5 things riders need to know once LRT opens

There is still no launch date for Ottawa’s delayed Confederation Line, but OC Transpo staff are laying out what customers will need to know when that day comes.

Transportation manager John Manconi would not even talk about a new handover date for the system at Wednesday’s transit commission meeting.

Instead, he promised to take care of the customer and, with his staff, laid out in great detail how the logistics will work when the trains eventually roll. Two-thirds of all customer trips are expected to involve the train.

The train ride

The platforms are long — almost 100 metres — and at rush hours the 14 double doors on one side will open automatically at the station. Each two-vehicle train will carry 600 people, with 240 in seats and 360 standing. The trains will have air conditioning and heated floors in winter, but no Wi-Fi.

During peak times, a train should arrive at a station every five minutes or less.

All of the 13 stations will have elevators and four will have public washrooms: Tunney’s Pasture, Bayview, Hurdman and Blair.

Tunney’s, Hurdman, Rideau and Blair stations will also have space for future retail shops.

Cyclists will have channels on staircases so they can walk up their bikes, and a designated area on the platform, painted green, where they enter the train’s first set of doors.

The train system will start running at 5 a.m. on weekdays. It will close for the day at 1 a.m., and an hour later on Fridays. As for the weekend, Saturday hours will be 6 a.m. to 2 a.m., and Sundays 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., allowing for maintenance during overnight hours.

The bus-to-train transfer

Some stations will be busier than others with more than 100 bus routes feeding into the rail system.

Riders coming and going from Stittsville, Kanata, Barrhaven and Nepean will all transfer at Tunney’s Pasture, and most will not have to pass through any fare gates when they get off the bus.

Blair station will be the main transfer point for routes coming from Orléans in the east, while Hurdman and St. Laurent will do the heavy lifting for Alta Vista, Greenboro and Vanier.

As for riders using Gatineau’s STO system, they will predominantly feed into Lyon Station. Transit staff say that will help keep Gatineau’s buses away from busy congestion points such as Wellington and Bank streets or Rideau Street and Sussex Drive.

Bayview station will be the nexus of the Confederation and Trillium lines.

Paying fares

Already, you can top up your Presto card at more places than a few years ago, after the city piggybacked on a deal Metrolinx made to offer Presto services in some stores.

As for tapping Presto cards, once riders are through a fare gate, they won’t need to tap again. Buses at Tunney’s, Blair and Hurdman will arrive in a special bus loop area that don’t require a second tap, either.

Unlike some other cities around the world, Ottawa decided to not have different zones with different fares. Riders will pay the same fare no matter how far they go.

Day 1 of LRT

To make sure riders transition properly to the new system, the City of Ottawa plans to keep the existing buses running through downtown for three weeks, at a cost of $1 million per week.

Customer service representatives in red vests will be at the stations to help during the launch period.

And if you thought Ottawa might offer a celebratory free fare period, don’t expect one.

Manconi explained that has not worked well for other cities because the extra riders sometimes make for a busier system that leaves a bad first impression.

If the train goes down

If the train ever goes down, Manconi promises OC Transpo will send out information to riders to let them know how long a delay to expect or if the train faces a major shutdown.

Special bus stops labelled R1 will be located near LRT stations for replacement buses.

“I’ll be blunt, if there is a major service disruption things will be very challenging,” says Manconi, and said no one should expect replacement buses to mimic the train’s speed or frequency.

“We do not have 100 or 200 buses sitting around waiting for backup.”

It would also be rare for riders to ever be stranded between stops, he said.

OC Transpo also laid out how the train and stations are monitored by CCTV, and emergency responders have been trained about hazards specific to the Confederation Line.

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