Mayoral candidate Mike Maguire's alternative transit plan, in green, compared to the city's official transit plan, in red.
Over the course of the 2010 Mayoral Election campaign, Public Transit in Ottawa will be sitting down with as many mayoral candidates as are available, discussing their platforms and thoughts on transit in this city, and what they hope to achieve during their mandate, if elected mayor.
Of the many candidates running for mayor in Ottawa's 2010 municipal election, perhaps none have come up with as radical a transit alternative for Ottawa as Mike Maguire. His proposition, in essence, boils down to scrapping the current electric light-rail plan, and instead focusing on commuter-oriented diesel light-rail along existing rail routes from Ottawa's biggest suburbs. The grand total would be 60 km of track, which Maguire claims can be had for $215M.
Given the significant difference between Maguire's number and that we typically hear for rail-based transit plans, I was (perhaps understandably) sceptical when I spoke with him to discuss his transit plan. But Maguire maintained that his numbers are industry standard, and are based on the advice of local transportation--and particularly rail--experts:
The [financial] numbers that you see come from, in many cases, individuals who advise CN and CP on rail replacement and things of that nature. The operational costs come from comparing the model I’m using, which is based exactly on GO Transit in Toronto—which is why I’m calling it “GO Ottawa”—so their exact model, with parallel services and parallel numbers. [...] So I had managed to boil this down over four months, and we ended up with a number, very ballpark-ish, what I thought was reasonable, and then I added that huge contingency. Just in case I’m wrong, I don’t say double it, but almost add half again and say no matter what it is, it will be less than this.
The low price, according to Maguire, comes from the fact that diesel light-rail is not as costly as other forms, and the use of existing rail rights-of-way:
The advantage of diesel light-rail is that it’s extremely affordable. And we have a surprising network of rail rights-of-way all around the city. It’s really interesting to see where rail used to run, and the rail rights of way are still there.
The plan (which you can see in the image at the top [click to enlarge], in green, compared to the city's current electric light-rail plan, in red) includes rail lines from Kanata, Orleans, Barrhaven, and Osgoode/Riverside South into Bayview or downtown along the Nicholas Transitway. His plan would have little in the way of rail for downtown, and those within the Greenbelt would continue to use buses for public transit. The diesel light-rail trains, in Maguire's plan, would be commuter lines that run Monday to Friday at morning and evening peak periods.
The emphasis on suburban commuters, for Maguire, came from his observations of congestion; namely, that the majority of it is on the Queensway and arterial roads, so that is where the city should focus on addressing first.
Maguire's plan would be to implement the system in phases, and believes it could be completed within one term of council--in other words, by sometime in 2014.