Mayor Jim Watson announced last Thursday the new plans for Ottawa's LRT project. The city released a document about the technical aspects and further information on the LRT stations. The following are some information tidbits from the document along with my take on it:
Trains will run “3:15 minute service (headway) during peak hours.” So, passengers can expect a three minute and 15 second wait if they just missed a train. This is standard rush hour period service in any city with a subway or an LRT. While rush hour service was mentioned, there was no discussion on the service outside of rush hour. My guess is that trains will run every 5-10 minutes during midday (9 am to 3 pm).
Tunney's Pasture will have side platforms. “Indicators on the entry level will alert passengers which side platform the next train departs from.” I don't agree with the idea of using side platforms for a terminus station. In case you are confused by the term “side platforms”, they are platforms on the side with two tracks in the middle. A few examples of Transitway stations with side platforms are Mackenzie King and St. Laurent. The photo below is an example of a station with side platforms in a Toronto subway station:
A centre platform, on the other hand, is a single platform in the station with tracks on each side. Some examples of Transitway stations with centre platforms include Hurdman and Place d'Orleans. A centre platform in an Athens metro station is shown below:
Under the side platform arrangement, a common scenario that will happen to anyone who will use Tunney's Pasture station on a regular basis is that passengers head down to one platform only to arrive to a departing train. Since this station is an end station, there's a possibility that the next train may arrive on the opposite track which would mean those same passengers must climb back upstairs (or use the elevator), check the “indicators on the entry level” again, and descend to the correct platform. This could pose a challenge to the elderly, the physically-disabled, or anyone who requires a priority seat on a bus. I suggest a centre platform with tracks on each side because it makes it minimizes confusion for passengers.
If the city is insistent on the side platform configuration, they should allow only one platform open for service while the other platform should be used for trains going out of service once it drops off passengers. This would accomplish two things: 1. no one would enter an out-of service train by accident and 2. there would be no confusion as to which platform to step on. The Toronto Transit Commission employs this method at a few of their transit stations. This arrangement makes the most sense to me.
Downtown East station, which is situated at O'Connor street, will be 16 m below surface and passengers should be able to descend from the surface to the platform in about a minute. Rideau station, on the other hand, will be 29 m underground and it should take approximately two and a half minutes to reach the platform. This is expected because the tunnel must be dug much deeper than the Rideau canal.
LRT travel times:
“Based on the current modeling of system operation it is anticipated that the train travel time from Blair Station to Tunney’s Pasture Station will be approximately twenty-four (24) minutes. The time from Blair Station to Rideau Station will be less than sixteen (16) minutes and Tunney’s Pasture Station to Rideau Station will be just over eight (8) minutes.”
These times may be a bit surprising, but perhaps, they are still within reason. The thought of travelling from Rideau to Tunney's Pasture in eight minutes may be shocking to some, but keep in mind that the LRT will travel through a tunnel for much of that time. The train will not be waiting for traffic lights or slowing down for other traffic.
Besides the tunnelling depth, these plans and ideas are probably not set in stone. However, this should still provide a good idea of how the LRT will be operated.