In Europe, one common way to get to the nearest light rail stop is with the bike. All you need is a path, dedicated bike parking area when you get there. Woden light rail terminus won’t offer any of that.
Light rail for bridging large distances
The light rail is conceived as a quick way to travel large distances. The aim is to make it so fast that you will leave your car at home.
For the light rail to be fast, it is necessary to have few stops that are far apart. People working in Mitchell have to walk over a kilometre to the next light rail stop. This may not be all that unusual. If you have to walk then you will not get there quickly.
Buses form the spokes of the public transport network and light rail the hub – that’s the idea behind the new ACT public transport model. The buses carry you to the nearest light rail stop and the light rail provides a fast backbone for the larger distances.
However, buses are not all that fast. With direct buses, it sort of worked but with this “local” bus model the total travel time might not be all that short, particularly if you have to catch another bus at the other end. The ACT Government would like that any two points in Canberra can be travelled with a combination of light rail and buses.
The last mile problem
The age-old conundrum of public transport is how to get to the nearest stop. The bus might be fast, the light rail is even faster, but walking is as slow as ever. If I miss the bus or it is late, it may be slower than taking the car.
There are quicker ways to get to the bus stop or the nearest light rail stop than walking. An e-scooter is not a bad option, and I would hope that you can take it on the bus with you.
Bikes are not only for the whole commute. Some will ride to the bus or light rail stop to bridge the last mile quickly. This is very common in German cities.
Cycling infrastructure feeds light rail
Therefore it would seem self-evident that bike paths should join all light rail stops to the suburbs. Further, it makes economic sense to build a 3.5 m bike path along all light rail routes as a backbone cycling network feeding the light rail system.
Bike parking is essential. There are so many people travelling on light rail that we cannot all take the bike with us. It is allowed, but space is limited. At peak time you are lucky to get a seat. There is no space for a bike. Bike parking fills the gap. The bikes can then be left at the stop and picked up at the end of the day – if you are commuting. The assumption here is that you work close to a light rail stop or in a town centre and do not need the bike. Some town centres have scooter hire schemes to bridge the gap.
Woden light rail stop and bus station
The development application (DA 202138251) has been released for the Woden town centre rail stop and bus station. The old bus station will be demolished to make way for the new CIT.
By 2025 we will have the new light rail stop and bus station on Callam Street, which will be closed to all car traffic. The Light Rail Stage 2B will not pull in until 2035 but, in Woden, all will be ready.
The new Woden terminus extends along Callam Street between Launceston Street and Wilbow Street. Wilbow Street will not be known to many but many will know the Woden Police Station, which is on the corner of Callam Street and Wilbow Street.
The design from the development application is shown below. Green and with lots of trees – nice!
Where are the bike paths?
This is the major stop in Woden. Fitting in with the concept that bikes feed the light rail, one would expect bike paths leading from all directions straight to this terminus with dedicated infrastructure to store your bikes safely once you get there.
The development application shows none of this: no paths and no parking. There are pedestrian paths around the terminus but these will be so overrun with people that riding will not be possible. A bike parking station for a facility of this size should have a capacity of 100 bikes. I cannot see it.
What has gone wrong?
The Civic to Gungahlin light rail was built without a bike path beside it. The bike path past Mitchell was ripped up to widen the road for the light rail and never replaced. The path was finally rebuilt in 2020 after being provided additional funding. Rebuilding the path was not part of the light rail project.
Considering the light rail is a big project with major road changes, intersection and path changes, one would think that bike paths and infrastructure should be part of the project scope. One building site is enough, and it is better to do it in one go. Forget bike infrastructure, and it will have to be added later with delays, disruption and much greater cost.
The CIT is a big project, and it will be done as a sequence of projects – or packages (see below).
- Build “layover” bus interchange – package 1 (green)
- Build new bus and light rail interchange – package 2 (blue) DA 202138251
- Build the CIT – package 3 (purple)
The problem of narrow scope
The development application for packages 1 and 2 are just for bus and light rail infrastructure. Bike infrastructure does not appear to be in scope of the project with one possible exception.
To the left of the CIT (purple) in the overview below is a dotted line that goes around the edge of the parking area and looks deceptively like a bike path. There is currently very little information about package 3 as the development application has not been released yet (and likely not finished). This bike path could be finished last.
With the narrow scope it leaves integration of the existing bike network to chance. A much better way to do this would be to contextualise the light rail with its connections to the Active Travel Route Alignments (ATRA). These are outlined in the Active Travel Infrastructure Practitioner Tool, Ensuring connections to the active travel network is a requirement for estate developments.
Active Travel Route Alignments (ATRA) – The spatial alignment datasets of the five Active Travel Route types.Active Travel Facilities Design – Municipal Infrastructure Standards 05 (MIS05) (ACT Government, April 2019)
Example of estate developments
The development application for estates includes planning the active travel infrastructure within the estate to connect with the cycling Active Travel Network (ATN). The development application needs to show how the surrounding bike infrastructure (existing and planned) fits in with this development. This is shown in an Active Travel Network overview map such as the one below for Whitlam in the Molonglo Valley. The coloured lines are different types of paths belonging to the Active Travel Network.
Within the development application area the active travel routes are shown in more detail. The red paths below are 2.5 m wide and the purple paths 2.0 m. The red dotted street is the proposed bus route.
What we should learn
The lack of planning for cycling in the Development Application Packages 1 and 2 (DA 202138251), would indicate that active travel is outside the scope of the Woden light rail and bus terminus project. Active travel networks should be included (in scope) in light rail developments to create an integrated network.