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Light Rail encore

Thu Jun 15, 2006 Miss Vicky 

As much as I respect the work of some of the groups calling for a delay to the approval of the North-South LRT contract, I've decided that we'd be better off just moving ahead with the project. I watched a bit of Coucil's Q&A session yesterday, and attended the open house at City Hall. I still have a few questions, which I will pursue in the coming weeks, but I am growing a little frustrated with the politicking and spin we're hearing over this issue. In a way, it's unfortunate that we're at this stage in the process mere months before an election, as it's very difficult to cut through the different agendas and get to the real debate.

I think it's important to point out that Ottawa has been examining the issue of Light Rail for several years now - as part of the 20/20 process, the Transportation Master Plan, numerous council and committee discussions, and so on. We've had several environmental assessments, a whack of public consultations and we've devoted a lot of newspaper ink, air time and bandwidth as well. It was decided early on that the North-South route was the place to start, and funding and contract bidding was pursued in this context - the east-west line, although it is desperately needed, is not the issue right now (which is good because there is a lot to debate there), although some folks seem to enjoy throwing this in to confuse matters. The decision to go for electric vs diesel was also made fairly early, and contracts were pursued accordingly. Yet some folks want to revisit that as well.

And then there is the issue of ongoing costs and maintenance, which some people want to add to the total cost of the project, despite the fact that this is not done for other capital projects the city understakes (especially where roads are concerned). I think it's important to get to the bottom of costs, but how are we going to do that if people with varying political agendas decide they have different bottom lines?

People in Ottawa have been looking forward to Light Rail for some time. We rejoiced when the federal and provincial funding came through. I've participated in the community design process for the Bayview-Carling stretch and am convinced that the benefits to adjacent communities in terms of future development, improved use of greenspace, cycling and pedestrian access all hinge upon this project. A $1 million budget for public art carries a lot of potential as well (not exactly 1 percent, but it's a start).

I'm not sure what a delay would accomplish at this point. Except perhaps to provide those who would like to kill the project altogether more time to rally for their cause. A delay at this point would add a year to the construction schedule, and cost between $65 and $80 million (way more than the extension of the line to Barrhaven and the addition of the University of Ottawa station combined). We have a month now to discuss, debate, raise questions and find answers. Let's use it.

Some people were moved to reply

adavidso Jun 16, 2006 11:01 AM said:

You really put it well! Complete agreement will probably never be reached, but there's so much time and energy already invested in this project. I think it would be a really big loss to the city (and to our community) to further delay the North-South line. I'm also really glad to see the Gladstone stop in the most recent design plans!

The Webgeek Jun 16, 2006 11:38 AM said:

we also have a discussion thread on Vicky's campaign site about this, along with the text of her press release in support of the O-Train/LRT proposal

ABC Jun 16, 2006 03:25 PM said:

There's been some question as to funding costs. No one really knows what the exact figure is and to me, this is an indicator that things are not being managed well and that's Bob's responsibility. As well, he's promised that the trip from Barhaven will be 10 minutes faster than the bus. I heard on the radio that some callers claim they can get downtown in 30 minutes by bus. I don't think ole Bob can promise 20.

Miss Vicky Jun 16, 2006 03:44 PM said:

the problem is in what you decide to put in the pot to count. the "exact" figure depends on your interpretation of "exact", which seems to depend on your political agenda. that's my take on it, anyway.

The Webgeek Jun 16, 2006 04:24 PM said:

As well, he's promised that the trip from Barhaven will be 10 minutes faster than the bus.

When? all the reports I've heard have been pretty clear that the train will take slightly longer.

amckay Jun 17, 2006 11:54 AM said:

My only real problem with the train project in general is that you need a special ticket to ride it. That's just retarded. If light rail is ever going to work it simply has to be an integral part of the infrastructure and one must be able to seamlessly transfer betweens modes of transport within that infrastructure. Other than that I see no real problems with funding and so forth.

And while I believe strongly that all things being equal the east/west line should have been a higher priority, all things were not equal because there was already a north/south track in place for a great deal of the distance. That does not hold for the far-west-end which is where the east/west line is needed most.

Miss Vicky Jun 19, 2006 08:57 AM said:

I'm not sure where you got the idea that you need a special ticket to ride the O-Train. Currently, the proof-of-payment transfer you get on buses can be used to transfer to the train, and the ticket you get at O-train stations can be used to transfer to the bus. The whole point of the system, as we move towards a "hub and spoke" approach, is to allow people to transfer between modes.

ABC Jun 19, 2006 09:51 AM said:

The Webgeek said: Jun 16, 2006 04:24 PM
As well, he's promised that the trip from Barhaven will be 10 minutes faster than the bus.

When? all the reports I've heard have been pretty clear that the train will take slightly longer.


It was on CFRA, during the lunch hour panel. I do agree with you that it will be longer. I think Bob is trying to drum up support for the election by stating this.

the Bitter Pirate Jun 19, 2006 10:06 AM said:

I’m one of those people who have been waiting for light rail for years, and now that we’re at LRT’s doorstep, I’m having doubts. I think that my biggest fear is of being the generation to approve another white elephant project. By all accounts, my urban planning friends tell me that if you build it, they will come and build communities around these stations. But is this the case in Ottawa? And are we looking at a really, really expensive experiment that will transport people to areas already being serviced by buses?

