Sunday, November 23, 2008

Carling Avenue might be best option

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:
  1. The priority that exists in developing Carling Avenue as a part of the City's transit network.
  2. 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.
  3. The "street allowance" of the roadway, which is "compatible with a surface operation in a segregated median right-of-way."
  4. A large connection to the bus rapid-transit system at Lincoln Fields.
  5. A junction with the O-Train at Carling Station, which allows access to a possible rail yard at Bowesville.
  6. A large number of "feeder streets" to bring bus riders towards the rail line.
Renfrew also mentioned the positive effect that rail transit can shape development, meaning that utilizing Carling Avenue would revitalize the area and encourage further development. The City's current idea of using street-cars, according to Renfrew, is based on nostalgia, and would likely not be cost- or time-effective due to the significant traffic and the large number of intersections and station stops.

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.


Centretowner said...

Thanks for posting this, Peter.

Pardon the long post.

I was quite disappointed when Transportation & Transit Committee voted against even considering the Leadman/Doucet option. Even moreso when Councillor Cullen used the lack of study of the Carling option to justify voting against it!

I very much prefer the Carling option, though I have three footnotes on your post:

(1) Bowesville rail yard

(2) Streetcar vs. LRT

(3) Carling vs. parkway--phasing

Bowesville rail yard:
You mention that the connection to the existing O-Train track will allow a connection to the Bowesville rail yard.

It should be clarified that this would NOT be done by converting the O-Train to double-track ELRT; access to the Bowesville site (according to the Leadman/Doucet plan) would be via downtown, following the Southeast Transitway, which would be converted to ELRT, then down to the O-Train extension (which would not be an O-Train extension but rather ELRT). Morrison Renfrew said that there are at least a dozen different ways of handling the section between Carling and Bayview with both an O-Train and the ELRT.

I prefer this, as it would allow rail access from the south (I.e. South Keys/Greenboro, etc.) to come in to downtown from both the East and the West. This will be helpful in providing connections as the rail network is expanded, in order to allow people to bypass downtown if they are traveling between the South end and either the East or West end.

Streetcar vs. LRT
As you suggest, there is a myth that any rail along Carling will get caught up in traffic and will have a lot of stops.

This, I suspect, is because when people think of transit along Carling, they think of the #85, which my mother used to call the "slowpoke express".

I haven't found a concise way of stating it, but I think the analogy to Scott street needs to be made. If you wanted to put rapid transit along Scott Street, you don't mimic the #18, with its many bus stops and snarls in traffic; you create a dedicated right-of-way with fewer stops that is not impeded by traffic crossings.

It's the same thing along Carling: you don't mimic the #85, you create a dedicated right-of-way (i.e. along the median) with fewer stops (7 instead of 22), and you go faster.

As for the intersections, rail is much more reliable for timing (particularly if you have to pay before entering the platform), and you can time and synchronize the intersections much more easily with rail than with buses.

Carling vs. Parkway - phasing
Lastly, if you want to build a rail connection out to the West, if you put it on the Parkway/Transitway, there's no convenient place for the buses to go during construction (and Staff said on Wednesday that they were very much against restricting construction to the summer months). This will cause much disruption all around.

However, if you build the rail on Carling, you have zero disruption to the Transitway (aside from the inevitable mess near downtown), and likely minimal disruption along Carling (probably no more disruptive than the recent resurfacing work near Parkdale/Fisher).

- Charles

D Gourley said...


Doing the east end first the bowesville yard is a non starter.

Lincoln Fields is not an asset specific to the Carling route. Neither is the preston stop so really there are only 5 stops on this route.

To use this route you would lose the stops at Tunneys Pasture, Westboro and Dominion (as well as 1-2 more stops along ORP).

There are not significantly more apartments along carling than there is along the Bayview Lincoln fields ORP/Scott St. route.

Carlingwood stop will not be as conveniently close to the mall as the bus is now.

Changing the Carling intersection sounds expensive and disruptive to existing businesses.

Going under the queensway, what do you do about Kirkwood?

Merivale and Parkdale stops are too closely spaced together. They

Modifying Carling is inevitably going to draw the ire of drivers.

Carling is the main east-west drag for cars and is therefore not very walkable. It is a wide windswept car friendly environment for the most part, with big parking lots gentle turning lanes and fast traffic. This is not a place that could easily be converted into a more walkable destination.

The turn at Preston looks like a tighter turn than the engineers are planning. They want to reengineer the Train station to remove the tight turns, this new tight turn might be technically a problem, or else limit the overall system design in some manner. If in a few decaded for instance they wanted to be able to extend the platforms to accept bigger trains, will this turn be a problem for the Preston station?