Friends of the O-Train

Friends of the O-Train is transit group composed of a number of community leaders, rail and transit experts, and concerned taxpayers. Our goal has been to present practical rapid transit options for the National Capital Region, for open discussion with anyone.
Email: friendsoftheotrain (at)

Quotes and Endorsements

Nov 23, 2006
Dear Mayor O'Brien,

Congratulations on your recent election as Mayor of the City of Ottawa. I am grateful that you ran as Mayor and I wish you all the best in the coming months.

I am writing to express my support for recent light rail plan proposed by the Friends of the O-Train.

The plan has been explained several times in the Ottawa Citizen. The article today by Patrick Dare in the Citizen clearly indicates that the plan has the support of the Albert/Slater business coalition leaders. Bus congestion in downtown Ottawa is terrible and the plan by the Friends of the O Train is simple yet effective.

In my view, the plan is superior to that currently proposed by the City of Ottawa. It solves the problem of bus congestion in the downtown core and it also allows for the light rail train that currently serves Carleton University to continue. Shutting down the O Train that services Carleton University for 3 years to build a new system would be disastrous.

The Friends of the O Train plan calls for keeping the existing popular and very comfortable clean burning diesel north-south O Train and running it farther south to Armstrong Road, where a park and ride would be operated. Service frequency would be improved from 15 minutes to 7.5 minutes between Bayview and South Keys.

That train and city buses would bring commuters from the suburbs to a transfer station at Bayview, west of downtown, or by bus to Hurdman station east of downtown.

There the commuters would transfer to an electric train that would offer service every three minutes through downtown between Bayview Station and Hurdman Station.
Buses would be kept out of downtown. The trains would have three cars that would carry up to 600 passengers in total.

The City would have the future option of adding legs of the transit system to Gatineau over the Prince of Wales bridge, to the Airport and to the VIA station in Barrhaven.

The plan proposed by Friends of the O Train would free up more buses for better service in MY neighbourhood. It would allow faster, more direct, more frequent buses from my area to Greenboro, for better connections to downtown.

This would allow me to take the bus to the Transitway, or the O Train, and not have to drive to Greenboro and use up valuable parking there, because the current bus service from my area is so poor.

And, the Friends of the O Train plan, because it reuses buses that currently sit downtown in a traffic jam of their own making, would not require the City to buy any additional buses, nor build any new bus garages!

I appreciate that many have worked hard for the O Train to serve the residents of Ottawa South. I urge you vote and support the Friends of the O Train Proposal. We can get a lot better bang for our hard earned taxpayer money by supporting the Friends of the O Train plan and keeping our beautiful diesel light rail train for truly RAPID transit in South Ottawa.

James Laws
Ottawa South Resident

Nov 21, 2006
Mr. Hume Rogers, of the Albert-Slater coalition of downtown businesses, yesterday said the Friends of the O-Train proposal presented during the municipal election could be "a very sensible solution" that downtown businesses would not fight.

Mr. Rogers said the community group's proposal needs professional study and financial details fleshed out. But he said it's a remarkable piece of work from a volunteer group.

"The basic concept of the plan is excellent," said Mr. Rogers, who is general manager of the Capital Hill Hotel and Suites. Read More


Nov 15, 2006
Local business group the Albert Slater coalition urged the mayor-elect to reject the existing plan and come up with a more cost-effective and viable solution.

"Both Albert and Slater are currently at or above their capacity to handle bus traffic in an efficient manner and adding the LRT to this mix will only make an already bad situation much worse," said coalition spokesperson Hume Rogers in a press release. "Unfortunately, the current plan does not reduce the volume of buses on the streets but in fact increases it by an average of over 13 per cent while significantly reducing the number of express routes from both east and west."

Mr. Rogers asked Mr. O'Brien to take a closer look at the Friends of the O-Train plan, which proposes to extend the existing diesel line to Armstrong Road in the south and add an electrified six-kilometre loop between Bayview and Hurdman.

Read more from the Ottawa Business Journal.

Nov 14, 2006

I don’t see the logic in the current LRT plan. Why throw away the existing OTrain? The Friends of the OTrain plan seems to make the most sense. It may not be perfect … but so far it seems to be the most logical one. Nothing’s stopping us from finetuning it further.

