognised that Griffin's design was governed by a tradition of trams.
He didn't know that the bus and the motor car would begin to revolutionise urban transport a few decades later.
The PIA calls for "strategic planning and high quality urban design".
On the contrary, we just have a policy of dense urban infill propped up by a few tram lines on the assumption that this is environmentally sustainable.
Whether confining people to high-rise dwellings with dwindling open space is good for the environment or their mental health is questionable.
Meanwhile the Google affiliate Weymo has ordered 80,000 vehicles that it will fit with driverless technology to begin the first public transport service of this kind later this year.
One matter that the chairman of the light rail inquiry has to ponder is whether his legacy will be a light rail line crossing the parliamentary triangle that detracts from the national heritage and is testimony that Griffin was no transport visionary.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 2 2018 from Jeff Carl, Rivett
Transport Canberra is either being very brave with their new network to commence in January 2019 or is very stupid. I suspect it is the latter.
Lots of public transport studies around the world over the past 30 years have shown the biggest hate for commuters is being delayed at transfer stations. These are a ubiquitous feature of the new network. Nearly all commuters will pass through one, and a large number will make two transfers from home to work.
These same studies found patronage drops by 25-30 per cent when commuters need to make one transfer and by up to 60 per cent when two or more are required.
Given that the 2016 census had 6 per cent of Canberrans catching a bus to work, the new network will be doing well if 4-5per cent of Canberrans use Transport Canberra’s services at the next Census.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 2 2018 from Robin Bell, Garran
So much pain over whether to give priority to tramways Civic to Woden or within Parliamentary Triangle. Why not have a (fast, user-paying) direct Civic-Woden tram service via Commonwealth Avenue and State Circle, linking at only one or two points with a government-funded bus service within the triangle?
The former would suit paying commuters. The latter would suit those on federal government business or tourism.
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 2 2018 from Mike Quirk, Garran
The widespread concern on the letters page about the proposed changes to the bus network, suggests further analysis is needed if the transport needs of the community are to be adequately met. A fundamental assumption is people are willing and able to walk further to catch a more frequent bus. The analysis should re-examine what the distance is.
It is unsurprising ACTION has difficulties in developing a satisfactory network given the number of buses in the fleet (434) is lower than the number of buses in the fleet in 1991 (453). Over this period the population of the territory increased from 291,500 to 415,900.
In this context it needs to be questioned why the funding of the light rail is a higher priority than increasing the frequency and coverage of the overall bus network. Which strategy would be more effective in reducing car dependency? Will electric buses reduce the claimed environmental and capacity advantages light rail? What additional benefits does the light rail extension to Woden provide to justify its $1.6 billion cost, more than double that of alternatives? Is the longer journey time an outcome desired by the community? Could the funds be better used? Does the government really believe light rail is transformational and leading infrastructure necessary for future economic growth given the high demand for higher density housing in locations not served by light rail and the substantial growth in the city’s population since 2005?
Letter, The Canberra Times, July 1 2018 from Roy Bray, Flynn
an Warden has suggested (CT, June 24) that Canberra’s artists should follow the direction of the Italian artist Canaletto’s (1697- 1786) inaccurate rendition of Venice. Canaletto moved the buildings of Venice around for artistic effect.
Ian errs. The professional artists of Canberra have done this. They are the architectural artists portraying our Magnificent Folly, the Gungahlin tram. The tram without overhead wires.
On the theme of visual licence, may I propose that our excellent amateur CT photographers show the tram gantries photographed, from the correct angle and including wires, as gallows against an evening clouded sky. The sky, as the portent of a dark and stormy night.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 30 2018 from John L Smith, Farrer
Having sat through the two sessions of the inquiry into Stage 2 of the light rail project, two issues kept recurring:
(1) the alternate route for the lake crossing via Constitution Avenue and Kings Avenue (2) the light rail milk run via Barton cannot compete with the travel time of the blue rapid bus service between Woden and Civic.
The chairman was obviously not deceived that the route to Russell was also the ACT government's real preference, if it were not for their 2016 election jitters.
When pressed by the chairman about the travel time between Woden and Civic, Damian Haas, of the Public Transport Association of Canberra, was forced to admit if the government persevered with the Barton route, it would be compelled to maintain the rapid bus service from Woden to Civic.
The Secretary of the Department of Parliamentary Services raised the important issue of walking distance to light rail stops, which the ACT government had managed to conceal by labelling the distance contour that touched on the entry to the Parliament as being 400 metres (figure 11 of the submission), when it is actually at least 800 metres.
Even though other matters, such as Gungahlin residents working in Barton being prepared to stand for a journey exceeding 35 minutes, were not raised, it is clear that the Stage 2 proposal has a long way to run before it gets a green light from the Commonwealth parliament.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 29 2018 from D. O'Connor, Gordon
There has been much discussion in recent times about Canberra planning, more specifically the merits or otherwise of infill housing versus suburban expansion and public transport versus the necessity to accommodate cars. Currently I am reading Tim Winton's Island Home.
Winton has an interesting perspective on these issues. He writes: "In the first half of the twentieth century automobiles augmented our settlements, now they shape them, determining where they're situated, how they're laid out. Our cities are built to accommodate the car as much as the citizen, and the outward creep of low-density suburbs is the unsustainable price we pay for our enviable new mobility. Even our homes, with their integrated garages, have been steadily modified - disfigured in many instances - to adapt to the primacy of vehicles in domestic life" (page 179).
Winton's description of the evolution of our cities is clearly evident in the inner suburbs where in the 19th and early-20th centuries houses were built on small blocks with very narrow frontages. Provision for motor vehicles was not a consideration in the planning. The growing affluence of the post-war years led to an increase in the size of building blocks and motor vehicle ownership.
The high cost of housing development today is forcing a return to the necessity for much smaller building blocks with narrow frontages. Perhaps we can learn much by revisiting the planning and transport imperatives of the past.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 28 2018 from M. Flint, co-ordinator, Smart Canberra Transport, Erindale
The government has revealed ("Bridge build part of $1.3b Woden route", June21, pp1-2 and "Light rail trips past House tipped to cost more", June 22, p6) that the expected cost of light rail stage two, Civic-Woden, would be from $1.3 billion to $1.6 billion. Although not stated, it may be presumed that these figures are for construction only, compared with that for stage one of $707 million. However, for stage one, there is an additional $452 million over 20 years for operations, maintenance and capital cost recovery. Proportionally, for stage two, one needs to add through-life costs, bringing the total cost range for stage two from $2.1 billion to $2.6 billion or $105 million to $130 million a year. This would be on top of the $58 million a year to be paid for stage one. In patronage terms, that for stage two is expected to be less than the 6.3 million a year maximum for stage one (business case figure). Assuming a generous patronage of six million a year, each stage-two passenger would cost Canberra taxpayers $18 to $20, over each of the 20 years of operations.
The only way the government can pay for this is with a combination of increased rates and debt (the latter already at $2.1 billion). To add to the absurdity, it would take Woden commuters twice as long to get to Civic if, as planned, the rapid buses are shut down in favour of light rail. Every taxpayer should be outraged at what was a 2016 election campaign thought bubble by Mr Barr.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 28 2018 from Colin Smeal, Holder
I hope the The Canberra Times will make available as a poster the photo on page6 ("Land Release end of the road for old Northbourne", June27, p6) so as we drive down the "most significant approach route to the city and one of the most important street in Canberra" through bleak canyons of thousands of shoddily built and unattractive apartments we can be reminded of what an actual "urban village", with green open spaces for humans, actually looked like. All the spin about "high-quality design" and "independent design review" will be sacrificed to the god of maximum density and ROI for the developers and their government bedmates.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 27 2018 from Gary J. Wilson, Macgregor
The editorial's grudging concession, "As the centre of federal government in Australia, there is something fitting about opening the parliamentary triangle to more people through another form of public transport", (June 22) places the extended tram debate in the same arena as the current dissension about the purpose of the Australian War Memorial ("Light rail route should respect Canberra's historic buildings", canberratimes.com.au, June 22).
In fact there is nothing fitting about reforming the parliamentary triangle as a tourist attraction, jokes about the clowns who perform there aside.
The function of the business of state conducted there should remain the primary concern in all design matters. Considered application of the basic architectural ideal that form follows function is sadly becoming alien to our entire town planning system.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 26 2018 from Mike Quirk, Garran
The ACT government submission to the Senate inquiry ("Bridge build part of $1.3b Woden route", June 21, p1) fails to justify why light rail is superior to a busway between Civic and Woden.
A busway can improve public transport accessibility and connectivity and support the vision of a compact and competitive city at less than half the cost of light rail and is more flexible. The capacity and environmental advantages light rail potentially offers will be eliminated as battery technology improves, enabling the operation of high-capacity electric buses. A busway can also assist in revitalising centres and reducing car dependency. Its greater economy frees funds for purposes including improving the overall bus network.
The extensive renewal occurring across Canberra suggests accessibility to opportunities and housing affordability are more important than transport technology in increasing the demand for higher density housing. Consequently a busway meets the government's public transport system objectives — convenience, efficiency, affordability, reliability and integration.
The submission also claims, without evidence, that light rail could see the development at Woden of an extra 4070 dwellings, 679,000sq m of retail land and 7500sq m of community land. This claim maybe excessive (is there really a demand for 679,000sq m of retail land?). A busway on the proposed light rail alignment would deliver similar opportunities.
The government has time to reconsider, as the current bus service provides a high-quality service between Civic to Woden. A separate busway serving the parliamentary zone could also be considered.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 26 2018 from Peter Moran, Watson
Re: "But the Barr government warns that the price could fluctuate..." ("Bridge build part of $1.3b Woden route", June 21, p1) in an article about the second stage of the Barr/Rattenbury light rail frolic. Really? I think that a large number of ACT ratepayers would like to warn the Barr government to apply a lot more rigour and openness to the business case for this second stage than it did for the first.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 25 2018 from Greg Cornwell, Yarralumla
History repeating itself: Amsterdam had its tulip fever, London the South Sea bubble, now Canberra moves to Light Rail Mark II ...? Hmm, just asking.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 25 2018 from Garth Setchell, Mawson
Transport Canberra's current proposal for stage 2 of Canberra's light rail needs to be drastically rethought. To almost double the current travel time by bus between Woden and Civic is absurd - all to provide a limited service to the Parkes-Barton office area. Surely Parkes and Barton, plus Kingston and Manuka (if light rail is really meant to substitute for buses), deserve a proper connecting loop service off the main Woden-Civic route - even if this has to be Stage 2B or 3.
The obvious route between Woden and Civic is to divert from Adelaide Avenue onto Flynn Drive, across the lake by a new light rail/pedestrian bridge to Hospital Point and then via Liversidge Drive, McCoy Circuit, London Circuit, etc, to the Civic station.
Such a route provides service to the ANU, Llewellyn Hall and all of West Civic, whereas the City Hill/Commonwealth Avenue proposal provides service to virtually nobody and great visual destruction.
An interchange in Flynn Drive, between the rear of the Hyatt and Lennox Gardens would permit connection with a light rail route providing much greater usefulness. Such a loop could operate both as an exclusive loop or as an adjunct to specific non-direct services between Civic and Woden or vice versa.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 25 2018 from Mike Hutchinson, Reid
So the ACT government is persisting with its light rail folly ("Bridge built part of $1.3b Woden route", Canberra Times, June 21, p1).
Its dismissal of cost-benefit analysis as "simple" is economic illiteracy. Promotion of light rail as opening up land for development is misleading – these development opportunities and their values are not dependent on light rail.
Vague concepts such as "urban realm benefits", let alone this government's "vision for Canberra" are unhelpful - especially if they are code for even more high-rise and the landscape pollution of ugly overhead wires.
Light rail will be less frequent, slower, and less flexible than optimised bus services. There can be little through service from Gungahlin to Woden, because the Stage 1 trams from Gungahlin cannot run "wire free" south of Civic.
Yes, well-located light rail in appropriate urban forms can enhance corridor land values. But, despite ministerial junkets to better projects, that experience does not translate to the badly conceived Canberra model, or indeed to Canberra's low-density dispersed multi-nodal urban structure.
With a properly assessed benefit/cost ratio likely to be well below 0.5 - and possibly even negative - the economics are akin to a public bonfire of at least a further $650 million in used notes. There are far better, more pressing, more worthwhile uses for this money.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 25 2018 from Mike Quirk, Garran
The Canberra Times article "ACT asks for planning feedback but allows only a yes or no response" (canberratimes.com.au, June 19) raises issues about the commitment of the government to undertake a thorough review of the ACT planning strategy.
It is easy to agree with the generalised statements on the issues raised - Canberra's form and density, transport and land use and sustainable city - and still have no idea what the planning strategy for the city could be other than some increase in density at centres and corridors.
The speakers series focusing on car city or clean transport capital, bush capital and global city and garden city or city in the garden, is unlikely to provide much guidance as to where and when development should occur.
The review of the planning strategy needs to undertake a comprehensive analysis of the economic, environmental and social implications of alternative distributions of population and employment.
It needs to address key issues of housing choice and affordability, housing and employment location and transport choice and be accompanied by an infrastructure plan.
There is no evidence that such analysis is being undertaken and it is difficult not to conclude that the government has a predetermined outcome, which is based on a superficial understanding of planning and development issues.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 23 2018 from Jack Kershaw, Kambah
With massive tram-driven private redevelopment along Northbourne Avenue, we need a balancing master plan for major new public civic facilities, including a new city square.
It should express the "arrival" characteristic of that avenue, by being axially located between London Circuit and the northern segment of Vernon Circle.
Broadly, it would be bounded to the west by the courts, and symmetrically to the east near the museum and art gallery. It would subsume Northbourne Avenue between London Circuit and Vernon Circle, eliminating the east-west pedestrian divide there.
Through-traffic would use London Circuit (its northern sector widened), its Constitution-Avenue connection to Vernon Circle (made two-way), and the planned Edinburgh-Avenue one, as well as the London Circuit-Commonwealth Avenue connections.
Resultantly traffic-calmed Vernon Circle would allow safe pedestrian access from the new square to the currently isolated hilltop park. The grand sunny square would contain landscaping, fountains, shelters, sculptures, cafes, etc; and would be for recreation, displays, concerts, films, gatherings, and so on.
