Monday, October 30, 2006

Finally: a Completely Practical LRT Plan

Friends of the O-Train sets the Benchmark for LRT in Ottawa; the City's Proposed Plan Fails Miserably by Comparison

At OttawaLRT, we are dedicated to presenting a critical analysis of why the (City's) proposed project is wrong and why it should be replaced with a more efficient, effective and economical solution. Most of our past commentary has been focused about what is wrong with the City's plan. In late July we gave some insight into what could be better, yet this was far from a complete solution.

Now, working with an ad-hoc group of like-minded community leaders, transit experts, rail experts, and tax-payers, a holistic transit plan has been developed for Ottawa. Friends of the O-Train has published a complete "Practical Plan" for LRT in Ottawa, one that "dramatically increases service levels and system capacity,... enables significant transit ridership increases as called for in the City's Transportation Master Plan,... solves the transit capacity constraints through the downtown core for decades to come... provides easy and economical expansion options to the city's east, west, south and north to Gatineau... can does all this with a capital budget of $438 million, a savings of over $340 million dollars compared on the City's proposed plan."

Amen to that.

Click here to visit Friends of the O-Train.

Friday, October 27, 2006

O-Train Service is Safe For Now

Fate of O-Train Service Now Rests With New Council

October 26th, 2006

Dear Mr. Fanjoy,

Your email to Councillors Stavinga, Doucet, Bedard, Bloess, Cullen, El-Chantiry, Legendre, McRae and Thompson, has been forwarded to me for response. I'm pleased to advise that at the Council meeting held on Wednesday 25 Oct 2006, Council passed Transportation Committee Report 42, Item 3 as follows;


3. SALE OF EXISTING TALENT O-TRAINS

COMMITTEE RECOMMENDATION

That Council approve:

That any potential sale of the existing Talent Trains and related assets be put on hold while the fate of the new LRT System is in question.

CARRIED
I believe this addresses your concern. Thank you for your foresight and the attention to the details of this project. Please contact me at your convenience if I may be of further assistance.

Regards,
Barry Townsend, P.Eng.
Manager Light Rail Implementation Division

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Stop the Premature Sale of the O-Trains!

The Current Council Has the Responsibility and the Opportunity to Declare that the O-Trains Must Not be Sold Until the Fate of Their LRT Replacement is Certain. (Note: update below)

From: Ottawa LRT
To: Janet.Stavinga@ottawa.ca, Clive.Doucet@ottawa.ca, Georges.Bedard@ottawa.ca, Rainer.Bloess@ottawa.ca, Alex.Cullen@ottawa.ca, Eli.El-Chantiry@ottawa.ca, Jacques.Legendre@ottawa.ca, maria.mcrae@ottawa.ca, Doug.Thompson@ottawa.ca

Date: Oct 13, 2006 4:39 PM

Dear Members of the Transportation Committee,

This email is to request and strongly recommend that a motion be tabled at the October 18th TC meeting (followed by Oct 25th Council session) that instructs the city staff not to enter into an agreement to sell any or all of the the existing O-Train Talents, or any of their related maintenance assets, until after the fate of the proposed LRT project is officially determined.

Now that the future of the proposed LRT is at least theoretically in doubt, failure to introduce such a motion would mean that the members of this Committee continue to officially expect the Talents to be sold, regardless of the certainty of a replacement LRT service. Alternatively, the introduction and adoption of this motion would demonstrate that the uninterrupted service of the O-Train (currently ~2 million riders per year) is important to Council in the absence of an equivalent LRT replacement service. I assume that most of you would prefer to campaign supporting that later position.

Respectfully,

---------------------------

UPDATE

Transportation Committee, disposition 47
Wednesday, 18 October 2006, 9:30 a.m.

Sale of Existing Talent O-Trains

Moved by Councillor C. Doucet:

Whereas recent actions by the minister in charge of Treasury Board have put in question when and how a new light rail system will be built to replace the exiting O-Train service;

Whereas the existing O-Train provides cost effective and reliable service to thousands of people each day in a manner which cannot be matched by buses;

Whereas it is essential to minimize the amount of time the O-Train will be out of service as we convert from the existing system to a new system;

Be it Resolved that any potential sale of the existing Talent trains and related assets be put on hold while the fate of the new LRT system is in question.

CARRIED


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Defiance of Reason, Right from The Start

The Rapid Transit Expansion Study (RTES) Set the Tone by Boldly Defying “Technical or Economic Argument.”

