Light Rail Off and Running

And it’s a go.

Yes that’s right, Ottawans finally got to ride the much, much, much anticipated and much delayed light rail system.

Hallelujah.

Have to admit, I was a little taken aback at the party-like atmosphere the city put on to celebrate the opening, including some members of the media who seemed more like cheerleaders than outside observers.

And I may never get over  the image of the giddy-with-delight Kanata Coun. Allan Hubley at the prospect of the opening – or Mayor Jim Watson comparing his excitement to that of Christmas Day. (And I thought I didn’t have much going on in my life!)

Not to mention, the light rail system is absolutely unlikely to help Hubley’s constituents or do anything for the incredible gridlock in much of the city – not just during rush hour, but through much of the work week depending on where you’re travelling.

And am I wrong to think the non-working escalators in the system might have gotten a little more attention, save for the cheerleaders?
Former Mayor Bob Chiarelli, the brains behind bringing light rail to the nation’s capital, understands the system’s limitations as it now exists. He also understands the public’s frustration with the ever-growing traffic issues in the system, especially in Kanata and Barrhaven.

However, as the man who first brought light rail to Ottawa, Saturday was a good and rewarding day. 

“Of course, there’s satisfaction that we have a good modern system up and running,” Chiarelli told On the the City, From the Burbs.

“I thought it was a good launch and the people thought it was a good launch. Yes, it’s been a long and winding road. There’s been a lot of water under the bridge,” he said.

Chiarelli had proposed a north-south line that would have cost substantially less and brought suburban traffic into the mix. But when Larry O’Brien won the election and defeated Chiarelli, O’Brien cancelled that plan and instead decided the first link in Ottawa’s light rail plan would go east-west and include an underground tunnel.

“I think the fact that we’ve taken an extra 10 years has created some challenges for the future. We may have missed a round of funding (from the upper levels of government).” I’ve heard and seen some issues that have been raised, the fact that at this stage and time, we don’t have Kanata and Barrhaven connected, to the system, and so there are some unanswered questions. Will people get out of their cars to take a bus to the train and have to transfer and maybe transfer twice? And all of this is compounded by the unbelievable growth in the city, there’s a tremendous amount of congestion,” Chiarelli said. 

“I’m struck by the bumper to bumper traffic on Stranderd (in Barrhaven), congestion in Kanata,” he continued.”There are still challenges ahead of us. But for (Saturday) it was all well done, and you could tell people were excited about it.”

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