History of the ACT Conservation Council

Denman Prospect Forest loop, Molonglo Valley

ACT Conservation Council is an environment and sustainability advocate. At its heart, the ACT Conservation Council is about conservation and, in that sense, has an environmentally friendly agenda but not necessarily a progressive one. Transport is a major contributor to greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions. For this reason, the ACT Conservation Council has made strong and valuable statements supporting the transition of transport to more environment friendly modes such walking and cycling that are worth looking at more closely here.

The ACT Conservation Council 

“The Conservation Council ACT Region is the peak non-government environment organisation for the Canberra region… Our mission is to achieve an ecologically sustainable and zero net carbon society through advocacy, education, research and engagement with community, the private sector and with government.”

The ACT Conservation Council submission on the Moving Canberra 2019-2045: Integrated Transport Strategy, page 1

Contents

  1. ACT Conservation Council
  2. Submission: 2019 Moving Canberra Transport Strategy
  3. Community paths
  4. 2016 ACT Election
  5. 2020 ACT Election priorities
  6. 2020 ACT Election scorecard

ACT Conservation Council

The ACT Conservation Council responded to the ACT Government 2019 Moving Canberra Integrated Transport Strategy with a well-written submission. Between 2015 and 2020 the problems of cycle infrastructure investment remain largely the same in the ACT. The ACT Conservation Council provided a fresh take on the topic.

The ACT Government’s ACT Government 2019 Moving Canberra Integrated Transport Strategy was welcomed, but essentially a rerun of the 2015 Active Travel Framework. The 2015 Framework was much more specific but lacked of priorities, goals, and supporting legislation. Put another way, the ideas were good, but the follow-up poor. The 2019 Moving Canberra Strategy is vaguer and less specific than the 2015 strategy. The 2019 Moving Canberra creates a sense of urgency to do more of everything but lacks any recognition that strategy failure is not caused by the lack of ambition but rather the difficulty of implementation. 

Good ideas without implementation are just talk, says the Conservation Council. For this support canberra.bike is thankful.

Submission: 2019 Moving Canberra Transport Strategy

“In its submission on the Moving Canberra 2019-2045: Integrated Transport Strategy, the ACT Conservation Council recommended public transport and active travel should be prioritised and legislated transport targets considered.”

Moving Canberra – Integrated Transport StrategyThe Conservation Council ACT Region, 15 Apr 2019, accessed 27/6/2020

Here are extracts from the ACT Conservation Council submission.

 “2. Legislate public transport and active transport targets

Any transport strategy for Canberra will necessarily need to integrate emissions reduction targets established in the ACT Climate Change Act, targets that are legislated and will require action. However, other targets, such as transport mode shift targets should be included in the Moving Canberra strategy. High-level targets on mode shift should be legislated in the same way emission reduction targets are legislated. While legislated targets may not be required for low level and/or specific objectives, legislation of high level targets would be a useful way to ensure Government commitments are maintained, that targets are reported via scheduled reporting obligations, and that investment decisions are aligned appropriately with desired outcomes. The ACT has a history of setting non-legislated targets: the last two transport strategies had targets that have not been met and the NoWaste by 2010 target was also not met. The Council believes that the reporting and accountability that accompanies legislated targets is powerful, and generally leads to a better outcome than non-legislated targets. Legislated targets are obviously able to be changed by the Legislative Assembly, and so are not impervious to a clear change of political direction or strategy.”

The ACT Conservation Council submission on the Moving Canberra 2019-2045: Integrated Transport Strategy, page 6

Investment must support implementation of legislated targets

Each section of the strategy discusses different opportunities for improving transport across Canberra, resulting in a document that conveys a sense that we need to do more of everything. Yet the reality is that with limited resources, decisions about prioritising investment will be made. It is of concern that, while the strategy talks positively about increasing the mode share of active travel and public transport, and highlights the importance of getting people out of their cars, the investment plan already committed to by the ACT Government seems primarily directed towards improving the major road network via road duplications and intersection upgrades. Acknowledging that there are a small number of identified works to enhance active travel and facilitate the extension of light rail, the ongoing investment in expanding the capacity of the road network is at odds with the strategic direction of the paper.

 Recent investment in active travel in the ACT has been welcome, however, Canberra needs much, much more. Many more dedicated bike and in many cases separated pedestrian pathways are needed to really change modal share, as well as upgrades to existing active transport infrastructure. Building and maintaining this infrastructure will require ongoing funding beyond two years, especially if we are to extend these paths right across Canberra and complete missing links; ensure they are available to a range of different types of users; and maintain their quality so as they remain safe.

No amount of promotion of active travel will change modal share unless there is a network of well-maintained cycling and walking paths that are safe and easy to us. While some will choose to ride in bike lanes on Northbourne Avenue, having bike lanes alongside such a busy traffic corridor is a disincentive to many cyclists, in particular younger and/or less experienced cyclists. A motto for Transport Canberra could be: build it and they will come. If you build fast, straight, attractive and well-connected bike and pedestrian facilities, you will attract users and achieve the required modal shift without having to market the facilities to drive behaviour change. Conversely, if Transport Canberra invests in new or upgraded roads, demand for more private car use will be induced. The CEO of Vic roads in Victoria is on record having said “you can’t build your way out of congestion”. The Council would support this sentiment.”

