Ottawa LRT terminology decoder ring

Here’s how David Reevely parses it, which seems about right

That last scenario is roughly what the city assumes in the interim analysis: There’ll be a primary line (light rail, with bigger vehicles making fewer stops) and a secondary line (streetcars, making many more stops). One will go in the north (the parkway or some version of Richmond-Byron) and one will go in the south (Carling). The thinking so far favours putting that primary line in the north and a secondary line on Carling. But they’ve looked at doing it the opposite way, imagining a secondary line in the north. In which case the Richmond-Byron corridor gets tracks and fairly heavy vehicles and although it gets stops instead of bigger stations, it also presumably gets further intensification.

Maybe streetcars along the former tramway would be less offensive than trains? They’d be more like what was there before, at least. Or maybe the assumption is that if light rail goes on Carling, there won’t be a secondary line in the north?

The language the analysis uses is “primary corridor” (regional) and “supplementary corridor” (local).

The 2008 TMP identified a primary corridor in the north part of the study area to accommodate regional demand and a supplementary corridor along Carling Avenue to accommodate local demand and support urban development and revitalisation.

2008 TMP = Ottawa Transportation Master Plan (2008)

This maps to the language I have been using of commuter rail (“primary regional”) and local rail (“supplementary local”) trams.  (As a sidebar we should really decide whether we’re calling them streetcars, which would be traditional, or trams.  I think trams gives a better sense of what a modern system looks like.  European cities call their systems trams.  Streetcars makes people think of single wooden vehicles open to the air.)

Reevely further discusses this confusion between these two modes in I thought I knew what the LRT was for; he’s concerned that the Western LRT analysis is mixing regional (commuter) with local.

One fatal problem with the city’s Chiarelli-era rail plan was that the system it envisioned wasn’t sure what it wanted to be. Was it basically a commuter rail system, like GO trains? Or was it basically an urban transit system, like the TTC’s subways? It tried to be both



[quoting from the analysis:]

Combining Regional and Local Transit Facilities into One LRT Line

The study examined if one higher-order corridor would be sufficient to address both the regional and local transit travel needs. Due to varying characteristics of the two types of transit demand, land development expectations, and the fairly wide study area, it is concluded that a combined corridor would not adequately address the local and regional/commuter transit trips.

There are a number of reasons why regional and local needs would be better accommodated by having a separate supplementary corridor in addition to the primary corridor.

Ottawa needs to get really clear about this language very quickly.  For example what we hear from the NCC is that the parkway is unsuitable for local rail, but what council wants to put there is commuter rail (whose riders would be able to enjoy the “scenic parkway” much more than the car commuters who currently zoom what is effectively a highway by the water).  Using LRT to mean two different kinds of rail is going to continue the confusion begun in the North-South plan.

Proposed language:

  • commuter rail / regional rail
  • local rail / tram system

It’s basic comms to decide on the terminology and hammer it home in every discussion and at every opportunity.

Ottawa also needs to be really clear about what we are building, when.  Are we building only commuter rail for decades (East-West core + Western extension + Eastern extension + Southern extension)?  Or are we going to build some local rail in the foreseeable future too?

The Transportation Master Plan is being reviewed, in fact there’s a mega-review including the TMP, the Cycling Plan, the Pedestrian Plan, and the Official Plan (short blog post to follow).