Isn’t the Carling route supposed to be really expensive or slower?

In its latest report, the City has costed 3 Carling Avenue LRT routes at approximately $2B each.  Why are they so much more costly than other routes to the North?  Mostly because the City has assumed that any Carling route must be overwhelmingly “fully grade-separated”; that is, it has to be almost entirely subterranean or elevated trains.  It’s true that elevated trains and subways are less disruptive to traffic, and they can be quicker too.  But you don’t need to be a transit expert to know that building a rail line in the air or underground is tremendously more expensive than building one on the ground.

To arrive at its shortlist of 4 options, (3 primarily using Richmond-Byron, and 1 using only the Ottawa River Parkway), the City compared 16 routes of the 3 following types:

  •  surface options on Richmond-Byron and the Ottawa River Parkway;
  •  grade-separated (underground) options on Richmond-Byron; and
  •  grade-separated (underground and elevated) options on Carling.

With cost as a significant factor in the evaluation, it is little wonder that only the surface rail options emerged on top!  If you need to buy a car to drive daily through the city to work, and your 3 choices are 2 Rolls Royces and a Corolla, whatever you think of the Rolls, most of us are buying the Corolla.  The comparison between the options as presented by the City is not apples-to-apples either.  By design, setting up grade-separated straw man options and weighting cost skewed the outcome decidedly in favour of the 4 shortlisted options before “the study” ever began.

Notably, what the City did not seriously consider were at-grade options on Carling Avenue.  Not one such option was among the 16 that were considered in producing the shortlisted final 4.  The City’s experts have said such options aren’t feasible.  Maybe they’re right, but the City’s current consultants are not the only experts.  Other experts with experience in rail transit systems say that such options are viable on Carling.  Some of them have been quoted in local media over recent months.  Anyone reviewing the City’s latest report cannot say what the implications on cost (much lower!) or transit time (slightly more?) or feasibility (which experts?) are for surface rail on Carling, because these options are missing.

Neighbours for Smart Western Rail has called on the City to ensure that Carling options are given a fair, reasonable, apples-to-apples comparison before the City advances further towards a western LRT route.  In canvassing hundreds of homes and in discussions with residents from our and other neighbourhoods, Neighbours for Smart Western Rail members are consistently asked one question that we can’t answer: “Why not Carling?!?”  Sometimes the obvious answer can actually be the right one.  What is clear in this case is that making decisions without honestly exploring the potential for primarily surface rail on Carling Avenue definitely isn’t smart.