Comment 123877

By Haveacow (registered) | Posted October 04, 2018 at 09:32:00

BRT is generally cheaper to build than LRT however, you have to spend a lot more to continuously upgrade the right of way as passenger levels grow than with rail. In fact at a certain point, BRT stations and rights of way have to become larger and more robust than rail infrastructure to carry the same number of passengers as rail. This was one of several key breaking points for Ottawa.

Ottawa as a city has a population of 970,000. Around 2008 when the bus fleet was creeping up to 1100 buses, the budget people at O.C.Transpo took notice. To accommodate future growth on the Transitway Network (Ottawa's BRT System Marketing Name) as well as the rest of the system, a fleet of 1400-1500 was being planned for. Budget people soon realized that this was not affordable at all. LRT requires far fewer buses so many older ones will be retired (about 110 in total) and many unneeded drivers laid off. 475 (fewer than the 600 originally stated) drivers will be laid off when Stage 1 opens. As many as 600 more when Stage 2 opens in 2023-24 and up to 120 more buses. Ottawa's current bus fleet is around 1025 units. Many new double decker buses are replacing articulated buses as they age out. Double decker buses are still hard on roads but hold more passengers and don't get stuck in snow storms as quickly as articulated buses do.

Bi-articulated (24 metres long) and even tri-articulated (28-30 metres long) buses had been looked at in the mid to late 1990's but refused because Transport Canada was going to require extremely expensive safety measures to run them even in a test program. They still only last as long as normal buses do, have horrible hill climbing capability on wet pavement, need a huge fleet of snow plows because like any articulated bus they can't handle more than 10-12 centimeters of snow and are so heavy that, Transitway stations require concrete bus pads in the bus docking lane because they can chew up asphalt roads in less than 2 years. They aren't road legal in Canada or the USA, there are no North American manufacturers, their spare parts and maintenance/training packages are stunningly expensive oh yes, they cost as much as 2 single articulated buses to buy.

Both the bi-articulated and tri-articulated bus designs are significantly shorter than the length of 1, 48.5 metre long Citadis Spirit LRV. Ottawa will be running 2 LRV's on each train on the Confederation Line. The 80 metre long Stadler FLIRT DMU's with replace the current Alstom Lint 41 DMU's on the existing Trillium line in 2021. Both Alstom's Citadis Spirit LRV's and yes, even Bombardier's Flexity LRV design planned for several of Toronto's LRV lines like Finch West and the Crosstown are modular and can add more sections to increase the length of the vehicle. Unfortunately, the Bombardier Flexity Outlook vehicles used on Toronto's streetcar network can't be expanded because of the super tight turning radius of the existing streetcar tracks. These modifications can be done in the existing maintenance facilities and doesn't require the vehicle to be sent back to the factory. This built in capacity is something BRT just can't do cheaply.

If we in Ottawa had stayed with BRT instead of changing to LRT operating technology we would have had to build a massive BRT tunnel instead of an LRT tunnel in downtown. The right of way would have to on opening day handle a peak hour passenger load of 10500 passengers per hour per direction. Traveling on 185-200 buses per hour (65% of them articulated).

The tunnel would have to have each below grade station platform have to handle no fewer than 10 bus docks for the simultaneous birthing of up to 10 articulated buses. That's a 200 metre long platform at each station. That's an underground mainline railway station platform (imagine somthing almost as big as your favorite GO Train Station underground). That's just to cover planned passenger growth to 2031. Toronto's and Montreal's longest subway station platforms max out at 152 metres (500 ft.) and they have some of the longest platforms in North America. Ottawa's LRT tunnel has 120 metre long platforms some of the longest LRT station platforms in North America, although several cities do have LRT platforms that easily exceed this length.

The BRT Tunnel stations would need a minimum of 4 metre wide platforms, a 3.5 metre docking lane and a 4 metre wide passing lane (these are the current Transitway Standards in Ottawa). That's 11.5 metres of width for each direction of travel. That means a single tunnel would have to be a minimum of 23 metres or a minnimum station box width of 24-25 metres or 2 parallel tunnel and station boxes, on 2 parallel streets (Albert and Slater for example) 12 metres wide. The current LRT tunnel, including platforms is only 13 metres wide, 2 platforms, 2 tracks and a devil strip between the tracks of 1 metre. The station box width is about 15 metres (mostly under Queen and Rideau Streets). In fact, the tunnel box width of the single Bus tunnel design would have allowed for 4 tracks and 2 side platforms as well as 1 centre platform! Each platform would be 3 metres wide. You only have to look at pictures of the LRT stations under construction at Tunney's Pasture and Trembley Road (the location of our VIA Rail Station) and see how much wider the former BRT right of way was in comparison.

What is not generally appreciated is the work that would have to be completed to upgrade the capacity of the existing BRT stations outside of the core of Ottawa to accept the constantly growing numbers of Transitway buses. No fewer than 10 possible up to 12 stations outside of the tunnel would require huge increases in platform lengths most would have to be more than doubled. Many would also require big increases in their ability to handle passengers as well as much improved local bus platforms at many of the existing stations. There was kilometers of expensive concrete upgrades needed as well as converstions to concrete from asphalt at many of the station docking lane. The desperately needed work on the stations outside of the tunnel alone, was budgeted at over $1 Billion.

Many of the older Transitway stations would still have to be upgraded LRT or not, Tunney's Pasture, Lees, and Hurdman Transitway stations all were 30+ years old and in desperate need for outright replacement due to crumbling cracked concrete supporting structures as well as completely rusting through of the red steel tubes that made up the bulk of the stations roof structures. This is just for Stage 1 LRT work. One of the concrete elevator shafts at Tunney's Pasture was so bad a construction engineer told me that, they didn't need to do much to knock it down and it was probably going to have to come down in a few years anyway. Stage 2 work required or still requires knocking down Queensway (due to the widening of the Queensway or Highway 417), Baseline, Carling and Westboro stations where as Bayshore (built in the early 2000's) and Moodie Stations (just finished last year) will need modifications (Iris, Montreal Road and Dominion stations are just platforms with a bus shelter, so no big effort required there to take them down). Greenboro, Walkley and South Keys stations will require modifications and upgrades due to Trillium Line work even though they only date from the mid 1990's.

Many of the bridges on the network were in great need of work. The Mann Avenue bridge required outright replacement, the key Transitway Bridge over the Rideau River between Lee's and Hurdman needed 7 months of repairs and upgrades. Twice the length of repair time that O.C. Transpo thought it needed. The bridge over the O-Train right of way at Bayview collapsed as they were tearing it down. This was just for Stage 1, no fewer than 6 bridges will need replacement and another 7 needing serious work for the Stage 2 LRT project.

Comment edited by Haveacow on 2018-10-04 11:00:33

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