Gatineau Goes Light Rail

Some thoughts on the Gatineau light rail and the rejection of LRT in Surrey.

The picture shows classic LRT, not a light-metro tarted up pretending to be LRT, such as is the newly opened Ottawa light rail.

Lawned rights-of-way are both environmentally pleasing and non-user friendly.

The dedicated or reserved rights-of-ways, provide a service almost on par with light-metro operating with on viaduct or in a subway.

Reserved R-o-W’s are also much cheaper to install and maintain, thus one can have a larger network than a light-metro and a larger network means a better chance to attract ridership and service destinations.

This is what the Mayor of Surrey rejected, when he stamped his little feet and flipped flopped from building affordable LRT in favour of the much more expensive light-metro to appease his developer friends.

The problem for Surrey and the disingenuous Mayor is that Covid-19 may mean his prized SkyTrain extension may not be built, and for Langley politicians, you are never going to get SkyTrain.

More and more, Rail for the Valley’s Vancouver to Chilliwack TramTrain style of service is looking better and better, providing an affordable and user friendly ‘rail’ service to Surrey, Langley, Abbotsford and Chilliwack, at a cost less than 7 km of SkyTrain to Fleetwood.


Gatineau wants to run light rail over Portage Bridge

STO doesn’t have funds committed yet, however

Joanne Chianello · CBC News · Posted: May 15, 2020


Gatineau’s 26-kilometre, $2.1-billion light rail network is scheduled to be in operation by 2028, and part of it could connect to Ottawa’s Lyon LRT station by running across the Portage Bridge.


The City of Gatineau wants to connect its future light-rail transit system to the Confederation Line using an “urban tram” over the Portage Bridge, but it doesn’t yet have any committed funds from either the provincial or federal governments.

The Société de transport de l’Outaouais (STO) has been working on a rapid transit system for years. Back in 2018, Gatineau officials unveiled an ambitious vision for a 26-kilometre, $2.1-billion light rail line that would bring residents from  the growing Aylmer and Plateau areas to downtown by 2028, as well as connect with Ottawa’s LRT.

On Friday, STO officials provided a technical briefing to Ottawa city councillors, where they revealed that Gatineau riders overwhelmingly preferred an “all-tram” solution to rapid transit, as opposed to one that would rely more on buses.

Those electric trams would travel in both directions over the Portage Bridge, connecting with the Lyon LRT station. Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, about 3,500 bus riders would cross the Portage Bridge every hour during peak periods, and Gatineau expects that to more than double to 7,500 over the next 15 years.

The tramway plan would still require a number of STO connector buses to run on Slater and Albert streets, but the volume of buses should be drastically reduced from pre-pandemic levels.

Gatineau is proposing to run a double-tracked tramway on the Portage Bridge to connect with Ottawa’s LRT. (Provided by STO)

Coun. Myriam Nadeau, who chairs the STO’s board of directors, told Ottawa officials that Gatineau residents also wanted the trams to continue past Lyon station.

To that end, STO is looking at whether there might be an opportunity to run trams either along Wellington Street or in a tunnel under Sparks Street — proposals that come with a number of challenges, including additional costs.

No committed funding

The City of Gatineau is looking for the Quebec government to pay 60 per cent of the multi-billion-dollar project, while the federal government would pick up the rest of the tab.

(The $2.1-billion estimate, which was very preliminary, is for the entire light-rail system. STO officials did not provide an estimate for the part of the project that connects to Ottawa.)

While funds have not been formally committed by either level of government, Nadeau said the project is on the province’s “priority” list. Gatineau has also submitted a formal request for infrastructure funds from the federal government, but it’s not clear when or if that money will be committed.

Ottawa city staff are reviewing Gatineau’s transit analysis, and councillors heard that no decisions will be made until the public on both sides of the river are consulted, which is expected to occur next month.

The issue will ultimately come to the transportation committee and council for final approval.

Gatineau Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin and Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said last fall that plans to run rail over the Prince of Wales Bridge, which Ottawa owns, were dead. Instead, the mayors want to see converted into a pedestrian and cyclist access. (Kate Porter/CBC)

Bayview station off the table

STO had looked at connecting over the Champlain or Prince of Wales bridges, but they were considered too far west, as about 80 per cent of Gatineau transit passengers head to and from downtown.

As well, councillors heard Friday that the Bayview station — located at the intersection of the Confederation and Trillium lines, at the south end of the Prince of Wales Bridge — does not have the capacity for an influx of thousands of passengers because it would require the city buy up to 12 additional trains.

