Well it’s finally here. At long last and after numerous delays, LRT is finally a reality. Albeit a limited reality, but a reality just the same.
As the saying goes, “A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step”. In this case the first step cost $2.1 billion and took five years to complete.
The second phase which will see LRT extended to Trim Road in the east, Riverside South and the Ottawa Airport to the south and Moodie Drive and Algonquin College to the west, will cost another $3 billion plus. A bargain at twice the price.
Five or six billion dollars is a small price to pay to bring Ottawa’s transit system into the 21st century.
Having ridden the train over the week-end I can attest to the fact that is both quiet and comfortable. What it isn’t is convenient. It is still easier and a far more convenient for me to drive downtown than to take a bus from my humble abode in Falllingbrook, transfer to another bus at Place d’Orléans and then transfer again to the train at Blair Station – and that’s after you factor in the time it takes to find a parking spot.
Still, there are thousands of people who will take the train every day to get to and from work and that’s a good thing.
One of the factors most people over-look when discussing the benefits of light rail is the train’s positive impact on the environment.
The LRT, which is fully electric, will create a much smaller carbon footprint than the buses did when they they were lined up on Slater and Albert Street idling away as they waited for the people to get on board.
Even if you don’t plan to use the LRT you have to appreciate its environmental benefits, which will be even greater once Phase 2 is completed.
Another nice aspect about the train is your ability to take your bike onboard. This is a great option for cyclists who will be able to ride their bike to their station of choice, take the train on down the line and bike the rest of the way to their destination.
It’s also a wonderful alternative to driving to some of the stations where there is no parking or the designated parking is a 20 minute walk away, like it is at Gloucester Centre.
(Personally, I would just park over in the Scotiabank Cinemas lot across the way from the shopping centre and pretend your watching a movie. Although that will only work for a couple of hours or so.)
The first real test for the LRT came on Monday and for the nost part it passed with flying colours, at least in the east end where a phalanx of buses ferried commuters from Blair Station to Orléans without a hitch. Unfortunately, the same can not be said about the west end where delays caused a massive back log.
Of course, the real test for LRT will come once the snow starts flying.
Monday’s first real test was carried out in perfect weather. What happens when the first snowstorm hits? The platform at Blair Station is wide open to the elements.
There are some bus shelters, but not nearly enough to accommodate the rush hour crowd.
Veteran commuters will tell you, they had to contend with foul weather conditions for years while waiting for the bus on Slater Street or the Albert Street bridge. The advent of LRT just means a change in venue. Instead of having to wait for the bus downtown, they will now have to wait for the bus at Blair Station.
The commute will be exponentially better when Phase 2 is completed, but that’s still a long way off. Four years may seem like an eternity to a lot of folks, but its been 10 years since city council first discussed building light rail and five years since the work began.
The next four years will be a true test of patience for east end residents. If you think Phase 1 caused massive headaches with people having to contend with the construction, you haven’t seen nothing yet. Think of the delays caused by the sinkhole in 2012 and now multiply them tenfold.
The sinkhole shutdown the eastbound 174 for nearly two weeks. Once work begins on Phase 2 of LRT along the 174, the highway will be reduced to a limited number of lanes for the better part of the next four years, forcing drivers on to alternative routes like Montreal Road and Innes Road. Of course, they could always get out of their cars and board a bus to Blair Station, but some habits are hard to break.
As for myself, I have the luxury of being able to live and work in the same place and I like it that way. No muss. No fuss. And no traffic jams.
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