Transitway Detour during LRT construction – nothing to see here folks !

The new LRT transit rail lines will go where the bus transitway is now. For the duration of the construction period, the buses will have to run somewhere else.

This is not an insignificant matter. There are about 190 buses per hour per direction. On the west side, the city is going to move them all onto Albert / Scott Street.

I don’t think I have been particularly somnolent in the last year, and I have attended several briefings (last one just in October) by the City on the upcoming construction work, but the detour stuff was not, to my recollection, portrayed as decided.

There will be a public meeting* on Tuesday at Tom Brown Arena between 7 and 9pm. Bring your pitchforks and  bodyguards, it promises to be exciting.

[ *  Just like the last public meeting on the construction, the city has managed to schedule two important community meetings at widely separated places at the same hour, both involving the same community associations and neighbourhoods. Unlike some people, I am sure this not a conspiracy to repress the restless populace]

What is proposed

The city will detour all buses off the transitway onto Scott at Holland. They will travel along Scott to Bayview, then go past Bayview Station / OTrain along Albert, following Albert past Preston to Empress, where they will join the existing bus lanes on ALbert-Slater through the downtown.

For the most part, the buses will travel in the curb lanes. The number of buses is approximately 190 per peak hour direction, ie rush hours.

Roadworks planned

Scott is rather narrow and undulating. Albert has dysfunctional storm drains/catchbasins and the sidewalk is mostly flat to the road. Both streets have been constructed very close to the houses.

The existing curb lanes are too narrow to fit that many buses onto. So they will widen both Scott and Albert on the north side. The new bus curbside lanes will be 3.8m wide, about 12 feet. This is not a generous lane width.

In addition, so as to not unduly inconvenience motorists on the same routes, in particular to avoid any delays to motorists, there will be some additional lanes here and there:

  • at Booth, there will be 7 lanes
  • east of Preston, there will be 6 lanes
  • west of Preston, there will be 5 lanes, plus a median
  • they will not repair, replace, nor rebuild the existing sidewalks on the north side
  • east of City Centre, there will be 6 lanes
  • all these will reduce to the existing four lanes on the OTrain overpass, which many consider claustrophobic now
  • there will be no change to the [unwalkable?] sidewalks on the overpass
  • there will new traffic signals at City Centre avenue
  • they will remove the current signalized pedestrian crossing at Bayview Station
  • OTrain station access will be via the current sloped pathway on the north side of Albert; and new similar pathway to be constructed on the south side
  • widening Albert will cause the reconstruction of a temporary multi user path on the north side of Albert
  • the new path will be at the same height as the north curb, and flush to the curb. Cyclists will no doubt enjoy riding in the mirror zone of 190 buses per hour
  • a temporary connection of the northside MUP will be constructed from City Centre Avenue to Bayview Avenue, around the north end of the OTrain Station.

Theme of the Open House

It appears to some observers that the main theme of the open house is to inform the public that the detour selection is a fait accompli, there are no alternatives, and the focus now is try to identify some “mitigation measures”.

This may be why the crudely typed public invitation to the open house was headed “Notice” rather than some more tactful wording that might suggest consultation.

Background studies

Despite a number of community association briefings — which we all lamented were distressingly vague and imprecise — it turns out that there actually are a number of background studies to this detour, which the City has concealed forgotten to share. These date back to  October 2011, and do have pretty coloured covers and bound edges and lots of data in them. Data which the City has consistently denied it had available, when we asked.

One study is on the noise impacts along Scott-Albert.

This, i should point out, is the noise of the buses, not the noise of the community associations and residents. While the volume has been loudest from Hintonburg, there are actually only 9 houses facing or side-on to Scott between Holland and Bayview. There are, of course, many more houses up the side streets.

Between City Centre and Preston there are about 21 houses, mostly backing onto Albert. They have back fences, but the buses will be visible well above them. There is also a approx.50 unit senior’s apartment building.  East of Preston, to Lorne, there are  77  townhouses, mostly owned by OCH and CCOC, and a approx 50 unit apartment building at the corner of Booth. Many of the townhouses are set behind a short sound and dirt wall (approx 3′ high on the dwelling side; about 8′ high on the street side).  There are 9 traditional houses  with doors facing the street, between Lorne and Empress.

But, I didn’t find that data in the reports. I had to go out and count the houses. I did not count mailboxes or doorbells, which would have identified which houses are duplexed.

The sound study also did not measure sound or vibration inside any houses. Only at street level. And, most curiously, only on weekends.

This weekends-only data leads them to the conclusion that the noise increase is minimal. Mind, that might have been influenced by the lack of the 190 buses per hour per direction that they missed on weekday rush hours. That’s right, the noise and vibration study only considered Saturdays and Sundays.

What happened to residents from 5am on Monday to midnight Friday remains a mystery. Are no residents home during the day? No one is retired? No one works from home? No one is home with the kids? The kids are so busy with Mario Cart or — if older — making four o’clock pregnancies, that they won’t notice the buses and bouncing floors?

