This will be the first of several posts on the western portion of Ottawa’s LRT project. While some commentators insist that the current DOTT project is too short/too long/too wrong, some observers usually skip over that the Tunney’s to Blair portion is just the first part of a multi-phase LRT build-out. The temporary western terminus of the first phase LRT is at Tunney’s because the DOTT LRT piggy-backs on existing environmental approvals and studies. It would delay the DOTT portion for several years to try to build it all the way to Lincoln Fields in phase 1 due to the studies required for the “new section” west of Tunney’s.
If the eventual chosen route for the western portion is the Ottawa River corridor, then it could, given political will and funding, possbily be opened at the same time as the DOTT portion, as that route has minimal complex engineering structures. Not that I am confident we will chose that option or that we could move that fast … and as I expressed before, I think even the DOTT portion could readily be accelerated to open July 1, 2017, Canada’s 150th. Indeed, if Jim Watson wants to prove his managerial prowess and do more than just complete his predecessor’s big project, he has to have some game-changing moves, a good one would be to deliver the project on budget (and the current estimates have tons of slop room in them) but two years earlier.
There is an ongoing study on how to get from Tunney’s to Lincoln Fields. To identify as many options as possible, the study zone starts at Bayview and extends west to Lincoln Fields. All options then use the Pinecrest Creek corridor to College Station at Algonquin/Baseline/Woodroffe. I was interested to hear the lead consultant last week talk about how the LRT could do more than just reduce the need for new roads (or widening roads such as Richmond). He talked briefly about the validity of examining how new LRT could REPLACE EXISTING roads. While he didn’t spell it out in detail, the obvious candidate for replacement is the Ottawa River Commuter Expressway, or two lanes of it. The LRT could be added to the corridor along with the existing four lanes of expressway, but this uses up more land. It might instead be possible to remove two lanes and replace them with the LRT (albeit with different geometry requirements for rail vs road). This ties in with current progressive transportation thought that
- favours moving more people over moving more cars
- this might mean removing some road infrastructure, and
- the 1950’s and 60’s thought pattern that underlaid the original ORP and NCC idea that we can enjoy nature best when seen from private automobiles, might be wrong and need correcting.
To this end, the study has examined the sensitivity of the total transportaton need in the west, and found that removing some planned or existing car lanes would not cause traffic chaos. These lanes need not be the Ottawa River Commuter Expressway, of course, they could be Richmond Road not being widened, or Byron being rescued from its current role as a parallel through street, etc etc.
The western LRT serves two markets: the longer-haul commuter market that wants to get to major transfer points and major work destinations; and the shorter-haul local transit market that wants to have more stops to get closer to more destinations. About two thirds or three quarters of trips in the western study zone are for those through trips. Long haul trips being the result of our city’s choice to encourage suburban development serviced by express buses on a BRT spine. As Haydon pointed out in the recent election campaign, it will be difficult to offer the same directness of service as express buses offer [at great subsidy per passenger] with a LRT service that must collect users from a wide area and concentrate them onto one service to be efficent [but presumably with less subsidy per passenger].
Some observers have advocated two LRT services to the west: an express one and a more local service along Carling Avenue. Others advocate one service only, along Carling, that will meet both local and long-haul transit needs. [this para. has been edited since first posted].
Some of the proposed route options skip Tunney’s Pasture, which is an important employment node that is planned to increase it’s employment by 300% over the next decades. The study found that most intensification opportunities along the proposed routes lie along Scott and along Carling west of Kirkwood. Using Carling along the Experimental Farm results in expensive transit service to undevelopable land; somewhat similar to the argument that using the ORP is too removed from redevelopment sites along Richmond.
The illustration below shows the major Carling Avenue corridor options. A number of these have really significant problems, and will be readily ruled out. That is the subject of the next post.