Ottawa Light Rail Video Pages.


Videos Links Convert the S.E. Transitway to Light Rail


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Note: A list of all Videos is located at the Bottom of this page.

Save 75 Million!

Convert the South-East Transitway to Light Rail First:

Describing the $75 Million cost saving of converting the South-East Transitway

to Light Rail as opposed to converting the North-South O-Train line to double track Light Rail.

Click here for Video on YouTube.

Attention: If you cannot connect to YouTube the video can also be downloaded on this site here:

Convert S.E. Transitway

I am geographer and a teacher, but I also have been a student of local planning in Ottawa since the mid 1970s. I recall that when the Bus-based Transitway was first proposed in the 1970s that it was designed and built so that it could be converted to rail-based transit service when the density of bus use reached a certain threshold. Stations, grade separation and roadways were designed so that Light Rail could be quickly and economically built and operated on the Transitway when it was time to convert the system to light Rail.

Michael Kostiuk

Michael Kostiuk

In comparison, the pilot project that was done on the railway line now occupied by the Ottawa O-Train was done to show how existing railway lines could be modified for commuter rail, as well as providing an auxiliary service to fill a transit need that was not being addressed by either buses or a future light rail system.  It was not intended to replace the South-East Transitway as a light rail route to downtown since the cost of converting it to double track with grade separation would be very expensive. Conversely, the South-East Transitway is ready for conversion to Light Rail use since it is grade separated and it also connects commuters to downtown and the east end of the city via the Hurdman station.

Unfortunately, these long terms plans from the 1970s have become confused and crisscrossed over the decades and we have a bus-based Transitway that is only being partially planned for conversion to light rail. The South-East Transitway is to remain for use by bus transit only. Meanwhile, the North-South O-Train line that was to serve as a pilot project for commuter rail will be converted to double track light rail at a VERY high cost. We also have a downtown tunnel that is to be the main spine for an east-west light rail service and until it is built and operational, a functional light rail system cannot be built and put into operation for Ottawa.

Based on what I have learned over the past 30 years about commuter rail (and building on the knowledge of many other people such as, but not limited to: Wellar, Doucet, Renfrew, Gow, Lane and Jeanes) it seems that if we were to go back to the original plan set out in the 1970s we could start building and operating a light rail system sooner and cheaper than is being proposed by the City of Ottawa.
I suggest that it could be done in the following manner:

Step one: Convert the South-East Transitway from Greenboro to Hurdman instead of double tracking the current O-Train from Greenboro to Bayview.  We should convert the South-East Transit way to light rail now based on the premise that it was designed to be converted to light rail service when the density of bus use reached a necessary threshold. Experts in public transit have stated that corridors that are used for public transit are suitable for buses if the passenger capacity is less than 2000 users per direction per hour. When the capacity reaches 2000 users per direction /hour then the system would be better served if it were converted to light rail. Currently the capacity on the South-East Transitway is approximately 3500 users per direction /hour and therefore, it has already surpassed the threshold for conversion to light rail.


South-East Transitway

South-East Transitway at Pleasant Park Station

As well, the South-East Transitway is grade separated, the stations are built to light rail standards and of course, it serves several important stops such as South Keys, the government employment Centre of Confederation Heights, Billings Bridge Plaza and the Riverside Hospital.

According to details provided by a recent graduate of a Masters in Planning program (David P James) in Calgary the cost of double tracking the North–South corridor that is occupied by the current O-Train is $75 million dollars more expensive that converting the South-East Transitway to light rail.

And, according to the April 2008 City of Ottawa Transit Report the North-South Light Rail cost in the Bayview-Greenboro corridor is $227 Million. If the same conversion costing methodology used on the East Transitway is applied to the South-East Transitway, the result is a cost of $152 Million, or a difference of $75 Million.

However, this information should hardly be surprising since such a project as the North-South Line requires widening the trench, moving the rail lines, building a parallel tunnel under Dow’s Lake, building a bridge over the Rideau River, widening the bridge under Heron Road, grade crossings for the Via tracks and the Walkley Yard, expanding the stations and double tracking the line. As Tim Lane pointed out:

"you can ONLY justify doing this expensive construction, if you then shift most of the people using buses on the South-East Transitway to get from the south end to downtown, onto the ELRT trains that would now be running on the O-Train line.

If you DON'T do this shift, and continue running large numbers of buses on the South-East Transitway, then you will have done NOTHING to reduce bus operating costs, and you will also be THROWING AWAY the huge investment you will just have made, in beefing up the O-Train double track ELRT."

Converting the South-East Transitway to Light Rail would also solve the load imbalance identified by Mr.Klaus Beltzner, where he pointed out that when you consider the vast numbers of STO riders coming into downtown Ottawa, there are already too many people entering Ottawa's downtown from the west, compared to the east.

