Ottawa and Ontario consultations March – April – May, 2015

Monday March 30, 2015

Western LRT

opens at 5pm, presentation at 6:30pm
Ottawa City Hall

There is a somewhat-confusing diagram (PDF) on the consultation site.

Eric Darwin did four detailed blog posts: Westward Ho! One, Two, Three, Four (and uses a clearer diagram).

Twitter hashtag is #WLRT and the general hashtag is #ottLRT

Tuesday March 31, 2015


Starting at 7pm.

Consultation on a new Ottawa Central Public Library.

In-person at Ottawa City Hall is full.

You can still watch the live webcast though.

I will be using hashtag #ottlibrary
The declared hashtag was #OttCentralLibrary

I would imagine the library will be tweeting, @opl_bpo

UPDATE 2015-04-03: There is a very brief online consultation.  It was supposed to be an ideas market, but that broke, so now you can



deadline is Wednesday April 8, 2015

More info: and webcast archive at


Capital Illumination


Space is limited. Please RSVP to by noon on Monday, March 30.

NCC Capital Urbanism Lab tweets @NCC_UrbanLab

Wednesday April 8, 2015

Complete Streets open house

UPDATE 2015-04-03: Complete Streets open house moved to May 5, 2015.  ENDUPDATE

Thursday April 9, 2015

O’Connor Bikeway

opens at 6:30pm, presentation at 7pm
Ottawa City Hall

Ottawa has a Cycling Plan that includes separated lanes (Ottawa calls them “cycle tracks” running east-west and north-south).  The first major north-south route will be on O’Connor (although it turns into painted bike lanes in the Glebe).

(There is a larger issue, which is that cycling is still funded through a secondary “if we have money left” process, not as part of the main infrastructure in the budget.)

Ottawa Citizen article –
Segregated cycling lanes coming to O’Connor (sooner) and Wellington (later) – March 23, 2015

The general hashtag for cycling in Ottawa is #ottbike

Tuesday May 5, 2015

Complete Streets open house

opens at 5pm, presentation at 6:30pm
Ottawa City Hall

Unfortunately the city hasn’t provided any links to Complete Streets info.  And the presentation boards aren’t online (as usual).

The key item to know is that in Chapter 7 of the 2013 Transportation Master Plan, it says

Action 7-1: Adopt a “complete streets” policy for road design, operation and maintenance

The Toronto Centre for Active Transportation did an analysis, and I also found a presentation from May 27, 2013. (If you have other resources, please feel free to share them.

More to come…

thought exercise: cycling north from Blair Station


Red: pedestrian and cyclist contention, or crossing intersection (car and cyclist contention)
Yellow: some pedestrian and cyclist contention
Green: no pedestrian and cyclist contention
Cyan: multi-use pathway (MUP)

Section 1: some pedestrians
Section 2: Basically zero pedestrians.  While this may look like it fronts on houses, they are suburban mall houses, with a giant wall all along the sidewalk (see image below).
Section 3: Very dangerous crossing of Ogilvie.
Section 4: This fronts on a drive-in Starbucks and an old-age home, so in theory there could be some pedestrians.

CSE MUP: public multi-use pathway (currently closed while CSE in under construction; see image below)

I’m not proposing this as an ideal route.  It’s just a thought exercise about how a cyclist could actually get safely (i.e. not on the road) from Blair Station to the NRC campus (or with a longer route to Cite Collegiale).  I’m not a vehicular cyclist and I will never be.  I’m certainly not a suburban mall and highway vehicular cyclist.  The sidewalks selected are basically unused (they don’t front on anything but fence, blank building walls and trees), I can’t imagine they get more than a dozen pedestrians a day.  You’d want to count pedestrians and if the numbers made sense, change the sidewalks to be multi-use pathways.  You’d also want to do some work around the bus stops and particularly at the Ogilvie crossing to make it safe for everyone.

If you want to add Cite Collegiale you basically make the entire east-side sidewalk on Bathgate a MUP.  The entire east sidewalk north past the old-age home fronts on uninterrupted government-owned trees, no one walks there.  You’d just need to figure out some treatment around the few bus stops.

