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Light rail may halt Canberra's urban sprawl in its tracks

Date

Stephanie Anderson

Artist's impression of a light rail station at the Gungahlin interchange.

Artist's impression of a light rail station at the Gungahlin interchange. Photo: Supplied

Light rail could be the key to preserving the bush capital, using densification around rail lines to limit the need for continued urban sprawl, claim academics, architects and environmental campaigners.

Density has been a longstanding conundrum for Canberrans, according to Phoebe Howe, a spokeswoman for climate change group Canberra Loves 40%, who said the capital struggled to preserve the city while coping with a growing population.

Ms Howe said planners needed to focus on a more compact Canberra instead of continuing with greenfield developments such as Molonglo.

''With an increasing population, it might be density that saves our bush capital by limiting suburban sprawl,'' she said.

''With a new light rail in Canberra, we have the chance to create a more compact, vibrant city that reduces our need to build on the bush edges of the capital.''

Ms Howe was one of the organisers behind a design workshop at the University of Canberra on Thursday, where academics, architects and students examined environmental concerns alongside recent political pledges to introduce light rail.

Shaowen Wang, from the University of NSW, said the development of a public transport system would allow for increased density within a five to 10-minute walk from designated stations.

''You can preserve the existing bush capital characteristic of the city plan and at the same time you can introduce another layer that is almost like a series of urban islands,'' she said. ''Every light rail stop becomes an area that's densified, with mixed use designs.''

Ms Wang said the introduction of light rail would not be supported by existing infrastructure, but saw no real challenges to its success.

''It's actually a kind of projective thinking - that because you build it, it will work,'' she said. ''With careful insertion of the line and selected points for densification, I can't see any reason why it wouldn't work.''

Ramin Jahromi, from urban design and architecture firm Cox Richardson, said if developers could sell the idea, it was more than feasible to build light rail within the capital.

Having previously worked as project architect for the Chatswood transport interchange, Mr Jahromi said the wide roads and reasonably flat corridors meant constructing light rail would be quicker and more cost effective than in other cities.

''You're already starting at a better platform than most cities are,'' he said. ''Most cities have to deal with rail corridors when they have existing infrastructure. They've got tight roads, they've got tight streets.''

47 comments

  • Not sure that even if you had light rail, that it would change most peoples preference for a yard and a double grarage filed with 2 cars. The obsession with light rail in my opinion is a little misplaced, I just don't see that a light rail to gungalin is going to change suburanite commuting patterns. In the end light rail is just a bus on train tracks, it doesn't go any faster, is no cheaper (unless subsidised more) and if anything is less flexible than busses. Most people drive in canberra becasue it's quick, cheap and convienient.
    I think we should be instead pushing for a park and ride strategy (possibly with an inner city light rail) , that helps move the car parks and congestion out of the city area, and makes peoples commutes easier, not longer and inconvinient.

    Commenter
    tele12
    Date and time
    November 02, 2012, 7:38AM
    • What Canberra needs is a heavy rail system to join up the suburbs.
      This can be complimented with light rail and bus services to link up with new train stations and form a fully integrated public transport system .

      Governments have wasted billions of dollars on road development which could have been spent on a heavy rail system.

      Rail would cut travel times, reduce pollution and congestion and reduce our reliance on imported oil.

      Too many politicians are still living with a 1950's car-dominated mentality of road expansion at any cost.

      The 21st century is here and it is time that politicians changed their wasteful attitudes and developed a 21st century preference for public transport.
      Modern railways are the way of the future and recognising this fact now will save our community billions of dollars into the future.

      Commenter
      Railway Future
      Date and time
      November 02, 2012, 12:21PM
    • "...most people's preference for a yard and a double garage filled with 2 cars."

      So who lives in all the units, then? These days the household of two parents, three kids and two dogs is no longer the majority of cases. If you really want the traditional house on a quarter-acre block, then live in the outer suburbs and catch a bus to the light-rail interchange.

      "light rail ... doesn't go any faster"

      Are you kidding? You have stops about twice as far apart as for buses, and there is no traffic in the median strip to impede the trams. Plus, there are fewer buses and cars on these roads, because of the light-rail passengers, so *everyone* gets there faster!

      "Most people drive in canberra because it's quick, cheap and convenient."

      It may be quicker and convenient, but it certainly is NOT cheaper. Bus fares to work and back are $25 per week, compared with around $60+ in petrol *alone*.

      Your last statement makes the most sense.

      Commenter
      Robert
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      November 02, 2012, 1:11PM
    • I agree with tele12. If there aren't park (free) and ride facilities for light rail, it will be a huge failure.

      Commenter
      rdr
      Date and time
      November 02, 2012, 4:46PM
    • Robert, you said - Are you kidding? You have stops about twice as far apart as for buses" which means ther will be a need for more buses to service the stops not covered by light rail.

      Also the only plan I've heard for a light rail system, is Gunghalin to Civic which may end at EPIC. Please explain to me why, as someone who lives in Banks, that I should support this?

      Light rail is a Furphy. What would be better is dedicated multi level parking adjacent to Town Centres, with a travelator type link to get people to their point of employment.

      Pity my City. I knew Rattenbury would cuddle up to Katy. The chance for change and better, more efficient services has been lost. I'm just wondering what the next debacle by this 'new' government will be? My money is on light rail, but I'll have a saver with my bookie that it will never eventuate. Pokie reform laws ring any bells?

      At least the magic hasn't gone out of Fosters....

      Commenter
      BBA
      Location
      Banks
      Date and time
      November 02, 2012, 8:23PM
  • I thought Canberra already had a dense population.

    Commenter
    Jakuba
    Date and time
    November 02, 2012, 7:47AM
    • Funny Funny

      Commenter
      Martin Says
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      November 02, 2012, 9:53AM
    • Well, Tuggeranong does. :P

      Commenter
      yumq
      Location
      CBR
      Date and time
      November 02, 2012, 1:33PM
    • Agree: thanks to political correctness, etc, ''dense'' is the ''new intelligent''.

      Commenter
      Nicomachaen
      Location
      Kingston
      Date and time
      November 02, 2012, 2:41PM
    • Nicomachem - maybe here in the South people are actually being affected by the current ACT and Federal policies and don't like it? The Left NEEDS compulsory voting so don't have a cow when it doesn't go your way.

      Commenter
      BBA
      Location
      Banks
      Date and time
      November 02, 2012, 8:27PM

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