2011-07-09

Ottawa light rail tunnel: a 1.2 billion dollar mistake

Dear citizens of Ottawa,

The transit tunnel under downtown, and the conversion of much of the transitway to light rail, is a costly mistake. Here is why:

Demand
-Has the federal government said they are going to hire a bunch of new people downtown? At Tunney's Pasture? No. The Trudeau-Mulroney days are over people. Many civil servants will retire, they wont be replaced. And in this age of the Internet, the logic of costly office space in the nation's capital is iffy at best. At the very least, federal politicians might be inclined to transfer jobs to Gatineau, instead of just sending giant equalization cheques to Quebec (presumably, workers would follow their jobs and move to the cheaper Quebec side, increasing the province of Quebec's tax base). 

Supply
-There are 4 lanes each on Albert and Slater. Four! Even when you give up one lane for parking and one for turning left, that is still two available lanes. Does rail have more capacity than two lanes? Their is congestion getting downtown, but crossing downtown, thanks to synchronized lights, and the four lanes, is relatively quick. There is bus congestion. Yes. But that can be managed with cutting down on the number of routes going downtown. Sucks for the people who will have to transfer, but EVERYBODY will have to transfer if we build light rail.


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View Larger Map
Destination
-If people are going downtown, get them to their destination, not four floors underground! Sacrificing a trip underground makes sense if you save time on the entire journey. But if you do the math, workers downtown won't! The people who would benefit, are the folk NOT going downtown. But we could improve their lives by having a cross downtown express bus route, fully taking advantage of the synchronized lights. 1.2 billion dollar expenditure not required.

Jobs
-Obviously, digging the tunnel is a massive job creator. However, once the tunnel is done, so are the jobs. Bus driving, however, is a low skill job for life.

Opportunity cost
-Spending money 1.2 billion dollars on the east-west light rail conversion means not spending it elsewhere. A north-south subway under Bank street (to Hull?), for example. Or perhaps lower property taxes, so all those retired civil servants don't all have to move to Aylmer.

Disclaimor: A former Ottawa resident, I now live in Moncton. Apart from the promised 600 million dollar federal subsidy, I have nothing to gain or lose from this project.

My previous musings on the subject:
-Ottawa Light Rail Proposal: Single bus line would be cheaper.

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