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?

12 comments:

Todd said...

Wes, you can’t have a station at Metcalf *and* at Elgin – I think most people are forgetting the size and scale of these things. The platforms at each station are the length of a full city block. If you had both the stations you proposed, the back end of the train wouldn’t have cleared the previous station by the time it needed to stop at the next one!

Also, moving the tunnel to Queen Street is not just a budget consideration, although that is a major factor. The proposed “crosstown” alignment was technically difficult to build as it would have to run under the foundations of some of our biggest office towers (it is near impossible to know what you are going to run into at those depths) – plus that means the extra distance that will now be needed to walk the block to Queen will be more than made up for by not needing to walk up and down an extra four storey at the station. The rumour was that no companies were rushing to bid on the previous alignment as they didn’t think it could be done anywhere close to budget. Personally, I would have preferred to see the adjusted shallower alignment run along Slater instead, but Queen really isn’t that problematic.

Wes Chu said...

I wasn't suggesting having a station at Metcalfe and at Elgin. They would be far too close to each other. I wasn't advocating for a station at Elgin either. The Downtown East station, ideally, could be moved closer to Metcalfe, but not necessarily beneath Metcalfe. Then, the Rideau station would be fine where it is planned.

Before proposing the cross-town alignment, the city should have checked to see if it was possible to dig under those buildings. Having it beneath Queen street isn't bad, but I agree that it would have been better to have built a bit further south. Then again, who knows what other complications could arise!

McC said...

Wes, please re-read the paragraph, you clearly stated that Rideau station should remain where it was nitially planned (under the canal, with a western entrance just off Elgin/Confedation Square) and that downtown East should be moved further east, too.

evensteven said...

I can see one saying there should be another (fourth) station "downtown". While I'm not sure I agree, I would be willing to have that conversation and maybe be convinced. I don't understand why people who's opinion I usually agree with are acting like the failure to add another station is some impending disaster that imperils the whole project.

However, if the number of stations between Lebreton and Campus is to remain at 3, the (new) current location of the Rideau station, with entrances into Rideau Centre and the market, etc. is vastly superior to previous location, which seems to have been chosen for symbolic reasons only.

I, too, love the old train station and lament it's new life as a conference centre...but I hope people realize that a building not open to the public (or the NAC -- active a few evenings a week) makes a less than ideal location for a transit stop...

Haveacow said...

I help design and plan systems like this. It was a no brainer that Rideau station was going to move. The difference in the land profile on Rideau street makes it much cheaper than digging under a bridge and a canal. The depth that people will have to go down to the platform on Rideau Street provides a faster trip to and from the surface. However, I do also lament that the entrance to the old Grand Trunk station will not be built. That building could provide numerous public and private opportunities all with one beautiful waiting room. It would have also provided a great jumping off point for tourists as well.

Haveacow said...

Forgot to mention that the Downtown East station cannot be moved east. It's location next to Bank Street and it's many tranfering buses make it a passenger traffic generator. There are no fewer than 6 condo projects about too, or already under construction that, centre around Bank Street (between Laurier and the Queensway, about 2500 units in total) and have access to Bank Street buses and tranfering to LRT as one of their main selling points. Not to forget that thousands of LRT passengers will need to be close to Bank St. to transfer to buses going to Lansdowne.

kEiThZ said...

My hopes for proper execution of the LRT are fading quickly.

In some moronic appeasement of Rideau Centre business owners they move the Rideau Station east. And then they spew some nonsense about how it will help Sandy Hill. They seem intent on destroying the vibrancy of Elgin.

I will disagree with you on station spacing. There are too few. A station is sorely needed around Laurier. And Campus should have been moved further south (closer to Lees).

I'll also disagree with the idea of getting rid of station. Without Train, stop spacing would be ridiculously high. Not just that, if you want to encourage inter-modal transit use in the long run, the nodes need connections. The big mistake in Ottawa is building the Central Bus Terminal away from the Transitway in some moronic idea that it's somehow convenient since it's "downtown". Access is terrible by bus. And not as convenient by road as the Tremblay Via Station. Imagine what moving the Bus Depot to Train would have done for ridership at the station. In the long run, this is what should be aimed for. The station could also be a focal point for long distance commuter bus services (say from Rockland, Navan, etc.) or even the terminus for express buses from the East. Cutting stations is a terrible idea. It only reduces the utility of transit in the long run. You say that a bus could be run from Hurdman. In reality, most will just drive or take a cab instead.

They need to get over this mentality that the budget should not rise at all. What a hicktown idea. The downtown portion will be the most important portion of the LRT. And they've screwed it up before the first shovel is in the ground. Just think of how long the walk will be from a subway station to City Hall or to any bar on Elgin. Think of how long the walk will be for staff working at NDHQ. Think of how long the walk will be for most workers in the downtown core, now that the line is well north of most of their jobs. They might as well have gone all the way and put the thing on Sparks. No disruption to businesses or traffic at all.

What really disappoints me though is their refusal to work with the Feds to acquire and develop the old train station. The concept of proper public spaces with some architectural flourish and some appreciation of heritage utterly escapes these planners. Ultimately, the LRT will be what it is. Ugly, drab and boring. Perfect for a government town that looks more like a provincial than a national capital. There are US State capitals that are more impressive than Ottawa.

kEiThZ said...

evensteven: I, too, love the old train station and lament it's new life as a conference centre...but I hope people realize that a building not open to the public (or the NAC -- active a few evenings a week) makes a less than ideal location for a transit stop...

They should have negotiated with the Feds to acquire the property.

If this city does not care about its heritage, it will continue to be be doomed to the civil servant 9-5 bureaucratic mentality that pervades every aspect of life in Ottawa.

Haveacow: I help design and plan systems like this. It was a no brainer that Rideau station was going to move. The difference in the land profile on Rideau street makes it much cheaper than digging under a bridge and a canal. The depth that people will have to go down to the platform on Rideau Street provides a faster trip to and from the surface. However, I do also lament that the entrance to the old Grand Trunk station will not be built. That building could provide numerous public and private opportunities all with one beautiful waiting room. It would have also provided a great jumping off point for tourists as well.

They could have easily built the Western entrance at the old train station and located the rest of the station east of the building. It wouldn't have achieved all that they wanted, but it would have helped.

Sam said...

I agree that there should be another downtown station, but as someone who is on the west side of downtown, I'm looking at the distance between Lebreton and Downtown West and it is a looong way to walk... it would have made way more sense to have a station at Bronson, Bank, Elgin and Rideau. (Thinking of the latter, I don't know why Sandy Hill is being proclaimed as the winner, given that it has Campus - aside from the mall, the Market and Lowertown would seem to benefit more.) I totally disagree about cancelling Train station, as a non-driver, the one acceptable thing about its current location is its access by public transit. Re transferring - OC Transpo seems to share your hatred for it, which is what led to this insane system of a million buses running into the core instead a logical spoke-and-hub system. They just need to be fast and easy connections - not walking through a mall, I agree.

neroden@gmail said...

Sigh. The logical thing to do is to move the VIA train station back downtown. Then you *could* cancel "Train" station; as it is, you can't.

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