I surprised and pleased to hear Hizzoner Jim Watson actually mention the Prince of Wales railway bridge on Thursday. And in the same breath, to mention rail transit on it.
Of course, you and I and everyone else knows it is the elephant in transit and city planning that up to now was verbotten. Mayor Watson seems to have thought that being mayor of Ottawa meant he was responsible for transit only in Ontario, only within Ottawa’s capacious confines. “I am the Mayor of Ottawa.”
This despite the hundreds of OC Transpo buses that cross the provincial boundary daily. And he has no problem providing lovely facilities for motorists from Pointe Gatineau heading for jobs in Ottawa via King Edward and other busy routes. Or for Ottawans headed north to Quebec. But rail transit didn’t seem to be able to pass his tongue. Did I mention we [Ottawans] own the bridge, the rail line on it, and the Federal rights to run trains on it?
Now, at last, the Liberals must be ruling in heaven too because the words have passed his lips.
Amazing what a logjam the Senators mega project seems to have unleashed.
[putting up the fence, or taking it down?]
In the illustration below, the universe is focussed on Bayview Station in the centre, with LeBreton Flats up to the right, and the Prince of Wales bridge running over the river straight up at the top. The solid blue line represents the current OTrain Trillium Line coming into the picture from Somerset at the bottom right. The dashed blue line shows where it will be when the Confederation Line opens in 2018. The current Trillium platforms on the east side (right side) of the solid blue line will move to the west side (left side) of the dashed blue line. The future platform of 2018 is shown with a crude black rectangle. I am not a cartographer.
There is a slightly beat up track coming in from the Prince of Wales bridge at the top of the picture. It could, at modest expense, be positioned to come in beside the new blue track location at Bayview Station. Passengers to and from Gatineau could board from a new platform built right between the red and the blue lines. While I suspect most users would be transferring to or from the Confederation Line upstairs on the second level of the Station, those connecting to the Trillium line could simply walk across the centre platform to get into a waiting OTrain.
I gather from those who know, that a single train could run from Bayview to Terrasses de la Chaudiere and back, in 10 minutes. Thus, no need for the expensive and slow signalling systems we are having so much fun with on the Trillium Line. There would only be one train running, so no passing track either. The 10 minute frequency coincides nicely with the 10-12 minute unschedulable frequency we current enjoy on the Trillium Line.
Wouldn’t trains be expensive to buy?
We already have THREE spare Talent trainsets parked out near Johnston Road, two of which could be rolling with just a few days notice. The third one apparently requires a repair. I don’t think any of them need any interior refurbishment for a pilot project like this. And instead of rusting away unused, these trainsets could be earning about a million dollars a year in fares. And replacing up to 300 bus trips per weekday on the Chaudiere and other bridges. And if a single trainset proves to not have enough capacity for all those commuters (and recall the Trillium Line continually surprises us with its increasing popularity year after year for going on two decades …) then simply hook two trains together, run them with one driver, and make the platforms a bit longer.
There hasn’t been such a nice constellation of benefits so cheaply attainable for years!
So why run a separate train from Bayview to Terraces? Why not extend the existing OTrain Trillium Line over to Gatineau?
There are a whole bunch of reasons, and the biggest ones are money and time.
- To extend the service to Gatineau might require additional trainsets since city staff feel the 3 older Talent trains are not compatible with the 6 newer trainsets. By keeping the two types of trains on separate tracks, there is no mixing when in service (although presumably the Prince of Wales trains would retire at night to the same Walkley Yards as their cousins)
- a separate mini line from Bayview to Terrasses would not require any expansion of the complex signalling system, since there wouldn’t be any other traffic on the line
- it might be easier to set up a coordinated approach and funding with the NCC and City of Gatineau with just a separate interprovincial short line. Yes, Ottawa has a federal license to operate into Quebec, but there are sensitivities at the political and labour union level
- a direct connection from Ottawa Airport to the Casino de Gatineau (should the line be extended that far) would see the instant installation of additional hotels there and a giant sucking sound of Ottawa’s convention traffic going to Gatineau, but necessitating a transfer at Bayview equalizes the opportunity since a transfer would be required for each province. Stopping the trains at Terrasses avoids the whole casino-hotel-airport connection flapdoodle.
- the city won’t do anything without extensive expensive consultants racking up billable hours, so a separate short line offers opportunities for cost sharing with other parties
All aboard !
(picture by Andrew King at Ottawa Rewind)