Buses and LRT at the same time, surely not !

At last week’s transit committee meeting I gather the City announced it will continue to run buses through the downtown on Albert and Slater for three weeks after the LRT opens.

Alas, there were no other details released about this alarming proposal.

Why is alarming? Because for a certain percentage of users from the west end suburbs (Kanata, Barrhaven, and points west of Tunney’s) the bus may actually be faster than the first phase of the LRT. Estimates of time savings on the new Confederation Line are based on actual travel times today, factor in frequent bus jams, winter snow falls, etc. The longer the distance the passenger rides on the LRT, the more likely they will have time savings.

So for the folks from Orleans and points east and south, it is worth the transfer time at Blair or Hurdman to get on the LRT and have the dedicated route for some kilometres into the core.

But users from the west temporarily transfer at Tunney’s (until the line is extended further west), which isn’t far from the downtown.

Riders who transfer to the LRT at Tunney’s have to get off the bus, walk into the station, descend, have a wait time for the next train.

Riders who don’t transfer, may still have continuous bus service to the core, stay in their seat, and are merrily on their way in a mostly empty bus. Even with traffic on Scott, Albert, and Slater, their ride will be quick.  Depending on where they work, it is easy to imagine their ride and walk to work will be faster on the bus than the LRT. The advantage decreases with the longer the bus ride is, so trips to Ottawa U destinations aren’t likely to be faster, nor will points further east.

I fully expect the alarmist mainstream media will be out in force on the first days of the new Confederation Line. Some reporters will be gathering comments from folks at stations, who will invariably have a mix of WOW and I’m CONFUSED / LOST , and IS THIS ALL WE GET? comments.

The main stream media of course thrives on bad news, not good news, so some reporters will be out at the bus stops to interview those who claim their trip was faster “the old way” on the bus. This will lead to head lines about “$billions for what??”  Lost in all that will be the faster trips without traffic congestion, especially on those days with gridlock.

Rather than running all the buses from the west through the downtown to the east, I’d rather see the system run like this:

Travellers from the west end arrive at Tunney’s Station. All passengers alight. The bus returns to the west end to pick up more people.

Most travellers will descend onto the Station platforms, and catch the next train, at the 4-5 minute intervals it runs.

Those who are afraid of the train, or tunnels, or new-fangled technology or even just afraid there wasn’t enough testing, would walk over to a bus shelter and there await a bus that follows the old route eastwards. These buses could come at about half the frequency of the trains.

That would provide the alternative bus service some riders might want in the transition period, but avoid inviting negative publicity.

After the transition period, tunnel avoiders will be able to catch the #11, #16 and maybe some other buses at Tunney’s the go east into the downtown.

But if the plan is to run all the old bus routes into the core during the first three weeks, the City is simply inviting bad publicity from the media and the office attention-seekers who will claim to have  “timed” the old and new and thus spark negative stories.


note: travellers from the west end that plan to transfer to L2 at Bayview, or go to Hull via the Chaudiere Bridge, will have direct buses from the west at select departure times so they won’t have to make two transfers in a short distance.



13 thoughts on “Buses and LRT at the same time, surely not !

  1. I’m hopeful OC Transpo planners are thinking along similar lines to what you outlined. Have everyone from the west transfer at Tunneys to either LRT or bus and let riders choose/ try different choices depending on their circumstances.

    Running existing bus routes in parallel with LRT may reduce some complaints from elderly , parents with strollers and mobility impaired riders, but it will also invite complaints that 1) buses were not taken off downtown streets as promised, 2) the commute takes longer with the LRT than without it, hence waste of money building LRT, 3) increase rather than reductions in OC operating costs by not replacing buses with more efficient LRT people movers as planned by OC and approved by council

    1. Klaus: I’m in full agreement with the City on removing most bus services from the downtown in favour of the LRT. We are only talking here of parallel bus services for 3 weeks. But it unnecessarily invites criticism of the LRT and feeds the Media beast.

  2. Your observations for West-end travellers also highlight a possibly unintended issue. What about the many who wish to go South say to Carlton U, or other employment centers. We have signalled this oversight for years. Should Bayview be the main transfer center?

    1. Ben, the transfer centre has already been built at Tunney’s. It will be much reduced once Phase 2 is opened. This will happen before any new transfer station could be built at Bayview.

  3. A third option at Tunneys would be to have bicycle and scooter rentals available to get home or downtown from there. I hope there is space for hundreds of bicycles to be locked up at the station. There are tens of thousands of people who live within 5 kilometres of tunney’s, who could just hope on their bike instead of wait for clogged local busses. OC Transpo would save hugely if people would avoid buses to get to LRT. Every additional bus rider costs OC Transpo more then they are worth! This is an ironic fact.

  4. So here I am with my COPD issues again. The LRT will mean a lot more walking for me both in the stations and going to and from destinations tha I’m used to accessing from the Slater-Albert buses. BUT there is a benefit. Less buses on the street will mean much better air for me to breathe which I think is the whole ecological point. Will most buses stop running on Albert St after three weeks? I’d like to clean the exterior of our house without having it caked in dust two days later. I’d also like to see the end of the dust clouds generated from the Albert and Preston work yard.

