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Do beware, this next post is just another trip into my fantasies.

Since I first posted my idea for a tram network in Gatineau, I’ve had an exam period at school. And like any hard-working student, having a large workload made everything besides what was important seem simply imperative.

That’s when I discovered Inkscape. So this is the fruit of my procrastination: a plan for a network of trams that would in effect cover all of Gatineau with trams at a maximum distance of 2km.

Gatineau Tramway Network

WARNING: Large Picture

It would include:

  • 7 lines (plus 2 more possible ones)
  • 2 new bridges (plus 2 futures ones)
  • 67km of new track (excluding current railways)
  • A minimum of 2 ways to get from any one place to another (except Buckingham and Wakefield)
  • 2 regional tramway lines to Buckingham and Wakefield
  • 122 stations (plus 25 stations in the future extensions)

I calculate that, at the cost of Portland’s streetcar, it would cost about 700M, stations, trains and all, but I’d estimate it would be closer to 1B with the price of the bridges and larger trams. That may seem like a lot, but considering that Ottawa is building a 12-km for 2B and Kitchiner-Waterloo is building 20km of a rapid-tramway (what I’m aiming for here) for about 700M, it’s really quite reasonable. In fact, the advantages of lower road maintenance costs, much lower transit operation costs and increased property values would make this project a long-term boon for the City.

Such a plan would permit the City to guarantee a maximum distance of 500m for transit by using the buses which would have otherwise made cross-city trips for local service. The presence of a frequent and reliable alternative could permit the city to charge for parking and put in place tolls to help fund transit and discourage excessive driving.

It would permit the revitilisation and densification of areas currently written off as wastelands (Maloney, Blv. de la Carrière, Chemin d’Aylmer, Maloney, etc.) and give Chelsea, Wakefield and Buckingham access to the services of the city (though stringent development regulation would have to be put in place to avoid their suburbanisation). These regional tramways would be hybrid – electric where panographs are available and diesel where they aren’t. However, they should be designed with the same outside dimensions as the other trams so as not to have to build separate platforms for them. Such tram-trains are seen in several cities such as Karlsruhe, Kassel, Mulhouse and several others and provide good low to medium capacity service to smaller cities without having to build separate infrastructure. These lines would be single-tracked with largely uni-directional service except for perhaps weekends. It might also be interesting to look into the possibility of having some light intramuros service within Buckingham.

I designed the plan with two goals in mind: cover the most people and always have two paths. This first goal is obvious, but I feel that I should explain the second. If people are to want to ditch their cars for public transportation, it had better be reliable. If ever something happens on one track, you can’t let it cut an entire section of the city off. By having a network system instead of a radial system, you can have that because there is always more than one way to get from one place to another. This gives people options to change their routes to better fit their plans as well as serve as backup in the event of a breakdown, accident or construction. This not only makes the system reliable, but robust. Of course, the density has to warrant it, so there can only be one way to get to Buckingham or Wakefield by tram, but for all intramuros trips, you’ll have a choice.

The two extra bridges are the Bank St. Bridge (of which I have already talked about in my Part II of my first tramway post) and another parallel to the Alonzo Bridge in the north of Gatineau. This bridge is always very congested and running a tram across it could not assure reliable service. I propose then to build a second bridge beside it. The two extra bridges I have in the extentions, the Deschênes Bridge in the west and the Kettle Island bridge in the east could be built to accommodate extra cross-border traffic and would both connect to the O-Train. Though the Kettle island bridge is already planned as an automobile bridge, I would think it best to keep the Deschênes Bridge automobile-free to not direct traffic onto the Ottawa River Parkway. Bikes, pedestrians and perhaps buses and emergency vehicles would, however, be welcome.

To assure high speeds, the trams would be fitted with GPSs that would turn the lights green for them as they approach. Creative solutions such as hedges or water-running (though I don’t know how that would do in winter) sections could also reduce potential pedestrian interference.

Water-running tracks in Houston, Texas.

This might be my little fantasy plan, but I think that it could be done if the will was there. It would completely change the way that Gatineau works and thinks of itself and I, for one, would be delighted if there was even just a public debate about it, just so that people know that smaller cities than us have tried and succeeded at implementing forward-looking, practical transit and maybe, just maybe we could try it too.

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