Monday, October 28, 2013

Construction update: Downtown tunnel portals, Oct. 2013

Yesterday, I checked out the construction progress of the downtown tunnel portals. We've shown photos of the construction sites taken in July, and in early and late September, most of them of the western tunnel entrance. In this construction update, both portals are featured and they were photographed on October 27, 2013.

Western Portal

One of the project signs near the western portal faces Albert Street:

A look westwards from the tunnel entrance:

Eastern Portal

Some close-ups of the trench:

The view from the fifth and fourth floors of the University of Ottawa's Simard building:

I'll post more photos in an update once the roadheaders are put to work.

Monday, October 21, 2013

OC Transpo plans to display important service news at top of website

OC Transpo will be moving some items around on their home page of A message on their website states that news items will be more organized and service status messages will be placed at the top:

Early this week you will see a few changes to the homepage.
All of the same information you see there now will still be visible, but in a different order:
• A new “breaking news” panel will be available at the top of the page.
• Daily service status messages will also be prominently displayed at the top, in the centre.
• There will be more room to include images with each news item.
• All news items will be organized in one central column, instead of two columns.
• Upcoming events will be displayed on the right-hand column, one click away from the Quick Planner.

The OC Transpo website is very popular – it receives 15-20,000 visits each day. We didn’t want to tinker too much with success, but based on previous suggestions felt that these changes would be an improvement. Please let us know what you think – send your comments or ideas to

A little thing like displaying important messages about service delays in a prominent spot on the website can significantly improve customer experience. As you may know, during any unexpected partial Transitway or O-Train closure, you'll usually see a message tucked away on the side in the smallest font size, which is how they are displayed right now. It's something we can easily miss on the home page.

These changes refer to their main website only, but the mobile website deserves similar treatment too. Any important service updates should be on the main page of the mobile site without making the user click on another page to see if, for example, the transit system is an hour behind during a snowstorm.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Stage 2 Details: Connaught Park Tunnel

Among the many interesting facets of the City of Ottawa's proposed Transportation Master Plan and its $2.5B worth of public transit projects (that "Stage 2" thing) is the acceleration of a light-rail extension to Bayshore Station. This is likely interesting to many in the city's west end, but particularly to me from a personal perspective since I live right near the proposed Connaught tunnel in the Queensway Terrace North community.

As some background: The proposed Connaught tunnel is nothing is nothing new. It was initially proposed back in 1994 (and approved in 1996) when the city was looking for a more efficient way of getting buses to Bayshore Station. Without room beside the Queensway, it seemed like cutting through the community north of the Queensway--appropriately known as Queensway Terrace North--like so:

In 2007, though, that plan was changed to the less costly (by an estimated $30M) option of expropriating 25 houses on the south side of Roman Avenue in order to run a Transitway parallel to the Queensway towards Pinecrest Station. This plan resulted in a huge campaign to "save Roman Avenue," and in 2011 the city reversed its prior decision and went back to the Connaught Park bus tunnel idea at an estimated cost of $138M.

As the map above indicates, the tunnel as proposed will branch off the Southwest Transitway north of the Queensway into NCC land, taking a bridge over Pinecrest Creek before descending into a tunnel under Connaught Park, Connaught Avenue, and the Queensview bus garage before coming to the surface around a brand new Queensview Station and then proceeding to Pinecrest Station and onto Bayshore.

Of course, there's an elephant in this room: This proposal will definitely require the support of the National Capital Commission, and will definitely impact the Pinecrest Creek corridor. We're all in for at least a few more years of discussions between the NCC and the City, with the Richmond Underground still awaiting approval from the NCC as well as this request. The City will also have to go through a complete environmental assessment (EA) process, since the EA that had been completed in 1996 was specifically for a bus tunnel.

The big development for this project in the Stage 2 plan (aside from the acceleration of the tunnel's construction) is the decision to bypass the BRT set-up and move straight to LRT. The extension from Lincoln Fields Station to Bayshore Station via the Connaught Park tunnel has been estimated at $400M, although it's unclear exactly how much of that is for the tunnel directly.

