The ACT Liberal Democratic Party believes in the provision of a safe and reliable roads network and public transport system that suits the needs and preferences of the people of the Territory.
It is clear that the Labor/Greens government has got its transport priorities the wrong way around.
Through its anti-car and high-density urban policies, the Labor/Greens government is seeking to change people to suit the public transport system rather than allowing the transport system to suit the preferences and needs of people.
And – as the COVID-19 pandemic response makes clear – the ACT’s transport planning is based on a false set of assumptions that are inflexible in the face of changing needs and preferences.
The ACT Liberal Democrats would ensure that transport policy in the ACT:
- is not anti-car and anti-car parking;
- does not favour different modes of transport – with all modes, including walking and cycling, being treated neutrally and based on their net benefits;
- encourages responsibility on the road;
- is based on assessments that take account of the true costs and benefits of transport projects;
- fixes the mess made to the bus network caused by the Labor/Greens costly obsession with light rail;
- encourages flexible and innovative transport options, using new information technology.
Sharing responsibility on Canberra’s roads
The ACT Liberal Democrats strongly support individual responsibility on the roads. This means driving with care and diligence, adjusting to conditions, and preventing harm to others.
The ACT Liberal Democrats oppose revenue-raising masquerading as public safety. We oppose increases to fees, charges, levies, taxes and fines, especially where those costs don’t bear any relation to the cost of providing services.
Speed limits should be based on acceptable risk, not the ever-increasing regulation of road use through hidden and average speed cameras.
The Liberal Democrats would reverse the downward revision of speed limits in built-up areas that are not in line with community needs. Shared use areas are being imposed across Canberra based on the views of social planners who imagine Canberra as a densely populated European city. The Liberal Democrats support local transport that reflects the real needs of the community.
The Liberal Democrats would get rid of the unfair effects of the graduated licensing scheme for new drivers. While these restrictions are aimed at greater safety, they push many young people into less safe transport options, such as walking late at night. We would lift the restrictions on the number of peer aged passengers that a red-P plate driver can carry after 11 pm, and increase the number of demerit points that P platers can accumulate from 4 points to 7 points in three years.
Getting priorities right for the ACT
The ACT Liberal Democrats recognise the difficulties involved with maintaining a commercially viable public transport system given the ACT’s population density and unique design.
The Labor/Greens government has let expenditure on roads languish while they have been obsessed with forcing passengers on to light rail.
After the start of the Light Rail and the mess made to bus timetables satisfaction with the ACT’s public transport system fell from 83 per cent in 2017-18 to 62 per cent in 2018-19. At the same time light rail missed every milestone target in 2018-19[i].
The ACT Liberal Democrats do not support extension of light rail across Canberra without a credible cost-benefit analysis that meets the standards of the ACT Auditor General and the Productivity Commission. While the existing stage should continue to operate while it covers its variable costs and maintenance, extending light rail across the Lake and to Belconnen would just be throwing good money after bad.
There should be no commitment to such mega projects in the absence of knowing how Canberra’s transport users choose to work, rest and play in a post-COVID-19 world. Building further stages of the light rail project would simply be arrogant and end up being an extra burden on the ACT’s public finances out into the future.
The ACT Liberal Democrats would undo the damage that has been done to the ACT’s bus network by the Labor/Greens Government. Instead of doubling down on backward-looking technology such as fixed rail, Canberra should concentrate on flexible technologies that can adapt to the needs of users as tastes and priorities change.
The ACT Liberal Democrats would move transport policy away from social engineering that seeks to push people out of their cars and into public transport, cycling and walking irrespective of their wishes. While more Canberrans are walking and cycling to work, the vast majority choose their cars to meet their travel needs. They also have a relatively low opinion of public transport[ii].
The ACT Liberal Democrats would reverse the artificial scarcity that has been created reductions in public car parking and limits on how much parking businesses can provide in their buildings.
The ACT Liberal Democrats do not believe that the mantra that Canberra has “a high car dependency”. People actually prefer private transport over public transport. Before the COVID-19 lock downs, seven out of every ten Canberra commuters went to work by car. A Productivity Commission report found that Canberrans regarded their city as highly liveable. And – before the cuts to road spending – two thirds of Canberrans considered that the city had good road infrastructure/minimal congestion compared to an average of 39 per cent of respondents for all Australian capitals[iii].