It would open up the facades of the historic Melbourne and Sydney buildings. Reflecting their symmetry, would be the two planned hotels at the east and west extremities of the square.
Under it could be out-of-the-weather, sky-lit shops, cafes, restaurants, and the City bus station; and below all that, multi-level car parking. There could be improved pedestrian access to the new square from Petrie Plaza, Hobart Place, and lower Northbourne Avenue.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 23 2018 from Leon Arundell, Downer
The ACT government must decide whether to achieve its most important public transport commitment, or to convert another public transport route from rubber tyres to steel tyres.
In 2011, 7.8 per cent of Canberrans' journeys to work were made by public transport. In 2012 the Chief Minister committed to achieving the Sustainable Transport Plan's target of 16 per cent in 2026, and also to 10.5 per cent in 2016. Notwithstanding that commitment, the public transport share in 2016 was only 8.2 per cent.
At the North Canberra Community Council meeting on June 20, Transport Canberra was unable to say how much the newly announced bus network will contribute towards achieving the 2026 target.
Although the government determined in 2012 that stage 1 of bus rapid transit would provide almost all the benefits of stage 1 of light rail, at half the cost, it committed to light rail.
The impact of light rail on patronage will depend on the extent to which its advantages of greater amenity and shorter in-vehicle travel times outweigh its disadvantages of longer walks to fewer stops, less frequent services, and need for additional bus-tram transfers. Light rail stage 2 would cost almost twice as much as stage 1, and would increase Woden-Civic trip times from 16 minutes to 25 or more.
That delay would almost certainly reduce patronage, and further jeopardise the government's patronage commitment.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 22 2018 from John Savin, Curtin
Hasn't the government learnt anything from stage one of the light rail?
What Canberrans don't want is much-loved trees to be removed and that's what's planned again for stage two to Woden - this time being the old European trees opposite Albert Hall and the Hyatt Hotel.
The route needs to be diverted away from Commonwealth Avenue as soon as the tram crosses the lake so that these majestic trees (and hence Canberra's garden character) can remain.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 22 2018 from Rohan Goyne, Evatt
I refer to the article "Safety fears as students travel on public buses" (June 20, p9), and I note the information from Transport Canberra that a number of existing school services were underutilised by schools. In 2014 Shane Rattenbury cancelled 40per cent of the then morning school services in Belconnen and Weston Creek on public advice that the routes cancelled had 21 or fewer passengers.
My daughter's morning route 445 was one of those. I FOI'd the then ACTION figures for route 445 to test the accuracy of the public statements only to discover that the average boardings for Route 445 was actually 28, hence above the publicly stated cut-off figure.
I would naturally question the transparency of the current decisions based on the history outlined above and I would encourage the ACT P&C to question Transport Canberra extensively.
Transport Canberra has also announced it wants students to travel on an alternative current route bus, in my daughter's case, the Rapid Service from Evatt down Northbourne Avenue to the city will also be cancelled from January 2019 because of the tram and the downgrading of Northbourne Avenue from an arterial road.
What if the $795 million for the tram had been spent on the existing bus network instead? I suggest Transport Canberra may be better advised to buy more buses and employ more drivers.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 22 2018 from Paul O'Connor, Hawker
Would it not be prudent to wait until Stage 1 of the Light Rail has been running for a reasonable period and passenger usage been judged before committing to the Woden stage?
The planned route ("Bridge build part of $1.3b Woden route", June 21, p1) whilst difficult to read clearly, seems to show very few stops on the way to Woden from the city.
Also, the route appears to run along Constitution Avenue, a busy, narrow road to start with. It will certainly get far more interesting in that bottleneck when the Morris Group commences construction of large blocks of apartments on the car parks near Capital Towers.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 22 2018 from Don Sephton, Greenway
Your report on the proposed Woden route for stage 2 of the light rail ("Bridge build part of $1.3b Woden route", June 21, p1) said: "In Woden, it is predicted hundreds of thousands of square metres of land could be opened up for development because of the light rail". That's the real reason for the Woden extension of the tram isn't it, property development? It's not really about improved, efficient transport options, especially when a trip from Woden to Civic has apparently been modelled at 25-30 minutes, with multiple stops.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 22 2018 from Howard Carew, Isaacs
The article on future directions of light rail in Canberra and its design and cost ("Bridge build part of $1.3b Woden route", June 21, p1) would have caused incredulity to most readers. Personally I think the idea is a bad joke getting worse with every retelling.
The sheer folly of replacing an established successful bus service taking around 15 minutes to get between Civic and Woden with a tram that will take twice the time is mind-boggling.
The cost involved, which will top $1.5 billion, would house many of our homeless in public housing. The idea of a new bridge across Commonwealth Avenue is painful to contemplate and the extra congestion that it will cause along its entire route would be a nightmare for commuters to contemplate.
The inherent difficulty of boarding from the middle of a busy Adelaide Avenue in peak times would also be frightening.
Additionally a new bridge is on the books to carry the tram from Cullen Street, Woden, to Adelaide Avenue.
I am amazed that an ACT Labor Party could close their eyes to the lack of logic involved in the concept. The fact is that it is such a folly that the chances of the federal government and our community supporting it are non-existent.
In China, for example, trams as they are now in Australia are becoming obsolete. They are developing a form of road train without rails and overhead wires. Truly we have an ACT government that is moving mindlessly back to the past.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 18 2018 from Mike Quirk, Garran
When, where and if a new football stadium is constructed is a product of government priority setting. The postponing of the extension of light rail to Woden until it is justified (the bus system currently provides a fast and efficient service) would free up funds for infrastructure. A benefit cost appraisal of alternatives is needed to determine the projects that best meet the community's needs. The extension of light rail is unlikely to rate highly.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 13 2018 from John Widdup, Lyneham
So the ACT government is to spend a significant amount of money on roadworks to improve connections and thus reduce congestion.
Duplicating roads does not improve connections or reduce congestion. What it does is to allow (encourage) more of us to drive our cars at the same time until the road is again congested - that usually occurs within a few years of the duplication occurring.
What is required to reduce congestion and improve the amenity of our city is better public transport and cycling facilities, as pointed out by Graham Downie (Letters, June 1).
For every person in a bus or tram or on a bicycle there is one less car on the roads, resulting in less expenditure on roadworks and less congestion. Please spend tax money on things like bus lanes and priority for buses at intersections, that will make bus trips faster and so encourage more people to ride, and on cycle paths that will encourage more people to commute by bicycle and not drive their cars.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 11 2018 from Paul O'Connor, Hawker
Does the ACT government have a valid excuse for the recent closure for reconstruction of Old Well Station Road from Flemington Road to Northbourne Avenue.
At a time when the public of Canberra are suffering inconvenience and frustration because of rail construction in Flemington Road and Northbourne Avenue, to remove an alternative that avoided the one-lane bottleneck of Flemington Road at EPIC is stupid, non-caring or just plain arrogant .
The alternative allowed traffic travelling on the GDE to exit at the cemetery via Sandford Street , cross Flemington Road onto Morisset Road and turn right onto Old Well Station Road then Northbourne Avenue .
This route also assisted traffic from Gungahlin to escape Flemington Road/EPIC and travel north.
Doubtless excuses of concern for traffic control and safety will be raised but why do this at such an inconvenient time?
Little progress appears to have happened over some weeks .
My money is also on an additional set of traffic lights.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 9 2018 from M. Flint, Smart Canberra Transport co-ordinator
In respect of light rail Stage 2, Civic-Woden, The Canberra Times reported on June 5 that ACT Transport Minister Meegan Fitzharris said "the extra $8 million worth of technical work would provide the National Capital Authority with all the information it needs to understand the benefits of the project and inform the recently announced federal inquiry".
It is very interesting and welcome to read that the ACT government sees the need to convince the NCA and Federal Parliament of the "benefits" of Stage 2. Let us fervently hope the minister produces a valid business case for Stage 2, for consideration by the NCA and Houses of Parliament, not like the farce that was produced for Stage 1. One may recall the Business Case for Stage 1 claimed a Benefit to Cost Ratio (BCR) of 1.2, which the ACT government accepted and acted upon (naively or deliberately?), when external analysts put the BCR at 0.6 at best and which the Auditor-General put at only 0.49.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 4 2018 from Kent Fitch, Nicholls
Transport Canberra's Duncan Edghill belatedly acknowledges the plan for the stage 1 tram won't have the capacity to meet demand ("First trams to start running soon", canberratimes.com.au, May 24).
Currently 29 ACTION buses with an average fleet capacity of 75 passengers (65 per cent seated) leave Gungahlin for Civic during the 7.30am-8.30am peak. The business case and modelling insisted no buses will travel between Gungahlin and Canberra, so this capacity must be shoehorned into the 10 planned tram services that hour, each with a capacity for 207 passengers (only 32 per cent seated), leaving a capacity shortfall compared to the current bus service of just over 100 passengers.
As the massive developments of flats along the route complete and fill, and city-bound services from Kaleen, Giralang and Watson are also planned to terminate at Dickson, surely Transport Canberra know they'll need at least 12 services per hour, further compounding congestion and delays.
Letter, The Canberra Times, June 1 2018 from Graham Downie, O'Connor
Those who object to money spent on Canberra's cycling infrastructure might compare it with the far greater sum spent on Canberra's inefficient and unreliable public transport, which, according to 2016 census figures ("Canberra's commuting habits revealed" canberratimes.com.au) ferries about the same number of people to work as those who cycle.
According to the census, both transport about 7 per cent of workers to their daily toil, well short of the ACT government's target for cycling and public transport. Transport and City Services revealed earlier this year about 25 per cent of ACTION buses do not run on time while the operating cost alone of the service costs ratepayers about $150 million annually.
In its report to the government in March 2015, transport and planning consultants MRCagney said ACTION was subsidised by about $7.20 per passenger, about double that of other similar public and private bus operations.
As with previous reports, the government rejected major recommendations by MRCagney which would have saved $47 million annually from ACTION's operating budget within about 10 years. Instead it opted for the 30 per cent inefficiency of ACTION's operation, identified in a report to government in 2010.
In late 2015, responding to the MRCagney report, the government said improving the customer experience of ACTION was needed to support patronage and as a result improve financial sustainability.
"This will be a key emphasis of the government's work over the next six to 12 months." Instead, its key emphasis has been to spend about $1 billion on the 12km tramway from Gungahlin to Civic with only marginal improvements to bus operations.
Meanwhile, in a report of June 2017, Auditor General Maxine Cooper said the maintenance budget for cycle paths had been cut from $5 million in 2011-12 to $3.2 million in 2015-16.
As there were now more paths, the budget was $1150 per kilometre, compared with a budget of $1970 per kilometre five years previously.
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 29 2018 from Mike Quirk, Garran
Professor Greg Clark ("Work on branding", May 24, p3) identified Australian cities as increasingly difficult places to live, work, travel around and obtain affordable housing. The responses in his co-authored report Creating Great Australian Cities, include the development of polycentric cities, high amenity, higher density housing areas, infrastructure provision based on merit rather than politics, improved metropolitan governance and high-quality public transport.
The valuable report needs to be complemented by discussion of several issues. The advocacy of polycentric cities (to reduce travel) needs to consider mechanisms to decentralise employment. In Canberra, this requires re-invigorating the new towns policy. The current laissez-faire approach where employers locate regardless of the congestion and other costs they impose is clearly inadequate.
The provision of housing cannot be adequately considered without discussion of whether capital gains and negative gearing concessions (rewarding speculation) are superior to alternatives such as developing social housing. Population growth is identified as a major contributing factor to city problems.
A debate is needed on whether reducing migrant intake, even temporarily, is an appropriate strategy to overcome infrastructure and housing backlogs. To use limited infrastructure funding effectively, the advocacy for infrastructure provision based on merit rather than politics (the dubious light rail provision in Canberra comes to mind) is timely.
Along with addressing the above issues, strong metropolitan governance with decisions based on evidence rather than ideology is needed for Canberra and other cities to avoid a low-amenity, low-liveability future.
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 27 2018 from John L. Smith, Farrer
"One of the operational challenges that we will face when the [light rail Stage 1] system's up and running is how do we cater for more people wanting to ride the system than is available," says the deputy director-general of Transport Canberra, Duncan Edghill ("First trams to start running soon", May 24).
What is the exact challenge to which Mr Edghill refers? Does he mean demand exceeding 150 standing passengers per tram or does he mean demand that exceeds the 66-seat capacity?
Sydney commuters might be prepared to travel on trams with no breathing room, but I think Mr Edghill will be spared that challenge.
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 20 2018 from John Skurr, Deakin
Finally some sunshine into the dark spaces that pervade the current town planning fashion, with Tony Trobe's interview of Ken Taylor, ("Design Matters" CT, May13 ). We all need light, open generous spaces to be, play and think.
Burley Griffin & Marion Mahony were into light and space, what's happened? We don't need wanky high-rise signature buildings jammed onto our road intersections or rows and rows of units looking like boxes made of ticky tacky.
Economical electric cars with solar recharged batteries will be here soon. We need well designed highways so that those who want a quarter-acre block can afford them. Now that Northbourne Avenue will have units side by side from Civic to Watson, Jack Kershaw's vision of changing the entry to Canberra with a spur off Majura Parkway and a road up and over the hill past the American eagle more relevant.
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 19 2018 from Rod Olsen, Flynn
Here we go again. Part of Canberra "must have a facelift". Answer, must be surrounded by multi-storey buildings.
Our city is festooned with countless apartment blocks. Northbourne Avenue is to be lined with them. Yet we hear again and again about apartment blocks with shoddy building work and materials.
Malvina Reynolds said it all in 1962: "Little boxes on the hillsides. Little boxes made of ticky-tacky ... And they all look just the same."
London's Grenfell Tower apartment block burned in June 2017. Afterwards governments here and overseas said high-rise buildings would be tested for flammable cladding.
Since then nothing but silence. Are we really going to let our local pollies reduce Canberra to an "any city", consisting of nothing but flammable concrete canyons?
As for Canberra the Bush Capital, I think I shall never see an apartment block as lovely as a tree (apologies to Ogden Nash).
