Ottawa, Closer than Ever to Replacing Bus Rapid Transit with Light Rail

» Could the Ottawa model of instituting bus rapid transit, then converting to light rail, inspire other cities?

There was a time, a few years back, when talk of building bus rapid transit as a cheap precursor to train service was common. The theory was that cities could invest in new rights-of-way for rapid transit and design guideways specifically for future light rail implementation, but only fork up enough dough to pay for the buses.

After its voters agreed in 2003 to fund a series of new rail lines, Houston’s elected officials realized by 2007 that they wouldn’t be able to do so without a federal commitment — but they weren’t able to get help because of obstacles put in the way by Congressional Republicans representing the city’s suburbs. And so the city turned to buses, deciding to install BRT along its most promising corridors.

Though it was a second-choice solution, Houston — like many other American cities — may have looked to Ottawa as a model for BRT implementation. Canada’s capital has become a gold standard for bus advocates, who point to the region’s 240,000 daily bus riders and 23% transit share as proof that buses can work just as well as rail in encouraging people to choose public transportation to get to and from work. Ottawa’s several busways transport passengers quickly and relatively comfortably. Unlike most “BRT” lines in North America, this city’s are mostly grade-separated, producing actually high-speed buses.

But now Ottawa is planning to give up its primary transitway. Houston eventually got its act together on the federal level and has turned back to light rail, forgetting the bus plans entirely. Is the Ottawa model — raise ridership with buses, and then think about more expensive rail options — falling flat? What went wrong?

The quick answer is that Ottawa was too successful, encouraging the city’s citizens to take an average of 125 trips by public transportation a year, more than any equivalently-sized North American city. The transitway has so many riders that it puts 2,600 daily buses onto two downtown streets, and by 2018, the system will have literally no more capacity. By 2030, Ottawa would have to get a bus downtown every eighteen seconds to accommodate all of its riders — an impossible feat.

Thus for several years, the city has been considering light rail as a replacement; a 2006 plan fell apart because it would have done nothing to increase capacity and decrease commute times as it would have relied on street-running downtown. So Mayor Larry O’Brien and his staff have concocted what is now a C$2.1 billion project to run light rail in a three-kilometer tunnel under downtown. The remainder of the 12.5-kilometer corridor would run from Tunney’s Pasture to Blair Station along the existing transitway, completely displacing the bus service that’s currently there. The 13-station system will be designed for very high capacity, up to 25,000 riders per direction during the peak hour (up from 10,000 today), thanks to platforms long enough to handle six-car trains and even platform screen doors in the underground stations.

The general plan for a downtown tunnel was approved last May by the city’s council, and light rail was signed off as the technology in November. It has received a C$600 million promise from Ontario province and is likely to receive a similar guarantee from the federal government later this year. The project could begin construction in 2013 and open by 2018 — as long as opponents of the rail line don’t take the mayoral seat in this fall’s election.

Though the existing bus transitway is already in place, light rail construction will be expensive, notably because of the tunnel, which will cost C$735 million by itself. Even if bus service had been chosen as the preferred technology, this expense would have been required. But the C$540 million cost to convert the remaining ten kilometers of right-of-way is more surprising; much of that will go towards the big new stations along the line, with the rest to pay for tracks and electrification. Vehicles and a new maintenance facility will cost C$515 million.

With expenses like that — practically equivalent to building a new rail line from scratch — one wonders whether there was ever any fiscal advantage to using buses first along the rapidway. Did the city lose out by not choosing rail when the transitway first opened in 1983?

In terms of operations costs, it almost certainly did. Even with a nine percent increase in ridership in the first year alone, light rail is expected to allow the city to save up to C$100 million annually on bus drivers’ salaries, gas consumption, and right-of-way maintenance. By dramatically increasing the average number of passengers per vehicle thanks to long trains and by switching to clean and cheap electricity from diesel fuel, the city will find notable economies in rail. It will also produce far fewer greenhouse gases — saving 38,000 tons by 2031.