Shame on me; shame on the citizens of Ottawa; shame on the local press; we all should have known better. Had we paid more attention all along, we might have understood that LRT decision-making in Ottawa is above reason, unencumbered by logic or common sense. It’s not really about growing public transit use. It’s not about building fewer roads. It’s not about getting the best public transit bang for our taxpayer buck. It’s certainly not about smart growth.

Click here to read the full article.

Ottawa’s LRT in the Context of 15 Years of Road and Transit Investment

Ottawa’s Proposed LRT will Cost 50% More than Total Road and Transit Infrastructure Spending over the Last 15 Years.

Recent City Council debates have shed fresh perspective on how disproportionate Ottawa’s spending is for the proposed North-South LRT project. According to an Ottawa staff report prepared for Councilor Rob Jellett in August, “the city and former regional government spent $675 million on new roads and [public] transit infrastructure since 1991.[1]” That is $675 million for every new road, every road repair, every lane expansion, every new bus lane, every new park & ride, everywhere in the entire city, every year, for 15 years of tremendous growth and expansion. During these same 15 years many would argue that commuter congestion has increased, road quality decreased, while public transit service levels and customer experience have diminished. Year after year, all of these services have been compromised because ‘money was tight.’

Whatever one might say about this $675 million figure, whether it was enough or not, whether it was well spent or not, one thing it does provide is an interesting point of reference to put the City’s LRT project in perspective. All that spending, over all those years for all those people across the region still adds up to only 2/3rds[2] of the estimated one billion dollars to be spent on the proposed North-South LRT.

Click here to read the full article.


[1] East/west Spat Looms Over Council Spending, Jake Rupert, Ottawa Citizen, Tuesday, August 22, 2006.
[2] The City officially claims the LRT project will cost $778 million (memo Mr. Chartrand to Mayor and Council June 19, 2006), however credible full-cost estimates range from $933 million to over $1 billion. $675 million is 2/3rds of $1 billion (alternatively $1 billion is 50% more than $675 million).

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

City’s Proposed LRT Maintenance Yard is All Wet

Proposed Bowesville Site is a Wetland Protected By Federal Law from Development.

Our friends at Save Our Greenspace have studiously compiled evidence and expert opinion that proves the City’s misguided choice of a maintenance yard for their proposed LRT is located on a wetland. Not only this, the wetland contains both flora and fauna that would be illegal to disturb. Completing the case, the land is owned by the Federal government, whose laws forbid development on wetlands.

Will this development be the proverbial “last spike” through the heart of the City’s ill-guided North-South LRT?

Please Stop the Sale of the O-Trains

Dear Councillors and Mayor,

Given today's developments (see here), there is now an extremely high probability that the proposed North-South LRT project will not proceed as planned. As a result, it is now urgent to revoke Council's July 12th mandate that staff sell the O-Train's Bombardier Talent trains.

For those of you seeking reelection, I assume you will not want the record to show you were silent at this time and thus allowing, a on your watch, the premature sale of the Talents forcing 10,000+ daily riders onto the roads as of April 1, 2007.

A Triumph of Reason: Proposed North-South LRT to Be Audited

Treasury Board will Require Proof of the Project’s “Value For Money.”

The funding terms the City of Ottawa negotiated with the Province of Ontario and the Federal Government contained one important catch. To get the $200 million in Federal assistance, the City had to conduct a ridership study that, in turn, was to be a critical input to a “business case.” This business case was expected to demonstrate why this specific LRT project is justified, both in absolute terms and compared to reasonable “base case” alternative.

It is curious then, that the ridership study was officially considered simply a “background technical document” not worthy of disclosure to Council or the public. Curious too, that a majority of Councillors could approve such an important project based exclusively on one-sided, weakly founded rhetorical staff assertions, without digging in to really understand what they were approving. And then, with a pattern clearly emerging, perhaps not so curious that the City notably chose not to disclose the business case it prepared for the Federal government. Perhaps they new disclosure would be trouble, especially during the election campaign.

So it was a great relief to learn today, in a story scooped by Derek Puddicombe of the Ottawa Sun, that this preposterous project will finally be called to account by John Baird, President of the Treasury Board. The purpose of a value for money audit is to demonstrate that the proposed project is effective, efficient and economical. Under the glaring scrutiny of these standards the proposed North-South LRT will be shown to be completely indefensible.

