Friday, May 11, 2012

LRT Planning

It's been a while since my last post and much has changed about the LRT project in a year.  Since the tunnel was moved north to Queen Street, this massive transit project is becoming less and less of what I would imagine it to be.

By now, we know that staying within the budget seems to be the only reason for moving the tunnel further north and building Rideau station further east.  This is disappointing since city planning is taking a back-seat to political promises.  While still within the core, the downtown tunnel has somewhat moved further away from the denser areas.  The new location for Rideau station will no longer be serving Elgin Street with much higher density than the Sandy Hill neighbourhood.

Rideau station should remain where it was initially planned and the station at O'Connor Street be placed eastwards towards Metcalfe Street.  That way, the same number of stations remain and Elgin Street is better served.  The Mayor is correct to say that an extra station will slow down service, especially when Ottawa's density in the downtown core is no where near close to Toronto's.  Having the stations too close leads to unnecessary stopping when the density isn't there.

Plopping a station here and instead of there isn't easy and requires much more time and money.  If the money is the issue, which it always seems to be, we could delay another project and use those funds for this project.  There is no other future project in Ottawa near the magnitude of this one and this is one of the few that will benefit the entire city.

Money could be saved by not re-constructing Train station and not having it at all.  Instead, bus service to the Tremblay VIA station from Hurdman or St. Laurent stations could be coordinated with VIA schedules. There is supposed to be some new development for Train station once it re-opens as an light-rail station.  But, it isn't guaranteed.  Besides the few apartment buildings, new development around Cyrville and Hurdman stations has been disappointing since the Transitway was built.  Currently, Train station seems to the least-used Transitway station that will be served by light-rail.  With the Transitway, all stops are requested, unlike light-rail, at least in Ottawa's case, trains are required to stop at all stations.  If there were a station that will slow down the system, Train station would be the front-running candidate.  Having trains stop with few people getting on or off doesn't seem very cost-effective.

We could shorten the LRT line to Bayview station or St. Laurent station and use that money for fixing the planned downtown portion.  Of course, some may look at is as "back-tracking" or "scrapping the LRT plan" and no one at City Hall seems to keen on that.  I live in the east-end and use VIA rail on occasion.  So, this isn't a view from someone living in the downtown core, who wants what is best for themselves.

What about the bus routes feeding into the light-rail line?  A story from the Ottawa Citizen says that buses from neighbourhoods in the east will terminate at Rideau Centre on Rideau Street, while buses from areas in the west will end at the mall on Mackenzie King Bridge.  Here is the reason for it:

Keeping bus riders walking through the mall is one of the city’s objectives: “My understanding is there’s discussions with the Rideau Centre, and discussions on maintaining through-flow of people on foot through there,” [Councillor] Fleury said.
The City's goal should be to make transferring easy and quick for passengers, not help business for Rideau Centre.  Rideau Centre has an LRT station and doesn't require assistance in directing people into their mall.  As for transferring, passengers hate it and is one of the reasons why some don't use public transit at all.  If passengers get off a bus on Mackenzie King Bridge and have to walk through the length of the mall to transfer onto the underground LRT, then travel time will be lost, accessibility doesn't sound promising and it will be complicated for those not familiar with the mall.  Also, does this proposed route configuration imply that time-based proof-of-payment transfers will continue to exist?  Otherwise, Rideau Centre will have to be declared as a paid-fare zone, which is completely out of the question.  As well, with frequent fare increases, it's highly likely that the downtown area will be a fare-free zone.

What are your thoughts on the latest developments of this evolving project?