Imagining Ottawa’s Metro, Round Two

I’ve updated this scenario. Here’s version three.

A few months ago, I wrote a fantasy scenario for an expansive train network for Ottawa. A few astute commenters and my own lingering misgivings kept me thinking about that map, and I’ve now gone back and made an even better, more fantastical vision for a train-loving Canadian capital.

Then as now, Ottawa’s passenger rail network is woefully inadequate compared to the networks of other world capitals and of its regional rivals, Montreal and Toronto. This vision attempts to remedy that embarrassment, giving Ottawa the world-class passenger rail network it deserves.

I have found that my previous concept for an Ottawa that was enthusiastic enough to have large infrastructure projects was, if anything, far too conservative. That concept was set up as a grid of intersecting train lines, with minimal overlap between their paths. This meant that almost all stations would serve only one route, with a handful of stations serving as the meeting points of east/west and north/south lines. Ottawa’s transit system has been more flexible than this for the entire time that I have lived here, and I confess to some embarrassment at how limited this idea is. One of the key complaints about the current Confederation / Line 1 is that it replaced a flexible bus corridor, used by bus routes that started and ended at many different parts of the city, with a single train line, requiring transfers to get on and off where the previous, bus-only network often did not. The other issue that Ottawa’s new passenger rail line seems to generate more and more of as time goes on is unreliability. Trains fail with alarming regularity, speaking to the appearance of corruption that surrounds the train line’s construction. With only this one line directly connecting its current stations, these failures have required winding bus-based substitution during these failures, far less efficient than the failing trains.

So, let’s return Ottawa to form, and also address some of the same longstanding transit inequalities that fueled my last experiment.

The corridor between Lincoln Fields and Rideau Stations, once the extremely busy heart of Ottawa’s transit system, becomes so again in rail form, shared between four light rail lines (here called the Confederation, Vanier, Woodroffe, and Rideau lines). Sharing this section between these four lines reduces the pressure on each station by making any of them able to serve as switching points between the lines, avoiding the issues that currently plague the endpoints of Line 1, and also enables people from any of the endpoints of the four proposed lines to get to downtown Ottawa and its workplaces and amenities. Upgrading the eleven stations along this overlap to handle this kind of interchange adroitly is part of the fantasy of this scenario, resulting in a system akin to Montreal’s intuitive warren of multi-platform stations.

The existing Line 1 / Confederation line (red) is extended westward along the route already proposed for upcoming construction phases and then still farther, on a path between existing transit stations out to Palladium in Kanata, finally providing a proper high-speed transit connection to Ottawa’s major sports and concert venue. In the east, it extends southeast from Blair rather than following the existing path toward Montreal Station, adding stations Blackburn (serving Blackburn Hamlet), Chapel Hill, Willow Aster, and Esprit before ending at Millennium Station. No spur line heading southward from Lincoln Fields is included; instead, the Woodroffe Line serves this path. The most important distinction between this concept and the actual Phase 2 proposal for extending Line 1 is that the real-world proposal follows the path to Montreal Station, thereafter overlapping what I suggest should instead be the easternmost end of a new Vanier (orange) Line. The official version will perpetuate the key transit inequalities that the existing rail network does nothing to address, and mine would instead radically improve rail accessibility.

To remedy the longstanding lack of proper transit connectivity in the northeastern neighborhood of Vanier, a dedicated Vanier Line (orange) starts in the east at Millennium Station, turns west at Trim Station, and connects the old Place d’Orléans, Jeanne d’Arc, and Montréal Stations and new stations at Elwood, Montfort Hospital, Notre Dame, Olmstead, and King Edward to the aforementioned transit corridor at Rideau Station. Its western terminus is at Lincoln Fields Station. With this, the residents of Vanier have ample access to the workplaces they often struggle to reach in downtown Ottawa, and people elsewhere can access the multitude of small businesses in Vanier that often require long commutes with multiple transfers at present.

