The new Ottawa LRT Will save $100 Million in Operating Costs Over 30 Years!


As with all projects in Canada’s Capital,  the New LRT line is heavily gold-plated, including a nearly billion dollar, 3.2 km. tunnel under the city. Just a few years ago, Ottawa’s city fathers canceled a 29.7 km., $780 million light rail line contract with Siemens (which cost the city $36.7 million), to build light rail and instead went with a truncated 12.5 km., $2.1 billion subway/Bombardier line. What is interesting though, the new LRT line will save over $100 million in operating costs bus substituting bus services by rail.

With the Broadway transit debate now in full fury, TransLink has yet to offer any real figures for the operating costs of bus; light rail; or metro/subway. Initial figures from Ottawa has shown that LRT can be built quite cheaply, but the quaint Canadian penchant for drastically increasing costs for urban ‘rail’ transit, drives up costs to suit the needs of politicians and bureaucrats.

We know that modern light rail is reasonably inexpensive to build and operate, yet the powers that be still gold-plate transit projects, which doesn’t benefit anyone except suppliers, Engineers, Architects and Union workers, leaving the poor Canadian the taxpayer holding the bag.

LRT to cost $32.7M to operate annually

Published on May 14th, 2010

Peter Kovessy

Ottawa Business Journal

With critics still questioning the affordability of constructing Ottawa’s $2.1-billion light-rail line, a new report says the rapid transit network will cost $981 million to operate over its first three decades.

By 2031, the 12.5-kilometre rail line is estimated to save the city $100 million in operating costs annually as buses are substituted with high-capacity trains that require lower fuel and labour costs, according to a business plan prepared by a consultant for the city.

While the report included the estimated total operating costs added up over 30 years, it did not include any figures for projected revenue, except to say that a detailed operating plan would be drafted at a later date.

However, a city spokesperson noted council has directed that 50 per cent of the LRT’s operating costs be covered by farebox revenues.

The new Tunney’s Pasture-to-Blair Station rail line, including a 3.2-kilometre downtown tunnel, is projected to cost $2.1 billion to construct. Municipal officials had hoped the cost would be split evenly by the three levels of government, but Queen’s Park has only committed $600 million.

Transit committee chairperson Alex Cullen, who is running for mayor is this fall’s municipal election, says the city can pay for the plan even if the federal government only matches the provincial contribution.

“We can well afford to do that,” he said in an interview Friday.

The business plan says that if funding is secured “expeditiously,” preliminary design work would commence this year with construction beginning in 2013, starting with the tunnel and underground stations, and continuing for six years.

The construction project is projected to generate $3.2 billion in economic benefits and create 20,000 person-years of employment.

The 98-page business plan was prepared by Toronto-based Metropolitan Knowledge International in collaboration with Delcan Corp.$32.7M-to-operate-annually/1


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5 Responses to “The new Ottawa LRT Will save $100 Million in Operating Costs Over 30 Years!”

  1. David Says:

    I don’t know much about the Ottawa projects, but to cancel a project costing only $26M/km in favour of a much shorter line costing $168/km does look like a rather poor decision.

    The key point, as zweisystem pointed out, is that operating the new light rail line will cost less than providing service on the same route using buses.

    Lower operating costs should make it a no-brainer for TransLink to choose LRT for Broadway.

    Sadly, even if TransLink does choose LRT and back it up with solid figures, it’ll only happen if the Province is willing to fund LRT. History suggests we not hold our breath waiting for someone in Victoria to make an intelligent decision on transit.

  2. TrainGuy Says:

    Sorry – can’t give my info as I work in the rail industry and am not allowed to comment on items but I don’t understand – why do you call the Ottawa project a ‘Bombardier’ line? What does this revised (and expensive!) alignment have to do with a supplier? From what I understood, they haven’t even gone for a new tender/bid for Ottawa yet! Or did you hear something about that company (that I would be very interest to know) that I haven’t?

    Zweisystem replies: Siemens was dumped in favour of Bombardier and Ottawa had to cough up $36.7 million in damages. Don’t know what you do, but the information had been in the media for a while. I hope Ottawa’s taxpayers like their billion dollar subway.

  3. TrainGuy Says:

    Sorry – but I searched high and low for proof of such a thing, and as I said before – the new LRT plan hasn’t even gone for commercial tender. How can you make such a claim?! My company and many of our competitors would be very interested/concerned if there was some osrt of deal already in place before a tender even happened. Are you mixing up the Bombardier O-Train DMU demo line with the actual LRT plan by any chance?

    I thought this was more about local Ottawa politics (enough to make anyone dizzy) and the belief that they needed to go with a tunnel to offset capacity issues w/surface LRT in the downtown core as they’re already hitting the limits with their high-peak bus demand?


    Zweisystem replies: Capacity of a surface LRT/tram would be 20,000 pphpd and somehow I don’t see Ottawa attracting that kind of ridership.

    The question is posed: “Why did Siemens get the chop?” The answer could be found in the Bombardier/SNC Lavalin axis, by building a needless subway to give the ‘local’ boys and girls jobs. There was absolute no need to tunnel. Who is going to bid on this project? I don’t think Siemens will touch it with a 10 foot pole and the Canada Line gave Alstom the shivers. It is a Bombardier job all around.

  4. Richard Says:

    Might want to change the headline. The article says $100 million is the savings PER year by 2031, not the total savings over a 30 year period as implied in the headline. The savings over a 30 year period would be much higher than $100 million.

    “By 2031, the 12.5-kilometre rail line is estimated to save the city $100 million in operating costs ANNUALLY as buses are substituted with high-capacity trains that require lower fuel and labour costs, according to a business plan prepared by a consultant for the city.”

  5. Justin Bernard Says:

    I love this blog, and I respect Zwei for echoing my belief in the potential of surface LRT, and Tram-trains, but the situation in Ottawa was pure politics. This article should shed a little light on the matter:

    Zweisystem replies: Exactly! There was no technical merit in spending almost three times as much for building a much shorter line and including a 3+ km. subway tunnel, it was pure politics. This is exactly the same with Vancouver’s SkyTrain, there was no technical merit in building with the light-metro as politicians forced a much shorter and more expensive metro line on the region. Instead what was best for both regions, the taxpayer has been lumbered with a huge expenses that diminishes any enthusiasm for expansion.

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