This spur to Bayshore is something that Kanata North councillor Marianne Wilkinson has been pushing for since January of 2011. It's a component of the plan that would hugely improve the transit experience for commuters from Kanata, allowing them to transfer to trains at Bayshore and continue on their trip much more quickly, in my estimation. With the huge renovations being done to Bayshore, it's becoming a major attraction, as well; connecting it to the main network is a sensible (if, at $400M, expensive) addition to the revised plan.

It's been clear for quite some time that the city needed a new way to connect Pinecrest and Bayshore to the main Transitway corridor; merging with the Queensway (as express buses and the 96 do) is unnecessarily complicated for riders and drivers, while the 97's route along Richmond Road and Carling Avenue can be exceptionally slow at times. The Connaught Tunnel is the city's chosen solution to the bottleneck right now, but it'll be interesting to see how the plan moves forward from here.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

New bus on-ramp to 417 eastbound to open at Canadian Tire Centre

Bus riders leaving Canadian Tire Centre will finally have quicker access to the Queensway. Starting on Thursday after the Sens home-opener, the dedicated bus on-ramp to Highway 417 will be open, allowing the 400-series passengers to save about 15 minutes. Also on the same night, CTC will offer free parking, which will likely increase traffic and make the bus ramp an even greater benefit to transit users. When the project was first announced in July 2011, the idea was to give transit buses exiting the stop loop priority to the on-ramp first and to allow other HOV's access next.

Some people on Twitter complained about "Stage 2" of the proposed Transportation Master Plan draft, saying the western LRT extension should reach all the way to the Senators arena. There are a number of reasons for this to not happen. As mentioned earlier, the bus on-ramp was in the works for the past couple of years. The only real activity surrounding the rink occurs after large concerts and hockey games for about half an hour or so each night. And since there isn't much of anything nearby (employment, retail, residential spaces), a light-rail line serving the arena is unappealing for everyday use. Until the area becomes more than a place to watch hockey, the bus ramp will do just fine.

Friday, October 11, 2013

New-look Confederation Line website provides construction updates

The official Confederation Line website was re-designed recently and is now providing updates on the construction progress.

Here's their update for this week:

West Portal

  • Removal of blasted rock and grubbing continues.
  • Assembly of the first roadheader is completed.
  • Blasting to excavate the ramp is completed.
  • Excavation with hoe ram is scheduled to be completed by October 9.
Central Shaft

  • Excavation continues.
  • Installation of caissons continues for the foundation of the gantry crane
  • Blasting at the central shaft is scheduled to begin by end of the week.
 East Portal

  • Surface excavation of the construction ramp continues.
 Highway 417

  • Sewer and storm sewer work continues along the length of the highway.
  • Advanced Traffic Management System (ATMS) work, including temporary poles and aerial wires, continues along the highway.
  • Removals of retaining walls and bridge work continues along the highway.

  • Demolition is scheduled to be completed by end of the week, with the exception of 737 Belfast Rd.
  • Grubbing and material removal off-site continues.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Transit corridors that are no longer considered priorities

The newly proposed light-rail projects, named "Stage 2", in the 2013 Transportation Master Plan draft lead the transit discussion. To make room for these new initiatives, some project ideas in 2008 had to be dropped from the plan or moved beyond 2031. A comparison between the 2013 and 2008 maps will determine which transit corridors are no longer a priority.

Current 2013 proposed 2031 "affordable" transit network map:

From 2008, the 2031 transit network map:

(The links above open full-sized maps in PDF format.)

In Orleans, the Cumberland Transitway doesn't seem to be a priority anymore with the newly proposed Confederation Line extension into the eastern suburb. In 2008, the plan for Orleans was to have two busways, one grade separated along Regional Road 174 and one along Innes, both to Trim Road. Five years later, the new plan is to have light-rail extended from Blair to Place D'Orleans along Highway 174 and transit priority measurements (bus lanes, transit signal priority at intersections) on Innes Rd, Blackburn Bypass, and Brian Coburn Blvd.

