The light rail saga in Ottawa continues with the realization that monies spent on a politcally prestigious subway tunnel comes from extending the transit line to servcie transit customers.
Zweisystem is in complete agreement with the following and I have posed about Ottawa’s LRT escapades earlier.
Ottawa transit authorities had need not look any further than Vancouver, where TransLink hat the behest of the City of Vancouver and the former provincial premier (a former Vancouver mayor) forced a light-metro subway for the RAV/Canada Line. As the costs for the politically prestigious subway climbed, the scale of the project was reduced to a point where Vancouver is the only city in the world that has a $2.5 billion truncated subway designed to have less capacity than if a $1.5 billion cheaper and much longer LRT line were to have been built instead!
This foolhardy notion that subways somehow are better at attracting new customers to transit than a surface system is a hangover from the 1950’s transit bumf that is taught in Canadian and American universities.
Ottawa taxpayers will learn soon enough a subway’s ability to gobble up precious taxpayer’s dollars earmarked for public transit!
Nix the tunnel! (There, I’ve said it)
By Ken Gray, Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa’s new rail plan is too long, too short and ineffective.
It’s too long because the project has taken far too much time to build. Calgary’s C-Train started operation in 1981, almost 30 years ago, on the surface and through downtown. And many critics say the C-Train is the most successful light-rail system in North America. By the time the light rail-tunnel project is completed, Ottawa will have light rail almost four decades after Calgary. Anybody want to bet it will be a half-century?
Yet the line is too short because it just does not travel far enough. It stretches from Tunney’s Pasture to Blair Road. Know anyone who is travelling from Tunney’s Pasture to Blair Road? Anyone? Just one.
I don’t have any scientific evidence but I bet most of the commuters coming by Transitway to the huge federal employment complex at Tunney’s are coming from the west, rendering the light-rail line useless.
I could be wrong, but years of taking the Transitway to the Citizen’s downtown bureau led me to believe that. The standing-room only bus at morning rush hour became much easier to ride once it passed Tunney’s.
Because of the new plan’s short nature, Tunney’s and Blair will be enormous transfer points from buses to trains. That adds a transfer to everyone’s trip downtown … unless OC Transpo continues to run buses along the Albert and Slater corridor. That causes one of two problems. If buses run down Slater and Albert, will the rails be without riders? And if buses don’t run downtown, imagine the transfer delays and mess at Tunney’s and Blair stations. They weren’t built to handle that kind of traffic.
So there you have it. The new rail plan is too long, too short and a hindrance to fast travel. Other than that, it’s fine. All this for $2.1 billion (or $2.6 billion giving the city’s public servants the wiggle room they said they needed) while the north-southwest route cancelled wrongly by council stretched from Barrhaven to the University of Ottawa was a bargain $884 million with a fixed top-end cost guaranteed by the Siemens consortium. Now that was a real transit line. Anyone want to put money down on a possible overrun on the rail-tunnel project for which the city is on the hook?
The really smart move would be to can the tunnel because it takes too long to build, and convince Siemens to construct the original project. The original plan would be running now if council had not been so shortsighted and killed it. My guess is that building the north-south route is politically unpalatable but would be faster than constructing the current plan. North-south is right transit-wise, but wrong politically. Politics will win.
Because the new project is too long, too short and ineffective, we need real transit in this city — certainly before the end of this decade. And that’s because of intensification. The municipality has built an urban boundary beyond which development cannot cross. Accordingly, downtown areas are filling up with condos and cars. Highways 417 and 174 are parking lots at rush hour, while regular intersections are failing. Buses aren’t the answer because they are trapped in the same traffic jams as cars.
So what to do? Our auto traffic is increasingly unmanageable with no relief in sight. The current rail plan has lines to Orleans and Barrhaven in 2031. Will much of the boomer generation be alive then? Certainly almost all of them won’t be commuting.
I’d recommend what I’d call the Scramble System because we need to scramble to serve current transit needs. Until Ottawans can construct a great light-rail system, we need to take advantage of the infrastructure already in place. It’s an adaptation of the plan Alex Munter offered in the 2006 campaign. Temporarily use rail lines in place now for transit until the municipality can build a real light-rail system. Take advantage of wide streets where demand might exist for bus-only lanes. We’ve already begun a Scramble System with the “demonstration project” O Train that looks increasingly permanent. There is a huge opportunity with the old Prince of Wales Bridge at Bayview for cross-river transit. Might some of our old rail lines be converted to commuter rail? Should shuttle buses be instituted between the Transitway and major work nodes?
None of this is perfect. A uniform light-rail system should still be the ultimate goal (it reduces maintenance costs because there’s one set of very durable rail cars) but the Scramble System might help us move in the short term in our newly intensified city.
But this is what happens when your major transit project is too short, too long and ineffective.