  5. I have talked to city planners on this issue and they believe that most riders from Kanata will not have a significantly longer trip with a transfer at Tunney’s than continuing downtown with all the downtown OC Transpo bus stops. I do not think the City can justify continuing the additional cost of a parallel bus system longer than 3 weeks.

    Once the parallel service is stopped there may be some drivers who will switch to cars which will increase the commute time further encouraging the use of the new LRT route. The biggest problem I see with the Tunneys pasture station will be the increase in local traffic congestion due to the additional bus traffic

    When I was working I used to work in Gatineau and I always had to transfer at Lebreton flats as part of a normal commute. The people in Kanata are just going to have to get used to the same thing.

    Of Course during the off winter months I cycled to work which took only 30 minutes vs the 45 – 60 minutes it took by bus. Cycling from Kanata to downtown takes me about 60 minutes

  6. Certainly many west-end bus riders will be upset when they discover they need:
    – to get out of their bus seats,
    – walk to the escalator,
    – go down to the (correct) outside platform (Will it always be the same one for the next train?),
    – wait for the next train, and probably stand
    – make a stop at Bayview
    – ride up the equivalent of 6 escalator flights at (for example) Parliament Station,
    – then walk an extra couple of blocks to their Slater or Elgin Office destinations

    It’s less of an issue in the east-end, as Hurdman riders have had to endure a complicated slow detour back to Vanier Parkway and loop around to the Queensway.

    But then again it’s better than the massive Albert/Slater bus jams we used to have a couple a times a month.

    1. Bernie, at one time the Tunney’s station was to also have a centre platform, which meant passengers could go to platform level and catch a train on either side; arriving passengers would exit to side platforms (there is room for all three platforms). This would have made unloading and loading so much faster and clearer, but instead we will have some sort of system “directing” transferring passengers towards the correct platform. If you’re slow, you can always wait 10 minutes hoping the next train arrives at your platform. The city opted against the centre platform in part because they imagined they would need two more elevators, even though there were obvious work arounds to that.

  7. I’ve been saying this for years now. I feel sad for the Kanata commuter, to go from a direct express bus from the stix, to the future of THREE transfers and a subway station maze exit. If the train was finished it would be FAR superior to busing. But…no such luck for now.

    Picture this: The end of the day (3:30pm for those Federal employees). You walk down to your station heading west, then the 600 people in your train are quickly whisked away to Tunney’s Pasture. Replacing 10 buses on the street above is great for everyone downtown. But then…EVERYONE alights at the platform at Tunney’s, resulting in a foot-race, to get to your transfer bus that will take you to Kanata. This is at best 6 buses which happen to be waiting around, empty. HOWEVER not everyone is going to Kanata and the buses may be already half-full, so we’re talking probably 15-30 destination-specific buses coming at differing frequencies. This used to be spread out through the downtown, resulting in hundreds waiting at each individual transit station downtown, now concentrated at Tunney’s Pasture. A logistical nightmare.

    Lets assume your transfer bus comes every 15 minutes. I’ll illustrate the min/max passengers waiting at Tunney’s:

    At 5 minutes into your wait, another 600 people arrive. (600-to-1200 people waiting)

    THEN, at 5 minutes into your wait, another 600 people arrive. (600-to-1800 people waiting)

    Then at 5 minutes into your wait, another 600 people arrive (600-to-2400 people waiting!!!)

    The trains can run at less than 3 minute frequency (not required yet, but possible). If this were the case, up to 3600 passengers can arrive in just 15 minutes.

    Has Tunney’s been built with a multi-platform, huge area for buses to queue and wait for passengers? Hopefully so, but I haven’t been there lately.

    You see where I’m going with this, right?

    By 4:30pm, Tunney’s pasture is a madhouse, each and every day, until the train extension arrives, pushing the madhouse out to some godawful field 1km past Bayshore mall, negating the ability to shop while you wait for your transfer or the chaos to die down.

    The solution (and what I think should happen?): Kanata express commuter buses continue to operate to the downtown core for the next 10-15 years to ease the chaos at Tunney’s until the train is sufficiently extended to reduce passenger load to manageable levels at the final Transfer station.

    The reality: OC Transpo will lose 50% of it’s Kanata ridership due to commuting chaos going unchecked and unsolved until the train is finished.

    1. Mr. Sharpe has accurately identified the choke point that will be daily life for the west bound commuter for the next 4-5 years. The number of passengers alighting from the LRT at Tunney’s Pasture in the afternoon and evening rush HOURS will exceed the ability of OC Transpo to load the number of buses required to move those commuters out of Tunneys Pasture on a timely basis.

      What Mr. Sharpe did not point out is that all of those buses will have to merge (safely?) on to an already congested Scott Street. Congestion joining congestion is not additive in nature. Rather, it tends to be exponential.

      1. Ron, I am not so sure that the bus congestion will be an issue. For most of the construction period for ph 2 buses will continue on the transitway to the ORP, just like now, sans congestion. Its only the last bit that buses will be shifted onto Scott to the ORP, and I expect most sane car drivers will shift to other routes. The detour on Scott-Albert for Ph 1 wasnt a disaster. Carmageddon or busmageddon makes for hype but rarely materializes.

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