Ottawa’s LRT Is Opening

Ottawa’s LRT is Opening.

The term choo-choo, used by ill informed opponents of light rail is standard across the country but really has no basis as LRT remains one of the most effective way to move people.

The problem in North America is that our universities are still mired in the 1950’s and all subjects pertaining to urban transport support almost mythical solutions. Canadian Universities to not teach modern public transportation, nor to they offer degrees in urban transport and sadly most graduates from Canadian universities, with engineering and planning degrees largely remain ignorant of light rail.

If modern public transport was taught at universities, there would not be the misinformed angst by Engineers and Planners.

Today, light rail, in its various forms from streetcars and trams, light rail itself or tramtrain is both the most popular and safest mode of public transport in the world. Built properly the modern tram has a proven record in attracting the motorist from the car: a record envied but not matched by those championing various proprietary and more expensive transit modes.

Alas, in Vancouver our blinkered and inept band of  politicians, still living in the 1950’s, continue to pursue gadgetbahen, such as Movia Automatic Light Metro (was once called ICTS; ALRT; ALM; ART; Innovia) and not allow the much cheaper and more flexible LRT from being built.

Congratulations to Ottawa on its opening of light rail.



LRT’s early champions mark bittersweet victory

‘Cuckoo choo-choo’ finally arrives, but advocates ponder what might have been

CBC News ·

As politicians cut the ribbon on Ottawa’s Confederation Line on Saturday, there were dozens of public transit advocates quietly watching from the sidelines, knowing they’d all had some small part to play in the decades-long struggle for light rail in Ottawa.

“It’s hard to believe, but it has taken 30 years,” said longtime LRT proponent and former city councillor Peter Harris, who remembers when the crusade began.

Attitudes change. It’s just an evolution of thinking.– Peter Harris, former Ottawa city councillor“That was back in 1989. The region of Ottawa-Carleton had a whole different philosophy on transportation. They were sold on the bus transitway. They had plans in the works to do expressways for cars.”

Harris believes LRT’s arrival could have come much sooner if there had been the political will.

“I opposed the bus tunnel, and I was told at the time I should know better.”

Unsung heroes

David Jeanes is the former president of Transport 2000, later renamed Transport Action Canada. (CBC)

David Jeanes, another early proponent of commuter rail, helped launch Transport 2000, later renamed Transport Action Canada, and was front and centre in 1997 when the former regional council finally decided to explore the possibility of LRT.

“Despite the 22 years that have elapsed … I am pleased that we are finally getting a viable system,” Jeanes said. “It includes many elements that I have been one of the first to promote, including the airport extension, which I had proposed back in 2000, the Parkway-Richmond Road routing, which I proposed in 2008, the location of the tunnel portals which I proposed to the task force in 2007, and the retention of a Trillium Line maintenance facility in the vicinity of Walkley Yard.”

There were others along for the ride, Jeanes said, and they became known as Friends of the O-Train.

“Tim Lane, Michael Richardson and Steven Fanjoy were the driving force behind the Friends of the O-Train opposition to a combined bus transitway/LRT across downtown, instead promoting east-west electric LRT only in the core.”

Harris added to the list of citizens who helped shepherd in the LRT era in Ottawa.

“I teamed up with Michel Haddad and Greg Ross, and we formed Citizens for Alternative Transit,” Harris said. “We did our research and had a meeting right in regional headquarters. It had about 200 people. And CP Rail sent a representative, Bombardier, Siemens, on what we could do with rail, what had been done in other cities, and I was impressed with the number of people in Ottawa that really knew about rail.”

‘A cuckoo choo-choo’

While the movement had political allies including Coun. Pierre Bourque and Mayor Bob Chiarelli, there was no shortage of opponents, among them Knoxdale-Merivale Coun. Gord Hunter, who was concerned about the cost.

“I thought it was a cuckoo idea, a cuckoo choo-choo. It just didn’t make sense to be doing it,” he said.

The City of Gatineau was planning to expand its bus network despite the opportunity to tie into Ottawa’s proposed rail system, and the National Capital Commission said it had no interest in the plan. The head of Ottawa’s airport authority showed a similar lack of enthusiasm.

“Eventually the faces changed, people retired, the head of OC Transpo moved on,” Harris said. “And now the Ottawa airport is for rail. So things change. Attitudes change. It’s just an evolution of thinking. I think support was always there, but you had to somehow facilitate the discussion, and I think that’s what the volunteers and the community have done over the years.”

