Strawberries and cream: the UK branch rail lines

The branch lines in the UK in the 19th century brought some major changes.

One was a spring rush of early flowers and strawberries flowing from the countryside into the cities.

Another was a steady traffic of fresh milk from farm to city, usually at night so that the milk stayed cooler.  (Although it seems like this should be the origin of the term “milk run“, it appears this is not the case.)

Most of the branch lines were closed in the 1960s following Dr. Beeching’s report.

You can find out more in:

There are also books e.g.

podcasts I like – 2019 edition

Since 2015 the main changes in my podcast listening have been:

  • Since BBC Radio added ads to its podcasts outside the UK, I listen to all BBC Radio content directly on the website (which does not currently have advertisements)
  • I use Castro for podcasts on my iOS devices because 1) Apple Podcasts app now tracks every podcast you listen to and 2) Castro is a much better application for selecting specific episodes to listen to when you subscribe to a large number of podcasts

I should probably mention as a sidebar that I just stream podcasts, I don’t actually download them, as I am always on wifi or LTE.

Main Podcasts

I consistently listen to:

I also tried the Caesar’s Gallic War podcast but I found the level of detail overwhelming.

BBC Radio

I listen to a lot of BBC Radio, but on the website now rather than as podcasts.

I most consistently listen to In Our Time.

I also like the walking show Ramblings, as well as Open Country.

For science interviews I like The Life Scientific.

There is also a yearly series of lectures, The Reith Lectures.

I very much like BBC Radio London’s Robert Elms, in particular on Tuesdays when he has Maxwell Hutchinson about architecture and on Thursdays when he has Jason Solomons about movies.

I like BBC Radio 3 Essential Classics, but only when Suzy Klein is the host.  I also like Sunday Morning, with former Essential Classics host Sarah Walker.

More Podcasts

There are also lots of other podcasts that I pick specific episodes from:

And there are some podcasts I haven’t tried yet:

  • Les balades à Paris (Balades d’été à Paris) – France Bleu Paris
  • Paris insolite et secret – France Bleu Paris – « Chaque jour, Murielle Giordan vous invite à parcourir le Paris insolite et secret, côté coulisses pour faire le plein de curiosités et d’anecdotes. »

Previously:
September 6, 2015  science podcasts
April 12, 2015  podcasts I like

Ottawa – Gatineau interprovincial rail

There used to be three interprovincial rail links.

Ottawa streetcar Line H went across the Chaudière Bridge to Eddy Park.

Hull Electric Railway streetcars went across the Alexandra Bridge to Ottawa Union Station.

CN Rail CP Rail crossed at Alexandra Bridge & Prince of Wales Bridge.

UPDATE 2018-02-14: The Internet tells me that both Alexandra and Prince of Wales were CP Rail bridges.  END UPDATE

Ottawa Electric Railway – Line H

Line H (Hull – St. Patrick) crossed the Chaudière Bridge to Eddy Park (the solid red line on the map below).

[Greber Plan Plate 14 Distribution of Street Cars 1948]
from Greber Plan Plate 14 Distribution of Street Cars and Buses 1948

Hull Electric Railway

Three rail lines crossed the Alexandra Bridge.  The outer two tracks were for the Hull Electric Railway streetcars (one line for each direction).  The centre track was for heavy rail, I believe CN rail.  The Internet tells me the heavy rail was CP Rail.

[Past Ottawa Alexandra Bridge approach circa 1915]
from Past Ottawa – Alexandra Bridge – Streetcars, Rails & Locks circa 1915 (image from Library & Archives Canada)

[Past Ottawa Alexandra Bridge from the Nepean Point Footbridge 1938]
from Past Ottawa – Alexandra Bridge from the Nepean Point Footbridge 1938 (image from Library & Archives Canada)

[Greber Plan - Approaches of Interprovincial Bridge, Ottawa Side]
from Greber Plan – Approaches of Interprovincial Bridge, Ottawa Side (circa 1948?)

You can sort-of see the rail lines heading up to the Alexandra Bridge (diagonally to the upper left) in this 1928 aerial image below from GeoOttawa, on which just for illustration purposes I have overlaid Confederation Line 1 underground rail and Rideau Station in yellow and red.

GeoOttawa Alexandra Bridge rail lines 1928 and Confederation Line 1

I was unable to find a map for the historical Gatineau streetcar (Hull Electric Railway) but there are photos available.

