Why Aren't Ottawans Outraged By Wasted $3.2 Billion On Rail?

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This topic contains 6 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by Ken Gray 7 months ago.

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  • #742443 Reply

    Ken Gray

    I don’t understand this whatsoever.

    The City of Ottawa is wasting $3.2 billion (or about the cost of running the entire municipality for a year) on $6-billion light-rail project.

    Yet no one cares.

    They don’t care that the line could have run on the surface so that huge multi-million dollar underground stations don’t have to be built. That above-ground stations could have consisted of a bench and a bus shelter now and into the future. That the most successful LRT in North America in Calgary doesn’t have a tunnel?

    Simple things … why didn’t city staff decide to heat the stations? Been a tad cold lately.

    That for more than twice the Chiarelli-plan cost this line doesn’t get to Barrhaven or Kanata as the previous project would have. Or that the Watson plan didn’t include the LRT builder covering the cost the Strandherd-Armstrong bridge. That the previous plan would have been completed in 2014.

    Worst of all, it has taken so long for LRT to be built in Ottawa that ridership at OC Transpo is decreasing due to people working from home and baby-boomer retirements.

    This is the worst mistake in Ottawa municipal history. Not that LRT is being built (an outstanding idea), but that the project is so horrifically expensive when it does not have to be. Are Ottawans so accustomed to government waste that they just see the LRT project as one more mistake?

    Why don’t Ottawans care about this?

    #742521 Reply

    Ron Benn

    I too am baffled on how low profile the LRT project has been, but your forum topic caused me to pause and think about why.

    Let’s start with something that would be obvious to those with private sector management experience (sarcasm alert). What is the objective? Is it to carry a relatively large number of people relatively longer distances in relatively less time? Is the objective to move relatively fewer people relatively short distances in similar times to the current Bus “Rapid” Transit system? We don’t know, because no one in the city knows! With no objective, there is no way of measuring the success of the final project. That no one in the federal or provincial governments, prior to committing their less than one third shares, seems to have asked that question is not a surprise, for, just like their counterparts at the municipal level, so very few of them have either meaningful private experience, or respect for the taxpayers’ money.

    There were a number of issues that should have been debated prior to the design stage, such as the western route (Western Parkway vs. Carling) or whether to tunnel under downtown versus remain on the surface, subject to short tunnel sections to climb into the downtown area. I was big fan of running it down Sparks Street, in a manner similar to how Calgary’s LRT uses the 7th Ave Mall – which ties into a recent topic on the Bulldog) were all decided behind closed doors, long before any public “consultation” too place. It is too late now to discuss these issues, as those trains left the station years ago.

    Which brings me to my conclusion. The LRT is not a topic that is front and centre with the public because no one who reports to work on Laurier Avenue, nor at Queen’s Park, nor on Parliament Hill wants it to have a high public profile. They know what you know Ken. Ottawa’s LRT is a multi-billion dollar public works project that is too short, too expensive, too long in implementation, too … well you get my drift … but don’t worry, it will be declared a world class (what ever that term means) success when it (eventually) opens for business.

    #742525 Reply

    Ken Gray


    Great comment.

    I guess what I find most frustrating is it is so incompetent (why aren’t Ottawans outraged about the sinkholes?) and yet the people who massively screwed up will say it is a success and no one will question it … least of all the press.

    You’ve caught the essence of my frustration. Yours no doubt, too.

    cheers and thx


    #742546 Reply


    I believe the outrage will come after completion. The project is in progress and scheduled to be completed on … not sure yet.

    It’s kind of like the elephant not in the room. Other then traffic disruptions around the city, nobody notices the LRT. But once the trains start a rolling and the experience is worse than their previous ride, then we will hear more of the “We paid how much for this?”

    #742549 Reply

    Ken Gray


    Thank you for this. All good points.

    You wrote five sentences and there were three more reasons to be angry about light rail.

    And yet no one is complaining.

    I could come up with 100 reasons to be concerned, yet Ottawans would continue their ridiculous apathy.

    Wake up, people. It’s your tax money that is being royally wasted.



    #742740 Reply

    The Voter

    Looking at this from another perspective, what could have been done with $3.2B other than flushing it down the LRT drain? What have the Mayor and Council said no to in the last seven years that could have been approved?

    The first thing would obviously be a reduction in the debt the City would have taken out over the last five years and will take out over the foreseeable future. You also need to increase the $3.2B figure since that’s not inclusive of the debt financing costs which will be with us and our grandchildren’s grandchildren for years to come.

    What would bus fares be if they weren’t being raised every year partly to cover the costs of LRT? Some increase would have been justified but what percentage of the current fares are going to pay for LRT?

    What kind of road maintenance and snow management program could we have purchased for $3.2B? How much of the backlog in facility maintenance – parks, community centres, long term care homes, child care centres, arenas, pools, etc. – could be wiped out with $3.2B?

    Social housing providers in the city have a backlog in repairs and maintenance that’s approaching three quarters of a billion dollars. That could be covered which would create jobs in the community. The remaining $2.5B put towards building affordable housing units would take 12-15,000 families off the waiting list, wiping it out, and creating lots of construction jobs over 5-10 years.

    What could we have done in the area of economic development to build up the City and ensure jobs for the future with that money? How about tourism?

    Perhaps we could develop a list of ten diverse projects, each of which we could have spent $320M on, that would have contributed more to city-building than the current LRT model will give us.

    Finally, the number “$3.2 billion” is not the real amount since that only includes Phase 1 and no financing costs or Strandherd Bridge. If you add in the price of actually taking the train out to the places that were going to be included in the Chiarelli plan, the end result will be a multiple of $3.2B. I don’t really want to contemplate how many times we’ll have to multiply $3.2B in order to arrive at what this adventure will eventually cost us. I think it’s safe, though, to assume that if Phase 1 includes foolish planning and faulty budgets, the successor Phases will likely have the same.

    I’ve just renewed my membership in the Cynics Club, by the way. I signed up for the multi-year option. ;-)

    #742780 Reply

    Ken Gray

    The Voter:

    The $3.2 billion would buy 32 overpasses across the dangerous VIA Rail line north of Barrhaven where six people were killed in a tragic OC Transpo – train crash at a level crossing.

    We don’t need 32 overpasses but the $3.2 billion would pay for the right number.

    At present, the overpasses are being studied to death so that the city doesn’t have to build them anytime soon.

    And extending the O-Train across the Prince of Wales Bridge would cost Ottawa about $10 million once all the other levels of government checked in on it.

    That’s an incredibly cheap way of building a vital piece of infrastructure but Mayor Jim Watson is wedded to horrendously overspending on LRT.

    Yes, $3.2 billion would build a lot.

    cheers and thank you for this



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