So you want to ride Ottawa’s new LRT, but you have a few questions.
The east-west Confederation Line opens to the public on the afternoon of Saturday, Sept. 14, ending a wait of more than six years.
Here’s what you’ll need to know before you take that first trip.
When does it open?
On launch day, the Confederation Line opens at 2 p.m. — later than on a normal Saturday.
Monday to Thursday it will run 5 a.m. until 1 a.m. the next day. On Fridays, it will run from 5 a.m. until 2 a.m. Saturday.
Saturday’s hours will be 6 a.m. until 2 a.m. Sunday, and on Sundays and holidays, 8 a.m. until 11 p.m.
The north-south Trillium Line will run from 6 a.m. until midnight on weekdays, 6:30 a.m. until midnight on Saturdays and 6 a.m. until 11 p.m. on Sundays.
Train and track maintenance will take place overnight.
How often will the trains come?
OC Transpo says the trains, which will each carry up to 600 passengers — 240 sitting, 360 standing — will arrive at least every five minutes during rush hours and “frequently” most of the rest of the time.
They’ll run every 15 minutes after midnight and during certain unspecified periods on weekends.
Real-time information boards at stations will tell you when the next train is coming.
What’s the fare?
From Sept. 14 until Sept. 30, fares will remain the same as they are for the bus: $3.50 for a single ticket at a fare machine, or $3.45 if you use a Presto card (or a Multi card for Société de transport de l’Outaouais (STO) riders).
Those prices rise by 10 cents on Oct. 1, as will other payment methods. An adult monthly pass goes from $116.50 to $119.50, for example.
Seniors looking to take advantage of the free fare on Wednesdays and Sundays will need a Presto card.
It’s one price to ride: there are no fare zones like on transit systems in other cities.
How do I transfer?
You can transfer from any OC Transpo bus to any LRT station, and vice-versa.
At Hurdman, Tunney’s Pasture and Blair, most buses will let riders off inside the fare zone so they don’t have to tap through a gate again.
If you need to enter a gate and have a paper transfer, simply scan it and walk through. Keep an eye on the expiry time though!
You won’t have to tap your Presto card to exit a station — just walk through.
How do the fare machines work?
The machines are the same as the ones that have been operating along the Trillium Line for months. You can use cash, credit or debit cards to purchase or load a Presto card, or to buy a single-ride ticket, a day pass or a family pass.
The machines are bilingual and offer live video chat help with a customer service rep.
You can still load your Presto cards online, or at a city service centre or some Shoppers Drug Marts.
Where will it take me?
From west to east, the new stations are:
- Tunney’s Pasture, where you can transfer to buses going farther west, walk up to Wellington West or connect with the Ottawa River or Scott Street pathways.
- Bayview, where you can transfer to the Trillium Line, visit City Centre or connect to the pathways.
- Pimisi, near LeBreton Flats, the Chaudière Bridge to Gatineau and Little Italy.
- Lyon, near the Supreme Court and Portage Bridge to Gatineau. (Many Gatineau STO buses will connect riders to the rail line here; exact details are still being worked out.)
- Parliament on Queen Street in downtown Ottawa — the closest station to Parliament Hill. It connects to the O’Connor Street bike lanes down to Lansdowne Park and the Glebe.
- Rideau, which exits into the Rideau Centre and ByWard Market.
- uOttawa, on the university campus and beside the Rideau Canal pathways, near Elgin Street.
- Lees, near Old Ottawa East and the University of Ottawa’s main stadium.
- Hurdman, another transit hub.
- Tremblay, at Ottawa’s main Via Rail station and near the RCGT Park baseball stadium and the Trainyards shopping centre.
- St-Laurent, at the mall of the same name. It’s also a hub for buses to connect to the rail line.
- Cyrville, a station expected by the builders to spur future development.
- Blair, at the Gloucester Centre mall and the transfer hub to points east.
All stations are marked with a glowing red O and have maps showing what’s nearby.
How long will it take?
About 25 minutes to get from Tunney’s Pasture to Blair, according to OC Transpo.
OC Transpo’s travel planner suggests it will take about four minutes from Tunney’s Pasture to Pimisi, another seven minutes through the tunnel from Pimisi to uOttawa, another four minutes from uOttawa to the Hurdman hub, and another eight minutes from Hurdman to Blair.
Can I bring my bike aboard?
Bikes will be allowed in the co-operative seating area at the front of each train — there will be green paint on the platform to help steer cyclists to the right place.
If there’s no space, cyclists are expected to wait for the next train.
OC Transpo says there will be special channels to help cyclists get their bikes up and down stairs.
Cyclists can use accessible gates, just like people with strollers and mobility devices.
There will be bike parking at or near every station, some of it sheltered, and maps at each station pointing the way to nearby bike paths.
How accessible is it?
There are 240 seats on every two-car train, including fold-up seats near all the doors.
The slip-resistant floor of the trains is level with the floor of the platforms for smoother wheelchair access.
There will be different tones indicating when doors are opening and closing, and audio announcements about upcoming stops.
The ticket machines have Braille and raised text.
All the stations have elevators and tiles embedded in the floor to steer people toward accessible fare gates, elevators and doors.
Registered service animals are allowed.
Are there washrooms?
Four stations have free public washrooms within the fare zone: Tunney’s Pasture, Bayview, Hurdman and Blair.
Can I bring my pet?
If they’re in a carrier, yes, as long as they don’t take up a seat or block an aisle.
Registered service animals don’t have to be in a carrier.
Will there be heat and air conditioning?
Yes, thank goodness.
Will I get cell service in the tunnel?
The city says you will be able to use your free data underground, but there won’t be any Wi-Fi.
What if there’s a problem on my train?
There’s a human operator on each train who can see what’s going on with the aid of a network of cameras, and every train has an emergency intercom to communicate with that person.
The trains are also equipped with fire extinguishers.
If there’s a system-wide shutdown, OC Transpo will do its best to temporarily replace service with buses.
Emergency crews have been on trains and in stations to run drills.
How will bus routes change?
Once the Confederation Line is up and running, the need for buses will diminish. That means major route changes are coming.
During the LRT’s operating hours, most downtown bus routes that use the Transitway will end at the major transfer stations: Tunney’s Pasture, Hurdman, St. Laurent and Blair.
Current bus routes will stick to their current schedules for the first three weeks of the Confederation Line, but more than 100 routes change on Sunday, Oct. 6.
This will mean longer travel times for many people, but the city is promising the subsequent stage of light rail will address many of those issues.
Bus routes numbered 5 to 99 and routes in the 200s will connect to the Confederation Line.
OC Transpo has set up a preview travel planner to show how routes are changing, and there will be “ambassadors” at transit stations to answer questions in person.
This will be the largest service shift in OC Transpo history, with changes to about 240,000 trips a day.
In the short-term, there are all those bus changes the week before Thanksgiving.
Don’t forget that Oct. 1 price hike.
Roads affected by light rail construction, such as Nicholas, Scott and Rideau streets and the ramp from westbound Highway 417 to Highway 174.
Down the road, Ottawa’s rail network is expanding east, west and south.
Stage 2’s current timeline brings trains to Riverside South and the airport in 2022, to Orléans in 2024 and to Algonquin College and Moodie Drive in 2025.
There are also plans to get light rail further west to Kanata and Stittsville in the 2030s.
Gatineau is working on a light rail line of its own, with connections to Ottawa.