#Canada: An O-Train line down Bank Street?

ILLUSTRATION: CLINTON DESVEAUX

By Clinton Desveaux

Is now the time to begin serious discussions about building a Bank Street O-Train tunnel? Ottawa is working towards completion of the east-west Confederation Line 1 and the north-south Trillium Line 2 that will connect the airport, the EY Convention Centre and Carleton University to the downtown. With its population forecast to grow significantly, Ottawa has timed its O-Train expansion perfectly.

In recent weeks, there seems to be growing consensus in favour of the Ottawa-Gatineau Rail Loop as a next step in the capital’s rail and subway network. The idea was first proposed by Bob Plamondon, a former board member of the National Capital Commission, and has been embraced by the NCC itself and some former city officials.

Gatineau is preparing to build the O-Train expansion with support from all three levels of government. It could connect with downtown Ottawa, one presumes, via the Ottawa-Gatineau Rail Loop. It would reduce traffic congestion for commuters on both sides of the Ottawa River and help reduce carbon emissions.

The final problem that needs to be resolved once and for all is Bank Street. An O-Train tunnel could be part of the solution. Bank Street is one of the main transportation routes into the city from southern suburbs. It is arguably the capital’s “main street” with countless eateries and stores that attract people from all over the city and tourists as well. It is also home to Lansdowne Park, which hosts countless sporting and cultural events.

A tunnel from Parliament Station near the north end of Bank Street to Billings Bridge would be about 4.5 km long. At a speed of 80 km an hour and allowing 30 seconds each for four stops along the line, the O-Train could cover the distance in about six minutes. There would be none of the delays that pedestrians, bicycles and delivery trucks cause for drivers.

The Bank Street O-Train Tunnel would create a heritage and historical route for locals and tourists, providing easier access to the Rideau River, Rideau Canal, Lansdowne, the Glebe, Chinatown and Parliament Hill.

It would connect with the Confederation Line 1 and presumably the Ottawa-Gatineau Rail Loop. Billings Bridge Shopping Centre would become a publictransit hub for those travelling to and from bedroom communities in the south of the city. An O-Train and tunnel would allow for more public space along Bank Street by reducing bus, car and truck traffic. It would also reduce congestion at Lansdowne during big events. Traffic reduction would in turn leave more room for cyclists and pedestrians, helping the city’s efforts to reduce its carbon footprint.

Among the local politicians who’ve expressed interest in the new line are Councillor Shawn Menard and MPP Joel Harden.

With Ottawa’s population forecast to hit 1.8 million over the next decade, now is the time to start planning the 4.5-km Bank Street O-Train Tunnel. Should it be called Line 3 or Line 4?

Clinton P. Desveaux, a Halifax businessman who grew up in Ottawa, describes himself as “a social thought leader.”

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