Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Greens election policy on Queanbeyan/ACT public transport

Greens campaign ad on a Deanes bus

The NSW State election is in full swing, and the seat of Monaro is a close one. The Greens and their candidate for the NSW parliament, Paul Cockram, have announced an interesting transport  related policy that isn't about a road, funding for a road, a toll road, a rail system that will never be funded etc. Its a  simple achievable policy that can be implemented in a cost effective way relatively quickly.  Its about using public transport. The reason I'm talking about it on my Canberra related transport blog is threefold:
  • Monaros proximity to Canberra
  • the amount of workers that commute from Queanbeyan to Canberra everyday
  • cross border transport issues and the lack of focus on public transport
Queanbeyan transport issues, and especially public transport issues are of concern to Canberra residents. Why ? Take a look at these figures.

In 2006 there were 11,500 Queanbeyan residents working in the ACT. Assuming that 90% of these people drove their own car to work, thats 9000 cars, and that is not including residents from Bungendore. The statistics also indicate that the population in Queanbeyan is expected to grow another 20,000 residents by 2031. So factor in another 12,000 cars (based on 60% working in the ACT) for a total of 21,000 cars crossing the border every working day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. These cars also park for 8 hours somewhere, making ACT land unproductive as it must carry these cars while they sit idle.

The Greens are also aware of these numbers and have released an interesting policy for the campaign. It is aimed at:  
  • increasing the number of people catching the bus from Queanbeyan to Canberra, 
  • decreasing private car use
  • easing road congestion 
  • utilising the Bungendore to Canberra rail service

Like many public transport related matters, its not something that hasn't been thought of or looked at in the past. The 2009 'Sustainable Transport review' showed Queanbeyan as part of the ACT transport  network - for the first time in history. This was good policy and planning, but it seems that it hasn't progressed much further than those maps. The 'Canberra Transport Plan' due in the first quarter of 2010 is now one year late.

Also, in 2009 the ACT and NSW Government signed an agreement on cross-border transport and public transport issues. This agreement theoretically could allow Deanes and ACTION to operate revenue services on both sides of the border, which is something they do not do now (caveat: Deanes do run some services into ACT, but they are fairly limited). 

As a result of this agreement a joint task force was formed 12 months ago (The Eastern Regional Transport Taskforce) to look at ways to improve transport   between Queanbeyan and Canberra. Looking at the media releases from the meeting held here and here, it's clear that the focus is firmly on roads, and not on public transport. In one year there have been no improvements in cross border bus services from ACTION or Deanes.  
Greens MLA Amanda Bresnan and Greens NSW Candidate Paul Cockram riding the bus while feeding the media

With the issue obviously ripe for pressure to be applied, Amanda Bresnan, Greens MLA in the ACT,  appeared with Mr Cockram on WIN News on 7 March 2011 to announce this new Greens policy. She also pointed out that there had been little action from the Eastern Regional Transport task force on public transport issues and that there needed to be some action taken which included:
  • a bus lane along Canberra Avenue
  • more frequent buses
  • better interaction between Deanes and Action
The ACT Greens long term view is that a light rail system in Canberra is the best way forward. Getting more people onto buses now, is a good short term solution, but that a long term solution is a light rail network. By building and operating rapid and direct transit routes, people become used to that style of public transport and these routes can be changed to light rail in the future. Its practical public transport policy, with a short term and long term solution.   

The WIN report did not cover the 'rail from Bungendore to Kingston' aspect of the Greens policy, but I guess the media stunt was held on a bus, so naturally that would be the focus. 

The Greens policy is difficult to locate. It is not on the Federal, ACT or NSW Greens websites, but can be found here on their Monaro campaign website. It is in the PDF of their newspaper insert. 

As well as the specifics, there is this broader aim:

Will this policy win them the seat ? Unlikely, but its a good policy that should be adopted by the party that forms government post March 26 2011. Then again, with NSW Labor on the nose, the Greens may very well pick the seat up. It is also a policy that the ACT Greens should pick up and work towards in their co-government power sharing role in the ACT Assembly. 

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