Imagining Ottawa’s Metro, Round Three

A few months ago, I wrote a fantasy scenario for an expansive train network for Ottawa. The revised version of that that I posted in March was head and shoulders above that original. Now, it’s time to think even farther into the fantastical future. This article is meant to be a complete reference as well as a commentary on its predecessors and also contains some readability improvements on its map.

Even with its current ambitious plans to improve its passenger rail network, Ottawa’s public transit remains glaringly inadequate compared to other world capitals. This scenario represents a fantastical, pie-in-the-sky imagining of an Ottawa reliant on trains for much of its connectivity, doing its level best to render cars superfluous and buses necessary only for last-mile trips in much of the city.

A key part of this transit vision is the corridor of 11 stations between and including Lincoln Fields and Rideau Stations. As discussed in Round Two, four train lines with different starting and ending points (here called the Confederation, Vanier, Woodroffe, and Rideau lines) all share this corridor, which contains a large number of commercial and government facilities as well as transit hubs and which has historically been the heart of Ottawa’s transit network as well as its economy. The overlap of four train lines here returns Ottawa to the flexibility its transit network showed when this corridor served buses rather than trains, allowing commuters and travelers from many parts of the city to reach this area easily and with few or no transfers between lines. Extending this section to Lincoln Fields reduces the pressure on the currently overburdened Tunney’s Pasture station, and extensive overlap reduces the impact of individually unreliable trains on transit times. 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, Boulevard d’Orléans, and King Edward to the aforementioned transit corridor at Rideau Station. In the west, it continues along a route shared with the Confederation (red) and Carling (purple) lines to Eagleson Station in Kanata and then turns north, serving Teron Station and new stations along Kanata’s recently improved industrial corridor: March, Innovation, and Morgan’s Grant. 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. Likewise, high-speed accessibility for the northern Kanata corridor is improved, keeping this area connected to train interchanges farther east.

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, Baseline Station (continuing to serve Algonquin College), a new West Hunt Club station (serving the Nepean Sportsplex), the five existing transit hubs in Barrhaven (Fallowfield, Longfields, Strandherd, Barrhaven Centre, Nepean Woods), 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 stations. Here, it turns westward along nearby Bank Street, adding stations at Queendale and Findlay Creek to connect these outlying communities before 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 (brown) 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 a station 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 Woodroffe (yellow), Bank (blue), and Rideau (gray) 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.

The additions that make this a Version Three instead of minor corrections to Version 2 are two new north-south lines. These two lines are meant to reduce automobile traffic along two overburdened streets in Ottawa: Merivale and Bank.

The Merivale Line (light blue) begins in the north at Westboro station. It provides access to the shopping and residential areas of the Wellington West and Kirkwood neighborhoods at new Wellington and Hampton Stations and connects with the Carling (purple) line at Westgate Station. A new station at approximately Merivale and Caldwell provides speedy service for the residents of the Carlington neighborhood, enabling this train to largely replace bus routes that travel along Merivale. It then connects to the Algonquin (brown) line at Merivale Station and serves new Emerald (Emerald Plaza), Viewmount (Merivale Mall and Viewmount High School), Crossroads (Nepean Crossroads Shopping Centre), MacFarlane (Merivale / MacFarlane), and Leikin (Merivale / Leikin) stations before intersecting with the Woodroffe (yellow) and Bank (blue) lines at Nepean Woods. It has its southern terminus in Manotick, connecting this lovely exurb to the main transit system much more thoroughly than its current bus routes provide and making an intervening stop at the parks of Maple Hill along the way.

The other new addition is the Bank (blue) Line. Beginning in the south at Nepean Woods, this line follows the path laid out by the Woodroffe (yellow) line and, after Leitrim Station, the Rideau (gray) line. It diverges from the Rideau Line at Billings Bridge, where it continues north along Bank Street and serves new stations at Sunnyside, Central (serving the Ottawa Central Greyhound Station), and Somerset as well as the proposed Lansdowne Station. It connects to the main transit corridor at Parliament and continues north and east. Here, it serves seven new stations: Gallery (serving the National Art Gallery, Royal Canadian Mint, and similar attractions in the area), Research (serving the National Research Council headquarters), Stanley (serving Stanley Park), Mariposa (serving the residential neighborhood near Rockcliffe Park, a current transit dead zone), Aviation (serving the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum and Rockcliffe Airport), George-Étienne Cartier (serving a residential neighborhood), and Colonel By (serving another residential neighborhood and Colonel By High School). It connects to the Vanier (orange) line a second time at Montreal Station, passes through it to a new Louis-Riel station serving residences near Louis-Riel High School before ending at Blackburn Station. Essentially two routes in one, the Bank (blue) Line is designed to relieve the transit and car burden on Bank Street and provide additional connectivity to underserved neighborhoods in eastern Ottawa at the same time.