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 17 2018 from Stan Marks, Hawker
Greg Jackson (Letters, May 16) and others who bemoan Katy Gallagher's departure from the Senate should think again. There was even a caption under her photo that 'Katy Gallagher has genuine concern for Canberra' (May 14, p.16).
No, she is a stock standard politician.
A few months before the 2012 election, she announced the government would not build the tram because, at $614million, it was too expensive. Then, during the election, when the polls were going against her and she needed the green vote, she suddenly announced that they would build it anyway. To save her government and her political career, she was prepared to spend $600million of our money on a project which she had recently said wasn't worth the money.
Then, after the election, she said that she would still pull the plug if the cost of the tram rose too much.
The acknowledged cost of the tram was already over $700million when she went to the senate and she undoubtedly knew it would go further. She didn't pull the plug and now we are saddled with a great, green debacle which will cost us a billion dollars.
She said it wasn't worth $614million; it is certainly not worth $1 billion. Canning the project would have meant the end of her political career but, had she been devoted to the people, that is what she would have done.
No, Greg Jackson, she is just a standard politician, putting her career ahead of the welfare of the people she is supposed to serve and doing it without batting an eyelid.
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 15 2018 from M. Flint, Smart Canberra Transport, Erindale
So, there will be a federal probe into Stage 2 of light rail.
This is welcome news to those who believe that trams are an outmoded transport mode, given rapid changes in transport technology, and that light rail for Canberra is a gross waste of scarce resources but, apparently, not for Mr Haas of the Public Transport Association.
He seems to think that the federal government has no right to "interfere in ... public transport for Canberra", even though 65 per cent of the proposed Option B will traverse designated areas under federal control.
I would like to see how he would make that point to the standing committee.
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 7 2018 from Margaret Lee, Hawker
I love the phrase "fell into disrepair", don't you? "The Northbourne flats were built in the 1950s ... but having fallen into disrepair in recent times" ("Judith digs in as eviction D-Day looms", May 5, p8). They did that all by themselves, did they? Correct me if I'm wrong, but the ACT government owned those buildings, didn't it? Wasn't it its responsibility to maintain them? There are heaps of houses older than that which don't "fall into disrepair" unless the owners neglect to maintain them.
And how convenient the sites have become even more valuable with the tram now running by them, making their demolition so much more potentially profitable? We had friends in the suburb of Redfern before it was "upgraded". They lost their community and ended up in Chester Hill (anyone heard of it?). I have great sympathy for people who have affordable housing in a convenient area who protest at being removed to another location.
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 4 2018 from Ben Hardwick, Bruce
A complete overhaul for the Belconnen Town Centre allowing for genuine skyscrapers - yet no mention of the future light rail? Isn't Belconnen included, even in the future?
Letter, The Canberra Times, May 2 2018 from John Mungoven, Stirling
Oh dear, we seem to be in a pickle over the future route for Light Rail in Canberra. I suggest an alternative plan. Extend the line, not to the south of Canberra, but to the north and out of town.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 25 2018 from Leon Arundell, Downer
Can Alex White (Letters, April 24) explain why Unions ACT supports a public transport system that, compared with bus rapid transit, employs half as many drivers, costs twice as much, doesn't offer express services, replaces direct services with services that require people to transfer between buses and trams, and further discourages patrons with less frequent services and longer walks to and from stops?
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 25 2018 from Chris Emery, Reid
Stage 1 of Light Rail will see the ACT government's first use of overriding traffic signal priority for public transport.
Hopefully this indicates their adoption of a "move people not cars" policy for our transport system.
Our next step could be providing traffic signal priority for all public transport as occurs in other Australian jurisdictions.
Canberra only needs a small SCATS software parameter change to give our buses over-riding traffic signal priority when a bus is caught facing a red light in their own dedicated bus lane.
Let's start moving people not cars.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 24 2018 from Geoff Davidson, Braddon
Re Kent Fitch's letter ("Tension over Developer", April 23) and the scuppering of "Active Travel" plans for Dooring Street by huge volumes of consequential traffic, I add additional comments.
There are two development applications out now proposed between Northbourne Avenue and Dooring Street in Dickson.
The adjoined proposals have 760 car parks (which does not meet the required parking) and force all car access onto Dooring Street, which will heavily impact the neighbours and traffic.
If going south to the city they will have cross the lights on Macarthur Avenue.
I suggest they will continue on into the increasing crowded back streets of Braddon, ultimately on to Torrens Street.
Braddon itself is undergoing the equivalent developments on Henty Street (south) and Mort Street (north) plus internal. The impact on these backstreets cannot be overstated.
All further developments on Northbourne on the east side must have car access from Northbourne.
In addition, these developments are residential (greater than 80 per cent) disguised as commercial, avoiding residential codes.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 24 2018 from M. Flint, Smart Canberra Transport, Erindale Centre
Thank you, Canberra Times, for the insightful editorial "Figures first before cash flows" (April 21, p14).
Not only does a detailed business case for light rail Stage2 need to be made public but, also, it must be open to independent scrutiny before any cabinet decision is taken, not like what happened for Stage 1, where the government decided to proceed without public consultation on the business case and took a decision to proceed based on a fictitious Benefit Cost Ratio (BCR) of 1.2hat the Auditor-General later said was 0.6 at best.
Of course the ACT government is reluctant to provide meaningful figures, knowing that a comprehensive and independent cost benefits analysis would not stack up.
How could it, when it would be much less cost-effective than Stage 1, which itself will prove grossly uneconomic and a white elephant?
Also, this time round, the Greens-Labor government should consider conducting itself with some respect for the taxpayer and not as it did for Stage 1, that is, riding roughshod over critics and simply ignoring all independent valid, objective criticism of the project.
Notwithstanding any and all argument around Stage 2, would its backers and funders of the Greens-Labor government let it off the hook on Stage 2?
I don't think so.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 24 2018 from Bruce Paine, Red Hill
Recent actions by ACT government ministers again have shown how poorly we are governed, how unwilling ministers are to level with the community, and their apparent belief that repeating spin will change the underlying facts. The Canberra Times editorial ("Government to blame for health crisis", April 20) appropriately laid responsibility.
Rather than establishing clear governance and good culture, the government has parted ways with another senior bureaucrat and will reportedly install even more bureaucrats in her place.
Meanwhile, the minor party's leader hides behind "cabinet-in-confidence, and tells us that reducing funding to CHC provides greater flexibility to fund affordable housing ("Affordable housing", April 19, p2).
A much more logical explanation for the cut is that the larder is bare because of his ideology that a single tram line offers better public transport than a network of buses. Lastly, the Transport Minister is "hopeful we can continue to ... get on with delivering a world-class public transport network for Canberra" ("Government wants Woden light rail via Barton", April 19, p1) despite the NCA reportedly having indicated that "a project of this magnitude requires careful consideration of all of the impacts to the heart of Canberra".
Translation: you are dreaming. The ACT government's ministers do not appear to understand the basic principles of good government or how to make decisions that benefit the whole community.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 23 2018 from John L Smith, Farrer
If, as I feel sure, the participants were not made aware that the vast majority of experts believe that a bus system is a far more cost-effective public transport investment for the entire Canberra region, and that driverless vehicle technology is predicted to deliver vastly improved public transport within a decade, then only 51.5per cent of respondents supporting light rail is a damning result.
If Senator Seselja can bring about a federal parliamentary inquiry into the construction of light rail stage two in which these wider issues can be fully exposed, he will be doing a great service to all Canberra citizens.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 17 2018 from Alex White, UnionsACT, Canberra
Max Flint (Letters, May 17) made several unfortunate claims and smears against UnionsACT and our affiliates.
Mr Flint has spent several years heading up the "Can the Tram" group.
He now goes under a new badge, but has not stopped his light-rail bashing or his union bashing.
The truth is that UnionsACT does not have a veto over ACT government contracts.
This is a fever-dream imagined by Michaelia Cash and the Canberra Liberals.
UnionsACT supports light rail because it creates secure local jobs, improves public transport services, and stimulates the local economy. However, Mr Flint insinuates that we receive a benefit ("gravy train").
He is wrong.
Mr Flint also suggests that I am lying about the results.
He is wrong. I provided the results to The Canberra Times, including the question.
The results are also on our website.
The sampling methodology is well known and performed by Reachtel, a respected polling company.
It is sad that Mr Flint still cannot accept that most Canberrans supported light rail stage one.
It is even sadder that he refuses to accept that most Canberrans support stage two.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 22 2018 from Maria Greene, Curtin
While the ACT government struggles to find the most ineffective way to provide transport for the 21st century, why stop at late 19th-century technology? Horse-drawn trams would be nice.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 22 2018 from Kent Fitch, Nicholls
Prompted by Kirsten Lawson's analysis of the development applications lodged for the Northbourne "SOHO" project ("Art group forced to drop supermarket plan in Dickson", April 4, p2), I've read comments on those applications from agencies obligated to oversee territory planning.
The tension between the commercial ambitions of developers, seemingly egged-on by our political masters, and our planning protectors are evident.
The Conservation Planning, Strategic Planning and TCCS departments detail non-compliance with heritage trees and building height rules, and inadequate stormwater and traffic studies. The scuppering of "Active Travel" plans for Dooring Street by huge volumes of consequential traffic are lamented.
The developers confidently ignore the Territory Plan's requirement that 70 per cent of dwellings must receive at least three hours midwinter "solar access", acknowledging only 43 per cent of their dwellings fulfil this meagre obligation, with most of these receiving sunlight either early morning or late afternoon due to the chosen density and profit maximising orientation.
Of the 52 units on their typical floor plan, farcically, only eight (15 per cent) have a northerly orientation.
We'll see how much the ACT government cares about well-ventilated, solar-passive, sustainable and human-scale housing, unaccompanied by the constant drone of air-conditioners. While the government agency staff understand the conflicts, Labor has been captured by developers.
The Greens seem disinclined to veto energy-intense or battery-hen housing.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 21 2018 from Leon Arundell, Downer
Rolf Fenner of the Planning Institute ("Decongesting our cities," April 1) seems to think that the best way to decongest our cities is to build expensive, inflexible heavy rail networks. That can at best be only part of the solution.
The best long-term option is to redesign our cities so that we don't have to travel so far to reach our everyday destinations. That will reduce the distances that we travel by road and rail.
It will also bring more destinations within cycling or walking distance.
A useful short-term option is to make better use of our existing roads.
One way to do that is to designate one lane as a transit lane. That will allow vehicles that make efficient use of road space (i.e. buses and passenger-carrying cars) to avoid being delayed by driver-only vehicles that make inefficient use of road space.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 18 2018 from M. Flint, Smart Canberra Transport, Erindale Centre
So inner north residents will soon suffer through noisy nights from light rail work as the government is to permit a catch-up of slow progress by the contractor on Stage 1.
This means excavation and tunnelling machinery will be operating throughout the night, possibly for up to three weeks, and workers will collect double and triple time.
So why the slow progress? The cost will be recouped by the contractor; taxpayers can be assured of that. How many more of such hikes will we see, especially approaching scheduled completion at end 2018, when the Government would accede to any demand to finish on time?
Sleepless nights are only the start of woes for residents on both wrong sides of the track. Wait till the rat-running starts past their doors.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 17 2018 from Ric Hingee, Duffy
I wonder how many of the residents complaining about out-of-hours light rail construction actually voted for light rail. I suspect the majority did.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 17 2018 from Stan Marks, Hawker
It was no surprise to read that the unions had done a survey which found that a majority of Canberrans want the tram extended over the lake.
After all, the project will provide several years of well-paid work for its members. Then, of course the residents of our city want to put their hands into their pockets and come up with another billion-plus dollars knowing that most of it will go down the tube and not come back to them in terms of benefits.
Of course they want to spend a couple of hundred million to build a new bridge over the lake to take the tram or to replace a couple of traffic lanes on Commonwealth Avenue bridge with tram lines so that traffic congestion will rise to the point that cars can hardly move. And of course they want to replace their fast express buses with slower trams (capable of
70km/h not 80) meandering in the inner south instead of zapping down Yamba Drive.
As a life-long rail fan who spent 10 years working to further the rail industry, it saddens me that this money, which could do so much good, is to be spent to please the madness of green ideology.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 17 2018 from Mike Quirk, Garran
The validity and usefulness of Unions ACT poll finding that 51.5per cent of the ACT population supported the extension of the light rail to Woden is questionable.
If the question had been framed along the lines of "would you rather see over $1billion spent on light rail to Woden or on health, education, disability services, city maintenance or to reduce rates" the answer would have been very different.
What does matter is the community is fully informed of the costs and benefits of the project and the opportunity costs identified. It is irresponsible for the business case being undertaken to compare only alternative routes.
In the absence of evidence as to the benefits of the extension, it is difficult not to conclude the project is an act of faith and that too much is being sacrificed on its altar. It is unfortunate that the Barr-Rattenbury government's immaturity and lack of transparency and integrity has made it necessary for Senator Seselja to refer the project to a federal parliamentary committee to investigate whether the community is getting value for money.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 16 2018 from John Mungoven, Stirling
So Brittle Gums will be planted along the Northbourne Avenue light rail corridor to replace the former treescape.
Good luck to their roots when they try to work their way through what is now a very heavily compacted and destructed soil structure. Brittle indeed.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 13 2018 from Dorothy Filshie, Port Macquarie, NSW
A recent visit to Canberra (where I lived for 37 years) caused me to write this poem.
Poor Northbourne Avenue, deconstructed,
And in its place a tram to be conducted!?
No more the splendid view
Of tree-lined avenue,
They've mucked it.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 13 2018 from Geof Murray, Ngunnawal
Australians are among the most sceptical in the world about the future of driverless cars, according to the Canberra Times, April 6, page 12. Things might change if we resurrected the British Red Flag Act in force around the time the first cars were terrifying horses, cattle and pedestrians. That provided that a guard with a red flag must walk "not less than 60 yards in front of the vehicle while it is in motion" to warn riders and drivers of horses it was approaching.
The Act wasn't repealed until 1896.
