Where were you when the lights went out?

Where were you when the lights went out last Tuesday? And where will you be if they go out again?

Was it just last Tuesday that I left the Carnegie Library on Rosemont Avenue and browsed flowers at the Parkdale Market?

Then off to the Scott multi user path or Mechanicsville for a leisurely ride home. But at Holland and Scott, the traffic lights were out.

At Parkdale…really out:

It’s pretty hard to take out signal posts on all sides of an intersection at once, and the ground wasn’t littered with wrecked vehicles. But there was a lot of wiring strewn about. Following the trail …

the wires are tangled up in the metal form work on this trailer …


Gee, those forms look familiar … don’t we see them all the time at the Confederation Line stations? I looked back for a few months in my photos but couldn’t find a shot that included them. But here is a snippet of a photo from the Ottawa Citizen of a few days prior. If you look in the lower right edge, you can see those forms before they (or their dopplegangers) were loaded onto the flatbed for its three hour tour:

The media are all gung ho to heap criticism on RTG and the LRT office for construction mishaps, I am surprised I didn’t hear harping on about this latest outrage. Or outage. Or maybe I’m learning to tune them out.

It was certainly interesting to see how one set of snagged wires caused lights out through several residential areas and all traffic signals from Preston west to ??

That’s one vulnerable system.

So what would happen if the LRT was in service when another vehicle takes out some major bit of dangling wire? Will it also grind to halt … from Blair to Tunney’s??

The city decided sometime earlier that the LRT line would not be a separate circuit running through the city. (I’d have powered it directly from the Chaudiere Falls, with backup links to other grids elsewhere). My idea is to keep the key transit line running whenever disaster strikes. The City’s was to save money.

The LRT, if I recall correctly, draws its power from the neighbourhood circuits it passes through.

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and an electric transit line is only working when ALL its blocks are powered up. Take out one … and does the whole shebang go dead?

If we lose power in Tunney’s, can the trains still run from Pimisi to Blair?

If the local power feed at Pimisi goes dead, can trains still get from the the previous power block to the Tunney’s block?

In theory? In our practice?



3 thoughts on “Where were you when the lights went out?

  1. I was driving along Byron when I first noticed the problem. Drivers were good about it using 4 way stop process. But it was an interesting situation. How could there not be a back up that kicked in? I too like to save money but you shouldn’t be short sighted on these types of things. If this happens at night or during a winter storm the results could be quite different.

  2. A dedicated system would be its own weakest link, and a single point of failure. One blown transformer or control system and the whole system could go down. Without any backups, a downtown power failure could sever the system in half, it could continue to function in a degraded state.

    It is a far better design, IMO, to distribute the risk like this throughout the system. If they’ve added backup connections or generators throughout the system, it could be even more resilient. Even if these aren’t in place from day one, they are much more easily added after-the-fact than if the system is isolated from day one.

  3. “a major bit of dangling wire” indeed. It seems form the photos that these wires were actually lower than even clearance for our double-deckers would have required. It seems these were temporary installations that did not follow clearance specifications. Who installed them? The city or RTG? Will we ever know?

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