But then what will poor Bob have for a legacy?? lol

- Anonymous Blogger

Nov 7, 2006

A Plan Worth Considering - Splatto Blog
An Ottawa based volunteer group has given the city a great proposal for lightrail that makes far more sense than anything else proposed at this point in time. The group Friends of the O-Train has proposed a plan which will save us $340 million , make use of the existing O-Train track, remove all buses from the downtown transit corridors, increase the frequency of downtown service, and ultimately put more buses in the suburbs. Click the map to the right in order to see an enlarged, detailed version scanned from a copy of the Ottawa Citizen last week.

Seems like an ambitious, cost effective plan that addresses Queensway gridlock, doesn't it? The reason isn't because it forced upon us by an incumbent mayor, who refuses to take public opinion into account and cloaks the entire operation in secrecy. Likewise, it isn't because mayoral challengers are too busy writing off the current plan on the campaign trail.

Instead, it's because average citizens who care enough about the issue at hand have taken the time to properly study the facts and propose a concrete idea.

The LRT is turning out to be the top issue of the campaign, and the best proposal by far has come from a group of volunteers with no political interest. Perhaps it's time we had a sensible group like this running things down at 100 Laurier.


Mr. O'Brien, who also spent yesterday on the campaign trail, said he believes the "Friends of the O-Train have the beginnings of a solution," for the city's transit problems. (from: Ottawa Citizen)


CTV poll conducted over four days last week by the Strategic Counsel shows that 52 per cent of respondents feel the incoming city council should revisit the north-south light rail plan.


I am delighted to see that public transit has become the most important issue of this election campaign. For the first time we have consensus throughout the City of Ottawa that we must move commuters by transit.

I want to thank the Friends of the O-Train, a dedicated group of transit supporters, for their latest proposal, and I am committed to reviewing and considering the details of the plan.
Diane Holmes

Nov. 6, 2006
Thank you all for your great efforts in coming up with an alternative. I am a supporter of the o-train and an alternate LRT plan.
Jim Ryan, Candidate for city council
Ward 18 - Alta Vista

Dear Mr. Fanjoy,

I must say that I am quite impressed with your proposal and that I have changed my flyers to reflect an alternative to cancelling the original deal.
The savings alone are worth a second look.
As a fiscal conservative candidate for council, I applaud their work and look foreward to working with them and other like minded citizens in finding the right solution for Ottawa.
Excellent piece of work.
Gilles Chasles
Candidate for Ward 6
Stittsville Kanata-West

I do like your plan very much. It seems to be cost-effective and innovative. We all need powerful antidotes to the Mayor's train to nowhere.

Anu Bose PhD
Candidate Kanata North

Nov 3, 2006

Ottawa Citizen Poll:Are you in favour of the current north-south light-rail project?
Yes: 34%
No: 66%
"I am very impressed with the proposal from THE FRIENDS OF THE O-TRAIN to take city buses off Albert and Slater.It is a very positive and cost efficient solution to the proposed Light rail.If elected I will work with the Friends of the O-Train to implement a better system for the public."
Douglas Besharah
Ward 10 candidate for city council

The group Friends of the O-Train has come up with an O-Train proposal that actually makes sense. First off, financially it makes sense. The price tag is at about 450 million which is half the cost of the current plan. The current plan will cripple the city financially and leave us paying for the 30 million the O-Train is projected lose ever year. Furthermore the current plan means that the initial investment made for the Greenborough to Bayview line will be for naught. While the city paid 24 million for the trains and track, they will be ripped out and the city will receive only 7 million for the trains. Also the train, under the FOTO-T model will not be shut down which is a great bonus for Carletonites like myself....more
From blogger Suburban Tory

When I heard the solution proposed by the Friends of the O-Train on the radio, I immediately understood that it addresses not only the problem the north-south LRT is meant to solve but at a fraction of the cost to capture the expected increase in net ridership; it also addressed the most critical problem of a congested and rush-hour grid-locked downtown core. The latter is addressed by providing a dedicated, safe ELRT corridor through the downtown core to shuttle commuters from buses terminating at Hurdman and Bayview stations into the downtown core. Having ELRT trains leaving every few minutes from these stations at rush hour to pick-up/deposit all commuters from/to the core will be a dramatic improvement over the status quo which leaves commuters fretting over finding the right bus in a long train of buses and once on board, fuming because the bus sits in traffic for 15 and occasionally up to 30
minutes trying to get out of the core.
Via Email

Nov 2, 2006
Great plan and makes sense. With some tweaking I am sure it would be better than the current propo$al. Some other notes I am sure you and others have thought of..

