An artist's impression of the City interchange for the Canberra light rail. Photo: Supplied
The proposed light rail service should be significantly extended, looping through the parliamentary triangle and to the airport, to energise central Canberra and greatly boost its population.
This vision of greater concentration of population is the core theme of a proposal to be unveiled on Tuesday by Canberra Airport's managing director, Stephen Byron.
''This is about creating a buzz for our city that goes beyond an individual city block development,'' he said.
The Connecting Canberra by Light Rail proposal will call for debate about building on the ACT government's plan to build the first light rail link between Gungahlin and Civic.
Mr Byron says the number of people living in the heart of Canberra is set to quadruple. ''Within the next 10 years, nearly 100,000 people are predicted to commute to and from work in the heart of Canberra,'' he said.
''In addition to this, there will be visitors arriving on direct international flights and global events with the proposed Australia Forum and new convention facility.
''More than 30,000 people currently travel to and from Canberra Airport to fly, greet, work, do business or shop, every day. These numbers will more than double within the next decade.''
Mr Byron believes the high cost to government of building light rail could be partly offset by revenue from land sales as people flock to live along the route.
"Our view is that a light rail project will bring forward those land sales, cause there to be more of them and to be at a higher price,'' he said. "If the ACT government can capture that, then that goes into the mix of the viability equation.
''If you can drive development of the city, you end up with a more valuable, more exciting heart of the city.''
Mr Byron said he wanted to provoke discussion about what happens after the Gungahlin to city link.
"A light rail system can drive urban development and particularly infill,'' he said. "If you're going to have a compact and productive city that is a delight to live in, then you need the public transport network to be an enabler of that sort of urban development.
"Not only does the ACT government benefit through increased revenue and land sales, but it actually helps that development happen along the way.
"This is very much about linking up the major employment zones with the major residential development zones.
"It's egg and chicken, it's chicken and egg, it's all of that, but you see it now with Kingston, the city, Braddon and New Acton, you're starting to see this infill happen.
"What we need is a strategy to link all of that up so that if you live in those apartments, you can get to work in Barton or Parkes or the
airport or the city or Russell easily. And if you work in one of those places, you could easily choose a place to live in one of the new apartments that will come along.''
Mr Byron is proposing the light rail system be extended in three phases:
■ East to west - from the city to the airport, serving New Acton, the Canberra Institute of Technology, Russell Hill and Duntroon;
■ Bridge to bridge - the parliamentary triangle; and,
■ Eastern loop - inner south to Fyshwick.
The backbone of a light rail network was people travelling from home to their workplace and back, Mr Byron said.
''Linking all the employment nodes and high density residential developments within kilometres of the city will deliver a compact, sustainable city, which is important for the future,'' he said.
''You cannot have urban infill without supporting it with appropriate public transport.''
He said the ACT government should widen its scoping study on the City-Gungahlin to include a broader network.