It would be about the only safeguard that would persuade me to ride in a driverless car. Some 16 per cent of Australians agree, as do one-in-four of those over 50 years. (And Leunig too, judging by his Sunday Times cartoon of April 8.)
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 11 2018 from Mike Quirk, Garran
The focus of the Chief Minister's 2018 State of the Territory address was on making Canberra a great city, which required taking sound long-term policy decisions such as those taken by his government on light rail, renewable energy, taxation reform and diversifying the economy.
Great cities he observed worked by getting basic services right, by making sure residents were well connected to urban opportunities and he identified Canberra as having the opportunity to lead the country in long-term policy making and infrastructure planning.
Canberra unfortunately cannot show leadership as it does not have an evidenced based long-term strategy or infrastructure plan – management failure is evidenced by increasing congestion, housing unaffordability, insufficient land release and the poor quality of development.
Light rail is not fundamental to Canberra becoming a great city. Its expense and inflexibility renders it inferior as a means to improve connectivity when compared with busways, increasing the frequency of buses throughout the city and encouraging employment at the Gungahlin, Tuggeranong, Woden and Belconnen town centres. Canberra was an exemplar of urban development before self-government.
It can be great again if decisions are based on a comprehensive strategy. Hopefully the review of the ACT planning strategy will be more than an analysis-free PR document with platitudes masquerading as a plan.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 9 2018 from John McKeough, Page
Re "At the controls to get capital on the rails" (March 31, p16).
I notice, in the pictures accompanying the article, that Canberra Metro employees either sitting or standing in the cabin of our wheel-chocked, non-electrified tram inside a warehouse are wearing safety goggles, hi-vis vests and hard hats.
I wonder if when the tram is actually moving, the passengers will be obliged to dress similarly and, if so, will the clothing be issued with the ticket to ride, or if the passengers will need to bring their own.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 8 2018 from Mike Quirk, Garran
Every resident should be concerned about the waste of public funds proposed to be spent on the extension of light rail to Woden.
The funds would be better used to improve community services. Such services would include increasing the frequency of buses throughout Canberra to increase their competitiveness with cars in meeting the community's diverse work and non-work trips. Advertisement Unfortunately the Barr-Rattenbury government will not acknowledge its light rail irresponsibility, compared to which the stadia fiasco in Sydney is insignificant given the size of the ACT and NSW economies.
As an act of contrition, the Labor and Green Assembly members and senior executives should forgo their recently announced increase in pay, an increase that cannot be based on performance given the demonstrated incompetence in relation to light rail and other urban development issues.
I won't be holding my breath.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 5 2018 from Lee Welling, Nicholls
Most future residents of the so-called village proposed for Northbourne Ave will be yuppies and dinks.
Only people with that level of income will be able to afford to live there.
It was this that precipitated the forcible removal of the inconvenient "poor" who had the misfortune to live on valuable real estate. The new-wave residents will work long, irregular hours and don't want to be tied to travelling in a predetermined route set (quite literally) in concrete.
They might consider a flexible bus route taking them directly to, say, Barton or Russell offices, but they will not use the tram to travel the two and a half kilometres to Civic, where they will then have to change to a bus. What they will do is drive to work, thus compounding the already disastrous traffic congestion in that area.
I really feel for the residents in the environs of Northbourne Ave; the advent of the $1.5billion "green" tram has not only been responsible for the wholesale destruction of a magnificent stand of eucalypts, but the concentration of CO/CO2 levels are also about to climb dramatically.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 4 2018 from Paul E. Bowler, Chapman
The short answer to your question about when the tram will make it to Tuggeranong, Darren Randall (Letters, April 3), is "Never". Same answer applies to Weston Creek, Molonglo, Belconnen (including the new, massive cross-border development at West Belconnen) and Canberra Airport. Perhaps we should secede from the ACT.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 3 2018 from Darren Randall, Chisholm
Just wondering when the light rail will actually make it to Tuggeranong?
As I and everyone else in Tuggeranong are currently paying our taxes to fund this expensive project I do not think it is too much to ask the ACT government to explain to the people of Tuggeranong when they too will receive the light rail?
Will Tuggeranong be the last area to receive light rail and the associated benefits?
I would have thought the people to benefit the most from improved public transport are the people who live the furthest from the city, like the people who live in Tuggeranong; not the people who already live close to the city.
Don't you think it is amazing that a working-class area like Tuggeranong votes Liberal and not Labor?
It just shows how annoyed working class people are with elites of the Labor Party who seem to have more support with the inner-city chattering class than the blue-collar working class.
Does ACT Labor ever stop to think about that or does it just dismiss it?
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 2 2018 from Murray Upton, Belconnen
Yet another stumble in the city's planning regime ("Manuka plan quietly shelved", March 27, p1.).
When is our Government going to realise that the stop/start, "thought-bubble", ad-hoc, planning, that Andrew Barr has presided over for far too long, must end?
The Kingston Barton Residents group have every reason to be concerned by the Chief Minister's machinations regarding Manuka, these, on top of the frequent changes being made to the "City to the Lake" project; the extremely questionable land dealings involving both the former LDA and more recently appointed Suburban Land Agency; and the even more questionable Stage 2 tram; all demonstrate the urgent need for an overall Master Plan for Canberra drawn up by a properly established, independent planning body, totally free of political interference.
Canberrans are becoming disillusioned by the deterioration of their City due to ill-considered projects and inadequate infrastructure.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 1 2018 from Jack Kershaw, Kambah
If the puzzling madness of trams is to continue south, or in any case, we should look to Griffin's missing third lake crossing, using Lawson Crescent, Acton. It would spring from Acton Peninsula's south-west shore, and make landfall near Lennox Gardens, expanded north to Griffin's planned shape, completing his symmetry with Bowen Place, Barton.
The current plan to integrate trams into Commonwealth Avenue and its bridge is expensive and disruptive, especially as overhead wires are banned there.
The new circular crossing (which could tolerate overhead wires) precipitates much needed all-mode (except trucks) connectivity between Civic, New Acton, ANU, Acton Peninsula, Parkes, the Parliamentary Zone, and beyond. The West Lake yachting course, and east-west water craft access would be preserved. The new bridge, and recreational facilities on expanded Lennox Gardens North, would be appropriately located outside the National Triangle, but would be redolent of the nearby National Museum's colourful post-modernist structures.
Because of its new connectivity with Civic (and Parkes), the expanded Lennox Gardens precinct becomes a far better "City-to-the-Lake" solution than the current sun-deprived, very expensive, and apartment-compromised West-Basin one.
Letter, The Canberra Times, April 1 2018 from Ray Edmondson, former chairman, The Federation Line Inc, Kambah
The Christchurch heritage tramway, which so delighted Fred Pilcher (Letters, March 25), was a reference point for Canberra's proposed Federation Line in the early 2000s. Utilising restored tramcars from all Australian systems, the Federation Line would have linked our major public institutions as well as being a tourist attraction in its own right.
Though never actually realised, the Federation Line project progressed to the point of recreating what would have been an original Canberra tram – had Walter Burley Griffin's network been successfully rolled out in the 1920s. The then innovative Melbourne W class design, fitted out in the livery of Canberra's early bus system, would have been the logical vehicle for the national capital's network, a system too small to develop and build a design of its own. Brought here for public exhibition rides on a test track 15 years ago, it became the first tram to run under overhead power in Canberra.
The "Canberra tram" now resides at the Sydney Tramway Museum. Would it not be historically appropriate to bring it back so it could be part of the opening ceremonies for the light rail system?
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 29 2018 from Rohan Goyne, Evatt
I read about the City Gateway Proposal, which includes the intention to downgrade Northbourne Avenue from an arterial road to a two-lane pedestrian boulevard, but this appears to be without any consideration for the future transport needs of residents of North West Belconnen.
I recently FOI'd the traffic impact studies for the Ginderry development situated at the end of Ginninderra Drive.
The study concluded that the impact of the development on Ginninderra Drive would be an additional 10,000 car movements per day or four to five additional lanes of traffic. Ginninderra Drive currently connects North West Belconnen residents to the City via Mouat Street onto Northbourne Avenue.
There is also other development proposed on the CSIRO land bounded by the Barton Highway and Owen Dixon Drive estimated at 10,000 dwellings.
The impact of this development on traffic utilising Ginninderra Drive connecting to the city via Northbourne Avenue is unclear but presumably substantial.
Some questions arise: How are north-west Belconnen residents expected to get to Civic if their arterial road link Northbourne Avenue is downgraded?
Is light rail ever coming to the largest satellite city, which is growing 3.7 per cent from the last census?
Will the capacity of light rail (if it ever arrives) replace the lost capacity of the downgraded Northbourne Avenue? If not, why not?
It appears that the Gateway proposal is proceeding in isolation from the broader city wide impacts, and the scheduled consultation is currently aimed at the inner north only. Finally, does the Belconnen Community Council have a view? If so what is it?
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 29 2018 from Kent Fitch, Nicholls
Would Kevin Cox (Letters, March 27) consider the alarm clock as a hubristic technological solution to the human problem of waking up, or the calculator a hubristic technological solution to the human problem of erratic long division?
Shared electric autonomous cars are a technological approach to reducing pollution, road trauma, congestion, dominance of urban environments by roads and the cost of transport. Manually co-ordinated ride-sharing typically loses the battle against the human desire for flexibility and convenience: transport needs to satisfy a wide range of regular and varied requirements.
At the recent Geneva Motor Show, Renault joined the many other manufacturers announcing their autonomous future, unveiling their "EZ-GO" concept car as the model for their city-based shared door-to-door, 24x7, on-demand service.
Seating six in a U shape, the concept model provides walk or roll-in ramp entry. Renault will focus on encouraging shared trips by making passengers safe and comfortable.
The economics of such services have been modelled by many academic and industry analysts as a key reason they will rapidly displace traditional transport in cities such as Canberra: at around 20-35¢ per kilometre all up, costs are less than half those of private cars.
The most optimistic analysis of the Stage 1 tram business case shows it costing the community around $1 per passenger-kilometre travelled, and two-thirds of peak-hour travellers won't even get a seat.
Stage 1 is now a sunk cost, but digging an even deeper hole is pointless.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 28 2018 from D. Shirley, Narrabundah
Ross Johnson (Letters, March 26) claims that if in the future 25 per cent of travellers use light rail, 75 per cent will use cars. He has forgotten any other form of transport, such as cycling, buses and walking.
Rest assured Ross, all these modes of transport will still be available to Canberrans. The light rail just adds another choice..
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 26 2018 from Kevin Cox, Ngunnawal
Ross Johnson (Letters, March 26) and John Smith (March 24) exhibit the hubris of many who believe in technological solutions to human problems.
Autonomous cars will only solve the problem of traffic congestion if enough people are willing to share their ride.
There are many technological solutions to moving large numbers of people around a city and the sharing of vehicles is a sensible, low-cost way to get more from our transport infrastructure.
The suggestion is that we work out better ways to get people to share non-autonomous cars to deliver people to shared light rail.
The sharing of driven cars could solve our transport infrastructure today without the need for light rail, trams, buses or taxis.
Canberra has more cars than drivers, and when used most of those cars have one or two passengers instead of three or four.
To imagine that an app together with autonomous cars will automatically change people, so they are willing to share cars, is wishful thinking.
What we can do today is to run trials to understand how to convince more people to share cars. Sharing driven cars to the shared light rail would be a good start.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 26 2018 from Ross Johnson, Belconnen
Kevin Cox (Letters, March 22) categorises autonomous vehicles and light rail as shared transport. He is using semantics to argue his case but in doing so he fails to recognise the distinct and irreconcilable differences between the two modes, and yet he should because he is a technologist and a self-professed futurist.
LR is shared in time, AVs are shared in use; AVs have agile scalability and flexibility, LR does not; AVs will revolutionise lifestyles and the built environment, LR will anchor us to the past.
If LR in this city ever achieves a truly impressive level of patronage, say 25 per cent, it will be because 50 per cent of the population has been forced to live within the corridors, with half of those having no option but to use the LR, while the other 50 per cent of the population will have no access to it even if they want it.
Still, a 25 per cent patronage will look like a successful conversion from the current 3per cent, and yet 75 per cent of us will be travelling in cars.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 25 2018 from Fred Pilcher, Kaleen
Last week in New Zealand I had the pleasure of riding on Christchurch's tram which, unlike our overblown folly, runs on a loop around the city's major tourist attractions. A $NZ25 ($23) ticket gives you all-day hop-on-hop-off access and the drivers provide expert and entertaining commentary about the sights and attractions.
Instead of shiny new cars, theirs are beautifully restored historic trams, some locally built and some from overseas, including one from Melbourne. The cars themselves are tourist attractions. They all have plenty of seating and they were well patronised during the several hours we used them.
What a lost opportunity. I reckon that a tram running past the airport, the War Memorial, and around the parliamentary precinct would have actually been a useful, practical, and lucrative proposition while still compensating our politicians for their childhood train-set deprivation.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 24 2018 from John L Smith, Farrer
Light rail advocate Kevin Cox (Letters, March 22) is wrong when he states that sharing vehicles from a driverless vehicle public transport fleet to the satisfaction of all concerned is not a technological problem.
To the contrary, it is technology in the form of a booking and dispatching system that can apply any sharing restrictions that a rider may want, such as women who may want to ride with other women.
His second point that we should ride-share our existing cars to light rail stops, is based on two false premises.
The first is that trams are the right form of large public transport vehicle for Canberra when clearly buses are preferable.
The second is that driving to a tram or bus stop is the right form of shared trip when clearly the entire journeys can be taken by car to the greater advantage of both driver and ride-sharer.
Cox has also failed to justify his assertion that ride-sharing our existing cars would help us move towards the efficient use of driverless vehicles. This problem has already been addressed in the Canberra context. It was shown that a fleet of 23,000 driverless vehicles could efficiently serve all trips taken by private or public transport today.
If we allowed a premium price of $50,000 per vehicle, a 23,000-strong fleet could be deployed for a total cost of $1.15billion, much less than what just the Gunghalin-Civic link of the proposed light rail network will cost.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 24 2018 from Howard Carew, Isaacs
The news that the NSW government was interested in running light rail from Canberra to Queanbeyan ("Next stop ... Queanbeyan?" Canberra Times, March 22, p1) gave a light-hearted touch to an otherwise mainly depressing dishing out of what's going on.
