Get Light Rail To Lansdowne

Ottawa’s light-rail line: A spur from the current route under construction could serve Lansdowne Park and the Glebe.

If the folks at Ottawa Sports and Entertainment really want to solve some of the transportation problems of getting tens of thousands of people to an Ottawa Redblacks game, they need to lobby city hall to serve the site with light rail.

Such a line has the added benefit of bringing the Glebe onto the rapid transit network. For once, OSEG and local community groups could work together to push for the line. What a concept.

We’ll call it The Bulldog Line after the news site that conceived of the idea. Our technical drawings are still being drafted and thus we might discover a few geo-technical problems as the study continues … no doubt fewer than the woes of the downtown light-rail route.

Essentially The Bulldog Line would see a spur off the Confederation Line near or at Lees station; drive the line along the Rideau River shoreline to St. Paul University (bringing that institution onto the rapid transit network) and Brantwood Park; then build a short tunnel from Brantwood to Lansdowne.

The Bulldog Line would not just be for football fans but also for shoppers at the stores on the Lansdowne site, Bank Street patrons and commuters in the under-served transit area of the Glebe. Rapid transit comes to the Glebe.

That way not only would there be a multi-purpose stadium and arena at Lansdowne, but also a multi-purpose light-rail line to one of Ottawa’s great gathering places.

So forget shuttle buses or barges down the Rideau Canal to bring fans to the game and shoppers to the Glebe. Construct a short light-rail line and tunnel right to the shopping centre and the neighbourhood.

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  1. @David – you don’t like my numbers, what are yours? I studiously repeat precisely what the City has stated are the costs associated with the Phase 1 LRT project – you’re free to take issue with those numbers but I’d suggest you direct your ire at the message from the City and not the messenger.Your comment about not including operating costs in the total cost of a program/project…have you ever worked in a professional project management field? Such an omission would ensure a speedy career change. As for your spirited defense of LRT by complaining that I neglect the costs of BRT, you’re thinking of some other Mayoral candidate my friend. I make no favourable or unfavourable comparison of LRT vs BRT as it wasn’t relevant to the issue at hand. For the record, Ottawa’s BRT is massively subsidized to the tune of $250M this year alone (essentially 50% of all Operating Costs) and is completely unsustainable…but that’s a discussion for another day.
    Lastly, my point about the net tax effect for residents and businesses in the LRT catchment area is both accurate and specifically relevant to the discussion. Of course MPAC’s activities are tax neutral – please indicate how that’s relevant to my comment that anyone in the catchment area will experience a dramatic increase in property value and, subsequently property tax. Surely, this is the relevant observation and not some specious demand such a statement is inappropriate because said tax imposition is neutral across the rest of the City. What an odd deflection…

    @Spencer – excellent points and that requires a more detailed analysis of transit modalities within a larger discussion of economic realities. What we do know is our present transit approach is unsustainable in the mid and long term…the OC Transpo operating subsidy is now essentially equivalent to the entire annual Capital budget – a situation that would have been inconceivable even a decade ago and will only grow more disproportionate as the cost of OC continues to rise.

    @RonG – excellent point and far more realistic than the present Phase II proposal

  2. Eventually, a spur to Lansdowne could also connect to the secondary line down Carling

  3. I’d like to know why Mike Maguire is trying to inflate the cost of the LRT project by adding in costs that just don’t belong, like operating costs.

    When was the last time a new transitway project had its bus operating costs thrown in?

    As it is, the LRT project is already inflated enough by costs that are not counted for BRT projects, like the maintenance yard and the vehicles.

    I really can’t take a mayoral candidate seriously if they’re going to participate in this nonsensical double standard of lumping every imaginable cost related to LRT in with their accounting of LRT costs while studiously ignoring the comparable costs of BRT. We’ve been paying for BRT in many ways for long enough – high operating costs, poor rides, poor reliability, downtown busjams, depressed ridership, even the failure of the transit system to imprint itself in people’s mental maps of the city – so it can’t come to an end soon enough, and neither can the second phase to Bayshore and Baseline.