For passengers, though, the conversion to light rail means mixed outcomes. The downtown tunnel will decrease trip times by fifteen minutes, principally by avoiding the congestion currently resulting from bus bunching. But the direct service now offered to many parts of the city will be lost, as many passengers coming from areas not immediately adjacent to the rail stations will be shuttled via bus to the stops, where they will have to transfer to get downtown. This will result in roughly 40% of Ottawa’s transit trips using the rail line.

During rail line construction, bus service will be seriously affected.

Had buses been retained on the transitway and been sent through the tunnel, it would have required a far more extensive tunnel because of ventilation concerns — or it would have necessitated the electrification of the bus fleet, not necessarily a cheap choice either. So Ottawa had basically no choice but to switch to rail.

If the city gets its way, and finds the money, direct service will be extended; light rail will replace the 10,000 daily-rider DMU O-Train as well as a number of the other current transitway routes. A light rail loop across the river into Gatineau, Québec is also being discussed. With the downtown tunnel built, capacity won’t be a problem.

But the underlying question about whether the city should have invested in BRT in the first place twenty-seven years ago returns. Though Ottawa was much smaller then, it was larger than Edmonton, which had installed a modern light rail line in 1978 — including a downtown tunnel. If Ottawa’s politicians had known then that they would have to spend billions converting to rail just to keep up with capacity needs, would they have selected bus service?

For other cities considering investing in reserved-bus corridors before light rail, Ottawa’s may be a cautionary tale. Savings in the short term may ultimately result in far greater expenses — especially when factoring in the high cost of bus operations.

Image above: Route map, from Ottawa Light Rail

28 Comments | Leave a Reply »
  • Peter Smith

    the BRT line served its purpose admirably — it forestalled the development of clean-ish mass transit for 27 years so far. BP and Shell and Chevron are happy. and who knows? maybe they’ll remain happy after the elections?

    that’s what BRT means — dependence on oil and cars and highways and buses for decades to come — that’s it.

    Berkeley is fighting off BRT as well as they can, but it’s not a done deal yet.

    this article, unfortunately, is not convincing in either direction. i think people deserve dignified transit, that’s why i think buses should not exist, but we need a real cost comparison — including opportunity costs. i’m not gonna do it, but it’d be valuable! :)

  • This is an interesting case study. I always says that true BRT should be built to rail standards but simply run buses instead. That is what BRT is in its truest sense, although this is almost never done. In the case of the running way (which is the major cost of LRT) this means the geometry should be built with trains in mind, and stations should be long and straight.

    From looking at some of this plants it looks like this was not done in Ottawa (http://www.ottawalightrail.ca/en/routes-stations/train). This is probably why the costs of conversion are so hight. In comparison although Seattle did have to shut down the transit tunnel for two years conversion from bus to rail cost around 100 million, most of which went to building an underground stub tunnel for trains to reverse direction in. The low costs was in large part due to the fact that the tunnel was “over designed” for buses so that it could easily handle trains with few modifications besides the stub tunnel.

    Either way I think these examples show in a general sense that if you build a BRT system of the quickway type and it costs less to build than the equivalent LRT system you’re going to incur heavy costs later to convert it. Quickways are cheap exactly because they allow you to cut corners, most of the time in way that would not be acceptable for LRT.

  • Tom West

    The BRT system proved that the people of Ottawa would use transit if it was fast, frequent, and sensibly priced, which the BRT system is. If LRt had been built first, it would have been less extensive than what is proposed now, and would probably have not had the smae ridership as the BRT system does now.
    The Ottawa experience shows one major advanrtage of BRT over LRT, which is that it can one-seat rides to far more people. Buses can operate express along the BRT trunk, and then local along non-BRT branches. This will be lost with LRT. However, I think the journey time savinsg from LRT will outweigh the interchange wait time.

