Page 3726 - Week 12 - Wednesday, 28 October 2015
MS FITZHARRIS (Molonglo) (11.49): I thank Dr Bourke for moving this motion today. Public transport is clearly a key priority for the Barr Labor government. The benefits of public transport are well known and range from environmental and financial benefits to social and health benefits. I think we all know that encouraging more people to use public transport where possible is a good thing because in Canberra it is only too clear that we have a high dependency on cars. This is particularly true in my local region of Gungahlin. Dependence on private transport in the city to Gungahlin corridor sits at just under 90 per cent.
It is undeniable that Canberra is a great place for cars. We have a great road network that connects the city, and we spend tens of millions—in some years hundreds of millions—of dollars maintaining and improving it every year. However, our car dependency is now becoming an issue due to ever-increasing congestion, health, productivity and environmental impacts.
Some of the most common complaints I get as an MLA are about road congestion. That is why I am such a proud supporter of capital metro light rail, stage 1, which will travel from the city to Gungahlin. Some of the main objectives of light rail are: starting to provide a convenient alternative to the car; and encouraging people to get more active and to use public transport. This just makes sense, and I am constantly surprised that people seem to think it is not a realistic option for Canberra. Indeed the light rail corridor is fast becoming one of the most densely populated corridors of Canberra, and it is a prime location for a light rail line. Gungahlin itself has a rapidly growing population, growing from just over 300 people to over 50,000 in the past 25 years. But the daily commute is getting longer and longer and we just cannot keep building more roads, buying more buses and building more depots. This is not sustainable in the long term.
Light rail will both take cars off the road and reroute buses, reallocating 1.2 million annual bus kilometres across our city. This means that buses can be better managed in areas that need them most. I think we will see massive flow-on effects across our network once light rail is operating. Indeed you needed only to experience the traffic congestion created in different areas of our city during the closure of the Acton tunnel last week to get a feel for the flow-on effects traffic changes can have—sometimes in areas of the city you never thought would be impacted.
That is why the transport Canberra plan released this week by Chief Minister, Andrew Barr, and Minister assisting the Chief Minister on Transport Reform, Shane Rattenbury, is so important. It really reboots our community conversation about public transport and the future we envisage for our city, a future that is more sustainable, convenient, connected and coordinated when it comes to how we move about our sprawling city.
Most of all it is about creating a connected transport system that puts people first. The “one ticket, one network” approach is fundamental to this plan, and will be a key component of a system that incorporates both buses and light rail. And people overwhelmingly tell us how much they like ACTION bus services, in particular how much they like the drivers, who are friendly, helpful and professional on our roads. I have had many constituents give me such positive feedback about our bus drivers, with some wanting to see a “bus driver of the year” award implemented.