Ideally there would also be secure bike parking at Blair Station, for people who don’t want to take their bike back and forth on the (forthcoming) train.

This also assumes that the central road through the NRC campus continues to be blocked as it is now, so that pedestrians and cyclists have to use either Bathgate or Blair to go north.

Transit-Oriented Development?

I thought enabling this kind of cycling connectivity was part of the planning they would do in the Blair Station Transit-Oriented Development plan, but it isn’t.  The TOD plans have two built-in assumptions:

  1. Because the LRT is commuter rail, you are arriving from elsewhere.  As far as the TOD plans are concerned, no one lives or works near the LRT stations (where near is a 20 minute walk or ~5 minute bike ride).
  2. When you arrive, you work or live directly within the 800m station zone, in some mixed-use fantasy development that spontaneously springs up in what are currently parking lots around single-level malls.  You are enclosed in the station zone, which exists in total isolation.  It’s basically just the suburban office park next to a mall, with more residential and towers.

That kind of development does happen to some extent outside Vancouver, but Vancouver housing costs a bajillion dollars, and this kind of development basically gives you enclosed nodes, not stations as the new village centres for existing housing and employment.

“Burnaby doesn’t have a traditional downtown centre, like in Langley or Maple Ridge or Chilliwack,” Mr. Geller said. “Burnaby has a collection of shopping districts and business parks.”

from Globe and Mail –  Transit fuelling Burnaby’s growth – March 6, 2013

This is not modern development.  This is just Place du Portage with housing and a bunch of theoretical walking and cycling and public space amenities that no one will ever use.  Inward-facing, isolated from the surrounding context.

You can see from the September 2013 TOD information session that the Blair scope includes mostly the mall and its parking lots, and a tiny skim of housing surrounding it.  The vast housing to the north and the major employment and school nodes to the north get not even a sketch of connectivity.

Blair TOD – Pedestrian and Cycling Network (PDF) – all on-street cycling.  In the suburbs.  Where no one expects to see a bike.  Particularly laughable is the existing cycling on Ogilvie, which by putting cyclists in high-speed traffic is roughly like aiming bullets at the cyclists and seeing if they can dodge.  Other than vague-at-best “bike on the road and get there somehow” there’s no indication of how commuters would get by bike from Blair to CSE, CSIS, NRC (all with thousands of workers minutes from the station) or to Cite Collegiale.

Blair TOD – Street Network (PDF) on the other hand has bold black lines of car traffic arrowing everywhere.  Who would ever walk or cycle to or from a station?  Park-and-ride or “kiss-and-ride” are clearly the main modes imagined.

Blair TOD – Conceptual Images A (PDF) shows a fantasy of the mall turning into parkland and mid-rise.

The actual streetscape

The suburban housing shield wall ensuring almost no one will set foot on the City Park north and east sidewalk curve.

City Park Drive - wall

The new CSE MUP has very nice signage.  Unfortunately the MUP is blocked off until the end of construction I guess.



making commuting delightful

On November 26, Ottawa City Council unanimously passed the Official Plan, Infrastructure Master Plan, Transportation Master Plan, Ottawa Cycling Plan and Ottawa Pedestrian Plan.

Some of the highlights of the plans include:

• Investing $3 billion in public transit to build on the Confederation Line by extending rail further East, West and South of the City
• Bringing 270,000 more residents within five kilometres of LRT and ensuring that close to 700,000 residents (67 per cent of the population) will have ease of access to rapid transit


So that’s ~$2 billion for the Confederation Line from Tunney’s to Blair, plus $3 billion for LRT from Bayshore to Place d’Orleans, plus existing double-tracking of the O-train and new O-trains, plus extending the O-train.  Plus BRT to Kanata.  $5 billion.  To 2025.


This is not a tram.  It is grade-separated commuter rail.  “Grade-separated” is a fancy way of saying the train never intersects with road traffic – it always goes beside, above, or under a road.  It never has to wait for cars and cars never have to wait for it.  (I think all of the LRT is grade-separated, I’m not sure if all of the O-train is.)  During the commuting peak, this train will run very frequently and very reliably.

