The Conservation Council has developed election policies in the lead-up to the 15 October 2016 ACT Legislative Assembly election in order to set out some environmental issues for the candidates to consider as they campaign and set out their own policies. Here is our policy: Transport – connecting people and places.


Transport is an essential part of how we live, impacting our environment in many ways. Canberra has a very high rate of car use with nearly 75% of the adult population using the car to get to work. Only 5-7% use the ACTION bus network.

The existing policy Transport for Canberra stimulated some important change but is yet to deliver the transport transformation Canberra needs. We will fall short of 2016 transport targets for public transport. We must do better to meet health, social inclusion, equity and environmental aims. By 2020 over 50% of our greenhouse emissions are projected to be from transport.

Since 2012 the ACT Government has progressed a parking strategy, draft low emissions vehicle strategy and educational program trials and has invested in active travel infrastructure, such as the city loop cycle path. Capital Metro has rolled out planning, tendering and approval of a consortium to build Canberra’s first light rail leg as part of a whole of city network. The first stage of light rail is another element to roll out a transformative integrated transport system that delivers a shift from car dependency. The Conservation Council welcomes this investment in public transport.

However we need a have an integrated transport policy. Canberra residents should have the option to live without a car, connected to employment, services and activities including journeys to local shops, schools and services. It’s time for an integrated transport plan that uses all modes to provide Canberra with environmentally sustainable, socially equitable transport to support a healthy community. The plan must have specific, measurable targets for all forms of travel that deliver a city where living without a car is a viable, attractive option for most residents.

Active travel should be a key part of the Integrated Transport Plan. There should be a place-making approach with the planning hierarchy of walking first, cycling second, public transport third and driving private vehicles last throughout the ACT, in particular within five kilometres of town and group centres.[i]

Walking infrastructure must receive adequate funding. Only two in five Canberra households have direct access to a footpath to take them to school, shops, bus stops or shared cycling/walking paths. Another two households in five have to cross a road to get to their nearest footpath. One household in five doesn’t have a footpath along its street.

Active transport needs to integrate with public transport; for example, all buses and rail have capacity to carry bicycles in ways that do not deter other passenger. Transport systems need to be accessible to people with disability as well as older people and parents who have children in prams. Transport needs to address diverse communities.

Cycling and walking infrastructure should be safe, attractive, quick, convenient and maintained to the same standard as roads and should offer a choice of facility appropriate to the needs and abilities of different riders. An Integrated Transport Plan must remove barriers for people to use public transport for their entire journey, for example maximising the provision of through services and minimising use of, and wait times at interchanges between services. A holistic public transport system requires passengers to interchange between trunk and suburban routes, and adequate planning can ensure services interchange smoothly and quickly. Capital Metro plans should be revised to permit people to transfer between a bus without having to walk between bus and tram platforms and wait for up to 90 seconds at pedestrian signals.

Canberra can be connected to the world through communications technology, without the heavy environmental impacts of travel especially reliance on air travel.

Develop Integrated Transport Plan where living without a car is a viable option

  • A new Integrated Transport Plan: based on key objectives from other core Government policy areas such as health, social inclusion and equity. Transport planning should aim to provide adequate weekday and weekend travel without the need to own a car.
  • Governance: Transport Canberra to employ policy and implementation staff with real world expertise in similar transport change processes where significant modal shift was achieved.
  • ACT Roads: Rename “Roads ACT” to “Streets ACT” and bring functions into Transport Canberra. Manage roads infrastructure more effectively using technology such as lane switching and traffic monitoring.
  • New transport plan to achieve mode shift: 5% of journeys to work by 2020 and 16% by 2026, include modelled initiatives to achieve targets, and include annual interim targets and mechanism for additional measures if required to actually achieve targets.

Achieve mode shift targets

  • Active transport targets: 60% of Canberrans walking, riding or using public transport to travel to work by 2030, walking 10%, cycling 30%, public transport 20%. Targets for travel to school and travel in general should also be developed. Targets should be monitored and additional initiatives developed if they are not being met.
  • Measure non-work travel: establish a mechanism to regularly measure non-work travel. 

Public transport needs to be integrated and expanded

  • Full integration between buses and light rail services: deliver the frequency and coverage of service to enable people to rely on public transport for work and personal travel.
  • Plan service interchanges to minimise wait times and redesign roads network to favour public transport transit times. Convert road lanes to transit lanes, wherever this will reduce public transport delays without increasing general traffic delays.
  • Adequate funding for bus network: Ensure the 1.2 million bus kilometres saved from the first stage of Light Rail are immediately reinvested in the rest of the network.
  • Adequate planning and funding for mass and rapid transit system to all parts of Canberra: next stage of light rail network to be built by 2030 or earlier, and bus transit lanes by 2019 in all locations which reduce bus delays without increasing delays for general traffic.
  • Support and facilitate expansion and extension of Canberra-Sydney bus service, and of similar services to Melbourne and to other destinations.

Active transport for a healthy community and a healthy city

Walking: All people (almost) walk and all journeys have a component of walking

  • Identify and resource priority walking infrastructure, projects and policies. Footpaths need to serve diverse community needs including people with disability as well as older people and parents who have children in prams.
  • Develop a Walking Plan by 30 June 2017 and adequately resource implementation.

Cycling for commuting, recreation, sport and travel

  • Identify and resource priority cycling infrastructure, cost-effective projects and policies: next generation trunk cycle ways having complete separation from vehicles and pedestrians in arterial road corridors with grade-separated crossings of high-speed arterials. Develop local routes for people to cycle to local schools, shops, services and friends

Cars creating less emissions and carrying more passengers per vehicle

  • Complete and release Low Emissions Vehicle Strategy. Support transition of privately owned cars to 100% renewable energy by 2040.
  • Widespread use of transit lanes for cars carrying passengers by providing travel time advantages to cars that carry passengers.
  • Provide drop-off areas that make it easy to carry passengers close to their destinations
  • Review options to allow drivers to pick up and set down passengers at public transport stops.0

Support people to make the change

  • Identify and resource programs to support individual transport behaviour change: Continue education programs for adults and school students in public and active transport, integrate parking policy with mode shift targets, and reduce public transport fare relativities.
  • Consult on ways to meet targets to understand why people make their transport decisions and do not use ‘behaviour change’ approaches that are all stick and no carrot. Ask people what infrastructure changes would make them more likely to travel as car passengers (rather than as drivers), to walk, to cycle or to catch public transport.
  • Reduce speed limits: especially in town centres but also in suburbs for safety and to encourage walkers and cyclists. Use fixed speed cameras in town centres for compliance. Reduce speed limit to 40 km/h along Northbourne Avenue in Civic and in residential streets.

Sustainable transport to reduce greenhouse emissions

  • Public transport powered by 100% renewable energy (bus and light rail) by 2040.
  • Support innovation in renewable energy powered vehicle access other than private ownership: car share programs, Uber, other disruptive technology and innovation.
  • Integrated transport plan to consider overall emissions with planning process to undertake assessment of all emissions associated with transport.

Connecting Canberra to rest of the world

  • High Speed Rail: Advocate for high-speed rail for Australian east coast with link to Canberra.
  • Reduce Freight: Review incentives and disincentives to local production (e.g. tax differences between ACT and NSW) to encourage local production and reduce freight transport. Support and encourage rail freight as an alternative to road freight.
  • Support reduction in reliance on air travel: Facilitate development of innovative connectivity, communications and transport approaches for modern business in Canberra.

[i] ACT Government, Statement of Planning Intent, 2015, p6