[Hull Electric Railway cars inbound and outbound near Alexandra Bridge]

Above is Hull Electric Railway (HER) car No. 50 in a clear view of HER cars both inbound and outbound on the tracks to and from Alexandra Bridge, from TrainWeb Hull Electric Company.

[Hull Electric Railway car inbound to Ottawa]

Above is a view looking south of a Hull Electric Railway car inbound to Ottawa, image CSTM/MAT04642 from Canada Science & Technology Museum Picturing the Past – A Train Journey through the Ottawa Valley Using the Mattingly Image Collection.

The above postcard with colour applied almost certainly originating from this image below posted on Lost Ottawa February 19, 2013.

Lost Ottawa Hull Electric Railway 20130219

The Hull Electric Railway closed in 1947. The terminal was underneath Confederation Square, across from Ottawa Union Station.

Interprovincial heavy rail

Heavy rail crossed the Alexandra Bridge to Gatineau on the centre track, and returned to Ottawa over the Prince of Wales Bridge.

There were numerous stations on both sides of the river.

Below is an image of heavy rail crossing the Alexandra Bridge, from Urbsite – Those Museum Trees, The Digester Tower, and a Smokestack.

[heavy rail crossing the Alexandra Bridge] Image captioned “The Pontiac and Pacific Junction Railway Alexandra Bridge is the national capital region’s mightiest engineering landmark.”

Even after the Hull Electric Railway lines were removed in 1947, the heavy rail continued until 1966 when Ottawa Union Station was closed.  You can see just the central rail tracks remaining in this cover image from Canadian Rail (Number 179, July-August 1966 Ottawa Union Station Closes).

Canadian Rail - Number 179 - July August 1966 cover
Photograph by Jim Sandilands.

The Greber Plan Plate 12 Réseau Ferroviaire Existant Ottawa – Hull and Environs 1948 below gives a view of industrial Ottawa, with a mix of passenger and freight rail lines criss-crossing the capital region.

Greber Plan plate 12 Réseau Ferroviaire Existant Ottawa - Hull and Environs 1948

You can see the loop of a train going Ottawa – Alexandra Bridge – Hull – Prince of Wales Bridge – Bayview Station in the video A train ride from Union Station Ottawa to Bayview via Hull 1966.  You can also see some photos of the various stations in Canada Science & Technology Museum Picturing the Past – A Train Journey through the Ottawa Valley Using the Mattingly Image Collection.

If you want to understand what the planners of 1949 thought about the trains, see this great video: A Capital Plan.  “Today, into the very heart of the city, come the trains to the Union Station, but with them comes smoke and grime and noise.”

Ottawa Union Station - A Capital Plan - 1949 (see above image in more detail on Flickr)

They succeeded in eliminating most of the train lines, and wrapped the region with highways (often running on former rail rights-of-way).  They imagined these highways as “capital arrivals, scenic entries and parkways”.  (They are in practice commuter highways.)

Capital Arrivals
Above was from draft Plan for Canada’s Capital 2017-2067 (PDF), page 103 “Capital Arrivals, Scenic Entries and Parkways” which in usual NCC fashion has disappeared from the web.

NCC Interprovincial Transit Strategy 2013

Since everything that goes around comes around, having eliminated all of the interprovincial rail, the NCC circa 2009-2013 tried to conjure up some ideas about bringing it back, as a light rail loop.

In usual NCC fashion, almost all of the documentation has vanished from the web, including the website

www interprovincial-transit-strategy ca

and the archive website

archives ncc-ccn ca/planning/transportation-strategies/interprovincial-transit-strategy

In fact the only thing remaining on the web is the summary hosted by Quebec’s STO – Connecting Communities: An Interprovincial Transit Strategy (PDF).

Some other sites have preserved the report: Action Sandy Hill has the full report in a Google Doc, and City Centre Coalition has all of the annexes/detailed reports as Google Docs.

I saved the presentation deck, and here is the key slide with their imaginary LRT loop.

NCC Interprovincial Transit - Infrastructure

There was no money and no plan so the whole thing is moot.

It would be great if OC Transpo and STO would at least integrate at the level of payment, but right now all you can do with your OC Transpo Presto card is take STO if you have an OC Transpo transfer or monthly pass.

Ottawa LRT Stage 3 and Gatineau West-End Rail

The only thing likely to happen in terms of interprovincial rail is a resurrection of the Prince of Wales rail link, since all of the infrastructure is still there.  This might happen in Ottawa LRT Stage 3 (which has a reasonable chance of being funded) or, rather less likely and also somehow including an Alexandra rail crossing, in the proposed but not funded Gatineau West-End Rail.

proposed Gatineau west-end rail project

On June 20, 2018 there was a news release from the Gatineau Mayor’s Office, in French only – Gatineau dévoile son projet préliminaire de système sur rails pour l’ouest.  The press conference video for the announcement is also available.

