STO presentation to NCC on Gatineau west-end rail June 2020

STO presented to the NCC Public Board of Directors Meeting on June 25, 2020.

The NCC has replied with staff analysis:

including a recommendation that the entire segment in Ottawa, including the crossing of the Portage Bridge and any segment on Wellington, use battery power:

The tramway will have to be battery operated on the bridge to avoid any equipment that diminishes the aesthetic quality of this section of Confederation Boulevard.

In [the Wellington Street] section, the tram would operate on batteries only and no overhead wires or structures would be necessary, in keeping with the aesthetic requirements along Confederation Boulevard.

which would not have been my choice.  Much better to have overhead wires than to introduce more complexity into what is already a very complex transit planning problem.

Plus which, let’s be super generous and say Confederation Boulevard is 35 years old (“Planning began in 1982 and construction in 1985.”)  Ottawa had streetcars with overhead wires from approx. 1891 to 1959.  That’s 68 years.  Overhead wires are way more a part of Ottawa’s built heritage aesthetic history than Confederation Boulevard.

NCC summary:

A presentation was made to the Board of Directors on the Société de transport de l’Outaouais (STO) study for a transit system linking Gatineau’s west end with downtown Gatineau and Ottawa.

The study

  • will help to determine the mode (or modes) that would be implemented
  • refine the corridors in the west end of Gatineau (Allumettières and Taché)
  • define the alignment of the future tram / light rail system (which will take the Portage Bridge) into downtown Ottawa (via a tunnel under Sparks Street or a surface route along Wellington Street).

The NCC is in favour of public and active transportation initiatives in the National Capital Region. In evaluating this project, the NCC will have to ensure that the proposed solutions comply with plans governing the use of federal lands.

The sections of the alignment that affect federal lands will be submitted to the Board of Directors for approval in October 2020 or January 2021.

SIDEBAR:

The STO has launched a consultation on how the proposed tramway should arrive on the Ottawa side.  Should it go on the surface on Wellington or in a tunnel under Sparks?

END SIDEBAR

For more information about STO’s proposed transit system, you can see my previous blog post proposed rail transit for Gatineau west end – May 2020 update to City of Ottawa.

STO consultation on options for integrating proposed Gatineau west-end rail transit into Ottawa

STO is proposing a rapid transit system in the west end of Gatineau that would connect to Ottawa by a tramway over the Portage Bridge.

They are consulting on the options for integrating this tram on the Ottawa side.  The options they propose are surface rail on Wellington or a tunnel under Sparks.  The consultation closes July 19, 2020.

There is a really extensive (as in, very long web page) background overview presenting the analysis and options:

Consultation:

The consultation closes July 19, 2020.

For more information, you can see my previous blog post proposed rail transit for Gatineau west end – May 2020 update to City of Ottawa.

proposed rail transit for Gatineau west end – May 2020 update to City of Ottawa

On May 15, 2020 the Gatineau transit agency, the STO (la Société de transport de l’Outaouais) presented a technical briefing to the City of Ottawa about its studies into improved transit on the Quebec side that would run basically from Place du Portage to Aylmer.  There was a particular focus on how the proposed transit, previously narrowed down to include trams (streetcars) in all three options, would land in Ottawa (the language used is Options d’insertion à Ottawa which is standard French urban planning terminology that does not lend itself to a literal translation).

This is about a tram that would cross Portage Bridge from Gatineau to Ottawa and is proposed to deliver passengers somewhere along Wellington Street or Sparks Street, at least as far as Lyon Station, but possibly as far as Parliament Station or even farther east.

Note that this system is nowhere near being funded and approved yet.

UPDATE 2020-06-27: The STO has launched a consultation on how the proposed tramway should arrive on the Ottawa side.  Should it go on the surface on Wellington or in a tunnel under Sparks?

END UPDATE

There is an STO press release in French only:

The City of Ottawa also did press releases:

I have to say you would be hard pressed to understand exactly what is being proposed from the Ottawa press releases. The STO one is not super clear on the Portage Bridge part, although it does make the two options for landing in Ottawa clear: either on the surface along Wellington Street, or in a tunnel under Sparks Street.

deux options d’aménagement d’un tramway sont retenues pour la suite de l’étude :

* Une insertion en surface sur la rue Wellington;
* Une insertion en tunnel sous la rue Sparks.

