Committee approves Ottawa light rail transitai??i??s $3-billion second phase design

I think $3 billion is a tad too expensive, but I am sure Mr. Haveacow will explain the reasons why.

I still maintain that we must plan and build LRT much cheaper than we are currently doing.

On another issue, the claim that: ” noise and vibrations ai??i?? both from the construction and trains themselves ai??i?? will disturb the seniors home and childcare centre”, is unfounded and some people seem to complain for the sake of complaining.

I think transit officials have better thing to do than to deal with trivial complaints, of the “trains will spoil the milk” variety.

City of Ottawa A design of Ottawa’s light rail transit (LRT) project.

The second stretch of Ottawaai??i??s light rail transit project is one step closer to becoming a reality for transit riders.

The cityai??i??s finance and economic development committee approved the $3-billion design on Tuesday. If council gives phase two the final approval, then city staff will get the go-ahead to invest a further $7 million in this next step.

The meeting lasted the length of an average workday. A whopping 25 people addressed the committee on light rail (LRT), with most being from the First Unitarian Congregation of Ottawa, who were concerned because the planned route will pass by their campus.

Mayor Jim Watson said the LRT will ultimately benefit those residents.

ai???I think the folks at Unitarian have a great opportunity to have one of the best stations within a walking distance for both the parishioners, as well as both the residents and visitors,ai??? he said.

The second phase of the LRT still needs confirmed funding from the provincial and federal governments before shovels can hit the ground in 2018 (after the projectai??i??s first phase is on track).

The plan is to have the LRTai??i??s 19 new stations and 30 kilometres of rail running by 2023.

And perhaps there will be an LRT phase three. Kanata South Coun. Allan Hubley tabled a motion asking city staff to look at extending the railway to Kanata ai???at the earliest


11 Responses to “Committee approves Ottawa light rail transitai??i??s $3-billion second phase design”
  1. Richard says:

    Probably because they actually include the cost of the vehicles and the yards for the vehicles to carry projected ridership, something that you typically forget to do.

    Zwei replies: Actually no Richard and again you libel me. Quick noted to engineers in the field, put the cost of LRT construction anywhere from $25 million to $50 million ALL FOUND. In the USA many jurisdictions include debt servicing with transit construction costs, giving very high numbers and if this were to be applied to the SkyTrain and Canada Lines, the cost would be in excess of $10 billion! But I digress.

  2. Rico says:

    Not as familiar with this line. Will it be a metro running LRT vehicles like the Confederation line?

  3. Haveacow says:

    Well $3 Billion does seem a bit much for 30km (19 stations) but your right there are reasons. They are allowing for about a decade of price inflation and the need to buy 31 more LRV’s (they already have the storage space). The three lines will be built all at the same time to save on construction costs and time. The plan is to have all lines built in time for 2023 or 2024. The extension to the airport is simply being planned now because there is much negotiation to do with the Airport Authority, translation, the city wants the Airport Authority to pay for the Trillium Line extension, or as much of it as possible.

    The next phase of the Confederation line is finally a go due to the fact the city had to give in to the National Capital Commission (NCC). About 3 km is going to have to be tunneled because the NCC refused to let the LRT system run along the Western Parkway at surface because it would block access to the Parkland around the Western or Sir John A MacDonald Parkway. Not to mention they didn’t want a train to interfere with all those cars and trucks that regularly use the capital’s parkway system. Do I sound bitter, no not me! However, the city simply stated that if any other right of way that was planned was used it simply be too expensive or too slow. This next phase also branches into a classic “Y”, with one branch heading along a completed transitway right of way to a now sitting empty but brand new and waiting to be used below surface station at Baseline, directly attached to Algonguin College (65,000 students). The other Branch heads to Bayshore Station and Mall. This section as a bus Transitway is only partially complete and runs for part of its journey on the Queensway (HWY. 417).

    The incomplete section is so because of the need to build 2 somewhat short tunnels. Plus the purchase and removal of about 10 homes. Hence, this was always going to be an expensive section whether it was Transitway or LRT and a time consuming section because with our laws of land expropriation, every home owner took the city for all it could and took the longest time to negotiate they were legally allowed to. It took the city 18 years for the city to get an agreement to purchase the homes. They actually haven’t purchased most of them but they do have an agreement in principle.

