Ottawa’s Ongoing LRT Drama

When  politicians get involved with transit, fiasco happens.

When light-metro pretends to be light rail, fiasco happens.

When the media’s ignorance of light-metro and light rail is so evident and they fail to ask important questions, fiasco happens.

This article about the operational ills of Ottawa’s new light metro system (though the Ottawa light-metro uses modern light rail vehicles, it  operates over on a fully grade separated rights-of-way and has automatic train control) is worth reading.

The media on our side of the Rockies are now pointing out to all who can read and hear, that LRT is a failure.

It best to understand the problem and how politicians exacerbated the operational ills of Ottawa’s new light metro system.

No, the people wearing this embarrassing launch are the politicians and city staff who, much to their frustration, have relatively little control over how the fixes are being applied.

Then there is the blinkered thinking of the metro mania cult and their mantra; “subways cure gridlock” – NOT!

“I was puzzled by Chiarelli’s choice of the route,” says O’Brien, “and I knew the system needed a downtown tunnel to really be effective.”

Modern light rail negates the need for a subway unless ridership exceeds 20,000 pphpd. In Karlsruhe, Germany, a subway was built under a very congested tram route which as seeing a peek our capacity greatly in excess of 30,000 pphpd!

The city of Vancouver and TransLink want a subway under Broadway, yet the peek hour capacity is well under 5,000 pphpd!

Subways add greatly to construction and maintenance costs, yet do little in alleviating congestion.

Our correspondent from Ottawa, Haveacow, will probably add his take, but I am certain that the Automatic Train Control signalling system, could be one of the main contributing causes of Ottawa’s transit woes.

ATC or Automatic Train control, just does not operate well in adverse conditions as we know so well with out SkyTrain light-metro system.

The more complicated a public transit system is, the more that can and does go wrong.

Keeping it simple should be on the very top of the list for public transport planning and operation, to keep the system functioning for those who depend on public transport.


Inside the slow-rolling disaster of Ottawa’s $9-billion LRT project

Nearly six months after the launch, the city is exhausted. Commuters can cite by rote the many ways a rail car can be disabled — jammed doors, hobbled communications, unpredictable rail switches, disconnected power cables, disabled brakes and more.

Updated: March 4, 2020

In the end, they set aside what complicated stuff this was, and went with their gut — because at some point, you have to trust your hired guns.

But when the City of Ottawa finally launched the first of its approved two-phase, $9 billion-plus light rail system last Sept. 14, those with deep knowledge of the decade-long project were understandably nervous.

It wasn’t just that large construction projects like this are inherently unpredictable. Everyone understood that trying to mesh together so many trades, technologies and timelines is more art than science. It’s why contingency payments were built into the contracts.

The problem was, this project also harboured additional layers of risk that cascaded in a manner rarely seen in the launch of a major transportation system. An investigation by this newspaper — based on interviews with city officials, politicians, light rail experts and procurement specialists, along with an examination of thousands of pages of documentation filed with the city and other regulatory authorities over the past decade — reveals no single issue was at fault in this problem-plagued rollout. Rather, this was a case of seemingly reasonable risks compounding in unpredictable ways thanks in part to compressed budgets and timetables.

This is the story of how myriad parts of the project failed to come together as promised.

For the rest of the story…..


One Response to “Ottawa’s Ongoing LRT Drama”
  1. Haveacow says:

    Oh you had to use that article. It is one of the most error riddled and half truth filled articles in recent memory, about any LRT line. What the article gets wrong right off the bat is the cost. Stage 1 and 2 have a capital cost of about $6.7 Billion, the $9 Billion they are referring to is the combined capital and 30 year operational contract cost combined. This is a common trick to apply a cost to a problem without giving any details what that cost entails, like 64 km of LRT service and a 30 year service contract. I would love to say more but I was recently hired by the city to wade into the centre of this debate and I have signed a non-disclosure agreement. The person who wrote this article doesn’t truly understand rail transit or how a modern service contract is written and structured.

    What I can say is RTG (Rideau Transit Group, a private consortium) and its maintenance arm RTM (Rideau Transit Maintenance) have less than a month (22 days) to have a maintenance plan in place to fix all the issues or their contract becomes dust! I sense Keolis (a private division of the French national railway S.N.C.F.), a company that operates many LRT lines around the world, including Waterloo’s Ion LRT Line, which is not having any maintenance issues. Is most likely waiting in the wings ready to swoop into Ottawa, once RTG fails.

    Zwei replies: I am glad you have clarified things because the local media have been using LRT and failure in the same sentence for the past few weeks.

    Our media have also been getting it wrong as they continue to air Translink’s news releases as if they were “Breakling News”.

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