Snow removal at new LRT Stations


There is something I find very appealing to heated sidewalks, especially at transit stations. Maybe it is the magical aspect of it – it snows … I walk with dry feet … I ride in a vehicle sans 2″ of slush on the floor.

It’s like snowy streets at Disney World, mess free:



Heavens-to-Watson we won’t have really nice materials in our LRT stations. Not like similar sized Kazan (pop 1.2 million, same as metro Ottawa) shown below:

kazan city metro in marble, pop 1million


Surely some of that money not spent on showcase stations could be diverted to customer convenience. Here’s a pic from Metrolix in the Centre of the Universe showing heating tubes being installed under a GO station platform:


These make a lot of sense to me. For passengers, one’s feet stay or start returning to dryness. The less-cold floor keeps people warmer and less annoyed at the waits. If the heated area extends outside of the station doors, like here in Hokaido …


then ever so polite Canadians are likely to stomp their feet before entering the station, keeping the inside less wet and depositing less salt and grit and water into the escalators and train floors where it rots out the equipment.

In the planning stages of Ottawa’s LRT, the station design folks thought tiled platforms and some floor heating was a good idea. Here’s what they were thinking back in May 2011:

heated steps

and heated benches and some heated platform areas:

heated benches

However, as the process went on, I nagged reminded the station design and station access advisory committees about heated walkways, heated platforms, etc and they grew ever less enthused and responsive. I think the relentless top-down push for “value engineering” may have had some effect.

For a while, the excuse was that with trains every 3.5 minutes, no one would wait long enough to get cold or for wet to be a problem. I reminded them that maybe, just maybe, some people weren’t driven to the station, but, you know, walked, and maybe for 20 minutes or so, and might be arriving damp, wet, or cold. And that not everyone was a rush hour commuter. Were there going to be 3 minute trains at 9pm on Sundays at Baseline Station? No?

Can you walk a four year old to a station in winter and not arrive snow covered or wet?

Mind, at this time the designs showed the escalators at stations as being in open air, with a roof above but not walls. I still haven’t found an example of any other winter city, certainly not Moscow, St Petersburg, Beijing, or  Kazan, doing this. The most recent bits of station design I have seen for Ottawa seem to have the escalators indoors now, presumably in heated enclosures. Otherwise so as they stop for the night, they will freeze up and have to regrind the sidewalk grit into their drive mechanism at 5am.

City Hall is quite secretive about their stations. Last time I mentioned to folks at our rail implementation office my ongoing concern about winter access and reliability, as in “will we have tiled platforms or heated spaces?”,  I got a very cold shoulder with the dismissal (I paraphrase…): the Rideau Transit Group are the experts and they will design, build, and maintain the stations as they see fit.

At least they didn’t say F.U. out loud.

I did find that somewhat categorical statement a bit of an abdication. Trust is one thing, but I hope there is some supervision and input somewhere. We live here; Dragodos doesn’t.

The City will be unveiling the final station designs sometime between March and June in a ShowCase Event. It is after the stations have been signed off by the city, and construction is underway. It will be too late to suggest any modifications, fixes, or improvements. Too late. Tis the story of consultation in the city.

Mind, if I was mayor (god forbid) and there weren’t any winter amenities, I’d be sure to unveil the station designs in June or July when the weather should be warmer, and few will think of winter slush and snow. Any inquiries could then be brushed off with a comment about coming summer heat waves.

Meanwhile, you can take inspiration that the City set up a task force to ensure there is ped access to every planned station from adjacent neighbourhoods. Good. So beside Westboro Station on Scott Street, where for 35 years the city couldn’t be bothered to provide sidewalks connecting businesses and residences to the transit station, they improved the situation (pending eventual redevelopment of the adjacent lands, since we wouldn’t want to waste even one square of cement) by spiking down some portable curbs to designate a portion of the road shoulder as a “sidewalk”.  You can see it running on the south /left side of Scott from McRae to Tweedsmuir in this Google Earth pic:athlone sidwalk

( click to enlarge). The walk space is semi-functional in that it separates people who walk from the those dangerous people who cycle, who in turn buffer us from people who drive. In the summer it works, albeit a sort of walking-in-a-weird-space way. Maybe CS CO-Op-ers moving into the new adjacent office building won’t mind.

But alas, the walkway has proven unplowable in the snow. The city sends little plowettes who valiantly try to do their Thomas Tankengine-y best, but the snow is too deep, they give up part way along, leaving heaps of dirty snow and litter for the surviving pedestrian to clamber over or around.

[fantasy interlude moment:]  Maybe later this year we will discover we will have heated waiting areas at the stations, with snow-free access paths to functioning escalators to trains that run frequently and without delays due to the falling snow, blowing snow, cold air temperatures, spring thaw, or rain, or autumn leaves falling, or night time darkness, or whatever else catastrophic climate change throws at us.



4 thoughts on “Snow removal at new LRT Stations

  1. i know this is an even bigger stretch of the imagination, or wish list, but if all the stations were underground, like many other cities who have highly variable weather like we do, many of these issues would be solved.

    escalators down out of the wind instead of up into more windy heights, cooler in the summer, warmer in the winter.

    Far, far more comfortable conditions for waiting.

    Put a park on top of the station to help with the greening of the ‘hood. or a parking lot. Park is better, though.

  2. The stairways and escalators will be heated–I definitely heard someone at RTG say this before and not long ago either–but I don’t know about floors.

    RTG has to maintain the system so they’ll come up with station designs that are cheap to maintain. Anything that lowers the construction bill but will increase maintainence costs won’t be considered by RTG. (This one of the strengths of P3 projects. If the city was doing all this I doubt they would think this way).

    Based on this, we can probably expect heated floors to be included as they’re probably way cheaper to build than paying for snow clearing for 30 years.

  3. Why this fascination with heated sidewalks? Yes it would be nice to not to shovel them but the fact is that it takes a lot of energy.

    In order to melt snow you need to have the sidewalk at a minimum of 0 degrees (or say 1) in order to melt the snow unless you put salt out. Concrete stores a lot of energy so you need lots to bring it up to the melting point of snow. Unfortunately any heat you put into the sidewalk is going to quickly escape out into the air because of the large surface area of the sidewalk and the lack of insulation.

    It just seems like we need to be conserving energy and here you are promoting a solution that just dumps heat into the atmosphere. It’s only a few days a year that we get enough snow that it’ll be a problem and that can be solved by putting a few desk workers or maintenance people out with shovels.

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