Saturday, September 22, 2012

Capital Metro Light Rail Project for Canberra

The ACT Labor Party has proposed a light rail network through Canberra, under the title "Capital Metro Light Rail Project". This would start with a line from Civic (the City Centre) to the Gungahlin Town Centre (the northern satellite town). This is estimated to cost $614m,  but only $30m is to be initially committed to design work. In my view, a bus rapid transit system would be cheaper, could be started sooner and has more chance of actually being built.
The use of the term "Metro" in the Canberra proposal and the lack of a commitment of funds to build the project is reminiscent of the previous NSW Government's failed plan for a Sydney Metro. But a useful transport initiative which the former NSW Government did implement, and could be emulated in Canberra, are Metro Buses.
The ACT Government released details of a "City to Gungahlin Transit Corridor Study" some months ago, with options for Light Rail Transit and Bus Rapid Transit. Two ways to run the route down Northborne Avenue (Canberra's main street) were considered: in the curb lane and down the grassed central reserve.

The new proposal is to use the central reserve for trams. This will require extensive work to install rails, overhead power (although no overhead wires are shown in the artist's renderings) and possibly fences alongside the track.  The  proposal will increase carbon emissions, as the trams will run on coal fired power and freeing up roadway will increase pollution from cars.

Proposed Bicycle Path in Center of Media Strip of Northborne Avenue Canberra, see: my view a better option would be a bus transit lane on the existing roadway and a new bicycle path in the centre of the median. This would be quicker and cheaper to build. It could operate with existing buses while new hybrid renewable units were acquired. The busway would reduce pollution by displacing cars from the roadway. There more chance of such a system being built, as it could be done in stages, delivering tangible benefits at each stage.

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