    • Anon256

      Bus ridership in Ottawa was just as high before the busway was built, and actually fell after the first busway sections opened, bottoming out in 1996, and returning to pre-busway levels only recently. Whatever can be said about the busway, it definitely can’t be given credit for Ottawa’s high transit ridership.

  • This article raises some good questions but ignores others of equal value. Is it too much that one article acknowledge them all?

    What is good is looking at the long term cost of various options for transit. What is missing are the social, political, and financial issues involved in using an incremental vs. long-range approach. The reason BRT-to-Light Rail makes sense is considering just those issues. So how can the article ignore them when assessing the relative merits of both?

    Also, BRT is a term loosely used to refer to several different kinds of rapid buses, not just the purist fixed-guideway kind. There are examples of bus systems that may have signal preemption and infrequent stops but not dedicated lanes. Some rapid buses share lanes with right turns but require fares to be paid before boarding. And so on. What should these systems be called — BRT-lite?

    An incremental approach idea is to make transit seen as a reasonable and economic way to get around by people who had driven autos everywhere before. Installing less expensive BRT-lite runs may help do that. Then, the public is much more willing to underwrite the expense of upgrading to a more expensive project that may involve acquiring land for Light Rail(a major expense of highway expansion as well).

    Presumably, planners have a healthy dose of political, social, and economic acumen in addition to knowing about a lot of technical issues.

  • The “BRT as Pioneer” seems a lot more promising for sending out branch lines connecting to a rail line through the urban core.

  • Joseph E

    If they are planning on running 6-car trains every 2 minutes at rush hour, that’s 140 people per train car on average. It’s more of a “light metro” or “premetro” than traditional light rail, considering the largely grade-separated right-of-way and long stations.

  • Eli Z

    This might sound stupid, but on the subject of many areas losing direct service via BRT once the Light rail comes in, what about running buses and LRT in the same tunnel. Something akin to the Silver Line BRT in Boston, with buses using overhead wires while in the tunnel and diesel operation while above ground? Just a thought.

  • David

    Good post, Yonah.

    It’s nice to see some wider analysis of Ottawa than the usual BRT cheerleader fare. By an odd coincidence, today the CUTA is meeting in Ottawa for its annual meeting and all the visitors will be taking a tour of the system – in the middle of the day of course when it actually works.

    And that gets me to what you’ve missed and a common error that’s frequently made in discussing Ottawa’s Transitway.

    Despite the widespread belief and claim, the Transitway has not increased ridership against where it was before the Transitway was constructed – which is the only way it can be measured if the point is to determine if it was a success in increasing ridership. During the entire dozen year build-out ending in 1996, absolute ridership fell year after year from the post-streetcar high of the mid 1980s. It was not until 2002 that absolute ridership finally got back to where it had been in 1984 – and by then the population was much larger. Annual rides per capita are still well below where they were in 1984, though they have been increasing since 1996.

    The system is already at failure. That began happening regularly in 2004, just two years after we got back to where we had been in 1984 (which of course suggests that if the Transitway actually had been successful, it would have failed almost immediately). During the peak hour, a bus goes through downtown on average every 20 seconds. Basically one can’t increase the number of buses per hour much above 180 without incurring disproportionate time penalties, and even there inclement weather (which Ottawa as a snowy city gets a lot of) can be enough to tip the scales over to failure. The only room we have left is to continue replacing 40′ buses with 60′ articulated buses. Given the rate at which 40′ are being replaced with 60′ on all routes, 2018 does sound about right as to when we’ll run out of time.

    On Conversion, as it happens I did my Master’s project on that subject. Basically my research found that little thought was given during the design of the Transitway as to how it would actually be converted, even though it was by and large designed to accommodate light rail standards. It would seem that the Transitway’s promoters used convertibility more as a selling point as most seemed to have believed that it would and should never be converted. The stations in particular will prove to be pricey because the standard BRT station with 4-lane cross-section with side-loaded platforms is not well-suited to light rail. Gallingly, we’re still building more of these busways exactly the same we always have. Another issue here is the massive hub stations (4 or even 5 of the 9 stations outside the tunnel) that are being built in this first phase, at least one of which will become redundant later on. As it stands, the conversion cost is running at C$20M/km with stations at an average of C$40M each, the lowest cost stations being C$15M.