This, in other words, is five billion dollars of being delightful to commuters.  This is a choice.

Ottawa and the NCC have had world-leading urban and transportation planners come and speak, including Jan Gehl, Ken Greenberg and Jeffrey Tumlin.

They all, without exception, said that we should be delightful… to pedestrians.  To pedestrians first, and then if we can, to cyclists.  (This is Tumlin’s terminology.  Gehl would say something like “invite pedestrians to walk and linger in the city and disinvite the car; you get what you invite” but it amounts to the same thing.)

It is incredibly cheap to be nice to pedestrians.  Flat sidewalks.  Shoveled clear sidewalks and intersections in the winter (not just plowed; the plow leaves a layer of snow on the sidewalk and a giant pile of slush in the intersection).  Pedestrian priority for crosswalks.  Traffic enforcement (particularly left and right turns on red, which should be banned at busy intersections).  Speed  enforcement, through road design (to 30km/h anywhere in the city, and 10km/h anywhere residential).  Interesting things to see, shops at ground level.  This costs, seriously, nothing compared to roads and rail.  A few tens of millions of dollars for delight.

This is not crazy.  This is Copenhagen, Paris, London, New York, … this is every city that wants to attract a creative workforce, with high wages and high property values.

Instead, after listening to expert after expert, Ottawa is bowing to the suburban ring outside the city core, and making the commute delightful.

This does almost nothing for the city life itself, because the commute is a weird twice daily peak event.  From roughly 8 to 9, hundreds of thousands of people try to jam themselves as quickly as possible from their homes in the suburbs to their offices.

Note I didn’t say to the city.  This 1950s model of commuting is basically a teleporter fantasy we try to implement using cars and trains.  Ideally you step into your car inside your home garage, and minutes later, preferably without paying much attention, you “appear” inside your work garage.    In the evening, reverse.  This is not anything to do with city life.  This could be taking people from anywhere to anywhere.  This is basically a giant piston, shoving people in in the morning and out at night.

For commuters, the train must be frequent, fast and reliable.  Say every 5-10 minutes.  With minimal and very fast changes.  So we have to scale the system to handle the peak of the peak.  Hundreds of thousands.  You don’t need to spend time on the waiting area, because no one will be waiting long.

But outside the peak, this is a ridiculous system.  You have a commuter rail system designed to push hundreds of thousands in an hour, that then has almost nothing to do for the rest of the day.  A trickle of some thousands throughout the rest of the day.  Hardly worth running it very often.

So basically it’s $5 billion dollars for 10 hours a week (8-9, 5-6, M-F).  This is not counting billions more for highway widening and extension, for the commuters you don’t shift to rail.

So the people during the day who are actually moving around the city get to stand in the uncovered stations by the tracks in the middle of winter and wait, because they’re not commuters, so the train won’t be running very often.  And mostly the rail takes you to malls and schools and employment nodes, not interesting neighbourhoods with local shops.  And if you want to move around downtown – well it’s the bus for you, and an unheated shelter, if you’re lucky.

You can use Transit-Oriented Design to make the commuter train look less ridiculous, to give people a reason to use the train to get around from station to station during the day.  But unless you do it well, you’re just going to get a vertical suburb at the station, not what TOD is supposed to be, which is a walkable village around the station.

What you actually do in a real city is have commuter rail AND local rail (trams and if necessary subways) AND bus AND cycling AND most importantly of all, delightful walking.  What people remember of Paris is walking around.  Most people never touch the commuter rail, the RER.  If they do, they find it empty and often a bit dismal (a lot of graffiti and neglect).  What Ottawa is choosing is to build a city with RER and basically nothing else, for decades.  No trams (a tram is rail that runs on the street, with stops at the edge of the sidewalk).  No delightful walking.  No (also incredibly cheap) separated bike lanes, just painted lines that protect no one from tonnes of speeding steel.

This is council’s choice to make.  As a commuter rail system, it will be pretty good.  It will do nothing to transform the life of the city though.  It is a suburb-sustaining project, not a city-building project.  It is much, much better than spending the money on roads.  But a tiny fraction of it, 10% of it, would build some of the best pedestrian and cycling infrastructure in the entire world.  Council chooses again and again not to do this.  The winter pedestrian experience tells you, day after day, month after month: you are not important, you are not valued, only cars are important.  The cycling experience tells you: your safety is not important, you are not valued, only cars are important.