The Innes Road/Industrial Avenue BRT, west of Orleans, from the 2008 plan is completely removed from this year's draft. The busway would have been parallel to the Confederation LRT Line, acting as a secondary east-west rapid transit corridor.

While the O-Train line is still planned to be extended to Bowesville, it will no longer reach Limebank as envisioned in 2008 and a rail link to the Ottawa International Airport has been removed too. Improved transit service to and from the airport is expected to happen by 2031 when HOV lanes are implemented on the Airport Parkway.

Heron/Walkley/Russell/St. Laurent was once a suggested route for bus lanes, but that's been removed from the current draft plan. St. Laurent Blvd will instead receive transit priority signals and queue jump lanes at some intersections.

Carling Avenue will no longer be a priority for rail of any kind and instead, bus lanes will be in place from the O-Train station to Lincoln Fields Station. There was a lot of discussion about Carling Avenue as an alternative route to the Sir John A. MacDonald Parkway for light rail. Or perhaps, the corridor would be served by a tram or streetcar of some sort with more local stops. For the next two decades though, it's strictly buses.

A Transitway linking Baseline Station to the Barrhaven Transitway will have to wait after 2031.

In Barrhaven, the Transitway was supposed to get an extension southwards eventually from Barrhaven Centre to Cambrian and another one eastwards along Chapman Mills across the Strandherd-Armstrong bridge, which isn't complete yet, to the previously proposed terminus of the O-Train line at Limebank Road. That was the idea five years ago and today, the plan is to have a combination of bus lanes and other transit priority measures on the same east-west route connecting Barrhaven with Riverside South.

The Kanata North Transitway will no longer be constructed northwards to Maxwell Bridge and instead, it will end at Carling Avenue. The Kanata Transitway, which was planned to run north along Highway 417 from Moodie to Huntmar and dip south between Stittsville and Kanata to Fernbank Road, is removed entirely from the 2013 plan. There are no transit priority measures of any kind in place of it.

In the news: Ottawa's proposed Transportation Master Plan

The City of Ottawa's proposed Transportation Master Plan was released publicly earlier in the week, and it features light-rail extensions from the current Confederation Line spine to Bayshore, Baseline, Bowesville, and Place D'Orleans (plus a whole bunch of other stuff complementing those extensions). Such a massive and ambitious project is rare for our usually conservative and glacially-paced city, so it should come as no surprise that the TMP is receiving ample media coverage--including prominent front-page coverage in all three local dailies:

Here's a quick look at what some people are saying:

General coverage

David Reevely, Ottawa Citizen:
"Hoping to position himself as a transportation visionary before next year’s civic election, Mayor Jim Watson announced major changes to the city’s master plan for transit, roads and cycling Wednesday morning that would extend rail west, south and east by 2023. 
"It would also handcuff the city’s transit spending for 25 years after that, and it relies on charging buyers of new homes and offices a lot more in development levies than they’re used to paying."

Jon Willing, Ottawa Sun:
"A $3-billion expansion of Ottawa's rail system can happen in 10 years with the help of upper-tier governments, a 2.5% annual property tax increase and inflationary increases to transit fares, Mayor Jim Watson said Wednesday."

Steve Collins, Ottawa Metro:
"Light rail emerged Wednesday as the showpiece of the city’s new Transportation Master Plan, with an ambitious $2.48-billion proposal to add 35 km of rail and 19 new stations."
Matthew Pearson, Ottawa Citizen: Collected initial reactions from local federal and provincial politicians, including John Baird, David McGuinty, Lisa MacLeod, Glen Murray, and Yasir Naqvi.