Rather than burying the lede, here’s the key slide from the STO presentation:
STO - 15 May 2020 - Options for Tram Component in Ottawa - slide 29
From slide 29 in  STO’s Complementary Study: Public Transit System in Gatineau’s West End – Technical Briefing to City of Ottawa May 15, 2020 (PDF) on STO webpage Update: Progress of the analysis of options for the integration in Ottawa.

Why Portage?

These two slides from the May 2020 presentation sum up their analysis:

STO - 15 May 2020 - Analysis of Current Crossings - slides 11 and 12
From slides 11 and 12 in STO’s Complementary Study: Public Transit System in Gatineau’s West End – Technical Briefing to City of Ottawa May 15, 2020 (PDF) on STO webpage Update: Progress of the analysis of options for the integration in Ottawa.

Why a Tramway?

As seen in this slide from the January 30, 2020 update (presentation available in French only), STO’s study recommends a tramway because the bus-only options don’t have enough capacity for a scenario of 7,000 – 7,500 riders per peak hour over the next 15 years.  Also note that to meet that projected demand they’re planning for a future with a tram every 2.4 minutes.

STO - 30 janvier 2020 - Nombre de passagers transportés versus mode - diapositive 23
From slide 23 in Étude complémentaire pour la réalisation d’un système de transport collectif structurant dans l’ouest de la ville de Gatineau – Breffage technique 30 janvier 2020 (PDF) on STO webpage Update on the additional study.

Three Scenarios

As a reminder, here are the three scenarios being considered on the Gatineau side: all-tram (T1), hybrid with rail (in blue) to the north and bus rapid transit (in green) to the south (H1), and hybrid with rail (in blue) to the south and bus rapid transit (in green) to the north (H2).

STO - 30 janvier 2020 - 3 scénarios viables - diapositive 24
From slide 24 of Étude complémentaire pour la réalisation d’un système de transport collectif structurant dans l’ouest de la ville de Gatineau – Breffage technique 30 janvier 2020 (PDF) on STO webpage Update on the additional study.

STO and City of Ottawa Information

The STO presentation is available:

The City of Ottawa info is very high-level and basically just tells you to read the STO webpages.

You can watch a recording of the briefing on YouTube.  Note that it’s a Zoom meeting so there is a lot happening on screen sometimes (multiple video windows).

Next Steps

June 2020: On-line public consultation for Ottawa and Gatineau.  Until then, email contact addresses are available:

July 2020: Transportation Committee and Council – present recommended plan for integration in Ottawa

SIDEBAR: What’s Old is New Again

I couldn’t resist bringing forward this comparison from my first blog post in this series, showing that the proposed new rail infrastructure echos rail infrastructure we already had and tore up.  The earlier STO map I have chosen shows rail options across either Prince of Wales or Alexandra, which emphasizes in a way that they both used to be rail bridges (Portage was never a rail bridge).

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 as made available on the Town and Crown website, 1950 Plan for the National Capital: General Report (Greber Plan)List of Plates Contained in the Atlas.

END SIDEBAR

Prince of Wales Bridge

If you want to find out more about the various (unfunded) proposals for using the bridge, see my post The future of the Prince of Wales Bridge.

Previously

I’ve done three previous blog posts related to the Gatineau west-end rapid transit proposal, with a lot of detail about the history of interprovincial rail including old photos and videos:

May 31, 2019  proposed rail transit for Gatineau west end including rail across Portage Bridge
February 10, 2019  proposed Gatineau west-end rail project

February 13, 2019  Ottawa – Gatineau interprovincial rail

Disclaimer

Check with the City of Gatineau and the STO website for updates and for the official word on the specific rail line routes and stations for Gatineau west-end rail.

proposed rail transit for Gatineau west end including rail across Portage Bridge

Gatineau is in a multi-stage process to study a system for transit in the west end of the city, and ultimately recommend which system to implement.  I have written previously about the initial report in proposed Gatineau west-end rail project.

