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Delays aside, Ottawa needs the LRT

Photo: CC- Pikto Chart

Ottawa is on its way to joining the ranks of cities like Montreal and Toronto, and to do that is needs  fast, efficient public transit like the Light Rail Transit (LRT) system.

The City and its population has a large price to pay for this introduction though. Construction of the LRT has caused multiple traffic delays, shut down roads, and has caused  bottlenecks in OC Transpo bus routes. The second phase of construction is expected to cost $3 billion and be completed by 2018.

Rideau Street is being closed from Sussex to Dalhousie, for three years while construction of an LRT tunnel and stop is completed. The City has also begun directing buses onto the highway so they can close parts of the transit way for construction. This resulted in the backup on Sept. 8 that measured a distance of  almost three kilometres of buses from Hurdman station, one of the largest in the city, to Campus station.

Needless to say, three kilometres of bumper-to-bumper buses didn’t garner any good will from passengers.  It also didn’t help that Sept. 8 was the first day back to school with a higher than normal number of commuters on transit ways.

With such setbacks in mind, do we really need a new train system? The reality is that Ottawa is only going to get bigger and a train system will be needed at some point to augment our well-used transit system.

An LRT is an investment in Ottawa’s infrastructure that will make it easier and quicker for people to get from the suburbs to work downtown. Adding more buses to the current system is only going to cause greater congestion, while the LRT would relieve the congestion by getting vehicles off the road. Ottawa’s transit system is already large, with 144 routes covering a total of  5,500 km according to the OC Transpo website but that system will have to adapt to meet the City’s growing population. Between 2006 and 2011 Ottawa’s population increased by 71,262. This compares to growth charts released in 2007 that expect Ottawa’s population to continue growing with the highest estimates projecting a population of 1, 207,000 in 2031 compared to 985,000 in 2014, according to World Population Review. Creation of a light rail system can help meet the growing  demand.

The closures and reroutes that LRT construction has caused could have been handled better by the City, which has had since 2008, when the Transportation Master Plan was approved, to organize all of this. 

They should have better anticipated the problems that would come from all of these closures and had systems in place to handle them better than the band-aid solutions such as having a few people with flags handling a three kilometre backup.

Despite all the short-term problems it causes, Ottawa needs to grin-and-bear it until  the LRT system is completely. This is a new step forward for public transportation in the City, and one that’s desperately needed.