During the joint press conference where councilors Christine Leadman and Clive Doucet presented their Light Rail Now! transit alternative, transportation consultant Morrison Renfrew offered significant credibility to the presentation by offering a feasibility report on using Carling Avenue as the city's westbound light-rail corridor. Although the Light Rail Now! alternative was rejected by the city's transportation and transit committees, Renfrew's analysis remains valid, and Carling remains a viable alternative to utilizing the Ottawa River Parkway as the westbound corridor.
To begin his presentation, Renfrew outlined some of the factors working in favour of Carling Avenue. These included:
- The priority that exists in developing Carling Avenue as a part of the City's transit network.
- The presence of all-day high-volume "activity centres", including significant emplyment, two major hospitals and a number of medical centres, three major shopping centres (Carlingwood Shopping Centre, Lincoln Heights Galleria, and Westgate Mall), and a concentration of high-rise apartments.
- The "street allowance" of the roadway, which is "compatible with a surface operation in a segregated median right-of-way."
- A large connection to the bus rapid-transit system at Lincoln Fields.
- A junction with the O-Train at Carling Station, which allows access to a possible rail yard at Bowesville.
- A large number of "feeder streets" to bring bus riders towards the rail line.
As the map at the top of this article (which you can click for a larger, and clearer, version) shows, the leg of rail along Carling would begin at Lincoln Fields and run to the O-Train's Carling Station, with seven stops along the way: Lincoln Fields, Carlingwood, Maitland, Churchill, Merivale, Parkdale, and Preston (at the O-Train station). It would then curve up towards Bayview, running parallel to the O-Train. There are, naturally issues that would have to be addressed along Carling Avenue while building the rail corridor, but Renfrew suggested that they should be relatively simple for implementation.
The most difficult section would likely be at the intersection of Carling and Woodroffe, at the Carlingwood Mall. Due to the already chaotic nature of the intersection, Renfrew proposed that it be re-designed for better traffic flow, and at such time the implementation of the rail line could be determined.
After that would be passing under the Queensway, which Renfrew suggested would be pretty simple, using some embankment and likely requiring the westbound onramp being relocated further east. The image below, directly from Renfrew's presentation, shows somewhat how it would look:
At Lincoln Fields station, the track would utilize a platform, which Renfrew states could be accomodated with the available road width. The tracks would cross-over to enter and exit the platform:
There are a series of crossings near where the proposed Parkdale station would be, as a result of Island Park, Holland, and Parkdale crossings as well as the Civic Hospital, Royal Ottawa Hospital, and Westgate Shopping Centre. This could be addressed with an open-cut underpass to separate the rail track.
Finally, once the train nears Preston Avenue, Renfrew recommended a short tunnel underneath NCC greenspace that would allow the track to curve in preparation for the route towards Bayview. The NCC land would be restored after the tunnel was completed.
Other than these larger problems, most remaining "clusters of traffic signals" can potentially be circumvented by utilizing "co-ordinated, pre-emptive signal control", according to Renfrew.
There are, however, issues with running rail along Carling, not the least of which is the cost. Is Doucet and Leadman's estimation, it would be about three times as much as the Parkway, although KPMG suggested the cost would be around four times in their risk assessment for the city. I've outlined a series of pros and cons for the Parkway previously, and, although the list is not exhaustive, you can read it here--and feel free to add more to the list.
To end his presentation, Renfrew offered a short and confident declaration:
"In summary, there will be challenges in the detail but solutions for all of the critical areas in the Carling median alignment have been identified."Editor's note: A big thank you to Morrison Renfrew for taking all that time to send me his presentation, it was much-appreciated.