The pitchfork is skeptical about plan

Over at: Citizen Ellie wonders if we are shocked by the $2.1B price tag for the tunnel.

My answer is no. It’s really important to understand that the consultants that do the actual work for the city, are not interested in light rail. That’s not their product: their product is busways. McCormick Rankin sells busways worldwide, and Ottawa is their reference city.

McCormick Rankin rewarded former City of Ottawa planning staff Helen Gault and Peter Steacey with plum positions. It’s a good reward after decades of throwing consulting work their way, even hiring them to creat a evaluation system system called “TRANS”, that only they have experience with, guaranteeing that future contracts could be answered only by them.

It would be very embarassing for McCormick Rankin to loose their reference city. That’s why there is the mantra amount staff and some councillors that we “have to complete the transitway”. That’s why the 2006 NSLRT plan did not have any transfer stations, and why it terminated at Ottawa U (a dead end), rather than continue to Hurdman (which would have turned it into a downtown system).

But, light rail is in the air, and sometimes you can not fight it, even if former regional chair, and continuing bus-freak Andy Haydon (anyone ever seen HIM on the bus?) keep talking about bus tunnels.

Since you can not fight some kind of light rail, and Ottawa already has a massively successful 5 station system (the O-Train), with 5 stations, and 10,000 riders/day, what can you do? Well, busways are designed (we have been told many times), to be turned into LRT if you need to grow. So, do not fight light rail, but it’s gotta be more expensive than bus rapid transit.

If LRTs cheaper than BRT (to build), then why build BRT first? In Houston, they found that it was cheaper to just build the LRT first. This is very much accute if you actually do a full system cost (i.e. include operating costs, such as labour and diesel), and not just capital costs.

That’s why we have to have a tunnel. It’s not because it’s better, it’s because it costs more. That’s why we have to have the “cross-country” option, rather than the cheaper cut&cover option. That’s why we have to convert the Hurdman/Blair part of the transitway, because that part was among the most expensive part of the system, and the cost of it was never properly justified.

What would a sane system look like? We (Friends of the O-Train) presented the base of a system in 2006. It would have 3-car trains from Hurdman to Tunney’s Pasture. It would have major developments at Lebreton/Bayview and Hurdman, where transfers would occur to transitway bus, and also to NSLRT (O-train), connecting people to South Keys and across the Prince of Wales bridge to Terasse de la Chaudiere, and the Casino. (And it could continue all the way out old Gatineau if STO was interested)

It would cost $400M for the expensive downtown electric system, and an additional $39M would extend O-train-style LRT to Kanata, Barrhaven (“Barrhaven Bullet”), and to a new Earl-Armstrong Park’n’Ride in the South.

All of this would take about 2 construction seasons. It could have been ready NOW if we had started in December 2006, when council wisely shelved the broken plan. The work could have been done by Siemens/PCL, using the same vehicles we had already contracted to buy. No lawsuit, no $37 penalty.

The first expansion would have been to (South) Orleans along the cooridoor reserved for it. An extension from Hurdman through the General Hospital complex, behind the Pearly Hospital, and out Innes Rd. It would be quiet, electric, light rail. It would occupy less than 10m width of space, and people could walk dogs or ride bikes next to it without getting $55 fines from transit-cops.

We can still do this. All that we need to do is tell our councillors to stop the insanity.

The plans we have proposed have are well researched, and have been examined by multiple professional engineers (unlike the city’s plans, which have never been signed off by a professional engineer).