So the city “wants” to extend the Trillium Line south a bit further, almost but not quite to Riverside South suburb. Alas, it can’t afford the cost.
Let me suggest that it is eminently affordable, the city has just forgotten how to do things incrementally. Society didn’t build the Queensway as a multi-lane freeway to Kanata all at once. We built it to Woodroffe first, then Bayshore, then Moodie, then Kanata, and we not only was it expanded in increments, it was extended first as a two lane road, with a reserve off to the side, to construct the second direction lanes in the future. When that day came, as “demand” for the road service increased, the other lanes were built and we had a divided highway. I vaguely recall there used to be signalized intersections on that “limited access road” for a number of years, until eventually replaced by grade separated interchanges.
You know, incremental growth.
But when it comes to the Trillium Line, our city fathers and mothers have decided that it is to be World Class ™ grade-separated from day one or you can’t have it.
Here is a modest proposal. Build the line grade separated only where necessary today. I don’t know how far that is, certainly past Hunt Club Road, but I’m rather vague as to just how busy the roads are further south. But I gather some are low volume.
From that point, simply convert the existing tracks or build new ones for the southward extension at grade. Reserve a wide right of way beside the tracks for a future alignment location that is fully grade separated to out behind the airport to Riverside South. When that happy day comes, and the twin-track grade-separated line is needed and built, release the original single track alignment back to adjacent land uses. Since some of that reserve for future grade-separated double tracking is through lands not slated for urban development, it isn’t exactly onerous or expensive to tie up the land for 20 to 30 years until the next recession opens the floodgates of federal dollar stimulus. Of course, for some lengthy segments, there would be no need for a completely new parallel track right of way, it is required mostly at the approaches to the overpasses.
Although a fully-parallel right of way, should we wish, would allow the city to do a really cheap expansion today using existing jointed track and then eventually build the parallel track to a higher standard, rather than continually closing down the line “for upgrades” to the signals or switches or bridges. Just like we expand the Queensway today. Or built Hunt Club Road. Without closing these major roads for two years whilst we do construction.
We seem to have fallen victim to mega-projectitis, and forgotten how to do incremental growth.
What about safety?
The grade-separated segments, closer to the city, carry higher volumes of people, with more frequent trains, at higher speed. So design it like urban transit. Beyond the fringe, build suburban transit, where the OTrain would operate more like a streetcar, with signalized intersections where it crosses roads. If you have forgotten, go back a few stories here to discover how to make safer track crossings: https://www.westsideaction.ca/about-those-barrhaven-underpasses/ https://www.westsideaction.ca/about-those-barrhaven-underpasses/
These signalized crossings might look like rail crossings with flashing lights, but I’d prefer they be treated more like regular traffic intersections, like the transitway used to have at Booth or Empress and still does at Iris. This may mean lower average speed for the transit vehicles out the in the boonies, but that merely gives riders more screen time. Get with the times, install on-board WiFi.
The existing Trillium Line started as an experiment with an unwilling OCTranspo and unbelieving transportation department. The little train that could, it continually defies ridership predictions and a concerted rear-guard action at city hall to thwart its usefulness (this latter belief strongly held by certain train transit aficionados; but is cheered on by certain superannuated journalists).
The grand fully-grade separated southward expansion plan may be a ploy to milk the feds and province of dollars, or it may be because we have forgotten how to do things incrementally. But if the plan is because we believe in transit and want transit, then it is doable now. Affordably. Incrementally.