Bus stop Bus stop

Does it matter whether we have bus shelters or purpose built indoor transit station buildings along the LRT?

When reporting here earlier about the extension of OTrain service to the Airport, I questioned the lack of “nice” stations along the route. The Confederation Line will have expensive-but-not-fancy stations; the Trillium line gets bus shelters. Will the quality of the stations influence users, for example, to choose Carleton vs Ottawa U for an education? Whether to wait for a train or take a cab to the airport?

If given a list of transit service features, nice stations aren’t likely to be the top factor in making one’s mode choice. But I firmly believe it is an influencer, especially when transit stops are so shabby as to make the user feel inferior or slighted. Like many things in life, it’s relative. We can’t let transit become the conspicuously inferior mode.

When we build roads in the urban areas of Ottawa we do not do the functional minimum.  We install curbs, catch basins, plant grass and tree clusters on graded rights of way. Newer roads get ever better finishing. Churchill Avenue’s rebuild got tons of bells and whistles including decorative retaining walls just to separate land uses.

Thus far we don’t do any of that for the OTrain, which especially at Somerset and Carleton gets the back yard / storage yard treatment. For the new LRT I have raised the subject at numerous station planning meetings and with senior city and NCC planners, none have showed any interest, except to say there will be landscaping. Or something. A vague wave of the hand suffices.

Here’s a major transit hub or transfer point in a downtown. Not Ottawa. This is taken from a freeway thru the car window.


Note the distinct roof shape, outlined in blue lights. Unmissable. Great branding. Our 1980’s  transitway stations are also distinct in shape and red colour. The 2000’s updates at Baseline, Greenbank, Albert/Slater, and elsewhere are simpler unheated bus shelters with aluminum frames.  I don’t think they convey much of any branding message.



The transfer station shown here is the hub of 30 bus routes, including the free downtown shuttle routes (one shown below), and the commuter rail station. It has A/C, free WiFi, and washrooms open til 10pm. Hmm.




A while ago we looked at the very good branding Portland uses for its transportation network, with Train, Bike, Trolley, and Streetcar shouted out in neon. Ottawa is supposed to get an all new branding redo in time for the Confederation Line opening. What will it include?


Here’s a suburban hub, for a city bus system that runs on a pulse basis, or hub and spoke, where all buses arrive at a station at the same time, and a few minutes later, head out on routes.


Yes, its round, and free standing. It’s all outdoor waiting, but sheltered from the rain and sun. The posts are encased in illuminated glass block pillars.


Overhead monitors announce arrivals and departures. Note the bike rack in the distance, by the road. The station, btw, had too many burnt-out uplights resulting in a discomforting under illumination at 11pm. It did have a constable on duty, who followed me all around the station.



There were some light wells to encourage vegetation and supply stronger daytime light. Functioning garbage cans. Benches. WiFi. And ….


… washrooms !  The central building held a field office and service wicket. The whole place was spotlessly clean.



Next: the Cadillac of road side bus stops.

4 thoughts on “Bus stop Bus stop

  1. Isn’t the reluctance in Ottawa simply a fear that nice stops would be a magnet for the homeless and panhandlers? Providing a nice environment that ‘freeloaders’ would also benefit from seems to run counter to much of Ottawa planning strategies. I remember the biggest complaint about the enclosed glass shelters that ran along the Rideau St. Mall, aside from their ugliness, was that commuters were forced to share them with the homeless, vagrants, panhandlers and buskers.

  2. The biggest argument against anything above functional level for having nice stations, particularly downtown, is that this is not the city’s responsibility, but the NCC’s responsibility. Want a nice capital? Don’t expect the City of Ottawa to contribute in anything but the most accidental of ways.

  3. Bathroom facilities are not luxuries. For some people holding it until you get to your destination is not an option. If you are in a car you always have the option to pull into a McDonalds but with transit, not only are the travel times longer but the access to washrooms is more problematic. At least the major transfer stations, such as Bayview, should have facilities. Unfortunately Keith Egli informs me that only Tunney’s and Blair are supposed to have bathroom facilities.

  4. It is good that tunney’s and blair will have washrooms. Not every station needs them. Tunney’s is a major transfer point, but only until phase 2 opens, after which is will merely be a line station albeit a busy one. There should be toilets at Bayview too, especially as it will handle gatineau bound trains someday — we hope. .

    Toilets should be at Hurdman, as it is a major transfer point, some people coming into the station may have been on a bus for 30 minutes already. And later at Lincoln fields and Baseline.

    the more toilet locations, the less each one will be (over) used.

    I do agree that we should NOT have toilets at the 3 downtown stations. These stations are near offices, restaurants, etc and these stations will be heated (if only by friction of trains, etc) all winter — adding toilets makes them magnets for the homeless and at the first deep freeze some bleeding heart councillor will call for the stations to be opened as shelters, “just for the night” which will turn into 6pm onwards …. for six months a year.

    As mentioned in my post a bit ago about public toilets for ottawa, i dont mind if they charge a looney for the privilege of using them.

    However, the city isn’t consulting the public about what we want, and we will have to put up with the choice of exits, escalators, stairs, viewlines, access, waiting areas, urine-smelly corners, etc that they choose to give us when the stations open and it is “too late” to make changes.

    Portland has issues with street people moving onto the trains and setting up camp at the ends of the cars for a whole day of heat and riding. There are also fears — and I am not commenting on their validity — that trains move the downtown criminal element out to the suburbs where they can pillage and … whatever, you get the drift.

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