New LRT represents a return to Ottawas historic roots of transportation – Ottawa Citizen

New LRT represents a return to Ottawa\s historic roots of transportation - Ottawa Citizen
Scenes from Ottawas 1st LRT rides
People attending the official opening of the LRT Saturday morning at Tunney’s Pasture were greeted with images of streetcars rolling through the city’s streets more than half a century ago, a reminder that this was not Ottawa’s first ride on the rails.

Trams, first pulled by horses and later electric streetcars — as well as trains — moved people around the streets of Ottawa and beyond for decades until the popularity of automobiles bumped Ottawa’s streetcars into the history books in the late 1950s. The first streetcars began in Ottawa in 1870.

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The trams that took Ottawa residents to places of work and leisure, including Britannia Beach for swimming and picnics, were made in Ottawa and sold across the country. The fleet was eventually decommissioned in 1959.

Instead of cranky posts about long waits for missing buses, transit Twitter lit up Saturday afternoon with photos and videos from OC Transpo users taking their first rides on the Confederation Line.

In 2017, as a Canada 150 project, a group of local enthusiasts restored a rusted, century old streetcar.

Many Ottawa residents still remember life with streetcars, but it would be years of debate and discussion before a working plan to build a new rail-based transit system was in place.

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OC Transpo’s Transitway, a rapid transit network that separated some buses from regular traffic, began in 1983. But, as the city grew, the crowding of buses downtown during rush hour, especially, became increasingly unworkable.

Ottawa’s new 12.5-kilometre LRT includes a 2.5-kilometre tunnel under downtown Ottawa, the most difficult and costly section of the light rail system.

That tunnel has opened after more than a century of proposals to move traffic in a subway under the city, beginning in 1915 with a report to Parliament from the Holt Commission that recommended streetcars be placed in a subway between Bronson and Rideau streets. The report, which was never implemented, noted the severe congestion of Sparks Street and arteries leading up to it, including Bank and Elgin streets.

The new fare gates at Confederation Line stations will require a Presto card, U-Pass, STO Multi card, or OC Transpo bus transfer. Paper monthly passes and paper bus tickets will not be accepted. Passengers will need to tap a smart card or scan a transfer at the gate.

A photo taken during the LRT construction process shows trackwork in the tunnel between Parliament and Rideau station. City of Ottawa

When you pass through a major station, like Hurdman, Blair, Tunneys Pasture and Bayview, on the Confederation Line, you will not have to pass through a fare gate or pay again. Buses will drop you off at a platform. These are called fare-paid zones.

When serious planning began about an east-west LRT line in 2008, a 3.2-kilometre tunnel with four underground LRT stations was initially proposed. Plans were eventually agreed on for a 2.5-kilometre tunnel from just before Bronson Avenue to the University of Ottawa.

Seniors will continue to have free fare on Wednesdays and Sundays, but they will need a Presto card set with a seniors discount if they are passing through a fare gate. Children aged five years old and under ride the trains and buses for free.

The LRT is more than a tunnel, however. Its construction, marked by a sinkhole on Rideau Street and 16 months of delay, represents one of the biggest city-building project in the capital’s history and marks a return to the city’s roots at a time when Ottawa’s population has surpassed one million people.

Presto cards can also be loaded in advance online at prestocard.ca, by calling 1-877-387-6163 or in person at OC Transpo customer service centres, select City of Ottawa client service centres or participating Shoppers Drug Mart stores.

Passengers use the Lyon Station gateways as the LRT officially opens on September 14, 2019 complete with ceremonies at Tunney's Pasture. Photo by Wayne Cuddington/ Postmedia   Wayne Cuddington /jpg

There will also be free transfer from the bus to train, and train to bus until your transfer time expires. Transfer times last 90 minutes on weekdays and up to two hours on evenings and weekends.

A man boards the train with his bike at the Pimisi Station as the LRT officially opens on September 14, 2019 complete with ceremonies at Tunney's Pasture. Photo by Wayne Cuddington/ Postmedia   Wayne Cuddington /jpg

The city says schedule and travel times will be predictable and reliable. Each two-car train will have room for 600 passengers, and the schedule is designed to never leave people waiting.

Passengers ride the train as the LRT officially opens on September 14, 2019 complete with ceremonies at Tunney's Pasture. Photo by Wayne Cuddington/ Postmedia   Wayne Cuddington /jpg

There will be ticket machines at every station. Passengers can buy a new Presto card, load their Presto care or buy single-fare tickets. The machines accept cash, debit and credit cards.

