When the Interim Report of the Western LRT Corridor Planning and Environmental Assessment went to City Council in June, 2012, Council directed that further evaluation of all corridors be done, including Carling Avenue. That work, including a review by independent transportation experts, has been completed and shows conclusively that Carling Avenue is not viable.
When Carling Avenue underwent detailed evaluation - including assessments by expert panels, 13 community associations and the project’s public advisory group - it was at or near the bottom for all criteria.
As well, the City hired Capital Transit Partners to do a peer review of the work on the WLRT and the review found that Carling should be screened out of the possible corridors being shortlisted. Capital Transit Partners said costs would be very high, the passenger service would be poor and the negative visual impact of such a project combine to “make it a poor long-term choice for rapid transit.”
The following are some key facts that explain why Carling does not work:
A fractured transit network
It requires a spur line to Tunney’s Station. The spur line operation provides poor connection to a number of important destinations, such as Tunney’s Station, the second biggest employment area after downtown. The frequency of service to Tunney’s on the spur line would be much lower than today, travellers from the west would have to transfer at Bayview and backtrack, travellers from south would have to transfer first at Carling, and then at Bayview Station and backtrack.
The O-Train operation which is this year being expanded would have to be terminated at Carling because any east-west line coming from downtown would have to occupy the northern section of the O-Train corridor.
Reduced capacity and reliability of the line
Servicing Tunney’s Station with a spur line would reduce the capacity of the main line because some of the trains would have to service Tunney’s. The Tunney’s service would create a gap in the schedule on the Carling line.
If a Carling train service was at road grade, in the event of an accident at any one of those intersections, three trains would be backed up in each direction within nine minutes.
If the City slowed the trains at the 18 intersections to allow the regular north-south traffic flow, the service would be very slow ? inconvenient actually, for the thousands of commuters traveling from the western neighbourhoods.
Eighty per cent of the people riding Confederation Line trains to the west would not be getting on or off along Carling Avenue: Most of them would be coming from communities farther west than Lincoln Fields.
Impact on urban design
Having a dedicated right of way for a frequent, rapid transit service would require either gates at the intersections or an elevated system. Both of these approaches would divide the neighbourhoods all along Carling Avenue. With at-grade intersection operation, either the north-south traffic would be crippled or the trains would have to wait at the 18 signalized intersections.
An elevated system would change the city’s landscape.
To provide the required frequency and reliability of a primary line, the Carling line would have to be grade separated at most intersections. An elevated line would make it two to three times more expensive than the northern corridors. An underground line would be even more expensive.
Light rail is the backbone of the City’s long-range transportation plan. By 2031, Ottawa’s LRT system will be carrying 18,000 riders in each direction hourly. Ultimately, with continued support from other levels of government to build light rail, the system could grow to 24,000 riders and a train would arrive every minute and 45 seconds during rush hour. Such a high-passenger, high-volume, rapid-transit system won’t work if one portion of it has all of the engineering and service challenges of Carling Avenue.
For the interim environmental assessment study report on the western light-rail service in 2012, the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway was identified as a strong contender, ranking second among 15 possible routes. After extensive consultation with the National Capital Commission, that corridor ranking been changed as the City of Ottawa moves towards completion of the study.
In the Interim Report of the Western LRT Corridor Planning and Environmental Assessment to City Council in June, 2012, the parkway ranked second as a possible corridor. Council received the interim report and directed that all 15 possible corridors be further studied and that the NCC’s plans, including Horizon 2067 and the Capital Urban Lands Master Plan, be taken into account in the final evaluation of corridors.
The City worked with the NCC to refine the evaluation criteria for the possible routes, including a stronger focus on the national capital interests of the Commission. This re-evaluation included factors such as impact on cultural landscapes of the capital, respect for the symbolic character of the capital, enhancing walking and cycling and the need to mitigate the effect of City infrastructure on federal lands.
The re-evaluation took into consideration the unique Ottawa River waterfront and vistas that are part of the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway lands.
The new evaluation also took into account all of the NCC’s plans and policies, which are designed to keep the capital as a destination for all Canadians.
The new evaluation resulted in Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway falling to fourth place of the original top four northerly corridors. Since then, the City has also developed two new possible corridors, based on feedback after the interim report to address community values particularly with respect to the Byron linear park.
The City of Ottawa will be working with the NCC on issues such as maintaining and improving access to the Ottawa River pathways and federal greenspace along the light-rail corridor and generally ensuring that long-term civic and national capital interests are aligned.