Common Sense Needed for Western Extension of LRT

Common Sense Needed for Western Extension of LRT
Posted on June 18, 2013 | Philip Brown | Written on April 10, 2013
Letter type:

It's time for some common sense to be applied to the westerly extension of the Transitway.

The City is obsessed with not routing the LRT down Carling Avenue and no argument is about to shake their conviction. They will continue to fix the analyses to ensure that Carling remains the most expensive option, without even trying the kind of value engineering on the Carling route that they have been doing on the Richmond Road options. Moreover, the City refuses to factor in public opinion and the benefits of adopting a route that has lots of popular support and few naysayers over a route that will have the adjacent communities manning the barricades.

With LRT, Carling could become the location of choice for intensification. Carling can handle the scale that is presently being contemplated in neighourhoods to the north where the roads simply are not suitable for such heights and densities. Light rail will bring the kind of intensification and redevelopment that Carling really needs and where it will be completely appropriate and compatible with the street. Besides, it is common knowledge that the best place for rail rapid transit is along high density corridors, not on the periphery of a low density neighbourhood at the edge of the urban area, and that is precisely the advantage that a Carling routing offers.

Moreover, Carling Avenue offers the additional benefit of having a number of service, commercial and business nodes strung out along its route. Part of the success of systems like the Toronto Subway is that they connect such nodes and encourage new businesses and services to locate at them. In this way, the Transit system can encourage employment growth across the urban area instead of concentrating it all downtown, and over time more and more suburban commuters will end up only commuting as far as Lincoln Fields, Carlingwood, or Westgate.

The problem is that the Planners can't get beyond viewing the westerly light rail extension as a way to speed suburban commuters downtown and are only paying lip service to serving people living along the route. They argue that Carling will be too slow because there will be too many stops and too many intersections. In fact, a light rail line along Carling wouldn’t need more stops than would a line along Byron, provided they were smartly located in conjunction with primary density and service nodes like the shopping centres and hospitals and had good supporting bus services. Of course, when it comes to serving Barrhaven, the City continues to insist on routing transit along two sides of a right angle triangle instead of taking the much more efficient hypotenuse route by negotiating a deal with VIA Rail to run LRT on the railway ROW.

But what the Transportation Planners in particular really don't seem to like is that an LRT line might actually mean some reduction in Carling Avenue's ability to move cars. They don’t want to diminish Carling as a relatively high speed and high capacity arterial road, even while they pay lip service to encouraging more people to take transit and leave the car at home. With light rail, they may have to lose a traffic lane and cross-streets would need controls timed to give priority to trains which is how this route can be used without having to resort to expensive grade-separation. This has been done successfully in many other cities, so why not in Ottawa?

But instead the City remains blind to the many benefits of LRT for communities along the route and would just as soon express the LRT past them (as is presently the case with the Parkway bus routing) even though conventional transportation wisdom would have high capacity high speed rail located centrally to the existing highest density areas – which in the case of west Ottawa means along Carling.

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Note to readers: Phil Brown passed away in November 2015. Please see his bio and letters he wrote on municipal affairs. Phil was a friend and mentor to UO President James O'Grady. He will be missed.

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Bang on Phil! If the City would do a fair evaluation of the western LRT route options I think they would find that Carling is the best choice for the future of the City.

Great points about services along the Carling route: 2 hospitals, multiple shopping centers. I'll add inexpensive housing (for those without cars, or Carleton, OU, Algonquin students) Lots of opportunities for intensification. There are many retirement homes on Carling. After that it could service ND at the Nortel building at Carling and Moody. It can provide access to Andrew Hayden Park. Heading west you hit the epicenter of high tech in Kanata. What's not to like??

The Parkway developments are going to be luxury condos (views of the river, and indoor parking for BMWs).


We now live in a Global economy and to be sustainable you have to compete within the capabilities of the G20. If common sense was in play and understood what we are actually going to get from a hole in the ground. That in less than 3 months after approval has already been modified to give us less exits to come within budget and it has not even started construction. my experience with construction tell me you do not what to see the potential increase cost once we do start to dig the tunnel. The maintenance cost of maintaining a tunnel with a city sitting over it in an union controlled town means hire taxes and few benefits.

As for the LRT they already knew two things going into it. That it would not reduce traffic and it was not going to even have the ability to break even and by the time it is built the cost will out strip any benefit and the big one no one wants an LRT but city hall. As in the end any property within visually distance loses value. With the counsellor suggesting they now build another tunnel. In a town that sites of shell rock and granite and the simple common sense approach that not one city that has ever put in a LRT or Tunnel as reduced traffic for one simple reason. Too many people need to be in too many places in a short amount of time and a stop and Go 20th century transit system has already shown it cannot provide and it is still faster and cheaper to take a car and in a time when money is limited.

The sad part the drivers of Ottawa where show a 21st century transit system 7 years ago. Based on not reinventing the wheel just using innovation to modify already available technology to give them a 21st century transit system that could have been in place by now and they said if put in they would leave their car at homes during rush hour. Cutting the maintenance cost of the city and if common sense had anything to do with running this city you would have expected they would have at minimum asked question. They actually did not what anything to do with 21st century anything. Which means they say they do not what to support a lot of new manufacturing long term jobs to be creation. As most of the technology could be supplied by a dozen different local companies creating thousands of new local good paying jobs and open a Global market using a 21st century sustainability approach. Which simple means in a Global economy they are not looking to take Ottawa into the 21st century. So they have the means to compete within a Global economy and must believe our citizens can continue to pay more to get less. You would think for $1500 per councillor they would have been interested to see what a 21st century system was all about and how it all worked to help cut the cities cost. Using a 21st century approach. That had the ability to have a compete 21st century transit system in place within 10 years for the same cost has the tunnel and present LRT. Those that think that cannot be done. I have a 40 year recorded track record that says it can.

Thanks for the comment Fraser. What do you think would be the ideal transit system for Ottawa?