A train pulls into the Lyon Station as the LRT officially opens on September 14, 2019 complete with ceremonies at Tunney's Pasture. Photo by Wayne Cuddington/ Postmedia   Wayne Cuddington /jpg

There will also be free Wi-Fi at the three underground stations: Lyon, Parliament and Rideau. The city is aiming to have free Wi-Fi at all stations by the end of the year.

A woman looks out the window as the train pulls into the Lyon Station as the LRT officially opens on September 14, 2019 complete with ceremonies at Tunney's Pasture. Photo by Wayne Cuddington/ Postmedia   Wayne Cuddington /jpg

Performer known as Lucky Ron belts out a tune in the Lyon Station as the LRT officially opens on September 14, 2019 complete with ceremonies at Tunney's Pasture. Photo by Wayne Cuddington/ Postmedia   Wayne Cuddington /jpg

Jim Watson meets Tay Reeves,8, who wore a conductors cap to the ceremonies this am at Tunney's Pasture LRT Station.   Wayne Cuddington /Postmedia

Former Mayor Larry O'Brien (L) and Councillor Eli El-Chantiry catch up as the LRT officially opens with ceremonies at Tunney's Pasture.   Wayne Cuddington /jpg

During peak times, trains will arrive at every station every five minutes or less. There will be frequent service all day, and every 15 minutes after midnight.

Passengers walk under a colourful ceiling as they head for a train at the Parliament Station as the LRT officially opens on September 14, 2019 complete with ceremonies at Tunney's Pasture. Photo by Wayne Cuddington/ Postmedia   Wayne Cuddington /jpg

There will be accessible fare gates for passengers with mobility devices. Ticket machines will have raised text and Braille, along with both video and audio.

Future customers wait outside the Tunney's station as the LRT officially opens with ceremonies at Tunney's Pasture. Photo by Wayne Cuddington/ Postmedia   Wayne Cuddington /jpg

Caroline Mulroney, Ontario Minister of Transportation and Mayor Jim Watson unveil the official plaque as the LRT officially opens with ceremonies at Tunney's Pasture. Photo by Wayne Cuddington/ Postmedia   Wayne Cuddington /jpg

A phone booth in the Lyon Station as the LRT officially opens on September 14, 2019 complete with ceremonies at Tunney's Pasture. Photo by Wayne Cuddington/ Postmedia   Wayne Cuddington /jpg

Its finally happening – Ottawas #ConfederationLine is opening to riders today at 2pm. Before that, theres a city-organized launch event & inaugural ride for officials and media. Heres the set-up at Tunneys Pasture right now! #ottnews #ottcity pic.twitter.com/Q2kK9gBEve

A train pulls into the Pimisi Station as the LRT officially opens on September 14, 2019 complete with ceremonies at Tunney's Pasture. Photo by Wayne Cuddington/ Postmedia   Wayne Cuddington /jpg

Ottawa's new LRT system was up and running for the public for the first time in Ottawa Saturday Sept 14, 2019. Waiting for a train at Tremblay Station Saturday. Tony Caldwell,   Tony Caldwell /Postmedia

Ottawa's new LRT system was up and running for the public for the first time in Ottawa Saturday Sept 14, 2019. Waiting for a train at St. Laurent Station Saturday. Tony Caldwell,   Tony Caldwell /Postmedia

Ottawa's new LRT system was up and running for the public for the first time in Ottawa Saturday Sept 14, 2019. Hundreds of people waiting to get onto the new LRT at Blair Station Saturday. Tony Caldwell,   Tony Caldwell /Postmedia

Ottawa's new LRT system was up and running for the public for the first time in Ottawa Saturday Sept 14, 2019. Waiting for a train at St. Laurent Station Saturday. Tony Caldwell,   Tony Caldwell /Postmedia

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.

Ottawa's new LRT system was up and running for the public for the first time in Ottawa Saturday Sept 14, 2019. A train arrives at Cyrville Station Saturday. Tony Caldwell,   Tony Caldwell /Postmedia

Ottawa's new LRT system was up and running for the public for the first time in Ottawa Saturday Sept 14, 2019. Hundreds of people waiting to get onto the new LRT at Blair Station Saturday. Tony Caldwell,   Tony Caldwell /Postmedia

Ottawa's new LRT system was up and running for the public for the first time in Ottawa Saturday Sept 14, 2019. People waiting to get on the new LRT at Blair Station Saturday. Tony Caldwell,   Tony Caldwell /Postmedia

Ottawa's new LRT system was up and running for the public for the first time in Ottawa Saturday Sept 14, 2019. A train comes into Blair Station Saturday. Tony Caldwell,   Tony Caldwell /Postmedia

Ottawa's new LRT system was up and running for the public for the first time in Ottawa Saturday Sept 14, 2019. Blair Station Saturday. Tony Caldwell,   Tony Caldwell /Postmedia

“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.’