    The extension east to Orleans is easy to build because it would mostly be in existing transitway ROW or in the median of the eastern portion of the Queensway (City Road #174). I say its not needed yet but since I don’t get a vote, it’s getting built anyway.

    Lastly, the longest and cheapest extension is to the Trillium Line (The original O-Train Diesel LRT Line). The O-Train name is now the marketing name being used for the entire rail system. Due to a change in laws and a ruling by Transport Canada a significant part of the line that already exists as a freight rail line will have to be rebuilt and 2 bridges over 2 area roads added. Much of the reconstruction is because the line will still occasionally be used by other trains going to the National Research Council’s Rail Vehicle Wind Tunnel and Static Testing Facility. All new rail vehicle designs used in Canada are tested here including rail transit vehicles. I have pictures when they brought in a new Toronto Streetcar to be tested last year. The remaining part of this line follows the planned ROW of the failed North South LRT line and will meet a new east-west Transitway at the new Bowesville Road Station park and ride lot. A short section of this new Transitway has already been built between Barrhaven Centre Station and Riverside South Park and Ride Station.

  4. Haveacow says:

    Well this very conservative city is about to begin its annual stress release exercise tomorrow. Me, my wife and 3 kids are going downtown to party with 300,000 of our closest friends. God help us all!

    Happy Canada Day Everyone

    Love Haveacow

  5. eric chris says:

    As much as I approve of LRT in general, this line to me from a distance looks like an abomination – with stations spaced 1.6 km apart. It will never pay for itself and is a disaster, in my opinion. If it removes some diesel buses from the roads, it does have environmental and social merits; I guess.

    But $3 billion for 30 km at $100 million per km? It makes stupid s-train almost look like a bargain.

    I’m too far removed from Ottawa to know what the heck is happening there. Trams replacing the BRT in Ottawa could have done the job at less than $1 billion; I’m sure.

    Sure, the trams might not have had the same capacity. So what? Maybe Ottawa needs to appoint a cat to run transit:

    “Wearing a black cap and posing for photos with passengers, Tama is credited with boosting Wakayama Electric Railway’s revenue by 10%.

    The firm had to axe all staff at Kishi station [TransLink staff in Metro Vancouver?] in western Japan two years ago [2006].

    But Tama stuck by her post and was rewarded with promotion to station manager. The pet mascot even has her own office, a former ticket booth.

    The feline, who was born and raised at the station in the city of Kinokawa, Wakayama prefecture, is living proof of the Japanese belief that cats are good luck.

    She never complains, even though passengers touch her all over the place. She is an amazing cat. She has patience and charisma. She is the perfect station master, said Yoshiko Yamaki, a spokeswoman for the rail company.

    The nine-year-old [in 2006] – who receives cat food in lieu of a salary – won national stardom last year when the firm formally appointed her as “station master”.

    Since then passengers have been gradually returning, recently rising 10% to about 2.1 million a year.”

    Anyhow, Happy Canada Day. Tomorrow we learn whether TransLink has suckered enough people to “solve road congestion” with s-train.

  6. Haveacow says:


    Yes if they had done this 15 years ago sure the cost would be less. We are more or less stuck with the existing Transitway stations and their spacing. Yes, if we were doing it today as opposed to 35-40 years ago when the Transitway was designed, the stations would probably be closer together. The main problem in the conversion of the Transitway to LRT is that they are replacing the oldest sections of that service. For example, the “Trench” or part of the Western Transitway that runs for 4-5 km east-west between Dominion Station and Lebreton Station (Now Pimisi Station) used to be a 2 track CP rail line, which was converted in the late70’s and early 80’s into a 3 story deep trench (to hide all the noisy buses from the residents). This “Trench” has many road bridges spanning it. No fewer than 14 major and minor crossings on roads and as part of Transitway Stations themselves. They all have to be replaced or rebuilt due to age as well as large sections of the 3 story concrete retaining walls themselves. There is also an active fault line running under this section of Transitway. Yes, we get earthquakes here, not big ones, 5.0-5.5 range but we get one every year or so but they do some damage.

