What Makes LRT A Success?



The Voter takes on the question of what constitutes light-rail success or failure:

This is a difficult question to answer as yes or no. What’s your definition or scale for success?

In the sense that it will be filled with people, it may be judged a success. However, are those people only there because any alternative has been removed and they have no other way to travel east of Tunney’s Pasture and west of Blair?

What is the time frame on which we’re evaluating it and are we looking at the chunk that’s being built now or the entire system that our grandchildren’s children will ride? I see you’ve specified in the question the $2B Confed line which only covers the Blair-to-Tunney’s piece but others will say you should wait to judge it until the full thing is built in all its glory.

Are we considering value-for-money? If so, our grandchildren’s children may have something to say as they will be paying for it down the road.

We should also be looking at the choices that were made or barred because of the decisions to spend the money this way. What would our bus fares be without the LRT expense? What other community programs/projects will go unfunded because the funds have been diverted to LRT?

Will it be a success? No.

Should we ride Watson, O’Brien and all their accomplices in this misadventure out of town on a rail? Yes.


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9 thoughts on “What Makes LRT A Success?

  1. Two metaphors come to mind.

    The first is that the LRT will be a variant of Schroedinger’s cat. It can be either a success or a failure, but we won’t know until the LRT is open. However, unlike Schroedinger’s cat, which will be either dead or alive when the box is opened, with no stated goals (specified increase in ridership, specified number of fewer cars on the road, …), elected officials, among others, can and will call it a success. However, with no actual end to congestion on the roads, others can and will call it a failure.

    The second metaphor relates to hair loss shampoo. Having used an expensive potion for more than a decade, I can tell you that I have less hair today than I had 10 years ago. What I cannot tell you is, had I not used the product at issue, whether I would have even less hair. There is no way of actually measuring the difference. Come 2018 and beyond, will there more people riding the LRT because it is the LRT or because the population of Ottawa grew? Even though there will be more cars on the 417, will there be fewer than there might have been there had the LRT not opened? As rigorous a “scientific” methodology as the social engineers may wish to apply, the results will always be subject to the softness of the measure, and that, dear Voter, is why, a few weeks ago, I called social studies “faux” sciences.

    1. It was a brilliant step on their part for the proponents of LRT to get it approved without any published intended outcomes.

      This way, if there are 55 people on the train, they can say their expectation was 50 and so they’re 10 per cent over that and isn’t it wonderful. We are in part to blame for this because we missed this detail and should have called them on it long, long ago. They were probably unable to believe their luck when they didn’t get challenged in any meaningful way about their numbers.

      The same people have established transit-related development that creates incentives for developers to build near transit stations thereby delivering a new group of riders to the LRT and further tipping the balance to skewed numbers. Stopping buses from the far west and far east at Tunney’s and Blair effectively fills the trains between those two points but does not add a single new rider. I would be extremely surprised if OC ever does any research into why, post-LRT, people stop taking public transit since they know the answer, in many cases, will be the extra transfer and waiting outside twice in each direction in Ottawa weather.

      The only place there will be reduced congestion is on Albert and Slater between the Rideau Centre and Bay since the buses will be off that stretch. That could equally well have been accomplished by a bus tunnel through the core that would have retained the rest of the Transitway as a bus corridor. For other roads, as you say, we are more than likely looking at an increase in vehicles on the road as people find it’s the only alternative to the train.

      1. The Voter:

        And had we put rail on the surface, Slater and Albert would have been ideal for bike paths in a designated corridor for trains, bikes and pedestrians.

        No more cyclists being killed by right-turning drivers … at least in the corridor.

        The LRT line is astonishingly poorly planned. For example, want to put in another station downtown? Start digging underground. With rail on the surface, you put up a bus shelter.

        These are just a few of many problems with the LRT plan.



        1. Ken,

          That is an excellent observation.

          Remember all the arguments over the placement of the LRT underground stations, especially the Confederation Square station which was cancelled. If we had gone with a downtown surface LRT system, then station issues would be mute as they would be very flexible.

          And the cycling point is likewise valid. Indeed, twinning cycling with new LRT routes makes the most sense. That is why a Carling route would be so beneficial as it has the space to also accommodate proper cycling lanes beside the LRT.

          Again, to make two downtown streets car-free, i.e. having underpasses at Bronson, Bank and Elgin, would have been somewhat inconvenient for businesses, however, think of the pedestrian traffic for those streets. Isn’t that what the city is trying to encourage? I remember years ago when OC Transpo decided to move the no.1-bus route one block west onto Kent, and after a year the Bank Street merchants were asking for the no.1 bus to return to its old Bank Street route.

          Sludgehammer’s attitude reminds me of Maxwell Smart (Get Smart TV show):

          Max: “Don’t tell me I fell off the horse.”
          99: “You fell off the horse Max.”
          Max: “I asked you not to tell me that!”

    2. Ron Benn,

      Hold on there! Now you have drifted into Mayor Jim Watson’s real field of expertise, namely hair care. This is no pseudo-science. Ron, I suggest you have a long meeting with Watson, maybe you can get him to share some of his hair secrets with you. I know this is a hairy situation but be brave.

      We worry about Watson’s hare-brained schemes like his LRT planning, which makes the hairs on the back of our neck stand up, but be assured that Watson is a cut above when it come to hair tips. Indeed, one hair tip he shared with me is that climate control is most important, especially combined with stress management. So make the most of your car’s (preferably a chauffeured car) controls for adjustments to weather conditions. Manage your stress levels by avoiding prolonged debate, be absent when difficult issues surface, blame others for your mistakes and get others to do most of your work details.

      Lastly, use a mild shampoo to rinse off any city pollution at the end of the day, while maintaining your hair control and shine during the day with some coconut spray — work it into the scalp.

      I tend to be more philosophical about old age, as we are all mere mortals, and such things do not last forever: “hair today, gone tomorrow.”

      1. Sheridan, I appreciate your concern for my follicular challenges. I assure you that I am at peace with my situation, and have an ever growing array of hats at hand for the winter months.

  2. Yes, yes! It’s a conspiracy by City Hall to build a useless LRT system and claim it’s a success. The politicians sit around all day dreaming how to waste your tax dollars. How ridiculous.

    There’s a reason why some of us are out there getting things done, while others can only complain about it on a journalist’s news site. You wanna play with the big kids out here? Get involved. Run for office. Hammer some sludge.

    1. Larry:

      I’m not sure that participating in free expression and speech is just complaining. You appear to be a little sensitive on this one.



    2. SludgeHammer, I think most of the Bulldog’s readers understand that the LRT is a big project, and that big projects require difficult decisions to be made regarding route, time to implement, and cost. Some people will support those decisions, some people will object.

      A scene from a Michael J. Fox movie “The Secret of My Success” comes to mind. Fox’s character says something to the effect of “there is little right or wrong, only opinion”. The other character in the scene points out that “you can be sent to jail in six states just for saying that”. The rest of the movie is best forgotten. All of which is to say that the Bulldog is a news site that presents Op-Ed columns, and encourages readers to comment (i.e. set out their opinions). Some columns interest me, some don’t. Some comments/opinions I agree with, some I don’t. Some comments present interesting perspectives. Some comments leave me perplexed about what brought about the outburst.


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