Then again, perhaps we won’t really have to go down this road. To anyone casting a half-informed eye on the details, a full-blown value for money audit would be like shooting a dead steed. Hopefully a month from now, a sufficiently new Council and a completely different Mayor will tell Mr. Baird not to bother, that a new submission will be prepared, presenting a much more practical alternative.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

CBC Radio (Ottawa) Confirms: Councillors Were Never Told Critical Ridership Numbers

“Never. Absolutely never. That was never something that was ever brought forward” said Councillor McRae.

Here is a key excerpt:
ALISTAIR STEELE (Reporter): Well, the question could be how many knew about it. None of the councillors I was able to reach yesterday – and remember, many of them are on summer holiday – had ever heard that number 1,090. Here’s part of my conversation with Councillor Maria McRae, who was out and about in her ward when I reached McRae’s reaction I’d say was typical. I began by asking here how many net new riders she thought would be riding the rails when the system is finished?

MARIA MCRAE (Ottawa City Councillor): I don’t have that stuff in front of me now. But what I can tell you is what I think the ridership number should be and not net new riders, but the number of people using that system should be about 43,000 [by 2011]. That’s not an answer to your question. I realize that. But my understanding of how many people will be taking it would be 43,000 and I don’t have the stuff in front of me, how it separates out, who is currently taking a bus, who will move from the express buses and all that kind of stuff.

STEELE: Do you recall hearing at any point that the net new riders will total only 1,090?

MCRAE: Never. Absolutely never. That was never something that was ever brought forward. So, no.

Read the full story here.

North-South LRT Transit Ridership in Perspective

Why the City’s Cited Ridership Numbers are Deceptive and its Proposed North-South LRT Project is Largely Inconsequential to Ottawa’s Transportation Needs and Objectives.

Ottawa is growing in population and, as a result, so is its workforce. Increasing the number of people who get to work by public transit is important because this reduces the city’s road construction and repair expenditures and reduces greenhouse gas and smog emissions generated as a result of transportation in Ottawa.

According to the City’s Transportation Master Plan, between the years 2001 and 2021, the number of peak hour motorized commuter trips will increase by 122,000 to a total of 344,000. The City’s goal, as set out in its City’s Transportation Master Plan and reiterated in current documents related to the North-South LRT project, is that 30% of all peak hour motorized commuter trips will travel by public transit by the year 2021.

Click here to learn what you need to know about how little a role the proposed North-South LRT project will play in this important transit ridership goal.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

The Practical North-South LRT Alternative

For less than $50 million, Ottawa Can Meet its North-South LRT Needs and Serve Citizens Faster and More Conveniently.

The capacity of the current O-Train could easily be upgraded by a factor of four times simply by running double car trains and doubling service frequency from every 15-minutes to every 7.5 minutes. These would represent sufficient peak hour and daily capacity for IBI’s ridership projections through to 2031. With modest line and station improvements, and single-track extension to a Leitrim Park & Ride, the peak hour capacity of this approach would be in excess of 9,000 riders at a total capital cost of well less than $50 million.

To learn more about this pragmatic solution click here.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Concerns Deepen Over Ottawa's LRT Ridership Study

Memo from City Official to Councilors Attempts and Fails to Downplay Concerns Over Secret Results From Ottawa’s North-South LRT Ridership Study.

The purpose of this document is to respond to a memo addressing North-South LRT Ridership, issued by Mr. Rejean Chartrand and send to the Mayor and Councilors on July 19th, 2006. Mr. Chartrand’s intention was to provide clarification on a news story by CBC Radio that implied City staff had not been forthcoming with the Mayor and Council regarding a “small portion” of the IBI Transit Ridership Study.

Click here to download the full response.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Open Letter: Ottawa's North-South LRT: the 1.6% Solution

Little-Known City Ridership Study Shows the Proposed $800+ Million Project Will, at Best, Only Get 900 Cars Off The Road.

The purpose of this paper is to introduce evidence and analysis that would lead a reasonable person to conclude that the proposed North-South LRT project contains fundamental planning flaws, important data omissions and significant misrepresentations. A reasonable person would further conclude that the current plan is neither an efficient nor effective means of contributing to Council’s goal of achieving 30% of all vehicle commuters traveling by public transit. All evidence used to support these conclusions will come entirely from the City’s official planning documents.

You can read the full paper here. Over the coming weeks we will examine and expand upon the issues introduced in this paper.