Tuesday, August 10, 2010

2010 Election: Maguire's transit alternative

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.


Anonymous said...

Whoa! You know what this means?

We might actually have a debate about transit, instead of continuing to flog the dead horse of a $2 billion downtown transit tunnel.

I really like the home-made map - it shows a transit route that hits the suburbs (ie, servicing people who don't already use public transit). Flipping through Mr. Maguire's slides, the plan looks a little optimistic: I can't see the NCC okaying a rail route along the canal; nor do I think that one can add all that track for a mere $90m.

But good on Mike for proposing something other than the east/west route on the existing transitway.

RealGrouchy said...

I support the idea of using diesel trains on existing rail lines (for eventual conversion to eletric), as with the 120 km of it that was in the 2003 Transportation Master Plan. I also support extending rail rapid transit to the suburbs sooner rather than later.

However, Maguire's plan seems to skirt the biggest problem with Ottawa's transit system: bus congestion through downtown. I note that his map inaccurately describes the path of the City's current project, which is just the first phase of the overall plan (which also includes double-track eLRT to South Keys and Baseline).

While it looks like he proposes lines both East and West of downtown Ottawa, it looks like a transfer to buses would still be required to get to or across downtown.

The biggest and most difficult issue with Ottawa's rapid transit system is getting across downtown, which is why it was left to be done last (and never done at all).

I hope Mike can elaborate on his plans to deal with these issues.

- RG>

LyleLaney said...

Why no talk about monorails? By what I have read it is about $1mil/mile to build, it is relatively clean technology, quiet, comforatable, with simple pillars can look quite elegant (monorails can even be suspended), they operate in the winter and no need for tunnels as you're going above traffic. You would need to retrofit platforms above traffic in key places, but it seems to hit most of our needs. I wonder why it is never discussed. It seems to be a comparatively easy solution. They are using them in Moscow, Germany, Austrailia, Japan and the US (yes, even outside of Disney!)

Anonymous said...

A couple of observations on the transit debate. I think a lot of people don't know that the current transit plan is just phase I. Not sure if it's the city's or the media's fault that people don't know that, or the public's fault to not educate itself on the topic.
But I agree we should expedite the process of the other phases. This Maguire's plan could be something to be looked at. Though I agree we would have to move away from Diesel and convert to electric eventually. (We should always have Peak Oil, the end of cheap oil in mind)

Second point is that I've read in some places, even a magazine the other day saying the "2 billion dollar tunnel". It's actually the 2.1 system from Tunney's to Blair, plus the tunnel, plus the stations, plus the maintenance garage, plus the trains.

RealGrouchy said...

Anonymous - you're right, but the whole plan to 2031 only goes so far as Blair in the East, Baseline in the West, and South Keys in the South. The previous rail plan went as far West as Carp, for example, and much sooner.

- RG>

Anonymous said...

I didn't know that. But yeah, I mean if only we allocated our wealth away from automobile infrastructure to rail, lots could be done. All the rail tracks and the streetcar system that was in place, it was all built when we weren't as wealthy as a country.
The car was for the 20th century, cheap energy era. It won't be an option ever again.
Rail is the future.

Anonymous said...

Another neo-con who's promising the moon for $215 million to suburbanites. I hope the people in the burbs and the rest of Ottawa learned the first time that this is yet another guy who is pulling numbers out of his ass.

Also good luck negotiating with the federal government to get those lines. It's also been made quite clear that businesses along Albert and Slater do not want surface rail. These businesses were the ones lobbying for the tunnel when no one was talking about it.

They generally got what they wanted in the end.

Anonymous said...

Neo-con is a better of a stretch. Maguire appears fiscally conservative but socially a green liberal. Just because one does not want to spend more than one earns, does not make one a neo-con in my books.

That stated I believe he has the only proposal that will take cars off the queensway ASAP. He quotes stidies both in europe and the city of Ottawa's own documentation.

Look at his map and see how many neighbourhoods the rail lines go through...