STO study on service for Aylmer released
After months of waiting, residents have an opportunity to analyse the conclusions of the STO’s Study of Needs and Solutions for Structuring the Public Transit System in Gatineau's West End.
The STO made the results public on February 16, roughly a year later than initially announced. However, the conclusion indicates that another study is required to determine what scenario would be the best fit for Hull and Aylmer.
The study analysed three scenarios: improving the current bus system, adding public transit measures along the Aylmer-Taché axis, and adding public transit measures along the Allumettières axis.
“The analysis of these scenarios shows that even if the current system is improved by preferential measures, it is still not possible to reach the minimum targets for public transit performance (travel time and efficient operation of reserved lanes), and consequently does not enable medium-term needs to be met or a significant increase in the number of people who transfer from vehicles to public transit. It is therefore essential to invest in implementing a structuring public transit system in the city's west end,” indicated the study.
After considerable pressure, namely from local MP Greg Fergus and Gatineau Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin, to seriously consider a tramway system, the STO announced that bus rapid transit (BRT) system has its limits.
“In its cost-benefit analysis, the study showed that a BRT system would be the preferred mode compared with a tram/light rail system. However, this mode presents a high risk of saturation in the long term, even if use of the existing bridges (Champlain, Chaudière and Portage) is optimized, larger capacity vehicles are used and preferential measures are introduced.”
STO’s president, Myriam Nadeau, explained that with Ottawa rolling out its new light rail transit system in the coming months, the STO must find a way to implement a complementary system.
“We are part of a metropolitan area and our economy is closely integrated with Ottawa's, which means that 40% of people go to work in Ottawa daily. To have the most efficient system for our riders, it is necessary to choose a mode that will align seamlessly with our neighbour's system, and to do so, we must seriously consider implementing a light rail system that is integrated with the one in the federal capital,” she stated.
Following the study’s release, Hull-Aylmer MP shared his concerns about the study. “I'm glad to see the idea of a light rail is part of the results; however, I have some reservations about the study’s methodology. Quite simply, many factors were not fully considered. For example, the study excludes the federal government's offer to invest in innovative transit projects. Since the 2015 election, the federal government has been investing record amounts towards public transit projects,” noted Fergus.
The local MP also wondered why the study only took into account the population on Quebec’s side of the river. “The Ottawa-Gatineau region is a large one and we must consider the people who work across the river and take public transit (on both sides of the river),” indicated Fergus.
Audrey Bureau, Aylmer councillor and STO board vice-president, is hoping that the new study will be completed quickly. “Until that time, we need to improve the current transit system. We need to review the changes adopted in 2017 and solve overloaded buses on lines 55, 59 and improve the reliability of 40 lines and service to Rivermead,” she stated.
The STO study results also indicated that the consultation with Gatineau residents showed that a tram/light rail system or a bus rapid transit system are both appealing modes, along with the desire for better alignment with Ottawa. The result is a broad consensus on the need to invest for public transit in Gatineau's west end regardless of whether they live in the sector. According to respondents, a tram/light rail system would be more likely to encourage non-riders to use public transit.