    In the section of Transitway running south-east out of downtown between Campus Station (Ottawa U) and Hurdman Station, the 30+ year old this section of Transitway also runs under the Queensway (HWY. 417) and Nicholas Street interchange (A short 6 lane expressway that feeds into downtown Ottawa), then rises above the parallel Mann Ave. running on a old railway right of way that runs between Nicholas Street and the University of Ottawa Campus and there new Stadium. The section of Transitway that runs near the Queensway and Nicholas interchange is in a deep trench as well and the retaining walls including all of the current Lees Station is in the process of being replaced for phase 1 of the Conederation Line because it must be or else. All of the highway bridges over this section also needs to be completely replaced because they are 40 years old and older. This is currently happening anyway because of the Queensway widening project (not part of the LRT project) but the highway project is also needed to provide 2 extra lanes to put all the buses not on the Transitway heading east out of downtown during conversion to rail. Thus the time line of the LRT project had to be stretched out and that adds cost.

    The high cost is partly also due to the reason that the Transitway was forced to be designed to main line rail tolerances of curves and slope (Not LRT tolerances) so that it could be converted to rail one day. There are sections that were just not done to standard because they were considered just temporary, and now have to be completely replaced because they became permanent. Will fix it when we convert to rail. Back in the 70’s when the Transitway was being designed there were no LRT standards so, the engineers simply used the mainline railway standards of the time. Back in 1975 when the planning started no one in North America had ever designed a major BRT system before so, Ottawa used what it had on file and created a design standard as it went along. You see no one has ever converted a BRT line to rail before even though many in North America are designed to do just that. The problem was that the system was so successful that conversion becomes increasingly difficult as more buses use the system. So with every section of Transitway that is converted to rail a parallel system of temporary bus lanes or a back up bus right of way has to be created. If the system had not been so successful conversion would be easy and much cheaper. The Transitway really does move a lot of people everyday and so the planning and design has become quite complex.

  7. eric chris says:

    @ Haveacow, thanks for the explanation. I’m a design engineer and know how the ideal design often gets replaced with the expedient design or political one. My guess is that some engineering firm or equipment (LRT) supplier is making money from taxpayers – P3 scam, possibly.

    It is too bad, but life isn’t fair and unless there are good people who want to do the right thing, the crooks win. Could Ottawa have gone with trams in mixed traffic as in Australia to cut costs? The false argument that spacing stations kilometres apart makes transit fast is a false one. There is the optimum transit spacing which ranges from 250 metres to about 600 metres to minimize the commuting time (walking and transit times).

    This whole BRT or dedicated right of ways for rail lines is fine for something such as the tramway from Chilliwack to Vancouver for daily commutes (Via Rail type transport) but not for public transit. The best public transit is conventional transit with stops close to homes – trams or trolleybuses. I won’t waiver from this based on the math.

    We’ll have to see how LRT in Ottawa shakes out in the future – will it be another money pit? Time will tell.

  8. Haveacow says:

    Oh, one other thing, the map doesn’t show it there but the large gap between stations on the extension of the Confederation Line heading east to Orleans and on the southerly extension to the Trillium Line is caused by the National Capital Green Belt. “The Green Belt” is a fallow piece of wild or undeveloped land which surrounds and separates the built up portions of the city into separate regions. The largest being the part which locals call “inside the Greenbelt” and the satellite communities of Kanata/Stittsville in the west, Barrhaven/Riverside South in the south and Orleans in the east. This is part of the NCC’s plan for the National Capital Region based on the work of E. Howard’s “Garden Cities Of Tomorrow published back in the 19th century during what was called the “City Beautiful Movement” which gave birth to many of the concepts used in modern city planning civil and transportation engineering. The concept of the large urban park were part of that movement.

  9. Haveacow says:

    Oh the Confederation LRT Line will never be a money pit here because we can’t actually grow our transit numbers until we have more capacity to move the 10500 p/h/d that go through the core during peak periods that doesn’t involve using 185-200 buses/hour. Having such a great percentage of the bus fleet caught on the Transitway System means other surface routes that are and have been desperate for a very long time for more service, simply can’t get it with the current arrangement. OC Transpo is still certain that at the minimum switching to LRT will save no less than $60 million a year on the operating budget of $435,000,000. We currently serve about 374,829 complete linked trips per day or about 528,750 boardings a day. The Transitway alone accounts for about 219,700 linked passenger trips a day.

