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)

Friends' FAQ

1. How can the O-Train frequency be reduced to 7.5 minutes without adding extra track somewhere?
2. What are some of the key differences between the FOTO proposal and the city's LRT project?
3. Where will maintenance and storage facilities go?
4. If the current O-Train is from Bombardier, and this service will be expanded to the South, does Siemens have a comparable model train?
5. Why does your plan call for eliminating buses from downtown?
6. Why don't you extend the train to my neighbourhood?
7. To get all the federal and provincial financial assistance the total project has to be $600 million. If the Friends' plan is only $438 million, how might the remaining $162 million be used?
8. The City's N-S plan calls for a station at Gladstone. Why isn't a station already there?
9. What happened to the planned station at Lester? And will there be one at Walkley?
10. Who are the Friends of the O-Train anyway?

1. How can the O-Train frequency be reduced to 7.5 minutes without adding extra track somewhere?

The short answer is that extra tracks will be required. The FotO proposal calls for short lengths of extra tracks, known as "passing tracks", to be placed at strategic points along the line.

Adding passing tracks is a standard way to improve frequency on a single track line.  Generally, one fewer passing track is needed than the number of trains serving the line. We have identified a number of places where it would be easy to add passing tracks, much more cheaply than double-tracking the whole line and without closing down the current O-Train service for 3.5 years.

The whole Canadian railway system works this way.  Even where you see two tracks on Canadian railways, such as between Montreal and Toronto, they are generally parallel single tracks with trains running in both directions on each
track and switching back and forth to pass.

Many LRT systems overseas use single track in sections where cost or corridor land availability are a problem.  Even one of the newest in Britain, the Croydon Tramlink system in South London, had single track sections on bridges over railway lines and under roads, on a rural section, and into the busy Wimbledon terminal. The same is true for sections of the newest British LRT system in Nottingham, as well as LRT in Birmingham, Sheffield, etc. In the US there are single track sections on many LRT systems, such as St. Louis, Portland, and Sacramento CA.

City staff actually committed to Council, when the O-Train first started, to study the need for additional trains and passing tracks, but they never did. They were also supposed under the statement of work for the North South EA to study the possibility of extending the diesel O-Train to a new park-and-ride in the vicinity of Leitrim Road, where the tracks were still in place, but they never did that either.

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2. What are some of the key differences between the FOTO proposal and the city's LRT project?
Cost Savings of our proposal compared to the City's project:

$120 million is saved by not having to buy new buses and bus garages.  Instead the buses will be used to provide better local feeder service to the Hurdman and Bayview hubs and the Armstrong park and ride.

Our proposal is costed at $438 million.  That's $340 million less than the city's plan.

The cost savings can be used to improve service on existing express and regular routes, and it can be used to run the O-Train out to Bells Corners, Kanata, Carp, Barhaven, Richmomd, and to Gatineau (to reduce most if not all blue Gatineau buses along Rideau and Wellington Streets).

Whereas the City is proposing to add to the Slater/Albert street transit congestion by adding a single car LRT line, we propose to eliminate the transit congestion by eliminating all buses on these streets. Whereas the City is proposing a slow single car LRT from Barhaven to the University of Ottawa, we are proposing a fast three-car shuttle LRT train in both directions every 3 minutes between Hurdman and Bayview, and a three-car LRT O-Train service every 7 minutes between Bayview and Earl Armstrong.

Whereas the City is proposing to build a single car LRT to Barhaven that takes longer than the existing Express Buses, we are proposing to bring O-Train service to Barrhaven that is faster than the Express Bus.

Whereas the City is proposing to scrap its total investment in the award-winning O-Train and take three years to replace existing LRT service between Bayview and Greenboro, we are proposing to build on our O-Train investment by expanding it to Earl Armstrong, to Gatineau and to Barhaven, Bells Corners, Kanata, Carp and Richmond.

Wheras the City is proposing a $900 million LRT line to compete directly with its over 1 billion dollar investment in bus transitways, we are proposing an integrated transit system that builds on success and reuses and maximizes past investment for a transit solution to actually meet the City's target for transit ridership.

Some of the technical differences of our plan compared to the City's project:
The City is proposing a streetcar service (single-cars), we are proposing running trains (multiple-cars).

While the City proposes that the lanes on Albert and Slater will be shared bus-LRT and the lanes on Mackenzie King Bridge will be shared private car-LRT, we suggest that the LRT lanes downtown be dedicated throughout.

Buses removed from Albert and Slater would be used to provide a local feeder service.  Their plan calls for removing neighbourhood buses. We feel that getting more bus service into the neighbourhoods, combined with a more
comfortable, cleaner, and faster way to get through downtown is what will get a higher percentage of the population to use transit.

