Ottawa Finally Gets Its First Ever Subway Train

On September 14, 2019, Ottawa officially entered the Big Boys Club of Canadian cities that have subways or light rail transit. If not for n...

On September 14, 2019, Ottawa officially entered the Big Boys Club of Canadian cities that have subways or light rail transit. If not for numerous delays and missed milestones, Ottawa would have gotten its new O-Train Confederation Line two years earlier as the country celebrated its 150th anniversary. But 2019 is nonetheless memorable for Ottawa as the city's population finally reached 1 million in June. If you have been following my blog for a while, you probably know that I like everything related to subways and trains in general. So this year's opening of the O-Train Confederation Line in my home city Ottawa was a perfect gift for me. Are you ready to take a virtual ride in the new train?

Alright, if you're reading this, the answer was likely "Yes". But before we take a virtual ride, I'd like to offer you a quick glimpse into the history of Ottawa's rapid transit. 
As you may guess, the newly opened O-Train Confederation Line (Line 1) is not the first rapid transit in Ottawa. For almost four decades now, the city has been using the Transitway, a rapid bus network spanned across the entire city. In addition, the O-Train Trillium Line (Line 2) was opened in 2001 to run short diesel-powered trains over existing railway tracks.
Ottawa is a pretty big city that stretches for over 100 km / 62 miles east-west, so a need to have rapid transit emerged a few decades ago. Although many people still prefer to drive, rapid buses are quite popular, especially among downtown commuters.
With some small exceptions, the Transitway is a dedicated network of roads, overpasses, bridges, and trench highways used exclusively by rapid buses. Many of the 58 stations offer park-and-ride options. As I don't need to commute to work on a daily basis, my experience taking a bus in Ottawa is quite limited. However, from what I've seen so far, the Transitway seems fairly fast and reliable. The Achilles heel of the Transitway is its stretch in downtown Ottawa where buses share the road with cars and cross a handful of busy intersections. Obviously, this means congestion.
On the contrary, the Trillium Line (Line 2) is never busy or congested, because the train line was built over existing railway tracks away from where most people live and work.
It would be fair to say that the majority of those taking the Trillium Line are students and staff at Carleton University. However, the good news is that the line will finally become relevant for two reasons: it now intersects with the new Confederation Line at Bayview Station, and it will be extended to the airport and a growing community called Riverside South. Alstom Coradia LINT trains have been in operation since 2015.
The Bombardier Talent trains were used between 2001 and 2015. I took this picture in 2012. Very cool train, by the way, widely used by Deutsche Bahn in Germany and ÖBB in Austria.
While the Trillium Line has been a city's pain point (i.e. costly to build and operate, and not really used much) up until now, the new Confederation Line is a real game changer. With its 13 stations, it basically replaced the busiest part of the Transitway offering a fast and reliable transportation corridor where buses can bring passengers to.
The Achilles heel of the Transitway (a congested downtown span) has now been eliminated as all three O-Train downtown stations went underground. 
People are getting excited to board a new train for the first time.
If you look at the map, you'll notice that the Confederation Line stretches more to the east than to the west. That's because Ottawa's eastern neighbourhoods such as Vanier, Blair and Herongate are the most troublesome, so bringing a new rapid transit there should help gentrify these communities.
17 two-car Alstom Citadis Spirit trains operate on the Confederation Line. 
Each train is spacious and can accommodate up to 600 people. Those riding bicycles can board the train any time of the day. There is a designated area for bicycles at the front of the first car.
Did you notice how each seat has a plastic stand so that teenagers can finally put their feet on without feeling guilty to stain the seat?
All stations and trains are wheelchair accessible. 
There are no cashiers at the stations, so people are expected to buy tickets using ticket machines that, by the way, are equipped with a video-chat option with customer service for those requiring help.
To find an entrance to the O-Train, look for a read "donut".
One of the reasons I like subways, in general, is for its artistic component. While all 13 new stations share similar design patterns, each station is unique and features distinctive art made by various Canadian artists. Some of my favourite ones are below.
The most eastern station - Blair - exhibits a gigantic glass hover called Lightscape that moves with a breeze from passing trains.
Cyrville Station portrays 13 stainless steel birch trees surrounded by tall prairie grass.
Three large murals presenting some scenes from the history of Canada decorate St. Laurent Station.
Tremblay Station's sculpture called National Garden features the official flowers of all Canadian provinces dangled from the ceiling of the walkway to the Ottawa railway station. 
As you stroll through the underpass of uOttawa Station, you'll be followed by glaring black-and-white portraits called Train of Thought.
A huge glass screen overlooking the train platforms at Rideau Station makes a perfect backdrop for taking pictures.
Parliament Station exhibits a vibrant ceiling - a cubist tribute to the iconic painting of Tom Thomson, The Jack Pine.
The roof at Tunney's Pasture Station resembles a bird's wings covering two huge glass mosaic walls.

My other posts about subway systems:

You Might Also Like