Monday, July 14, 2008

Naqvi, part four: The Cancelled North-South Line

As all of us who've followed public transit planning in Ottawa remember, the current light-rail plans that City Council are moving forward with are not the first. Back in 2006, the city went as far as to award a contract to Siemens to construct an extension to the current O-Train track along a north-south line, from the University of Ottawa through downtown to the LeBreton Flats, Greenboro, all the way out to Barrhaven (see map below, from the City of Ottawa website). It was scheduled for completion by autumn 2009.

Looking back on it now, Ottawa Centre MPP Yasir Naqvi calls the now-cancelled North-South extension "visionary".

I have to tell you that I wish that original plan [of a North-South extension], which was agreed on by City Council, would have been going on right now because, if all the timelines would have been followed, we would have the trains running by spring of '09. And sitting in summer '08, with the gas price as it is, think about that. That would have been quite visionary at this time.

In late 2006, Council voted to go forward with the plan, but without service through downtown; the rail lines were to stop at LeBreton Flats. Both federal and provincial governments withdrew their funding--at least temporarily--in the face of this amendment, pending further review. Council then had to choose between three options:
  1. The original plan, extending through downtown, with an estimated price tag of almost $800M, half of which would be covered by provincial and federal governments.
  2. The amended plan, extending from Limebank to LeBreton Flat, at the risk of federal and provincial governments withdrawing financial support.
  3. Neither plan, and a decision to go back to the drawing board, at the risk of between $250-300M in lawsuits from Siemens.
The city went with the third option, which is why there is currently no light-rail extension under construction, and why council is now going forward with Transit Option Four, a much more ambitious, comprehensive, and--perhaps most important of all--costly plan than the previous one.

Despite the cancellation of the project, Naqvi made sure to re-affirm his commitment to a "good, solid plan" for public transit in Ottawa.

Unfortunately, again, politics came in the way, and no point in pointing fingers. The point being that provincial government has been there, and they're not the ones dragging their feet. And we will be there when there is a good, solid plan in place.
I'm sure all his constituents, and the rest of the citizens of Ottawa, are hoping that the province is right there with Council when a proactive plan is finally put forward.

Sources:, "3: Beyond the Pilot: Extension and Electrification", Ottawa O-Train, accessed: July 14, 2008. Available here., "Ottawa council kills light rail project". Accessed: July 14, 2008. Available here.

Part Three of Yasir Naqvi on Public Transit in Ottawa, a exclusive:

Part One: Introduction
Part Two: Effective Public Transit
Part Three: Provincial Funding
Part Four: The Cancelled North-South Line
Part Five: Subway is "a good idea"
Part Six: Rail on the Ottawa River Parkway
Part Seven: Bi-Provincial Partnerships


Anonymous said...

Visionary?! What a cruel joke.

Sure, we might have had trains - if you can call a single railcar a "train" - running next spring, but they wouldn't be carrying too many people. The downtown would still be full of buses, the vast majority of current and future transit users would still be on buses for their entire trip and the cost of operating the system would still be spiralling out of control.

This so-called "visionary" project would have unnecessarily put an end to the only rail service we have for 3 years, it would duplicate much of the Southeast Transitway when the much cheaper option of just converting the latter was not even considered, and it wouldn't even have gone to Hurdman, which at least would have opened up the possibility of removing all buses from downtown Ottawa, starting us on the path to actually converting the entire system to light rail (the money saved by converting the SE Transitway could have funded the extra length to Hurdman). Now that would have been visionary... but that project as conceived?

Anonymous said...

The real cruel joke is that we are planning to convert the Transitways at an enormous price tag, provide less frequent service with little or no improvement in the speed of service, adding transfers to most riders' trips, and generating little or no new ridership. It is looking more and more like we are going to blow up the Transitway bus system, then rebuild new parallel transitways (eg. Hurdman-Innes Transitway) to recreate it, again at additional cost. What sense does this all make?