Add the Airport link asap -- who cares what the cabbies and parking people think.
Add the Gatineau link asap -- It would be in their best interest as well and the bridge is already there.

Make major Transfer Stations at Bayview and current Ottawa VIA Station -they would be the bookends of a downtown LRT.

Once that goes well then add more commuter train lines coming in from the West and East on existing rail lines that already come into the main VIA station.

Move the ScotiaBank Place to Lebreton flats (just joking.. seeing if you are still reading) I am sure you have lots of ideas.. if you are interested in a few more of mine let me know. We have to make better use of what we already got.

Jason (via email)


I just wanted to let you know in the next few days, I will be posting a complete endorsement of your o-train plan as reported on October 31st. The Friends' plan is cost effective, makes use of existing resources, addresses the east-west traffic problem, will allow the current o-train to remain in operation during construction, allows for very simple future expansion, and will increase the quality of service both along the existing o-train route and downtown. Thanks for providing such a realistic, intelligent option to the debate.

Matt (via email. Here's his site)


Larry O'Brien at Barrhaven mayoral debate: "We need to stop the proposed plan and review some of the other proposals brought forward including the plan by the Friends of the O-Train."


CFRA Poll:
55.2% - Sounds much better & more affordable than council's plan
4.42% - Council's North-South trains to Barrhaven are the best plan
23.8% - Light rail should be built now west to Kanata & east to Orleans
15.4% - Now is the time to build a downtown transit tunnel
1.06% - Other
1407 Total Votes

Oct 31, 2006:

Absolutely brilliant timing and what great uptake! If this doesn't stop
the current stupidity, nothing will. You're all terrific! Thank you,
thank you, thank you for all your efforts.

Cheers - Ida

That is BRILLIANT! I just hope someone actually gets off their "I'm a city planner and I know everything" high horses and give the practical plan a chance.
I know, wishful thinking.
anonymous blogger - link
If the frequency is high, this makes sense to me. I'd much rather make 3 quick transfers than go on a milkrun and end up stuck in downtown traffic everyday just to stay on the same bus.
anonymous blogger - link
“In order to do it for as little cost as possible, we didn't
electrify the line, which would have been very expensive,''
Gault says”.

“... its diesel engines will cause pollution and that its failure to run right into the downtown core will keep potential commuters away.... Gault dismisses the environmental concerns, pointing out the pollution prevented by getting a trainload of potential drivers off the roads .... this is an incredible environmental benefit.''
Helen Gault (Director of Planning, OCTranso) in a 2001 Toronto Star news article, stating the merits of deisel O-Train.
Many people who live in big cities with LRT or Subways have to transfer 2 and 3 times to get where they are going. Ottawa's "bus from every neighborhood to the downtown core" system is no longer sustainable. We have to move to a big city hub and spoke model.
A 3 car train would be about the same length as 2 articulated buses. Every platform along Albert/Slater can handle that and then some.
anonymous blogger - link
The City of Ottawa needs an integrated regional rapid transportation
plan, which is safe, fast, convenient and affordable." Said O'Brien "This proposal from the "Friends of the O-Train" is a good example of community driven solutions to community issues, and deserves serious consideration."
Larry O'Brien
Mayoral Candidate

Congratulations David on a well thought out plan. I was planning on motioning for a bus hub system from Hurdman to Bayview using one bus route in order to get the other buses off of Albert St. Your plan works much better.

I will be promoting this plan and hope you will accept me into the Friends of the O'Train. I am a regular user of public Transit and will continue to use public transit even after the elections.
Catherine Gardner
Barrhaven Candidate

Oct 30, 2006:
Gary Ludington welcomes Practical LRT Alternative for Ottawa

Kitchissippi ward candidate Gary Ludington says the Practical LRT Alternative is a good start to getting a workable light rail system for Ottawa.

