Wednesday, April 30, 2008

High praise for Ottawa transit

A story recently published in the Montreal Gazette had some very kind words to say about Ottawa's transit system, calling it "a model of efficiency":

Ottawa has no métro or light-rail system, yet 20 per cent of its commuters use public transit, a figure roughly equal to that of Montreal and Toronto, cities endowed with efficient métro lines, transport experts say.

What Ottawa does have is a world-renowned bus rapid-transit system that whisks passengers on segregated, reserved lanes past traffic jams.

Although it's a little overzealous--I wouldn't really call the bumpy ride down Ottawa's pothole-ridden streets very "whisk-like"--it is true that Ottawa does have one of Canada's best transit systems. And certainly, the short-term economic savings that a bus system has (the story says it's $3M/km to build, compared to $147M/km for a metro line to Laval), the long-term figures are often said to be in favour of rail.

I've also made the point before that Ottawa's system benefits greatly from a relatively predictable workforce. Having thousands of Government of Canada workers commuting on very stable timelines, five days a weeks, most weeks in a given year, allows for routes to be planned with relative predictability.

Although Ottawa's system is alright, it's got plenty of room to improve. And don't be deceived; it's far from the "model of efficiency" this Gazette column makes it out to be.

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