Light Rail Transit Western Extension: Either Build It Right or Don’t Build It at all

When one thinks of all the money spent on foolishness by the City of Ottawa, their efforts to keep a lid on LRT costs are baffling. To reduce costs, the City wants to build the western extension of the LRT through an area west of Tunney’s Pasture where few people live and work.

No matter where the LRT is built, the NIMBY (Not in My Backyard) syndrome sets in, so the City’s solution is to wander far afield and place the rail line beside a Transitway route (otherwise known as the Ottawa River Parkway).

Even though the National Capital Commission is a porkbarrel agency that serves no useful purpose, it is to be commended for opposing the City of Ottawa at every turn in its futile efforts to provide a duplicate transit service right beside a parkway that is already overserviced by OC Transpo buses.

For a megaproject as important as the LRT, either build it right or don’t build it at all. So damn the cost. Build the LRT cut-and-cover style under a major thoroughfare where people actually live and work (preferably Richmond Road). Think big and think bold, or forget about it. We will resign ourselves to living in a capital city without a decent rail transit system.

History is repeating itself. Thirty-odd years ago, the bus-only Transitway was built on parcels of vacant land strung together across the city, and not where commuters wanted to go. The intensive development promised by then OC Transpo general manager John Bonsall failed to materialize along much of the Transitway, and vast stretches of the bus-only system still pass through vacant land. The same fate awaits the LRT’s western extension if the march of folly at Ottawa City Hall continues.

So I say to the City of Ottawa: either go big or shelve the project. Be daring or scrap the western extension of the LRT. If you really want to save pennies, then save the $2 billion it will cost to build an LRT to nowhere. Better to ram it through a crowded neighborhood and damn the consequences, because no matter where the LRT is built, it’s going to cost plenty and upset a lot of people. When the dust settles, Ottawa could actually end up with an LRT system it can be proud of, one that relieves traffic congestion and takes commuters to places they need to get to.

So enough with the public consultation, because it is pointless and leads to prolonged inertia. City council, you have been elected to govern, so govern – and let the chips fall where they may.