Riding the LRT 101: What Ottawans need to know when the Confederation Line launches
After missing its third handover date, Ottawa’s Confederation light-rail transit (LRT) line isn’t yet ready to carry riders, but OC Transpo says its plan for the grand rollout is all set to go.
In a presentation to the city’s transit commission on Wednesday, OC Transpo officials went through that plan, breaking down the information Ottawa transit riders reportedly said they needed to feel “ready for rail.”
Whenever it happens, the launch of the $2.1-billion Confederation Line will mark the first conversion from bus rapid-transit to LRT in the world, according to OC Transpo general manager John Manconi. And although the national capital didn’t have a “playbook to follow,” Manconi said, the City of Ottawa still looked to other major cities in North America for their best practices — including Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Seattle, Boston, Philadelphia, Dallas and Chicago — while planning the operation and layout of the Confederation Line and the LRT customer experience.
Based on what the transit commission heard on Wednesday, here’s what riders need to know about commuting on the LRT system, once it opens:
- There are 13 stops/stations along the east-west Confederation Line, three of which are underground.
- As of publication, it’s still unknown when the delayed LRT line will launch and Manconi wouldn’t comment on a new handover date on Wednesday.
- When the system does launch, that will kick-start a three-week transition period during which current bus service will continue.
- After that, about two-thirds of all OC Transpo trips will involve a ride on the LRT, according to officials.
- Riding the Confederation Line end-to-end, from Tunney’s Pasture to Blair Station (or vice versa), will take under 25 minutes.
- All stations will be decked out with an illuminated red “O.”
- Four of the 13 stations will have public washrooms.
- Line 1 refers to the Confederation Line; Line 2 refers to the north-south Trillium Line (the two lines connect at Bayview Station)
- No LRT station close to you? That might change within the next six years. In early March, Ottawa city council approved the contracts for construction of Stage 2 of the LRT network.
When and how often will the LRT trains run?
The Confederation Line’s hours will be as follows, according to OC Transpo:
- Monday to Thursday: 5 a.m. to 1 a.m.
- Friday: 5 a.m. to 2 a.m.
- Saturday: 6 a.m. to 2 a.m.
- Sunday: 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.
As for the frequency of the trains, they will arrive at every station every five minutes or less at peak times and at least every 15 minutes after 11 p.m.
In comparison, Line 2 has reduced operating hours. The Trillium Line typically runs between 6 a.m. and shortly after midnight on weekdays, between 6:30 a.m. and shortly after midnight on Saturdays and between 7:30 a.m. and 11:30 p.m. on Sundays.
Coun. Riley Brockington asked whether the two lines’ operating hours could be synchronized so passengers travelling late on Line 1 won’t find themselves stranded at Bayview Station with no service on Line 2. Manconi said OC Transpo has given the matter some thought but first wants to get through the launch of Line 1 and then ask for any necessary service adjustments through the next budget process.
How much will it cost to ride the train, and how do I pay my fare?
The fare for a train ride will cost the same as a bus ride. (Your fare is also valid for a set transfer period.) Seniors ride for free on Wednesdays and, as of July 1, on Sundays, too. Children five years old and younger ride for free.
Every LRT station will be equipped with ticket machines, which riders can use to:
- Buy, load or check the status of their Presto card
- Buy a single-ride fare for an adult, senior or child
- Buy a day, multi-day or family pass
The machine screens will guide riders through the process with step-by-step instructions, available in both English and French. The ticket machines are designed to be accessible and will have Braille and raised text that identify important function keys, said Pat Scrimgeour, the city’s director of transit customer systems and planning.
The ticket machine will accept cash, debit cards and credit cards. Riders can also buy transit tickets or load their Presto cards at OC Transpo’s four customer service centres. Presto cards can also be managed at participating city client service centres, Shoppers Drug Mart, Loblaws and Real Canadian Superstore locations.
Adults can get free single-ride tickets for kids five and younger, or apply for a special smart card for them to tap at the fare gates.
How will I get onto the train?
With your ticket or pass in hand, you’ll head to the station’s fare gates, which OC Transpo says will be wide enough for customers using a mobility device or pushing a stroller, bicycle or luggage. The gates will also have an extra card reader at an accessible height.
To get through to the LRT platform, riders will have to tap their Presto card, U-Pass or STO Multi card or scan their barcoded ticket or bus transfer. You won’t have to tap on your way out.