Why not keep expensive LRT to tried and tested routes, such as converting the Transitway from Terry Fox to Trim to electric rail, and then create new bus Transitways to alleviate congestion on roadways, like a more efficient link to Gatineau. My understanding is that every kilometre of Transitway is significantly less expensive than LRT, and that an LRT line that uses the existing Transitway corridor would also be less expensive.

(Before anyone corrects me, I realize that Terry Fox to Trim is not one existing line, but nothing says that it can’t be, and then create a bus loop with the two N-S segments currently in the 97 and 95 lines.)

I think that I’ve just been spooked by the recent green lighting of infrastructure deja-vus, like building new nuclear plants. I’ll bet anyone a glowing doughnut that there will be glitches there too. And here we are talking about Ottawa’s largest infrastructure project ever. No doubt that it will get used, but I’m looking for the best use.


amckay Jun 19, 2006 12:07 PM said:

Hmmm, I could have sworn there was a special ticket required for the O Train. Thanks for the correction.

The Webgeek Jun 19, 2006 12:36 PM said:

the Bitter Pirate,
On whether or not this should be east west or north south.

First off, the time for that type of discussion was during the planning faze, several years ago; not now that the environmental assessments have been done (and paid for), the plan approved, the request for proposal sent out, the bids looked at and discussed, and a winning bid selected. Despite what some councillors and the press seem to be saying, this didn't just come out of thin air. We've known ALL ALONG, that this was going to be north south. We've also been aware of where it was going. Complaining NOW that it isn't a east/west line is stupid. The stink should have been raised right from the get go.

Second, if they want the east west line to become a line rail line, then we need to start USING IT like a rail line. Right now every single express bus in the city rides along the transitway, not to mention the ump-teen regular routes that hop on and off it from time to time. Tearing it up now and laying track will cause all those routes to travel along alternate roads (read the highway) causing more congestion. It makes more sense to start using the 95,96 & 97 as defacto east/west lines and slowly turn those feeder routes and express buses into small looping routes onto those main three routes. Then, when we're used to treating the transitway routes as rail line equivalents, then we can drop the track.

Third, the line doesn't just wander off to nowhere. It joins Carleton and Ottawa U's campuses, travelling through downtown in the process. It shoots close enough to the Airport that a circular "shuttle bus" running every 5 min would be more than feasible (yes, it should have gone to the airport, but again, that should have been fought for during the planing stage not now). And Barrhaven is becoming a very hot bedroom community out west and shows every indication that it will continue to grow.

This isn't, or shouldn't, be coming out of left field here. These discussions should have been made eons ago. The councillors and business groups that are now all up in arms about this should have been up in arms eons ago. Instead they just sat with their heads in the sand and failed to do anything until a price tag popped up and are now creating fake outrage. There is no possibility of a separate proposal. the route or price or any of that isn't up for discussion. There's only three things to do.
1) accept the fixed price propsal of the winning bidder and build the damn thing.
2) Throw all the money already spent away by scrapping it, and waste another 3-5 years developing another, doubtless "controversial", light rail proposal.
3) add millions more to the cost and years to the project (as well as risk losing federal and provincial funding) by once more shoving out heads in the sand and waiting till after the election.

[Edited By The Webgeek Jun 19, 2006 12:45 PM]

the Bitter Pirate Jun 19, 2006 04:32 PM said:

Webgeek, everything you say is dead right. The time for input was at the input stage. It does connect UofO and Carleton. And there’s a lot of money that would be wasted if plans were scrapped or stalled. But in 10-15 years’ time, will people remember that the light rail project was on time, or that people in Barrhaven can now take either of two routes to get to the same destination or that it will take Carleton students about 15 minutes longer than the existing non-OC Transpo direct shuttle to the UofO and that a new ‘infrastructure debt retirement fee’ may make it’s way on to our city tax bills.

It’s a mega-project, and sometimes I feel that we’re not going to get the equivalent of three-quarters of a billion worth of bus-based service by going ahead with this as is. It will get used, there’s no doubt there; tons of people get off at Carleton as is.

Good point on all the extra buses that use the Transitway. Hadn’t thought of that.

The Webgeek Jun 20, 2006 10:59 AM said:

But in 10-15 years’ time, will people remember that the light rail project was on time, or that people in Barrhaven can now take either of two routes to get to the same destination

Yes, I'm sure Londoners are all up in arms that there's two different way to get from Ruislip to King's Cross among several other seemingly redundant routes within the tube.

Besides, during peak hours there's currently 6 different ways to get to Downtown from Barrhaven. the 95, 70, 71, 73,76, and 77 routes -- all of which travel along the exact same transitway route to get there. Id' think reducing that to 2 routes (available at peak and off-peak hours), the current one (the 95) travelling past Algonquin and Bayshore, and the new one (the 'new' O-Train) swinging past the airport (which currently requires one to take the 95 to the 97 or the 176 to the 116 to the 145) and Carleton (which currently requires one to take the 95 up to the current O-train) would be a vast improvement in efficiency and convenience. Especially if that means that we could also use those currently redundant 70 series express buses to increase the local feeder routes to link up the neighbourhoods to these two main arteries.

I agree that it may not be the ideal solution, but any project this big, with this many people getting their dirty little mitts all over it, will *never* be ideal. It's a camel -- a horse built by comittee -- and as such will always end up with a few awkward compromises. What bugs me is that some of the very same people that pushed for these camel-esque compromises are now balking at the end result. Even stupider is that they're pushing for a delay in the approval until after the election, which will do nothing to fix the issues and only add more cost.

[Edited By The Webgeek Jun 20, 2006 12:52 PM]

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