So, it would seem I’m actually going to go ahead with this one: I already have a small but enthusiastic following with rather extensive experience in campaigning, politics and has contacts in many of the community associations in and around Aylmer. Alright, it’s just my dad, but I’m planning on getting the word out once I’ve got things a little more figured out. I’m even going to meet with some members of the municipal party “Action Gatineau” on Thursday afternoon to see if I can get the support of a mayoral candidate (there are going to be elections this November, so councillors are in the mood to make people happy) and, with any luck, this plan might actually go somewhere.
However, seeing as the proposal looks more and more possible, I’ve made it more and more realistic, doing away with some parts and adding others to make it look like something that could actually happen within the next 5-7 years. I’ve also been reading a lot – Walking Home, Walkable City, Straphanger and, most recently, The High Cost of Free Parking – which has given me some ideas and critiques as to my original plan which you can still check out in the first posts.
So here’s an updated version of my vision, for your enjoyment and critique.
First, I abided (abode?) by Saint-Exupéry’s saying: “La perfection est atteinte, non pas lorsqu’il n’y à plus rien à ajouter, mais lorsqu’il n’y a plus rien à retirer” (Perfection is attained not when there is nothing to add, but when there is nothing to take away) by trying to remove as much excess as possible while still maintaining utility: The route in my original plan was long and rather problematic with street-running sections in Aylmer and an expensive and politically-charged bridge across the Ottawa River downtown. As much as I stand by the utility of the Bank st. Bridge, it would never fly as a real proposal at this stage and I figured that the section along Principale would be too cumbersome and too little-used to warrant it.
I examined the walkability, centrality and usefulness to both the residential and business communities and determined that any form of rapid transportation would have to at least pass by Commemoration Park, the square between the library and cultural centre and within a stone’s throw from the local grocery store and the businesses along Principale.
On the other end, it would have to connect to the O-Train for practical reasons all while serving downtown Hull for practical and political reasons: Gatineau is very focused on intramuros travel and isn’t crazy about people rushing down to Ottawa.
In Val-Tétrau, I have on good authority that the community association there isn’t crazy about trams going through the middle of their neighbourhood along the old Railway. Though I think I could quell concerns, I took it into consideration and made an alternative route just in case.
So, I changed the plan to begin at Commemoration Square, go two blocks in mixed traffic until Frank-Robinson then continue on in RoW until Val-Tétrau where it could either continue on the old railway or continue on Taché (which would need to be widened) until just after Bégin street where it would turn down in the current sea of UQO parking to join up with the old railway behind the university. From there, a spur would go down to Bayview station where a transfer could be made to the downtown-bound O-Train (or potentially use the tunnel itself) and another would continue along the railway until Terraces de la Chaudière, where it would take rue du Portage to Laurier and Laurier to the Museum of Civilization.
A second line would follow the same route from both Downtowns to Saint-Raymond, where it would turn up and continue in the median until Boulevard du Plateau, where it would turn west and continue, again in the median, until the “Village Urbain” they’re planning on Boulevard de l’Europe.
Considering the fact that the Prince-of-Wales Bridge already exists (albeit with only one track), and the lack of physical challenges along the route, I’d estimate that the whole thing could be done for a price marginally higher to Portland’s ($8M/km) – $10-15/km. Taking the 18km (of which almost three already exist) of track into account with vehicles, maintenance, construction, etc, I’d estimate a final price of $170-240M for the whole project.
I proposed in an earlier post that Ultra-low-floor trams be used in order to permit level sidewalk boarding. However, I now favour regular low-floor vehicles for two reasons:
The cost, both initially and in maintenance, is much lower for low-floor vehicles because they are now standard in light-rail and streetcars and they therefor require few proprietary parts or expertise and are already being produced en-masse.
A low-floor tram could be compatible with Ottawa’s light rail (which just broke ground), permitting a possible situation of track-sharing in the downtown tunnel or, inversely, in downtown Hull.
Chemin d’Aylmer RoW
In my first proposal, I claimed that RoW beside Chemin d’Aylmer would be the best way to go. However, I’m no longer so certain:
Though side RoW provides the advantage of giving cars the possibility of going around obstacles (accidents, for example) and giving more space to emergency vehicles, RoW in the median is more conducive, from what I’ve read, to street life since businesses have direct access to the street. This hasn’t been resolved, though I’m rather confident that I would prefer median RoW at least in the urbanized sections of the Chemin d’Aylmer (Val-Tétrau and Aylmer). If anyone knows anything about the pros and cons, please share!
Another issue is space: Though Chemin d’Aylmer has enough space to narrowly accommodate tracks, it would need to be expanded another lane to permit center-island stations and greenery (trees between or beside the tracks make air-conditioning less necessary in the vehicles, reduce the amount of snow, rain and wind that can damage the trolley wire and are just nice too). I’m going to try to find some maps at City Hall to get some more insight as to whether this would be possible without too much expropriation (which drives up the cost significantly) or destruction. Stay tuned.
The PoW bridge (no, not “Prisoners of War”) is a single-tracked bridge which is actually two bridges with a section on Lemieux Island. To keep the cost down, I think that it should be kept a single-tracked bridge with a passing track on the island and automation to keep trains from crashing head-on into each other without forcing passengers to wait on one side of the kilometre-long bridge until the other tram has passed. As the headways get shorter, another track could be added on the side (à la Alexandra Bridge), but I’d imagine that that would require some reinforcement (and $), so I think it should be kept til later. However, I think a Multi-use Path (MuP) should be added on the side to encourage active transportation and serve as an emergency evacuation route in case of a breakdown or accident on the bridge.
So there you have it, all shiny and new: the new proposal. It’s less of a vision and more of a foot-in-the-door to bring rapid transit to the west of the city, but I think it’s very possible if we play our cards right. So stay tuned for developments and, if you’re interested in helping out with your ideas or your time, don’t hesitate to contact me through the comments.
PS: Some eye-candy for you – a Tube-styled map of transportation in Gatineau in the year 2020. Enjoy!