Mark Brownlee, Ottawa Business Journal
Catherine Kitts, OrlĂ©ans Star
CBC News


Joanne Chianello, Ottawa Citizen:
"In an unusually pre-hyped speech Wednesday morning, Watson not only laid out his vision for transit expansion in the capital but signalled what will undoubtedly be one of his major re-election platform planks: expanded rail. 
"Instead of eking rail service out across the city over the next two decades (or more), Watson opted for the bolder move of extending service to the east, west and south simultaneously in a single $3-billion project he says can be completed between 2018 and 2023. [...] 
"Watson’s plan is a brilliant tactical move, not only because it’s actually a great idea to fast-track rail — finally! — but there’s almost no political downside."

Susan Sherring, Ottawa Sun:
"Under Watson's plan, the cost of the light-rail portion of the plan is roughly $3 billion, requiring about $1 billion each from the city, the province and the feds. 
"That is problematic on many levels. 
"How likely is it either the province or the feds are going to belly up to the bar — all in?"

Eric Darwin, West Side Action:
"Mayor Jim made a big deal of his success on the Confederation Line project by having a budget first, then build to the budget (rather than design the best line, and figure out how to pay for it). He praised his initiative in bringing in this new budgeting system, and announced other cities are copying it. (Having just read Margaret Thatcher’s biography, I recall that she fought the same battle in the 1980′s in Britain and was roundly vilified for it. Maybe Jim will do better; it is, after all, 30 years later.)"

Many transit initiatives planned to be implemented by 2031

On Wednesday morning, Mayor Watson announced the City of Ottawa’s proposed transit network plan which includes the eastern extension of the Confederation Line to Place D’Orleans, western extension to Bayshore, southern extension of the O-Train line to Bowesville, all at a cost of $2.5 billion and to be completed by 2023. 

Although there doesn't seem to be any timeline attached to each project, the costs of the proposed light-rail projects were revealed in the updated TMP draft (page 38 on document, 42 on Adobe Reader):

  • O-Train southern extension from Greenboro Station to Bowesville with new stations at Gladstone, Walkley, South Keys, Leitrim, and Bowesville: $99 million. No station or connection is planned at the Airport.
  • Western LRT extension of the Confederation Line from Tunney’s Pasture to Baseline Road along existing Transitway corridor: $980 million. This proposed project was already being discussed at city hall well before the updated TMP.
  • Western LRT extension from Lincoln Fields to Bayshore in a tunnel underneath Connaught Avenue: $396 million.
  • Eastern LRT extension of the Confederation Line from Blair Station to Place D’Orleans: $500 million.
These figures are in 2013 dollars. So, in a few years, the prices of these projects will probably increase with inflation.

Buried in the draft of the Transportation Master Plan are some non-LRT transit initiatives. Here are the "affordable" BRT ones that can be implemented by 2031: 
  • Western Transitway extension from Bayshore to west of Moodie Drive will run along Highway 417 with one station near Moodie Drive. This busway, from the original TMP of 2008, is priced at $79 million.
  • Bus-rapid transit (BRT) along Baseline Road from Heron to Baseline Stations. This is a new BRT line to be constructed on the existing road with at-grade intersections and is priced at $131 million.
  • A Kanata North at-grade BRT Transitway will follow March Road, connecting Highway 417 to Carling Avenue. Kanata’s first busway will cost $110 million. This western busway was also in the 2008 TMP.

According to the next page, the number of Airport Parkway lanes will double from two to four from Hunt Club to the MacDonald-Cartier International Airport. The new lanes will become HOV lanes, but buses can only use the lanes during peak periods. The expansion is scheduled for construction between 2026 and 2031, as per the appendix.