All 13 stations will have dual elevators, and nine of them will have escalators. If you’re travelling with a bike, you can push it up or down the station’s stairs using a stairway channel.
To guide riders with impaired vision, the station floors will have cane-detectable, tactile wayfinding strips, and there will be warning strips at the edge of the platform, too.
When the train stops at the platform, riders can press a green button on the inside or outside of the doors to open them. The platform surface will be level with the train car floors.
Passengers with bikes are asked to wait for the train in a green-marked area on the platform and enter the train using the first door of the first train car.
What do the LRT trains look like?
The LRT fleet consists of 34 train cars. Thirty of those will be on the tracks — with the other four parked as backup — and will travel in sets of two.
Each train set will be almost 100 metres long, with 14 double doors, and can accommodate 600 passengers — about the capacity of six or seven articulated buses, according to Scrimgeour.
There are 240 seats per train set (120 per car), with standing space for 360 passengers. Eight of the seats in each train set will be designated co-operative seating and will be located by the train doors.
The trains are designed for Ottawa’s climate, Scrimgeour said, and will feature panoramic windows, grab bars, heated slip-resistant floors and air conditioning.
There will be maps of the O-Train network in all train cars, and an announcement system will tell you which station is coming up next.
Connecting to and from buses
More than 100 bus routes will connect to Line 1, according to Scrimgeour. Towards the east, riders from Orléans will transfer onto the train at Blair Station, while riders in Alta Vista, Greenboro and Vanier will transfer at either the St-Laurent or Hurdman stations. Riders from the west end (Stittsville, Kanata, Barrhaven and Nepean) will hop onto the LRT line at Tunney’s Pasture.
Passengers arriving at the major transfer stations — Blair, Hurdman, Bayview and Tunney’s Pasture — will be dropped off in a fare-paid zone so they can walk directly to the LRT or bus platform without having to tap their Presto card again or show proof of payment.
Take note, however: The uOttawa, Tremblay and Cyrville stations will not have connectivity to buses.
Lyon Station downtown will serve as the primary connection point between OC Transpo and STO (Société de transport de l’Outaouais) bus service.
LRT etiquette: Four things OC Transpo is asking of its riders
- Walk to the platforms, don’t run
- Don’t hold the doors for other passengers (Manconi said this is one of the main causes of delay in train systems around the world.)
- Don’t step down into the trackway if you drop something — call OC Transpo staff for help
- Allow riders to exit the train car before you board
What happens if there’s a disruption to train service?
OC Transpo has developed procedures to respond to train service disruptions “based on best practices and lessons learned from other cities,” said Troy Charter, the city’s director of transit operations.
OC Transpo’s first order of business in these situations will be to “flood” riders and stations with information about what happened, how long the disruption is expected to last and what their options are.
That information would be broadcast or displayed via PA announcements in stations and on trains, transit information screens, signs, social media, OC Transpo’s website and text and email alerts.
In the event there are “severe delays” or if part or all of the LRT line is unavailable, OC Transpo would deploy “limited replacement bus service.” But these replacement buses – marked “R1” – won’t be able to match the capacity, speed or reliability of the trains, Manconi warned.
OC Transpo’s top boss didn’t mince words: if there’s a major service disruption, “it won’t be a pretty picture,” he said. But he pledged that riders will not be left in the dark in those situations.
Transit supervisors and customer service personnel would also be sent out to assist riders during service disruptions, according to Charter.
Who can help me if I run into problems?
OC Transpo says hundreds of staff will be available to help riders at all 13 LRT stations “at all times” during the Confederation Line’s launch period.
If you need assistance in the station, you can reach a staff member by using an “information phone.” Riders can also video chat with a staff member through the ticket machines.
As always, passengers can seek in-person help at the four OC Transpo customer service centres or call 613-741-4390 for transit information.
What safety and security measures should I know about?
Special constables and other staff will monitor and patrol the whole LRT system and will help out in an emergency.
There will be emergency phones in waiting areas on the train and bus platforms, and the trains will have on-board emergency passenger intercoms.
Stations and train cars will be equipped with CCTV cameras.
First responders have completed safety training for the LRT line, as well as technical drills and simulated exercises, throughout 2018 and 2019.
All underground stations and major transfer locations will have a defibrillator on site, according to OC Transpo.
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