And, curiously, they evenly spaced out those weekend buses, so that they go by only every five minutes. They managed to miss that the buses are scheduled to go by in platoons (groups of buses).


Indeed, in a mastery of understatement, the city claims Scott-Albert currently has 30-70 bus movements per day, but after the transitway is diverted, this will be “more than 70” per day. However, the sound tests were only conducted on weekends, and the recommendations only apply for “occasional” bus events, not 190 buses per hour per direct direction.


Noise abatement? Yeah, sure, but only AFTER the buses are Scott-Albert, and only IF new sound tests show the noise levels to be too elevated, then the city will CONSIDER retrofitting the road with temporary sound abatement walls (presumably this means jersey barriers, those portable concrete walls put along construction zones).


What of all those buses passing over the catch basins along the curbside? They already bounce the adjacent sidewalk. And these are for catch basins that neither catch nor drain the street promptly. Well, the city proposes that maybe a neoprene ( rubber) ring put under the metal grate will “mitigate” the vibrations except for residences that directly front or side onto the street. (Recall, that is about 225 units).

Perhaps the city can charge admission to walk on the sidewalks while being sucked back and forth by fleets of passing buses and simultaneously being drenched in salt spray?? Losers will get the mirror prize, and “getting mirrored” will enter our lexicon.

The city’s studies do NOT include any study of the diesel fumes, vaporized rubber (tires wear out … where does all that rubber go to?) ,  air quality, or brake dust. Brake dust is probably waaaaay more dangerous than the diesel fumes, but I may be wrong about that. Perhaps the unmeasured rubber particulates are worse. But we won’t know.

It is notable that the city’s stated objectives for the studies (maintain existing routings as closely as possible; minimize additional transit travel times; minimize additional transfers; minimize additional buses required due to slower service; minimize throw-away costs (ie unreusable stuff); minimize bus traffic in residential areas, minimize disruption to cars) only one of those is a reference to adjacent residents, and even that seems to refer more to buses on residential streets which assuredly  Scott and Albert are not.

A number of alternative detour routings that interest community groups were dismissed by the studies right out of the gate, in order to “ensure study resources were focused appropriately”. So kind.

Using the Queensway was ruled out based on “the experience of regular commuters” that it is inappropriate. Presumably these regular commuters are the authors of the study who commute by car, as they neither sought out nor provided any actual data.

The Ottawa River Parkway? No, it might inconvenience motorists. Bus lanes on the parkway? No. To quote: …not pursued because of the negative impact the removal of travel lane would have on general traffic travel times”. Car commuters reign.

Can the city run all those express and transitway buses on Scott along with the local buses? Well, those few local buses (eg, No 16) might stop along the street (the transitway buses won’t) so maybe they will have to be moved off Scott-Albert to “an adjacent street”. Details unspecified.

Note to City staff: it would be helpful if you knew which street was Scott and which was Albert, as they are mislabeled and misreferred to throughout the reports and drawings. Remember: Scott runs west of Bayview; Albert runs from Bayview Avenue to the downtown.

The bus detour studies also seem to skip over the need for a replacement station for LeBreton during the two years or more that Booth Street to Hull will be closed, due to construction. If a replacement is located at Preston, that will mean a lot of stopping and starting buses right outside people’s houses and apartments. Pesky details. Move on folks.

Maybe there will be more info at the public meeting Tuesday evening, Dec. 3rd,   at Tom Brown, 7 to 9pm.

Endnote: the City promises residents that all this will be worth it, because the shiny trains will be so impressive. And after it is all built and opened, the City may rebuild Scott and Albert to new complete street standards. However, the stick (all those buses) is guaranteed; the promise (gorgeous new road) is just a promise. No guarantees.

And no,  they can’t rebuild the road first. Is that because all those buses would wreck it?








11 thoughts on “Transitway Detour during LRT construction – nothing to see here folks !

  1. Ugh.. This is shaping up to be an atrocious assault on part of the city that has been kicked and beaten by various governments for decades. At the heart of it, they need to stop prioritizing single occupant commuter traffic over everything including the health and happiness of residents, bus and other users of the roads. When planning these things they need to act like they live on the street they’re ruining and not some far flung suburb.

    Can we set residency requirements for city planners?

    1. This isn’t a deliberate assault on the old near west end. No, rather these communities will be the first to experience a problem created by the Transitway itself.

      When the Transitway was designed over three decades ago, it was designed to accommodate an eventual upgrade to rail. However, it was not designed to accommodate that upgrade in a self-contained manner. It’s right there in the introduction of the Transitway Design Manual, which I have read: little to no consideration was given to how it might be upgraded. What this means is what we are now seeing: a heavily used rapid transit facility will have to be shut down and its buses sent elsewhere.