    The real problem I hope it solves or at the least puts a big dent in is OC Transpo’s horrendous amount of non revenue bus trip km’s and the 50% fare/operational cost recovery rate. When you rely so much on buses as a rapid transit vehicle and bus Transitways in general, 2 big things happen, people get way too creative when it comes to express routes for this system at peak hours and the use of buses increase dramatically. Let me explain.

    One of the advantages of a REAL BUSWAY as opposed to a tarted up express bus with real nice bus stops, like the B-Line routes in Vancouver, being called BRT which they really aren’t. REAL BRT allows for a very creative and sophisticated operating regime for buses. In fact if you want to know if a BRT system is going to fail or not, is to monitor the language used by the transit experts running it, not the politicians trying to describe it to the public. If the people running the system (planners/engineers) continue to refer to their BRT system even after it has already been running for awhile as a form of LRT line but cheaper, run for the hills! A real BRT system is not a rail line using buses but a unique system in its own right. A true BRT system can operate buses in ways that rail just can’t do because its a rail system. I’m not saying BRT is better but properly done it is a unique type of transit system that has tricks of its own, so to speak. It doesn’t have too and shouldn’t try to emulate all types of rail operations, if you want it to succeed anyway.

    Like any transit system however, if you try too many tricks they often just add extra cost and don’t actually improve the system’s operation. In Ottawa we discovered that, the system of peak hour express buses on the Transitway that offer a single seat, no transfer journey to the core for riders who lived in the suburban communities “outside the Greenbelt” were widely inefficient and couldn’t be made more so because of the nature of the service offered. If you move a lot of people one way, into or out of the core, to and from the outer areas of greater Ottawa depending on the time of day, you generally had in most cases massive one way passenger flows. With the exception of Kanata and to a smaller extent Barrhaven-Riverside South, with their massive numbers of high tech and bio tech R & D campuses, especially in Kanata. Most of the communities “outside the greenbelt” really only provide one way transit passenger flow. Very large passenger flows in the case of Kanata and Orleans but one way in each direction depending on the time of day. This required a huge number of express buses either arriving downtown in the morning or in the burbs in the afternoon, discharging massive numbers of passengers but having no one or almost no one travelling back the other way and having to go back to the start of their routes completely empty. Again, Kanata is really the only one of these communities that has big two way passenger flow, most of that unfortunately, in the peak periods only. This led to the fact that, even though these EXPRESS ROUTES WERE WIDELY POPULAR WITH PASSENGERS LIVING OUTSIDE THE GREENBELT, most of the express routes were averaging less than 25-30% fare to operational cost recovery and that’s with the passengers paying a higher fare for the express service. This led to another issue that has become endemic in Ottawa currently over 1km in every 5 km that OC Transpo operates is in non revenue service, mainly because of the large number of express buses that people in these outer communities love, having to go back to their starting points 10-20 km away empty, during the peak periods. Between 2003 and 2008 almost half of these routes were either cancelled outright or merged with other express routes. That did reduce the total from around 30% to 20% of all the km’s traveled by OC Transpo being non revenue generated travel. This still the highest amount in Ontario. This high amount of non revenue bus km’s means that the entire system’s total fare/operational cost recovery rate is around 50%. The province has warned Ottawa this has to start increasing soon.

    The main advantage of the planned LRT system, which was only supposed to go to the inner edge of the Greenbelt and have BRT service cover the areas through and outside the Greenbelt was that, buses now only had to travel to the inner edge of the Greenbelt to major transit stops in Ottawa like Blair Station in the east and Bayshore Station in west, then have passengers transfer to waiting empty LRT consists, each one with a massive capacity. Thus, there were more than enough seats for the transferring BRT passengers and still enough seats and standing space for the remaining LRT passengers who lived inside the Greenbelt. This will massively reduce the one way empty non revenue bus km’s, which are a big draw on the total transit budget due to the fact that, the express buses will be travelling half or less than half the KM’s then they were before the LRT system opened. The big problem with BRT is that once passenger flows reach a certain level, adding another bus is just not feasible anymore for many operational and cost reasons. The transferring of BRT passengers to LRT becomes a financial and operating necessity for the entire transit system!

