Carleton University, Confederation Line, and Concerned Commuters HOW THE CONSTRUCTION AND CLOSURES OF TRANSIT LINES WILL AFFECT OTTAWA cOMMUTERs Writing and photography by Meghan Newman

Hailey Scott is no stranger to being left out in the cold by Ottawa’s public transit. Commuting from Kanata to Carleton University every day can take her anywhere from an hour to an hour and 45 minutes, and that’s if everything is running smoothly. As an off-campus Carleton student, Scott will be affected by both the new Confederation LRT line that is scheduled to be operational in the summer of 2018, as well as the 16-month closure of the O-Train Trillium line between April 2020 and September 2021.

“It’s just taking up a lot more time than necessary,” said Scott about her current commute. “And on the way home especially buses tend to be unreliable,” She went on to say that the closure of the Trillium line will definitely make her commute longer because “It’s just adding another unreliable factor…and I think that overcrowding will probably happen, it’s unavoidable, but I also can’t think of another alternative solution.”

“Although the expansion will help, the fact that it’s being closed for 16 months means that students are going to be struggling to get to campus…the fact that you’re going to have buses running during rush hour and students are going to have to be waiting for those buses will be extremely problematic”- Zameer Masjedee of CUSA

Scott’s feelings echo those of many Ottawa residents who see a lot of short-term difficulties that will have to be dealt with before they can benefit from any end results. As Jim Watson has said, it is a situation of “Short term pain for long-term train.” As beneficial as the new Confederation line may be upon completion, people are concerned about just how big the impact of closures, construction, and detours will be.

Bayview station, which connects the transitway to the Trillium line is experiencing large amounts of construction, forcing commuters to take walking detours in order to get to buses and trains.

Two of the neighbourhoods most affected by the construction of Confederation line are Hintonburg and Mechanicsville. It is through these neighbourhoods that buses must detour as a result of the transitway being closed between Tunney’s Pasture and Bayview station. “They [the residents] were apprehensive about the development. They didn’t have a lot of faith in the development process, they were concerned about noise and time. That being said, they see the value of having LRT,” said Lorrie Marlow of the Mechanicsville Community Association about the community’s reaction to the plans for the new line.

For this community, the closure of the Trillium line is a disappointment because it means more buses will be in the area and for longer than originally planned. “The community of Mechanicsville has been very patient in waiting for the busses to get off of Scott Street. There had been talk of Scott turning into a main street and the delay is quite disappointing,” Marlow said.

Jeff Leiper, the councillor for the area discussed similar reactions from the constituency. The first stage of detours needed for the construction of Confederation line began in late 2015 with the closure of the transitway from Tunney’s Pasture to Bayview station. This detour pushed thousands of buses off of the transitway and put them onto Scott Street. The first stage of detours was very contentious said Coun. Leiper. He and the residents of Hintonburg and Mechanicsville were very concerned about the impacts that those buses would have. “The buses run about 15 feet away from the residences on Scott Street. You open the front door and the buses are right there,” he said.

"Lately there has been a lot of construction and that has been the primary cause for delays getting to the O-Train. At Greenboro you have to walk all the way down then back up to the station and it takes about 10 extra minutes. Oftentimes I find I miss it when I’m just walking down to get it"- Carleton student Crystal Oag

The community had asked for several years that the city look at alternatives to running the buses down Scott Street. Initially it was felt that the decision was made without nearly enough deference to what the community was seeking said Coun. Leiper. The residents were concerned about noise, vibration, and access to side streets and residences. While the city ultimately decided to run the buses along Scott Street, they did take certain steps to help alleviate these issues. They put in a bike lane to help move buses out further from residences, they adjusted the timing of traffic lights, they moved empty buses onto a different route, performed road maintenance, and even gave residents the option of having a tall cedar fence put up to block noise, explained Coun. Leiper.

“Today the buses are certainly there, but it has not had the quality of life impact that we were concerned about. By and large life goes on in that stretch of Hintonburg much as it did before,” he said.

As part of stage two of the LRT construction the transitway will be shut down from Tunney’s Pasture through Dominion station. This will require a detour through another neighbourhood. Initial concerns with the stage two detour have been minimal, due in part to the success of the Scott Street detour. “We’ve lived through it and I’m pretty confident that the city can do a lot to mitigate the impact of running those buses in close proximity to those residences,” said the councillor.

