Western LRT (part v) Choosing the best route

The Western LRT study outlined in the previous posts assumes there will be a WLRT and a separate local LRT along Carling should one of the non-Carling routes be chosen for the WLRT. But could the two services be combined?

If one of the northern corridors is chosen for the Western LRT, then the TMP identifies Carling as the route for a supplementary LRT corridor. Thus the political process has pre-selected the mode, it is up to the engineers to make it work and be financially viable.

If Carling is the route of the Western LRT, then a supplmentary transit service would be required in the northern corridor, presumably Tunneys west to Lincoln Fields. This could be Bus Rapid Transit (ie bus lanes, “stations” instead of curbside stops, and bus priority measures, including using the existing transitway trench. Or it could be a LRT service.

The city has decided the main LRT is to be a long haul system. Many/most of the passengers will be longer-distance commuters. This is a direct consequence of Council decisions in the 80’s to promote lower density suburban developments outside the greenbelt. Therefore the primary corridor service will operate trains at higher speeds, have stations 800-2000m apart, support nodes of redevelopment near substantial stations accessed by a dedicated right of way.

 The supplmentary LRT service is short haul. A short haul system is designed to for local service, at lower speeds,  to promote continuous strip redevelopment along the right of way, to have simple stations (curbside shelters) 400-800m apart, and a priority right of way rather than an exclusive right of way. They used these pictures of LRT service in Toronto as examples:

The study team seemed unfavorably disposed towards trying to combine the short haul and long services (eg having local and express trains on the same track, or skip stations).

Here are some other bits I noted at the presentation.

Turnbacks: it is operationally undesirable to start all trains from the main maintenance yard every morning, as it would take quite a bit of time to “populate” the network. Instead, some trains will be parked at turnback siding(s) at Lincoln Fields. This also provides a place to dump dead or defective trains in the middle of the day, or to short-turn trains, or have extra trains to put in service at peaks.  Other stations mentioned for turnbacks include Bayview and LeBreton. These downtown locations are required to send trains out on Canada Day and other festivals to handle large crowds.

Station Platforms & Train Lengths: for several years the DOTT – OLRT study assumed the start-up system would have short trains on short platforms. These platforms would be designed to be easily expanded to handle six car trains (180m platforms). However, they are now planning for only five car trains at maturity, opting to run trains more frequently,  and selecting train designs that can carry more people. While they didn’t mention it at the last briefing, some new LRT systems use articulated train sets with a single continuous passenger compartment for the whole train and no gaps or barriers between cars. They did however, imply that they had a strong favorite car design. While the shorter platforms reduce construction costs, I expect the more sophisticated rolling stock will offset that saving.

Chosing the Route: Council will choose the actual route for the Western LRT. The study team is examining all the route options and evaluating them using a common criteria. The evaluation criteria comprise comparative, qualitative, and quantitative criteria. Each focus group assigned each criteria a rank and then a weight. Each items was scored on a 0 to 4 scale.  The main criteria are shown below down the left side of the table. Across the top are the weighting assigned to each criteria by the different consultation groups:

  • the study team — consultants and city staff
  • the joint agency group — NCC, Farm, PWGSC, etc;
  • the public consultation group, and
  • the business consultation group.


It is most interesting to see how the different groups value different criteria, sometimes they are all close to the blended average, sometimes they are far apart. These numbers, by the way, were calculated from all the workbooks received by a certain cut-off date. More workbooks are coming in, so the table in the final report will differ.

It is tempting to get alarmed at some of the results. Does the study team really put a low value on a safe system? Or is it simply that they assume it will be a safe system regardless of the route choices, and thus feel it is not a highly differentiating factor? Does the public really not care if it is a wise public investment, or do they simply assume any route will be of similar value? The purpose of gathering a variety of viewpoints was to ensure many perspectives were incorporated, not to foster invidious comparisons.

The pie chart below shows the table weights:

The next steps are a public open house on the 8 June, 2011; followed by a recommended corridor(s) to Transportation Committee in September 2011.

Construction and system testing was originally scheduled by Council to be complete by 2019, but this time line is too pessimistic. There is now official talk of having it running by July 1, 2017, our sesquetennial.

8 thoughts on “Western LRT (part v) Choosing the best route

    1. This “fast tracking” is just bluster. They were originally supposed to have it operational in 2018 anyway but they pushed it back to 2019 and now they’ve moved it back up to 2018.

    2. Caio: the portions east and west of Bayview/Tunney’s were split into two separate EA’s because the City knew the western one would be more contentious and difficult EA, while the eastern one would be longer to construction. So the Bayview-east can be finished EA and under way while the western EA is still ongoing. The west of Bayview portion needs a separate budget since there couldn’t be a budget without a route selection or EA. The western section could be built and opened at the same time as the DOTT section, or shortly after, or much after. From a system perspective it makes a lot of sense to open from Lincoln Fields to Blair at day one (in 2017).

  1. If they need space downtown to park trains why not use the extra space that will be going to waste along the Scott street trench once they convert it to LRT. Surely they should be able to squeeze in a third set of tracks.

    1. Indeed – if trains turn off the current transiway to go down Churchill (for argument’s sake) you’ve got the space up to the current Dominion station for storage, if needed.

  2. Thanks for all this great info. Is the original document containing “the city staff … briefings on the western LRT options” available on the City of Ottawa website (or some where else)?

    1. Unhh, no, I don’t think so. The City gives these briefings to the reps on its various advisory committees with the instructions that we are to share the info with our sponsor groups (in my case, the Dalhousie Community Assoc). They certainly know I put these up on WSA as my means of communicating. For the Western LRT group and the DOTT briefings, staff is OK with that. Another group I get briefings from is totally anal in keeping its briefings unshared. I do know that some staff and consultants read the WSA and the comments, so we perform sort of a limited early trail baloon for the later public unveiling.

      1. If only the City Staff would understand that the briefings they produce belong to the citizens of the City.

        The bureaucratic obsession with secrecy serves no one.

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