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 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

Summary

They examine many options 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

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.

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

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:

UPDATE 2019-05-31: There is a major new report from the STO with proposed rail transit for Gatineau west end including rail across Portage Bridge.  END UPDATE

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.

May 2017 consultations

A variety of consultations closing in May 2017.

Federal

Provincial

Municipal