Pat Scrimgeour, OC Transpo’s director of systems and planning, told councillors that connecting Gatineau’s rail to Lyon station would allow it to “bypass” the busiest part of the Confederation Line between Bayview and Lyon.

It would also give Ottawa riders a better connection to federal government jobs in Gatineau, he said.

The city of Ottawa bought the Prince of Wales Bridge for $400,000 from Canadian Pacific Railway about 15 years ago for the express purpose of running trains across it one day, and that’s still in the city’s current Transportation Master Plan.

But last fall, the mayors of Ottawa and Gatineau announced that plans for rail over the bridge were off.

“It would congest too much Bayview station, and secondly, Gatineau has been pursuing their LRT project and they too have ruled it out as a bridge that would be used for transit,” Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said last September.

Both Watson and Gatineau Mayor Maxime-Pedneaud Jobin are hoping to use the bridge instead as a pedestrian and bike crossing.


4 Responses to “Gatineau Goes Light Rail”
  1. Haveacow says:

    Eh, who says we have a “tarted up LRT Line”. We have what we need to move the 225,000-240,000 linked trips the central portion of our Transitway Network use to move everyday. Not to mention to try and help move part of the 330,000 linked trips (545,000 boardings) our entire transit system (O.C. Transpo) moved per day (pre Covid -19).

    The 3500 passengers per hour per direction moved by the STO across the Ottawa River each peak hour in the article, apply to the passengers coming from in the central area (old Hull) and the old western parts of the original Ville de Gatineau area as well as old Alymer, these are the areas covered by their planned LRT Line. Another 1000 -1200 passengers per hour per direction cross the Ottawa river everyday from eastern Gatineau and Buckingham and generally use the STO’s 11 km long, Gatineau Rapibus Transitway, which opened in 2013. Currently 95 to 105 buses per hour cross into Ontario (downtown Ottawa, mainly along Wellington and Rideau Streets) from Quebec during the morning peak and then reverse the same trip in the afternoon every business day. If you count the 30-35 O.C. Transpo buses per peak hour using the sane corridor, that is around 125-140 buses per hour per direction on the Wellington-Rideau corridor during peak hours. This is in addition to the 185-200 buses per hour per direction the Transitway use to move along mainly Albert and Slater Streets.

    Joanne Chianello should be more honest, she likes to stew controversy, both the feds and the provincial government of Quebec guaranteed the money already, yes it’s not in the Bank yet but it will happen. Too much money has been already given to Montreal and Quebec City, it’s political suicide to not give transit money to the 3rd largest area in Quebec, as well as this area also being functionally part of the National Capital Area.

  2. Haveacow says:

    A considerable portion of the planned LRT Line to Alymer use to be a streetcar line of the old Hull Electric System. The line started in Aylmer went to downtown Hull and then crossed using the Alexandria bridge, originally the old wooden bridge replaced by the Portage Bridge. The 3 track Alexandria Bridge had the Hull Electric use two of the tracks and the CPR used the central track into Ottawa Union Station.

    C.P.R. trains trains from Montreal simply crossed here at the Alexandria Bridge into downtown Ottawa where as Ottawa bound C.P.R. trains from Toronto, first crossed the Prince of Wales Bridge from Ontario, ran through downtown Hull and back into Ontario on the Alexandria Bridge beside the Chateau Laurier Hotel, through a short tunnel (which still exists) continuing under Wellington Street and into Ottawa Union Station.

    The Hull Electric used a platform just outside west of Ottawa’s Union Station between the station and the Rideau Canal underneath what is now part of Confederation Square, just east of the National War Memorial. The station platform space is still there as well and is used to store the bicycles for Ottawa Free-Bike’s rental service.

  3. Major Hoople says:

    I just do not know why Canadian transit planners are so against grassed streetcar tracks?

    Back during the the Broadway Lougheed LRT planning one presenter did a very good display of grassed streetcar tracks, yet BC Transit was adamant that this would not work in Vancouver.

    If TransLink used grassed tracks for their light rail planning, I believe a lot of anti LRT types would have bought in.

    Zwei replies. I believe it was me.

  4. Haveacow says:

    Planners in Canada aren’t against grass track beds, although they do have some extra maintenance costs. It’s the fire departments, ambulance agencies and police forces that can and do use those rights of ways in emergencies, that are. When the fire and ambulance services say no, the grass rights of way become stone or concrete, no questions asked..

    Ambulances and especially our fire Trucks are much larger and heavier here in North America than in Europe and Australia. When tested the rights of ways after a rain storm became so spungy that, our larger and heavier equipment could sink and or tear up large amounts of turf. Thus slowing down our emergency services and destroying the surface of the right of way in the process..

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