Monday, February 20, 2017

Common sense prevails as LRT moves forward

It's always a good news/bad news situation when it comes to Ottawa's light rail plans. The city recently unveiled its latest update for the second phase of its light rail expansion. The bad news is the $3-billion price tag for the second phase now stands at $3.6 billion dollars, thanks to previously undisclosed infrastructure projects that will be part of the second phase.

Here's the best news, in my opinion. The first project to be complete under Phase II will be the southern extension of the Ellwood Sub (known publicly as the Trillium Line) to Bowesville Road in the city's south end. This means the communities of Riverside South, Findlay Creek and Leitrim will have a much faster route to downtown Ottawa when this phase is done in 2021. Remember that there is an existing right-of-way (the old CP Prescott Sub) in place. Included in this project will be a spur line to the Ottawa International Airport and a 3,500 spot park and ride at Bowesville where people can park and hop on the train. All in all, this is good news for the growing south end and great news for those frustrated with the congested Airport Parkway. This should have been a priority long ago, but better late than never.

Diesel O-Train C4 at Bayview Station earlier this month

So, the bad news? The Trillium Line will be shut down for a year and a half as the extension of this line is underway. Considering the city didn't seem at all interested in this common sense project until recently, I would gladly sacrifice this line for a year if it meant that it was extended to where it should be by 2021.

O-Train heads south near Young Street on Feb. 20

The next part of the second phase to be completed will be an extension of the eastern half of the Confederation Line from Blair Station to Trim Road, instead of Place d'Orleans. I'm glad that the city is moving quickly to further extend the train to Trim, since this is where it needs to be in the east end, and as soon as possible. This project will be finished in 2022 and will include a widening of the city's Highway 174 to accommodate light rail through the centre median. This will be a painful process for east end commuters, but having railways running in the centre median is smart and saves money, as there will be no costly land expropriations, neighbourhood fights and other hassles that go along with building rail lines through urban communities.

Two O-Trains meet near Somerset Street on Feb. 20

The good news for the western Confederation Line extension is that the western leg of the line will be extended from Tunney's Pasture to Moodie Drive by 2023, which will bring the train closer to Kanata much earlier than previously planned. The original plan was to have trains in Kanata by 2031. The extension to Moodie Drive is good news for Bells Corners and to Department of National Defence workers, who are in the process of moving into the old Nortel Networks Campus on Moodie. The original second phase plans called for the end of the line to be at the Bayshore Shopping Centre.
Still, I'm sure a few west end residents are wondering why they are the last ones to get light rail extended to their neighbourhoods as part of this plan.
I'm also still curious, given the city's change of heart on the southern extension and its plans to extend light rail over the Prince of Wales Bridge eventually, why nothing has been done to investigate light rail over the existing Beachburg Sub/Renfrew Spur in the west end. These lines are lightly used, to say the very least, and seem to be ripe for further use. And they just happen to cut through Kanata, which desperately needs better transit options.

Construction is proceeding at Bayview Station as O-Train C4 pulls into the station on Feb. 20

In total, 36 kilometres and 22 stations will be added, including the recently announced Moodie station.

In a related commuter transit vein, the city is now putting its old Bombardier Talent trainsets up for sale. At one point, the city was considering using them in some fashion, but those plans were never seriously considered. The Talent trainsets were the original train consists used for light rail in Ottawa until they were replaced by Alstom Coradia LINT units. I'll miss the old O-Trains. Happy Trails!

I won't get into the details of why the expanded service on the Trillium Line has not reached the frequency of a train every eight minutes at every station, as was promised. Ottawa's Mayor Jim Watson did mention this week that he was disappointed that the newly expanded service as not delivered as promised.


Steve Boyko said...

Good news, mostly!

(by the way, part of your text is in black. on the dark background it is very hard to read)

AJ said...

Good post. Good news for sure. I will say that the $3.6 billion isn't a surprise. Everyone knew they wouldn't come in under budget. Frankly if anything, I am surprised it was only $0.6 billion over and not more.

Happy to hear that a spur will lead to the airport. Why this wasn't done years ago when the original line went in was beyond me. I guess we can finally be on level with most major NA cities as of 1995 when that gets through.

"Still, I'm sure a few west end residents are wondering why they are the last ones to get light rail extended to their neighbourhoods as part of this plan." That's a Texas sized 10-4.

The lack of use of the Beachburg bothers me too. I would have loved to see that as an option similar to the GO in Toronto. We all know the bedroom communities in the valley want it too. A spur to the CTC would have been nice. I guess that won't matter now since moving downtown will solve Melnyks attendance problems....

DaveM said...

Hello Michael,

The part of the announcement which confused me was that I've read somewhere that the trains which run to the airport will terminate at South Keys or Greenboro. This will mean that it will take at least two transfers (Airport - Greenboro, Greenboro to Bayview, Bayview to Rideau) to get from the airport to the downtown core. This leads me to wonder what the expected commute time of the train would be compared to the existing bus routing.

Any readers out there have any ideas on why having this configuration was cheaper rather than running through trains to Bayview?


Michael said...

Sorry about the formatting issues, everyone. I managed to fix it after a fair bit of improvisation.

I'm not sure what to say about the whole airport spur line issues. I never understood why this was not a priority until a few months ago. And I'm not sure how to fix the issue with transfers. It seems like an imperfect solution at best.

AJ- Should we start ranting about using the old CP Carleton Place Sub for light rail into Stittsville again?

AJ said...

I was in a grumpier mood the other day Michael which might explain the harsher, dry tone to my comment. Today not so much, but I am always up for a good rant on heavy rail in the city!!!! I am appreciative of things slowly changing for the better, but when an idea makes so much sense and is in full sight of everyone who can do it, it is too hard to not want to revisit it.

Ian said...

Preston Street will be a living nightmare with the shear number of 107's to replace the O-train. Are they going to double track the whole Trilium line when they do this expatiation and what does that mean for the bridge over the Rideau river?