ChAnCe missed to mArk LRT milestone
Mayor’s tweet of train travelling through downtown tunnel seems underwhelming
The first LRT train travelled through the downtown tunnel on the weekend, right to the edge of Tunney’s Pasture.
One would have thought, $2 billion and five-plus years later, this would be cause for celebration. Where was the magnum of champagne being rapturously smashed on the bow (the bumper?) of the train — the ribbon-cutting by Watson-Naqvi-Chiarelli-McKenna Inc., the appearance of the town crier and Dave Smith?
Instead, we had a tweet from the mayor on a Saturday afternoon. Then — hang on — some retweets!
This was a lost opportunity, in other words. But this has been the story with the whole building of the LRT. There has, I think, been a failure to engage the public in pride-building in the biggest project the city has ever undertaken. Mass humility, dearest Ottawa, is overrated.
You know, people love watching things being built. This is why they cut holes in hoarding when a highrise goes up, because everyone has a little kid inside them. We want to see. When they did that rapid bridge renewal on the Queensway, for Pete’s sake, they had to install bleachers for all the curious.
During tunnel construction, I wondered why someone didn’t mount a webcam so we could peek at daily progress. Why not tell us how many feet they crunched through every day? Where was the boatload of hoopla when the tunnel was finally finished? I mean, I once watched an entire documentary on the making of the Chunnel from England to France. Fascinating.
Where was our riveting story of human achievement by mighty machines? Untold.
These people have ripped up downtown (for years), gummed up Scott Street (for years), rerouted our daily flow. Can’t we have the odd high-five?
Why, too, isn’t there a trainfacsimile on display somewhere so people can at least have a look inside?
(I see by the web — where we’re to learn everything — the train has 14 doors, carries about 300 but with only 120 seats and will travel an average of 35 km/ hour.) Why, too, isn’t there an LRT office downtown that brags about the great stuff we’re doing, with models and mock-ups and answers to every question we might possibly have?
Oh, for the days of Guy Laflamme and his heart-stopping, fire-breathing Godzillas to chase the bores away!
And it isn’t just me. Here was a followup tweet from Graham Richardson at CTV Ottawa to the transit commission boss, Stephen Blais: “How about allowing a camera down there and we will do a live show? I have been asking for months.”
Instead we had this tweet from His Worship: “An incredible and exciting view from inside the LRT tunnel! A train has gone underground just after uOttawa station, travelled through Rideau, Parliament & Lyon stations and emerged at the West portal, just before Pimisi station! It’s on it’s way to Tunney’s!”
David Jeanes is president of Transport Action Canada and a pretty wise man when it comes to all things rail. He agreed the city missed a chance to put on braggy boots and blast its own horn on the weekend.
“I agree. You’d think when there’s a good news story, it would be good to have the media and the public aware of it.”
He’s been watching the construction of LRT pretty closely, partly by relying on weekly updates from the Confederation Line website.
“It’s not really engaging the public as well as it could. And I think for a project of this cost, you could certainly afford to have a lot more public information.”
After the fiasco of the Rideau Street sinkhole, one might have thought completion of this tricky section — and the tunnel itself — would be a milestone worth a holler or two.
“The actual day that they broke through was never announced,” Jeanes said.
In the east end, he said, the Blair and Cyrville stations are virtually complete, as are the Belfast yards. Would it be so hard to have public tours one weekend? In 2017 we had Kontinuum, after all, during which tens of thousands managed to take an underground acid trip through the partially built Lyon station without actually perishing.
Public safety is obviously an issue and there may be an abundance of caution being exercised by Rideau Transit Group, which is building the system under contract. It may suit them just to finish the job and hand over the keys, forgoing the dog-and-pony part.
But a thing to remember about a paying audience: We love a dog, we love a pony, we don’t love a tweet.
You’d think when there’s a good news story, it would be good to have the media and the public aware of it.
The city responded to our inquiries with the following statement:
“An O -train Confederation Line train was moved from the eastern alignment to the western end over the weekend. This move was part of the testing and commissioning of the train, tracks and guideway. As testing schedules shift due to a number of factors, it was not possible to hold a media event at a precise time. Testing from Tunney’s Pasture and the West Portal will now occur on a regular basis, as has been underway for several months from Blair to uOttawa Station.
The City of Ottawa and RTG are focused on meeting the revised Revenue Service Availability date and launching a reliable, efficient and environmentally friendly LRT system in November of this year.
Updates on the progress of construction and testing are provided at the Finance and Economic Development Committee. The next update on the Confederation Line will be presented on May 1, 2018.” — Steve Cripps, director, O -Train construction To contact Kelly Egan, please call 613-726-5896 or email kegan@ postmedia.com Twitter.com/ kellyegancolumn
This was the view from inside the tunnel during the first testing of LRT train.