    The tragedy of Ottawa is that we had enough ridership in the 1980s to justify light rail in the major corridors from the outset. Even 10 years’ from now we’ll only have a relatively short (though intensively used) system. Ottawa should be a warning to other cities.

    • Matt Fisher

      David,

      I read your thesis here:
      http://homepages.ucalgary.ca/~dpjames/mdp/david_james-mdp-final.pdf
      And I posted the link here in an interesting discussion about BRT, having mentioned it:
      http://theoverheadwire.blogspot.com/2009/07/could-brt-carry-7-million-new-yorkers.html

      Here’s a map, currently under construction, of what I believe light rail in Ottawa should be like:
      http://maps.google.ca/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&msa=0&msid=101996212121253487336.00046eaae108ae222cb98&z=10
      I have accounted for many of your suggestions, as well as the suggestions of the 2007 “Moving Ottawa” report of Mayor’s Task Force on Transportation (MTFT) into the map. I believe my plan for a tunnel is better than the city’s plan, with an alignment all under Queen Street to minimize disruption on Albert/Slater and four stations west of the Rideau Canal.

      We both agree on many of the same points raised in your thesis. Yes, a busway can be built to accomodate light rail (or a metro/subway) in the future, but it appears to be more of a “selling point”. However, I believe that ridership in Ottawa would never be as good as it is now if the Transitway had not been built.

      We also both agree that a downtown transit tunnel in Ottawa should be a rail tunnel, not a bus tunnel or even a combined rail/bus tunnel (like Seattle’s tunnel). The bus tunnels mentioned by other commenters re. Boston’s “Silver Lie” (as I call it myself) and Brisbane’s busway would, I believe, be more appropriate as rail tunnels.

      Finally, on January 28, 2010, in the Ottawa Citizen, I wrote a letter to the editor that got published under the headline “Bus rapid transit is no substitute for light rail”. I talked about BRT vs. LRT in Ottawa, and about how the bus boosters’ other favourite example, Curitiba, Brazil, is planning to replace BRT with a subway, just in time for the 2014 World Cup. Both Ottawa and Curitiba’s experiences, I believe, should be an actual lesson to other cities that either have BRT projects underway (i.e. Winnipeg, Hartford – and both appear to be using rail lines for busways, something that we both agree should never be done, but it was anyway in Ottawa, Pittsburgh, and Los Angeles) or some discussions thereof, whether or not they have existing or planned rail transit at this time.

      Thank you for your cooperation.

      Best,

      Matt J. Fisher
      A current student in between his third year and his fourth year (2010-2011) at Carleton University, studying for a B.A. Honours in the Communication Studies (ex-Mass Communication) program
      mjf87nl@yahoo.ca
      (If you’re willing to send a reply to my comment, I would be very interested to see it.)

  • Yonah. Your argument doesn’t show that Ottawa should have built LRT rather than BRT. It shows that Ottawa should have invested earlier in the downtown tunnel. If this costly item had been brought forward, perhaps instead of some of the outer busway infrastructure Ottawa would have had a high-capacity transit system (bus or rail) for decades now.

    I contend that we’ll never know how BRT would have performed in Ottawa, because the capacity and reliability of a line is determined by the capacity and reliability through chokepoints, and the worst chokepoint of all, the CBD, was never addressed.

    Granted, bus tunnels are harder than rail tunnels, but neither Seattle nor Brisbane seems to regret having gone that route. In Seattle, the bus tunnel led eventually to light rail. In Brisbane the idea of converting the busways to light rail rarely comes up, because the busway, with its crucial downtown tunnel, is working so well.