While they plan to run a 1-unit LRT every 5 minutes, we can run a 3-unit LRT train every 3 minutes, (200 passengers versus 600 per train and 2400 versus 12000 per hour).

They do say that they can run a train every 3 minutes in future or increase the length to 2 units, but they aren't buying enough vehicles to do that, while we are.

They will also be running the LRT mainly empty westbound in the morning and eastbound in the afternoon. Our plan has good loadings in both directions between Hurdman and Bayview.

While they say that the speed in the suburbs will be limited to 80 km/h and 40-50 km/h on curves, we propose that the suburban speed can be up to 120 km/h and the curves  superelevated to avoid speed restrictions.

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3. Where will maintenance and storage facilities go?

Potential sites that can be used as a maintenance and storage facility include:

  1. Vimy House, former Champagne Streetcar Barn & bus garage.

  2. Bayview City works yard, north of the Transitway, on the east side of Bayview Road.

  3. Hurdman area.

  4. Former Algonquin College Lees Ave. campus.

  5. Former railway passenger coach storage and servicing yard, Ottawa Station

An Environmental Assessment would determine the best option.  Minor expansion of the current Walkley O-Train maintenance and storage facility could be done without an EA.  This could be done to satisfy the service requirements of our proposed expanded line to Armstrong park and ride.

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4. If the current O-Train is from Bombardier, and this service will be expanded to the South, does Siemens have a comparable model train?

Siemens has very similar products to Bombardier. The DLRT models (Siemens' Desiro and Bombardier's Talent) share styling, similar floor height, similar model of MTU diesel underfloor engine, similar INDUSI automatic train control, similar body width at floor (so matches platforms).

Siemens Desiro has one articulation joint versus two for the Talent, and has two doors, spaced differently from the three Talent doors.  This would work at Bayview but would require one added platform edge extender at the other station platforms, a minor issue.
Both trains would be serviced the same way but the jack spacing in the shops would be different, (should also be a minor issue).

You don't have to buy all your vehicles from the same manufacturer. Some US systems are buying LRVs from multiple suppliers. Some small European operators have as many as three different manufacturers' DLRT.

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5. Why does your plan call for eliminating buses from downtown?  Don't we need some buses?

We propose eliminating only the current Transitway buses from Albert and Slater. Other local bus route would continue undisturbed. Albert and Slater Street bus congestion has been operating at capacity for several years and, with the exception of the Friends' plan, there are no other cost-effective ways to service growth. The city's plan of mixed bus and train service actually makes congestion worse and will
require major Express service cancellations.

It is worth noting that Express service cancellations were approved in Council July 12 vote in favour of the proposed LRT, yet no public consultations for Express
route cancellations were conducted.

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6. Why don't you extend the train to my neighbourhood?

There are many extensions that could be done to both north/south line, and the downtown line.  We limited our October 30 announcement to work that we think can easily be done in the current project plan/contract, using currently completed Environment Assessments.  We also limited our proposals to things that we felt were urgent, specifically solving the downtown bus congestion problem that has plagues Albert and Slater streets since at least 2001.

In doing our detailed planning and costing, we did come up with a number of extensions that could be done as demand required and money permitted.  Some of these will take political work with other jurisdictions, and some of these are just a question of deciding that they need to be done.

These extensions are in alphabetical order - each would cost about $50M and take about 1 year to complete.[See the Extensions page for details on each option.]
AIRPORT extension - 2km
BILLINGS - 2.5km
Terrasse de la Chaudiere - 3km

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7. To get all the federal and provincial financial assistance the total project has to be $600 million. If the Friends' plan is only $438 million, how might the remaining $162 million be used?

We've outlined several easy and economical extensions that are compatable with our plan.

Since the practical plan has a cost of only $438M (at a cost of $146M to the city), an expenditure of an additional $54M on the city's part would leverage an additional $108 in federal and provincial funding. There is therefore a possible
additional $162M that could be spent on any of the extensions listed here, or to provide better transit service elsewhere in the city.

Remember, this is all taxpayers' money, with the bulk of the city's portion coming from gas tax revenue.  The rest of the city's part was going to be coming from a property tax increase.

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8. The City's N-S plan calls for a station at Gladstone. Why isn't a station already there?

They ran out of money in the original budget. They failed to take up the offer of a local office building developer to help pay for it.

Before the welded rail went in in 2003, they weren't sure the timetable could accommodate the extra stop. Helen Gault told City Council later that this was no longer a problem.

They were supposed to study it as a priority addition to the existing O-Train. They failed to do this.

There is LOTS of demand within about 400 m (Adult High School, St Anthony's and Sala San Marco Banquet Halls, highrise seniors residence, assisted City housing, Preston Hardware, Sakto Office buildings, lots of restaurants, Italian community centre, St. Anthony's Italian church, schools, bus routes (3 and 14), Great Canadian Theatre Company (soon to go), BA Banknote Company, etc. etc.

