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.

The future of the Prince of Wales Bridge

[photo of the Prince of Wales Bridge]

The Prince of Wales Bridge is currently closed.  Wikipedia tells me that it was built in 1880 and last used in 2001.

The disused line runs between Ottawa’s OC Transpo Bayview Station (the Line 1 – Line 2 interchange station), and Gatineau’s STO Rapibus terminus at Station Taché-UQO.

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

STO and OC Transpo

Although it was initially considered for a proposed rail transit connection to Ottawa from Gatineau, it has now been removed from consideration by STO in favour of the Portage Bridge.  The reasons cited for removing it from consideration included that OC Transpo’s Bayview Station wouldn’t have enough capacity, and that Portage delivers passengers more directly to the Ottawa Central Business District.

It does remain on Ottawa’s proposed Stage 3 rail transit map (look for the short purple line in the centre of the map below, connected to Bayview) but without any indication of how it would be used and how it would connect into the existing rail lines.

Stage 3 purple from Light-Rail-Transit-Project_Tech-Briefing_20190222_EN
from slide 109 of the Stage 2 Light Rail Transit Project: Technical Briefing – February 22, 2019 (PDF, Internet Archive) – Stage 3 extensions to Kanata, Barrhaven and across the Prince of Wales Bridge in purple

The only other faint possibility of it ever being used for rail is an STO speculation that it could be a “Potential future link for a west-south route” (following the completion of the proposed Gatineau west-end transit project).  Note that I have changed the colours in the map below to align with more common Ottawa usage.

STO - 15 May 2020 - Analysis of Current Crossings - slide 11 - colour adjust
From slide 11 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.

So for any possible rail use of the Prince of Wales Bridge you’re into the 2030s timeframe, a decade or more from now.

Current Plans

The current plan is to adapt it for pedestrians and cycling, but there doesn’t seem to be any money allocated for that purpose.

Joanne Chianello writes for CBC Ottawa:

The city of Ottawa bought the Prince of Wales Bridge for $400,000 from Canadian Pacific Railway about 15 years ago for the express purpose of running trains across it one day, and that’s still in the city’s current Transportation Master Plan.

But last fall, the mayors of Ottawa and Gatineau announced that plans for rail over the bridge were off.

“It would congest … Bayview station, and secondly, Gatineau has been pursuing their LRT project and they too have ruled it out as a bridge that would be used for transit,” Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said last September.

Both Watson and Gatineau Mayor Maxime-Pedneaud Jobin are hoping to use the bridge instead as a pedestrian and bike crossing.

from CBC Ottawa – Gatineau wants to run light rail over Portage Bridge

Also see the Mayors’ joint announcement from September 2019 as reported in CBC Ottawa – Mayors rule out Prince of Wales Bridge for transit link.

UPDATE 2020-05-19: Also see Analysis: Rejection of Prince of Wales Bridge illustrates difficulty of planning Ottawa-Gatineau rail link by Jon Willing in the Ottawa Citizen.

For historical completeness, there was an NCC Interprovincial Transit “Strategy” in 2013 that had trains going from Bayview Station across the Prince of Wales Bridge to connect with STO transit, and also had a rail connection across Alexandra Bridge.  But it was totally unfunded so it is moot.

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.

Ottawa LRT Stage 1 rollout with multi-step transit network changes

RTG is was supposed to achieve Revenue Service Availability (RSA) on August 16, 2019.  This is the handover to the city, not the launch.

The launch will be about a month after RSA, sometime in mid-September.

UPDATE 2019-08-23: The LRT was handed over to the city on August 23, 2019.  The launch date for LRT service to the public will be September 14, 2019 (at 2pm).  END UPDATE

But there are multiple steps before we get to a full new network of Stage 1 LRT plus OC Transpo buses plus STO buses plus reconstructed roadways.

1. Ottawa LRT Stage 1 LRT Launch

The LRT will launch mid-September, but the current bus system will remain in place for three weeks.  So it will be a mix of rail and parallel bus service.

OttLRT Line 1 Stage 1 Line_map1
from the OC Transpo Ready4Rail – Where will it go page.

The north-south Trillium Line 2 from Bayview Station will continue unchanged, but only until Q2 2020 (see below).

2. OC Transpo Bus Routes Optimised for LRT

Three weeks after LRT Stage 1 launch, specifically on October 6, 2019, the parallel bus service is discontinued, and Ottawa switches to a new bus network optimised for the LRT.  This will mean the end of the Transitway (9x and 8x) buses on Albert and Slater; no more Transitway buses through downtown.

OC Transpo Rapid 2018_Network_R 200
Map from OC Transpo New service types page.

Rapid buses (in blue above) will connect to the rail network at Tunney’s Pasture Station (westbound), Greenboro Station (southbound), Hurdman Station (southwest bound), and Blair Station (eastbound).

Bus Network Service Change - continued - Confederation-Line-Update-July-10-FEDCO-meeting-FINAL-E_20190710-145150_1

UPDATE 2019-08-23: The easiest way to figure out route changes will be to use the new trip planner, but if you want to know about a particular bus, you can start at the Ready for Rail – My Route page.  END UPDATE

For more on Stage 1 LRT see Ottawa LRT Stage 1 maps.

3. STO Bus Routes Optimised for LRT

At some point (sometime in 2020) after the OC Transpo switch to new bus routes, STO will also change its routes.  Which will bring buses back to Albert and Slater, as STO takes to these streets to run service through downtown to Mackenzie King Station.

STO Ottawa 2020

For more on STO bus changes see STO bus changes after Ottawa LRT Stage 1.

Street Redesigns – Rideau Street and William Street

Rideau Street and William Street will be redesigned, with one goal being higher pedestrian capacity.  Reconstruction began April 26, 2020.

Street Redesigns – Albert Street and Slater Street

At some point, currently scheduled for Summer 2020, Albert and Slater will be redesigned with space for cycling (see proposed designs in the public information sessions).  But note that Albert and Slater will not be bus-free; most notably there will be STO buses as indicated above.

Trillium Line 2 South – Stage 2 – Temporary Shutdown With Replacement by Bus Service

The Trillium Line (the north-south line) shut down on May 3, 2020 and will be closed for construction for at least two years as new stations and track are added for Stage 2.  During construction a bus service will run.

Full Service of New Stage 1 Transit Network and Redesigned Streets

Once all these steps are complete, presumably sometime in 2021, the downtown transit network and downtown streets will basically have their transformation complete.

LRT Stage 2

The next step will be LRT Stage 2, with new and updated segments scheduled for 2022 (Trillium Line 2 south), 2024 (Confederation Line 1 east) and 2025 (Confederation Line 1 west).

For more information, see Ottawa LRT Stage 2 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.  (Given many factors, the date for the full STO route changes is unknown.)

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 Ottawa 2020
above from Changements à la desserte de la STO au centre-ville d’Ottawa (après la mise en service de la Ligne de la Confédération)

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 is one hassle 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.

UPDATE 2019-07-24: For more and newer details on transfers to STO from OC Transpo and vice-versa, see Fares and valid fare payments (after the Confederation Line begins operation) or Tarification et validité des titres (après la mise en service de la Ligne de la Confédération).

END UPDATE

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.)

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

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)

I honestly don’t know what the point of this sequence can possibly be, other than to paralyse STO bus boarding in Ottawa.

And an even better solution would be just to have Presto totally compatible for use for single payments or passes.  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 Portage Bridge (which you might not expect, and I don’t really understand how it would work unless you completely redo the car lanes).  See proposed rail transit for Gatineau west end including rail across Portage Bridge for more information.

Addendum

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