    • Right, it would have been possible to have built a bus tunnel instead of a rail tunnel. However, the political reality is that the bus tunnel would have never been constructed — because bus technology was specifically picked because of its supposedly lower costs. Had a tunnel been built for those buses, all of the cost savings would have been lost — so that wouldn’t have happened. Like it or not, when you’re discussing a rail investment, you’re considering a much higher expenditure, which makes the tunnel possible now.

      But the broader issue for Ottawa today is that the number of people riding transit on the primary corridor is probably too large for buses to handle, even if they were in a tunnel downtown. With peak-period loads of 10,000 people per hour per direction, the system is reaching a limit.

      You could argue that there are possibilities for higher ridership — Bogota’s BRT reaches 45,000 passengers per hour per direction — but that’s only possible because the buses are running in two to four-lane highways for themselves, not an option in Ottawa or basically any developed country. Land costs being what they are, there’s no way that building that would ever cost less than equivalent rail.

      And that’s the crux of the issue for me: when you’re talking high ridership and really expensive right-of-ways, there’s no reason not to pick rail. It’s smoother, more efficient, less noisy, and (unless compared to electric buses) better for the environment.

    • Nathanael

      It’s clear that a bus tunnel would never have been worth it in Ottawa, due to the ventilation requirements — bulking costs by a huge amount — and the extra space required. It always had to be an electrified, tracked tunnel.

      Arguably trolleybuses could have kept a bus tunnel in the same price range as a train tunnel, and concrete tracks like, where was it, Adelaide ?, might have eliminated the extra width needed for buses.

      However, it still wouldn’t have provided the necessary capacity in the same amount of space. This was always a place where a rail tunnel was needed.

      This means that contra Jarrett, this was in fact an argument that rail should have been built from the outset.

      Fundamentally, it’s hard to argue that a bus tunnel is ever a good idea. If you have the sheer volume such that a very expensive tunnel is actually worth it, you probably have the volume to justify multi-car trains, at which point the disadvantages of buses outweigh their advantages. If you can somehow come up with a special case where you have lots of volume but it’s *very* diffuse, splitting in 10 directions on either end of the central tunnel, then maybe a bus tunnel is worth it.

      It’s not even clear that the road tunnels under the Hudson in NY were worth it. They probably should have been rail tunnels.

  • Mason Hicks

    As Susan De Vos points out; and as I have alluded to in a response to an earlier topic; the problem with BRT is that there is no consensus as to its specific definition.
    The definition supplied by the BRT industry reinforces this vagueness. It states that bus rapid transit is “a flexible, high performance rapid transit mode that combines a variety of physical, operating and system elements into a permanently integrated system with a quality image and unique identity.”
    We’ve seen BRT represented in many forms standard city buses operating on slightly modified freeway emergency service aprons, perhaps having signal override capability; to as something like Ottawa, where the buses run on dedicated, grade separated right-of-way as Yonah describes in the post. In the development phases of new lines and systems, transit agencies often start by selling the public on the latter, and then start progressive downgrading to the former. This type of bait-and-switch routine is very easy if you provide a vague definition in the first place. For this reason I and others will always be dubious when BRT is matched up against rail-based modes as an alternative transit mode.
    The problem with the more elaborate systems is that the infrastructure cost of providing the dedicated, grade separated right of way approaches that of a light rail system. When the added capacity and lower operating cost of a rail-based system are figured in, the upgrade to light-rail is a no-brainer.
    I hope that other cities will learn from Ottawa’s experience.

  • Daniel

    That’s one of my problems with BRT; too often, it just means “Let’s buy some old diesel buses and run them on the streets we have–it’s cheaper (and therefore better) than rail”.

    That, and/or “actual” (grade-separated) BRT is used as a sop to impede actual rapid transit, and to keep municipalities dependent on highway infrastructure (roads, asphalt, tires, buses, bus parts, etc.), and to build ‘busways’ that can be converted to car use should political winds shift (stealth highway building).