The most intuitive addition to this fantasy Ottawa is the Carling Line (purple). This line runs from Palladium Station, overlapping and sharing stations with the Confederation line between there and Lincoln Fields.  It continues to run along Carling Avenue from there, with new stations at Carlingwood (serving Carlingwood Shopping Centre), Westgate (serving Westgate Shopping Centre), the Civic Hospital, Ottawa’s famous Glebe neighborhood, Lansdowne (near and serving Lansdowne Park and TD Place), and Main Street (serving Université St-Paul). It also connects to Carling Station, improving the utility of this under-utilized but well-placed rail connection. From Hurdman, it follows Line 1’s path to Millennium Station, making sure that this critical corridor for many residents of southeastern Ottawa is amply served and allowing them to access and be accessed by multiple parts of the city without much difficulty.

Another natural addition is the Woodroffe Line (yellow). This line runs from Rideau to Lincoln Fields Station along the aforementioned 11-station shared path and then continues south, serving Iris Station, a new West Hunt Club station (serving the Nepean Sportsplex), Baseline Station (continuing to serve Algonquin College), the existing transit hubs in Barrhaven, and some southern Ottawa stops (Riverview, Limebank, Bowesville) on its way to Leitrim Station. Barrhaven is another region of Ottawa whose transit connectivity to the rest of Ottawa has long been problematic and whose car-centric street plan makes this difficult to fix; a rail connection will go a long way toward making Barrhaven feel less like an exurb and more like a true part of Ottawa.

The fourth piece of the four-line transit backbone is the Rideau Line (gray). This line has its western terminus at Lincoln Fields, covers the shared path to Rideau, switches southward to share uOttawa, Lees, and Hurdman stations with Line 1, and then continues southward along the existing transitway corridor connecting Lycée Claudel, Smyth, Riverside Hospital, Billings Bridge, Heron, Walkley, Greenboro, and South Keys station, reaching its southern terminus at Leitrim. One of the most egregious limitations of the current transit network is that this bus pathway, which previously continued through Hurdman to downtown and beyond, now requires a transfer onto a train, and having a train line follow it and overlap the others addresses this issue while providing much-needed redundancy along the downtown path.

The last major east-west rail line is the Algonquin (blue) Line, which begins in the west at Palladium Station. From there, it heads south and serves a mix of new and old stations in Kanata and Nepean: Stittsville, Walter Baker, Castlefrank, Hazeldean, and Bells Corners. From here, its path follows Baseline Road and the streets Baseline Road becomes, connecting new stations at Queensway Carleton Hospital, Merivale, and Prince of Wales and old stations at Baseline (serving the eponymous Algonquin College), Mooney’s Bay, and Heron. It continues southeast through new stations for Herongate and Lorry Greenberg on to Hawthorne, replacing the somewhat convoluted bus connections in these areas with a shorter, clearer train system. From Hawthorne, it loops back north and west toward Hurdman Station, serving Elmvale Shopping Centre, a new Dauphin Station providing service to two schools in the area, and the main branch of the Ottawa Hospital along the way. In this way, rather than having a terminus at a relatively remote part of the city, it provides these areas with bidirectional connections to the rest of the network and finally provides a proper transit link for the Ottawa Hospital.

The existing Trillium Line / Line 2 (green) largely follows the current proposals, adding stations at Gladstone and connecting to the existing Walkley and South Keys station, and then connects through a new Uplands Station to the Ottawa Airport as its southern terminus. Serving the airport with a single line, which then connects to multiple other lines, will be more effective than the current proposal of a spur line connecting the airport while the main line continues south to Leitrim, which in this version instead serves the yellow (Woodroffe) and gray (Rideau) lines. This line becomes much more important to the overall system than it is at present, with most of its stations serving as connections to other parts of the network.

This plan is characterized by numerous connections between train lines. The entire length of Line 1 is also served by other train lines, which thus enable easy commutes to and from downtown Ottawa from much of the city. All lines have at least one terminus at a station served by other lines and north-south and east-west lines intersect frequently with one another. Lincoln Fields, Bayview, Rideau, and Hurdman Stations will become critical transit hubs where numerous lines intersect or converge, and Palladium, Baseline, Carling, Mooney’s Bay, Walkley, Heron, and Millennium Stations serve as secondary hubs that provide important switching points between north-south and east-west lines. Replacing the existing bus routes along the remaining rapid-transit corridors and the major roads of Carling and Baseline with train lines will enable Ottawa’s bus fleet to focus even more on last-mile trips that truly serve the interests of Ottawa’s people, reducing overall commute times accordingly. Just as importantly, providing accessible rail transit to the car-centric neighborhoods at Ottawa’s periphery will reduce those locales’ dependence on car traffic, improving movement between the different parts of Ottawa and creating the possibility of increased housing and other density in these places. Residents who migrated to Kanata, Orléans, and Riverside South specifically for an American-style poor-transit environment may protest, but suburbs are dying and trains will, mercifully, finally kill them.