Still, Harris can’t help thinking about what might have been. Growing suburbs such as Barrhaven and Greely continue to grapple with gridlock, with no relief in sight. Scrapping the previous light rail plan, which cost the city millions in legal penalties, has put any solution even further out of reach.

“The route was already there. It would have been finished a long time ago,” Harris said. “In hindsight, I think that was a mistake. But there’s not much we can do about it now.”


2 Responses to “Ottawa’s LRT Is Opening”
  1. Haveacow says:

    My son Campbell and I are in the middle of editing a joint report of the system on opening day for you.

    As the article said, David Jeanes, who is also the head of Transport Action Canada and Heritage Ottawa as well as being an ex Nortel System Analyst and Engineer, has been doing this a long time, even longer than you Zwei. David was the one whom recruited me for the Friends of the O-Train back in the early 90’s. They interviewed a dozen of us lifers on CBC radio Saturday and Sunday as part of the Unsung Heroes of the LRT.

    We agreed that David and Tim should be the figurehead for the rest of us, there are so many. Unfortunately, a few haven’t survived to see Saturday’s opening, and they deserved to see it. They where the ones who toiled alone back in the 70’s when I was a child in Toronto, being laughed at, threatened professionally for supporting rail based transit (just like I was), being banned from Regional Headquarters (now City Hall) like David was for awhile. Tim Lane, after paying his own money so we could hire a plane and get video from the air of all our underused railway tracks, to convince Regional Politicians of the viability of O-Train, was escourted out of Regional Headquarters by security the next night. Harry Gow the first president of Transport 2000 had screaming matches between him and the former Regional Chair of the Ottawa-Carleton Region, Andy Haydon, who was also an engineer whom worked for the Consulting Firm McCormick Rankin, the people who designed and built most of the Transitway Network. Harry almost got thrown out a few times himself. A long hard fought battle, that was finally won, due to the effort of so many people throughout the years. CHEERS TO EVERYONE!!!

  2. Haveacow says:

    Zwei by the way, they do teach Transportation Planning in Universities but as a branch of Urban Planning. For the Urban and Regional Planning at the undergraduate level, a separate degree in just Transportation Planning is far too specialized. You don’t get to that degree of specialization in Urban Planning until the graduate level programs.

    It also takes the special individual who either loves math or can tolerate a lot of it to go into Transportation Planning. That’s one of the reasons engineers dominate this particular field of planning. My Transportation Planning professor was great and a truly brilliant guy, award wining Urban Planner, also an engineer, as well as having a lot of legal and political experience and on top of it all, he was a fantastic teacher! However, if you don’t like near endless lines of arithemetic, statistics, algebra and a little calculus thrown in for good measure, then even basic transportation planning can be a boring tortuous, mind numbing experience.

    The math wasn’t overly difficult but wow, was there a lot of it. This turns off many planning students who then turn to other branches of planning like environmental, land use, housing, design, historic preservation, regional level planning, and policy. I don’t know about British Columbia but here in Ontario lawyers with planning backgrounds, are needed for arguing cases in front of the new Legal Planning Tribunals (formerly The Ontario Municipal Board). Just having a transportation background is quite limiting.

    As someone who does transit planning it is often frustrating dealing with traffic engineers (who by definition are mostly engineers) not planners. A brilliant bunch of boys and girls who really have all the technical knowledge but you see clearly that their emphasis is engineering systems and don’t really have an understanding people and how cities really work. Engineers often call planners, “wanna be engineers”, to which transportation planners often come back with, “cities are for people not cars and networks of infrastructure, we aren’t automatons that are plugged into a city like a component in a machine.”

    Zwei also keep in mind that 75% of the adult population in most North American urban region drive as their main form of transport. It should be expected that a majority of transportation engineers and planners will want to or will be forced to cater to, the automobile and its needs. Especially, with the older generation of planners and engineers whom are the majority of the people in charge of everything. Although thankfully, that is starting to change in some larger Canadian and American cities. Unfortunately, as long as transportation dinosaur politicians like Ford are in charge provincially or even Trump federally, there will be a big push back against more multi-modal transit heavy transport outcomes, in favor of long distance automobile commuting and expensive city centre to suburb focused, rapid transit systems like Skytrain.

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