Here’s the thing: you can’t solve the commute.  Can’t.  No billions, no design, no transportation in the world can solve moving a giant peak load of people tens of kilometres in two one-hour windows.  If I were writing this in 1950 you could scoff.  But you can see the lanes widen year after year, and yet the commute doesn’t get solved.  Because you can’t solve it.  You can only eliminate the factors that cause it, of which the main one is people living a long way away from work.  The solution to the commute is to replace the commute with an actual liveable city where people walk and cycle short distances for work and shopping and friends, and ride the rails for very rare long distance excursions.

Instead commuter rail is a choice that will sustain a grey generic suburban city.  That’s our future.  That’s the will of council.

Ottawa Master Plan, Suburbs, and Transit-Oriented Development

The most important consultation is the Master Plan.  It is the driver for all other planning.

The consultation phase is winding down.

The barrier to providing feedback is low, just email:

The overall site is

The display boards from the consultation, in PDF form, are at – NOTE that in the display boards it’s only the “affordable” maps that are proposed to be built, not the ultimate “network concept”.

The Master Plans, including Transit (Transportation), Walking and Cycling, are available in multi-part PDFs

Note to city: A ZIP file of all these documents would save a lot of downloading clicks.

They’ve extracted out the parts that impact your neighbourhood into separate documents, but good luck knowing your neighbourhood from ward numbers.  There are clickable maps.  Here are the documents for downtown Ottawa (“inner urban”):

If you know where to find the layers, you can navigate around the Master Plan proposals in the city’s mapping system (GeoOttawa)


You have until the end of October 2013.  After that, it will be another five years before the Master Plans are reviewed.

  • In writing, in advance of the Public Meeting and no later than November 1, 2013, or
  • In person at the official Public Meeting of Planning Committee on November 8, 2013 at 9:30 a.m.

What is being proposed

Bottom line is a commuter rail network (think Paris RER, mostly surface rail, sometimes underground) plus $70 million for cycling and $26 million for pedestrians (that’s spending out for decades, not next year).

Beyond the funded Confederation Line commuter rail, from Tunney’s to Blair, the unfunded Stage 2 plan reaches electric trains east-west from Bayshore to Place d’Orleans, and diesel rail south from Bayview to Bowesville.  It also extends the bus rapid transit (BRT; Transitway) west and north towards Kanata.  You can see the Stage 2 pamphlet (PDF).

The full transit network is shown in Transforming Ottawa’s Transit System – Affordable Transit Projects (PDF).

TMP Affordable Transit

Purple is existing rail, red is new rail, hard-to-distinguish blue-purple is new bus rapid transit, grey is existing bus rapid transit.

The good news is that this is a reasonable commuter rail network, and an ambitious schedule (the Mayor wants it built by 2023).  The bad news is

  • it requires provincial and federal funding for Stage 2 to happen
  • as with all municipal transit, the plan can be changed at any time at the whim of council (as happened with the previous LRT/tram North-South plan)
  • this kind of system should have been built before the city grew, not shoehorned in after
  • this expenditure will consume all available transit money until 2031 – there will be no trams (“secondary LRT” as the city calls them)

If the Greber Plan had just been a generation earlier, it would have done traditional city-building, which was to run commuter rail out to village centres.  This is how much of Europe is built out.  Europe still has suburbs, it’s just they are rail-connected.  But we landed just at the peak of car mania and train disdain.  So now we have to retrofit the commuter rail into the existing car suburb city.

Overall it is fine.  I still worry that extending the lines out, particularly going beyond the Greenbelt and providing park-and-ride, just encourages people to live even farther away from the city centre.

If you want my opinion on the most impactful things that can be recommended:

Another Puzzle Piece: Transit-Oriented Development & Station Area Plans

What is supposed to reduce the sprawl-enhancing impact of the commuter rail is transit-oriented development (TOD) around the stations.  This makes for some weird looking plans, as some of the stations are at malls.  Blair Station TOD envisions the big box sprawlmall of Gloucester turning into towers and a park.  It is to dream.