Note this only a proposed system, it is not funded.

There are web pages in English and in French:

Map

Gatineau - map of proposed route for west end LRT - en

The map and legend aren’t translated.  SLR = système(s) de train léger sur rail or in English LRT = Light Rail Transit.

The above map is from page 17 of presentation Rail system project for West Gatineau – June 2018 (PDF).  The deck is also available in French: Présentation du projet de système sur rails dans l’ouest de Gatineau – Juin 2018 (PDF), and I have put a copy of the French map on Flickr: Gatineau – carte du tracé proposé pour le système sur rails.

Connection to Rapibus

You can see that the (currently disused) Prince of Wales bridge (pont Prince de Galles) is the key connection point, as it would connect both to the proposed west-end rail system and to the existing STO Rapibus (Bus Rapid Transit system) shown in green in the map above and below.

STO Rapibus map crop

Above map from Figure 1 page 8 of Le RAPIBUS : Vecteur de changement, Bilan 2013-2018 (PDF).

STO Rapibus Station Taché-UQO at 100 Boulevard Alexandre-Taché is right next to the (disused) rail line that crosses the Prince of Wales bridge from Ottawa.

Plan_Tache_-_UQO-1

Above from STO – Rapibus Stations, Taché-UQO stationstation plan (PDF).

So the proposed scenario has Gatineau’s rail line crossing the Prince of Wales bridge to Ottawa’s OC Transpo Bayview Station, where OC Transpo east-west Line 1 and north-south Line 2 already intersect.

Here it gets kind of complicated because Ottawa has also proposed extending its own train system over the Prince of Wales bridge, presumably by continuing Line 2 north.  (Just as a historical note, there used to be an entire rail corridor loop that these disused rails serviced, from Ottawa to Gatineau and back again.  This is not new infrastructure.  You can see a video: A train ride from Union Station Ottawa to Bayview via Hull 1966.)

(I gather there are additional complexities that I don’t quite follow, based around the way the new Bayview Station has been dropped across the north-south rail line.)

Here is a Google Maps view where you can see the rail line running through the Gatineau riverfront parkland past Station Taché-UQO.
Google Maps Station Taché-UQO and rail line
Above Imagery ©2019 Google

(There is also a short segment of rail line that curves sharply east off the edge of the image and runs near the riverfront until ending abruptly at what is now Zibi.)

And here’s a wider view of the line running from Bayview Station across the Prince of Wales bridge to Station Taché-UQO.

Google Maps Bayview Station to Station Taché-UQO
Above Imagery ©2019 Google

There is an interesting transit planning question as STO Rapibus already parallels the disused rail line for most of its length, prompting one to wonder whether they shouldn’t just convert to rail transit along most of the Rapibus corridor once trains cross the river again.

Connection to Rideau Station

The proposed route also has the Gatineau LRT connecting across Alexandra Bridge to Rideau Station.  This is quite a surprising proposal, as the entire area is currently designed for car traffic, with a pedestrian and cyclist side pathway on the Alexandra Bridge.  It is true that historically both heavy rail and streetcars ran across the Alexandra Bridge, but that infrastructure was all torn up decades ago.

It is kind of unfortunate that both at Prince of Wales and Alexandra Bridge we’re ending up trying to recreate rail systems that used to exist, although at least for Prince of Wales the infrastructure is just disused, not totally removed.

I was unable to find a map for the historical Gatineau streetcar (Hull Electric Railway) but there are photos available.

[Hull Electric Railway cars inbound and outbound near Alexandra Bridge]

Above is Hull Electric Railway (HER) car No. 50 in a clear view of HER cars both inbound and outbound on the tracks to and from Alexandra Bridge, from TrainWeb Hull Electric Company.

[Hull Electric Railway car inbound to Ottawa]

Above is a view looking south of a Hull Electric Railway car inbound to Ottawa, image CSTM/MAT04642 from Canada Science & Technology Museum Picturing the Past – A Train Journey through the Ottawa Valley Using the Mattingly Image Collection.

The above postcard with colour applied almost certainly originating from this image below posted on Lost Ottawa February 19, 2013.

Lost Ottawa Hull Electric Railway 20130219

Aylmer Station

It’s also interesting that they’re proposing to go to Aylmer, because there used to be an Aylmer Station.  (Image from 1914.)