The Alternative, which was released this morning by the Friends of the O-Train, is a "useful alternative that solves a number of problems with the current city plan and can be used as the basis for fixing light rail," Ludington said.

He thanked the Friends of the O-Train for contributing to the LRT debate in a practical way -- by looking for real solutions. He particularly praised the extension to Gatineau, which he had already called for as a necessary link for the many commuters to federal jobs in Quebec.

Ludington said the "Practical Alternative" should be carefully reviewed by City engineering staff and the general public. "The alternative plan points the way to achieving a significant cost-saving while preserving the current O-Train service and expanding it in ways I advocated three years ago when I last ran for City Council."

"A central theme of my campaign is greater transparency in how decisions are made at the City. Many of the problems with the current LRT proposal arise from the reluctance of City staff and politicians to share relevant information with the general public. Let's not make the same mistake twice."

For more information:
Gary Ludington Campaign

Oct 30, 2006 Update:

College Ward candidate Brett Delmage supports Practical LRT proposal

Brett Delmage, a candidate for City Council in College Ward, praised the Practical LRT Alternative for Ottawa that was released this morning by the Friends of the O-Train.

"This alternative provides an excellent basis for a sensible, cost-effective rethinking of Light Rail. It works to solve the traffic jams on our north-south arterials, while still leaving funds for starting work on east-west Light Rail that can serve College Ward residents."

Delmage has proposed using the existing E-W rail tracks which form the southern boundary of College Ward in order to provide rapid transit access for currently-difficult-to-serve areas like Merivale Road and Bells Corners.

He said the Practical LRT Alternative makes much better use of existing N-S rail infrastructure, and avoided boondoggles like the proposed city LRT extension to Barrhaven. "I've heard at the door from residents in my ward that their friends in Barrhaven aren't happy with the LRT plan. Why should they be, when LRT will take 40 minutes to go downtown, instead of 25 minutes on an express bus?"

Delmage noted that the other College ward candidate, Rick Chiarelli, had voted in favour of the Barrhaven LRT extension.

"This initiative is also a perfect example of the depth of expertise and involvement that citizens are willing to give to their city. As a former chair of an advisory committee to City Council, I've supported citizen involvement which helps ensure that city decisions are well-thought-out, workable, and cost-effective."

For more information

Brett Delmage Campaign

The express bus system has the worst cost recovery of any OC Transpo peak period routes.
–Tim Lane

[On ridership under the Practical Plan:]
It is a difficult thing to answer without a lot of underlying assumptions. This is something that a group of citizens can not do on our own, without resources.

The Deluxe Way has a net decrease in ridership due to cancellation of express bus service.

There can be no increases in ridership to/from the city's core because of the bus congestion downtown, which our plan solves.

Our plan also frees up a lot of peak-hour buses for use in suburban areas, and in particular, may permit creation of more suburban/industrial park express routes. (Without having to purchase additional buses!)
-Michael Richardson (email Oct 27/06)

I endorse this well-considered plan as a proposal for community discussion and comment during the final weeks of the election campaign, followed by its consideration by the Mayor and Council to be elected on November 13th.

Replacing the convoys of buses which crowd Albert and Albert Streets with comfortable, easy-to-board, regularly-timed light rail trains will benefit all travelers downtown - pedestrians, cyclists, transit users, and car and truck drivers.
-David Gladstone

There is every reason to believe that the Practical Alternative will make a significant direct contribution to achieving the City's 30% modal split target for the following reasons:
- Our plan eliminates all delays and all congestion arriving to and departing from downtown.
- At no extra cost, our plan allows peak hour express, regular, and arterial bus service to the LRT terminals to increase route frequencies by 40% or more.
- Frequency and reliability of transit service is among strongest variables that increase ridership.
- Our plan provides the infrastructure to double peak hour ridership through the downtown core compared to either the current situation, or the City's proposed mix of LRT and buses.