Anyway, if you haven’t exhausted yourself providing feedback to the Master Plans, there is also a whole set of TOD plans.  As usual buried away on the city site and not linked together.

Completed TOD plans at comprising Train Station (VIA Rail), St. Laurent Station, and Cyrville Station.

Draft TOD plans including Blair at

Display boards (PDFs) and planner contact info at

Somewhere in the TOD plans there’s supposed to be 15 minute bikeshed plans, but I can’t find them.  All I can find is 600m walkshed plans.  With stations at malls, for e.g. Blair Station this basically leads to a plan proposing better sidewalks inside what are currently mall parking lots, but not proposing better connections to existing employment nodes nearby.

The feedback deadline was October 7, 2013 but I think that’s not fair because 1) The consultations were poorly announced and 2) the consultations were completely overshadowed by the bus-train crash.

There is also a separate Gladstone Station (proposed new O-Train station) consultation, because things aren’t confusingly separated enough.  Find it at  Deadline looks to be April-May 2014.

And Beyond: The Suburbs

If somehow you’re not exhausted and are still reading, there’s yet another consultation specifically on suburban design.  Here what is critical is to move suburbs to a village design, centred around transit, instead of car sprawl.  Good luck fighting that fight.

See: Public input needed to design future suburban neighbourhoods


email feedback to

Primary and Secondary confusion about Ottawa LRT

2013-10-16: Found this in my drafts folder from 2012-06-29.  Published.

There are many elements of confusion about the Ottawa LRT project.  There has been poor communication and poor choice of language.  There are also legacy elements from the 2008 Transportation Master Plan.

First, the purpose of the system.  They are not just building “east-west rail”.  They are building a commuter rail system that will get you from Kanata (Terry Fox Station) to Trim Station (and/or Millennium Station).

That’s roughly 40km end-to-end.  That is a long stretch.  If you’re going to run commuter rail to get someone 40km every morning and evening, it must be

  • reliable service (always arrives when scheduled)
  • regular service (service departs frequently, ideally every few minutes at peak times)
  • fast service (the journey must take an hour or less, generally speaking, for commuters to tolerate it)

The service should also be high enough capacity to handle the current and anticipated load over its operating lifetime.  And it should be affordable.

There are various engineering ways to ensure you can achieve those goals.  In a modern commuter rail system, you ensure this type of service by

  • having continuous grade separation – this is a fancy way of saying “cars, pedestrians and cyclists never cross the tracks” – this means at all intersections the other traffic must either tunnel under or skyway over the transit corridor
  • having infrequent, widely-separated stops – the transit needs to have a high average speed, which means it needs to stop (with all the slowdown, boarding time, and startup from zero again that involves) as few times as possible
  • long buses or long train cars – this not only means high capacity for each transit unit but it importantly it also means many fewer passengers per driver (salaries are expensive)

Part of the problem is that, while the O’Brien east-west plan with a tunnel (to provide grade separation) downtown implies this service, it is a different service from what we have now, and while staff clearly understands this is what council has directed them to specify and procure, it appears that the councillors themselves and the vast majority of citizens don’t realise this is what we all agreed we’re building.  (The old north-south proposal was a mixed system that was only partially commuter rail.)

To make things worse council and staff use very confusing language to refer to this type of system.  Rather than calling it commuter rail or rapid commuter rail, they call it either LRT (“light rapid transit” or “light rail transit”) or PRIMARY.

As you can imagine, this causes confusion because people think primary means “the main route”.  So when staff says “route X should be the primary corridor” people think they mean “the main transit corridor”, they don’t realise it means “the commuter rail corridor”.

