LIGHT RAIL: Not sure where you stand? Ottawa Magazine offers up a tip sheet for when you’re chatting at the water cooler

LIGHT RAIL: Not sure where you stand? Ottawa Magazine offers up a tip sheet for when you’re chatting at the water cooler

An architectural rendering of the light rail station at Tunney's Pasture. Photo courtesy of Ottawa Light Rail.

There’s a skeptic in all of us. The City of Ottawa’s selection of the Rideau Transit Group to build Confederation Line, the new Light Rail Transit service, has raised the eyebrows of many concerned citizens. It is the largest infrastructure project ever undertaken in Ottawa, it will cost billions, and will take five years to become fully operational.

Meet imaginary Brian. He’s your typical water cooler conversation type, and a skeptic at heart. Like many, he’s unsure how he feels about the construction of a new Light Rail Transit (LRT) line being built around the Ottawa downtown core. Brian doesn’t like the idea of more construction on his way to and from work, nor does he think kindly of diverted bus traffic. He’s not certain about all the facts, but he sure does enjoy playing devil’s advocate – and he raises concerns that many locals have. Here, Ottawa Magazine offers up a basic tip sheet of sorts using info from the City of Ottawa and the Rideau Transit Group to give you – and Brian – a quick rundown of the info that’s out there, all in one easy place. (Think of it as an early Christmas present for when you’re making small talk this holiday.)

What makes you think it will make rush hour any better?

-It’s a 100 km/h train travelling on a 12.5 km east to west line with 13 stations, and is expected to save commuters at least 15 minutes per day on average.

-The LRT will go underground in the downtown core in order to avoid bus routes and traffic.

-The city and the Rideau Transit Group estimate that more than 40 percent of all transit trips taken in the city will use the LRT for all or some of their journey, reducing bus traffic by more than 50 percent.

-Using planned 417 and Scott Street widenings, a bus route for the construction period will be established as an alternative to the Transitway. This will make room for new vehicle and cycling lanes upon completion.

Photo courtesy of Ottawa Light Rail.

I’m going to have to foot the entire bill for this, aren’t I?

-Not exactly. The federal government reported that it’s subsidizing $600-million of the project from the Building Canada Fund and $192-million through federal Gas Tax Fund transfers to the city.

-The government of Ontario has announced that it’s contributing $600-million directly and $287-million through Provincial Gas Tax receipts to the city.

-The municipality will cover the rest of the costs incurred by the project.

OK, so it’s going to make traffic a bit better. What other good can come of it?

-The provincial government has estimated Ottawa will gain 20,000 new jobs in the long term from the LRT project.

-As modernization of the city’s infrastructure is necessary, $340-million will be invested into sewer, road, and water projects across the city over the next five years. This will speed up other infrastructure
projects that have been planned around the city before construction starts on the LRT.

-The city and the Rideau Transit Group estimate that the LRT could reduce carbon emissions by 94,000 tonnes by using the Citadis model by French tram builder Alstom — which is used in 40 major cities around the world. The Alstom Citadis has a built-in electric power supply and drive system that doesn’t depend on fossil fuels.

I’m still a young man. Will I be retired by the time this project is finished?

-The project will be getting underway almost immediately following the December 19 city council meeting, provided that the massive construction contract is approved. Construction will likely begin as soon as February 2013 and includes the widening of a section of Highway 417 if this approval is granted.

-The Rideau Transit Group projects construction to be complete by October 2017, but service isn’t expected to begin until May 2018.

For more information and visual demonstrations, public showcases will be presented at different locations throughout the city. The main showcase will be wrapping up December 19 at City Hall, so this is your final week to check it out. For a full online presentation, walkthrough of conceptual designs, and more information, visit the Confederation Line website.