Considering first that the heavy rail from Canberra to Sydney is getting rolled by Murrays Bus Service, then taking into account that the Canberra to Cooma and points east heavy rail has been closed for years, the proposal to extend light rail to Queanbeyan will provide a good laugh to anyone who knows anything at all about public transport.
Again allied to the fact that more Canberra people are shifting to Queanbeyan because of extortionate land prices, if I was the NSW government I would consider a better option was to build up Queanbeyan's industrial infrastructure.
If that was to happen I think that we would finish up with a set-up like the border towns Albury-Wodonga. Melbourne which has, second to Moscow, the biggest tram network worldwide has never in well over 100 years ever turned a profit. Three consortiums have been offered the infrastructure free of charge if they could make a profit. The Victorian government is on its fourth consortium at the moment.
To my memory, Melbourne trams run within a 15-kilometre arc from the city centre. Civic to Queanbeyan would be outside that arc with a fraction of Melbourne's users. Truly the suggestion has an Alice in Wonderland quality that I am sure will appeal to the Mad Hatters in our ACT government.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 23 2018 from Maureen Fisher, Hawker
Light rail for Canberra. Barr humbug.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 22 2018 from Kevin Cox, Ngunnawal
It is pleasing to see John Smith (Letters, March 18) advocating the idea of sharing vehicles as a way to reduce costs and to make better use of our transport infrastructure.
What is not pleasing is his inconsistent behaviour of attacking shared vehicles where the vehicle is a tram. We do not have to wait for driverless cars to share vehicles. We share them now with family, friends and paying customers.
Sharing vehicles is a human problem. It is not a technological problem. We want to share with others only when there are rules around the behaviour of others. We have some rules for vehicles with drivers. We have not yet worked out the rules for sharing driverless vehicles.
Smith could start working towards the sharing of driverless vehicles by supporting those who are willing to share light-rail vehicles. He could productively spend his time advocating and promoting the sharing of existing cars to get people to the light-rail shared vehicles.
This would serve two purposes. It would increase patronage of light rail and give us a better return on our investment and it would help us move towards the efficient use of driverless vehicles.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 22 2018 from Paul E Bowler, Chapman
John Davenport ("Critics miss their tram", CT letters, Mar 19) says that we "doomsday" critics of the Canberra light rail project seem to be "out of step with planners and citizens of other smaller Australian cities".
He cites the existing (and soon to be extended) Gold Coast system and the planned system for Newcastle. Dealing with the latter city first, the planned light rail system is only a replacement, by light rail, of part of a standard rail system which served Newcastle well for a very long time! It reminds me of the Croydon Tramlink system in south London.
The Gold Coast system ("GLINK") is a new system, planned properly. It starts in the northwest, at Helensvale rail station (trains to and from Brisbane, including Brisbane Airport), serves the Gold Coast University Hospital complex and then winds its way southwards through the main centres of attraction (for the locals and the myriads of visitors) of Southport, Main Beach, Surfers Paradise and Broadbeach.
As noted it is to be extended to Burleigh Heads – hopefully it will be extended further south again to the Gold Coast Airport!
The (positive) business case for the project was real, unlike the piece of fiction served up for the Gungahlin tram!
The circumstances of both the Gold Coast and Newcastle, in respect of light rail systems, do not and probably will not ever exist in Canberra — so being "out of step" with the good burgers of both cites is not an issue. Getting the right public transport system for Canberra and all its citizens is!
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 21 2018 from Andrew James Grose, Torrens
It's time to talk about moving the Woden bus station from a dying Woden Town Centre over to the dirt car park opposite The Canberra Hospital on Yamba Drive.
I've seen hundreds of empty peak hour buses enter and leave the Woden bus station over the past few years. People simply will not catch a bus that doesn't travel directly to TCH.
Changing buses at Woden Town Centre to get to work at TCH is a big waste of time.
Thousands of people work at TCH. Relocating the Woden bus station there could take thousands of cars off a ridiculously congested Hindmarsh Drive at peak hour and free up car parking spaces at full TCH car parks. It's a no-brainer!
And the new Light Rail has to stop at TCH. Hundreds would use it to get to work on a daily basis. If it stopped at a dead Woden Town Centre, you'd get empty peak hour trams as well as buses.
If the ACT government is intent on revitalising Woden Town Centre as a high-rise residential centre, that's a great idea. A lot of these people are likely to work at TCH. They'll use the bus to get to work many more times than they will on the weekends for leisure – they've got to realise that public transport is predominantly used by people to get to work, so a transport hub should be besides a large employer, not a high-density residential area.
These are obvious solutions to fix traffic problems, empty buses, potentially empty trams and a Woden Town Centre that will no longer be a major employment hub.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 19 2018 from John Davenport, Farrer
The doomsday critics of Canberra's light rail, which they attempt to describe as 19th century technology, seem to be out of step with planners and citizens of other smaller Australian cities.
Stage Three of the Gold Coast's very successful light rail system is to be extended from Broadbeach to Burleigh Heads.
Newcastle's light rail system is to begin operation early next year from Wickham to Newcastle Beach, and Stage Two is already being planned to operate from Wickham to Broadmeadow.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 18 2018 from John L Smith, Farrer
"My challenge to everyone in this room is to be at the cutting edge of communication, to put up contentious, risky and interesting ideas ... we definitely have to change ..." ("I hate journalists ... Andrew Barr", Canberra Times, March 12).
Is this the same Andrew Barr who when given control over this unique city chose centralisation, high-rise buildings and trams as the pillars of development?
Just in case Mr Barr's resolve for renewal should extend to urban planning, I would like to quote Jeremy Dalton, an urban planner and strategy technologist invited to a Transport Innovation workshop hosted by the ACT government recently.
In his public lecture on February22, Dalton aligned himself with a widely held view among experts that within 10 years almost all urban trips would be taken by driverless vehicles in shared mobility mode.
Mr Barr, could we have some government funding put to openly investigating this contentious and interesting idea in the Canberra context?
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 16 2018 from Geoff Barker, Flynn
Andrew Barr does not think much of traditional media but he has spent millions of dollars to ensure ACT has a very traditional form of transport in the form of a tram.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 13 2018 from Patricia Saunders, Chapman
Paul E. Bowler's assertion (Letters, March 11) "We only have the tram because Shane Rattenbury saw one in Portland, Oregon", is incorrect. Light rail for Canberra had its origin in the ACT Greens' response to the Conservation Council of the South-East Region and Canberra's 1997 paper "Canberra at the Crossroads: a way out of the transport mess". The paper is available at the ACT Heritage Library.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 13 2018 from R. Morison, Theodore
Advertising for the ACT election showed that ACT Labor costed the development of a light rail route at $614 million, and another $30 million for concept and design.
But the Auditor-General indicated the ACT budget will need to accommodate the expected cost of the Capital Metro Light Project of approximately $939 million (present value, January 2016) or $1.78 billion, just for Stage 1 alone. Big discrepancy.
Now, ACT Labor is the party of fairness in Canberra, with a proud record of fighting for equality and of countering discrimination and disadvantage, so says its website. Tell that to the 2000 public housing tenants waiting for a place to call home, or the 2000 homeless without shelter in this most well-off of jurisdictions.
I am so glad we have a democratically elected government that has a proud record of fighting for equality and of countering discrimination and disadvantage.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 12 2018 from John Mungoven, Stirling
In my view, the likelihood of light rail proceeding to Woden is near zero (unless madness prevails).
The multitude of arguments against are too numerous to fully list here.
Fait accompli to stage one. So, why not make the project more useful and continue the route around London Circuit and backto Northbourne Avenue in a neat circle?
This would access more workplaces, retail areas, theatres, New Acton, the law precinct, ANU etc and encourage usage from the north and return far more than current plans.
One or two additional trams could also be designated to operate free in a continuous-circuit-only "City Loop", encouraging usage by those, including tourists, wishing to avoid a long walk or drive across the city area.
That would really get bums on seats and improve and smarten the city experience.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 12 2018 from Chris Doyle, Gordon
Contrary to what Mary Robbie (Letters, May 7) believes, there certainly was a mandate for light rail, given that both the ACT elections in 2012 and 2016 were fought on the issue.
The choice for voters couldn't have been any clearer in both elections.
A vote for the ACT Greens or ACT Labor was a vote for light rail.
Prior to the 2012 election the ACT Greens committed to "the first stage of light rail" and ACT Labor promised "a public private partnership to build lightrail".
Prior to the 2016 election both ACT Labor and the ACT Greens committed to Stage 2, whereas the Canberra Liberals took the position that "should the Canberra Liberals win the October 2016 election we will tear up the contracts".
The ACT Greens and ACT Labor received more votes than the Canberra Liberals in both elections, granting them the authority to pursue the policy of light rail for Canberra.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 12 2018 from Paul E. Bowler, Chapman
Agreed, Bob Salmond ("Northbourne Canyon", Letters, March 8), a disaster is being prepared for us.
We only have the tram because Shane Rattenbury saw one in Portland, Oregon, and decided that Canberra should have one.
On that trip he must have visited Chicago or New York, strolled along State Street or Fifth Avenue and decided that Northbourne Avenue should look like either "canyon".
Perhaps he did not notice that along both "canyons" the metro rail line runs under the street, not along it!
Time to repeal the Self-government Act of 1988.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 10 2018 from John Rodriguez, Florey
Overall I have always agreed with your editorial comments. However on this occasion ("It's time to build houses, not units", March 7) I cannot agree with your views.
Please, allow me to use an old saying to preface my disagreement with your views: "Affluence causes waste.".
Indeed, thousands of acres settled by three, four, five-bedroom houses inhabited by couples with 1.9 children, or single parents with a child, or a couple of pensioners, or even a single person, is not the most efficient way to use the land and resources available to us. Nor is it the best residential strategy to create communities. Endless rows of "golden cages" with a local pizza takeaway does not make a community.
In these days, when we are so concerned with the effect of our actions on the environment, it is difficult to reconcile the perpetuation of the quarter-acre block culture given the environmental consequences of meeting all aspects of the infrastructure required to ensure reasonable comfort for the residents. So, for example, on a city of scarcely 400,000 people we already "need" a light rail system to move a handful of people from their quarter-acre blocks in woop woop to the city centre every morning! Aside from the dollar cost, in a city like Canberra, to swap a flexible bus system for a rigid rail system makes the same environmental sense as building one house where six units could be accommodated. Well-planned and priced units developments bring people closer together.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 10 2018 from John L. Smith, Farrer
"It's time to build houses, not units" (Editorial, March 7). Hear, hear!
You note that people are indicating this preference by moving to Googong and Murrumbateman, while developers are encouraged to spoil the bush capital by concentrating employment locations (Mike Quirk, March 8), by spoiling the Northbourne vista (Bob Salmond, March 8) and by the destruction of the lake foreshore (Heather Stewart, March 7).
You did not address the question of where these houses would be built – Ginninderry, Molonglo, Kowen, even south of the Murrumbidgee?
For a century now, people have looked for their own space knowing that the motor car makes it possible. No fleet of trams running between Gunghalin and Woden is going to curb this phenomenon.
Wherever the houses are built, Canberra will remain a sparsely populated region in terms of transport planning, inappropriate for light rail but with basic mobility needs able to be met economically by a well-planned and well-managed bus system.
The car will always be the primary means of mobility. Those of us who follow the rapid development of the driverless car and its deployment as a shared resource have no fear that everyone who wants a backyard can have one without creating traffic congestion or a never-ending demand for road space.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 9 2018 from John Mungoven, Stirling
Apartment/unit residents in Northbourne Avenue beware.
There will be a multitude of new apartment residents in the Northbourne Avenue corridor in the next few years.
Many will continue to drive to work (beyond Civic) – we Canberrans do love our cars and convenience dies hard, particularly in winter. Parking for residents' vehicles will generally be underground.
Northbourne Avenue is also likely to be reduced to two (congested) lanes each way in a sector near London Circuit. Has anybody thought how difficult it may be to exit underground car parks during peak hour?
I foresee significant delays for those attempting to enter the road from their residences.
I predict increased vehicle congestion, not less, as a result of light rail and the partial narrowing of Northbourne.
This may impact traffic flows reaching back over the whole inner north of the city. Unforeseen consequences indeed.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 8 2018 from Bob Salmond, Melba
Until recently Northbourne Avenue provided a pleasant pedestrian experience. There was a wide grassed median strip, and the buildings along the avenue were short and in many cases set well back, thus providing a garden setting.
This treasure is currently being destroyed.
The latest proposal provides for a concrete tramway corridor to replace the grassed median strip, for the existing garden-like set-backs to be abolished, and for the short buildings to be replaced with tall ones. The resulting Northbourne Canyon will be pathetic.
Pedestrian numbers will soon increase dramatically, as will distances walked because the tram stops will be far apart. There is a compelling argument to improve the pedestrian environment by providing a garden setting.
A visionary government would allow no further building within 50 metres of the roadway. All current vacant spaces would be converted into gardens or off-road bus stops. Remaining buildings would be removed when their lives expired.
The new closest buildings would be short, with heights stepped back from the avenue.
The government can exploit a once-only opportunity to develop a world-class boulevard, or it can condemn this city to everlasting mediocrity.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 7 2018 from Mary Robbie, Aranda
There was no mandate for the light rail, neither on the Gunghalin nor Woden route. With the election results tied between Labor and Liberal, and Shane Rattenbury, the only Green MLA, holding the balance of power, Katy Gallagher gave into him and the light rail to retain her job as Chief Minister. She then went on to greener pastures.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 6 2018 from Lee Welling, Nicholls
As someone who was born and brought up in a council flat in London, I'm constantly reminded of its drab, soulless environs whenever I drive along the tram route. Now, the ACT Politburo is to extend its social engineering project under the guise of creating "Urban villages". There's nothing village-like about these.
The government is merely stacking ratepayers higher and higher, in buildings with a proportionally small footprint, so as to get more bang for their buck and to force the occupants to use the People's Tram.
Young families, who can't afford to buy into the increasingly over-priced market for house/block packages are the big losers in all this.