Now, there is a completely different goal that you can set.  You could set the goal of moving people within the city, and generating economic development continuously along the route.  If you want to do that, again there is a set of requirements:

  • convenient – it can’t be too far to a stop
  • integrated – the transit should be part of the streetscape, easily reachable from the sidewalk
  • moderate speed – the transit should be going at a speed that is safe and pleasant when experienced both by bystanders and those potentially crossing its route

This is the classic “clang, clang, clang went the trolley” type of street-level service most people are somewhat familiar with.  To meet these goals you:

  • run the transit on the street, with perhaps priority over other types of traffic but nevertheless sometimes intersecting with other kinds of traffic, including e.g. rails that people can just walk across
  • have stops close together, sometimes just a few blocks apart
  • (on the street and stops close together pretty much constrains the maximum speed)

This kind of service is what the city staff calls SECONDARY or SUPPLEMENTARY.  They should call it local service, or name it by a particular instance of the service (call it a tram).  Unfortunately the use of “secondary” makes people think it is less important, or lower priority, even though it is the service that people living in the downtown core would use the most.  They really just mean “slower local service that isn’t commuter service”.

(It’s not actually this simple as e.g. the Western LRT investigation calls it Primary and Supplementary, referring within Primary to LRT and BRT, and within Supplementary to “intensive bus” and “intensive rail” transit.)

To make things extra confusing, in Ottawa we have both these types of service, but we mix them together under the general heading of “bus” or “OC Transpo”.  And we mix the two types of service together in a single route (which you should never do, because as shown above, they have completely different requirements).

The closest to commuter service we have is the Transitway, our pseudo-BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) system.  (Pseudo because we don’t do pay-before-boarding, which slows the system down considerably.)  The dedicated parts of the Transitway are classic commuter design: grade separated, widely-spaced stops.

OC Transpo provides a map that is a representation of our current Transitway system.

The big problem is that as soon as the Transitway hits downtown, it turns into a local service with sidewalk-accessible frequent stops.  This completely screws up the end-to-end transit as you’ve inserted a slow, disruption-prone segement into the middle of a fast disruption-free route.  And that’s why as long as you’re building commuter rail, you have to do a tunnel.

We also have a local service in the non-Transitway buses.  People tend to mix them together as it is never clearly stated that there is a local system and a commuter system, both systems use the same buses and they interconnect.

The Parkway

The Parkway would be terrible for a secondary (local, tram) service.  There’s no one there.  There’s no shops by a sidewalk that people are going to go to.  There’s no existing corridor that will be uplifted by having frequent local transit.

The Parkway is ideal for a primary (commuter) service.  First of all, the commuter service ALREADY runs on the Parkway (the Transitway buses).  Replacing those buses with rail would mean less pollution, less noise, a lower number of transit “containers” and a predictable service (both in terms of it being fixed to rails and in terms of it keeping to its schedule).  A predictable service means you can cross the path safely (unlike the current life-in-your-hands situation now where it’s basically a highway).  A rail service means people can look out the big windows and actually see the river and the green.

The idea that single occupancy vehicles (eyes on the road!) and commuter buses is a better combination for highlighting and enjoying the Parkway than packed train cars gliding along is just bizarre.  The idea that a predictable train on fixed rails driven by a professional driver is more dangerous than thousands of amateur drivers careening around in cars is ridiculous (which is to say, if we don’t require a fence to protect us from the cars that kill people ALL THE TIME then we shouldn’t need a fence to protect us from the train that kills people approximately never).

That being said, the city has to completely change how the NCC thinks about the Parkway (it appears to imagine it is some 1950s Sunday drive scenic leisure route).  They need to understand how it is actually used (as a busy and dangerous car commuter highway) and appreciate how it could be better used (as a modern rail corridor).  Both data and storytelling will be required.  A Horizon 2067 that imagines the Parkway is best used in 55 years by cars and buses would be just bizarre.

The Parkwark (ORP) will never be used for the LRT.  NCC is completely opposed to it.


The Carling story is the inverse of the Parkway.  Carling would be terrible for primary (commuter, rapid rail) transit.  Either you do as you’re supposed to and grade separate the rail you put on Carling (at enormous expense) or you intersect the train with traffic, which introduces a fatal unreliability, unpredictability, and great danger into the middle of your route (not to mention which a wall of trains that will completely block your north-south traffic flow).

Carling is fantastic for secondary (local, tram) service.  You can have lots of stops.  People can start using the sidewalk and shopping along the whole length of the street.  Housing and shopping will be attracted to the route.  The economic development that Holmes wants is a strong possibility with a local route on Carling.

