The city’s transit future is riding on rail lines and a downtown tunnel, but some caution that the $4 billion project is still short on tracks and details.
Deputy City Manager Nancy Schepers yesterday presented the final of four options tabled by staff as the best route for Ottawa’s future transit expansion: a downtown tunnel with light rail service through the core, east and west from Baseline to Blair stations, and south along extended O-Train tracks to a Bowesville station.
Schepers said Option Four would have the lowest long-term operations costs, produce the least emissions, and serve the highest ridership. The train will act as the spine of the system, with bus routes carrying passengers from outside the Greenbelt to the rail stations.
She said public consultations into the four options — all of which included a downtown tunnel, but with different delivery modes — revealed majority support for Option Four.
While supporting the option, Glen Leicester — a former Vancouver transit planner and one of five experts that reviewed the options — said Ottawa still needs to do much more work on costs and geotechnical analysis. “The focus so far has been largely on the technology and we recommend you have a broader look,” he said.
Coun. Gord Hunter (Knoxdale-Merivale) needs to see more specific numbers before committing to the plan.
“From the figures I’m seeing, we’re not moving toward a 30 per cent transit modal split goal,” he said. “We’re spending a lot of money and we better make sure we’re going to attract more riders and use equipment more efficiently, with better cost and so far what I’ve seen makes me skeptical.”
If the plan is approved, Schepers said it would cause disruptions in service to the O-Train and along the Transitway while it is converted to light rail.
But director of transit services, Alain Mercier, said he believes the system is flexible enough to accommodate the conversion without losing ridership.