As Cat Stevens once observed, when a similar process was going on in Britain: "I know we've come a long way, We're changing day to day, But tell me, where do the children play?"
Welcome to Mr Barr's brave new world, kids. Turn on those computers, there's not a lot else you can do.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 6 2018 from Douglas Mackenzie, Deakin
Lee Welling, in labelling the ACT government's plans for Northbourne Avenue "early 20th century", is closer to the mark than Danny Corvini (both in Letters, March 5), who refers to the ACT government's plans for central Canberra (chiefly the Northbourne Avenue precinct) as "21st century".
Modern cities, especially in view of the increasing pressures of climate change, need more green space, not more concrete pavements and bitumen roads, to help keep temperatures down. Neither do they need more – or any – very tall buildings to overshadow the valuable recreational value of that green space.
I also agree with Lee Welling's description of the Northbourne Avenue transport system – presumably the light rail – as "19th century" and with Mike Quirk's comments about electric buses (also Letters, March 5).
All-electric or hybrid bus networks are vastly less costly to operate than will be our light-rail system. Such buses also have the huge advantages of being very flexible in where they can travel, less disruptive of motor vehicle traffic, and in not requiring an extremely expensive extra trams-only structure across Lake Burley Griffin.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 5 2018 from Bruce Paine, Red Hill
The announcement of the planned high-rise developments ("ACT hits new heights", March 2, p1) raises at least two important questions.
First, what has happened to the Assembly inquiry into "Better planning processes, consultation and outcomes" that Labor and the Greens promised?
This inquiry was, among other things, "to recommend changes to the Territory Plan".
This inquiry would have been able to investigate the costs and benefits of the high-rise plan and could have engaged in proper community consultation. However it appears the promise, has become "non-core", or given the announcement.
Secondly, it notes Northbourne will be reduced to two lanes each way.
Why didn't we save money by converting an existing lane to a peak hour bus only lane, rather than building light rail?
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 5 2018 from Phil O'Brien, Watson
Congratulations to Bill Meani for his brilliant expose of the proposed removal of the excellent Watson-Civic bus service and it's substitution for a Watson-Dickson service requiring Civic bound passengers to transfer to the southbound tram (Letters, February 26).
I had heard rumours of this change and rang Mr Barr's office to check. I got a recorded message saying my call would be returned. It wasn't.
I therefore emailed Mr Barr asking for verification of the service change and was at first delighted to get an immediate email response. Unfortunately that is all it was — a computer generated email that did not refer to my simple question at all. It featured a portrait of a beaming Mr Barr advising me that I may eventually get a reply or that my query may be referred to another minister and that I would have to be patient as he got a lot of emails.
I phoned Mr Barr's office again and was told it was not possible to reply to all emails because they received so many. I would have thought that answering legitimate simple questions from constituents would be a first priority of any elected representative.
It could be of course Mr Barr and his government feel they no longer have to listen to constituents who do not share their enthusiasm for 19th century public transport.
The only issue Mr Meani did not raise was cost. At present pensioners travel free on the Watson-Civic bus. Will such travellers now be slugged with a tram fare on top of all the other inconveniences that he so well illustrated.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 5 2018 from Mike Quirk, Garran
Recent letters highlight widespread concern about the extension of light rail to Woden.
Part of the concern stems from the Barr government not having a clear mandate for the Civic to Gungahlin light rail let alone its extension to Woden.
The return of the government is likely to have been a result of the social and economic conservatism of the Liberal party.
The current Tasmanian election is instructive. While poker machines have been the dominant issue, polls indicate it is a vote changing issue for only 14 per cent.
Further concerns derive from the failure of the proposal to consider alternatives, including busways, and trends influencing future travel demand including changing lifestyles, working hours, employment and residential location, electric buses and automated vehicles.
Changes in electric battery technology make light rail a high risk strategy.
Electric vehicle technology has advanced sufficiently for a large electric bus, with up to 300 passengers and capable of travelling at 70km/h, to begin operations this year in Zhuzhou in Hunan Province.
This "trackless tram" potentially meets the objectives of light rail at a fraction of the cost. As battery technology improves its viability will increase.
No decision on the extension of light rail should occur until a detailed assessment of land use/transport futures is undertaken.
Light rail is a technology unlikely to meet Canberra's transport needs.
Funds saved from its non-construction could be used to improve bus services throughout the city.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 2 2018 from Brian Hale, Wanniassa
Graham Downie and Bill Meani (Letters February 26 and 27) further expose facts of light rail madness.
What are the chances we may soon see something like the following in your classifieds section:
FOR SALE: Light rail system. Brand new under warranty some carriages unwrapped many available, more shipments arriving through 2018. Large quantity of concrete ready for crushing (suitable for filling in parts of Lake Burley Griffin). Tons of steel rails for Street art projects. Pick up only ONO $1 oops $1B, prefer cash!
Contact Andrew or Shane London Circuit ACT.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 2 2018 from Robert Nelson, Kambah
I wonder how much of Sunday's unprecedented flooding around the Northbourne Ave, O'Connor, and Southwell Park area was caused by the blocked and missing drains as a result of the tram construction?
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 1 2018 from Nick Murray, Evatt
Given that Northbourne Avenue was under water for much of Sunday, could Andrew or Shane please let us know if the tram floats? More seriously, fixed transport infrastructure can't be re-routed if there is a repeat of Sunday's weather. Busses, on the other hand, can go anywhere they like.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 1 2018 from A. V. Peterson, Kambah
Each time I travel north from Civic, I am confronted by the mess made by the tram works. The possibility the same kind of mess could happen on the south side appals me.
Letter, The Canberra Times, March 1 2018 from Maria Greene, Curtin
Graham Downie (Letters, February27) needs to read Alice in Wonderland. This would explain to him how making public transport less efficient and less convenient encourages people to use it.
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 28 2018 from Neville Exon, Chapman
First the damn tram — now the tram dam. It never rains but it pours.
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 28 2018 from P. Swaffield, Curtin
Mike Quirk (Letters, February 23) complains "The lack of an effective and electable opposition is contributing to poor decisions of which light rail is the most obvious..."
The opposition before the election on the tram was definitely opposed to it. If the electorate which is so vehemently against the tram had voted for it instead of all the offshoot independents such as Can the Tram, we may now have saved a lot of anguish on this matter.
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 28 2018 from James Mahoney, McKellar
What a great idea Kevin Connor (Letters, February 26). If the light rail opponents of the southside don't want light rail, make it work for the east-west axis to the airport like you suggest, perhaps with a spur to Kingston.
The only problem with this is that we'll then have to endure more letters from the southside complaining they haven't got it. But, then, we are becoming used to this as light rail seems to be the reason advanced for every failure in this city. Give it a rest, people. It is happening.
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 28 2018 from David Jenkins, Casey
People such as Bill Meani (Letters, February 26) are finally awakening to the bitter reality of the tram, something about which many Gungahlin residents are already aware.
That is, existing bus services will be cannibalised and a metaphorical gun held to patrons' heads in order to force them onto the tram. The government has to attempt to justify this folly somehow. Who wants to use two different transport modes when one currently suffices? One would assume one fare would cover both modes but, with this rapacious government, nothing can be taken for granted. And no tram stop for Mitchell.
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 28 2018 from Bob Nairn, Hawker
My studies, based on patronage forecasts with internationally recognised modelling, fully credible economic analysis and costing based on the current costs in Canberra, shows that, compared with 0.56 for the City-Gungahlin project, the City-Woden project earns a benefit-cost ratio of 0.47. The whole Gungahlin-Woden project, instead of improving the B/C ratio, actually reduces it to 0.41 as there is insufficient forecast travel between Gungahlin and Woden. It is normal for B/C ratios to be expected to be well in excess of 1 and more than 2 is the normal expectation for implementation of transport projects in Australia. This is partly because many of the benefits are real but intangible and therefore risky.
Therefore it is also normal for the economic evaluation to include risk assessment allowing for the compounding of potential risk effects.
Including risk assessment reduces the B/C ratio for the City-Woden project to 0.39 and for the combined Gungahlin-Woden to 0.32 (City-Gungahlin was 0.48).
I believe this analysis of the probable economic results should be made public.
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 27 2018 from Graham Downie, O'Connor
The madness of Canberra's light rail project has been revealed by myself and many others for several years but generally Canberrans have remained ignorant of this public transport vandalism.
In my report for The Canberra Times of December 10, 2014, "The trouble with Canberra's light rail plan", I made it clear many northside residents would lose direct bus services to Civic and beyond.
I said then, "People from suburbs such as Kaleen and Giralang will probably have to change to the tram at Dickson, as will those travelling from northern suburbs such as Hackett and Watson. Gungahlin residents who have direct services to Civic now will have to join the tram from a feeder bus service to Hibberson Street."
Yet in his letter, "Transport Canberra's light rail madness has finally been revealed" (CT February 26) Bill Meani implies the public has only recently learned that buses will terminate at Dickson to force people on to the tram.
Understandably, people who have not followed this matter closely cannot know all of the government's plan to make its inefficient public transport even more inefficient.
This project is based on the government's obsession with development and has little if anything to do with public transport. So the government does not care that it will make journeys for many people longer and less comfortable.
No supporter of this $1billion project has shown how it will improve public transport or indeed transport generally.
And the dislocation now recognised by Bill Meani has not been widely promulgated by the government or Transport Canberra.
Far less expensive and far more efficient options were available but Canberra has been saddled with this project which in all likelihood will see a net loss of public transport passengers.
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 26 2018 from Kevin Connor, Kaleen
As a long-time proponent of light rail for Canberra I believe it would be a waste of money to construct light rail infrastructure to Woden when there are so many critics of it (the majority of whom live on the southside).
The second line should be an East-West line from the airport to a city west terminus (as near as possible to the ANU).
Unfortunately, this suggested line has to traverse "designated land" that belongs to the Commonwealth.
This is the downside to our city. The adversarial nature of politics, including the planning systems.
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 26 2018 from Colin Lyons, Weetangera
Patrick O'Hara from Isaacs (February 19) chastises Zed Seselja and says he just does not get it with regard to the proposed light rail extension. It is instructive that on the same day as Mr O'Hara says Zed is out of touch, three other correspondents to the paper sharply criticise the light rail project and highlight its fundamental shortcomings.
O'Hara's logic appears to be that just because voters voted for one stage of a project (nearly 18 months ago), then irrespective of cost blowouts and subsequent revelations about the dubious merits of the project, we should give the ACT government a blank cheque to waste even more money on it. The opportunity cost of this project is enormous and the taxpayers of this city, already slugged with high rates and charges will pay a heavy price for this foolhardy transport infrastructure investment. Perhaps Patrick O'Hara just doesn't get it.
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 26 2018 from Jan Darby, Isabella Plains
As Patrick O'Hara states (Letters, February 19) and was indicated irrefutably by the postal survey, the majority of Canberrans want gay marriage. However, I query how he justifies his claim that "the majority of Canberrans want light rail".
Has he done a survey? Let us remember that just 38.4 per cent of Canberrans voted Labor and 10.3 per cent voted Greens and this certainly does not represent a majority.
In my (admittedly) limited and anecdotal survey of Tuggeranong residents, even rusted-on Labor voters, light rail isn't popular.
While northerners may benefit directly and therefore think it is a great idea, the majority of southerners I have spoken to think it is a complete waste of time and (our) money.
As the tram rolls along, Canberrans are now better informed about the many everyday charges that have had to be increased to pay for it and their hip pockets are being hit. I now wonder how many are still genuine supporters of this seeming obsession of Messrs Barr and Rattenbury.
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 26 2018 from Bill Meani, Watson
Existing bus services such as the route 39 from Watson to Civic will terminate at the new Dickson Bus Interchange with passengers forced off the bus on to the light rail service. This is going to add a minimum of nine minutes to the journey to Civic during peak periods and up to 30 minutes in non-peak periods.
There are only 66 seats out of 207 on each light rail service, so passengers forced off their buses at Dickson will have no chance of finding a seat.
Added to this, passengers will be forced to cross over Northbourne Avenue to get to the light rail stop at Dickson and again to cross over Northbourne Avenue at Civic to go to the Canberra Centre. The elderly and disabled will be hardest hit with no shelter in wet weather and during the cold winter months, forced off a comfortable bus to cross a dangerous road on to a crowded tram.
What other northside bus services are going to terminate at Dickson just to make the passenger numbers on the light rail service look good?
Give the passengers a choice; retain the existing bus services on the northside. There will be enough passengers using the light rail from Gungahlin to make it viable instead of putting bus passengers' lives in danger.
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 24 2018 from Mike Quirk, Garran
The announcement by Minister Mick Gentleman of a review of the ACT planning strategy later this year is welcome.
For meaningful outcomes the review needs to be well resourced to enable the complexity of the interaction between housing, transport, environmental and employment variables to be fully understood. In particular, it needs to identify the travel, social, environmental, financial and infrastructure implications of alternative residential and employment distributions and identify the most appropriate transport mix to accommodate these land use distributions. Inadequate resources would indicate the government is not fully committed to the review and would result in a strategy short on analysis and long on platitudes. It would provide limited guidance as to when and where development should occur.
The strategy, to be credible, requires a strong evidence base and have an associated implementation plan indicating agency responsibilities and the likely timing and cost of infrastructure. In doing so, it should minimise the chance of projects with poor social, economic and environmental outcomes being approved.
The success of the strategy requires well informed community input. The effectiveness of previous strategies has been reduced by limited and superficial information available to the community. Decisions on the extension of light rail to Woden and on the next greenfields settlement area should await the completion of the review. Let's hope the Assembly, the bureaucracy and the community are up to the challenge so that Canberra can be an exemplar of 21st century city development.
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 23 2018 from Mike Quirk, Garran
Patrick O'Hara (Letters, February 19) just doesn't get it. The Canberra community was grossly misled by the Barr-Rattenbury government about the costs and benefits of the Civic to Gungahlin light rail and is committed to its extension to Woden despite the absence of any assessment of its costs and benefits.
As was the case with light rail stage one, the government is refusing to respond to genuine concerns about the extension.
Unfortunately, to paraphrase Donald Trump, Andrew Barr could shoot somebody and wouldn't lose any votes.
