I had a chance to talk today with David Jeanes, past president of advocacy organization Transport Action Canada, after hearing Mike Maguire’s proposal for commuter rail on existing rail corridors. Jeanes is a bit of a frequent flyer at City Hall on transit issues and he has participated in several transit consultations over the years.
I was really only interested in one question: Is Maguire’s plan feasible?
“We think it’s feasible just like the O-Train was feasible back in 1997,” Jeanes said.
The O-Train was launched in 2001 as a pilot project on an 8-km stretch of an existing freight track. Today, it’s hugely popular. Frequency of trains will increase by this winter.
“We have always said there was opportunities to do that out to Gloucester and out to Kanata and farther south,” Jeanes said.
Jeanes said Transport Action has been advocating for the use of existing rail corridors for decades. He didn’t think regulatory challenges, such as running O-Trains on tracks primarily used for Via and freight trains, would be a significant. He also thinks Via would be open to the discussion.
That said, Jeanes said he was in no position to comment on if Maguire’s plan is good since Transport Action doesn’t take sides politically.
As an aside, Maguire said he has been getting advice from Friends of the O-Train (a group of transportation enthusiasts) on his rail proposal. Jeanes, a member of the Friends of the O-Train, said he has spoken to Maguire about the plan over the phone but there have been no face-to-face meetings since the start of the election campaign.
Maguire’s plan and Watson’s plan are completely different. Maguire’s commuter rail idea has major challenges, which I note in the article.
Important to note, though, that Watson’s LRT blueprint isn’t a slam dunk. The city and NCC are still negotiating over a strip of land along the Sir John A. Macdonald Pkwy. (Watson said Sunday he’s optimistic) and the results of the environmental assessments still have to come in.
And we’re still not sure how, or if, the airport might come into play.
Plus, there is no commitment yet from the feds on funding Stage 2 LRT.
Still, if Watson and a majority of council are returned in the Oct. 27 election, the LRT plan would have a full head of steam.