Public Transit Realism

The City has the Transit problems backwards

            I feel very strongly that we need a “realistic” plan for public transit as it has certainly become one of the largest issues facing us now. The current transportation plan focusing on the LRT, which by the way our incumbent councillor Doug Thompson voted for, does not include anything for Osgoode Ward even in the year 2031. Therefore, the current city plans for public transportation have had absolutely no vision and completely neglect the needs of Osgoode Ward.

(As an aside, it is amazing that in articles regarding his retirement Mr. Thompson lists as one of his “accomplishments” the pride he has in keeping any connections to O.C. Transpo out of Osgoode Ward)

Furthermore, I feel that there has been a lot of “pie in the sky” dreaming by the City with regard to the LRT project. A thorough “cost / benefit analysis” of the project was never initiated at conception of the project and still does not exist now. What they proposed and are now constructing is a glorified, inconvenient subway, with little thought given in advance to connecting transportation. Moreover, this plan, as it now exists, will not take one single car off our already clogged roadways. As a recent study reported, Ottawa is the third most congested city in Canada [2] (Recent study clogged roads)

The city’s transit plans as they are currently proposed are not only far too expensive, they have the concept of the public transportation issue completely backwards. The objective should be to use transit/rail to efficiently move people from rural & Suburban areas into the city. The problem the city “thinks” is solved by light rail would, in fact, actually be better achieved by taking some of the large number of vehicles traveling from rural and suburban areas off the road.

Therefore, I would suggest that we are now at a “critical crossroads” as to whether the city will ever include Osgoode Ward as part of the transportation network. Jim Watson and the current council must be stopped now from implementing the extremely costly 2nd and 3rd phases of the LRT without our inclusion and input. (Another “unbelievable” Doug Thompson statement came in his brochures during the 2010 election where he made the assertion that rural residents will not pay toward the LRT project)[3]

It is small wonder that we were so poorly represented on so many issues if he actually believed what he said! Not only do we pay federal and provincial taxes, but the financial responsibility that the City utilizes for this project is derived from the “city wide” section of our municipal property taxes which provides for capital financing, administration, planning and economic development program expenses. In addition, a further impact that has already been felt by us all is our ever increasing taxes and the increased debt load of the city.

An Alternative Proposal:

As an alternative, before it is too late and the LRT concept is too firmly “intrenched”, I would recommend a five-step package of proposals using a realistic “pay as you go” approach to deal with our public transit issues. In combination, these solutions would do much more to alleviate the various transportation problems city-wide. In fact, combined they would actually be much less costly than the LRT project and serve an infinitely greater proportion of the population. Moreover, people in the rural areas would actually be included in the transportation network since they are in fact paying for it:

Expansion of O-Train Line to Leitrim Park & Ride

Expansion of O-Train Line to Leitrim Park & Ride

Immediately (1) Expand the O-Train now:

An extension of the O-Train to the Leitrum Road park and ride could be done almost immediately at a reasonable cost. In fact, I am still puzzled and extremely disappointed why this was never suggested by any Council member last summer when the O-Train was shut down for several weeks for upgrades including NEW TRACK!

Next (2) Rapid Bus Transit (BRT):

Unfortunately, previous municipal administrations made a selfish and unwise spending decision opting for LRT. However, we are definitely currently at a cross-roads and could still develop rapid transit using BRT in the tunnel now being dug.

Therefore, I would propose a variation of the proposal brought forward during the last election by former Regional Chair Andy Haydon for Rapid Bus Transit (BRT). This alternative would involve the use of diesel-electric hybrid rapid bus service, not light rail, through the tunnel currently being dug. The benefits of BRT over LRT are many including lower capital and operating costs, greater efficiency in improved travel times, reduced construction problems, less service interruptions and greater flexibility for future route modification and adaptation.

In fact, an independent review comparing BRT with LRT by the United States Transportation Research Board stated “BRT has proven successful in terms of passenger service, operating speeds, low capital cost, low operating cost, and development impacts.” [5] Moreover, since there are no wires, tracks and train construction involved, BRT could likely be implemented much sooner than 2017/2018 as being the case for LRT.

Therefore, I would suggest that if council views sound taxpayers’ money management as their number one priority, I strongly urge all council members do due diligence and revisit this proposal before committing any more funds to LRT!

Then (3) Affordable Busing – Shuttle Bus:

For many years, Osgoode Ward only had a couple of “independent” contractors busing a few residents in the morning and returning in the evening. These tended to not only be inconvenient and uncomfortable but also, had very expensive costs.

What I first “proposed” during the 2010 election, and would suggest again, is that we have Shuttle Busing for Osgoode Ward residents (buses about the size of a Para-Transpo bus). [6a] These buses would “shuttle” people to the larger OC Transpo “nodes” at Leitrum Road, Riverside South and Manotick / Barrhaven.

Shuttle Bus Transit Nodes

Shuttle Bus Transit Nodes

[6b] Delaney Bus Line 26 Passenger Coach Bus

Delaney Bus Line 26 Passenger coach

Delaney Bus Line 26 Passenger coach

These shuttle buses would be networked to pick people up at convenient locations (Central points such as the community centres) and at appropriate times the citizens require. (Obviously, surveys and much citizen input will be undertaken for this information).

I would suggest that due to the size of the shuttle buses that this could be done at far more reasonable and equitable costs than anything that has been ever proposed before!

Ultimately (4) Commuter Rail:

As I suggested in the last election, Commuter Rail for the rural areas such as Osgoode existed in the 1950’s, why not now?

The best proposal I have seen was put together by one of the candidates for mayor, Mike Maguire. This rail information has been gathered from a variety of sources: GO Transit, CN, CP, and some rail suppliers. His numbers as well as the proposed engineering and rider ship figures were critiqued and supported by a group of rail experts, including Professor Barry Wellar of Ottawa University. Mike Maguire’s 5-Step plan for Commuter Rail can also be viewed at his website: MikeforMayor.ca [7] (The only provision I would urge is to provide an equal length of multi-use pathway for any area utilized for the rail line.)

Eventually (5) Mono-rail:

Due to the fact that the urban planners for the city and the Ottawa region unfortunately did not ever factor in for future growth, the time for tunneling into the ground to meet our transit needs has passed. As it has already been shown by the first phase of LRT, it requires far too much “expense” and “disruption.”

However, there is an alternative that I would like to propose that has been used in many other urban areas to solve arising transit issues. I would suggest eventually implementing a Mono-rail on overhead stilts, (like the Chicago El), to move people east to west within the city. The advantages of this system are many including cost of installation, structural integrity and safety, time required for installation, and adaptability. As an example, rather than the ridiculous idea of using NCC lands, it would actually be accessible for people. Moreover, the Mono-rail could be adapted and lines modified to move people where the population actually exists!