Preferred light rail disruption solution: driving!

Light Rail Stage 2A. ACT Government

Most of us have heard of the light rail and most know by now that the construction is going to cause disruption. The Light Rail Disruption Survey (13 December 2021) tells us that most want to continue driving, and active travel and public transport are for other people to consider – not me. ACT Transport has a problem.

ACT Transport’s recent interest in active travel is largely a reaction to increased congestion, which is expected due to the construction of the light rail, which in turn could endanger the re-election in 2024. This is a very human chain of causation, but it demonstrates the poor correlation between the ACT Transport Strategy and government priorities/actions. Correlation is not causation – and that is certainly true for the ACT Government Strategy and Active Travel.

Community Priorities Survey

Another survey from 2021 was the Community Priorities Survey (20 August 2021). This survey was to clarify where the community thinks the ACT Government should put their priorities. Probably to no-one’s surprise, the clear winners are health services, housing affordability, and provision of essentials services, whatever that might mean. Climate action came 4th, and investing in public transport infrastructure (including light rail) 7th. Active travel was not on the list. Community infrastructure was ranked higher than public transport.

Community Priorities Survey (20 August 2021)

Light Rail Disruption Survey

This is the problem that the Light Rail Disruption Survey had to deal with – for most people it is not all that important. Still, 2,541 responded to the survey about transport. The survey focuses on the areas that will be disrupted by construction, which is the route from Civic over Commonwealth Bridge. Taking out Commonwealth Bridge is mildly catastrophic for the road system around Lake Burley Griffin – hardly surprising. ACT Transport traffic studies have shown that there is not much fun down the road!

Why do people travel to the city?

Most people travel to the city for shopping, social activities, or paid work. There may be options to shop locally in future but the others are things which are hard to avoid.

Light Rail Disruption Survey (13 December 2021), 7.

How do you travel to the city centre?

Most people drive (or ride a motorcycle) to the city. Private motoring is the standard solution for getting around in Canberra – and it has been like that for a long time. However, 12% noted they have usually ride to the city centre, which is good news.

Light Rail Disruption Survey (13 December 2021), 8.

How will you travel to the city after lockdown?

Of those who were driving to the city during the lockdown, 85% expected that they would drive more or the same after lockdown. In other words, there is little intent to change our habits for getting around. A similar number said they would cycle more after the lockdown (84%), only 13% said they would cycle less.

Light Rail Disruption Survey (13 December 2021), 10.

How to best manage the traffic disruption?

Only 598 participants out of the 2541 considered travel alternatives. 20% is a rather low figure and more marketing could help here. Of those that did, only 8% considered a scooter, 18% a bike, and 33% public transport. The most popular answers were less of it and avoidance strategies (driving presumably). The car dominates our thinking.

Light Rail Disruption Survey (13 December 2021), 15.

Another question asked what would be most helpful to manage traffic disruption. The most common answers were related to providing information about the traffic congestion. Knowing about it does not help congestion, but leaving the car at home and taking the bus or riding a bike does. Most worryingly, only 2% believed that “group support or other support to cycle”* would help them – most likely because they had never considered riding to the city in the first place.

* International best practice states recommends education and groups cycling as mechanisms to introduce people to cycling.

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