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O-Train Line 1 - Confederation Line - Launch Saturday, September 14, 2019


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Capitalizing on an opening created by Lord O’Brien, whose zero-means-zero pedantry satiated the philistines, Saint Jim of Lisgar Street slew an unholy alliance of rubber-tired, diesel-powered, petroleum-backed, blow-hards, to give the City of Ottawa a light metro disguised as an LRT. 
 
But it was on September 14 that Saint Jim of Lisgar Street performed the miracle for which he was canonized. That afternoon, when the sun broke through the rain clouds, he turned non-believers into believers as the Confederation Line 1 ran for its first time in revenue service. 
 
That is why September 14 will forever be known as the feast day of Saint Jim of Lisgar Street. 
 
 

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I obviously shared a lot of my first impressions over on Twitter, but thought I would do a more “long form” impression over here. I’ll try to keep it relatively compact, but I want to cover all of the

Congrats on obtaining the weekend passes @Norman Bates! Really like the design, just wish they didn’t put the validity dates on the front... Hopefully you’ll spend a lot of time on the rails this week

I was on the second revenue service train out of Tunney’s. We pulled out at 1:53 PM EDT to the spontaneous eruption of applause from all in the vehicle.  I took it all the way to Blair and then b

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I was on the second revenue service train out of Tunney’s. We pulled out at 1:53 PM EDT to the spontaneous eruption of applause from all in the vehicle. 

I took it all the way to Blair and then back to Tunney’s. From there I returned east, getting off at every station to familiarize myself with its platform perimeter and other levels where applicable. 

At uOttawa station I shared a few words of appreciation with Saint Jim of Lisgar Street and thanked Allan Hubley for the above-noted professional courtesy. 

In total I rode two complete round trips on Confederation Line 1. I experienced no service deficiencies. I did note some very small construction deficiencies in a few stations. Things that will likely be remediated over the course of the next few weeks. 

I personally found the mezzanine level of Lyon Station a little confusing / disorienting as all opposite sides appear to be a mirror image of one another. I will need to look at this again to validate my first impression. 

I agree with Saint Jim: Pimisi is also my favourite station. 

I disliked the noise from the wheels when executing turns between Tremblay and Hurdman stations. But it is a magnitude quieter than the TTC at Union or St. George stations. 

The vehicles themselves are enormously more civilized than anything previously experienced by OC Transpo’s ridership. But after ~3.5 hours on and around Confederation Line 1 it develops the vibe of the Montreal Metro, TTC, SkyTrain, that we’re all familiar with. 

Today, the City of Ottawa joined the league of those other metropolises. 

Well done, Saint Jim. And now let us consider the beatification of John Manconi. 

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I obviously shared a lot of my first impressions over on Twitter, but thought I would do a more “long form” impression over here. I’ll try to keep it relatively compact, but I want to cover all of the stations, from East to West.

 

Overall Impression

The Ottawa LRT is a misnomer. In terms of scale and infrastructures, this is definitely in the light metro, almost heavy metro category. For someone’s visiting the city, whichever station they see first, they are in for a shock: the scale is on par with Montreal, Toronto or other cities, and in some cases, even more impressive. It was definitely worth the wait, and I am proud that people in our city can now experience what the future looks like. With Stage 2 ahead, naysayers will be fewer and fewer as we embrace this “big city vibe” over the next few years. Ottawa, welcome to the big league.

 

Vehicles

The Citadis Spirit is impressive, but for reasons I didn’t expect. While I still think the seat layout is “a bit weird” as a result of the low-floor, it is surprising how much space there actually is. Windows give an excellent view of the city and let in a lot of natural light. The acceleration is really impressive. You can “feel” the kick as a train goes for an higher speed limit, which is almost destabilizing! As a result, the placement of grab-handles across the vehicles is excellent, and will likely get a lot of use during rush-hour peaks. Everything seemed solid, and seats are comfortable enough for a transit vehicle. The ride is really smooth, while noise levels reasonable: I noticed a peak of 95 dB (Measured from my Apple Watch) measured between Lyon and Parliament station, likely due to the straight tunnel segment, but most of the alignment seems to average 70-80dB, which is quiet compared to the buses or other metro systems.

