Thursday, September 18, 2008

Light rail on the Parkway: The Issues

Emerging as one of the most contentious issues in Ottawa's transit planning is the use of NCC land along the Ottawa River Parkway to run light-rail alonside the river. The NCC has expressed a reluctance--to put it mildly--and have implored city planners and councillors to explore other options before committing to the Parkway option.


  1. Scenic route allows for a pleasant train ride.
  2. Arguably less environmentally damaging than buses.
  3. Least disruptive to current roadways and residences.
  4. Likely most cost-effective (due to lack of residential and road disruptions).
  5. Possibly a shorter distane travelled.

  1. Difficult to cross when walking to river.
  2. Low population density, so people need to walk to get to train stations.
  3. Arguably disruptive to greenspace.
  4. More banked curves for rail car to negotiate.
There are obviously opinions on both sides of the debate. Recently in the Ottawa Metro, columnist Nadine Doolittle argued in favour of running rail along the Parkway:

I’m assuming the only “buffer” residents will accept is the four-lane strip of tarmac affectionately known as the Ottawa River Parkway. Originally designed as a scenic route, it now functions primarily as a downtown commuter artery for west-end residents, where speed limits are routinely ignored and the air is always scented with exhaust fumes.

But hey, this is NCC land and it’s their call. For its part, the commission wants every other option exhausted before they’ll consider giving permission to run light rail along the route.

Apparently they can accept 250 diesel buses per hour currently bombing down the parkway, but a clean, quiet train has them puzzled. Which means three years of environmental assessments, consultations, studies, open houses, possible expropriation, and so on—all at a cost to the city—before the NCC can render its verdict.
Doolittle also mentions a number of Federal politicians in opposition of rail on the Parkway. Ottawa Centre candidates Penny Collenette (Liberal), Brian McGarry (Conservative), and Paul Dewar (NDP) all suggested that they wouldn't stand for it. Ottawa West-Nepean Conservative candidate and incumbent John Baird has been quoted as being strongly against the idea. Without federal will, it might be difficult to secure the permission of the NCC to go ahead. Difficult, but not impossible; it would be a shame if the Parkway turned out to be the best option, but political posturing forced the city into other alternatives.

On this blog, we have explored two other options: One running rail along the Queensway, and the other running rail along Carling. Both of these solve the cons, but have negative aspects of their own. There are likely more options, too, and I'm sure some of them are good ones. Any and all are welcome in the comments section. It is up to the city to determine which is the absolute best, taking all variables into consideration.


Anonymous said...


I am in favour of the transit LRT along the parkway. The raeson being is that it would take so many cars and sport trucks off NCC land. This would reduce polution quite a bit.

The federal conservative government doesn't seem interested in going green at all. They're Clean Air Act ( Dirty Air Act ) proves my point.

Bill Outtrim

Centretowner said...

(to the above poster: This will not take cars and sport trucks off NCC land. It will take buses off the parkway, making more room for cars and sport trucks to travel through)

In response for your invitations for more pros/cons (all cons, though I thought about pros):

- Good luck getting the NCC's blessing!

- No opportunity for new stations/to serve more people

- The banked turns will also increase wheel wear, and will be very screechy for passengers and neighbours alike

- Removal of buses from roadway will make more room for SOVs (though I agree with you about being less disruptive than buses)

- No opportunity for it to spawn new develompent, and thus collect Development Charges to help pay for it. (Unless the NCC opens the Parkway up for development, which isn't likely)

- Lots of grassroots political opposition.

I would add a caveat, though, that your point about being "difficult to cross when walking to river" is not as significant as you may think. One train every 90 seconds or every 3 minutes isn't anywhere near as hard to cross as four lanes of random motor traffic.

People seem to think that if you have rail going someplace you need to fence it along the entire way, yet you can have sidewalks right up against places like Baseline and everything's peachy.


- Charles