Given that a great deal of this plan involves new stations and lines rather than repurposing existing bus rapid transit corridors, putting new stations underground will be critical, sparing surface infrastructure that can then continue to serve pedestrians, buses, and drivers. Even where there are existing bus stations, putting new train stations beneath them preserves bus accessibility on the surface and improves overall connectivity, as has already been seen at St-Laurent Station.

Map generated using Metro Map Maker, showing the rail connections described in the rest of this blog post.
Beautiful.
Note that adjacent train lines here share the stations on any one of them such that (for example) every station on the red line is also served by one or more other lines.
Map generated using Metro Map Maker (https://metromapmaker.com/?map=lMm95PzQ)

 

There is room for improvement and expansion here. Adam Bentley’s concept, which I continue to face with awe, imagines a connected rail network between Ottawa and Gatineau that also features longer-distance connections, out to the true exurbs of Hawkesbury, Perth, Brockville, and more. That was more than I was willing to entertain for a fantasy meant to serve Ottawa specifically, but provides a road map of sorts for how such a network might grow even larger.

Here are details in text form, for those who cannot easily access the information in the visual map beneath. Items without Notes are already rail stations. The stations noted here are a mix of entire new stations I propose, new stations from official plans, bus stations slated to become rail stations, bus stations that I suggest should become rail stations, and existing rail stations.

Confederation (Red) Line / Line 1 Notes
Palladium Currently bus station
Terry Fox Currently bus station
Eagleson Currently bus station
Moodie Currently bus station; rail in phase 2/3
Bayshore Currently bus station; rail in phase 2/3
Pinecrest Currently bus station; rail in phase 2/3
Lincoln Fields Currently bus station; rail in phase 2/3
New Orchard Proposed Phase 2
Cleary Proposed Phase 2
Dominion Currently bus station; rail in phase 2/3
Westboro Currently bus station; rail in phase 2/3
Tunney’s Pasture
Bayview
Pimisi
Lyon
Parliament
Rideau
uOttawa
Lees
Hurdman
Tremblay
St-Laurent
Cyrville
Blair
Blackburn New; serving Blackburn Hamlet
Chapel Hill Currently bus station
Willow Aster New; serving Mer Bleue / Renaud
Esprit New; serving Esprit / Brian Coburn
Millennium Currently bus station

 

Vanier (Orange) Line Notes
Lincoln Fields Currently bus station; rail in phase 2/3
New Orchard Proposed Phase 2
Cleary Proposed Phase 2
Dominion Currently bus station; rail in phase 2/3
Westboro Currently bus station; rail in phase 2/3
Tunney’s Pasture
Bayview
Pimisi
Lyon
Parliament
Rideau
King Edward New; serving King Edward / Rideau
Olmstead New; serving Olmstead / Montréal
Notre Dame New; serving St-Laurent / Montréal
Montfort Hospital New
Elwood New; serving Elwood / Montréal
Montréal Currently bus station; rail in phase 2/3
Jeanne d’Arc Currently bus station; rail in phase 2/3
Place d’Orléans Currently bus station; rail in phase 2/3
Trim Currently bus station; rail in phase 2/3
Millennium Currently bus station

 

Carling (Purple) Line Notes
Palladium Currently bus station
Terry Fox Currently bus station
Eagleson Currently bus station
Moodie Currently bus station; rail in phase 2/3
Bayshore Currently bus station; rail in phase 2/3
Pinecrest Currently bus station; rail in phase 2/3
Lincoln Fields Currently bus station; rail in phase 2/3
Carlingwood New; serving Carlingwood Shopping Centre
Westgate New; serving Westgate Shopping Centre
Civic Hospital New
Carling
Glebe New; serving Glebe / Bronson
Lansdowne New; serving Lansdowne Park and TD Place
Main New; serving Main Street and Université St-Paul
Hurdman
Tremblay
St-Laurent
Cyrville
Blair
Blackburn New; serving Blackburn Hamlet
Chapel Hill Currently bus station
Willow Aster New; serving Mer Bleue / Renaud
Esprit New; serving Esprit / Brian Coburn
Millennium Currently bus station