In French this project is called un système de transport collectif structurant dans l’ouest de la ville de Gatineau. This doesn’t translate exactly to English because of the concept of “structured transit”; basically it means something like an organised, primary system of transit for the west end of Gatineau.

Note that this system is nowhere near being funded and approved yet.

UPDATE 2020-06-27: The STO has launched a consultation on how the proposed tramway should arrive on the Ottawa side.  Should it go on the surface on Wellington or in a tunnel under Sparks?

END UPDATE

Summary

They examine many options including all-bus and all-tramway but the summary is that the first option proposed is two connected rail lines, running trams (streetcars) presumably not separated from regular car traffic, from the west end of Gatineau across the Portage Bridge to Ottawa.

Gatineau T1 rail with PoW
above map cropped from Gatineau STO Scénario T1 – Scénario par tramway, Caractéristiques du scénario (PDF) but edited to show the Prince of Wales Bridge crossing the Ottawa River

UPDATE 2020-05-17: The STO released an update on January 30, 2020 saying that the study had narrowed down to three options, all of which included a tramway, and indicated that an additional study would be conducted on those three options.

The 3 scenarios still on the table all have a tram component: the “all-tram” scenario, and the two “hybrid” scenarios. It should be noted that a tram offers close to seven times the capacity of a regular bus, being able to accommodate large numbers of riders as soon as it becomes operational, as well as new ones in the future. …

The additional study now involves comparing the last 3 scenarios in order to identify the one that is to be recommended from a technical point of view.

The January 2020 press release is accompanied by an update page, and a presentation (in French only):

May 15, 2020 Presentation

On May 15, 2020 the STO presented a technical briefing to the City of Ottawa.  For more on this briefing see blog post proposed rail transit for Gatineau west end – May 2020 update to City of Ottawa.

END UPDATE

UPDATE 2019-06-10: The Government of Quebec has pledged to fund 60% of this $2.1 billion project.

That being said, transit funding in Canada is highly political, so there may be many more twists and turns before a final project is approved and fully funded.

END UPDATE

Portage Bridge instead of Prince of Wales

The part where the tramway would run across the Portage Bridge I think is a surprise to everyone.  Unlike the Alexandra, Chaudière and Prince of Wales bridges, Portage has never had trains crossing it. (You can read about the history of interprovincial rail in my blog post Ottawa – Gatineau interprovincial rail.)  It had long been expected that any renewed interprovincial rail connection would be across the currently disused Prince of Wales bridge.

CBC reports the analysis as

In a presentation Tuesday, the STO said the Portage Bridge would provide better service to downtown Gatineau, and would also allow the agency to drop off its users at Ottawa’s downtown Lyon or Parliament stations, which may have more capacity.

Le Droit says the issue is a lack of capacity at Bayview Station

Après avoir desservi sa propre clientèle ottavienne, la station Bayview ne pourrait pas accueillir plus de 1000 usagers supplémentaires par heure, en période de pointe, alors que le flot de passagers supplémentaires en provenance de Gatineau serait estimé à 6000.

UPDATE 2019-09-25: STO has done five videos about different aspects of the plan.  I will highlight just the one about the decision about where to cross the river, which discusses the pros and cons of each crossing.

The specific text about the Prince of Wales bridge is

If the Prince of Wales Bridge were chosen to be part of the structuring system, riders going to Ottawa would have to transfer to Ottawa’s light rail at Bayview station.

However, the light rail section between Tunney’s Pasture and Lyon stations will be the busiest along the Confederation Line. There would not be enough space to accommodate all riders coming from Gatineau.

From this aspect, the Prince of Wales Bridge does not meet the needs of the current study and has not been retained. However, its use is still relevant for a secondary link between Ottawa and Gatineau.

UPDATE 2020-05-17: I’ve also written a bit more about The future of the Prince of Wales Bridge, to cover the various proposals which either see rail never returning to the bridge, or don’t see rail on the bridge for a decade or more.  END UPDATE

You can see the rest of the videos on the STO site

END UPDATE

Unfortunately, while bringing rail across Portage is a potentially bold transit move, it is fraught with challenges, particularly given the real geometry of the area, since Portage is not just a north-south river bridge, it also has a major east-west connection from the Sir John A. MacDonald “Parkway” (highway) on the Ottawa side.