Aylmer Station 1914

Back to the Future

In fact if you put the proposed Gatineau (orange) and Ottawa (red) commuter rail map up against the rail that existed in a map from the Greber Plan (all the black lines on the second map below), it’s pretty striking that with the tracks curving along either side of the river we’re trying to recreate some of what already existed.  (You can literally still see the ghost of the old rail line to Aylmer in the curve of what is now a vehicle road by the river.)
Gatineau - map of proposed route for west end LRT - en

Greber Plan plate 12 Réseau Ferroviaire Existant Ottawa - Hull and Environs 1948
Above from Greber Plan: Plate 12 Réseau Ferroviaire Existant Ottawa – Hull and Environs 1948.

Think how much easier it would be to get around Ottawa-Hull if the rail network and Gare d’Aylmer, Gare de Hull-Ouest, Gare de Hull, Gare Ironside, Gare de Chelsea, Gare Talon, Gare de Gatineau, Ottawa Union Station, Ottawa West Station, Westboro Station and Graham Bay Station still existed.

On the plus side, at least we’re starting to restore the ability to get around with modern commuter rail infrastructure.

Addendum

These are very early days, so rely on the City of Gatineau for official word on the specific rail line routes and stations for west-end rail.

Ottawa LRT Stage 3 maps

As the Stage 3 plan is neither complete nor funded, there isn’t a lot of definitive detail.

In Stage 3 Ottawa may extend commuter rail west to Kanata and south to Barrhaven, both from the west side of Line 1 (the red line, also called the Confederation Line).

It may also extend rail to Quebec over the existing but currently unused Prince of Wales Bridge, although there is also a Gatineau proposal to create a west-end rail system in Quebec that would run across the Prince of Wales Bridge.

To some extent you can get a sense of Stage 3 from the transportation network in the 2013 Transportation Master Plan.  (The Transportation Master Plan normally would have been updated in 2018, but the city wants to complete Stage 1 of the rail system first.)

This map is a vision for the future (roughly 2028-2031 timeframe).  The actual network will depend on many different factors including funding and route optimisation.  Red is rail (Light Rail Transit), blue is bus (Bus Rapid Transit).

TMP - Rapid Transit and Transit Priority Network - Ultimate Network - tmp_en

Above from [2013] Transportation Master Plan, page 123 in the full PDF document or separate map download Map 3 Rapid Transit and Transit Priority Network – Ultimate Network (PDF).

Stage 3 is still at least 5 years (2023) from being finalised and started, since Stage 2 has to complete first.  Completion of Stage 3 would be something like 2028 at the earliest.

UPDATE 2018-02-15: I would characterize the surface rail (tram) line running along Carling depicted in the map above as highly speculative.  If implemented as a tram, sharing the roadway with cars, it would have the same reliability problems other North American streetcars have.  (This type of tram with shared road space is common outside North America, and works well there due to a variety of factors including different road designs and slower vehicle speeds.) END UPDATE

Kanata (Line 1 West)

Ottawa’s east-west commuter rail Confederation Line (Line 1) is completely grade-separated, which means that it never intersects with car traffic.  This is absolutely the correct design for a high-reliability commuter rail network.  When extending the network into car-designed Kanata, however, it has the unusual result of a recommendation that part of the line be elevated.  Any time you put rail under the ground or elevated above ground level it’s more expensive, but I guess there are a lot of highways for the Kanata extension to cross.

The website is ottawa.ca/kanataLRT

Documents are available from the May 9, 2018 City Council:

There are also draft documents from August 2018 available from the kanataLRT webpage itself, but rather unusually they’re in DropBox, so caveat downloader:

UPDATE 2018-11-25: The final Environmental Project Report (EPR) is available, dated November 21, 2018 and is also stored in Dropbox:

END UPDATE

Kanata LRT Stage 3 Map

In the map below, the proposed corridor and station locations are shown, with elevated portions of the line in green, at-grade in blue, and underground in yellow.

Kanata Fig 8-1 LRT Alignment and Station Locations

Map from section 8-3, page 168 of the August 2018 Report Draft from DropBox.

Stations heading west and then south:

  • Moodie Station (planned for Stage 2)
  • March Station
  • Kanata Town Centre Station
  • Terry Fox Station
  • Didsbury Station
  • Campeau Station (line turns south after this station)
  • Palladium [stadium] Station
  • Maple Grove Station
  • Hazeldean Station

The diagram below from the earlier May 2018 report to City Council – Corridor Options (PDF) shows the stations a bit more clearly, although to be frank neither diagram is going to win any awards for clarity.