The ACT Conservation Council submission on the Moving Canberra 2019-2045: Integrated Transport Strategy, pages 7-8 

Community paths

For cycling and walking, little has changed since the 2016 election. What makes sense then still makes sense now. The slow rate of progress building community paths is a major issue. The ACT Government promises much but does little. Here is The Conservation Council report from 2016.

“Only two in five Canberra households have direct access to a footpath.”

“Walking infrastructure must receive adequate funding. Only two in five Canberra households have direct access to a footpath to take them to school, shops, bus stops or shared cycling/walking paths. Another two households in five have to cross a road to get to their nearest footpath. One household in five doesn’t have a footpath along its street.”

Transport – connecting people and places, The Conservation Council, 19 Jul 2016
Canberra.bike. Data sourced from Transport – connecting people and places, The Conservation Council, 19 Jul 2016.

The Conservation Council

The Conservation Council has developed election policies in the lead-up to the 15 October 2016 ACT Legislative Assembly election in order to set out some environmental issues for the candidates to consider as they campaign and set out their own policies. Here is our policy: Transport – connecting people and places.

Transport – connecting people and places, The Conservation Council, 19 Jul 2016

Transport – connecting people and places

“We need a have an integrated transport policy. Canberra residents should have the option to live without a car, connected to employment, services and activities including journeys to local shops, schools and services. It’s time for an integrated transport plan that uses all modes to provide Canberra with environmentally sustainable, socially equitable transport to support a healthy community. The plan must have specific, measurable targets for all forms of travel that deliver a city where living without a car is a viable, attractive option for most residents.

Active travel should be a key part of the Integrated Transport Plan. There should be a place-making approach with the planning hierarchy of walking first, cycling second, public transport third and driving private vehicles last throughout the ACT, in particular within five kilometres of town and group centres.[i]

Transport – connecting people and places, The Conservation Council, 19 Jul 2016

[i] ACT Government, Statement of Planning Intent, 2015, 6.

Active transport needs to integrate with public transport; for example, all buses and rail have capacity to carry bicycles in ways that do not deter other passenger. Transport systems need to be accessible to people with disability as well as older people and parents who have children in prams. Transport needs to address diverse communities.

Cycling and walking infrastructure should be safe, attractive, quick, convenient and maintained to the same standard as roads and should offer a choice of facility appropriate to the needs and abilities of different riders.”

Transport – connecting people and places, The Conservation Council, 19 Jul 2016

Develop Integrated Transport Plan where living without a car is a viable option

A new Integrated Transport Plan: based on key objectives from other core Government policy areas such as health, social inclusion and equity. Transport planning should aim to provide adequate weekday and weekend travel without the need to own a car.

Governance: Transport Canberra to employ policy and implementation staff with real world expertise in similar transport change processes where significant modal shift was achieved. …”

Transport – connecting people and places, The Conservation Council, 19 Jul 2016

“Achieve mode shift targets

Active transport targets: 60% of Canberrans walking, riding or using public transport to travel to work by 2030, walking 10%, cycling 30%, public transport 20%.

Measure non-work travel: establish a mechanism to regularly measure non-work travel.”

Transport – connecting people and places, The Conservation Council, 19 Jul 2016

Active transport for a healthy community and a healthy city

Walking: All people (almost) walk and all journeys have a component of walking

Identify and resource priority walking infrastructure, projects and policies. Footpaths need to serve diverse community needs including people with disability as well as older people and parents who have children in prams.

Cycling for commuting, recreation, sport and travel

Identify and resource priority cycling infrastructure, cost-effective projects and policies: next generation trunk cycle ways having complete separation from vehicles and pedestrians in arterial road corridors with grade-separated crossings of high-speed arterials. Develop local routes for people to cycle to local schools, shops, services and friends

Transport – connecting people and places, The Conservation Council, 19 Jul 2016

2016 ACT Election

The last election is easily forgotten. How much of that pledged at the last election has been achieved? The Conservation Council’s analysis of the major party transport policies from 13 October 2016 reminds us of what was on the table.

Election transport policies from the incumbents, The Conservation Council, ACT election 13 Oct 2016.

“Labor is good on transport with support for light rail and additional buses but seems caught up in trying to match the Liberals in road duplications. Labor has also had the transport portfolio for most of the last fifteen years and has not developed policies to achieve ‘mode shift’ away from cars to public transport, cycling, walking and car share.”

Election transport policies from the incumbents, The Conservation Council, ACT election 13 Oct 2016.

Canberra.bike says: the mode share has not changed significantly in fifteen years but there is also a lack of measurement to detect small changes.

“Light rail has been successful in lifting the profile of transport, even public transport, in the 2016 ACT election campaign. In terms of the Conservation Council’s policies light rail gets a tick because it can assist the development of a more compact city, and it is another step to reduce the expansion of the city. Labor and the Greens in supporting light rail are adding another element to help bring about a transport system that delivers a shift from car dependency. “

Election transport policies from the incumbents, The Conservation Council, ACT election 13 Oct 2016.

