Moving forward on Rapid Transit
The City of Ottawa’s new Transportation Master Plan (TMP), approved in November 2008, establishes a practical vision for the future of transportation in our city. The TMP includes a Rapid Transit Network (RTN) and implementation schedule for both transit and road projects, as well as a pedestrian and a cycling plan designed to serve a population projected to reach almost 1.2 million people by 2031.
The TMP’s objectives include reducing automobile dependency during peak travel periods; decreasing commute times; increasing the number of walking and cycling trips by approximately 50% and increasing transit trips by about 76%. Given that the current transit system through the downtown core is expected to reach capacity by 2018, it is essential that the City continue to move forward with the established TMP.
The RTN project will be divided into two phases within which sections / increments of the rail service will be rolled out. In Phase I, Increment 1, a 12.5 km rail line service will be built from Tunney’s Pasture to the existing Blair Road Transit Station in the east end of Ottawa. The downtown segment of this line will pass through a newly constructed 3.2 km tunnel from Booth Street to the University of Ottawa. Construction timelines for Phase I, Increment 1 of the LRT line are contigent on the procurement model selected by Council in December 2009. City staff have approached the Federal and Provincial governments for a high-level funding commitment of the cost of Phase 1 of the Rapid Transit Network (RTN).
Upon the completion of Phase 1, Increment 1, transit ridership is expected to reach almost 140 million customer trips per year and is expected to increase to approximately 175 million by 2031. The City anticipates that a number of business and development opportunities will exist for various stakeholders in proximity to this modern and innovative transportation system. Partnerships will allow for collaborative development efforts in transit stations, station access and areas adjacent to transit stations in keeping with the City’s Transit Oriented Development guidelines.
The first phase of the transit plan for Ottawa will be built in three increments with an approximate cost of $3.2 billion. In Phase 1 the City of Ottawa will invest in 40 km of light rail transit and 29 km of bus rapid transit expansion. City Council has approved the preferred LRT route alignment for Phase 1 Increment One, along with the general station locations. This LRT network will be supported by a new 3.2 km tunnel and four underground stations through the Downtown area. It is estimated that the Downtown Ottawa Transit Tunnel (DOTT) project will employ approximately 7,000 people directly and indirectly, over a six-year period.
A forum about technology options for the RTN was undertaken in June and a report with technology recommendations will be presented to City Council in November of this year. Ottawa’s Council will then vote on approving the functional design of the DOTT project with the Environmental Assessment process expected to be completed in Q2 2010.
The development of stations along the LRT line will provide unique opportunities for both the City and the private sector to creatively integrate the LRT stations into the community. The 13 proposed LRT station locations are in the areas of: • Tunney’s Pasture (Transitway at Scott
Street and Holland Street) • Bayview (Transitway at O-Train) • LeBreton (Booth Street) • Downtown West (Albert Street; near Bay
Street) (Tunnel Station) • Downtown East (Queen Street; near
Metcalfe) (Tunnel Station) • Rideau Street (Tunnel Station) • University of Ottawa Campus (East
Side of Nicholas Street) • Lees Avenue (Existing Transitway station) • Hurdman (Near existing Transitway
station) • VIA Station (Tremblay Road) • St. Laurent (South side of St. Laurent Shopping Centre north of Hwy 417 at existing station) • Cyrville (Existing station) • Blair Road (South side of Gloucester
Technical considerations will determine the final configuration of the stations and pedestrian connections, however there may be some flexibility in this regard, especially related to the number and location of pedestrian connections serving each station. Additional pedestrian points could include accessing LRT stations through adjacent properties or by way of street access. In this regard, input on how buildings in the area that are not directly beside a proposed station can gain access through, under or beside an adjacent building or development site are welcomed, given the City’s goal to encourage ridership and promote an optimal experience with the new LRT system.
Various opportunities for private sector partnerships will exist at LRT Stations in the Downtown Tunnel. The 4 stations within the 3.2 km tunnel in the downtown leg of the LRT line will have at least two access points from the surface. These accesses can be integrated into private buildings and form a node for new retail and commercial services. At the mezzanine level of each underground station, opportunities may also exist for new commercial services that cater to the traveling public. Similarly, for the downtown area, pedestrian connectivity will be of great importance to enhance the accessibility for LRT passengers. At all LRT stations, the city is interested in exploring business development opportunities in and around station locations.
In other cities, the private sector now enjoys a variety of benefits as a result of having an integrated LRT station within their development or being in the surrounding area. These benefits come in the form of higher density development opportunities, reduced parking requirements, increased pedestrian traffic supporting commercial tenants, added incentives in attracting future employees/employers (e.g. Federal government) and increased land values. In looking at other jurisdictions with successful multifaceted transit systems, such as Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Montreal, to name just a few, it is clear that there are many benefits for multiple stakeholders which will stem from the RTN in Ottawa.
The City looks forward to collaborating with the private sector within the context of this project; to this end, an initial RFI process was completed in June 2009. The intention is to explore innovative ideas as well as use the lessons learned by other municipalities so that the private and public sectors collaborate to produce benefits for both parties and for the community at large.
Additional updates can be found on the City’s web page at www.ottawa.ca/tunnel – watch for more details from the City as transit plans continue to take shape over the next year.