The cycle network can only be built if we reserve and preserve cycle corridors. The precedent was set by the light rail project and requires changes to the Territory Plan and Planning Act. The ACT Government could copy/paste this approach for cycle corridors.
The light rail way
This section serves to demonstrate how light rail was first built into the ACT’s DNA. This was the first step, long before the construction began. Light rail is a 40-year project. Anything lasting that long needs to be envisioned, secured, and planned out for the long haul.
The statutory nature of the light rail development triggers reservation of corridors that are then automatically included in statutory documents, thereby protecting the light rail corridors. The effect was demonstrated in August 2021 in a tender for Molonglo 3 East Future Urban Area. Statutory status for cycle corridors would mean automatic protection – just like light rail.
Details of width requirements for the reservations for key roads and future light rail for inclusion on relevant official plans including the Territory Plan and ACTmapi.Major Projects Canberra, Infrastructure Delivery Partners, Molonglo 3 East, Preliminary Roads and Earthworks Design, Urban Water Management Strategy and Concept Plans, 4 August 2021, 18.
To build the light rail, we did several things: developed design guidelines specific to the ACT, added the corridors to the Territory Plan, amended the ACT Planning Act, and built capability for its design and construction. All these things together made it possible (systems thinking).
Design guidelines (code)
Light rail has a guideline for corridor design. We have had design guidelines for roads for decades! Guidelines and standards are typical for transport networks. Light rail required it, too.
Reserve and preserve in the Territory Plan
A great deal of effort will go into designing corridors. For rapid transit, routes are not taken lightly. The origins of the routes are found in the 2004 Canberra Spatial Plan. Once this work was done, the corridors must be reserved and preserved.
Amend ACT Planning Act
Planning in the ACT is regulated by the Planning and Development Act 2007. If light rail was not in the Act, it would not have happened.
Build organisational capability
Building light rail is more than construction. To roll out a city wide network requires resources to plan, organise, and manage its realisation: organisational capability. The ACT Government recently awarded an $163 million contract to an engineering consultancy to shepherd Light Rail Stage 2B to completion. Due to the delay between Stage 1 and Stage 2A, the ACT Government admitted it was difficult to keep the capability for the project.
Code for corridor design
Few Canberrans would know that we have design guidelines for our light rail planning in the ACT. The relevant section for corridor planning is Guideline for Light Rail Planning 01 Corridor Preservation (attached). Here is the introduction.
This document is prepared by Transport Canberra & City Services (TCCS) to assist Government, developers and institutions to prepare for the future implementation of light rail by providing design principles to inform conceptual planning and ensure that light rail can appropriately integrate into the urban environment. It is noted that spatial allowances for light rail are determined through detailed analysis. To avoid redundant work Transport Canberra should be consulted as part of any planning activity.
The ACT Government is committed to developing a city-wide light rail network, with construction of the first stage from the City to Gungahlin well underway. The Light Rail Master Plan identified
potential future light rail corridors to connect town centres via a hub and spoke network. The ultimate design of any future stage is established through an options selection process that involves
corridor analysis followed by a route options analysis and alignment refinement. Light rail is predominantly located within the road reserve.
Preserving corridors for light rail means that provision is made for future implementation of light rail infrastructure. There are significant costs associated with relocating assets such as utility infrastructure, outside of a light rail corridor. Hence, construction in these future corridors should aim to minimise installation of services, street furniture, structures and trees to avoid expensive relocations during subsequent light rail delivery. Third-party assets should be located away from rail infrastructure to minimise access issues during light rail operation.
Spatial requirements of the light rail system varies with the local environment. The City to Gungahlin light rail route operates using overhead line equipment (OHLE). TCCS is investigating use of wireless technology. This may improve options for urban planning, however would require TCCS consent. Accommodation of OHLE within the corridor increases spatial requirements of light rail.
