The City has been planning for quite some time to extend the existing OTrain Trillium Line further south, from Greenboro to Leitrim or Bowes Road. They will be holding public meetings on all the changes required and plans, on Jan 13 at Durrell Rec Centre, and Jan 15th, 6-8pm, at St Anthony Hall.
I encourage anyone with an interest to go and support the extended service. And press for its early start.
Currently, the red trainsets run every 15 minutes. There are two trains in operation at any one time on the single-track line, passing each other in the middle of their run at Carleton U. To operate over an extended track length and at a greater frequency of 7.5 -8 minutes, two new passing sidings are required and six trainsets.
We actually have the six brand-new trainsets, now stored out in the Walkley area for more than a year. They haven’t seen revenue service yet as the signalling project is now a year late, with no firm start date in sight. Watson was lucky not to have been quizzed at the last election on yet more late infrastructure projects (the train expansion is a year late, the clocks are ticking on the trains’ guarantee period, the Hickory bridge is a year late … can anything else go wrong? Well yes, how much are those delays costing?).
Trillium service currently runs from Bayview to Greenboro. An additional station is planned for Gladstone in 2023. I suspect the prospects of that station actually being built in that time period are closely related to the viability of the adjacent condo market, since development fees are to pay for the station. No development … no station?
Stations are also planned for South Keys, Leitrum, and Bowesville. Each of the two furthest stations don’t service walk-in neighbourhoods but are park-and-ride terminals with about 3500 parking spots.
Because the main line will continue to be single track for the foreseeable future, the system is highly vulnerable to breakdowns. Both trains have to be perfectly positioned today for either to run; in the future, all four+ trainsets will have to be running perfectly for any one to move.
There isn’t enough demand in the Riverside South community for 8 minute train frequency. Patronage drops off drastically at South Keys. So beyond South Keys expect 15 minute frequency at the off-peak; maybe 8 minutes at peak periods. This is the same model as OC Transpo uses for buses whereby fewer buses on route 95 or 97 go beyond the main stations.
To the Airport, or beyond
One possible use for every second trainset that doesn’t go all the way to Bowesville, is to repurpose it to the airport instead. While there are a series of potential routes to the airport, I like the one that sweeps across the north side of the EY Centre’s north-side hall expansion (with a new connection to local buses), runs along the north edge of the NRC wind tunnels, and sweeps in to service the main passenger terminal via an elevated structure at the top level of the parking garage directly above the car rental bureaux.
Users would exit the train at the top enclosed level of the garage building (converted, of course, into tempered indoor space) and then descend to take the garage bridge directly into the terminal. Very convenient.
Delightfully, people at the airport would be unable to miss seeing the trains, reminding them that there is a transit alternative to taking a car.
It is a difficult balancing act to decide whether airport users get the direct trains from the airport to Bayview, or if they use a shuttle train to South Keyes and transfer. People with luggage won’t want to transfer, and Bayview isn’t (yet) downtown so there might be two transfers, which is one too many…. The residents of Riverside South will also prefer direct service and to not transfer at South Keys.
Fortunately, the peak service hours to the airport and to Riverside South are different, so sometimes trains could run with a transfer to the airport, and other times directly to the airport. In either scenario, there would be 15 minute frequency of trains to the airport.
There are many more potential passengers to Riverside than to the airport (about 10:1) so a mechanism to pay for the airport link is required. One suggestion is to charge people boarding the trains at the airport an “improvement fee” surcharge on their PrestoPass swipe. In Vancouver, I gather this is a $7 surcharge (leaving the airport only; going to is regular price).
I am most curious to know if people driving to the airport, or being dropped off, or using taxis, pay for their roads. Maybe in the general airport improvement fee? In which case, I hope train users will then be excused from that fee. Hmm.
At the open house, the city will be revealing options for how to relocate, improve, or build stations and platform layouts at Gladstone, Confederation, Walkley, South Keys, Leitrum, and Bowesville. Remember that this is a planning study, not a ready-to-build construction plan.
No Fancy Stations
Thus far there is no indication that Trillium line users will enjoy the nice station designs, enclosed platforms, and soaring rooflines planned for all the Confederation Line stations. Instead, the forecast is for more bus-shelter-like stations.
I think if we are going to encourage transit and transit-oriented-development, to meet the modal split and intensification goals of the official plan, the city will have to invest in station designs similar to the Confederation Line for the Trillium Line. Better to do it now.
To Gatineau and beyond !
There is a rule of thumb in the convention trade that favours cities with a direct airport-downtown links. No transfers. The Trillium airport link won’t achieve that as it misses the downtown, requiring a transfer at Bayview. But the route would be viable for locals and workers accessing the airport.
The Airport link is at least a decade — probably two — out into the future. By that time, we may also see a northern extension of the Trillium Line over the Prince of Wales bridge from Bayview Station to Gatineau, and possibly along the Rapibus corridor to the Gatineau casino and convention centre. In that case, Gatineau will reap what Ottawa sows, being the no-transfer destination with a casino to boot.