At peak times, Trillium line stations such as Carling can be so busy that commuters get left behind by overcrowded trains.

With regards to the 16- month closure of the Trillium line, Coun. Leiper said that it will be Carleton students who feel the greatest impact. The No. 107 bus that will replace the O-Train is going to run down Preston Street, according to Coun. Leiper and he said that Carleton students are probably going to see 10 minutes added onto their trip as a result of the closure. This added time will be a result of longer wait times, especially on off peak periods, and more traffic congestion along Preston.

Coun. Leiper believes that despite the growing pains, expanded LRT is going to be beneficial to the neighbourhood. Confederation line will be accessible and convenient for those who take it, but even those who don’t take it will be positively impacted by faster service and less congestion on the remaining local buses. Vehicle traffic will also be reduced, especially near the employment centre that is Tunney’s Pasture. The hope is that by providing Confederation line as a transit option, more people will be willing to leave their cars at home and commute by train, alleviating congestion in the neighbourhood.

Crystal Oag is a Carleton student who is concerned about the inconveniences that will result from the closure of the 16-month closure of the Trillium line.

As a Carleton student, Crystal Oag is among the group of people who will be most affected by the 16-month closure of the Trillium line. Oag lives in South Keys, which puts her very close to Greenboro station and all of the transit options it offers. However, Trillium line is the only route that goes directly to Carleton’s campus. As a regular O-Train user, Oag has seen the issues with the Trillium line.

The O-Train frustrates commuters in a number of ways. At peak times it is often overcrowded, sometimes to the point of leaving riders behind. It can also be difficult to time catching the train because it doesn’t arrive or depart at set times.

“Lately there has been a lot of construction and that has been the primary cause for delays getting to the O-Train. At Greenboro you have to walk all the way down then back up to the station and it takes about 10 extra minutes. Oftentimes I find I miss it when I’m just walking down to get it,” Oag said.

Pedestrian detours at O-Train stations are becoming increasingly frustrating for commuters, often causing them to miss the bus or the train.

With the existing difficulties in mind, worries about the 16-month closure certainly seem justified. “I think the effect is almost unquantifiable. This is how people get to school and work, this is not something that you can just close. Buses aren’t a solution at all in any way. The O-Train is there for a reason and that is to get Carleton students and other people to work and school on time and I think that the buses have failed in a lot of respects to do that,” she said.

Carleton’s unique location gives it a unique set of transit issues. It can be difficult to get to in terms of finding buses and finding a place to live Oag pointed out. The construction of Confederation line could help to give Carleton students more access to housing options closer to campus. “It might expand the horizons for students in terms of having access to get to school faster…But at the same time issues of me trying to get on the train at 8:30 in the morning and not being able to get on because there’s 150 people on the train aren’t going to be helped by expansion and it will just lead to more people and more delays,” she said.

CUSA executive member Zameer Masjedee worries that replacing the O-Train with buses during the closure will aggravate problems on an already crowded campus.

CUSA’s vice-president of student life, Zameer Masjedee agrees that Carleton’s location makes for a unique transit situation. Carleton’s secluded campus means that there are a lot of students living off campus who aren’t in very close proximity to the university. “For many of the housing areas in Old Ottawa South and the Glebe, rent has increased significantly in the past couple years…so students are moving further and further away and as a result they need to be able to have methods of getting to campus every day,” said Masjedee.

“Today the buses are certainly there, but it has not had the quality of life impact that we were concerned about. By and large life goes on in that stretch of Hintonburg much as it did before." - Coun. Jeff Leiper

Carleton students will certainly experience a change with the temporary closure of the Trillium line. Students and Carleton representatives have voiced concerns even now, three years before the scheduled closure. “Although the expansion will help, the fact that it’s being closed for 16 months means that students are going to be struggling to get to campus…the fact that you’re going to have buses running during rush hour and students are going to have to be waiting for those buses will be extremely problematic” said Masjedee.

While people are hopeful that expansions and new lines will ultimately make commuting in Ottawa easier, there are still questions about how effective and reliable new transit options will be. “Either they’re going to use this as an opportunity to fix the issues we’ve been seeing with the O-Train, or it’s just going to cause more people to use the train and just make the problems worse. I’m hoping that they’re trying to fix what people have been complaining about,” said Oag.

Made with Adobe Slate

Make your words and images move.

Get Slate

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.