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, and relatively spread out with a low overall average population density. The City has grown rapidly over the past 40 years (its 1960 population was approximately 40,000). There are increasing pockets of traffic congestion as a result, and projected slow but steady growth in coming years will make these pockets worse. The city is a completely planned entity and the original designer, Walter Burley Griffin, incorporated two elements into his urban plan: a series of ‘shops’ to serve each community, allowing for walkability to basic services; and a tram system to link communities. The shops element of the original plan has largely been followed and is roughly incorporated into current development plans which densify the urban core and lay out increased economic and population density in existing communities. However the light rail element was never implemented. 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 of serving low and medium density communities with light rail, using Canberra as a case study. The study sets the scene by qualitatively and quantitatively characterising the socioeconomic and demographic profile of Canberra, with a focus on centres of population and economic density; reviews the literature on LRT for low-to-medium density areas, focussing on Australia; and analyses what an LRT in Canberra


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