Larry O'Brien, the incumbent in the 2010 mayoral race, is a stranger to no one in Ottawa. And his unwavering support of the current $2.1B (first-phase) of Ottawa's light-rail transit plan is equally well-known, so it should come as no surprise that his campaign this year includes a commitment to continue moving forward with it. The big reason for his support, according to O'Brien, is that the current plan will take Ottawa through this century and into the next.
This term of council, we’ve reinvigorated the transit plan, and concluded fairly clearly, and with a fair amount of oomph, that light-rail east-west with a tunnel through the core of the system is the best way to start building a transit system that will enable the city to grow through the balance of this century. And I think that’s a key issue. What we’re doing right now with the light-rail investment is making an investment that will form the basis by which we will be able to expand our mass transit light-rail system over the coming 60, 70, 80 years. When you’re mayor, you have to the responsibility of not just dealing with the issues based on a day-to-day basis, you also have to think about the long-term solution. And I think we have in place now a long-term solution that, in fact, will be a driving influence in the way the city grows over the balance of the century.
In O'Brien's mind, the city's bus-rapid transit system has served us well so far--but that the city has outgrown it, and he thinks it's time the city moves on.
We all knew we had to go to rail when the city got to a million people, and by the time we have this system built, we’ll hit that number. I think it’s a very exciting time, and our timing on this is bang-on perfect.
The bus-rapid transit system was designed by a visionary by the name of Andy Haydon, but he was clear all throughout the documents in the ‘70s and ‘80s that the system had to, eventually, be converted to light-rail. And we’re just delighted to be, now, fully loaded in terms of money: We have $1.2B from both other levels of government, we have our own money well under control, and it’s time to take action. Time to get on with it. Time to start building a transit system for the 21st century.