Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Barrhaven Bullet a silver bullet?

When it rains, it pours. Just as it appeared the City of Ottawa was poised to move forward with an ambitious long-term transit plan to build a light-rail train infrastructure through the city, everything now seems to be falling apart. Significant cost overruns before the project's plans are finalized, new implementation scenarios, and entirely new technological hardware entering the dialogue.

Another new option came out this week, an 11-year-old proposal which would involve running heavy-rail commuter trains along the existing rail corridor from Barrhaven in Ottawa's southern suburbs into downtown (EDIT: what is now Train station, southeast of the downtown core). The idea was brought into discussion by Barrhaven Councillor Jan Harder, and (as one might expect) supported by Gloucester-South Nepean Councillor Steve Desroches. The Ottawa Sun article in which the idea was raised didn't counsel any other city politicians (for instance, any councillor whose constituency wouldn't directly benefit from the train).

From the Sun:

With the possibility of an electric heavy rail transit option for commuters, Barrhaven Coun. Jan Harder says it’s time to renew an 11-year-old rail transit plan proposed by UniRail Canada Inc. to run a heavy rail commuter line from Barrhaven to downtown using existing rail lines.


The 1998 report, which was tabled before the Ottawa-Carleton regional government, suggested it would require a small capital investment and could get rolling right away. The average speed between the proposed 10 transit stations along the route — including ones at Billings Bridge, the Merivale and Colonnade business parks and the Walkley transit station — would be 50 km/h, it would generate almost 4,000 rides per day and take less than 20 minutes to get from Barrhaven to the VIA station.

“The CN Barrhaven-Ottawa station corridor when compared with other options indicates a greater potential to attract new ridership to the rail transit service as well as establishing integration with existing transitway corridors and services,” says the report.

If the City can come up with some reasonable agreement with VIA Rail, it seems like the cheapest, quickest, and easiest way to get commuters from Barrhaven into the core, and requires little in the way of capital expenditure--basically just the purchase of the vehicles, and establishing the proposed ten stations along the route--and whatever costs are demanded by VIA, the hiring of qualified drivers, and likely other expenditures. In all likelihood, less expensive up-front than building the infrastructure required for light-rail from scratch, but that's a purely fiscal comparison.

But don't let the name fool you: This is no Bullet Train. It may be nicknamed such, but the Shinkansen (the original bullet train) in Japan travels at speeds of up to 300 km/h normally, while this proposed train from Barrhaven would likely run at 50 km/h. Still, even at those speeds, it would take around 20 minutes to get from one end to the other.

We'll see what happens.


Unknown said...

Why can't they just build a tunnel for buses under the downtown core, and keep it real simple for now?

McC said...

since when is the train station "downtown" or in "the core"? just asking.

Dean said...

Maybe as a condition of being on city council they and their families have to give up cars and only rely on public transit. Maybe the foot dragging and obfuscation might reach a manageable level.

Anonymous said...

Only in Ottawa - a train station outside the downtown core, a hockey arena 30 km from the core and urban development (like Lansdowne Live) being opposed by a bunch of rich brats who would rather see a crumbling stadium, ticket office and empty parking lots....

A train from Barrhaven to the train station does nothing for commuters but add to their travel time....

Go Ottawa! Keep up the good work! Go for one bad idea after another and turn yor eye to success stories from other cities!

Anonymous said...

Go for one bad idea after another and turn yor eye to success stories from other cities!

No kidding.

At the rate it's going, you'll be able to take a GO Train from Barrhaven to Toronto, or a regional line from Orleans to Montreal, before either suburb is connected to downtown Ottawa.

Anonymous said...

I have already assumed that the light rail concept will eventually die on the table. I am betting that it never actually happens. Same can be said for Lansdowne. Why another stadium at all? Anyone remember the already failed Rough Riders and Renegades? Hey I have a great idea let's repeat the mistakes of the past while ignoring the evidence that points to similar results in the future. Ottawa City Council can't seem to get out of their own way. Don't just sit there!! DO SOMETHING!!