Once the second stage of light rail is in place, residents will find the city’s transit line more reliable as a whole, said transit commission chair Stephen Blais.
As the city nears the end of public consultation on the procurement process for the next step in the light rail plan, the city hosted an online and in-person public consultation on March 1 to answer the public’s questions.
This second phase will have trains travel to Trim Road in the east, Moodie Drive in the west and to Riverside South.
The Trillium line extension to Riverside South is set to be completed in 2021. Construction to Trim Road would be done by 2022 and the Moodie Drive section will be done by 2023.
The plan also includes a move of a maintenance and storage yard from a controversial location on Woodroffe Avenue, to Moodie.
Council gets the final vote on the plan and procurement process on March 8.
The council vote is the culmination of a lot of work and no less than 27 public consultations. That doesn’t include the informal meetings with advocacy groups, Blais said.
Aside from what light rail will mean to the city’s commuters, Blais said the real impacts will be in a cleaner environment.
“For people who suffer with asthma and heart conditions, this will mean a lot because we will be significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.
Trevor Haché with the Healthy Transportation Coalition, says the city has made strides with consulting the public on the plan, but worries about the ridership numbers.
Blais said the city’s estimates show an increase of 10 million riders on the public transit by 2031, but Haché says those numbers might not hold true.
Haché said the plan to increase transit fares by 2.5 per cent annually until 2050 is counterintuitive to increasing ridership. He said low-income passengers would be particularly affected.
While the city has created an EquiPass, which is aimed at riders below the Statistics Canada defined low-income cut-off who aren’t currently receiving a pass from Ontario Works or the Ontario Disability Support Program, Haché said the $57 monthly price tag might still be too steep.
“And those people choose the single fare option, may find the cost out of reach,” he said.
Haché also said the city should be against the widening of Highway 417 between Carling and Maitland Avenues and the widening of Highway 174 — the gateway to Orléans — will bleed ridership from light rail.
Blais said that’s not true, and that commuters who can’t leave their car home during the workday need options as well.
“Obviously we are committed to spending on public transit, but you have to take a holistic approach,” he said.
When asked what’s next, whether a stage 3 light rail plan should go out to Kanata or Barrhaven, Blais said the lines don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
“We didn’t think we’d be able to expand to Riverside South and Orléans,” he said, adding that potential next steps could include light rail to Kanata, Barrhaven or even across the river into Gatineau — although that would include contributions from the city of Gatineau and the province of Quebec.
“Now that we have had clear commitment from other levels of government, we know that we’d have to spend $1.5 billion,” Blais said.