STO unveils route options
----Tramway through Aylmer, connecting to Gatineau and Ottawa
On May 12, the STO announced the optimal route connecting west Gatineau to downtown Ottawa for its multi-billion-dollar tramway project. According to a study published by the Société de Transport de l’Outaouais’ (STO) on the same date, its best bet is to develop a tramway exclusive system, with a line along boulevard des Allumetières and boulevard Wilfrid-Lavigne, connecting to boulevard Lucerne and boulevard Alexandre-Taché going behind the Université du Québec en Outaouais, before extending to downtown Ottawa. On the Ontario side, it says the best insertion options are via underground tunnel on Sparks street, or with an above-ground connection on Wellington street.
Expected to cost at least $3 billion, the purpose of the project is to ultimately help Gatineau respond to its future populations’ needs by offering a reliable substitute to vehicles, providing efficient transportation between two downtown cores, and to directly connect the transportation systems of two cities. Aiming to align with the city’s land use and development plan’s (SADR) objectives, the project is also intended to support local social economy in metropolitan settings. The presentation showed the results of a complementary study conducted by Canadian consultation firm WSP Global Inc., which was intended to find the best solution to create a new public transportation system connecting Gatineau and Ottawa downtowns.
The study showed results of an analysis of the different scenarios at play, proposed options for the tramway’s route on the Quebec side of the river, and information about the project’s development plan and financial details. The study indicated that Gatineau’s population is expected to rise by 18 per cent by 2031 and by 26 per cent in 2050, with those respective augmentations at 30 per cent and 33 per cent in the west. It added that the number of jobs in the city should augment by 22 per cent by 2031, with a 28 per cent rise in the west. Ottawa’s population is expected to rise by 29 per cent.
Stating that Gatineau’s transportation network has been at full capacity since 2014, the study stated that a considerable decline in the quality of local transportation services is expected. It noted that single-vehicle transportation should rise by between 17 and 31 per cent, and that public transportation use should increase by between 20 and 40 per cent.
The study compared three options on the Quebec side. Those included one tramway exclusive scenario, and two hybrid scenarios seeing the combination of a tramway and bus system. The study said every option presents positive potential impacts compared to what the city has, including more public transportation use, a reduction in the number of cars on the road, and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
But the all-tramway scenario was said to be the best of the three since it allows to reduce the number of buses on the road, provides a sufficient capacity of tramways for Gatineau’s growing population, and would help protect natural spaces since the tramway would not go through Gatineau Park near boulevard des Allumetières. For Ottawa, the study says implementing an underground tunnel via sparks street is the highest quality option since it best responds to the project’s ambitions identified in the complementary study. However, it stated that an above-ground connection on Wellington street would be less expensive – around $3 billion - and the best option, if things don’t work out with the Sparks street option, which is valued between $3.5 and 3.9 billion. With the provincial government having agreed to fund 60 per cent of the project, the STO is waiting for the federal government’s commitment to pay the rest of the cost to make the project possible.
The project’s next phases, the two insertion options should be detailed to the public, before its final reports’ presentation.
President of Gatineau’s Commission sur le transports, les déplacements, et du développement durable, Vice-president of STO’s administrative board, and Aylmer district councillor Audrey Bureau told the Aylmer Bulletin that she’s happy to see the project make progress despite still waiting for the federal government’s financing. Bureau said the project should respond to Gatineau’s transportation needs for at least the next 50 years, and should provide considerable environmental benefits.
Initially in favour of running the tramway along chemin Eardley, to benefit rue Principale, Bureau said she now believes the tramway should run along boulevard des Allumetières and boulevard Wilfrid-Lavigne to avoid significant impacts on local infrastructure like expropriations, and demolitions. She also said the city will need to have a shuttle system to transport people to and from nearby tramway stations. She believes the Wellington Street insertion option is the logical choice since it's almost a billion dollars less expensive than the Sparks Street tunnel. Bureau said the project should take about 10 years to build, and that the planification phases should go on until 2015.
Dubbing the favoured concept as a “declaration of war” against personal automobiles, Deschênes district councillor Mike Duggan said he isn’t a big proponent of the all-tramway scenario because he doesn’t believe it reflects the reality of suburban and less densely populated areas – which should still require buses. “If you’re going to install rail, you can’t use that space for anything else,” Duggan said, clarifying that he prefers the tramway line to be on boulevard des Allumetières because it offers sufficient space to install the infrastructure. “You can’t use that space for vehicles.”
In favour of a hybrid scenario, Duggan ultimately doesn’t believe chemin d’Aylmer, chemin d’Eardley and boulevard des Allumetières are suited to have a tramway on them. “If there’s ever a vote, I will vote accordingly,” Duggan said, expecting the project to have a significant effect on Aylmer’s already rapid development and make Aylmer considerably more densified and believes a lot of residents are against it. “It is a purely political project,” he added. “It is not based on our urban plan and it is not based on a sound financial model, which is why the federal government has been so hesitant to commit to it.” Considering the cost and significance of the project, Duggan said the STO needs to be more transparent about its details and consult the population about it.
Still in the preliminary stages, Lucerne district councillor Gilles Chagnon said he’s looking forward to the public consultation process to hash out its details. “We need to consult so everyone is happy with this,” Chagnon said. In favour of the above-ground connection with Ottawa, Chagnon said he preferred the option of running the tramway along chemin d’Aylmer. But ultimately, he wants the best option possible to accommodate Aylmer’s growing population’s transportation needs.
The STO’s presentation is available via on their website.