Tim Lane on O-train

(used with permission)

Op Ed piece on LRT expansion - June 12, 2006

By Tim Lane

There seems to be a concerted effort to forget, or dismiss, what the existing diesel light rail O-Train has accomplished.

A fifteen minute service on an existing heavy rail line, that carries upwards of ten thousand passengers per day, on a single track.

A system that integrates O-Train & bus to give people a faster, more comfortable trip than by bus alone, to many destinations.

A system that is the ideal way to get to events at Dow’s Lake (Tulip Festival, Winterlude, etc.).

A system that has won awards, although on at least one occasion, management didn’t tell the train drivers about it. (Ask me about that one!)

A system that has had beneficial effects on the bus system, freeing up buses to be used elsewhere.

A system that has tremendous fuel savings, on a per- passenger basis, compared to buses.

A system that reduces air pollution, compared to buses.

A system that provides ENORMOUS savings on snow clearing, compared to roads.

The O-Train kept running flawlessly, during last December’s snowstorm that immobilized hundreds of buses.

The David Gladstone Memorial Pathway, between Bayview Station & the Ottawa River Parkway recreational path system, would have allowed people out for a stroll or bike ride, to see how close the O-Train comes to the Prince of Wales bridge. Of course, some people in the City don't want the public to know that a simple, low cost solution to cross river traffic congestion is immediately available.

The reason I call it the “David Gladstone Memorial Pathway”, is that he will probably die of old age before it ever gets built. (pace, David!)

Capital Railway (the O-Train) now has the federally mandated authority to run a rail passenger service into Quebec, which would obviously involve using the Prince of Wales bridge.

 Doing this would be the simplest, most cost effective solution to downtown traffic problems.

It would allow many Gatineau residents, who, for example, work at Confederation Heights to ditch their car, and take a much faster transit service to work.

It would allow many OC Transpo and STO buses to stay on their respective sides of the river.

This would reduce bus congestion in the downtowns of both Hull and Ottawa.

It would allow many of these buses to be redeployed in various Gatineau and Ottawa neighbourhoods, thus improving bus frequency, without having to buy any new buses.

Now the Mayor seems to have fallen into the trap of forgetting what the diesel O-Train has accomplished, and is convinced that any future LRT has to be the expensive kind.

He has forgotten that the #1 reason you bring in light rail, is TO REDUCE THE COST OF OPERATING YOUR TRANSIT SYSTEM!

The #2 reason, is to give your riders a FASTER, MORE RELIABLE TRIP, if terms of travel time, and schedule adherence.

The new North South LRT extension, looping through Riverside South before entering Barrhaven from the south east, will, at enormous cost, provide passengers with a slower trip from Barrhaven to downtown, than the express buses on Woodroffe Avenue.

The plans for the East West light rail lines, with proposals to run it down busy city streets, rather than the existing, mostly grade separated rail corridors, show that the purpose of LRT, now, is to enhance the value of developers properties.

The two real reasons for LRT, above, have been thrown out the window.

There is no way that the proposed Light Rail system will provide a fast, reliable trip. Nor will it reduce the cost to the taxpayer of providing transit, if the vehicles, subsidized by the hour, are taking forever to get people where they’re going.

I believe that it is time to put a halt to these LRT expansion plans, until after the election next fall. That would give the public and the planners time to get some sanity back into our transit system.

Tim Lane