Buses in downtown Ottawa in the LRT era, part i, STO

There seems to be a lot of interest amongst readers about the routes for STO buses and the volume of buses, once the new Confederation Line opens next year.

The situation is still in flux, so the maps below are our best guess only. But they do confirm that most routes are off most of Wellington, certainly from in front of Parliament. The NCC continues with its original sin philosophy that buses are a blight and must not be seen in front of Parliament, but cars are just fine.

One reason to get the buses off Wellington is to make room for a bi-directional cycle track along the north curb side of Wellington, connecting the existing cycle track over the Portage Bridge, through waterfront Gatineau, and back on the Alexandra Bridge to Mackenzie/Sussex. A ceremonial boulevard for cyclists, so as to speak. Also a great route for tourists. Here is a sketch of what it could look like, done several years ago for the DOMO study:

Richard Eade has taken the STO-provided bus route map for the future and broken it out into several maps to make following the routes easier. Then he very kindly superimposed the Confederation Line LRT route (which is, of course, far below the ground in a tunnel).

I would advise readers not to bet their life on these maps. Things continue to evolve. Note that on the maps routes with Black Numbers run all day, and Colour Numbers run only at peaks. And we don’t know how many STO vehicles will actually be on Albert and Slater once the transit lanes are gone. Will the total bus volume drop 50%? 70%?

And of course, being buses, there are few routes that change their configuration during the day, are regular south of Besserer all day, but occasional at other hours.

All that being said, the most obvious points of contention are the necessity to run (or rather, crawl…) up Waller-Rideau-KingEdward; and the very short block where buses come along Albert, turn north onto Kent, and immediately left onto Queen. Throw in a half dozen OC Transpo routes (which I am still looking for) and I have some reservations about smooth traffic flow for transit.

Note that when STO buses turn from Queen onto Lyon to get to the Portage Bridge the city has created two new northbound lanes on Lyon from Queen to Wellington (the rest of Lyon remains a one way southbound street). Here are some pic of the new turn movement:

In the map above, that’s Place de Ville Tower C, Transport Canada, in the top right square. And in the photo below, a street view of the same turn:

I do not know if the STO buses will stop directly in front of the new station being built under Place de Ville Podium Building. The last City plans I saw had parking spaces in front of the station, but that is all torn up again, possibly to remove the stairs from the station entrance. Recall too that the city some years ago rezoned the Podium Building site for a 22 storey addition to the top.

This first map shows the black (all day) and purple(rush hour) routes coming from King Edward from the top right of the map, jogging along Rideau Street, and then up to the Mackenzie King Bridge in front of the Rideau Centre. From thence they follow the Albert-Slater pair through the downtown core, like OC Transpo transitway buses do today.

On the map below, those routes going west on Albert Street jog up one block on Kent to hit Queen and the Lyon Street subway station entrance at the Podium Building. Buses coming the opposite way, from the Portage Bridge/Wellington Street, keep going on Lyon all the way to Slater Street , with a stop in front of the secondary subway entrance on the west side of Lyon by Barbarella’s strip club.


Here’s the routes that come from the Portage Bridge and seem to go right back. I presume they make the counterclockwise loop on Bank Street because the Kent block is already at full capacity with STO and OC buses accessing the Queen Street subway entrance:

And here are a different set of STO buses making the clockwise loop through the downtown, also using Bank Street:

I do not know the total number of buses that will be on each route, and how that volume compares to the number of buses OC Transpo is removing from the downtown. But there are 38 STO bus routes through the core, and if each route was serviced 5 times in the rush hour, that’s about 200 buses for the morning rush hour and 200 for the pm peak.

Note that the Mayor has said something to the effect that he isn’t spending $2 billion to take OC Transpo buses off the streets of the downtown just to replace them with STO buses. So I presume there is some complicated back room dealing / back rubbing going on between various parties.

Once the Prince of Wales bridge is reconditioned to take STO buses directly into Bayview Station (ie, extending the Rapibus “transitway”)  …

or there comes a shuttle train service from Bayview Station to the Rapibus facility in Gatineau …

then the STO routes can be reduced or removed from their downtown loops.

Note that a rail shuttle from Bayview to a Gatineau Rapibus terminus is designed to remove buses from the Ottawa core; not for the convenience of Ottawa residents commuting to work at Terraces de la Chaudiere or Place de Portage. For them, it will probably continue to be buses across the Chaudiere and Portage bridges.

7 thoughts on “Buses in downtown Ottawa in the LRT era, part i, STO

  1. Why could the STO buses not go directly to Western stations such as Pimisi and Bayview? After all, STO will eventually ask all their Ottawa destined passengers to transfer to the Confederation Line anyway. This will only prolong expectations of direct CBD service for Gatineau passengers, while most Ottawa riders will have at least one transfer. Now if you tell me these Western stations do to have the capacity, then there is something wrong.

    1. Your argument has merit, as does the opposing one.

      If we force people to transfer too many times, or to just go one more stop, then frustration with transit might set in before the benefits of the 2018 and 2023 networks are up and running. Same argument applies to keep running #95 type buses from Tunneys to Bayview to Pimisi so westenders dont have to transfer at Tunney;s just to transfer again at Bayview or Pimisi.

  2. I think sending the STO buses along Slater/Albert will likely serve its customers better than Wellington, as those roadways are closer to the office buildings that many of their customers work in.

  3. With so many STO bus routes coming into Ottawa and OC transpo bus routes crossing the bridges, some consideration must be given to consolidating the number or routes that cross the bridges from Gatineau to Ottawa.

    A hub ( or hubs) would be created in Gatineau where Gatineau and Ottawa riders would transfer to buses that would cross the bridges to the LRT Stations. The new bridge routes would be a precursor to the eventual LRT Gatineau to Ottawa LRT bridge link

    A linked hub bus system was used in Montreal before the Montreal Subway was built in the 1960s to avoid bus congestion in the downtown.

    1. Don, while I agree with the general tone of your comment about consolidating the number of buses, I am concerned it might increase the travel time for the commuter, as he or she has to get off of one bus and on to another. This may be a deterrent to the overall objective of increasing transit ridership.

      In addition, congestion is a relative term. When the LRT opens, the total number of buses going through downtown Ottawa will go down. As such, the perception of congestion will likely be that the situation has improved, irrespective of how many STO buses roll down the roadway.

      1. Ron:
        This may be a deterrent to the overall objective of increasing transit ridership.

        A great many studies have shown that the most effective means of increasing transit ridership is to do away with bus routes and substitute LRT or similar for bus transport.

        The reasons for this are many: I suspect the chief reason is that an LRT or other tracked system forces adherence to a definite schedule while bus transit is much more random with respect to timetables,

        Overall, this appears to a further example of the silo problem with respect to civic improvements. The NCC operating within its ceremonial silo is able to create a cycle network endlessly circling Parliament Hill, The City of Ottawa does something with respect to public transit, the City of Gatineau does something else.

        The interconnections between silos are minor or non-existent. The outcome is a flawed quality of life for all inhabitants of the region. I note that one of Eric’s readers has COPD. I had to look this up. It is a form of chronic pulmonary disease. Diesel engines produce a significant volume of fine particulate matter which will exacerbate COPD if you have it, and predispose you to it if not already afflicted. City planners who create urban architectures that poison the inhabitants are a further example of the silo problem.

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