Just over a month ago now Ottawa was introduced to a much anticipated transformation to transit. The new O-Train Confederation Line otherwise known as the LRT (light rail transit) is Ottawa’s first substantive introduction to rail based transit since the initial start of the smaller Trillium Line back in 2001. The 12.5km line is the first phase of a much larger plan implemented by Ottawa’s transit provider OC Transpo. All along the route trains are separated from traffic traveling at grade, below ground and above ground.
This new line has had a few challenges getting up and running which are not uncommon to major transit projects. Delays during construction pushed the opening date back by nearly 18 months and the transition from buses to trains has lead to some crowding and disruption to routine. Some time will be needed for both the system and passengers to adapt.
Along with being transformative this new line brought forward an opportunity to introduce more accessibility to the transit system and surrounding area. This line should be encourage to spur more connectivity between stations and surrounding buildings, parks, services and other amenities while adopting accessible design features that improve mobility throughout the city. Phase 2 of the O-Train expansion is already underway. This will include extensions of both the Confederation and Trillium Lines. A refresh to the older Trillium Line should hopefully see many of the accessibility design features adopted for the Confederation Line applied during the redevelopment.
Below I provide a quick run-down of my observations on how the new system performs. Overall my assessment is that the system has been built with good attention to accessibility. There are some areas for improvement however most of these could be remedied with minimal costs.
A special word about Blair Station. This station gets a special comment as it is the only station on the new line that still makes use of the infrastructure left over from the former Transitway station. Passengers traveling from the new Blair O-train station to the Gloucester shopping centre or adjacent bus station must travel up an over the bus corridor. On one end the new station has multiple elevators and modern staircase (no escalators). At the other end passengers descend through the former bus Transitway station that includes one small elevator and steep stairs. This represents a safety and accessibility concern given the volume of people who funnel through this corridor. The small elevator is also frequently out of service meaning that people needing elevator access must be shuttled across the road by bus! This station in particular will need some attention in the near future for improvement.
Trained in town planning, an avid traveler and legally blind myself I write on issues and opportunities is see along my travels that could improve our cities from a visual perspective.