It also has direct residential walk-in access from all four quadrants, thanks to the pedestrian bridge at Young Street.

This photo shows the vestiges of the turnout at the
south end of the passing track between Gladstone Avenue and the Queensway, looking North. It shows the diverging route actually curved the WRONG way.  According to all the textbooks, "You can't DO that!". But I guess the NCC, who dug the rock cut and built the tracks there in the mid 60's, didn't subscribe to those textbooks.  It worked OK for over thirty years.

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9. What happened to the planned station at Lester? And will there be one at Walkley?
There is no need for a station at Lester, as it is in the middle of the greenbelt with no walk-in, planned bus routes, or park and ride, so City Council voted in July to delete it from the plan.

A stop at Walkley depends on some signal and track improvements to allow slightly faster running and also the willingness of a developer to build a station there, but it is certainly not ruled out by our plan.

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10. Who are the Friends of the O-Train anyway?
Friends of the O-Train is a group of volunteers whose goal it is to raise awareness of workable transit options in Ottawa. We're comprised of transit experts, rail enthusiasts and regualar individuals many of whom have served on several city committees such as..
· Light Rail Pilot Project Steering Committee
· Light Rail Pilot Project Sounding Board
· Light Rail Pilot Project Environmental Assessment Public Advisory Group
· Rapid Transit Expansion Study Advisory Group
· North-South Light Rail EA Public Advisory Group
· East-West Light Rail EA Public Advisory Group
· East-West Light Rail Technical Advisory Group
· Alta Vista Transportation Corridor Public Advisory Group
· Light Rail Maintenance Yard Public Working Group
· Highway 417 (Central Section) Public Consultation Group
· Southwest Transitway Extension Public Advisory Group
· Gatineau Rapibus Public Consultation Group
· Carling to Bayview LRT Corridor Community Design Plan
· Bayview Yards Community Design Plan Working Group
· Bronson Escarpment Community Design Plan Working Group
· Rockcliffe Airbase Redevelopment Public Consultation Group
· NCC Plan For Canada's Capital Public Working Group
· NCC Lebreton Flats Redevelopment Working Committee
· NCC Sparks Street Public Working Group
· City of Ottawa Downtown Urban Design Plan Working Group

The 85% vote against Bob Chiarelli was a strong vote againt the proposed LRT plan, which was the most hotly debated issue in the election.

Ottawa residents want something better than the city's proposed LRT project, and that is what we offer. Our goal is not to design Ottawa's transportation solution, but to offer recommendations on where to start making changes to achieve the best value for money. We serve those who want effective public transit - the residents of Ottawa, not developers, land owners or senior city staff.

Contact Us for more information.


At 12:55 AM, Blogger shikhan said...

What about off-peak hours? This is a great plan for rush hour, but people still come to and from downtown on evenings and weekends. Since there's little congestion during those periods, would cross-town bus service resume after hours? I live downtown, and I wouldn't want to have to transfer at some deserted, windswept station every time I headed out to South Keys or Kanata on a Saturday.

At 12:33 AM, Blogger TonyTiger said...

Having the new ELRT travel between Bayview is a good idea, but until LRT is extended to Hull how do people get from the west and south without having to transfer at Bayview and Lebreton?

At 10:07 PM, Blogger Friends of the O-Train said...

The eLRT would continue in off peak hours to bring people from the
downtown core to warm waiting areas and shops at Hurdman/Bayview where
they could have a coffee or tea while waiting for a local bus connection. The Bayview and Hurdman hubs would probably be designed and constructed by a P3, and serve the public well with a diverse offering of retail/commercial shops and services. Public washrooms too.

At 8:49 PM, Blogger Friends of the O-Train said...

More on double transfers to Gatineau...
First, there is already a bus route from Bayview to Gatineau, the 105, so only one transfer.

With our plan it would have much higher frequency. From Bayview it will be easy for buses to get to either the Chaudiere Bridge or the Portage Bridge (via Wellington past the War Museum).

Since buses from the west and southwest Transitway will not be continuing through downtown, it will be quite feasible for some of them to continue to Gatineau, thus eliminating BOTH of the suggested transfers. These would also supplement the 105 shuttle service for passengers transferring at Bayview.

Since we would expect the diesel O-Train to be extended to Tache Boulevard, and when Rapibus is built to the Casino as well, there will be many opportunities to reach all parts of Gatineau with a single transfer to the many STO bus routes that it will intersect.

The possibility exists for electric light rail from Hurdman also to be extended to, for example Terrasses de la Chaudiere or Place du Portage, even sharing the track with the diesel LRT.

Transfers for commuters from the west to this extension could also be provided at Bayview.

David Jeanes


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