Canberra.bike’s opinion: light rail has progressed and is successful.

“Labor has fewer headings on transport but has multi-page plans underneath. Labor’s transport plans include almost as many road duplications (four) and they will increase maintenance (resurfacing). Labor also promises eighty additional buses and includes 100 additional drivers. … Labor has committed to work on the next stage of the light rail network to Woden. “

Election transport policies from the incumbents, The Conservation Council, ACT election 13 Oct 2016.

Canberra.bike says: Labor still likes road duplications.

“The Greens have a comprehensive set of transport plans and look at a range of modes including walking and cycling ($60million allocated), public transport and private vehicles. … The Greens have submitted many of their plans for election costings and they did it early enough they have even obtained a response on their commitment to spend $130million on clean green buses. “

Election transport policies from the incumbents, The Conservation Council, ACT election 13 Oct 2016.

Canberra.bike says: the 2020 Parliamentary Agreement Status Report released today quotes only $30 million and not the $60 million promised in 2016. Further, there is no discussion of election costings from ACT Greens Transport Spokesperson, Emma Davidson., for the current ACT Greens Cycling Revolution.

From the Greens election pamphlet from 2016 (see attached):

“The Greens will invest $60 million to:
» Implement new best practice infrastructure (such as separated cycling facilities);
» Improve walking and cycling connections to key local destinations such as schools, shops and community facilities; and
» Repair of damaged footpaths and shared paths.

The rollout of new infrastructure will be guided by a strategic active travel network plan and will particularly focus on connecting people to their local centres, schools and community facilities.”

Creating an active Canberra and putting people first, ACT Greens, ACT Election 2016.

2020 ACT Election priorities

ACT Election Priorities 2020, The Conservation Council: the election policies in the lead-up to the 2020 ACT Election are on the website “ACT Election 2020 – Our Environment, Our Future“. They are less detailed than last time but follow the same line. Here is the cycling component. 

“Canberrans traverse the city daily for social, recreational, household and employment activities. Transport emissions contribute 60% to the ACT’s direct greenhouse emissions, primarily through the use of petrol and diesel vehicles. Our transport choices have a significant impact on our environment, the liveability of our city, and our productivity, health and wellbeing. We need to build a strong public transport network and enable active transport as a viable and attractive option for commuters, reduce emissions from use of cars, and transition to an electrified transport system, which can run on 100% renewable energy.”

Sustainable transport, ACT Election Priorities 2020, The Conservation Council

04. Fund a network of separated cycleways across the city via an expanded annual capital works budget for new active travel infrastructure of at least $30m by 2022.

05. Fund an increase in the recurring annual maintenance budget for active travel infrastructure from $5m to at least $12m by 2023, with an additional $14m over 4 years to address the maintenance backlog.

06. Extend funding for the Slower Streets program that implements design changes in consultation with local residents that calm suburban streets.

07. Invest at least $4m per year towards community engagement programs that support and incentivise people to make sustainable transport choices.

08. Offer incentives to purchase electric bikes.

Sustainable transport, ACT Election Priorities 2020, The Conservation Council

2020 ACT Election scorecard

The Conservation Council ACT Region also publishes a scorecard for the 2020 ACT Election. Their scorecard has a much broader agenda than that of Pedal Power ACT but also includes active travel.

The Conservation Council scorecard awards each party up to three stars (points) for 15 criteria. For the “sustainable transport” category, there are three criteria:

  1. network of separated city cycleways
  2. integrated, electrified and reliable light rail and bus
  3. incentives for electric cars and bikes

The Pedal Power ACT scorecard is much more nuanced for cycling than that produced by the Conservation Council.

The visual snapshot of the Conservation Council scorecard can be found here, but for “sustainable transport” section is shown below.

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Special ACT 2020 Election Edition, The Conservation Council ACT Region, email, 8th October 2020

The email from the Conservation Council announcing the scorecard had the following to say about cycling.

“Parties also raced to commit to improvements to Canberra’s cycleways, including off-road paths for cycling commuters to encourage Canberrans to engage in active travel. The Canberra Liberals confirmed a $500,000 feasibility study for their planned 100 km of off-road paths, the ACT Greens have committed to seven cycling corridors and a significant investment boost of $80m into active travel infrastructure, and ACT Labor has committed $15m towards active travel infrastructure with $3.7m in maintenance for paths. While the scale of commitments differs, there is clearly a shared vision for our urban forest and for investing in safe active travel around our city. On other issues, there has been a less consistent focus, and significant differences between what the parties are offering.”

Special ACT 2020 Election Edition, The Conservation Council ACT Region, email, 8th October 2020

Tallying up the starts for each major party puts the ACT Greens ahead with 40 out of 45 stars (89%), ACT Labor follows up with 26 stars (58%), and finally Canberra Liberals with 9 stars (20%). The Conservation Council is of the opinion the Canberra Liberals stack up poorly on their environmental credentials. The ACT Greens is the clear favourite.

ACT Conservation Council 2020 ACT Election scorecard. Graphic prepared by canberra.bike.

More information about the Conservation Council scorecard can be found here.

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