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, Eagleson, 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, Bank, Merivale, 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. There is room for additional improvements, particularly in Kanata, as transit corridors develop naturally and prove suited to conversion to rail.

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.

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
Morgan’s Grant New; serving Morgan’s Grant / Flamborough
Innovation Currently bus station
March New; serving March / Carling
Teron 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
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
Boulevard d’Orléans Proposed Phase 2
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
West Hunt Club New; serving Nepean Sportsplex
Baseline Currently bus station; rail in phase 2/3
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
Queendale New; serving Bank / Queendale
Findlay Creek New; serving Bank / Findlay Creek
Leitrim Currently bus station; rail in phase 2/3

 

Algonquin (Brown) 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

 

Merivale (Light Blue) Line Notes
Westboro Currently bus station; rail in phase 2/3
Wellington New; serving Wellington / McRae
Hampton New; serving Hampton Park at Kirkwood
Westgate New; serving Westgate Shopping Centre
Carlington New; serving Carlington at Merivale / Caldwell
Merivale New; serving Merivale / Baseline
Emerald New; serving Emerald Plaza
Viewmount New; serving Viewmount High School and Merivale Mall
Crossroads New; serving Nepean Crossroads Shopping Centre
MacFarlane New; serving Merivale / MacFarlane
Leikin New; serving Merivale / Leikin
Nepean Woods Currently bus station
Maple Hill New; serving Maple Hill and Beryl Gaffney Parks at Prince of Wales / Longfields
Manotick New; serving Manotick at Dr. Leach

 

Bank (Blue) Line Notes
Blackburn New; serving Blackburn Hamlet
Louis-Riel New; serving Louis-Riel High School
Montréal Currently bus station; rail in phase 2/3
Colonel By New; serving Colonel By High School
George-Étienne Cartier New; serving George-Étienne Cartier and Massey
Aviation New; serving Canadian Aviation and Space Museum
Mariposa New; serving Mariposa / Glenwood
Stanley New; serving Stanley Park
Research New; serving National Research Council near Sussex / Union
Gallery New; serving National Gallery of Canada
Parliament
Somerset New; serving Bank / Somerset
Central New; serving Ottawa Central Greyhound Station
Lansdowne New; serving Lansdowne Park and TD Place
Sunnyside New; serving Bank / Sunnyside
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
Queendale New; serving Bank / Queendale
Findlay Creek New; serving Bank / Findlay Creek
Leitrim Currently bus station; rail in phase 2/3
Bowesville Proposed Phase 2
Limebank Proposed Phase 2
Riverview Currently bus station
Nepean Woods Currently bus station
A detailed map of a proposed passenger rail network for Ottawa.
Beautiful.

 

The visual map is deliberately abstract and square, rather than reflecting Ottawa’s actual geography. Of particular note is that many of the lines shown as straight north-south or east-west here have angles and curves in them, leading them to vary in their distance apart from one another rather than be firmly parallel. This is reflected in the variable number of stations between “parallel” lines at various points on this map.

For readability, I have made several changes on this map relative to is predecessor. I have switched the Algonquin Line from blue to brown, using blue instead for the Bank Line, and I have moved many stations to positions that overlap less with surrounding lines. I have also stretched some areas of the map to reduce crowding and corrected small errors on the previous map. Unfortunately, there are limits to what this software can accomplish.

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 Three
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2 thoughts on “Imagining Ottawa’s Metro, Round Three

  1. 1

    It’s been five(?) weeks working from home. Maybe after this is all over, a rather large percentage of people will be able to continue to work from home and we wont be as dependent on OC transpo. I would still need it as a car is unlikely to be in my future, but it would be nice to only need it a few times a week instead of every day.

    This is the first time in almost three decades that I haven’t had a bus pass, I feel somewhat naked. Yet as I morn my presto pass, work sent an email saying that they are still working to stop auto payments for parking at Crown-owned lots… and I snicker.

    1. 1.1

      This is something I think about a great deal. A lot of the purpose of transit is getting people to and from their jobs, and if those are consistently closer to their homes, then transit loses a lot–but FAR from all–of its importance. If most people work from home, then a system as intensive as the one proposed here starts to seem far heavier than its actual role in society, but in a world where most people commute, it makes more sense. Regardless, electric trains provide a path toward lower-emission transit, and that’s still a laudable goal.

      I, too, am enjoying a dramatic reduction in how much I spend on bus travel, which is lovely.

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