COVID-19 has turned everything on its head, including the way the ACT Government goes about development. ACT Government has fast tracked infrastructure in old suburbs and now it is fast tracking infrastructure in the new. The Kenny High School was fast tracked for completion in 2023, which due to rain is now moved back to 2024.
One ends, the next begins
The Gungahlin estate development is nearing its end at the same time that the Molonglo Valley still has much to do. One of the last suburbs in Gungahlin is Kenny, north of EPIC, while in the Molonglo Valley only 20% is complete (Simon Tennent, Development Director, Molonglo Valley Community Forum, March 2021).
At canberra.bike we are all about safe active travel networks. Building on a greenfield is one of the cheapest ways to achieve this. In principle, all it requires is good design. The infrastructure needs to be built anyway. Urban planners are all about good design, but the complexity of an estate and commercial considerations make the process more uncertain than “only good design” may suggest.
Gungahlin Community Council
Gungahlin Community Council provides interesting insights into the end phase of the creation of a new district.
The ACT Government had planned to duplicate Well Station Drive, south of Harrison and north of the new suburb of Kenny. COVID-19 changed all that. The Kenny High School has been fast tracked for completion in 2023, and there is now insufficient time to complete the duplication. The school will generate a lot of traffics so that road work is necessary. A compromise needs to be found. Road works are planned for the west end of Well Station Drive alongside the new school – the rest will be done later.
Kenny High School is the subject of three development applications: the school, the site and the road. ACT Education is responsible for the first and ACT Transport (TCCS) for the last. The site itself is covered by the Kenny High School Estate Development Plan (202138619), which was released this week. This development application includes traffic analysis and recommendations for bike paths around the school. This is made more difficult by the lack of an Estate Plan for Kenny itself. The suburb Kenny is at a very early stage of design.
The last two development applications for Whitlam (Stage 2 and 3) demonstrate that the planning of a Main Community Route is not as certain as it may seem. In Stage 2 (2019), the development application did not show a Main Community Route running east-west through Whitlam, but now it does. The Stage 3 development application has a Main Community Route along the bottom of Sculthorpe Avenue as well as a proposed dam over Deep Creek.
The proposal is a good. The discussion here is about the fact that it has moved despite or because of all the design work. The Whitlam estate design is now in a late phase. Do not think the preferred corridor for a Main Community Route is obvious. It is not!
See below, before and after: Active Travel Network Existing and Future Plan (community routes planned) for Whitlam from the development application for Stage 2 from 2019 and 3 from 2021.
The corridor itself may be part of the problem. The corridors for the cycle highways (trunk routes) through the Molonglo Valley have not been fixed in advance and the development designed around them. Rather, other factors in the Molonglo have taken precedence. The development of the active travel framework, guidelines, standards and standard drawings since 2015 (and coming to an end in 2018), saw the establishment of corridors to be reserved for cycle highways. Cycle highways are the Principle (PCR) or Main Community Routes (MCR) in the Active Travel documents. Corridors are labelled Active Travel Route Alignments (ATRA). The consultants who do the design work for the ACT Government find the Active Travel Route Alignments in the Active Travel Infrastructure Practitioner Tool (ATIPT).
The Main Community Routes are shown on the maps above in blue. The line is dotted when it is yet to be constructed.
East Gungahlin High School EDP
East Gungahlin High School is the official current name for Kenny High School.
The suburb Kenny may not yet have an Estate Development Plan (EDP) but the school does. For the suburb of Kenny, Active Travel Route Alignments (corridors) have been added to the Active Travel Infrastructure Practitioner Tool (ATIPT). For Whitlam, the corridors have still not been added, leaving the ATIPT for the Molonglo Valley out of date.
Canberra.bike advocates for safe bike paths. The analysis of the path requirements for active travel are part of this development application. More specifically, they are discussed in the Transport Impact Assessment Report for East Gungahlin High School, Kenny, November 2020, from the Kenny School Development Application 202138619, released on 12 May 2021.
As the suburb of Kenny has yet to be designed, the approach for this analysis was to start with the current data and extrapolate the traffic that the school will generate. The Active Travel Route Alignments (corridors) and active travel standards were then considered.
The result from this approach overwhelmingly favours local active travel to adjacent suburbs. The school’s catchment area lies to the north of the school. The design does little for the commuting cyclist. Building Principle Community Routes is about cross-town connections and not really considered in this approach.
Transport Impact Assessment Report
The steps taken in the Transport Impact Assessment Report to determine the active travel requirements. This is a summary of how it was done, and a full explanation is found in the report (attached, pages 62-68).
Step 1: determine the traffic
They started by looking at existing cycling in the area which is not that high. This is not surprising as the Flemington Road bike path (CBR Cycle Route 11) ends at Well Station Drive does not currently have an off-road bike path. Horse Park Drive has an off-road cycle path that connects to the Majura Parkway cycleway.
The connection between Flemington Road and Horse Park Drive is poor, creating a missing link, that discourages cycling.
Step 2: new traffic expected from the school
The active travel traffic is from the enrolment area in 2023 and later in Kenny 2031. The predicted traffic is based on historical data, derived from other schools in the ACT but includes a 30% aspirational target.
Step 3: cycling corridors
Consideration of the Active Travel Network and, in particular, the Active Travel Route Alignments (corridors) found in Active Travel Infrastructure Practitioner Tool (ATIPT).
Step 4: active travel standards
Consideration of the community path requirements is derived from consideration of recommendations from the active travel standards for path widths. The ACT MIS05 and Austroads AGRD06A active travel standards provides a range of widths.
