Business leaders ask mayor to accelerate light rail to west end

"Take the O" by Payton Chung. Used under a Creative Commons license. Original photo:

(PHOTO: “Take the O” by Payton Chung. Used under a Creative Commons license.)

West end business leaders say that Kanata’s poor transit service is hindering their ability to attract talented employees, and they’re asking the mayor to extend light rail to Kanata before 2031.

Earlier this month the Kanata North BIA sent a letter to Mayor Jim Watson, co-signed by other business associations, west end politicians, and a bevy of business executives including Sir Terence Matthews.   (There are nearly four pages of signatures attached to the end of the letter, which you can read below.)

“We have been approached many times from local businesses who have said that they had difficulty in hiring tech workers because they couldn’t get there due to a lack of transit,” wrote Jenna Sudds, executive director of the Kanata North BIA.

The letter asks the city to “immediately fund and undertake” an environmental assessment (EA) for light rail transit from Bayshore to Terry Fox, and to make that segment part of the second phase of light rail, scheduled to start construction in 2018.  They say having a completed EA would mean that the project would be ready to go if federal infrastructure money comes available.

Cyril Leeder of the Ottawa Senators wrote a separate letter covering similar points, and asked to extend light rail even further to Canadian Tire Centre.  He wrote that even if the Senators move to Lebreton Flats, the redevelopment they have planned for arena would benefit from improved transit.

As it stands, the city isn’t planning to build light rail past Bayshore until at least 2031, although Kanata South Councillor Allan Hubley is optimistic it will happen sooner than that.

“Last June I moved the motion at Council, with full support, for staff to go away and take a year and look at ways to move that date ahead,” says Hubley.  “We expect this year to get something back from staff to give us the way forward.”

“I’m a big believer in taking small steps towards a big project and getting everything right. My first target is going to be Moodie. I think we have a really good business case for getting it out to Moodie,” says Hubley.

Hubley says the City has already approved extending the bus Transitway past Bayshore, and that it’s being constructed so that it can be easily converted to light rail.

“Everything is done at grade so we can just pop trains onto that Transitway and lower our cost big time,” says Hubley. “If the government goes ahead with the DND (Department of National Defence) move (to the former Nortel Campus on Moodie near Carling)…. I think Moodie is realistic in the next decade – in the 2020s.”

“The beauty of Moodie for residents in Stittsville/Kanata is it will be a whole lot easier.  We can run buses from Canadian Tire Centre or Eagelson park-and-ride to Moodie. You can create a lot more parking at Moodie than at Bayshore. I see it working for the residents out here – we can truly say that this system is a city-wide system,” he says.

And there’s this intriguing photo tweeted by Mayor Jim Watson on Friday. Watson is on the right, Kanata-Carleton MP Karen McCrimmon is in the middle. The third person in the trio is Chris Swail, who’s director of Stage 2 of Ottawa’s light rail project. (Hat tip to Jon Willing.)


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