Kanata LRT Fig 4 Preferred Corridor

Barrhaven (Line 1 South)

Barrhaven is new addition to the LRT evaluations, although a rail line to Barrhaven was always envisioned as part of the Ultimate Network.  The line would connect south from west Line 1 Stage 2 Baseline Station.

There is a document from Transportation Committee on October 3, 2018 (also see meeting Agenda):

Barrhaven LRT Stage 3 Map

Barrhaven LRT Stage 3 map

Above from page 5 of the Statement of Work document.  Note that this is a study corridor, it’s not a proposed or final alignment.

Prince of Wales Bridge

You can see in the Ultimate Network at the top of this blog post that there is a plan for OC Transpo’s commuter rail service to cross the Prince of Wales Bridge, but I don’t know any details.  I don’t even know whether they would use Line 1 or just extend Line 2 northwards.  I’m happy to add details if they are provided.

Addendum

These are very early days, so rely on the City of Ottawa for official word on the specific rail lines and stations for Stage 3 LRT.

Ottawa LRT Stage 2 maps

Ottawa’s commuter rail (light rail transit, LRT) gets a lot more complicated in Stage 2.

As a reminder, there are two lines:

  • Line 1, the red line, runs east-west.  It’s also called the Confederation Line.  It uses all-electric trains, running on dual tracks (i.e. separate tracks for each direction).
  • Line 2, the green line, runs north-south.  It’s also called the Trillium Line.  It will use diesel trains, and has segments of single track (meaning that trains have to wait in carefully-managed stops, in order to share the track in both directions).

Line 1 extends east to Trim Station, but on the west side it splits, with part heading west and part turning south.  Line 2 adds stations and continues south, but then takes a rather dramatic turn to the west at the end of line.

Stage 2 System Map

In terms of implementation, the project is separated into three separate parts for the east and west (Line 1) and south (Line 2) extensions.  You can see the planned system in this Stage 2 map, including a Line 1 extension that was added in the west to Moodie Station and the new west turning to Limebank Station at the end of Line 2.  Below map from Stage 2 – Where.

Stage 2 with Limebank Station extension - lrt_stage2_alignment_en2

Black circles with black text boxes are new stations, and the new segments are also shown as thinner.  On the green line (Line 2), two stations are added within the existing Stage 1 segment: Gladstone Station and Walkley Station.  Line 2 also gets an extension to the airport, but my understanding is that this is not a direct train; you have to change to an airport shuttle train at South Keys Station.

The timelines are notional, basically intended to show that one part can be delivered before another.  A general guideline would be a 2023-2025 for completion of the entire system, particularly given the delayed launch of Stage 1.  Note that bus rapid transit (the remainder of the Transitway buses) is shown in grey.

Line 2 Extends South, then West

The details of the plan to extend Line 2 west are available in the Trillium Line Extension Planning and Environmental Assessment (EA) Study – Addendum.

I’ll only look at the end of the line, which is a change to the original Stage 2 plan.

Here is Earl Armstrong / Bowesville Station and Park & Ride

Earl Armstrong and Bowesville Station park and ride

Earl Armstrong and Bowesville Station plus park and ride functional design

Above two images are from pp. 68-70 of the Trillium Extension EA Study Addendum document (PDF).

Here is the extension west to Limebank Station

Limebank Station - extension

Limebank Station - preliminary station functional design

Above two images are from pp. 93-99 of the Trillium Extension EA Study Addendum document (PDF).

Line 2 Stage 2 Train Sets

In Stage 2 the existing Line 2 trains will be replaced with the Stadler FLIRT (Fast Light Innovative Regional Train).  It is diesel powered but can be converted to electric.

LRT2_Boards_48x36_EN_May02_2018

Above from City secures funding to extend O-Train Trillium Line to the heart of Riverside South.

Website

The main website for Stage 2 is https://www.stage2lrt.ca/. Please refer to that website for official Stage 2 routes and station information.

Stage 3

Stage 3 may extend to Kanata, to Barrhaven, and possibly across the Prince of Wales bridge to Quebec.  Details are not finalised; I have done a separate blog post with Stage 3 maps.

STO bus changes after Ottawa LRT Stage 1

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.

OC Transpo 2019 downtown core detail inset

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.

STO Carte_arrêt_oct_2018

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

END UPDATE

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

The Future

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.

Addendum

As always, check the STO website for official information about the new bus routes and when they will come into effect.