  • Matt

    With grade separation and 6 car trains, what’s the difference between LRT and heavy rapid transit? Also, why not build it automated like Vancouver? Bogota’s system seems like it would be expensive to operate (so many drivers).

    • The reason this system is being described as “light rail” is that it will be designed to allow future extensions along corridors that are not entirely grade separated. This means trains will be light rolling stock, not the kind of heavy rail we’re used to in cities with metros.

      Ottawa is planning eventual automation in the center-city station.

    • Wad

      Light rail and heavy rail have a hidden word in between: capacity. Light rail expects light ridership capacity at modestly frequent headways (10-20 minutes).

      Heavy rail expects very heavy passenger traffic. This needs full grade-separation and often single-digit headways.

      A Bogota system would be expensive to operate, but the bus saturation is needed for a completely different reason. Third World cities need to find work for their residents.

  • Pantheon

    Decisions regarding transit investments often don’t make economic sense. This is because there is no incentive in the system to make rational economic decisions. With an adequate mercantile banking system, the private sector builds superior systems that can take decades to prove their financial viability (ex. aviation, satellite radio, biotech). The profit motive is a powerful incentive to make rational decisions, even when an investment is inherently speculative.

    Public transit is designed to be monopolistic and unprofitable, therefore the incentive is of a political nature rather than an economic one. Political incentives are prone to expediency, interest-group manipulation, and short-term thinking. Transit users are not treated like customers because they are not, in fact, customers. A customer is someone who provides you with a profit. Transit users are the equivalent of people who live in subsidized housing projects, or of anyone who pays less than the cost of providing the service. Like the citizens of Soviet Russia, transit users’ lives are in the hands of people who don’t care about them.

    A premium for-profit local transit system is not feasible because the price point required to provide such a service would approach or exceed the cost of owning an automobile. Therefore transit must be a social service in all but the densest urban areas.

    Given these constraints, livability advocates should rethink what a livable community looks like, and the role of transit within it. There has been an unfortunate tendency to assume that transit is a necessary part of building the kind of communities we want to live in, when in fact the transit industry may be ambivalent about those goals. Just look at how the industry has colluded with the highway lobby to build light rail along freeways, and the difficulty this poses for its own usability.

  • […] which have to replaced much more frequently. This is one of the main reasons why Ottawa is going to replace it’s busway with a light rail that goes through downtown underground. Despite a 2.1$ billion capital investment, the city hopes […]

  • […] As per usual, there are plenty of pros and cons on each side.  Bus rapid transit would involve setting aside bus-only lanes (not sure if this means stealing existing lanes from automobile traffic or not) along portions of existing routes.  The light rail would be built along an existing route and would not create additional traffic.  […]

  • The sooner we turn the so-called “Orange Line” in southern California into light-rail, the better. (Metro shouldn’t be giving lesser BRT systems like the “Orange” Line and “Silver” Line official colors.)

  • There are two issues which – it would seem – few people wish to discuss regarding the performance of the Ottawa “Transitway” system.

    ———-

    First: The operator, OC Transpo, claimed prior to construction that the busways would provide large savings in operating and capital cost over “buses in mixed traffic.”

    This would occur as the result of the higher operating speeds permitted by the busways:

    a.) A smaller number of buses would be required to work peak schedules, because each bus could cover more km-age per peak period because of higher operating speed. Operating-cost savings would result from fewer buses (and drivers) in peak-period service.

    b.) A smaller total fleet would therefore be required, because the “average” number of buses in services during peak periods would be less. Capital-cost savings would result from the smaller fleet, garages and maintenance facilities scaled to a smaller fleet size, and so forth.

    In order for a.) to occur, the ratio of bus km per platform (driver) hour would need to increase – significantly. This did not occur, as revealed by annual operating statistics published by OC Transpo.