    In addition, I definitely can’t take seriously a mayoral candidate who doesn’t understand the basics of our property tax system. The City isn’t counting on MPAC reassessing dwellings near LRT stations because it doesn’t bring them any additional revenue. That’s because property tax revaluations are a zero-sum game from the City’s perspective. If the property tax of one property goes up because of an increase in valuation, then the property tax of all other properties goes down by the same total amount. If all property values go up by the same percentage, then there is no change in property tax to anyone. It is indeed possible for a property’s tax to go down even if its value goes up, so long as its value rises by less than the citywide average (though in practice City Council-approved increases in the tax rate would tend to mute that effect). The City does benefit from development and redevelopment as that expands the property tax base, such as what is going on at Lansdowne, but it doesn’t benefit or lose from individual property revaluations.

  4. @Mike Maguire

    It is true operating and maintenance costs add to the total cost of the LRT and tunnel, so it is higher than the initial construction price would indicate. Still some of the operating costs will be paid for by regular ridership fares like the cost of maintenance on buses and the existing transitway. Operating costs are not going to be 100% financed by taxes, so the $2 billion figure for that is probably somewhat higher than should be if you are describing what is being financed via tax dollars (though I admit I do not know off hand what percentage the city believes it will recoup from fares).

    Capital installation costs aside from the amateur bit of research I have done LRT is often cheaper to operate than buses on high demand routes due to a variety of factors; LRT carries more people per vehicle, electricity is cheaper and usually more energy efficient than diesel is, tracks require less frequent repair than paved roads etc. I imagine you have heard similar arguments before though. I’d be interested to know what the cost of purchasing enough buses to keep up with future ridership demand is vs LRT capital installation costs (you probably have to replace the buses a bit more frequently as well).

    • Ken Gray

      June 18, 2014 at 7:05 AM


      Don’t forget on cost savings, a significant one is that steel wheels need replacing fewer times than rubber tires on buses.


  5. (Been a while since I commented here)

    I have to agree with the general comments here, the city has too many other transit priorities at the moment and nowhere near enough money to seriously consider LRT or tram service to Lansdowne as nice as the thought is (I half assume the comment was more of a wish than a realistic hope).

    @Ron Benn

    While LRT phase 1 doesn’t entirely fit the typical model for LRT lines it will to some extent once we add phase 2, along with the possibility for future extensions. Even factoring in the bus transfers the line will probably be a bit faster and more comfortable than the existing bus commute from Kanata or Barrhaven. The thing is though to be able to put in an LRT that matches the description you made, connecting suburbs to the central part of the city we still need to build a line somewhere in the central city to be able to connect to those outer lines. There really isn’t a good and cheap solution to the downtown part between existing traffic and ridership demand. A downtown surface line would probably be too disruptive of regular traffic and end up being too slow (though I know Ken disagrees or would prefer a localized line over a commuter one).

    Bottom line is we need to start somewhere in order to build the LRT system outwards and even get to the point you are suggesting (even if it is a very long term goal).


    Agree the most feasible place for an LRT/tram to Lansdowne and to the Glebe would probably be Col By or Queen Elizabeth Drive. It isn’t a perfect solution but it is better and more affordable than most others. There isn’t room on Bank for a surface tram or LRT without disrupting existing car traffic unless we kill all on street parking and a tunnel would be too expensive with other projects. Too bad the NCC would never allow it.

    There are actually a few advantages of having an LRT line by the canal for local transit users near Main if the city also gets around to building the pedestrian Bridge by Clegg and Fifth. You could have a station fairly close to the bridge and one at Hawthorne and serve people from both sides of the canal. Another possibility is if the city ever gets around to building a secondary LRT or tram service on Carling (which is in the transit master plan) they could connect it to the Col By/Queen Elizabeth Drive tram pretty easily. It would provide some extra inter connectivity in the city’s rail network.

  6. A day late and a dollar short on this one Ken.
    Couple of points of clarification first though: Ron Benn has referred to the Phase I LRT as being $2.xB – that’s just the fixed price portion of the line and tunnel construction phase. It doesn’t take into account the binders full of Change Requests, the $1B in financing costs, the $2B in maintenance contracting for the life of the contact and the roughly $1B in Operational costs for the contract. It is far more accurate to refer to Phase 1 LRT a $6.xB program.
    The second fly in the ointment for LRT construction is that such development automatically triggers a property reassessment by MPAC – in fact, the City is counting on a 15-30% increase in property value for dwellings within 500 meters of each LRT station and a 25-50% increase for business within the same 500 meters. I would think even our present Mayor and Council would find it hard to ignore the hue and cry that would rise should anyone suggest an LRT extension to Lansdowne.
    One point on Phase II LRT – this is going to be a huge issue post-Labour Day as we have loads of time to examine the sheer folly of proposing another multi-billion dollar LRT service in an area already well served by buses – and the ensuing massive property hike that would entail. I look forward to a spirited debate on the logic of taking an average extra $1000 from the already strapped residents of the Tunney’s to Bayshore corridor.