Why this matters
We would generally expect the higher-order trunk paths, PCR and MCR, to be widest, but this is not the case. The AGRD6A recommends separated pedestrian and cycle only paths around the school. It is worth noting the logic of why this was rejected (attached report page 65).
Example: The PCR in one section has an existing provision of just 1.5 m (footpath) and the MIS05 requirement is 3-5 m, however, the recommendation is “no change”. How does a 1.5 m wide PCR even make sense? (see report table 44, page 65)
The outcome is community paths that are optimised around the needs of the school, which is to be expected considering the scope of the study. The outcome will be poor for cyclists in that it does not contribute to the overarching network of trunk paths (PCR or MCR) that make it possible to ride greater distances across the city.
On a more optimistic note, it is worth remembering that the Well Station Drive duplication could and should include an off-road bike path and the new suburb includes cycling corridors. The great amount of work to be done in this area suggests that there are still plenty of opportunities to fix these problems.
The new school planned for Kenny is currently known as the East Gungahlin High School Kenny (EGHS). It will open in 2023. The Transport Impact Assessment Report for East Gungahlin High School, Kenny (November 2020) shows how the active travel guidelines are applied to a school.
The new suburb of Kenny
When one is building a high school, it is necessary to consider how the students are going to get there. Designing community paths for this purpose requires estimates of pedestrian and cyclist traffic volumes. This article sheds some light on the process.
The two relevant standards applied in this example are Austroads AGRD06A and ACT MIS05. Both are introduced here. On the side, comments regarding “desired lines” are included and make a point how easily paths are laid out poorly.
Main Community Routes and Local Community Routes are included derived from the Active Travel Route Alignments (ATRA) found in Active Travel Infrastructure Practitioner Tool (ATIPT).
Active Travel Infrastructure Practitioner Tool (ATIPT) – A web-based user interface that provides access to spatial mapping of the Active Travel Routes for walking, cycling and equestrian routes (ATRA) as well as access to planning and design policies, guides and other information relevant to the planning and design of active travel infrastructure in the ACT. The tool is available for use by all stakeholders including government agencies, developers and consultants and may be accessed at http://activeinfrastructure.net.au/Active Travel Facilities Design – Municipal Infrastructure Standards 05 (MIS05) (ACT Government, April 2019)
Active Travel Route Alignments (ATRA) – The spatial alignment datasets of the five Active Travel Route types.Active Travel Facilities Design – Municipal Infrastructure Standards 05 (MIS05) (ACT Government, April 2019)
The first estimates with a with the 1.1% mode share for cycling does not look very promising.
Walking & Cycling Demands
We have made an allowance for active travel trips associated with Kenny, based on the following assumptions:
x The overall mode split for Kenny has been assumed to be similar to the mode share identified for the Gungahlin region in the 2017 Household Travel Survey
x ‘Walking’ trips external to Kenny are principally expected to be limited to trips associated with East Gungahlin High School and the primary school …
x ‘Cycling’ trips external to Kenny will be associated with commuter trips at the same times when the school is generating walking and cycling trips. The number of overall cycling trips has been estimated by proportioning the peak Kenny vehicle trips (which make up 55.5% of total trips) with the 1.1% mode share for cycling. This results in the following cycling volumes:Transport Impact Assessment Report for East Gungahlin High School, Kenny November 2020, page 22
o 2023 Scenario – 3 cycling trips/hour, and
o 2031 Scenario – 34 cycling trips/hour.
Just three cycling trips per hour left us a little sceptical considering the school would have 1000 students enrolled.
4.5.3 Existing Walking & Cycling Demands
No data is available that quantifies the existing walking and cycling demands on the paths surrounding the subject site. During the peak period site inspections undertaken for this project, pedestrian and cycling volumes were observed to be low, with no obvious preferred routes. On this basis, for the purposes of analysis we have assumed a flat level of 5 pedestrians / hour and 2 cyclist / hour for each linkage surrounding the school site.Transport Impact Assessment Report for East Gungahlin High School, Kenny November 2020, page 27
The future primary school has a catchment that this is limited to the adjacent Kenny development. On this basis, we would expect non-vehicle trips for the primary school to be driven by walking / cycling rather than public transport (based on the close proximity).Transport Impact Assessment Report for East Gungahlin High School, Kenny November 2020, page 48-49
TCCS seems to have realised that the 1% estimate was not helpful and therefore set aspirational targets.
The likely demand for walking and cycling trips has been estimated based data for existing mode split for schools across Canberra. For sensitivity testing, an aspirational mode split of 30% walking/cycling and 30% public transport has also been assessed, representing the potential upper limit for walking, and cycling trips. This aspirational mode split was agreed at a consultation meeting with TCCS during the development of the Transport Impact.Transport Impact Assessment Report for East Gungahlin High School, Kenny November 2020, page 49
Given the above trips are generated by school children, for the purpose of this assessment it is assumed that all walking and cycling trips will occur on the off-road facilities rather than on-road.Transport Impact Assessment Report for East Gungahlin High School, Kenny November 2020, page 50
Having established the numbers the design begins, and outlined on pages 62-68 of Transport Impact Assessment Report for East Gungahlin High School, Kenny November 2020. An analysis of the outcome is discussed here.
6.3 ACTIVE TRAVEL
6.3.1 Adequacy of Existing Active Travel Links
The future volume on each existing path linkage in the vicinity of the subject site has been assessed in the 2023 and 2031 scenarios. Two values are provided for each link being a ‘likely’ volume based on the existing mode split associated with existing schools across Canberra and an ‘upper’ volume based on the aspirational active travel mode share for the school (30% walking and cycling).Transport Impact Assessment Report for East Gungahlin High School, Kenny November 2020, page 62