Portage Bridge aerial from Google Maps
Imagery ©2019 Google, Map data ©2019 Google.

Streetcars are a pre-automobile technology.  They can work in the 21st Century when all modes of transportation and the street design combine to enable the uninterrupted movement of the high-capacity streetcars  In its comparison of modes, STO shows 45-metre-long tram cars with a capacity of 375 people.  To be blunt, that means the tram should have 375x the priority of a single-occupancy car.  But in reality in North America we have:

  • drivers landing in the city centre on high-speed highways (like the SJAM “Parkway”) and expecting to continue driving fast through the centre
  • decades of prioritizing car traffic and high-speed car traffic over all other modes
  • high-speed one-way “arterials” and actual highways within cities
  • decades of prioritizing car traffic so that drivers aren’t used to mixing well with other modes, whether that be pedestrians, cyclists, bus transit or even more rarely at-grade rail transit
  • street design and expectations that prioritize safety for inattentive drivers

This means streetcars have really struggled in mixed traffic in North America.  This is why Toronto had to do the King Street changes, in order to reduce the ability of a single-occupancy car to block a streetcar carrying many more people.

To somehow insert a streetcar into Wellington and Portage’s mix of north-south and east-west traffic would be a huge challenge.  Just look at that intersection.  And keep in mind the vehicle they’ve depicted is 45 metres long, much much longer than an 18 metre extended (bendy) bus.

Portage Bridge - SJAM - Wellington intersection from Google Maps
Imagery ©2019 Google, Map data ©2019 Google.

And then it’s not at all clear to me how you land the tramway in downtown Ottawa.  It’s supposed to deliver its hundreds of passengers per vehicle to Lyon Station and the sidewalk basically.  There’s no way geometrically (that I can see) that you can get the tram around 90 degrees to Lyon and Queen (and incidentally up a bit of a hill), so I guess that means it just stops at Lyon and Wellington?  (STO actually talks about serving both Lyon and Parliament Stations.)  STO just shows some magic dotted lines once the tramway arrives in Ottawa.

STO tramway across Portage
above map cropped from Gatineau STO Scénario T1 – Scénario par tramway, Caractéristiques du scénario (PDF)

I’m not saying this is a bad idea.  If we were in Europe it would be easy.  European trams cross multi-modal bridges all the time, here’s one in Rouen.

DSC01142

But doing this in North America with the real geometry of the proposed location and the real behaviours of North American drivers will be a big challenge.

SIDEBAR: The entire area is a museum of 1960s traffic engineering and urban planning.  To the west you have the “urban renewal” of LeBreton Flats, where housing was flattened and a highway was built, and to the north across the river you have the Place du Portage megastructure, where an urban street grid was erased in order that an inward-facing building complex could be dropped out of the sky, a building complex you’re supposed to arrive at by car and never leave until the work day is done.  For more on that era’s disastrous urban design see William H. Whyte’s City: Rediscovering the Center, in particular chapter 14, Megastructures.  END SIDEBAR

Details

There’s way way too much information for me to expand out in detail so I’m mostly just going to point you to the STO web pages.

The area under study comprises Gatineau’s west end, downtown Gatineau, downtown Ottawa, the light rail stations and their surrounding areas as well as suitable routes for linking Gatineau and Ottawa.

There was a 2013-2017 Opportunity Study that you don’t really need to know much about.

Out of that, as far as I can tell, came the 2018 proposed Gatineau west-end rail project.

We are now in the next stage, the 2018-2019 Study.

And in June 2019 sub-step Public Consultation on the Structuring System in Gatineau’s West End.

In the June 2019 consultation they want you to consider 5 scenarios.