 

The Stations

Blair

From the outside, it’s scale is impressive, a result of it serving all major bus routes east of Stage 1. This leads to a massive island platform, various access to the different section of the bus-loop and bridge over the 417. The increasingly high ceiling gives an awesome sense of space and grandeur, especially with the art installation. While the first pictures I saw of the old concrete bridge left me skeptic, the integration in the design is really surprising, as it does not catch your eye, yet is a core element in the layout. As for the bus loop, I think the configuration can be confusing, especially to reach the northern platform, though it is a remanent of the old Transitway, which will in part disappear after Stage 2.

Cyrville

Likely to be the lowest traffic station, as the nearby destinations are quite limited, it still has an impressive scale. The island platform feels enormous, as it will likely almost never be packed, and access to it is really simple from either side of the street. I don’t have much else to say about it, but that as a “low traffic, low focus” platform, it bodes well for Stage 2 as it remains inviting and feels like a safe space to wait at.

St. Laurent

I had to think more about this one, as I am not too sure how I feel. On the one hand, the space is gigantic and the art is amazing, occupying most of the stations walls. The connectivity to either-side of the 417 and inside the mall is excellent. However, it feels “rough”. Shane mentioned it in one of the threads, but there is exposed steel from the previous Transitway station, and most of the layout is dictated by what was needed before more than the actual vision of the new LRT. It is not unpleasant for sure, but not inspiring. Especially given how Rideau feels like a crown-jewel, you can tell St. Laurent got a second grade design dictated by the above bus loop, the existing space, and the fixed envelope. However, for those accessing the mall, it should be more than enough. Such a big station with small fare gate area and access to the upper level feels “weird”.

Tremblay

An unexpected surprise to say the least. When you think about it, it is mostly a single destination station, at least for now. Yet, platform space is notably generous, with the ceiling height impressive. For all those arriving in the city through Via Rail or heading to the station, this is an excellent first impression of our city. Simple layout, plenty of covered space, and a mostly covered pathway between it and Via Rail. The art installation outside the station, with the provinces flowers feels “canadian” and emphasizes the connectivity and the capital city nature of Ottawa in a discrete, yet beautiful way.

Hurdman

The scale. Alike Bayview, it is one of the stations that strike you by how massive it is. Plenty of space and connection to the lower bus loop and its fare paid zone, beautiful looks from within and outside, as well as a more ‘iconic’ design. I don’t have much else to say because it speaks for itself. Looks good, feels safe, and definitely serves as a major hub between the south and core of Ottawa. Only gripe is the stroll some might need to make in order to reach the last stops on the loop, though this will likely change once we switch to the final bus schedule. While the art doesn’t strike me as much as other stations, it has a flow which will be even more impressive as Hurdman develops over the upcoming decades.

Lees

An excellent example of how to design a destination station. Simple layout, well implemented in the surroundings through the lower level MUP and art all along the platform, on either side. Some might argue the station is “too big” for the capacity needs of the area, but I see it as an excellent way to embrace and encourage the densification which has been proposed for quite some time.

uOttawa

This is my home station, and I will definitely find every opportunity to use it. From the outside, the structure is already impressive, especially as you approach from the campus. Yet, you can connect to the canal, the Golden Triangle, most of Vanier and the campus in a seamless manner. The art in the underpass is interesting, as it is meant to replicate the “crowd effect” were it is impersonal, yet you still feel it, but can feel “creepy” to others. There is plenty of light across every section of the platform, an important element for those who stay on campus late at night and want to head home. While the staircases are smaller, especially given it is the “only” access to the eastbound platform, it is a definitive improvement over the layout of the former Campus station and Laurier station.

Rideau

If you are not impressed by Rideau station, I don’t know what else would. Being the deepest station on the alignment, access to the station is a bit more difficult, though it remains mostly seamless, especially if you connect through the mall. The long escalator ride to the concourse is definitely impressive, and elicits reactions from everyone. This entrance is my favourite as you get to see the gallery in which the art at each station is explained, an amazing touch and way to share the passion for art. As you reach the concourse, the cavernous nature of the space feels much more refined than St. Laurent, and more premium. Plenty of platform space, a concern which was raised way too often, and easy way-finding are strong suit of the station, even though it has two concourses and separate exits with no connection to another. The art itself is not as eye-catchy, and costs us one of the best photo-spot in the station, but I appreciate its understated nature and the certain texture it gives as you reach the concourse or board off the train.

