Chaos in control: ACT Multimodal Network Plan

The Cone of Silence – one of Maxwell Smart’s favourite gadgets. It never worked properly, yet Max never gave up on it. ACT Transport is a like that. It has great faith in the system that produced the city as we know it, but little imagination how to fix it. Would you believe, the ACT Transport tender (30639-RFT-110) has missed it by that much, and could be mistaken for a running joke worthy of Maxwell Smart.

Too good to be true

Maxwell Smart is a famous US television series from the 1960s, featuring an inept secrete agent working for CONTROL fighting against the evil forces of KAOS. The plot line is worthy for a remake. We will see Light Rail Stage 2A coming to our cinemas soon. Putting 2022 to one side, the problem of the ACT Transport tender is one of culture and lack of communication between ACT directorates.

The Cone of Silence from the famous US TV series Maxwell Smart.’s Submission to the Standing Committee on Planning, Transport and City Services in 2021, suggested the improvement of active travel and cycling in Canberra is hampered by the lack of communication between ACT Transport and ACT Planning. ACT Transport has acknowledged since the 2018 Transport Strategy that a Movement and Place Framework needs to be drafted in collaboration with ACT Planning. The separation between transport and planning finds its natural end with the advent of place making. Movement and Place merges transport and planning functions into a nuanced, situational approach. Transport and Planning directorates, however, form silos with poor communication between them (TCSS and EPSDD). This Cone of Silence hampers communication and coordination and should be lifted, in part, by drafting a guideline for the Movement and Place Framework. The Framework is a collaborative work and cannot be written by ACT Transport or ACT Planning alone.

Place making – A multi-faceted approach to the planning, design and management of public spaces. It involves looking at, listening to, and asking questions of the people who live, work and play in a particular space, to discover their needs and aspirations.

City And Gateway Urban Design Framework, December 2018, 76.

Thinking about the problem

Recently, ACT Transport recognised they had a problem.

TCCS has identified some issues that will need to be addressed as part of implementing the Transport Strategy:
– There is presently a limited “line of sight” between the Transport Strategy and infrastructure projects and policy initiatives. It is unclear precisely how the objectives of the Strategy will be translated into tangible actions.
Network planning in the ACT has traditionally focused on planning for individual modes, rather than planning a single network and coordinating planning activities across all modes.
Internal processes within TCCS have not yet been developed to ensure that teams are working towards common Strategy objectives.
There are currently no formal processes to ensure that initiatives from other directorates and agencies are consistent with the Strategy.

Development Of The Act Multimodal Network Plan, Project Brief, Project No: 30639-Rft-110, Major Projects Canberra, ACT, 21/07/2020, 5-6.

Enter the Consultant

The new tender for the Development of the ACT Multimodal Network Plan (30639-RFT-110) tries to address the problem by hiring an external consultant to engage internal stakeholders from all areas of the ACT Government.

The stakeholders to be consulted will include:
– Transport Canberra and City Services
– Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate
– Suburban Land Agency
– City Renewal Authority
– Chief Minister, Treasury and Economic Development Directorate
– Education Directorate
– Major Projects Canberra
– National Capital Authority

Development Of The Act Multimodal Network Plan, Project Brief, Project No: 30639-Rft-110, Major Projects Canberra, ACT, 21/07/2020, 11.

In the episode KAOS in Control, Max demands the Cone so that Hodgkins is unable to hear the information discussed. The Cone is lowered and Max and the Chief are unable to hear each other. Hodgkins can hear everything, however, so the Cone is raised.

Hiring external consultants does nothing to change the culture, systems and processes that are the cause of the problem. All too often reports from consultants are read and forgotten, not least because the recommendations are counter-culture (read 2012 ACT Strategic Cycling Network Plan, Spackman Mossop Michaels). ACT Transport and ACT Planning will only buy into proposed changes if they work through the issues themselves. We need to dismantle the Cone. ACT Transport and ACT Planning sitting in the same room to draft a Movement and Place Framework guideline would help.

Culture eats strategy for breakfast.

Peter Drucker

Light Rail Stage 2A

Light Rail Stage 2A will be another opportunity to explore new ways of working. The Task Force to manage the chaos is a little like a fire brigade without fire prevention – too little too late. Active travel and cycling cannot be rolled out in the last minute to mitigate traffic congestion resulting from the construction of Light Rail Stage 2A. Building infrastructure for active travel and cycling is a long term task, as is changing the culture on our roads that will protect the vulnerable road users, including our children. Dr Marisa Paterson’s HerWay report is the starting point for the discussion – albeit too late for Light Rail Stage 2A. 😦

Relying on Agent 99…

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