The lack of an effective and electable opposition is contributing to poor decisions of which light rail is the most obvious. Public funds are limited and should be used responsibly.
It is highly unlikely that the extension of light rail would be a higher priority than pressing demands in housing, health, education, public transport and disability services.
While it is disappointing that it could take a federal inquiry to assess the merits of light rail, something has to be done to constrain the Barr government as it is performing as a mediocre local government responding to the interests of developers rather than those of the wider community.
The government's credibility can be restored if it defers a decision on the light rail to Woden until the completion of review of the planning strategy, mooted to commence later this year.
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 22 2018 from Kevin Cox, Ngunnawal
, like Bruce Paine (Letters, February 19), would welcome a Senate inquiry into light rail stage 2. We all have a pretty good idea of the total cost, but we have little idea of the details of cost and benefits calculations, and we have no idea of funding costs. However, Bruce Paine should leave any calculations to others. His cost per metre is off by at least an order of magnitude.
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 20 2018 from John L. Smith, Farrer
Your editorial "Chief Minister's light rail election hint raises questions about stage two" (canberratimes.com.au, February 14) should have read "the network", not just "stage two".
The light rail network for Canberra is a dead duck and the Gungahlin-Civic link will be a white elephant adorning whatever "iconic" gateway to Canberra that Malcolm Snow can bring about while pleasing property developers.
When you state with respect to stage two that "it is hard to see how an expensive tram service would be able to match a well-planned express bus service on either a travelling time or cost basis" this has always been the case for the entire Canberra region.
When "Mr Barr said if necessary he would seek a mandate for the [stage two] proposal at the next territory election in 2020", what he means is that by 2020 the prospects for a future public transport system using driverless vehicle technology will have become so apparent that building light rail in the 2020 decade would win about as many votes as building the gas-fired power station in Hume.
It is interesting that Mr Barr is sending his Deputy Director-General Transport Canberra, Duncan Edghill, to speak at the MaaS (Mobility as a Service) conference in Sydney in May. I don't know what he has to offer, but hopefully the ACT government will become better attuned to technology than when it made the decision to build light rail stage one.
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 19 2018 from Peter Toscan, Amaroo
Re "Rates rise may force unit owner to delay retirement" (February 15, p2).
Whilst we all have sympathy with Ms Young and other apartment owners, I believe all ACT voters were warned what would transpire if Barr/Rattenbury were returned to government at the last ACT election, ie rates would skyrocket.
How else were they going to pay for their white elephant, the Tonka Tram.
If you think it's bad enough now, just wait till they sign off on the Woden link.
Oh and while we're at it, the free kick to developers in the postponing lease variation charges. Sorry Ms Young ... this is your life.
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 19 2018 from Patrick O'Hara, Isaacs
Zen Seselja just doesn't get it. The majority of Canberrans want light rail. His personal conservative base didn't. The majority of Canberrans wanted gay marriage. His personal conservative base didn't.
Being one of the political representatives of the ACT in federal parliament should involve representing the interests of all Canberrans. The decision to have a light rail system has been made. Canberra voters have told him what they want, twice.
Is Mr Seselja's prime interest the people and future of the ACT or simply the interests and the future of Mr Seselja?
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 19 2018 from John Griffin, Hughes
I see that Chief Minister Barr (February 15) has told the Legislative Assembly that he wants to give up Canberra's unique urban planning advantages — the admiration of Australians and foreigners alike — so that Canberra can look like "anywhere else in the world".
May he live to see it.
And no, I'm not from the 1940s.
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 19 2018 from Bruce Paine, Red Hill
A Senate inquiry into the proposed stage two of the light rail should be welcomed since it should publish a proper cost-benefit analysis (never available for stage one), reduce the excessive construction cost apparent in stage one (around $700,000 per metre), or encourage Canberrans to think about what more we are giving up if stage two proceeds.
Regarding the last point, stage one has already resulted in continuing pressure to develop and sell public land irrespective of the detrimental impact on the community's wellbeing (eg, West Basin), "re-profiling" (the government's term — meaning defer and defer) of other projects, and a general run-down in services resulting in, for example, longer hospital waiting lists (essentially forcing families to maintain or increase their private health cover, at a cost of thousands per year) and the much commented on lack of mowing.
It will be ironic if the Senate saves the ACT government from itself.
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 19 2018 from Jack Kershaw, Kambah
Re "Seselja to push for inquiry into stage two of light rail" (February 13, p1): Light rail can't go on just one of the two matching central lake crossings, such as the Commonwealth Avenue Bridge, because they need to express themselves strictly identically and symmetrically, and to have trams on both would be stupid, because they converge.
If the madness of trams is to continue, or in any case, we should look to Griffin's missing central crossing.
It would take the form of a gently curving (circular) low-level car/tram/bike/pedestrian (no heavy vehicles) bridge, springing from lower Lawson Crescent on Acton Peninsula to the south of the Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, and making southern landfall tangentially on a significantly-increased-in-area Lennox Gardens.
This crossing preserves the Commonwealth-Kings Avenue Bridge symmetry; the yacht course in West Lake; the integrity of the Acton Peninsula land form (by not having a intrusive bridge sticking off the end of it — never in Griffin's plans); completes his circular form of West Basin to the south; provides much-needed connectivity between Civic-Acton, Parkes, the Parliamentary Zone, and beyond; stimulates a better, more lively development plan for the peninsula and the adjoining Australian National University land; and delivers new good circular-edged, sunny, north-facing Lennox Gardens lakeside land for recreational use, which would be far better than the currently proposed West Basin apartment-compromised, south-facing (sun-deprived), expensive (with Parkes Way vertically duplicated) City-to-the-Lake precinct.
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 17 2018 from Mike Quirk, Garran
Mr Barr in his arrogant and ageist dismissal of concerns about building height "nostalgia among a certain generation of Canberrans ...small town, backwards 1940s mindset" displays his superficial understanding of planning, transport and housing issues.
His attitude of "higher the building the better" ignores issues that need to be considered in determining building height including overshadowing, scale, energy and water use, traffic, parking and street impact.
His vision of a high-density future Canberra is predicated on the majority of the population wanting to live in high-rise apartments in accessible areas. While this is the lifestyle choice of some, predominantly singles and couples without children, no evidence is presented that this is the dominant choice of Canberrans.
Indeed work undertaken for the government by Winton (2015) indicates a strong preference by those surveyed for detached dwellings.
While demand for higher density housing is increasing, it is unclear how much is a result of lifestyle changes and how much is a response to reduced housing affordability and increased congestion caused by government ineptitude.
The government's superficial understanding of urban issues is also indicated by its random land purchases (reflecting an absence of a development strategy for the city) and its obsession with the monumentally expensive light rail project.
The transport task could be adequately met by a busway on which electric buses, with progressively increased passenger capacity would operate.
Funds saved could be used to improve public transport services and to fund the construction of community housing.
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 16 2018 from Mike Quirk, Garran
Recent commentary by Caroline Le Couteur about the need for a comprehensive renewal strategy for the Woden Town Centre, Jack Kershaw on "cuckoo" office development at the Airport and Zed Seselja concerning the desirability of a parliamentary committee into the extension of light rail to Woden, all point to the urgent need to review the ACT planning strategy.
Residential and employment location and transport serving that land use distribution are key components of any planning strategy. The ACT government has considerable influence on residential location through land release and planning policies and one can hope (perhaps optimistically) that it makes decisions after a detailed consideration of infrastructure and environmental costs.
If the ACT government is to increase employment at the town centres, in order to reduce overall travel, infrastructure and environmental costs and support business, it needs to lobby the Commonwealth to consider land-use transport issues when decisions are being made on department location, have serviced sites available and provide incentives such as land grants, rates holidays. In parallel it needs to reduce car usage by increasing the frequency of bus services across the city.
Unfortunately its light rail obsession (why does it advocate an unnecessary, extremely expensive and a technology likely to be superseded shortly by large battery-powered buses) will reduce funds available for such expansion. The government urgently needs to review it priorities if Canberra is to develop as a more sustainable, liveable and inclusive city.
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 16 2018 from M. Flint, Co-ordinator, Smart Canberra Transport, Erindale
Thank you Canberra Times for an excellent editorial on February14 that, among other things, questions whether the mooted stage two of light rail should proceed at all unless there is a compelling economic case.
The sad fact is that, while the government business case for stage one (Gungahlin-Civic) claimed a misleading Benefit Cost Ratio (BCR) of 1.2, experts in the field and the Auditor-General put the BCR at 0.6 or less.
But that did not deter the Rattenbury/Barr government.
Given that the stage one route was undoubtedly the 'most' economic of any at the time, albeit with a BCR of only 0.6, all other planned routes must have been inferior, which is certainly the case.
If a business case for stage two (whenever produced) can prove a genuine BCR of better than 0.40, experts (not including the government) would be astonished, for the reasons given in the editorial.
Stage two light rail is nothing but a shameful, puffed-up election promise.
A second very important point raised in the editorial is that, "The Gungahlin route has gained traction from a noticeable shift in our demographic centre of gravity to the north."
While the tram may have helped in this shift, it is really the result of lopsided social engineering done by this government, namely the generous grants and deductions offered to first-home buyers who can get the grant only on new properties.
Over the years, this has had the very ill effect of sucking the younger generations from the south to the north.
Look no further for evidence of this than the Canberra Times article on underutilised schools, of which 85 per cent of those cited are in the south.
The social disruption to families and real estate values in the south has been profound.
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 15 2018 from Paul E Bowler, Chapman
People seem to have forgotten that up to about six weeks before the 2016 ACT election, "Stage 2" of the light rail project was expected to be from Civic to the airport.
However, ACT Labor received "intelligence" that they could be in difficulty getting enough members returned in the south and — hey presto — Stage 2 suddenly turned ninety degrees and headed to Woden instead.
Of course, that "intelligence" proved wrong and the "political" case for the Woden tram disappeared.
Hopefully, members of the Big House on the hill will ensure the disappearance of the Woden tram is permanent.
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 15 2018 from Mike Hutchinson, Reid
It is disappointing to see such a well-credentialed economist, Andrew Leigh ("Leigh tells Seselja to get on board on rail" February 14, p.4), ditching economic rigour to score a partisan point.
The light rail issues put to the 2012 and 2016 ACT elections were commitments to study ahead of commitments to build.
The reasonable expectation was that adverse study outcomes would end the matter.
Despite clearly material adverse economics (before the fallacious inclusion of urban development benefits that were available anyway), the Gungahlin project was rushed prematurely to irrevocable commitment ahead of the 2016 election.
Net economic effect, around $0.5 billion burned in present value.
The economics of the mooted Woden extension – a transparently political sop to appease the south – will be worse.
While no amount of taxpayers' money is too much to sustain the Barr/Greens faction in office in the ACT, we expect better from the grown-ups in the Federal Parliament.
Bullying is not a good look, Dr Leigh.
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 14 2018 from M. Flint, Co-ordinator, Smart Canberra Transport (SCT), Erindale
I write in reference to your article "Seselja to push for inquiry into stage two of light rail" (February 13, p1).
Senator Seselja said: "I want ... Canberrans to get bang for their buck." The same article reports that Minister Fitzharris advised of $53.5 million committed for Stage 2 in last year's budget but neglected to add that there would be a further $50 million or so to be spent on planning etc before any build contract is let.
Note that the government spent $150 million before the Stage 1 build contract, putting the effective cost of the Stage 1 build to $850 million for 12 kilometres.
Minister Fitzharris appears to stretch the truth a little in saying that "... the federal government had spent $63 million on stage one [sic] of light rail".
In fact, the then federal treasurer, Mr Hockey, under an asset divestment agreement with the states and territories, reluctantly agreed to pay 15 per cent of the value of ACT public assets sold before June 30, 2019, if spent on Stage 1, being about $65 million promised.
Has the ACT government yet sold the $375 million worth of public assets it had forecast?
What relevant public assets the government has actually sold and for how much and how much the federal government has actually paid is yet to be made public in a formal statement.
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 13 2018 from Felix MacNeill, Dickson
Keith Pantlin (Letters, February7) proposes and Bruce Taggert (Letters, February 12) seconds a new rhetorical currency: the Light Rail Dollar.
But a more useful coinage would be the Light Rail Dolor: any time you are feeling dolorous about a perceived government error or a pet project that is not being funded as generously as you would like, you can just roll it out.
The Dolor has many advantages. It is almost universally fungible, in that blaming investment in high quality modern public transport for any particular one of the ills of the world is about as reasonable as blaming it for any other. It minimises the expenditure of effort as one need never again come up with a new idea to explain the cause of any new problem. It is sustainable, being almost infinitely recyclable. And the Dolor is already beginning to burst like a tiny Bitcoin bubble among the noisy minority.
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 8 2018 from Howard Carew, Isaacs
Regarding the proposal to send light rail drivers overseas to learn to drive a tram, the average ratepayer would be torn between laughter and tears. The Royal Australian Air Force has an expectation that a trainee pilot would take only six hours flying with an instructor before he goes solo.
For an experienced car driver to pick up the knack of driving a tram would be approximately an hour.
It would seem commonsense to send one of the 16 to Sydney to take whatever tram driving course they have there and return to Canberra and share the knowledge with the other prospective drivers.
Light rail is a silly idea, which is getting sillier as it progresses.
With self-driving cars on the way there will come a time when tram drivers will be only on the tram in case of a malfunction.
Letter, The Canberra Times, February 7 2018 from Keith Pantlin, Downer
I have recently discovered an amusing pastime. Whenever a new, large project is announced, for example Snowy 2.0, replacement submarines or the Melbourne to Brisbane inland railway, I convert the estimated cost to light rail dollars, each worth $1 billion, the approximate cost of our 12-kilometre light rail.
In this currency, Snowy 2.0 will cost four light rails, each submarine will also be four light rails, and the 1700-kilometre inland railway will cost 10 light rails.
When expressed in light rail dollars, it seems that these huge projects are remarkably cheap, or ... is there another possibility?
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 30 2018 from Howard Carew, Isaacs
Your editorial on the plight of the homeless (January26) was very much to the point.