  7. The Bulldog had mentioned this idea previously (then going to the Riverside Station). Lees Station is too small and there would be a conflict with apartments on Lees as well as the private property along the Rideau River, especially the soon to be developed Oblate property. If a tunnel, then it would have to go to the large station at Hurdman. I think the most feasible chance for LRT to Lansdowne would be an LRT line along Colonel By (from Carleton to the Old Union Station), however, I doubt the NCC would go along with that. The best compromise, as Ron Benn noted, is to put a tram service along Bank Street, however, city council refused to admit that there would be a traffic issue at Lansdowne and went ahead in 2011 with $22 million in repairs/renovations to Bank Street in the Glebe. At this point, there is no good option, or as Earle Rheaume has correctly stated: no “affordable” option.

    Again, this brings home the insanity of a city that was developing a new multi-billion dollar transit system and refused to locate their new major sports facility on this transit line. Indeed, The Bulldog recently mentioned Alex Cullen (NDP candidate in the provincial election): Alex was one of the strongest voices at city council who denounced Lansdowne Live for that very reason. By contrast, Watson has only been too happy to ignore transit issues — that is unless they happen to be part of his vision for phase two of LRT expansion (the centrepiece of his re-election platform).

    Furthermore, it was rather funny to listen to how many times the presentation yesterday mentioned pedestrians and cyclists. Maybe the best compromise is to build pedestrian bridges over both the Rideau Canal and Rideau River (via Clegg Street) and thus connect Lansdowne with Hurdman Station for the benefit of the walking/cycling masses. However, with the city’s poor record of bridge construction, we would have to approach that idea with some caution.

    Ah yes, Lansdowne: the gift that keeps on giving!

  8. robert roberts

    June 17, 2014 at 9:51 AM

    How about letting the Lansdowne project fail on its own and then build a stadium that is easily accessible. By the time the city gets around to putting in a light rail link to Lansdowne, the much hoped for crowds will have given up on the ridiculous shuttle bus idea.

  9. Bulldog, Bulldog, Bulldog – where to start?

    Successful LRT lines typically transport people from distant suburbs/exurbs (Orleans, South Riverside, Barrhaven, Kanata/Stittsville) to the centre of the city, with relatively few stops in between. Your proposal does not fit that model. While on the topic, the current $2.x billion short run LRT doesn’t fit the model either, and aside from the proposed LRT station on the west side of Orleans, neither does Mayor Watson’s proposed >$3 billion Phase II.

    In addition to the general concern about whether the proposal fits a successful LRT model, I wonder how many people from the south and west ends of Ottawa will want to take a short line LRT ride east, to connect to a short ride on a westbound LRT, to connect to an “express” bus at Bayshore or Baseline Station, and on wards to the Kanata or Barrhaven Park and Ride, so that they can then connect to the local milk run, especially in the evenings (67’s games). Factor in the inconvenience of having to manhandle one’s shopping bags from an afternoon of shopping at stores that are, for the most part also located in St. Laurent and Bayshore, and I think it would be fair to say that the capital cost per rider would be astronomical, in a city that already has too much debt.

    Finally, why would it be acceptable to run the LRT down the Rideau River shoreline, but not the Ottawa River?

    A city council, and my comments are directed particularly at the previous incarnations – many members of which sit on the current variant, with anything approximating a vision of north south transit in this city, might have contemplated a tram service along Bank Street. Such a tram line could connect to the LRT in the city centre, to disperse the football and junior hockey fans east, west and south. This tram line would also be of use to daily commuters, much like the St. Clair Avenue tram line in Toronto. However, the time for that decision was when they had Bank Street torn up and rebuilt during the last decade. To put the residents and business along Bank Street through another round of multi year construction would be unconscionable. In other words, that solution has already left the station.

  10. Earle Rheaume

    June 17, 2014 at 8:01 AM

    This is an excellent idea Ken. The problem is affordability! Many taxpayers are too strapped now and simply can’t afford any further tax increases.

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