The scenarios are:

  • The reference scenario, in which the current bus system is improved.  All other scenarios can be compared against the reference scenario.  /  Le premier est le scénario de référence, qui inclut des mesures préférentielles telles que des voies réservées ou des priorités aux feux de circulation à plusieurs endroits sur le réseau actuel, mais pas de mesures structurantes. Il sert de base de comparaison aux autres scénarios.
  • The all-bus scenarioScénario B1 – Scénario par autobus.  Le scénario tout bus comprend des aménagements structurants pour autobus le long des axes Allumettières/Wilfrid-Lavigne/Aylmer/Taché avec une antenne par le chemin Vanier, le boulevard du Plateau et le boulevard Saint-Raymond. Des variantes sont possibles par le chemin Eardley, via Allumettières plutôt que par le boulevard du Plateau ainsi qu’à l’arrière de l’UQO. Des connexions entre les deux axes sont possibles soit par le boulevard des Allumettières ou le chemin Vanier.
  • The all-tramway scenarioScénario T1 – Scénario par tramway.  Le scénario tout rail est un scénario opéré par des tramways sur les axes Allumettières/Wilfrid-Lavigne/Aylmer/Taché, avec une branche qui part du boulevard du Plateau vers le boulevard Saint-Raymond.
  • Two hybrid scenarios, one of which (H1) has tramway on the north section and bus rapid transit on the south, and the other (H2) which has bus rapid transit on the north section, and tramway on the south.Dans le premier scénario hybride H1, l’axe Allumettières/Plateau est desservi par des tramways. Une variante est possible via McConnell et Allumettières.L’axe Allumettières/Wilfrid-Lavigne/Aylmer/Taché est desservi par un système rapide par bus opéré par autobus articulés. Des variantes sont possibles par le chemin Eardley ainsi qu’à l’arrière de l’UQO.Dans le deuxième scénario hybride H2, l’axe Allumettières/Wilfrid-Lavigne/Aylmer/Taché est desservi par des tramways. Des variantes sont possibles par le chemin Eardley ainsi qu’à l’arrière de l’UQ.L’axe Allumettières/Plateau est desservi par un système rapide par bus opéré par autobus articulés ou biarticulés. Une variante desservie par bus est possible via McConnell et Allumettières.

I’m only going to include the slides about the all-tramway scenario.

The tramway depicted by STO is 45 metres long and carries 375 people.

STO_consultation_planche-modes_imp 75
above from Caractéristiques des modes de transport (PDF)

That’s much, much longer than the familiar OC Transpo articulated (bendy) bus which STO shows as the second green bus at 18 metres and a capacity of 90 people (I’m not sure how the half-person depicted works, but anyway you get the idea).

You can see the full map of the proposed routes with alternatives.

STO_consultation_planche-scenario-T1_imp
from Scénario T1 – Scénario par tramway (PDF). Note that the maps do not show Prince of Wales Bridge crossing the Ottawa River.

UPDATE 2019-06-04: There are now videos available explaining the scenarios

and there is now an FAQ

END UPDATE

You can also read the press release (in French only)

and watch the video of the announcement (in French only)

Archive – Information Sessions and Consultations

There will be were information sessions (open house sessions) June 3rd, 4th and 6th, 2019.

Secteur Aylmer
Lundi 3 juin 2019, de 16 h à 20 h
Centre culturel du Vieux-Aylmer situé au 120, rue Principale

District du Plateau
Mardi 4 juin 2019, de 16 h 30 à 20 h 30
Centre communautaire du Plateau situé au 145, rue de l’Atmosphère

Secteur Hull
Jeudi 6 juin 2019, de 16 h à 20 h
Agora de la Maison du citoyen situé au 25, rue Laurier

There will be was an online consultation June 3 to 24, 2019.

Un questionnaire sera disponible en ligne du 3 au 24 juin 2019.

UPDATE 2019-06-04: The online survey is available.  END UPDATE

And there will be was a brainstorming workshop June 17, 2019.

Un atelier ouvert au grand public sera organisé afin d’engager une discussion sur les conditions de succès du système structurant et d’approfondir la réflexion sur les scénarios.

Lundi 17 juin de 18 h à 20 h
Hôtel DoubleTree by Hilton, 1170 chemin d’Aylmer

for more information, see

Previously:
February 10, 2019  proposed Gatineau west-end rail project