Immediate solutions for the LRT solution in Ottawa

(Ottawa LRT Platform at Tunney’s Pasture. Photo: Jon MacIndoe via Twitter)

Editor’s Note: Andre Hallam is a retired IT Project Manager. With a background in projects, he tends to look at projects in reverse – from final completion backwards to the start – and couldn’t help but think about how he might have approached the implementation. Below are his thoughts on the realization of Ottawa’s LRT system.)

Introduction —

Ottawa’s LRT solution was planned as a 3-phased project, spread over several years. Phase 1 has left some issues with not only the trains themselves, but some serious issues dealing with commuters getting to and from the LRT using current bus routes.

Facts:

  • LRT solution is sized to handle 21,400 passengers per hour, or 10,700 each way.
  • Each train carries up to 600 passengers at a time at peak usage.
  • Most of these 21,400 hourly commuters need to get on or off a bus at one end or the other to successfully complete their daily commute.
  • The current design cannot handle these numbers well until all phases of the solution are complete.
  • All “local” neighbourhood bus routes now converge on the LRT endpoint stations, on differently sized buses, each with its own capacity requirements. Passengers must handle locating and boarding “their” bus at these endpoints, resulting in capacity challenges.

Solution:

  • Install temporary dedicated, unnumbered shuttle buses, whose sole purpose is to travel back and forth over approximately the routes covering from where Phase 1 ends today, close to the planned endpoints that Phase 3 trains will eventually take. Label the shuttles “South Line”, “West Line” and “East Line”. The solution would mimic the final Phase 3 trains, closely following the route that Phase 3 trains would take, mostly using existing transit ways and corridors.
  • These buses would stop at, or close to, future LRT Phase 3 stations along the way.
  • Match the frequency of these buses with the trains exactly, and size the buses and their numbers to handle the 600 passengers currently leaving and arriving every few minutes at the current LRT endpoints.
  • Make the same changes to the local bus that will eventually be in place at the completion of Phase 3 immediately. These shorter routes will simply bring passengers to their local (future) LRT station, where they get on a generic shuttle.
  • Plan contingency routes for these shuttles to follow in the case of disabled portions of the current LRT trains. The shuttles would essentially just keep going, thus replacing a broken down trains.

Benefits:

  • Loads will be evenly spread, ensuring buses are sized appropriately to handle all LRT loads, both departing and arriving at the endpoints — due to capacity/frequency being matched to the trains.
  • One single and immediate change to the “local” shorter bus routes would be in place now, eliminating changes at Phase 2 and 3 completions, and less confusion.
  • Passengers switching between LRT trains and buses need not worry about the capacity of the buses waiting for them. Capacity will be matched to the trains.
  • Covers times when contingency service is required.

Andre told us that, “he expects there could potentially be many arguments against my solution, but it is a starting point for discussion. Also, I have yet to hear any other proper solution.”

Andre’s proposed solution is worthy of consideration by City officials and could very well bring an end to the confusion at the endpoint platforms; more efficiency to transit by running permanent buses to deal with capacity issues; and, it allows for travel consistency when a train becomes immobilized.

Andre has written a five-page solution paper that expands on his ideas for the LRT solution. You can read more in his paper here.

This temporary solution could be adopted for use now and applied through the construction stages of Phase 2 and 3 of the LRT, while preparing transit users for the future when the city-wide LRT system is realized.


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3 thoughts on “Immediate solutions for the LRT solution in Ottawa”

  1. A very good start. OC Transpo has some bright customers and all they really needed to do is listen to them and figure out how best to make such suggestions work.

    The bus problems were completely avoidable. Hindsight has proven that cutting bus services was a big mistake, that has placed the whole system in jeopardy. If anything, bus services should have been increased to make all the new transfers work. Keeping extra buses on standby to respond to LRT issues would have been expensive, but not as much as what we’re going to spend now to fix it. I’m sure they’ll eventually get it right, but unfortunately, poor planning is sure to make transit more expensive for all for many years to come.c

  2. I hope that you’ve sent this to your councillor, the mayor and members of the Transit Commission as well as John Manconi at OC Transpo. This should be circulated as widely as possible.

    1. I did send it to my councillor, and several others, and Mr. Manconi. I sent it to many places, but so far it has been ignored. Mr. Manconi’s office acknowledged receipt, but I never heard any more.
      It would appear nobody is interested in discussing this idea. So far, only Stittsville Central has shown any serious interest.

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