Ottawa's new LRT system was up and running for the public for the first time in Ottawa Saturday Sept 14, 2019. Security at Blair Station Saturday. Tony Caldwell,   Tony Caldwell /Postmedia

“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.

Ottawa's new LRT system was up and running for the public for the first time in Ottawa Saturday Sept 14, 2019. People waiting to get onto the new LRT at Blair Station Saturday. Tony Caldwell,   Tony Caldwell /Postmedia

Ottawa's new LRT system was up and running for the public for the first time in Ottawa Saturday Sept 14, 2019. Tony Caldwell,   Tony Caldwell /Postmedia

Ottawa's new LRT system was up and running for the public for the first time in Ottawa Saturday Sept 14, 2019. Tony Caldwell,   Tony Caldwell /Postmedia

Artwork on the walls of Lyon Station as the LRT officially opens on September 14, 2019 complete with ceremonies at Tunney's Pasture. Photo by Wayne Cuddington/ Postmedia   Wayne Cuddington /jpg

Passengers check the route as the LRT officially opens on September 14, 2019 complete with ceremonies at Tunney's Pasture. Photo by Wayne Cuddington/ Postmedia   Wayne Cuddington /jpg

The entrance to the Lyon Station as the LRT officially opens on September 14, 2019 complete with ceremonies at Tunney's Pasture. Photo by Wayne Cuddington/ Postmedia   Wayne Cuddington /jpg

Artwork in the Lyon Station as the LRT officially opens on September 14, 2019 complete with ceremonies at Tunney's Pasture. Photo by Wayne Cuddington/ Postmedia   Wayne Cuddington /jpg

Passengers on the train as the LRT officially opens on September 14, 2019 complete with ceremonies at Tunney's Pasture. Photo by Wayne Cuddington/ Postmedia   Wayne Cuddington /jpg

Directions on the sidewalk along Queen St near the World Exchange as the LRT officially opens on September 14, 2019 complete with ceremonies at Tunney's Pasture. Photo by Wayne Cuddington/ Postmedia   Wayne Cuddington /jpg

A historic day in the capital Saturday as the public finally got to ride the LRT system. Ashley Fraser/Postmedia   Ashley Fraser /Postmedia

A historic day in the capital Saturday as the public finally got to ride the LRT system. Ashley Fraser/Postmedia   Ashley Fraser /Postmedia

The doors close as a train is set to leave Pimisi Station as the LRT officially opens on September 14, 2019 complete with ceremonies at Tunney's Pasture. Photo by Wayne Cuddington/ Postmedia   Wayne Cuddington /jpg

LRT launch, September 14, 2019. Photo by Jean Levac/Postmedia News assignment 132258   Jean Levac /Postmedia News

A historic day in the capital Saturday as the public finally got to ride the LRT system.   Ashley Fraser /Postmedia

Jim Watson enjoys the first LRT ride during the LRT launch, September 14, 2019. Photo by Jean Levac/Postmedia News assignment 132258

Sylvie Béland goes through the gates at the Lyon Station as the LRT officially opens on September 14, 2019 complete with ceremonies at Tunney's Pasture. Photo by Wayne Cuddington/ Postmedia

Andrew Maffrey and Daphne Lessard with their daughter Sabine come through the gates at Parliament Station as the LRT officially opens on September 14, 2019 complete with ceremonies at Tunney's Pasture.   Wayne Cuddington /Postmedia

Jim Watson and Caroline Mulroney (R) enjoy the LRT launch, September 14, 2019. Photo by Jean Levac/Postmedia News assignment 132258

John Manconi (L), Allan Hubley and Jim Watson enjoy the LRT launch, September 14, 2019. Photo by Jean Levac/Postmedia News assignment 132258

A historic day in the capital Saturday as the public finally got to ride the LRT system. People check everything out at the Lees Station between trains coming and going. Ashley Fraser/Postmedia

A historic day in the capital Saturday as the public finally got to ride the LRT system. A young child takes time on the Hurdman Station stairs. Ashley Fraser/Postmedia

A historic day in the capital Saturday as the public finally got to ride the LRT system. Ashley Fraser/Postmedia

A historic day in the capital Saturday as the public finally got to ride the LRT system. 20-week-old Theo Eisener enjoyed his ride on the train Saturday. Ashley Fraser/Postmedia

OC Transpo Special Constable agents walk through Lees Station on Saturday.   Ashley Fraser /Postmedia

A card reader for the LRT system, which opened to passengers on Saturday.   Ashley Fraser /Postmedia

A view of Hurdman Station on Saturday afternoon as trains come and go.   Ashley Fraser /Postmedia