LRT plan goes forward

By Mamta Manhas

The $3.6 billion second stage of Ottawa’s light rail transit plan — newly approved by city council after a meeting in early March — will include a new train station at Gladstone Avenue and Preston Street, as long expected.

The Little Italy LRT stop will be part of the Trillium Line, creating a quicker commute for Centretown residents travelling to the airport and other destinations.

Overall, Stage 2 aims to expand the Confederation Line further east and west and the existing Trillium Line further south.

City staff have said they hope the extension will bring 70 per cent of Ottawa residents within five kilometres of a LRT station.  Doing so would make commuting to and from the downtown core more convenient and comfortable thousands of city residents.

Stage 1 of the Confederation Line is still under construction, and it will run from Tunney’s Pasture in the west to Blair station in the east. Stage 2 will begin in 2018 and expand east to Trim Road  and west to Moodie Drive.

The existing Trillium Line will run from South Keys in two directions, going south to Bowesville Road and to the airport. Both projects are expected to finish in 2023.

“It will be the largest single investment the city has seen in its history,” said Chris Swail, the director of O-Train planning. “Stage 2 would significantly change how people move across the city.”

The Confederation line will run an estimated 50 minutes from one end to the other. A trip from one end of the route to downtown would take about 25 minutes.

For federal government employee Rachel Yip, the shortened commute time will be a benefit. Yip spends nearly an hour commuting to Centretown every workday from Orleans.

“The shorter the commute time the better,” she said. “That extra 20 minutes both ways saves you a lot of time.”

Canadian Museum of Nature president Meg Beckel said she sees the second stage as a step forward for businesses and all destinations in the city.

“Any organization in Centretown will benefit from public transport that moves people in an accessible and affordable way,” she says. “We’re dependent on visitors and any way we get more people to the museum, the better.”

Despite the support from some, many residents voiced their concerns at an information session prior to the recent city council vote.

Some are not happy about the rapid construction and technical flaws with certain aspects of the LRT.

Some are critical of the fact the Trillium Line will only have a single track instead of two.

The concern comes after the $60-million expansion of the current O-Train, which concluded in 2015. OC Transpo aimed to have the single-track train arriving every eight minutes. To do so, the transit service added new passing tracks and six new trains.

Currently however, OC Transpo reports that the train arrives approximately every 11 minutes.

Swail and his colleague, OC Transpo general manager John Manconi, both reassured the audience at the information session that extensive research and planning had been done to optimize the system. Prior to this meeting, OC Transpo had many consultations with professionals and the public.

The next step for Stage 2 is to finalize federal government funding for the LRT, which Mayor Jim Watson has said he is optimistic about securing.

During the meeting, there was also talk of expanding the transit system into Gatineau across the Prince of Wales Bridge in the northwest corner of Centretown, but no plan is in place yet.

The bridge, a former rail crossing that has been out of service for many years, generated controversy last year when the city padlocked the Ontario-side entrance that adventurous pedestrians had used to access the scenic Ottawa River lookout.