    Depending on how many buses are left running the shorter express routes after the LRT line opens express bus service could greatly increase and if they leave the same number of express buses in each operating area, service frequency could effectively more than double for the express bus passengers in certain areas “outside the Greenbelt” Again, that depends on how much express bus service OC Transpo decides to keep around after phase 1 and 2 of the LRT system opens.

    This is one of the reasons why, I don’t like the part of the phase 2 LRT expansion going to Orleans, outside the Greenbelt. Yes, it will provide massive capacity and free up a lot of buses during peak hours. However, Orleans has almost no high density development of any kind and passenger levels on average outside of the peak hours barely 1/3 fill the route 95 Transitway bus. This is a Transitway service that offers a single articulated bus every 15 minutes in both directions all day and throughout most of the evening. It will be a considerable time before the population density of Orleans drives up passenger demand to the point that, it will be enough to warrant financially stable off peak hour LRT service to places like Orleans, in my professional opinion. But the residents of Orleans have very loud and influential councilors who forced the issue about LRT service, just way too early.

    Zwei replies: The Orleans Line sounds like Surrey’s planned LRT!, Fairly low ridership with about a 10 to 15 minute bus service.

  10. eric chris says:

    @Haveacow, thanks for well thought out comment; I think so, too; the 99 B-Line is a sham BRT route to create “pass-ups” (three minutes to not make anyone too upset) so that TransLink can lament hysterically in the media about the three minute delays to propose the solution: the $5 billion (or maybe more) 12 km subway to UBC! That way concrete sales will go up and profits soar for ABC Concrete Company having shady ties to TransLink. Brilliant. Who said that TransLink is run by mafia?

    Meanwhile, clueless individuals keep trying to convince us to go along with this scam. What’s the cure for them, a lobotomy?

    If the three minute delays on the 99 B-Line are so bad, what are the 60 minute delays on routes outside Vancouver (such as in Delta with hardly any transit service)? While the 99 B-Line operates every three minutes to UBC, all the other routes (with barely any riders 80% of the time) to UBC operate every 10 minutes to 20 minutes. It’s a miracle that the 99 B-Line gets so many riders, isn’t it? Geez, I wonder whether crowding on the 99 B-Line might drop if we had three minute service on the other bus routes to UBC?

    Anyhow, getting back to LRT: LRT costs have to come down dramatically to something reasonable for public transit to expand and become more popular. Future wireless electric LRT with better batteries is promising. This will bring transit costs down greatly. Current costs of LRT are mainly associated with the overhead wires.

    From an engineering frame of reference, LRT with vehicles running on rails is two to three times more energy efficient than BRT with buses running on rubber. On the downside, LRT does not have the flexibility of BRT and the rails just can’t be torn up if the ridership falls. I much prefer LRT over BRT, in any case.

    What I’m saying is that if you can’t make the jump to LRT, stick with regular transit until you can, and skip BRT. In Vancouver, the bastardized BRT (99 B-Line) has worsened transit – but most people are too clueless to see this.

    Finally, here are some handpicked “comments” (favouring road pricing for the pigs at the trough at TransLink) in The Vancouver Sun (my comments about executing all the bums at TransLink never seem to make the cut)…

  11. Haveacow says:

    The real issue that has driven me to the point of public anger and frustration about the difference between good BRT and bad BRT usually starts with the systems capital cost. A good BRT system, like a fully functioning LRT system, isn’t cheap, in fact, a real functional BRT system with physically segregated rights of way with a well thought stations and operational characteristics are almost as expensive as LRT in terms of capital costs. The issue at hand is when you personally have to plan and or promote these fake BRT systems or what I and a few others have begun to call BRT Lite, if the system has non continuous sections of just simple painted bus lanes with little or no signal priority. Or BRT Very Lite for a BRT system that operates in mixed traffic, like a standard express bus route.

    Its difficult to go before the public at meetings and keep a straight face and say what you really want to say, “sure BRT can be as good as LRT and we would love to have a system like that but, until your politicians show real leadership and want to actually fund something meaningful, usually a far more expensive than they what wanted to originally spend. In the meantime, here is a joke of a BRT system that we are being forced to sell to you but its really cheap and probably may only slightly or moderately increase ridership over the simple previous existing bus route.” Oh yes and be forced by your employer to spew this line, “folks its like LRT, only cheaper!”

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