Cameron Gordon

Document Type

Conference Paper

Publication Date


Subject Area

mode - bus rapid transit, mode - tram/light rail, place - australasia, place - low density, economics - appraisal/evaluation, policy - sustainable, ridership - demand


Urban transport, urban mass transit, LRT, BRT, latent transport demand


Canberra, the capital of Australia, is a city with two modes of mechanised passenger travel: traditional bus and automobile. While Canberra is the capital of the country, it is a relatively small city, with a current population of approximately 340,000 which is relatively spread out with a low overall average population density. Recently the local government (the government of the Australian Capital Territory) submitted a bid to the Australian federal government to fund a light rail system for the city.
This paper examines the issues surrounding serving low and medium density communities with structural transit alternatives such as light rail (LRT) and bus rapid transit (BRT), using Canberra as a case study. The study sets the scene by qualitatively and quantitatively characterising the socioeconomic and demographic profile of Canberra, focusing on centres of population and economic density; reviews the literature on LRT for low-to-medium density areas; examines the extent of „latent demand‟ for transit in what is currently an auto-dominated travel environment; and concludes by analysing whether such latent demand justifies structural transit in Canberra and what such transit would look like if it is to be financially, operationally and environmentally sustainable.