In contrast, we know conclusively that the City's proposed LRT plan will result in an increase of only 1,090 net new peak hour riders, at the cost of eliminating 30% of express routes and canceling the O-Train for 2.5 years (over 5 million riders).
-Stephen Fanjoy

I used to live a stone's throw from LeBreton Flats and often thought about how much better downtown would be if long lines of noisy, fumy buses were removed. In rush hour it can take as long as 35 minutes by bus from LeBreton to the Rideau Centre. I can cycle it in about 10 minutes. I once counted 28 buses in a line from the DND building west. This long line of buses was like a train with 28 engines. Just plain stupid.
-Ann Coffey (email Oct 27)

The Talent diesel O-Train is double articulated and 48 m long and can seat 135 passengers. I will not use the 150 standees in this argument. The platform lengths on the line do not permit running units in pairs, but that can be solved. The proposed electric Light Rail Vehicle, the single articulated Siemens S70 Avanto can seat 72.and is 29 m long. So it needs two S70 Avantos to replace one Talent. Since OCTranspo proposes to operate single units only, they are in effect halving the productivity of their manpower. And manpower is the most costly item in a transit budget. Is not the purpose of capital investment to reduce operating costs and improve productivity?
Light Rail lines serve destinations, such as Universities, Downtown Central Business District, Airport, Hospitals, Hotel districts and Transit collection points. Passengers do not walk at the residential end to Light Rail, They would if there was coordination and design between Land Use and Light Rail stops, like is done in Stockholm. There is no evidence in Ottawa that there is creative land use design around stations. Residential passengers either use a feeder bus, a car for Park-and-Ride, get dropped off (also called Kiss-and-Ride), or use a bike. If Ottawa wants to have a light rail line closer to Barrhaven, they should construct a Light Rail line parallel to the VIA line. It would be more direct.

John Bakker, Professor-Emeritus, Civil Engineering (Transportation)University of Alberta, from a forthcoming article in Transport Action.


At 1:32 PM, Blogger Klaus Beltzner said...

It is always heart-warming and gratifying to see a citizen-based group
(Friends of the O'Train) getting it right. The question must be asked why
this was not possible through our elected politicians and the city's
light-rail project leaders. How could they have gotten it so wrong and why is
it that they have been so determined to ram their seriously flawed
transportation solution through a process that denied council and the people
of Ottawa the right to all the facts (the contract and alternatives)?

The only answer that I could come up with is that the city's LRT "solution"
was decided by those who would expect to profit/benefit from it and then the
game plan was to push the favoured solution through a public consultation
process which limited the options, information and time needed for informed
public comment and council decision. This is what we experienced - the LRT
champions, the city's light-rail project leaders and the mayor,
pushing/bullying their plan through council with tactics to limit
alternatives (all other plans/proposals were judged by these champions to be
"less efficient, and/or too expensive, and/or contrary to the city's official
and transportation plans, and/or carrying "significant risk of ridership
loss") and mounting astounding pressure to force agreement (e.g. telling
council that not supporting/accepting/passing their solution would deny the
city $400 million in federal and provincial grants and impose hundreds of
millions of dollars in penalties and/or cost overruns) all the while not
allowing anyone else to review the Contract because of "confidentiality". All
of this of course unravelled once Mr. Baird of the federal government
demanded to see the contract and let the cat out of the bag.

As a result, on November 13, 2006 mayor Chiarelli will go down in defeat and
the mayor's LRT project as he saw it will not happen. Instead, we will vote
for a mayor who will move ahead with Siemens to build the first leg of the
electric LRT as laid out by the Friends of the O-Train, expand the O-Train,
and work on revising the remainder of the fixed price Siemens contract to
build a link to Gatineau.

Klaus Beltzner,

At 5:30 PM, Blogger Christine Leadman said...

Congratulations! to the Friends of the O-Train for spearheading yet another viable plan for public transit. The Let's Do It Right Campaign, of which I was a member along with a host of other public transit advocates, community associations and Transport 2000 supported the recommendations and suggestions of Transport 2000 to the City. Although these alternatives were brought forward they were rejected.

This alternative makes so much sense, is demonstrated successfully in other cities and is true value for tax dollars. Toronto has a multi-system service that functions quite effectively.

It is interesting to read how some people are suddenly jumping off the "LRT" caboose and claiming to see value in this proposal. An "Inconvenient Truth" when it was apparent from the outset.

Let's hope that we have an opportunity to rework the system to the benefit of all taxpayers.

Christine Leadman
Candidate, Kitchissippi Ward 15

At 8:04 PM, Blogger Anthony Gagne said...