 

Woodroffe (Yellow) Line Notes
Leitrim Currently bus station
Bowesville Proposed Phase 2
Limebank Proposed Phase 2
Riverview Currently bus station
Nepean Woods Currently bus station
Beatrice Currently bus station
Barrhaven Centre Currently bus station
Strandherd Currently bus station
Longfields Currently bus station
Fallowfield Currently bus station
Baseline Currently bus station; rail in phase 2/3
West Hunt Club New; serving Nepean Sportsplex
Iris Currently bus station; rail in phase 2/3
Lincoln Fields Currently bus station; rail in phase 2/3
New Orchard Proposed Phase 2
Cleary Proposed Phase 2
Dominion Currently bus station; rail in phase 2/3
Westboro Currently bus station; rail in phase 2/3
Tunney’s Pasture
Bayview
Pimisi
Lyon
Parliament
Rideau

 

Rideau (Gray) Line Notes
Lincoln Fields Currently bus station; rail in phase 2/3
New Orchard Proposed Phase 2
Cleary Proposed Phase 2
Dominion Currently bus station; rail in phase 2/3
Westboro Currently bus station; rail in phase 2/3
Tunney’s Pasture
Bayview
Pimisi
Lyon
Parliament
Rideau
uOttawa
Lees
Hurdman
Lycée Claudel Currently bus station
Smyth Currently bus station
Riverside Hospital Currently bus station
Pleasant Park Currently bus station
Billings Bridge Currently bus station
Heron Currently bus station
Walkley Currently bus station; rail in phase 2/3
Greenboro
South Keys Currently bus station; rail in phase 2/3
Leitrim Currently bus station; rail in phase 2/3

 

Algonquin (Blue) Line Notes
Palladium Currently bus station
Stittsville New; serving Stittsville Main / Hazeldean
Walter Baker New; serving Walter Baker Park
Castlefrank New; serving Castlefrank / Hazeldean
Hazeldean New; serving Hazeldean Mall
Bells Corners New; serving Moodie / Robertson
Queensway Carleton Hospital
Baseline Currently bus station; rail in phase 2/3
Merivale New; serving Merivale / Baseline
Prince of Wales New; serving Prince of Wales / Baseline
Mooney’s Bay
Heron Currently bus station
Herongate New; serving Herongate Square
Lorry Greenberg New; serving Lorry Greenberg Community Centre
Hawthorne Currently bus station
Elmvale Currently bus station
Dauphin New; serving Hillcrest and Franco-Cité schools
Main Hospital New
Hurdman

 

Green (Trillium) Line / Line 2 Notes
Bayview
Gladstone Proposed Phase 2
Carling
Carleton
Mooney’s Bay
Walkley Currently bus station; rail in phase 2/3
Greenboro
South Keys Currently bus station; rail in phase 2/3
Uplands Proposed Phase 2
Airport Currently bus station; rail in phase 2/3

 

The visual map is deliberately abstract and square, rather than reflecting Ottawa’s actual geography. Of particular note is that Gray (Rideau) line bends westward as it proceeds southward, making its southern end much closer to the Green (Trillium) and Yellow (Woodroffe) Lines than this map shows and helping explain the relative lack of Blue (Algonquin) Line connections on the paths between them.

Then as now, it’s already clear that the current plans to expand Ottawa’s rail network does not follow a trajectory like this one, even with my efforts to incorporate existing station plans into this vision. Ottawa’s current plans follow existing transit corridors closely, presumably for cost and inertia, reasons, rather than attempting to use this opportunity to bring connectivity to places that don’t already have it. Like everything else in Ottawa, the official plan is cautious, limited, and doomed to disappoint, as people’s already-short hopes run afoul of Ottawa’s penchant for cost overruns and, increasingly, the sense that these improvements serve more as a way to enrich large construction firms than give Ottawa the transit network it deserves.

But it’s nice to imagine a better world.

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Imagining Ottawa’s Metro, Round Two
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