Light rail has been successful in lifting the profile of transport, even public transport, in the 2016 ACT election campaign.

In terms of the Conservation Council’s policies light rail gets a tick because it can assist development of a more compact city and it is another step to reduce the expansion of the city. At the same time it has to be done well so that people displaced by the associated development are not forced into inaccessible housing options elsewhere. Labor and the Greens in supporting light rail are adding another element to help bring about a transport system that delivers a shift from car dependency.

light-railThe Conservation Council welcomes light rail as a major investment in public transport and continues to call for an integrated transport policy which allows Canberra residents the option to live without a car, connected to employment, services and activities including journeys to local shops, schools and services.

The Liberals policies on transport are described in twelve published items, six of which explicitly involve road duplication or road widening (Northbourne Avenue). Two or three (if you count legislation for developing and testing autonomous vehicles) specifically relate to public transport. The Liberals policy of fifty additional buses is good, although it is not clear whether they are additional to the Government’s pre-election commitment of eighty additional buses, which might mean 130 additional buses! The Liberals also recognise the need to introduce electric buses (as do the other parties). However, some matters are not clearly commitments or are not detailed, e.g. “There are also plans to upgrade bus stops” [emphasis added] and “The additional buses help give life to: Eight Rapid bus routes; A new Parkway Express route…etc”. It is not helped that the Liberals have not put forward a costing to Treasury on the fifty new buses and they only submitted the Gungahlin to City Infrastructure Plan (the Northbourne Avenue proposals) on 10 October even though they announced the plan 19 September 2016. The Liberals also have a policy for better road resurfacing with an additional $1million per year.

Labor has fewer headings on transport but has multi-page plans underneath. Labor’s transport plans include almost as many road duplications (four) and they will increase maintenance (resurfacing). Labor also promises eighty additional buses and includes 100 additional drivers. This commitment seems to have been made while in Government before going into election mode so it is really a restatement of a recent commitment but it is an additional eighty buses. Labor has committed to work on the next stage of the light rail network to Woden.

The Greens have a comprehensive set of transport plans and look at a range of modes including walking and cycling ($60million allocated), public transport and private vehicles. They also take account of the need for flexible transport for people with reduced personal mobility and they are proposing a bus fare freeze. The Greens have submitted many of their plans for election costings and they did it early enough they have even obtained a response on their commitment to spend $130million on clean green buses. Taking account of the eighty buses already committed by the government this funding will result in upgrading forty of those buses to be hybrid and replacing 112 diesel buses in the existing fleet with electric or hybrids. The Greens have also committed to extending the light rail network to Woden. The Greens also provide for some additional funding for urgent repairs and maintenance on existing roads.

The ACTGreens party has the most comprehensive, environmentally-friendly and best costed set of proposals in the 2016 election, with or without light rail. Taken with their commitment to light rail they are the best of the three incumbent parties on transport policies.

Labor is good on transport with support for light rail and additional buses but seems caught up in trying to match the Liberals in road duplications. Labor has also had the transport portfolio for most of the last fifteen years and has not developed policies to achieve ‘mode shift’ away from cars to public transport, cycling, walking and car share.

The Canberra Liberals have some good transport policies but are let down with a lack of clear commitments, rather they have a list of possible projects, and do not have pathways to get to some of their promises such as changing the bus timetables, and they do not have enough of their policies being costed. The Canberra Liberals policies are too devoted to the private motor car and do not have a long-term strategy for transferring travellers to other modes.