Over the past two decades we have had primarily an ACT Labor Party which, with the support of the Liberal Party, reduced the supply of public housing by around 3000 units.
The editorial made the point that the billion dollars invested in light rail is a complete waste. The project is against all recommendations from Infrastructure Australia, which invested heavily in the Gold Coast light rail, and prominent economists and transport experts.
St Vinnies and other church welfare organisations are doing their best to help, where this ACT Labor government is shutting its collective eyes.
Canberra had affordable housing from the 1950s to the late 1980s.
Primarily, the Labor government – by dropping over-the-counter sales of land in favour of developer-biased land auctions – sent the price of a housing block soaring beyond the reach of the battlers. Our ACT government is more a real estate agency than a Labor government.
I dearly wish that I could say the Liberals would be a better alternative, but sadly I cannot.
My recommendation, for what it is worth, is to vote independent at the next election.
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 22 2018 from M. Flint, co-ordinator, Smart Canberra Transport, Erindale
In the article "One tram a week ...", (January 18, p.2) I see the Chief Minister again claiming the tram was the secret of his success at the last election. He would do well to stop drinking the government's Kool-aid.
He then refers to "Those sceptics also said there wouldn't be this sort of investment and renewal of the Northbourne corridor ...".
Given that the government is spending $600 million (the government's own figure) to relocate some 1300 public tenants from Northbourne Avenue and elsewhere, Mr Barr's claim may have more credibility if he were to publish a 'balance sheet' of gains/losses for Northbourne Avenue development as a result of the tram.
In respect of Stage 2, Mr Barr expects the Cabinet to consider the business case this month. The business case for Stage 1 was not worth the paper it was written on and that for Stage 2 may not be any better, should the public ever be able to view it.
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 20 2018 from Stan Marks, Hawker
Your article "One tram a week ..." (January 18, p3) quotes Andy Barr as saying that the first tram should be named "Cam", but there are more appropriate names than that.
I think that the first tram should be called the "Katy Gallagher", after the mother of the project.
It was Katy who, in 2012, gave in to Green blackmail and agreed to build the tram for $614 million in order to retain government, even though she must have known that work done under Stanhope found that the project was not viable.
The second tram should be the "Andy Barr", after the project's father.
As Chief Minister, he should have been asking whether there were other places where $900 million could be better spent.
The third tram should be the "Shane Rattenbury" after its spiritual father.
The whole tram project needs a name. I think that the "Great Northern Green Elephant" would do just fine.
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 19 2018 from B. M. Cooke, Latham
We used to proudly call Canberra "The City of Trees" now it is "The City of Weeds".
The managers in charge of the area that looks after the weed problem need to get out of their offices into their cars and drive around Canberra's suburbs.
In Belconnen there are sapling trees and weeds growing out of the drains.
They need also to drive the length of the Tuggeranong Parkway going south, and then coming north continue up William Hovell Drive and the length of Kingsford Smith Drive. Hopefully, they may realise that these areas are just as important as the tram and the city tourist spots.
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 19 2018 from John Davenport, Farrer
Bryan Cossant (Ready To Strike, Letters, January 16) doesn't appear to know the difference between a tram and a train and industrial relations under a Labor government in the ACT and a Liberal/National government in NSW, a government that recently closed Newcastle's railway station and privatised Newcastle's government bus services.
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 11 2018 from Jack Kershaw, Kambah
Who's going to clean the Mannifera bark out of the tram tracks on Northbourne?
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 8 2018 from Murray Upton, Belconnen
One can only ask how much longer it will be before the ACT Legislative Assembly wakes up to the rapidly increasing decay of the city caused by the ACT government's refusal to establish a properly constituted, independent planning authority.
Emeritus professor Patrick Troy of the ANU (Letters, December 26) must be congratulated for once again bringing the assembly's attention to the complete absence of any proper planning in the nation's capital.
In May 2017 Tony Powell, a former commissioner of the National Capital Development Commission, commented that "the ACT government is incapable of improving the dishevelled state of the city and doesn't know how to develop a plan for a town centre".
He felt then that the city we knew and loved may have gone forever.
Although this matter has been raised regularly since by numerous correspondents all bitterly disappointed at the steady decline of the city's liveability and mounting chaos, there is no sign that the assembly recognises the problem. Planning in the ACT government is a total and utter shambles, with no single minister in control.
An inquiry to a minister in May last year brought the response: "Our office has just been clarifying the ministerial responsibility of this issue".
No minister ever responded.
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 6 2018 from Kevin Cox, Ngunnawal
Brian Stone and M Flint (Letters January 4) have misrepresented what I proposed in my letter (Letters, January 2).
I am not discussing the merits of Light Rail. What I am debating is the best way for Canberra residents to arrange the financing of community infrastructure whatever that infrastructure might be.
The ACT government has entered into a Private Public Partnership with a consortium including financiers to fund and build Light Rail. With a PPP the government guarantees a financial return to the private party.
My suggestion to the ACT government is that it goes into Public-Public Partnerships to finance all infrastructure. The first Public in Public-Public is the ACT community. The second Public is the ACT government. Many ACT residents are either on allocated pensions or are saving up for them.
I suggest they go to the Money Smart ASIC website and find out how long their superannuation money will last. They will be surprised at the low rate of return on allocated pensions.
Putting savings into a Public-Public Partnership annuity for ANY community infrastructure will return at least twice the amount of money compared to an allocated pension.
The high return from Public-Public Partnerships annuities comes because it removes the private financial intermediary. With today's technology we do not need financial intermediaries. Implementing a Public-Public Partnerships is low-cost and quickly deployed.
A Public-Public Partnership can finance it, and it could be operating within six months.
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 5 2018 from Simon Cobcroft, Lyneham
I have recently learned that the new light rail network is being built to connect to the node rather than the premises. What sort of antediluvian cost-saving is going on here? I don't want my speed slowed by having to walk to the nearest interchange each time I want to use high-speed transit. The next thing they will be telling us is that the service speed will be shaped during peak periods. What ajoke.
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 5 2018 from Christina Faulk, Swinger Hill
Over the holiday break, a Sydney bus driver rang into 2CC to inform listeners that the city's light rail would be "out for a month".
Realisation dawns, yes?
Light rail, heavy expense, not-so-regular service?
I hope our Chief Minister enjoyed his Spanish trip.
The trains from Spain may yet cause lots of pain.
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 4 2018 from Trevor McPherson, Aranda
Mr Cox (Letters, January 2) outlines a sensible way for the public to invest in light rail – and a good idea should be extended if possible.
There is just enough time to do this before the Woden light rail stage is built.
If you've not heard about Woden, it is thought by some to be the basis for a sequel to the movie Dumb and Dumber but the location is still under discussion.
Every resident/ratepayer should have the opportunity to vote on ... lets say three propositions: 1. Allow resident/ratepayer investors the opportunity to invest in light rail, as Mr Cox suggested – with returns to them like those that would otherwise go to the private-public partner involved.
OR 2. Allow as for 1 above but with the capital costs saved by implementing an O-Bahn type rapid bus system rather than light rail to be added into investor returns.
OR 3. Allow as for 1 above but delaying five years, then moving to either autonomous vehicles or 1 or 2 above after that time – with investors getting the rate of return in 1 above for the first five years, then as calculated on a rational basis consistent with this approach the approach finally adopted – this would most likely be options 2 or 3.
There are other options, and one could be a zero capital cost autonomous system.
But for now for the options as above, why not?
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 4 2018 from M. Flint, co-ordinator Smart Canberra Transport, Erindale
Letters by Kevin Cox (Dec 24, 2017 and Jan 2, 2018) on how light rail should be financed by citizens 'investing' in the system, leaves me somewhat bewildered.
Mr Cox seems to be proposing that ACT taxpayers should fund light rail by investing in shares in some government sponsored 'firm' to buy and operate light rail. Given that light rail stage 1 will be a complete financial flop, let alone later stages, who in their right mind would voluntarily waste their money in that way.
No, we prefer to let the government waste our money for us. The reality is this. The government cannot build it itself so has to contract out the job to private industry. For stage 1, it has negotiated contracts with private firms, with the 'help' of UnionsACT and the CMFEU, to build the stage and to operate it for 20years.
We suckers do not know any significant detail of the contracts, eg whether they fixed or variable price, but it would be a sure bet that if costs blow out, ACT taxpayers will be paying, not the contractors.
In respect of the operations and maintenance contract, we do know that the government has accepted virtually all of the risk, including 100 per cent of the 'patronage risk', ie lack of paying passengers.
Consequently, the contractors and their unions buddies are on a gravy train at our expense and it will get progressively worse as other far less economic stages may be approved. For stage 1, the government is committed to pay a down payment of $375million of the ostensible $710 million build cost, "when the trams start running", all of which has to be paid for, including very substantial interest and operating subsidies, over the 20 years of operation.
The government can in fact borrow money much cheaper than a private enterprise, so why is the government not paying for all of the build cost, as it will pay for all of the operating subsidies? I have asked this question of government in the past, without response.
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 4 2018 from Brian Stone, Weetangera
Kevin Cox (Letters, January 2) has written a mixture of good sense and sheer nonsense about public-private joint finance for such infrastructure as light rail. Probably all Canberrans outside the developer and politician groups will feel as I do.
He is quite wrong to say that "cost/benefit calculations ... have little to do with financing". In any properly governed city, projects for which the cost/benefit ratio is predicted to be poor should never be financed.
However in his next paragraphs Kevin is quite right that "[he] and any other Canberran should know what the investment terms are", and that "we should have robust discussions on what infrastructure to build".
It's even true that financiers of big projects like light rail "are guaranteed a handsome return" if interest on the total project debt greatly exceeds the initial contract cost as he assumes. That's where the sense ends, though.
Who guarantees that return? Answer: the government controlling the project, and so ultimately the taxpayers. The infamous South Sea Bubble of the early 1700s, after ruining many investors in its non-projects, led to the Bubble Act requiring all such public-private partnerships to obtain a Royal Charter or their own Act of Parliament.
In modern terms, that meant firstly that only predictably profitable schemes should be approved, and then that investors in them would buy government bonds rather than shares or bits of bitcoin.
Why would a citizen buy a light rail bond (by any name), for $1000 or whatever the issue price might be? Why, when that citizen is already propping up the scheme with increasing rates and taxes?
It must be the "high-value annuity payments" that Kevin offers (as did the South Sea Company). But when the project is a long-term loser, the higher the annuities, the higher the rates and taxes!
Kevin wrote "the history of money shows that communities who fund infrastructure from internal sources are always better off", but that is nonsense unless the project is truly profitable.
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 3 2018 from Howard Carew, Isaacs
The recent horrifying accidents on our roads prove three things: an increasing population driving an increased amount of vehicles causes more deaths on the roads; humans are too human and need help to drive safely; and the transition to driverless cars cannot come soon enough. We are an ingenious lot and whatever form it takes it will be better than what we have now.
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 3 2018 from Dale Fletcher, Kambah
Mike Reddy, a supporter of the ridiculous light rail project, (Letters, December 31) says it doesn't need to service the Canberra Hospital, already serviced by several bus routes. Fair enough.
Using the same logic, how is it then that the tram route currently under construction, from Gungahlin town centre to Civic is necessary?
This journey is already serviced by a frequent, virtually direct bus service, Red Rapid route 200, which runs seven days a week.
We do not need this over-hyped, ludicrously expensive and redundant Green's vanity project.
I'd rather go to the Canberra Zoo to see a white elephant.
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 2 2018 from Kevin Cox, Ngunnawal
Stan Marks (Letters, December 29) says that I would not get a return on my money if I invest it in Light Rail.
He is wrong because he is looking at cost/benefit calculations and they have little to do with financing.
The investors in Light Rail get a guaranteed return on the money invested. I and any other Canberran should know what the investment terms are and be able to invest in Light Rail or any other infrastructure. Once the community has decided to invest in something, then community members should get the first option to invest because we are the ones left with the debt.
We should have robust discussions on what infrastructure to build, but once decided we need to fund it ourselves.
The way government contracts work is that the builders of Light Rail have a fixed price and the government will pay for the Light Rail plus the interest on the debt. The total interest on the debt is much higher than the initial cost, so the Light Rail financiers are guaranteed a handsome return.
We the members of the community could get that interest through high-value annuity payments rather than give it to financiers.
The history of money shows that communities who fund infrastructure from internal sources are always better off.
We should eliminate all external government debt, but not by austerity methods. Instead, we borrow from ourselves and give savers in our communities high returns on infrastructure loan investments.
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 2 2018 from Leon Arundell, Downer
The best option for public transport between Woden and Civic is to extend the existing bus priority lanes.
Stan Marks (Letters, 29 December) says that the Auditor-General estimated that the people of Canberra will get back 47¢ of every dollar invested in light rail.
That estimate was based on Capital Metro's unrealistic assumption that the alternative to light rail is no road or bus improvements other than those that are "already approved and planned".
Bus rapid transit is the real alternative.
The ACT government's submission to Infrastructure Australia said that stage 1 of light rail would cost $276million more than bus rapid transit, but would generate less than $44 million in extra benefits. That's a return of less than 16¢ for each extra dollar spent on light rail.
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 1 2018 from Murray May, Cook
Leon Arundell is right about the advantages of bus rapid transit over light rail for Canberra (Letters, December 28). One critical factor affecting travel behaviour is convenience.
Leon refers to the lack of a stop at Mitchell for example. How convenient is that?
Add to this just getting to the tram in the first place, having to change to buses, overall trip time, two-thirds in the tram standing rather than sitting.
To increase the perceived benefits, public transport must meet people's needs well.
As inconvenience factors mount up, avoidance is the result.
Letter, The Canberra Times, January 1 2018 from Peter Robinson, Ainslie
As an opponent of light rail, I'm saddened and alarmed that the first tram has been vandalised and the Canberra Times saw fit to publish Bryan Cossart's letter (Letters, December 22) joking about the incident.
Now that the Gungahlin-Civic segment is literally cemented, surely it's in all our interests that this section is built well at minimum cost and maximum speed.
Anyone with a further axe to grind, and I include myself, should direct their energies at preventing the ludicrous Woden section and the foolish decision to deny Mitchell a stop on the existing section.