Re: Why not run trains on Carling?

Re: Why not run trains on Carling?
Posted on May 5, 2013 | James O'Grady | Written on May 3, 2013
Letter type:


Ottawa Citizen

Dear Editor,

Mr. Reevely's article in the Citizen today entitled, 'Why not run trains on Carling?' does a good job of explaining the City's argument why LRT on Carling Ave. doesn't fit with the 20th Century commuter rail strategy the City has been flogging for years. Unfortunately, it only glosses over the benefits of using Carling Ave. for LRT.

LRT is about spurring redevelopment as well as moving people. Unlike any Transitway option, Carling Ave. is the only option that addresses both of these issues. A Carling Ave. route could not only move suburban commuters to and from downtown during rush hour but could also address the needs of inner city residents during off-peak hours. In addition, it will bring much needed redevelopment and intensification to a main street that is desperately in need of modernization and renewal. Carling Ave. LRT will also allow for new LRT or tram lines spawning from it to carry people further south. A hub at Westgate for instance, could provide a point for rail to run south, up Merivale Rd. to Huntclub. A route that would go a long way toward relieving the near 24 hr traffic jam that Merivale has become. Despite the City's transportation plan, Nepean residents know buses are not enough to alleviate Merivale's traffic woes.

The technical requirements of syncing traffic lights with rail crossings has been available in the marketplace for many years. While hills can provide a challenge to some transportation planners, planners in other cities seem to have addressed the hill issue. In Switzerland, where I lived for two years, they have many hills but still manage to run trains to the top of the Alps. Carling is relatively flat in comparison.

What is sorely missing from the Western LRT discussion is a real business plan that clearly identifies both the costs and revenue opportunities that each route will generate. Until a real business plan is written, one that includes the economic upside to redeveloping Carling Ave. for the remainder of this century, an honest comparison between the two options can not be made.

Now that we know the cost of the City's Richmond Underground route is very close to the City's estimated cost of putting LRT on Carling, there is no doubt in my mind that a business plan which includes revenue projections for 80+ years of development and subsequent taxes, would clearly show that Carling Ave. is the best choice for the Western LRT route.


James O'Grady
Nepean resident

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James OGrady's picture

I am the founder of Unpublished Media--A social media entrepreneur, communications professional, part-time school teacher and community leader living in Nepean, Ontario. I am also a hockey goaltender, political hack... More


A key problem is that the City can’t decide what exactly they want this line to do. Continuing the Ottawa tradition of being penny-wise and pound-foolish, the planners have decided instead to have this line try to do everything, and of course have wound up getting it wrong.

Is this line intended primarily to bring Kanata commuters downtown as quickly as possible? Then why not try to locate stops so as to foster the growth of new employment centres on the way, reducing travel distances for many commuters?

A similar logic could apply to Barrhaven commuters except that in the long term it makes no sense to carry them down two sides of a triangle when the third side offers a direct route downtown, alongside the Via Rail tracks. The City should be starting talking with Via now for a long term solution to commuting from Barrhaven. As with the cancelled O-train extension to Barrhaven, once again the City is pursuing the wrong route to Barrhaven.

If the line is intended primarily to form the backbone of an effective transportation system, then it only makes sense to route it as close as possible to existing high density nodes and in areas where it could reasonably be expected to promote growth not only of residential buildings but also commercial and office development.

All too often, the Ottawa attitude is that it doesn’t matter where you locate something, because people will use it anyway, regardless. So build it as cheaply as possible. But in fact, this is how white elephants are born.


The city does have plans to use Carling for a secondary rail line (likely a street car system) in the long term future. If you want to use Carling for the redevelopment potential the plan for localized rail would probably be more beneficial for this goal even if it means waiting for a longer period of time. The secondary rail will be slower but have far more stops along the line allowing more businesses and neighbourhoods along the road to take advantage of it.

The first phase of LRT is mainly to deal with the transit bottleneck downtown. The transitway is nearing capacity and can't fit more buses. The second phase of LRT is intended to complete the rail network within the core city (the area inside the greenbelt). The main point of this is probably a rapid/commuter transit system. The benefit of development or redevlopment (particularly urban density) is a good but secondary benefit.

I'm not completely against using Carling but I do think the city is correct in identifying the challenges and likely reasons the route will be expensive. Long term the city plans to be able to run trains every 3 minutes or so during peak periods. Traffic light synchronization is not going to be enough to deal with that so the train will need to be grade separated at most intersections which will really increase the cost.