Weekend Reading – Ottawa LRT Case Study

Hi All,

One last post before I head out. Someone sent me a case study on the Ottawa LRT. I am only on page 17, but so far it is an interesting read. You can find it here: http://www.revuegouvernance.ca/files/Spring2007/Hilton_Stoney.PDF

Ottawa had problems that certainly we won’t, but there were also some similarities. The one that stood out most so far was the section called “Build It and They Will Come?” on page 15. Here it is (emphasis mine):

Despite LRT’s promotion by the city bureaucrats as ‘an ideal and affordable solution for comfortably transporting high volumes of people into downtown cores,’ late in the debate after the contract with Siemens was signed, councillors came to realize that the ‘net increase’ in ridership provided by the LRT was in fact minimal. One report estimated this figure to be as low as 1,500 as opposed to the 40,000 figure often used to justify the project. Rather than a massive increase of new riders who would be attracted to the ‘fast, smooth, quiet and comfortable ride’ offered by electric LRT, the proposed northsouth line would mainly siphon existing commuters who were already using express buses. When doubts began to appear as to the ‘cost-benefit’ of the north-south LRT, support for the project quickly faded.

The rationale for expanding Ottawa’s transit modality to include north-south LRT is based in large part on the city’s forecast of a population explosion over the next decade, particularly in suburban areas. While the city projects an increase of 180,000 in three suburban areas by 2021, other forecasts put the increase at closer to 30,000. The city’s planning director informed councillors that his staff did not have sufficient time to present councillors with updated numbers before transit decisions were made. As Denley points out, “In other words, councillors are expected to make decisions in response to ridership demand that simply doesn’t exist.”

By failing to provide convincing arguments both in terms of added benefits that LRT would bring in terms of improving levels of service for transit (frequency and reliability of service and reductions in commute times), attracting new riders and reducing road congestion, the north-south LRT became a project premised on faulty data and unrealistic assumptions.

I am going to finish reading this weekend, and perhaps we can discuss the doc next week. Would love it if you all took a read too.



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