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All systems go: Ottawa’s Confederation LRT Line opens to passengers

Click to play video 'Passengers take first ride on Ottawa’s LRT' Passengers take first ride on Ottawa’s LRT
Go along for the ride as passengers board trains for Ottawa's new Confederation Line LRT.

After about decade of planning and more than 15 months of delays, Ottawa’s $2.1-billion Confederation Line is officially carrying passengers along the electric train tracks between Tunney’s Pasture, west of downtown, and Gloucester in the city’s east end.

The long-awaited, east-west light-rail system – which includes a fleet of 34 train cars and 13 stations – opened its doors to the public just before 2 p.m., marking the biggest milestone in the national capital’s transit history, according to OC Transpo.

“It changes the city forever,” said John Manconi, the city’s general manager of transportation services. “From a mobility perspective, also from a baseline in terms of how we can compete globally.”

“Twenty-first-century economies need 21st-century mobility systems and this is what you’ve got. State of the art trains, 5G continuous connectivity [and] the ability to expand. Those trains can handle 30, 50 years of growth and capacity.”
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WATCH: John Manconi, head of OC Transpo, describes what the launch of the Confederation Line LRT means for Ottawa’s transit system.

Click to play video '‘It changes the city forever:’ OC Transpo boss describes what LRT means for Ottawa’s transit system' ‘It changes the city forever:’ OC Transpo boss describes what LRT means for Ottawa’s transit system
‘It changes the city forever:’ OC Transpo boss describes what LRT means for Ottawa’s transit system

Ahead of the 2 p.m. opening, the City of Ottawa invited about 400 guests – including local, provincial and federal politicians, former councillors, former mayors, stakeholders and other members of the public – to a launch event inside Tunney’s Pasture station.

The Confederation Line will “change the way” residents move around the national capital, councillor and transit commission chair Allan Hubley said as he kicked off the celebratory event.

READ MORE: What Ottawans need to know when the Confederation Line launches

Bringing the massive infrastructure project to fruition went beyond party lines, Mayor Jim Watson told the crowd, giving his thanks to municipal, provincial and federal governments, past and present, who invested in the first phase of Ottawa’s “O-Train” LRT system.

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Following the ceremony, guests hopped on board the LRT for an inaugural trip to Blair station, at the line’s eastern end, and back.

WATCH: Exciting and ‘emotional’: Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson describes how LRT launch day feels

Click to play video 'Exciting and ‘emotional’: Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson describes how LRT launch day feels' Exciting and ‘emotional’: Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson describes how LRT launch day feels
Exciting and ‘emotional’: Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson describes how LRT launch day feels

Watson described the day as both exciting and emotional for him, personally.

“A lot of blood, sweat and tears went into this project, and when I got up there, it was emotional because a lot of us have put a lot of hours and we got bruised along the way. But these are the challenges when you’re putting together such a complex project,” Watson told reporters after the train ride.

“To have it all come together, I think it actually is more rewarding, quite frankly, that we had those challenges because if it was smooth sailing, it would’ve been, ‘Ho hum, the system is open.’

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“It really tested our staff, it tested the construction workers and the politicians, and I think most people will come away today with a very proud sense of being a resident of Ottawa,” the mayor said.

Keen LRT riders began lining up outside Tunney’s Pasture station over an hour before the 2 p.m. grand opening.

Celebration events featuring local performers and area city councillors are being held at all 13 O-Train stations from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The 13 stations are, from west to east: Tunney’s Pasture, Bayview, Pimisi, Lyon, Parliament, Rideau, uOttawa, Lees, Hurdman, Tremblay, St-Laurent, Cyrville and Blair.

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Lyon, Parliament and Rideau are the train’s three underground stations, located along the line’s 2.5-kilometre tunnel under downtown Ottawa.

READ MORE: Free Wi-Fi in underground LRT stations will expand to all Confederation Line stops

The Confederation Line is the first phase of Ottawa’s long-term O-Train plans. Preliminary construction began this year for Stage 2 LRT, which will see the Confederation Line extended farther east and west to Trim Road and Moodie Drive, respectively.

The north-south Trillium Line will also be extended further south to the suburban community of Riverside South as part of Stage 2, with a spur line to the Ottawa International Airport.

When that second stage is complete, the city’s O-Train system will include 41 stations and span nearly 64 kilometres. The city is also looking ahead to Stage 3.

READ MORE: Builder thinks lightning affected LRT radios, City of Ottawa says

The Confederation Line launched later than it would on a typical Saturday and will remain open until 2 a.m.

Unlike the Waterloo region, the City of Ottawa is not offering free trips to riders during the LRT’s first days of operation. The head of OC Transpo has said the transit agency is considering offering commuters a day of free rides later this fall, but no date has been confirmed.

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Commuters who need help navigating the new train system are encouraged to flag down OC Transpo staff donning red vests at the LRT stations.

Quick facts

  • Riding the Confederation Line end to end, from Tunney’s Pasture to Blair station (or vice versa), will take under 25 minutes.
  • There are 13 stops/stations along the east-west Confederation Line, three of which are underground.
  • Public washrooms are located in the fare-paid zones in four stations: Tunney’s, Bayview, Hurdman and Blair.
  • Current bus service will continue throughout a three-week transition period that kicks off when the system launches.

READ MORE: 86 bus routes changing on Oct. 6, OC Transpo says

When and how often do the LRT trains run?

The Confederation Line’s hours are 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.

The Trillium Line – which connects to the Confederation Line at Bayview Station – has separate operating hours.

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WATCH (Mar. 4, 2019): Ottawa city councillors, staff invited to experience LRT simulator
Click to play video 'Ottawa city councillors, staff invited to experience LRT simulator' Ottawa city councillors, staff invited to experience LRT simulator
Ottawa city councillors, staff invited to experience LRT simulator

How much does 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 – $3.45 if you use a Presto card or $3.50 if you purchase a single ticket – and it’s valid for a set transfer period. A previously scheduled fare increase will come into effect on Oct. 1.

Seniors ride for free on Wednesdays and Sundays but their Presto card needs to be registered with a seniors’ discount in order to get past the LRT fare gates.

Children five years old and younger ride for free.

Every LRT station will be equipped with ticket machines, which riders can use to:

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  • 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

Do the trains or stations have Wi-Fi?

Riders can log onto a free Telus Wi-Fi network on the platforms at the three underground LRT stations: Rideau, Parliament and Lyon. The city says the complementary network will be extended to the other Confederation Line stations over the coming year.

The train cars themselves aren’t equipped with Wi-Fi but the city says your cell service won’t be interrupted between stations or in the underground tunnel.

For more answers to your LRT questions, visit OC Transpo’s website.

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