Last month I did a radio interview for Alex Sloan of ABC 666 Canberra (the main public radio station in Australia’s national capital) on the broad future of public transit in that city, along with Monash University Professor Graham Currie. Much of what was said, especially about light rail and bus rapid transit, is true of any low-density New World city with populations under 1 million. ABC has now posted an MP3 of the interview here.
Amusing background: I did the interview on a hallway phone next to the elevators on the top floor of the Portland (Oregon) Hilton, looking out at the fall colors of Portland’s west hills. I was at the hotel for the Railvolution conference, but wasn’t a hotel guest, and they’d already made clear their boundaries by not letting me use the hotel’s wi-fi. Taking a call on a hallway phone can feel downright furtive in this wireless world.
There’s plenty of free wifi in downtown Portland… if nothing else, I’m sure there were at least a half dozen Starbucks within a 300m radius. 🙂
Hmm. I think bus rapid transit is the “now” answer (things like Brisbane’s BUZ buses for instance would be great) but maybe not a grade separated Brisbane style busways though. Stuff like that is very expensive.
Canberra has a lot of arterial roads with a wide spacious median, perhaps a Bogota-style solution where platforms are built in the median of these large avenues with the fast far right road lane being made a bus or T2 lane is one suggestion.
A concourse or “cut and cover” tunnel underneath these avenues would avoid having to build overpasses and solve the pedestrian access problem. There is already one such tunnel at Kaye St/Commonwealth Ave near the National Library.
With regards to the interview – It worries me a bit to hear arguments such as:
* There are not enough people in city X catching public transit right now (bus) to justify (light) rail
* The density of the city is too low and spread out
* The population is not high enough
* Our solution is cheaper and costs less
* It’s faster
They are fair points, but the reason why they worry me is because these seem to be the same arguments that the road lobby uses to justify more investments in roads and freeways…
The Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia has a population similar to Canberra and is getting light rail built right now with its bus system to be re-organised around it apparently.
So I think what matters is the density around the particular corridor and whether you can get that patronage on that line (whether walk up or by using a bus feeder system to achieve high point concentrations of passengers).
BRT was put as an option for the Gold Coast and there is a group opposing the LRT construction. http://www.stoplightrail.com
Maybe people will disagree with me, but it’s just my view.