This post describes the planned changes to STO Ottawa downtown core routes, to be implemented sometime after the Stage 1 LRT goes into service. (So don’t expect these STO routes on day 1 of LRT service, but sometime in mid to late 2019.)
For OC Transpo I’ll just give a quick summary about the downtown core, rather than documenting the huge number of changes to OC Transpo bus routes all over the city; their site can tell you what you need to know much better than I can. See the planned 2019 system map for all the details.
The high level summary of the OC Transpo Stage 1 bus changes from a downtown core perspective is that all of the Transitway buses, like the workhorse 90 series, are gone from downtown, along with all of the direct-from-the-suburbs buses, and Albert and Slater are no longer primary OC Transpo bus routes through the downtown. Everything moves to a hub model, with the rapid buses going to Tunney’s Pasture Station (west end), Hurdman Station (southbound buses), and Blair Station (east end). You can see my post Ottawa LRT Stage 1 maps for a map of the new rapid system.
Queen of Buses
The major downtown OC Transpo change will be a focus around Parliament Station on Queen. All the frequent local bus routes, the 6, 7, and 11, will have a route on Bank and Queen. This may be interesting considering that Queen has just been narrowed, and Queen will still be open for regular car and truck traffic. My understanding is this shift will precede the STO bus route changes.
Above is an extract from the downtown core submap on the lower right of the main OC Transpo 2019 System Map. The red circles are station entrances, the black squares with letters are station-adjacent bus stops. Mackenzie King Station at the south of Rideau Centre goes from being a very busy Transitway station to only being visited by the 16 and the 19. (It will become a very busy STO station as you will see below.)
SIDEBAR: If you like Ottawa transit history, the 6 and 7 echo the route of streetcar line B, and the 11 echoes the route of streetcar line S. You can see the streetcar routes in a plate from the Greber report. END SIDEBAR
I had actually thought that the local bus routes would go on Albert and Slater and end up at the south side of Rideau Centre at Mackenzie King Station, but this is not at all the case. Slater will still be used but only for part of the route of the 17, 16, and 19.
However Albert and Slater will not go for long without substantial bus traffic, as it turns out the STO buses will move to travel deeper into the core, including along Albert and Slater to Mackenzie King Station.
STO Bus Like a Lyon
Lyon Station will be a minor loop for OC Transpo, with the 10, 16 and 17.
But Lyon will become a major rush hour weekday Ottawa-side hub for STO, which will move almost all of its buses off of Wellington in front of Parliament Hill and instead loop past Lyon including going east-west along Albert and Slater with a second hub for regular lines at Mackenzie King Station. This is a dramatic change for the STO routes.
For Ottawans living in Centretown used to heading to Wellington to get their STO bus, this is a significant change, with STO stops (the small blue dots in the above image) strung along Albert and Slater, with some on Lyon and Bank as well. (I assume based on the dots that OC Transpo stops will basically turn into STO stops.)
The new stops should make it much more convenient to use the STO buses from Centretown, except before 9am.
Outside the Perimeter
There are two hassles for Ontario residents taking the STO bus:
- You can’t tap your Presto card to pay for a single ride. STO will only accept monthly pass, U-PASS, DayPass, and an OC Transpo transfer.
Before 9am, outside the “perimeter” (which is in Quebec near the river), you must have an STO – OC Transpo Rider smart card.
First what this means is that if you walk directly (rather than taking an OC Transpo bus) to an STO bus stop in Centretown, you either have to pay cash for your trip, or you need a pass. (If you’re just going for a single STO trip, it’s almost worth stepping onto an OC Transpo bus first just to get a transfer.)
And second what this means is since you’re probably going to work before 9am, you also need the STO – OC Transpo Rider smart card. Which costs $8 and must be renewed every year and is only available at 3 STO service points. If you tap your Presto on STO before 9am the reader will flash yellow, which indicates a need for the STO – OC Transpo Rider smart card if you’re outside the “perimeter”.
UPDATE 2018-02-12: As of January 10, 2019 there is no longer a requirement for the STO – OC Transpo Smart Card.
As of Jan. 10, 2019, riders with an OC Transpo monthly pass no longer need to tap their STO-OC Transpo Smart Card when boarding STO buses.
The STO-OC Transpo Smart Card allowed riders to use their OC Transpo pass on STO routes before 9 am. Now, there are no restrictions for OC Transpo pass holders on STO.
On the plus side in practice when the reader flashes yellow the bus driver always ignores it anyway. Which is good because for one thing, there’s no way $8 possibly covers STO’s administrative cost of processing the card application every year, and for another thing going to get it takes extra time and hassle every year. Plus it slows down bus boarding every day.
On top of which the actual STO procedure for Presto is ridiculous (so it’s kind of good that no one actually follows it). It appears to be:
- tap your Presto card (which must have either a pass or a transfer)
- show the driver the back of your Presto card (every time)
if it’s before 9am the reader will flash yellow, so then
tap your STO – OC Transpo Rider smart card
show the driver the photo side of the STO – OC Transpo Rider smart card (every time you use it)
I honestly don’t know what the point of this sequence can possibly be, other than to paralyse STO bus boarding in Ottawa.
UPDATE 2018-02-15: Information about STO Perimeter Zone depicted below no longer applies now that the STO – OC Transpo smart card has been eliminated. END UPDATE
Basically as far as I can tell the entire thing is designed assuming that before 9am you take an OC Transpo bus to the Perimeter Zone in Quebec, and then change to an STO bus.
Perimeter zone in red in above map from STO – OC Transpo Rider smart card specifically Perimeter of the downtown areas of the Hull sector and Ottawa.
But with Lyon Station as a rush hour weekday hub starting in 2019, the above model no longer seems valid.
There is a super-simple solution, which is to extend the Perimeter to cover the entire Ottawa downtown core that STO loops through.
And an even better solution would be just to have Presto totally compatible for use for single payments or passes,
without an extra STO rush hour card. And an even better solution than that would be to support tap payment with debit and credit cards and phones, along with tap passes that you could have on your phone or a card.
OC Transpo to Gatineau
There will still be OC Transpo buses to Gatineau, with their hub at Pimisi Station, but I never take these buses so I can’t say much about them.
UPDATE 2018-02-15: You can see these buses on the OC Transpo Ready for Rail downtown map. END UPDATE
There is a proposal for a Quebec west-side train loop, with connections across Prince of Wales Bridge (which you might expect) and Alexandra Bridge (which you might not expect, and I don’t really understand how it would work unless you completely redo the car lanes). I will write more about it in a later blog post.
As always, check the STO website for official information about the new bus routes and when they will come into effect.