Early Sunday morning, while most people in Ottawa are fast asleep, the last OC Transpo bus rolled down the Transitway between Blair and Hurdman stations.
The closure of this stretch of dedicated busway represents a first key step in the city’s ambitious, multi-billion dollar plan to replace thousands of buses with new light-rail trains.
“It’s a huge milestone in the construction of the Confed line,” said Stephen Blais, the chair of Ottawa’s transit commission.
Once complete, the Confederation line will link Tunney’s Pasture in the west with a rebuilt Blair station in the east, and include a 1.2-kilometre downtown tunnel.
The largest construction project the city has ever undertaken could soon be the biggest headache for residents, commuters and OC Transpo passengers for the next three years. That’s why OC Transpo planners and city officials have been working for months on a plan to remove as much of the pain as possible from what politicians say is Ottawa’s biggest gain.
As Blais said, “This is all about keeping the city moving so that we can stay on track for 2018.”
This station is staying open for now, but it will see some effects.
Many east-end routes will bypass Lees, including the new route 91 and the 94. Westbound express routes will also skip Lees in the afternoon. And, heading east, routes 6 and 101 will now stop on Lees Avenue instead of the Transitway-level platform.
One of the busiest transit hubs in the city will soon be significantly quieter. About 150 buses per hour per direction pass through here on a normal weekday, but, as of Monday, routes 91 and 94 and afternoon express routes (westbound) will skip this station. Local routes 124, 126 and 128 will also no longer travel to Hurdman.
The pickup and drop-off areas will remain in the current location for now, but will be decommissioned in September once a new temporary station is built nearby. The small variety store located inside the existing station will close.
Transitway service south of Hurdman (to stations such as Riverside, Billings Bridge, South Keys and the Ottawa International Airport) will not be affected.
The Transitway platforms and station will be replaced by a new stop on the Ottawa Train Station ring road (for Via Rail passengers), as well as by new platforms and bus shelters on either side of Tremblay Road (near the vehicle entrance to the train station). The shelters are adjacent to the entrance of the new Coventry pedestrian and cycling bridge, which connects to the baseball stadium.
Bus service will be limited to routes 92 and 96.
The lower-level Transitway platforms will be closed; all buses will pick up and drop off passengers on the upper-level platforms, and a new ramp will connect with Highway 417 westbound. A pedestrian path linking Tremblay Road to the transit station will also be closed until 2018. Pedestrians can get to the station via Tremblay Road and St. Laurent Boulevard or on routes 92 and 96.
The new route 91 serves this station in the westbound direction only and no eastbound express routes will stop here in the afternoon. Local routes 126 and 128 will no longer travel to St. Laurent and route 127 will be replaced with route 124.
This lower-volume station will close completely for the next three years. Nearby bus service will be provided by routes 121 and 124 at stops on Cyrville Road.
The Transitway platforms and station, including the platform that serves local routes, will be replaced by a temporary platform currently under construction near Blair Road. The variety store will close, but the pedestrian bridge over Highway 174 (to Telesat and Pineview) will remain open at all times (after July 20, there will be a detour in place near the construction site). A new temporary transit supervisor’s office has been set up to monitor service and address issues.
Route 96 and west-end express routes will no longer stop at Blair. Route 127 will be replaced with route 124.
Many routes are affected by the Transitway conversion to LRT. Ottawa Citizen
Route 94 and express routes from the east end will maintain current service levels but skip Cyrville, Train, Hurdman and Lees stations to provide more direct service to and from downtown. These buses will stop at St. Laurent in the westbound direction only and let people off by request only.
OC Transpo will also introduce a new Route 91, which many customers who currently ride Route 95 might find faster. Route 91 will operate between Trim/Place d’Orléans and Baseline stations Monday to Friday from about 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. The 91 will run every four to five minutes in peak periods and every seven to eight minutes in the midday.
The 95 will continue to operate 24/7 and will be the main route for riders travelling to Hurdman station. But the 95 will no longer serve the Ottawa train station. It’s also the route that will soon take longer. OC Transpo says “a small number of customers” who travel east specifically from Hurdman to Blair stations or beyond will have the longest travel time increase, at 13 to 16 minutes.
Route 96 will serve the Ottawa train station, with trips every 15 minutes, seven days a week, operating between Train station and Tremblay Road and St. Laurent station. Route 92 also serves these destinations.
Service on Routes 94, 95 and 96 west of downtown to Barrhaven, Riverside South, Kanata and Stittsville will not be affected.
Express routes from the west end will now end morning runs at Hurdman station. Riders travelling to or from locations further east will have to transfer to or from Routes 91, 94, 95 or 96 downtown. In the afternoon, westbound express trips will begin service at Campus station.
The following routes that travel on or near the Transitway will also be affected: 6, 18, 101, 114, 121, 124, 126, 127, 128, 129, 176, 192, 199, 202, 401 and 451.
The expansion of the 417 from Nicholas to the Split is wrapping up. New dedicated bus lanes in both directions will open on Sunday, but motorists should still expect periodic lane closures until the fall as the remainder of construction and cleanup continue. Until this time, the city says the speed limit along this stretch will remain 80 km/h.
There will be three lanes of general traffic plus the special bus lane, which will take up the outside lanes in both directions and are to be used exclusively by OC Transpo buses and emergency vehicles (the lanes are marked bus-only).
However, in some marked areas around exits, the right lane normally reserved for buses will be shared with cars as these vehicles merge on and off the highway.
The ramp from the westbound 417 (east of the Split) to the 174 eastbound will close on Sunday for the duration of the LRT construction. Drivers can exit the 417 at Innes Road, which is currently being expanded to accommodate increased traffic and is scheduled to open in the fall.
The city is working closely with the Ontario Provincial Police, Ottawa police and the Ministry of Transportation, Blais said, adding that clearing collisions or other incidents on the highway quickly will be a priority.
“If we have a car accident at the beginning of one of those bus lanes or something like that in one of the mixed-traffic zones and we’ve got 120 buses an hour backing behind it, obviously that poses a pretty big challenge to keeping traffic moving, so we need to get those incidents moved out of the way as much as we can as fast as we can,” Blais said.
The new bus lanes on the 174 and 417 are designed to help OC Transpo “do our very best to keep the frequency and the speed of the buses going into the downtown,” according to Blais. But they’ll only work if drivers obey the rules of the road.
As for passengers, Blais said they should use OC Transpo’s online Travel Planner and focus on how the changes affect them directly.
OC Transpo staff will be out in full force next week to direct people and monitor how everything is working.
The summer months are a test run that will provide the city with an opportunity to make adjustments as necessary in advance of when ridership volumes increase in September.
• Closures on the western leg of the Transitway aren’t expected until later this year.
• In December, the section between Merton and Empress streets will close.
• Next spring, the section between Laurier and Hurdman stations is scheduled to close, followed by the final section from Tunney’s Pasture to Merton Street a few months later.
This Holiday season skittles is putting a little colour in your life
Splendido Restaurant continually ranks as one of Canada's top dining restaurants
The first in Canadian, Regional, Seasonal Cuisine with menu item