More than 53 years ago now, streetcars ran between Byron Ave and Richmond Rd. From 1900-1959, the Ottawa Electric Railway operated a streetcar line there to “Britannia on the Bay” – an amusement park the train company developed to promote streetcar usage. This is today’s Britannia Park. Earlier streetcars on this route were smaller and somewhat slower, but through the 30s-50s, the line was served by Ottawa Car Company 600- and 800-series streetcars. These cars were 13-16m in length and carried approximately 50 people. They were rated for maximum speeds of up to 48-56km/h. They were reportedly capable of achieving greater speeds than this on a section of track that ran straight downhill through open fields, but through the residential area along Byron they typically travelled slower than 50km/h: the streetcars traversed the Britannia to Holland section of the route in 20 minutes, yielding an average speed of less than 20 km/h. During the evening peak, there would be a streetcar every 10 minutes.
Fast forward to the City’s current proposal for “light rail” on Byron and Richmond. The City’s experts have confirmed that today’s proposal is for rail cars 30m in length, travelling 2-4 per train, with each car carrying 250 people. One of these 60-120m trains will pass through our neighbourhood every 2-3 minutes at peak speeds of 60km/h and averaging 40km/h.
Compared to the streetcars of yester-year, the city is proposing to run through the heart of our residential neighbourhood:
– trains that will be moving at double the speed;
– four times as many trains every 10 minutes; and
– trains that will be 4-8 times longer, will carry 10-20 times the number of people, and, with a load of passengers, will weigh 6-12 times more.
These major differences in speed, frequency, and mass make the current rail proposal nothing like the former streetcar service. To use 1950s streetcars as an argument for the City’s current commuter rail proposal is like making the following argument: “Because there used to be a 2-lane gravel road 25 feet from your front door more than 53 years ago – until it was turned into the popular park you all love today – that’s a solid reason to run a 6-lane expressway through there tomorrow. What – you don’t like roads?!?”
Comparing even these baseline facts of what was versus what the City now proposes, the comparison makes no sense! There are far smarter options.