3 Months On: My Light Rail Experience

Canberra's Light Rail

Almost 3 years after it was first announced, Canberrans took their first ride on the highly anticipated and controversial light rail.

Living in Canberra’s northern suburb of Harrison and working here at HorizonOne’s Braddon office, I watched the process unfold on my doorstep. There is literally a light rail station just 2 minutes’ walk from my house and another 5 minutes from my work.

And while I’ve only chosen to take it a few times, I have to say the experience so far has been generally good.

Here are a few takeaways from my handful of rides, and what I liked and didn’t like about being a tram goer…

1. It runs on time and often

When you plan your day around public transport, it’s nice when it shows up on time.

So far the light rail hasn’t disappointed, with trams arriving on time every 6 minutes during peak hours – making it a pretty dependable way to get to work and back.

2. It’ll never miss your stop

Unlike flagging down a bus and hoping they see you and stop, the light rail pauses at every single station along the way.

For those who take the tram from start to finish, this kind of stop-start journey could get a little annoying after a while. But for me, there’s something comforting about knowing you don’t have to cross your fingers hoping they don’t miss your stop!

3. I felt like a sardine

For all the anticipation, the light rail is certainly popular right now. In fact, it’s so popular I can only remember 1 time that I managed to get a seat.

With each stop you find yourself getting pushed further and further to the back until you have to suck in tight and squish through the crowds when you want to get off at your stop.

Weekends are no exception either. I thought it would let up a bit when the free rides stopped, but so far it’s been a little too busy for my liking almost every time!

4. Taking my car is actually cheaper

Because I get free parking here at HorizonOne, it’s actually cheaper for me to pay petrol and drive to work and back than pay more than $6 return to take the light rail.

This is why, despite being an ideal candidate for daily tram travel, I usually opt to drive myself.

If I was paying for parking every day though, I can see why it would probably be a better option.

5. It hasn’t affected my driving experience

Melbourne’s traffic and tram system can be quite confusing, so I was a little worried when the tram was proposed for Canberra.

However, because we don’t actually share the road with the trams and they have their own lane, you only need to cross paths with them a few times along Northbourne. I’ve heard there’s been a few incidents though, so it may take a little longer as we all get used to it.

6. I don’t agree with the bus route cancellations

When I heard that a bunch of buses were cancelled in favour of the light rail and school students were stranded, I thought this amounted to pretty poor planning.

Ideally, bus routes in peak hours should have been retained – allowing people the option to take the bus or tram depending on what’s easiest for them.

So what’s next?

With stage 1 complete, we all get to wait and watch as talks surrounding stage 2 develop across the next (hopefully not!) 3 years.

From the city to Commonwealth Park and possibly even Woden, there’s a good chance light rail will be a way of life for future Canberrans.

Have you taken the light rail yet? What was your experience?