Further down the same page, the draft of the TMP also lists some roads that can potentially feature new bus lanes:

  • Carling Avenue from the Carling O-Train Station to Lincoln Fields Station. It’s currently being served by routes 6, 16, 85, 101, 102.
  • Hemlock Road & Codd’s Road from St. Laurent Boulevard to Montreal Road. There is currently no service on these sections of roads.
  • Hunt Club Road from Albion Road to Uplands Drive. It’s currently being served by routes 1, 87, 98, 114, 116, 143, 146, 147, 189, 199.
  • Montreal Road from St Laurent to Blair Road.  It’s currently being served by route 12. The hours of the existing priority lanes form Cummings Bridge to St Laurent Blvd are to be extended.
  • Blackburn Bypass peak period lanes.
Here are some streets that are supposed to have both queue jump lanes and transit signal priority at selected intersections in the future:
  • Baseline Road from Baseline Station to Bayshore Station, currently served by (The plan says “Bayshore” and there’s no existing bus route that connects Baseline Station to Bayshore.) It’s currently being served by route 118.
  • Carling Avenue from Bronson Avenue to Carling O-Train Station. It’s currently being served by routes 6, 85, 101, 102.
  • Chapman Mills / Strandherd / Earl Armstrong from Barrhaven Centre to proposed Bowesville O-Train Station. Chapman Mills and Strandherd are supposed to be served by routes 94, 95 once the Strandherd-Armstrong bridge is completed.
  • Eagleson Road from Hazeldean Road to Highway 417. It’s currently being served by routes 96, 61, 62, 164, 168.
  • Hazeldean Road from Stittsville Main Street to Eagleson Road. It’s currently being served by routes 96, 118.
  • Innes Road and Blair Road from Millennium Station to Blair Station. It’s currently being served by routes 94, 121. 126, 128, 131.
  • Jeanne D’Arc Boulevard from Innes Road to Jeanne D’Arc Station. It’s currently being served by routes 30/130, 31/131, 132.
  • March Road from Carling Avenue to Maxwell Bridge Road. It’s currently being served by route 60.
  • Merivale Road from Baseline Road to Carling Avenue. It’s currently being served by routes 14, 151, 176.
  • Orleans Boulevard from Jeanne D’Arc Boulevard South to proposed Orleans Blvd LRT Station. It’s currently being served by routes 34/134, 132.
  • Richmond Road / Wellington Street West / Somerset Street from Woodroffe Avenue to Bank Street. It’s currently being served by route 2.
  • Robertson Road and Richmond Road from Eagleson Road to Baseline Road. It’s currently being served by routes 118, 97.
  • St Laurent Boulevard from Innes Road to Montreal Road. It’s currently being served by routes 114, 5, 7, 14.
  • Tenth Line Road from Charlemagne Boulevard to Regional Road 174. It’s currently being served by route 136.

To be clear, these transit initiatives are considered to be "affordable" and can be implemented by 2031. BRT projects are supposed to cost $317 million, while the transit priority projects (bus lanes, transit signal priority, etc) are estimated at $200 million, bringing the total cost to just under $3 billion.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Proposed transportation plan features light rail extensions to be completed by 2023

Mayor Jim Watson announced the City of Ottawa's proposed Transportation Master Plan this morning, and the ambitious plan includes light-rail extensions to Baseline, Bayshore, and Place D'Orleans, plus conversion of the O-Train to light-rail before adding in new stations on the current line and then extending the whole thing to Bowesville -- all happening concurrently, all finished before 2023, at a price tag of about $2.5B.

Here are the details of the mayor's speech from various city hall reporters and the mayor himself:

Not sure what that entails. It could mean better bus service connecting to the Confederation Line, since the college is not considered within walking distance from either Cyrville or Blair Station.

The new busways in the west are nothing new. Kanata North will likely see more reliable and less travel times for route 93 once the busway opens.

These "new bus measures in the east along Blair" are probably for route 94. Innes was mentioned as one of the "transit priority" roads in the city's media release. The others are Montreal Road, Hunt Club Road, Carling Avenue, and Bank Street. Transit priority usually means an adjustment of the traffic lights to minimize delays to transit vehicles.

The Airport Parkway will be expanded to four lanes total. The HOV lane will certainly improve service on the 97 route. Creating dedicated lanes act as an alternative to extending the O-Train to the airport. (As you'll see later, the O-Train line extends south of the airport, but doesn't connect to it.)

This benefits transit users in that area too because they'll now have access to either routes 16 or 18.

Plenty of discussion about the Richmond Underground already.