What about Route X?

If there is an existing local neighbourhood, running commuter rail through it is going to suck.  You can’t make it unsuck.  You can maybe make it less visible (e.g. using cut and cover) but you can’t make it fit well within an existing urban fabric.  By design it must be fast and separate.  If you put in stops that will just slow it down for everyone, end-to-end.  There is no way that you are going to be able to do this without making some local residents unhappy.  That’s the political reality.  That’s a job for the politicians to sort out.  What you must not do is try to turn it into a local transit segment, then you’re just reinventing the problems of our current Transitway (which slows almost to a standstill in peak hours when it hits the downtown core) in a new location.

Transportation in General

I already walked this out in a previous post.  First, it’s important to understand that TRANSIT is about moving people.  Not stuff.  People.  People are small.  The issue with cars is they make sense if you are moving a lot of stuff (which people almost always aren’t) but are nonsensical if you are moving a single person (which they almost always are).  Cars and small trucks are fine if you need to move stuff.  They make no sense for moving people in a dense environment.

In a dense environment within a city you:

  • walk if it’s a short distance
  • cycle if it’s a medium distance
  • tram (or bus) if it’s a long distance
  • subway if it’s a long distance and there are a lot of people to move

That’s it.  There are no other solutions for moving people around a city.

If you need to get from the city to a nearby village (or more usually in from the village to the city to work) you take commuter rail.

If you need to get from city to city you take high-speed rail.

That’s how you move people around.  The only time you need cars is if you need to move around places that aren’t served by rail.  In the North America we used to have (and in the Europe that still exists) all villages are served by rail.  The only places you need to use a car are to get around in rural areas.

High Speed Rail

The Government of Canada’s own study (or I should say, the latest of many studies) says that the Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal corridor can be done for $9 billion dollars and that the economic benefits mean the corridor would pay for itself.

There is however zero chance of a conservative government building high-speed rail.

Union Station

In a perfect world, Union Station would be used for the passenger rail service (and that service would be high-speed to Montreal and Toronto).

This is never going to happen.

In a reasonable world, Union Station would at least be used as a commuter rail station, since the commuter rail goes right under it.  This would connect with our history, and open our miniature version of Penn Station up for tourism.

Union Station will never be a train station again.  (It is bizarre beyond belief that the debate was about whether the commuter rail station should be to the east or the west of an actual existing station, but that’s Ottawa for you.)

In fact, given that Union Station needs millions in repairs, the most likely situation is that it will have to be demolished (after a decade or two more of total neglect).

Barry Padolsky’s firm has completed a heritage conservation plan for the building, but I don’t know where or if you can find it online.


There is zero funding for local (street-level, slower, many stops) rail in Ottawa.  We are building a commuter rail system that will do the centre (Tunney’s Pasture Station to Blair Station), then west (Lincoln Fields to Tunney’s Pasture Station) then east (Lincoln Fields Station to Trim Station and/or Millenium Station) then south.  That will cost a hijillion dollars and at Ottawa’s pace will take another three to five decades.

If we were France we would be building local trams in addition to commuter rail.  In fact we could just copy our 1948 street car system (which to a large extent created many Ottawa neighbourhoods including the Glebe with the B line and Westboro with the S line).  If you want trams you will have to do a ton of work to get the city to budget and plan for them.  This is currently not on the budget radar at all.  The Transportation Master Plan consultation and the Horizon 2067 plan are both key places you would insert tram planning and funding, if that’s what you want to have.

Hurdman before and after

Here’s the artist concept Hurdman from December 2011



and here’s what we actually got in Dec 2012

[Dec 2012 Hurdman Station exterior rendering]

[Dec 2012 Hurdman Station interior rendering]

Which makes me wonder what the point is of having the artist concept, since it looks nothing like the actual station they will build.  From soaring arc of wood, to flat roof with some wooden slats.  Plus which the trains better be frequent, because it’s going to be plenty cold waiting on those platforms in winter.

UPDATE 2017-03-27: Here’s what we are promised in March 2017

[March 2017 Hurdman Station exterior rendering