The Australian Infrastructure Audit 2019 is published by Infrastructure Australia to model Australia’s infrastructure needs in the coming decade, and includes transport infrastructure. The Austroads’ Australian Cycling Participation 2019 survey showed that cycling has decreased in the last decade in Australia. The Australian Infrastructure Audit 2019 predicts this is unlikely to change in the next decade in the ACT.
Looking back and then forward
The mode share for cycling has not increased in the ACT in the last decade. Two good sources show this: the Australian Infrastructure Audit 2019 and ABS Census data from 2011 and 2016 (Section 3.4).
“Measured over the previous week the cycling participation rate has declined from 15.5% in 2017 (95% CI: 14.4% – 16.7%), to 13.8% (95% CI: 12.8% – 14.8%) in 2019. This decline is statistically significant and appears to be consistent with the trend since the survey was first conducted in 2011.”Australian Cycling Participation 2019, Austroads, 19 September 2019
The National Cycling Participation Survey found that cycling declined in Australia between 2017 and 2019. One would hope this will change for the better, however, the Australian Infrastructure Audit 2019 predicts the mode share to remain largely unchanged. The modelling is quite detailed and covers all major roads and all public transport routes using Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport, and Regional Economics (BITRE) models.
As our population grows, we are not driving less as the following graph shows (1997-2017). The green dotted line shows population growth.
 C. Munro, National cycling participation survey 2019.Austroads, 2019, 28.
Crowding and congestion
The report does not include cycling, which it should, but has interesting things to tell us about transport mode share and the growth on congestion in Canberra on roads and public transport.
The Australian Infrastructure Audit 2019 expects the cost of road congestion in the ACT and Queanbeyan to increase to approximately $504 million in 2031, up from $289 million in 2016, a 74% increase.
 Infrastructure Australia, Urban Transport Crowding and Congestion, Australian Government, 2019, <https://www.infrastructureaustralia.gov.au/sites/default/files/2019-08/Urban%20Transport%20Crowding%20and%20Congestion.pdf> [accessed 7 July 2021].
The ACT and Queanbeyan in 2016
Looking back to 2016:
“In 2016, Canberrans drove the most car kilometres per person of any Australian city. Active transport, including walking and bike riding, accounts for 22% of daily trips –19% more than public transport usage.”Urban Transport Crowding and Congestion Fact Sheet – ACT and Queanbeyan August 2019, Australian Infrastructure Audit 2019
The ACT and Queanbeyan in 2031
Looking forward to 2031:
- Public transport boardings, in-vehicle passenger kilometres, and in-vehicle passenger hours are all predicted to double from 2016.
- Buses are expected to remain the most heavily used public transport mode, even after the construction of the Canberra light rail.
- Canberra’s bus services are expected to see a 66% increase in boarding by 2031. This can be attributed to the Rapid network of routes, with extended operating hours and frequent services.
Canberrans love cars
It is well known that we drive more in Canberra than in any other Australian city.
“In 2016, Canberrans drove the most car kilometres per person of any Australian city. In comparison, public transport patronage has not increased significantly, reflecting the city’s continued dependence on cars as a primary mode of transport.”Urban Transport Crowding and Congestion, Section 10 ACT and Queanbeyan, Australian Infrastructure Audit 2019, page 160
We have public transport but the mode share for public transport is low in Canberra compared to other Australian cities.
“In 2016, public transport use in the ACT and Queanbeyan accounted for just 3% of total daily trips, compared to the use of cars (75%) and active transport including walking and bike-riding (22%).”Urban Transport Crowding and Congestion, Section 10 ACT and Queanbeyan, Australian Infrastructure Audit 2019, page 168
Greenfield developments such as the Molonglo Valley further stress the existing infrastructure.
Consequently, transport infrastructure connecting Molonglo Valley with central Canberra is expected to be challenged by a significant increase in demand.Urban Transport Crowding and Congestion, Section 10 ACT and Queanbeyan, Australian Infrastructure Audit 2019, page 171
The modelling includes new infrastructure projects.
Major projects included in the ACT and Queanbeyan region’s 2031 forecast comprise:
• Capital Metro (light rail)Urban Transport Crowding and Congestion, Section 10 ACT and Queanbeyan, Australian Infrastructure Audit 2019, page 171
• Duplication of Ashley Drive
• Duplication of Aikman Drive
• Widening of Gungahlin Drive
• Duplication of Gundaroo Drive.
But the congestion will almost double in the next decade.
Canberra’s infrastructure is getting better, however, not fast enough.
“With population growth generating additional car use that will overwhelm some mode shift from cars to public transport, road congestion will continue to grow in the ACT and Queanbeyan.”Urban Transport Crowding and Congestion, Section 10 ACT and Queanbeyan, Australian Infrastructure Audit 2019, page 172
The congestion will happen despite the ACT Government’s best efforts.
“Along the worst-performing routes, drivers can expect to spend close to half of their travel time in congested traffic (as opposed to about 40% in the 2016 base year). Many of the poorest performing routes in 2016 are forecast to occupy a similar position in 2031.”Urban Transport Crowding and Congestion, Section 10 ACT and Queanbeyan, Australian Infrastructure Audit 2019, page 172
There is no way that we will succeed to build our way out of congestion. There is an opportunity cost building road duplications. Congestion is expected to almost double by 2031. Light rail will help, but the expansion is too slow. The potential of cycling is vast but not without strong sponsorship, change leadership, and substantial investment by the ACT Government.
The potential of cycling is vast (the Netherlands) but not without strong leadership and substantial investment by the ACT Government. The 2020 ACT Election has shown the investment, at the best, will be modest ($80 million from the ACT Greens) and no means assured – as ACT Labor has made no commitments. The ACT Government has in the last decade demonstrated little leadership for active travel and during the current 2020 ACT Election active travel has remained of little importance.