One of the proposed light-rail extensions is from Lincoln Fields to Bayshore Shopping Centre and here's how it's supposed to look:

So, it appears the Pinecrest-Bayshore busway, where routes 93 and 96 travel, will be converted into light-rail.

The O-Train south extension:
Interesting how there's an LRT extension to a rural area, but not to the airport. The additional ridership from the added stations and line extension can't be supported from the existing single track sections of the line. It would have to be expanded entirely to double-tracking eventually.

The new stations in the south will take some pressure off buses on the south-east Transitway, which is likely the goal here. To the north, the Gladstone O-Train station is a welcome addition.

Orleans LRT extension:

Most of the 95 bus line will be replaced in the east end and Orleans Boulevard Station will be a new station since there isn't an existing BRT one at the moment. One thing to note is the rail line will extend through the Greenbelt on NCC land, which is not something the crown corporation will easily give up.

This is supposed to be one large project, both physically and financially:

Hard to imagine all rail extensions would be constructed simultaneously within ten years, given that both federal and provincial governments are experiencing enormous budget deficits.

The new bold LRT plan is called "Stage 2":

The draft outline of the Transportation Master Plan can be seen on the city's website and further details are to be released later this afternoon by the city. The plan will be debated at a Transit Commission meeting next week, and at a Transportation Commission and City Council meetings in November.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Rideau sales and info centre to move within mall

Update (October 16, 2:35pm): In a Transit Commission meeting on October 16, OC Transpo manager of business and operational service confirmed that the kiosk will have to move because Nordstrom wants their current space.

OC Transpo's Rideau Centre sales and information kiosk will move to across mall's guest service centre on the same level. They are moving at “the end of October.” As you may know, behind the current sales centre, the former Sears space is under construction.

For paper passes and tickets, the closest outlets near Mackenzie King Bridge are the following according to OC Transpo's website:

For Presto users, the Rideau Centre is still the only place in downtown to load the smart card or check its balance.

Friday, October 4, 2013

uOttawa wanted its name on Lees LRT Station

If the University of Ottawa had its way, we would see "uOttawa - Canal" and "uOttawa - Lees" signs at LRT stations. According to the Citizen, the downtown university wanted both uOttawa and Lees LRT Stations to be named after the school.

The similar names can be confusing for new transit users and first-year Ottawa U students. Besides the school having an issue, there weren't any publicly known concerns raised with the name "Lees". The problem with naming it "uOttawa - Lees" is that Lees Ottawa U campus isn't the only destination the Confederation Line will serve. Existing high-rise apartments are in close proximity to the station and the city wants to intensify the surrounding area. Taking on the university's proposed name conflicts with the city's transit-oriented development goals, especially when the name of the school comes first.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

What's to come with the Richmond Underground: New Orchard Station

Earlier in the week I posted some photos and concept images of Cleary Station, one of two proposed stations that would be incorporated into the City of Ottawa's Richmond Underground LRT plan. The second of those stations is New Orchard, which would be located at the intersection of New Orchard and Richmond Road in the Woodroffe North community. The indicator on this map indicates roughly where the station will be:

Below is a photo from ground level on Richmond Road of roughly where the New Orchard Station will be; it's basically right at the spot that transit shelter (which serves the 2 bus route) stands today.

 The station will be right in the middle of Byron Linear Park, an extremely popular narrow strip of greenspace separating Byron Avenue and Richmond Road. This is a close-up of the bus shelter that currently stands where New Orchard Station is proposed, looking along the linear park:

And below is a concept image of the station from the middle of Richmond Road. As you can see, it seems to occupy the full width of the park; I'll be curious to see how the city makes space to allow dog-walkers using the park to get from one side of the station to the other without having to walk on Richmond or Byron.

Finally, a look at the station from Byron Avenue looking to the east.

New transit stations are always interesting, especially when they're added onto an existing and very popular transit corridor. We might be 15-20 years away from seeing these stations actually built, but they present a very good way of improving transit access and, hopefully, increasing its use.