      Along the East Transitway, the City has sort of lucked out: they are able to take advantage of the widening of the adjacent Queensway to divert buses on to. But make no mistake: that’s just dumb luck, and had nothing to do with any kind of advanced planning.

      Here along the West Transitway, the City has no such dumb luck on its side. It has to pick an alternative route somewhere, somehow. But at least here – from their perspective – they have a decently viable option in the guise of Scott Street.

      It actually gets worse further west. Getting around Dominion Station in Westboro will be an interesting problem since Scott is not continuous to the Parkway. And then consider the City’s problem between Lincoln Fields and Baseline: the only plausible diversion route is Woodroffe Avenue (!). It’s either divert to Woodroffe or build the light rail line parallel to the transitway in the Pinecrest Creek corridor. I’m just waiting for that one to hit the Committee room floor. Converting the segment from Pinecrest to Bayshore will require sending the buses back onto the heavily congested Queensway in the vicinity of the 416 interchange (i.e. the reason that segment was built in the first place).

      The interesting wider question is whether the City will learn from any of this when they design and build new sections of transitway, or will they just continue as before and keep coming up with ad hoc diversion strategies.

      1. just to pick a little nit, there is currently no road between Scott and the SJAM, but there could very easily be one. After seeing what they’ve done to dig the tunnel along Albert, I’m pretty sure they could build a bus connector between Scott and the SJAM in a weekend.

        1. Well I did say “interesting problem” because I had realized the same thing upon writing it but didn’t really want to give them such ideas… but you’ve blown that for me.

          Not only do they have the option of extending Scott directly to the Parkway, which would cause the new connector to cross over the light rail works somewhere around Dominion, I also wouldn’t put it past them to extend Workman to the Parkway (and I live in that neighbourhood so I both know how easy it would be to do and what kind of grief that would create).

          There’s also Churchill they can connect up.

          The point is they’ve got a problem there and any solution is sure to have a negative impact on the surrounding community.

        2. There are actually two existing connections between Scott / Albert and the Ottawa Commuter Parkway.

          At the Preston / Albert intersection there is a paved road surface which leads north to the transitway, crosses the transitway and then turns into a curved approach which links directly to the westbound OCP lane. The actual connection has been landscaped over but the entire approach lane still remains. You can see this bit of orphan roadway in Google maps quite clearly.

          The second connection is via the Scott / Bayview connection. Travel northwest on Bayview and you arrive at a roundabout where Slidell St connects to the OCP at a signalled intersection which leads out to Lemieux Island.

          Given that this infrastructure is already in place it would seem possible to route westbound express buses via the Preston extension and OCP and to route eastbound express bus traffic along the OCP to Slidell and thence to Albert via Bayview.

          Given the damage the existing bus traffic does to the OCP I doubt very much that Scott / Albert will survive the expected future hammering.

          1. FJF: the comments thread was focusing on the potential connections of the west end of Scott to the ORP, near Dominion Station, because the NEXT LRT project to the west will require using the rest of Scott, which actually has way more houses facing it than does the eastern leg. . Yes, there are potential connections at Preston and Bayview. These routings would avoid the 9 houses in Hintonburg but not do much for the 200 or so houses along Albert if all the buses are put back onto Albert.

      2. David: south and west of Lincoln Fields the plan for the WLRT is to construct the rails in a new alignment parallel to the bus transitway, probably on its east side. Then the busway can be closed down, converted to cars , or remain as a busway so that people going to transfer at Lincoln fields to go east or west on carling wont have to transfer from bus to rail at Algonquin, then from rail to bus at Lincoln fields, but would be able to go straight to Lincoln fields. Sort of like how the OTrain and South Transitway run parallel in the South Keys area.

        as for Dominion, I see Scott extending out to the Ottawa River Commuter Expressway…

  2. Yeah, now I can see exactly why the Mayor was so upset when I made a comment on Twitter this summer about the city’s lack of savvy when it comes to consultation. This is outrageous. I am literally outraged by both the process and the substance of the plan.

  3. I’m just pleased I live way the hell and gone out in the country! The snowflakes are a nice touch!

  4. Just look what happens when there is a accident or bomb scare on the transitway now, the busses detoured in a similar fashion, it was complete chaos both for motorists and those commuting by bus. If it can’t work the one day a year something like that happens, how do they expect it to work for a long period of time. Those roads were not meant for mass transit.

  5. Thanks for this thoughtful analysis. A breathtaking example of how urban residents simply don’t have a voice worthy of consultation. “Shut up, pay your increasing share of taxes and move along!”

    I have walked these sidewalks in the winter and it is frightening enough with the existing traffic – put hundreds of buses into the mix rushing through the neighbourhood trying to maintain commuter schedules is a recipe for certain discomfort and real danger. As a “warm-up” to the real thing, try walking north on the west side of Holland in a mild day in February…then try it pushing a stroller (preferably without a child on board for safety’s sake).

    Does anyone imagine this is going to work without acceptance from the affected communities?

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