The private motor vehicle has provided enormous freedom, flexibility and choice for many people – especially for women, and for the less well off. Cars can also offer a substantial time saving advantage over public transport because the latter has a fixed time penalty (of around 15-20 minutes) regardless of the distance travelled and can often involve many stops[iv].
The ACT Liberal Democrats will ensure that transport strategy aligns with these preferences, without adversely affecting the transport use patterns of those who use other transport modes.
Canberra’s congestion problems are not at the critical levels of other Australian cities[v]. The ACT’s population and population density are very low in world terms.
Canberra’s transport challenges are manageable. Even with a projected population of about 500,000 in 2030, Canberra’s population density would only rise from around 21 per cent to 28 per cent of the median population density in urban areas in OECD countries. In such a scenario Canberra would have a similar population density as major cities, such as Houston and Austin, which have some of the most permissive urban planning systems in the United States.
A more liberal and flexible transport strategy would work with users’ transport needs rather than against them. This is even more necessary in a post-COVID 19 world, where changes to working at home and greater variation in transport demand will become the norm.
The current ACT Government transport strategy states that personal autonomous vehicles would be discouraged and proposes a shared, fully autonomous fleet. In doing so, the strategy sends an unwelcome signal that the government believes it is better placed to determine the needs and preferences of consumers and the business models of entrepreneurs than they themselves are.
The ACT Liberal Democrats will change the strategy to ensure that government acts as a facilitator and light touch regulator of new transport options – such as “Mobility as a Service”. Such flexibility would provide the opportunity for people to vote with their feet and voluntarily move away from private car ownership. But the choice should be theirs! Mobility as a Service could bring substantial benefits to Canberra’s commuters by letting users plan and book door-to-door trips using a single app and informed by information on real-time conditions throughout the network. But this new technology should be led by users, innovative platform designers and the entrepreneurs who are best placed to learn from failure and experimentation.
The ACT Liberal Democrats:
- Will reverse the social engineering of the ACT’s Transport policy by ensuring that the transport system meets the needs of the users rather than the preferences of the planners.
- Are neither for nor against light rail in the ACT in principle, but until there is a credible business case for extending light rail beyond the current stage we would redirect funding earmarked for light rail to ACTION bus services and cheaper and more flexible transport options that reflect changes in land use and travel in a post COVID-19 world.
- Would promote a transport strategy that includes:
- increased number of carparks in town centres as a matter of priority
- private sector investment in multi level parking stations and the right of private businesses to provide car parking in their own buildings
- variable speed limits on major roads that are adjusted according to traffic and conditions.
- more parking for motorcycles in all public carparks and not charge for their use
- increased speed limits on divided arterial roads such as the Monaro highway, Tuggeranong parkway, Gunghalin Drive Extension and Hindmarsh drive
- modification of low volume traffic lights to turn off between designated times
- abolishing speed cameras where there are no legitimate safety concerns
- modifying school speed zones from the blanket 8am–4pm to 8am–10am and 2pm–4pm where appropriate, bringing the ACT in line with other Australian states
- shared-use in high density areas that reflects the preferences of the community rather than being imposed from above by transport planners
- facilitating new technology such as “Mobility as a Service” which could consumers to vote with their feet and voluntarily move away from private car ownership.
- Oppose laws and regulations designed with primary purpose of revenue rising and would actively seek to repeal them.
- Would reduce vehicle registration fees.
- Will automatically recognise the minimum regulatory standards of other Australian jurisdictions that relate to motor vehicles and modifications.
[i] See Daniella White “Canberra transport network satisfaction falls”, The Canberra Times, 11 October 2019 (https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/6434518/satisfaction-with-transport-network-down/).
[ii] See LDP Submission available at XXXX.
[iii] Productivity Commission (2011) Performance Benchmarking of Australian Business Regulation Planning, Zoning, and Development Assessments, volume 1.
[iv] See ACIL Tasman (2012) Pricing Congestion in Sydney, Prepared for Infrastructure New South Wales, April 2012, page 6.
[v] See ACT Government (2018) Moving Canberra 2019-2045 Integrated Transport Strategy, page 21.
The official page of the Liberal Democratic Party in the Australian Capital Territory. Authorised by Guy Jakeman, Florey, ACT, 2615