Parliament / Parlement

The only station on the line with two names! In all fairness, I think it remains better suited than “Downtown East”, though it can be a bit misleading given “how far” it is from the Parliament itself. Access to the station is easy with its integration into both the SunLife building, as well as the other side of Queen St. As you reach the concourse, the colours are striking and gives a lot of character to the station. The depth of the station is quite shallow, especially when compared to Rideau, so reaching platform level is really quick. Shoutout also to the incredible amount of ticket machines, with room to expand as the city grows. Unlike Lyon, our next stop, the fare-gates are at either end, while the middle is a non-paid zone. At the platform level, the copper green art in the median barrier is beautifully crafted and catches the eye in one of the most “plain” platform level. For the transit geek, a quick peek down the tunnel towards the west allows you a quick peak at Lyon, and the incoming trains, while the west gives a good view of the slope down towards Rideau, hinting at the depth of the next stop.

Lyon

Alike Parliament, the integration is excellent and should improve as the area densifies. With each end of the concourse being the non-paid zone, the scale of the concourse is impressive, yet confusing, especially if you get off a train: both ends mirror another, so one really has to look at the way-finding (which is plenty and quite clear none the less!) or might be running late for work! The gold / bronze tint in the ceiling of the concourse is beautiful, and is not too distracting from the beautiful art installation, honouring the woman who built Ottawa. As a downtown station, it serves its purpose wonderfully in a manner similar to Parliament, even though it does not have as much flash as Rideau.

Pimisi

Disclaimer: this is my favourite station. Pimisi was built for the future: one where LeBreton Flats is thriving with activities and pathways for people to explore, which makes the station feel “overbuilt” for the barren landscape it currently occupies. Three different entrances give you access to its island platform which feels like two separate ones, as the eastbound platform feels a lot more open than the westbound. As you make your way out, either to Booth St, or the lower level plaza, take a moment to appreciate the beautiful art suspended on the ceiling, and the overall height of the station. If you decide to exit through the “secret” exit, the plaza is a beautiful spot to sit at and read a book, as the trees shimmer in the sunlight and the overall scale of the station is revealed to you. With its emphasis on First Nations and their past, the art feels inspired and really brings the space together. As LeBreton develops, Pimisi will become an increasingly important focal and connectivity point, which is why I love the station so much.

Bayview

While Hurdman is a connectivity hub, with an expected future as a destination station, Bayview is likely to be the only station offering connectivity between two train lines, making it unique in its purpose. As such, much of the design emphasized connectivity between the two train lines, with less importance given on outside connection. As such, I consider the lower level entrance to be the main one at Bayview, as the east entrance makes it quite painful to reach the westbound train platform. However, Bayview is impressive due to its sheer size and implications. A lot of covered space and plenty of natural light make it inviting and secure. There is no doubt that users will enjoy transferring between the lines and also the views in each direction, as the city develops further. Quick mention of the median fence, which highlights the skylines of Ottawa and the Gatineau Hills, an amazing nodge to the sights one can have from its location.

Tunney’s Pasture

Unlike Blair which feels like a terminus station, given its configuration and layout, Tunney’s feels more like a high-volume destination station. From its side platforms and enormous concourse, the flow of people is mostly unrestricted as the various entrances and exits makes it easy to connect to the bus loop and the government complex. It is easy to tell that, even during its design phase, it was clear the city wanted to go further west, yet wanted something suited for the meantime. Tunney’s is definitely among my favourite stations, mostly due to the roofline, which is impressive from within and outside the station, giving it an really open and light feel. The coloured tiles at platform level and the similar accent in the windowed ceiling creates an accent for the platform level which is repeated in the concourse, yet remains mostly understated. As the bus loop and plaza will be reconfigured after Stage 2, Tunney’s might become the most overbuilt station in the original phase, a necessity for now as the line doesn’t go further.

 

Final Words

So, there we are. Ottawa now has a world-class transit system, ready for expansion. It might have been delayed quite a bit, but it is fair to say that it was worth the wait. Each station has its own character, yet share a common identity that makes it easy to find and navigate them. You can tell that all parties involved took quite some time to examine the needs, and the best practices of such a system and the end result is probably gonna become a case study for other cities of similar size. The integration of art at each station doesn’t feel forced, and gives even more character to them, as they are conversation starters, and a nice touch for all, no matter how long they’ll spend at a station or onboard. As we head into Stage 2, it will be interesting to see what will differ in the approach, but Stage 1 is for such an impressive start for our long overdue high capacity transit network.

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