The following principles should be considered as indicative minimum provisions only. Actual design dimensions are developed in detailed design. Design for any particular stage of the network will only occur after an investment decision by the ACT Government.Guideline for Light Rail Planning 01 Corridor Preservation, January 2019, page 1
Light rail corridors in the Territory Plan
The following map (figure 8-6) shows the light rail route (Intertown Public Transport Route) through the Molonglo Valley. The Territory Plan refers to the light rail corridor as an Intertown Public Transport Route (ITP). By adding the routes to the Territory Plan, they are reserved and preserved. Cycle corridors are currently missing from the Territory Plan.
Planning and Development ACT
Light rail was added to the Planning and Development Act. This includes light rail planning in the Territory Plan and defines how it is to be handled. The following text is a copy of the first few paragraphs of the section Part 7.2A Capital Metro facilitation, Planning and Development Act 2007 (attached), 138-154.
Part 7.2A Capital Metro facilitation
Division 7.2A.1 Preliminary
137A Meaning of related to light rail
(1) For this Act, a development proposal is related to light rail if—Planning and Development Act 2007, page 138
(a) the development to which the proposal relates may facilitate the construction, ongoing operation and maintenance, repairs,
refurbishment, relocation or replacement of—
(i) light rail track; or
(ii) infrastructure within, or partly within, 1 km from—
(A) existing light rail track; or
(B) proposed light rail track; or
(b) a declaration under section 137B is made in relation to it.
(2) In this section:
proposed light rail track means—
(a) light rail track identified in a development proposal in a
development application that includes the construction,
extension, refurbishment, relocation or replacement of light rail
(b) light rail track identified in a development approval that
authorises the construction, extension, refurbishment, relocation
or replacement of light rail track.
Division 7.2A.2 Light rail declaration
137B Authority may declare development proposal related to
(1) The planning and land authority may declare that a development proposal is related to light rail (a light rail declaration).Planning and Development Act 2007, page 139
(2) The planning and land authority may make a light rail declaration only if satisfied on reasonable grounds that the development proposal is a development described in section 137A (1) (a).
(3) The planning and land authority may make a light rail declaration on its own initiative or on application by the proponent of the development proposal.
(4) A declaration is a notifiable instrument.
Next steps for cycle corridors
By understanding how the ACT Government made it work for light rail, we understand how it can be duplicated for cycling. Light rail is the carbon copy for how it is done.
The requirements for a cycling network are different in the planning stage, but similar in terms of the legislative requirements. To build a good cycling network, changes are needed for both the Territory Plan and the Planning Act.
It is as easy as 4 steps:
- Add a section to the Planning ACT for cycle corridors, like that for light rail (Part 7.2A).
- Plan an overarching network of cycle routes across Canberra, particularly between town centres. In some cases, the light rail corridors could be followed.
- Include the cycle corridors in the Territory Plan.
- Write guidelines for the design of cycle corridors.
Notes for cycling
Design Guidelines for cycle corridors
In recent years we now have guidelines for active travel but none for cycle corridors. A great amount of the detail for the design of bike paths is found in the Austroads Standards and not the ACT Active Travel standards. Design guidelines added to the Territory Plan become a General Code (an example would be the ACT Crime Prevention and Urban Design Resource Manual 2000).
Preserve and reserve corridors in the Territory Plan
Construction of a large network takes time and a lot of thinking and analysis. If the corridors are not reserved and preserved, they may be built over in part. Destroying a short section of the corridor through careless planning is enough to destroy most of the benefits of the corridor alignment. An example of this was land set aside in Gungahlin for a cycling path that was sold for unit development. Over long periods of time, the ACT Government are likely to make planning errors, unless the corridors are anchored in the Territory Plan.
Amend the ACT Planning Act
If light rail was not in the Act, it would not happen. The same is true for cycle corridors. The provision of a cycling network must be added in the Planning and Development Act 2007.
The ACT Government should start with the statutory reforms immediately. A great deal of the corridor design work could be outsourced. In this way, we would have the resources required to move the planning forward quickly.