Dubai, LRT lessons

Last week there was a interesting public presentation at City Hall on planning and development in Dubai. Presenter was Gordon Stratford of HoK architects and planners, a mulitnational consultancy.

In August 05 Dubai called tenders for a LRT system, and then opened the first 40km segment with 22 stations in Sept 09. The system is expected to grow to 70km with 43 stations, although the 2012 opening date may be delayed given the statlet’s decline into near insolvency¬† recent debt restructuring moves.

I recall that at the June LRT technology forum held at City Hall, the winner equipment provider was on hand to show off their technology and had slides of the Dubai solutions.

The important point is not that some places can build a system faster than Ottawa. That should be easy, if public consultation is unheard of, environmental review processes are non-existant, etc. and there is a taxpayer (or lender) be damned attitude at the government level. The lesson from Dubai is that growing cities world-wide are investing in LRT and public transit as they realize that catering to ever-more car traffic is the road to ruin. Ottawa is growing at a much slower pace than frontier cities like Dubai, but still has to plan and build infrastructure that will serve the city well for the next century at least. And that is not going to be found by building more busways into the core (hello STO and busway to LeBreton!) or by stop-gap surface rail in the core. As long as the downtown remains a major commercial and employment node and tourist hub in the metro area, we are going to need rapid congestion-free LRT service, and that means grade separated, probably in a tunnel.