Australian Capital Territory

Report shows light rail successful in low-density cities: ACT Government

LIGHT rail increases public transport patronage, delivers benefits to landowners and creates flow-on effects in diversifying the economy, improving liveability and increasing sustainability in cities of similar size and density to Canberra according to a newly released paper from the University of Canberra.

In a statement last week, ACT Minister for Capital Metro Simon Corbell welcomed the release of the Canberra Urban Regional Futures paper, 'Light rail transit and residential density in mid-size cities', which he said shows links between light rail, urban transformation and revitalisation of urban corridors.

Artist's impression of light rail on Northbourne Avenue, Canberra
Above: Artist's impression of light rail on Northbourne Avenue, Canberra / Capital Metro.

"Findings in the CURF paper show that the introduction of light rail leads to the successful growth of a city when combined with an integrated approach to land use planning as part of a holistic urban planning and urban transformation process," Mr Corbell said.

"The report shows that light rail, when combined with long-term strategic urban planning, delivers 'considerable financial, social and environmental benefits' to its host city.

"This includes a flow-on effect to diversifying the economy, improving liveability for the community and sustaining the environment."

According to the Minister, cities chosen for analysis in the study were:

  • Freiberg in Germany – an international exemplar of how transport and urban planning can successfully work together;
  • Bergen in Norway – similar to Canberra in terms of its size and dispersed physical form;
  • Edmonton in Canada - similar population size to Canberra at the time of launching its first light rail line; and
  • Adelaide in South Australia – an Australian city whose light rail corridor between Glenelg and the city is comparable.

"Analysis of the four cities has provided a number of key research findings for Canberra as we embark on delivering the first stage of a city-wide light rail network. The paper concludes that each of the case study cities has grown following the introduction of light rail, particularly in the walkable corridors alongside the transport system," Mr Corbell.

"The case studies have provided evidence that light rail systems spark a change in land use activity over time including more dense residential developments and development of mixed use sites.

"Residential and commercial property values increase around light rail stop due to the willingness of people to pay for better transit access. Experience in these case-study cities shows that developers are aware of the investment opportunities associated with light rail and the economic and social benefits that it enables."

The CURF paper also confirmed that following the implementation of light rail in Freiberg and Bergen, community attitudes to the urban challenge of car-dependence changed.

"This finding is particularly important for our city as we have the highest car dependency in Australia leading to increasing traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions, reduced air quality and noise pollution," Mr Corbell said.

"There has historically been a perception that Canberra is a 'car-city' and some people think that we can only ever be a 'car-city'. What this report shows, and this is mirrored in many other cities around the world, is that 'car-cities' can switch to more active-transport oriented cities and light rail is effective in helping making that change."

Experiences from light rail in the four cities demonstrate the importance of aligning transport and land use planning to ensure the successful growth of a city.

"Light rail is a proven city-shaping tool. Density and distribution of a population along the light rail corridor is critical to enable a cleaner environment and more efficient use of services and resources; and to create a more enjoyable and convenient lifestyle for our community," Mr Corbell said

"Light rail will result in further increases in population and dwelling densities along the corridor, particularly in areas where there is already an urban centre such as Dickson and at light rail stops.

"Well-planned transit-oriented developments can help transform the urban form, providing opportunities for high density mixed use development that supports accessibility and active public transport and ultimately improving liveability.

"The ACT Government is committed to developing Canberra in a smart and sustainable way and stage one of a city-wide light rail network will help support this transition."

The CURF paper - Light rail transit and residential density in mid-size cities – is available from the ACT Government's Capital Metro website at <>.

More information about Canberra Urban Regional Futures is available from <>.

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