My name is Anthony Gagne and I have been a transit user since as far back as I can remember. I definitely do agree that the system that's in place is absolutely unacceptable. To put this in perspective it takes about 7 min. to go from my apartment near Blair Station to Hurdman. It tooks over 20 min. at times to go from Hurdman to Bayview (which is a lot shorter of a distance). The idea of having to transfer multiple times may be unappealing to some users, especially ones that are used to taking one express bus all the way downtown. However, if it means having to deal with another snowstorm fiasco where all the buses were backlogged outside of the downtown core then I think the choice is clear.

I do have a few questions regarding your plan for ELRT and the O-Train expansion to Riverside South (the Earl Armstrong P&R):

The fact that passing tracks will be implemented instead of completely double-tracking the train will mean little to no downtime for the existing service.

I believe the best way to encourage people to take the rail between Lebreton and Hurdman is to make it frequent and making the feeder routes from the suburbs more frequent will definitely help. At least some people have a clear plan and Bob Chiarelli definitely doesn't. I hope this proposal gets implemented because it'll be nice to go through downtown and not wait at the Mackenzie King Bridge for 10 min. getting through the Rideau Centre.

Lastly, the best way to link Barrhaven to the NS line would be to extend it along the existing SW Transitway from Confederation to Hurdman, creating a bypass option for users coming from the south and west. It will also make the eventual implementation of EW light rail more convenient. Going down the VIA corridor is the only valuable way to quickly link Barrhaven and the downtown core.

At 9:38 AM, Blogger Celine Bak said...

Wow! How wonderful to have learned about the FOT and your plan.

Time is pressing.

Today November 6th, is the all candidates debate for Sandy Hill.

Can someone from the FOT coalition be present to help us press for this plan with our ward's candidates?

Celine Bak

Sandy Hill

At 11:35 AM, Blogger Michael said...

I sent a shorter version of this to my city councillor, Clive Doucet, who is a fervent supporter of the existing light rail plan:

Now that the election is over and the writing is on the wall I suggest that you seriously consider the proposal put out by friends of the O-train. The current Barrhaven electric plan is a piece of social engineering, not traffic engineering, and it is going to die. Time to do better, much better.

The 85% of people who voted against the one mayoralty candidate have it right, and the experts in house have it wrong: this is a wisdom of crowds effect that should not be ignored.

The FOTOT plan is clearly a better solution: With extensions to the airport and Diesel trains along Via track to Barrhaven station it solves a real need in a practical manner. Add a link to Gatineau and the Airport and two other dire urban issues are solved.

Existing track can be used westwards towards the Kanata business park, through Carp, all the way to Arnprior. People who live downtown and work in Kanata could finally get off the roads and take the train. The bus doesn’t cut it. I’ve tried. This does.

New track would only need to be laid for the link from Hurdman to Rockland along the 174 corridor, and the core infrastructure is done. Existing track would bring service as far east as Cassleman. Those spurs could be done using low-cost diesel trains in the same mold as GO transit in the Toronto corridor. The new deluxe trains are nice, but for the more rural extensions a less expensive GO train may be enough.

Why isn’t this being considered? Is it because it is not expensive enough? Why?

The existing Carp line goes as far west as Arnprior, and joints with track that goes south through to Almonte, Carleton Place, and as far south as Smiths Falls before looping back towards Barrhaven in a great circle that needs no turnarounds. If Ottawa was serious about getting cars off the road this is it, it would eliminate the need for long distance commuting from locations as far as Smiths Falls, Merrickville, and Richmond. All communities benefit, not just one.

A GO-Transit style diesel train solution would solve traffic problems for the foreseeable future. People in Almonte could take the rail to jobs in Kanata, and comfortably travel downtown. People living in the downtown core would have two trains, one electric and one diesel, to their jobs in Kanata. This solves problems for the greater area, not just for one neighbourhood. It is practical and it is smart. Even if it takes as long or longer you are no longer driving, you can do other tasks. VIA rail already has wireless internet in its trains. For a fee you can take your office with you onto the train. Why not offer the same service for commuters from the far west to downtown? Why not offer this as a premium service that makes the train better than the car, no matter what?

I am not sure why electric cars are a requirement. They are impractical in the outer burbs due to low density and high implementation cost. If GO works for TO why not here?


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