Conversely, feeding all of the flows from the south, along an upgraded Double-Track the O-Train line, and into downtown from the west, would exacerbate this imbalance.
 Step two: Convert the Transitway from Hurdman to Blair (or farther east). Construction of the Light Rail Tracks can be done at night, on weekends and during the summer vacation period to lesson impact on existing service. Buses can also temporarily use alternate routes on nearby roads ways such as the Queensway for the Hurdman to Blair section and roads such as Riverside Drive and the Airport Parkway for the South-East Transitway
Step three: Place the Light Rail garage/maintenance facility in the east or south end of the city.
The Light Rail yard can be built in one of three locations that has been discussed over the years:

All three locations would be suitable for supporting light rail in the east and southeast Transitway corridors.

This route would NOT require the Light Rail Train to go through downtown Ottawa and it could be set up before the tunnel is completed and is ready for use.

This allows for the building of a Light Rail storage and maintenance facility, the purchase and delivery of Light Rail Vehicles and the training of staff. This is vital since there must be a facility for light rail storage and training BEFORE the light rail system is made operational.

Step four: operate the Light Rail from Greenboro to Hurdman and from Hurdman to Blair (or farther east).
Light Rail Transit users that are going downtown will get off at Hurdman and be transported downtown via bus and vice versa. Those transit riders that are going East or South will continue their journey on the Light Rail Train or transfer to a light Rail vehicle that is heading in that direction.

 Hurdman Air Photo

Hurdman Station.

Intersection of East and South-East Transitways

Step 5: Operate the Light Rail Line from Hurdman through downtown Ottawa west to Tunney’s Pasture/Lincoln Fields Station when the tunnel is completed and operational. Connections can also be made to the North-South Line and the Carling Avenue Line when it is built.

Note: The savings in $75 million dollars that is gained from converting the South-East Transitway for light rail can be applied to the building of the tunnel under downtown Ottawa or it could be applied to expanding the conversion of light rail on the west section of the Transitway.

The future South-East Light Rail system can be built cheaper and sooner than converting the North-South O-Train line.  I must emphasis both CHEAPER and SOONER since it is easier, quicker and cheaper to lay rail than to build the massive infrastructure that is required for the North-South Line (BEFORE rail can be put in place).
The current North-South O-Train system could also be expanded north across the Ottawa River and south as well if it is deemed necessary. This would allow rail-based service into Gatineau possibly up to the Casino de Lac Leamy. Such a service would help to reduce the number of buses and cars crossing the Ottawa River on a daily basis. 
By following the transit plans that the City of Ottawa established in the 1970s we can have a Light Rail-based Rapid Transit Service sooner and cheaper than is currently being proposed. In these current times of global economic uncertainty isn't’t saving $75 million worth it? 

Michael Kostiuk MA Geography, B. Ed. OCT, CCEP.


Additional support material is available here:

  1. A pdf format map showing the location of the South-East and East Transitways as well as the locations of the three potential Light Rail Maintenance/Storage Yards.

  2. Copies (pdf format) of the relevant sections of the April Transit report that details the costs of converting the North-South East Transitways to Light Rail. Report 1. Report 4.

  3. Video of Michael Kostiuk on YouTube describing the $75 Million cost saving of converting the South-East Transitway to Light Rail as opposed to converting the North-South O-Train line to double track Light Rail.


More Videos Here:

The following Videos and files on similar topics are available here:

Note: If you have a video viewing program such as Real Player (Available here: Real Player) you can also download the following videos to your computer

As an aid to using these videos I have also created a site with maps of many of these sites. You can view these maps by going to: Transportation Geography.


Pedestrian Related Issues


Links to Other Transportation Geography Related Sites



Dr. Barry Wellar, Program Chair
Geography Awareness Week 2009
Canadian Association of Geographers

Your web site has been selected as one of the ten outstanding Canadian web sites to be cited
for Transportation Day, Geography Awareness Week 2009, Canadian Association
of Geographers. The description of your web site and the reasons for its selection can be
viewed at:
You are welcome to announce the recognition given to your web site, and it
would be most appreciated if you added a note about Transportation Day, and a
link to the Transportation Day page, to your web site.

The introductions to Transportation Day 2007 and 2008 contain many of the basic
elements in the connection between geography and transportation, and serve as
background for 2009. As a result, the focus of commentaries for 2009 is on important,
prevailing geography-transportation processes and trends that are captured by
web sites selected for the Transportation Day component of Geography Awareness
Week 2009.

In terms of organization, the web sites which are national in scale are presented first,
followed by those which involve geography-transport topics, issues, etc., that have a
provincial, regional or local orientation. The following topics are among those that are
frequently mentioned in many and in some cases all the web sites:

The web sites for Transportation Day 2009 were selected by Barry Wellar, Professor
, University of Ottawa, Distinguished Research Fellow at Transport Canada
2000, and Principal, Wellar Consulting Inc.

Michael Kostiuk, MA Geography, B. Ed.

Last update: January 30, 2010.

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