A new poll shows Canberrans rank improvements to healthcare and hospitals, job creation and public education as more important than better public transport while many have strong concerns about the cost of constructing a light rail network.
Government-commissioned research on a city wide tram network found 54 per cent of respondents nominated cost and affordability when asked what aspects of the light rail concerned them, while 12 per cent said the limited availability of the project's first stage from the city to Gungahlin.
Asked if they supported extra money being spent on light rail instead of buses for long-term benefits to the environment and job creation, 48 per cent backed light rail compared with 38 per cent supporting buses.
When respondents were asked to rank the importance of challenges the city might face on a scale of importance from zero to 10, improvements to healthcare and hospitals received a score of 8.2.
In the same question job creation scored 7.9, public education scored 7.6 and improvements to public transport and housing affordability ranked equal fourth at 7.4.
On Saturday, The Canberra Times reported the phone poll of 1192 people across Canberra found 55 per cent of respondents supported the development of a light rail network.
When asked “do you support the ACT government plans to develop the Capital Metro light rail system for Canberra”, 34 per cent said no and 11 per cent were unsure.
The survey cost government $29,156 to produce and includes a 2.9 per cent margin of error.
When asked "why do you think the government is investing in light rail", 32 per cent chose improved transport options, 21 per cent chose reduced congestion and 10 per cent chose political reasons including Labor's association with the Greens.
Asked if "light rail will help to upgrade and uplift Northbourne Avenue", 51 per cent agreed, 37 per cent disagreed and 12 per cent were unsure.
A total of 46 per cent disagreed with the statement that "light rail will support a shift towards a healthier lifestyle, [through] people walking to and from the stops", while 38 per cent agreed and 15 per cent were unsure.
Currently 83 per cent of respondents said they drove to work, while 11 per cent use buses, 3 per cent cycle and 2 per cent walk.
Asked "would you be more likely to use public transport if it involved a light rail system within easy walking distance or was accessible via other means", 57 per cent said yes.
A total of 34 per cent said light rail would not make them more likely to use public transport.
The poll also found 63 per cent believed light rail would bring "a more effective and reliable public transport system through integration with ACTION buses", while 25 per cent disagreed.
Canberrans can expect the government to cite job creation, environmental benefits and improve public transport when arguing the case for light rail use, after these messages proved most appealing in the study.
When told "trees along Northbourne Avenue are reducing in number due to poor health and weather impact", 69 per cent supported new and longer lasting trees being planted as part of light rail construction.
Opposition to the approach was recorded at 22 per cent, while 9 per cent were unsure.
Capital Metro Minister Simon Corbell said the poll showed there was community support for light rail and those who opposed the project tended to believe it was politically motivated.
Construction of light rail by 2016 was a key element of the agreement to form government signed by Chief Minister Katy Gallagher and Green Shane Rattenbury after the 2012 election.
"What, of course, is worth repeating in relation to that is that the Labor Party went to the last election with a written policy position document that committed to the development of this project," Mr Corbell said.
"That was done before the result of the election was known, it was done before there was a parliamentary agreement with Minister Rattenbury and it clearly set out that this was Labor policy."
Why is the ACT government investing in light rail?
- To upgrade/improve transport 32%
- Reduce road congestion 21%
- Political reasons including association with the Greens 10%
Concerns about light rail in Canberra
- Cost and affordability for perceived benefits 54%
- Restricted/limited route choice 12%
- No concerns 15%
Source: Piazza Research for the ACT Government