Friday, September 11, 2009

In the news: $36.7M to get nothing, and more Ottawa transit headlines

Quite a few transit-related news items this week, beginning with one of the most controversial transit-planning related issues of the day: Ottawa's cancelled north-south transit line, and the $36.7M settlement it may require stemming from lawsuits around its cancellation.

The Ottawa Citizen quoted Mayor Larry O'Brien about the lawsuit, which he says is a necessary cost for the City to "move away from the old, tragically flawed LRT plan and move on to something the citizens of Ottawa would really embrace". Recently some politicians, including Ottawa Centre MPP Yasir Naqvi in an interview with Public Transit in Ottawa as well as Capital Ward councillor Clive Doucet, have questioned whether the cancellation of the north-south line, which would be finishing at around this time, was the right decision. The project was to cost an estimated $600M (EDIT: and the actual contract for which was $778M), two-thirds of which was already pledged by federal and provincial governments, and $54M has already been spent on preparing for the transit plan--money which will now be written off by the City, the Citizen says.


With reports that only 80 per cent of transit stops are being called out by OC Transpo operators, and the Canadian Transportation Agency demanding that number be 100 per cent, the City is still looking into an automated system to ensure compliance with the regulatory body's order. Council had previously approved a $6.7M expenditure on the technology, but 580 CFRA is now reporting that the system will cost the City almost twice as much; $12M to install on the entire OC Transpo fleet.

The $12M bid, from Clever Devices, would also include "bus time arrival information and vehicular system condition monitoring", and would be presented visually as well as aurally in English in French.

According to, the city might take a step further with the retrofit, bumping up the cost to $17M but including further increases in bus-tracking and efficiency, as well as a move to ease the installation of a wireless SmartCard system.


OC Transpo is making moves to help prevent 'free rides' on buses, including a Communication Plan to inform people of the fees that come with detected non-paying riders, according to 580 CFRA. The transit utility may also implement measures including no back-door boarding, but they're saying the real solution will be implementing a SmartCard system through the entire fleet.


Finally, the City is looking into a number of measures to lower the 'carbon footprint' of the public transit system, accoring to an official press release. The measures include looking into the following actions:

  • Examining the cost of bio-diesel as an alternative fuel
  • Providing annual greenhouse gas emission reports for buses and trains
  • Completing the implementation plan for 177 diesel-electric hybrid buses, which will be used on low-speed transit routes with frequent stops
  • Converting the fleet to more environmentally friendly No.2 diesel fuel
  • Preparing to use urea as an exhaust after-treatment agent in buses with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 2010 certified engines
  • Completing a study on tire pressure monitoring and tracking
  • Finalizing the testing and evaluation of its three double-decker buses


Charles A-M said...

The original estimates in 2003 were for $600 million.

The contract signed with Siemens was for $778 million.

Keith said...

36.7 million is a small price to pay for a bad decision made by the previous council. Throwing good money (nearly 800 million) after bad (that was spent on planning, pre-construction, etc. on a poorly planned route) should not be applauded as sound decision making.

The old plan was flawed. It didn't help the majority of commuters traveling East-West and it didn't get rid of most of the bus congestion from downtown. To top it off, by the end, it was going to use at-grade LRT that would have been forced to stop at red lights downtown....hardly what you would call rapid transit.

37 million is a small price to pay to avoid wasting 800 million.