    In order for b.) to occur, the number of bus-km per scheduled peak-period bus (annual averages) would need to incrase – significantly. Again, this did not occur. OC Transpo did not obtain the two major cost benefits anticipated prior to transitway construction.

    a.) and b.) might be described today as “a theory that was not tested.”

    OC Transpo suffered significant productivity declines as the transitway system expanded. During the first 20 years of operation, real wages remained stable but operating cost (per revenue service hour) rose by nearly 60 percent. Maintenance costs, fuel consumption, non-revenue (“deadhead”) km and road calls all increased while labor utilization became less efficient.

    The negative productivity changes suggest “inherent” or “structural” inefficiencies associated with Ottawa’s transitway program. The approximate annual cost is about USD 50 million, and the cumulative total over the first 20 years of operation is about USD 1 billion.

    Why did these productivity declines take place? Are the implied “structural” inefficiencies characteristic of high-volume BRT as a mode, within the context of a developed economy, or are they unique to Ottawa?

    One gets the idea that few people truly want answers to the questions above.

    ———-

    Second: For the past two decades, OC Transpo has claimed a “peak hour one-way passenger volume” of “10,000” – that is, a peak-hour passenger volume of 10,000 passengers per hour per direction (phd). The transportation literature contains many repetitions of this claim. It has become common currency among many transit professionals and advocates. However …

    If there is a location along the Ottawa busways where one may count 10,000 passengers being transported during a clock hour, in a single direction, then this location is a closely-guarded secret. Other key details are also closely-guarded secrets: season (e.g. winter, summer), time of day (e.g. a.m. or p.m. peak) and so forth.

    Conclusion: Passenger volumes as high as 10,000 phd do not occur at any location on the Ottawa transitways, and have not occurred since opening.

    The actual maximum falls in the range of 3,000 – 5,000 phd. That’s impressive but well below the level claimed. Moreover, passenger volumes approaching 10,000 phd have been carried aboard light rail (LRT) trains in Calgary.

  • There were several reasonable choices to increase transit capacity in Ottawa, including light rail on the surface through the downtown core. The tunnel is ‘necessary’ to maintain road space and signal timing for cars – not for transit capacity. My video shows some of the unnecessary limitations of the section through downtown (Passengers fumbling for change to pay drivers and delaying a whole line of buses behind etc) http://youtu.be/AmE1YLdTv38

    The tunnel will make transit trips through downtown faster, but will add time for passengers to descend to the platform level. Maybe that is worth $700 million?

    Another choice would have been to establish a parallel rapid transit line of whatever type to create a more resilient network while increasing capacity. Ottawa is ready for a rapid transit grid; but single corridor rapid transit systems with branches are the only solution usually considered here. When the one big pipe gets to capacity the only option usually considered is to make that one pipe bigger.

  • Richard Gunn

    The Ottawa Transitway was implemented as a second choice to light rail. Once in place it started to change certain aspects of OC Transit operations. One of them was express bus routes that could take passengers from one end of the city to the other without requiring a transfer. Selected express routes ran every 15 minutes 7 days a week. This attracted more passengers. As the system traffic grew the original sections were not updated to handle the capacity. The objective was placed more on expansion. Several of the transfer stations became bottle necks during peak periods. Several bus stops remained one lane roadways; therefore backing up bus traffic for buses that did not stop at these bus stops. It comes as no surprise that the bus to bus accident rate is high during the peak periods. In downtown Ottawa the transitway shares the roadway with cars. During the peak periods the buses have a problem with cars blocking intersections. The capacity of the downtown one way streets to safely and efficiently carry the peak bus traffic was exceeded several years ago. OC Transpo won the most efficient North American Transit aware in the 1980s. In the 1990s there was a change in management direction that has led to inefficiencies. OC Transpo turned to 60-ft articulated buses to handle the passenger capacity. The articulated joint is a high maintenance system. No passenger carrying system is perfect. Its success depends on the ability of its personnel.

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