Sunday, February 22, 2015

Canberra Metro Needs Land Planning, Bus-ways and ICAC

The ACT Government is proceeding with work for a transit system for the City of Canberra called "Capital Metro". The Stage 1: City to Gungahlin, will use a route down Northborne Avenue, Canberra's main street. However, while the documents describe "Canberra’s gateway as a beautiful tree lined urban boulevard", it appears the government is taking a build it and they will come approach. The plan seems to be to first design a transport system and then work out what land use this will support along the route. I suggest reversing this and first deciding the land use for Northborne Avenue and then what is a suitable transport system.

Canberra is a low density city which does not require, and could not afford, a high capacity light rail system. An affordable option which will fit into Canberra's existing public transport infrastructure is a dedicated express bus lane displacing one existing lane of Northborne Avenue, plus bus bays. This will cost less, have higher capacity and lower greenhouse emissions than a light rail system on a new right of way.

It should be noted that the ACT Government previously proposed a light rail system from Civic to Belconnen, a decade ago. Unfortunately the documents relating to this appear to have been deleted from the ACT Government website. In my response I suggested the cheaper option of a bus-way, which was subsequently implemented.

A metro style transport system requires that the density of housing along the route be increased. This change in land use would need to be planned and receive community support. It would be a waste of public money if the metro was built and then the change in land use was not approved, due to public opposition.

Building a metro and an increase in Canberra's residential density will require an expenditure of many billions of dollars, either directly by government, or through franchises issued by government. As has been seen in other states, this can lead to corrupt practices by government ministers, public servants and businesspeople. Before proceeding further with the metro, the ACT should legislate to form an ACT Independent Commission Against Corruption (ACT-ICAC), with powers similar to the NSW ICAC, to investigate official corruption.

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