He Took the O-Train Going Anywhere

On Friday, I did something novel. I took public transit straight from a major airport to a city’s downtown. Taking advantage of Ottawa’s Rapid Transit Network, I had a simple, convenient, and enjoyable time getting to my destination.

I had to get from the Ottawa International Airport to central Ottawa, and my trip was very simple. From the terminal, I walked about 100 ft. to a bus stop, where the 97 arrived within a few minutes. I paid my $3 fare, got my transfer, and settled in. Once the bus arrived at the first station on its route, it started traveling on a dedicated busway. A stop later, I got off at the Greenboro station. I then walked up the stairwell and across the overpass to reach the O-Train platform. 5-10 minutes later, the train arrived. Greenboro is the end of the line, four stops later it reaches the Bayview station at the end of the line, not far from downtown. All told, it took roughly 25 minutes from the time my bus left the airport until I arrived at Bayview. Most of the time I might have saved by taking a cab – which might have been 10 minutes – was on account of having to wait about that long for the bus to arrive. However, the fact that I would have likely been billed at least $3 by the time the cab left the airport terminal, and a lot more by the end of my trip, makes taking public transit from the Ottawa airport an incredible deal.

I write about this because today, Edmonton’s City Council is conducting a public hearing on its LRT Network Plans. LRT to the Edmonton International Airport is unlikely to happen, due to the distance between the airport to the city, and the low-density development – where development does exist – along the route. What might make sense is a system like Ottawa’s. By this time next year, Edmonton’s LRT will reach Century Park at 111th St and 23rd Ave NW. Bus service connecting the airport to the LRT line and transit hub at that station could be established – the presence of a regional government structure should make this easier than it otherwise would be. Assuming a 15-20 minute bus ride to Century Park, public transit would be competitive time-wise with driving from the airport to central Edmonton. It would be a much more convenient and economical travel choice than the existing shuttle service – the alternative to taxi and car travel.

Edmonton’s transit system continues to take great strides forward. Bus service reaching the Edmonton International Airport would be yet another positive development.

The O-Train stops at the Bayview station. Above to the right, a bus traveling along a dedicated busway arrives at the adjacent transit centre.

The O-Train stops at the Bayview station. Above to the right, a bus traveling along a dedicated busway arrives at the adjacent transit centre.

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5 Responses

  1. I just moved to Edmonton from Ottawa and agree that the public transit is great there. I could get just about anywhere in the city by public transit just as fast and sometimes faster than a car due to the dedicated bus roadways. These routes bypass a great deal of rush hour traffic. There are also many transit hubs with screens that notify when the next buses are coming. No more reading those confusing schedules. There is a problem travelling East and West through as the city is wide (Kanata to Orleans). Expansion and improvements to the transit systems are in discussion right now as well.
    As a side note: the O-train only started a few years ago on existing rail track that was no longer in use – great cost saver!

  2. I’m not sure that doing a bus-to-LRT link will actually save much time in getting to downtown over simply driving (i.e. either using the existing SkyShuttle or a nonstop airport-downtown bus), simply because you have to account for the transfer at the LRT station plus the intermediate stops.

    If there is going to be public transit to the airport — and I agree there probably should be — I’d be tempted to have it go straight downtown.

  3. Loni: I agree. I’ve been impressed with Ottawa’s system from what I’ve seen. I think it’s a good comparison for Edmonton, not because of the geography, but because we’re similar-sized cities.

    Jones: The cost of transit to the airport would be a huge advantage; the time difference would likely be negligible. The problem with going straight to downtown is that you skip destinations south of the river. I imagine transit to the airport would be popular for people with easy access to all of the LRT stops, particularly the university-area ones.

  4. Transit in Ottawa is awesome and it has zero to do with the O-train, which is often made fun of for going from nowhere to nowhere.

    There’s also likely a quicker route from the airport to downtown Ottawa than the one you chose if you know the system well, you could have stayed on the busway, which also goes right downtown.

  5. […] 1,000,000. They both have harsh winter climates, and are heavily government/public sector cities. Looking to Ottawa for lessons is better than comparing Edmonton to Montreal, Toronto, or […]

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