Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Ottawa transitway - outer suburb residents keenest bus users

"Greater use of higher frequency, short trips by inner city residents is fairly common in most systems; the more interesting and unusual figure is the high bus use by residents living much further out. Presumably it is because the dedicated busways offer such a competitive advantage against car travel and car congestion over the longer distances.


OC Transpo Articulated bus in Ottawa - Rob Huntley; Wikimedia Commons

An interesting public transport statistic - (there are dozens but this is perhaps one of the most revealing) - is annual passenger trips (or ridership) per capita.

Mayor Bob Parker and his team chose to go to Portland. This is a city that has earned a big reputation for its very green, social, community orientated development. I don't want to knock that but it does need to be kept in perspective. Ridership per annum in greater Christchurch (include Rangiora, Lincoln etc) pans out around 43 trips per resident a year, average - Portland with 101 million passenger trips (2008) for 2.1 million metropolitan population pans out around 50 trips per resident per year average. For a city five times the size of Christchurch this is actually a rather modest patronage. By contrast the greater Ottawa area (which includes the separate city of Gatineau across the River) at 1,450,000 total polulation a smaller city/urban area than Portland, averages well over 100 trips per resident per year -  twice as successful in attracting public transport patronage as Portland.

How much research does the Mayor's office do before spending $28,000 of public funds??!! 


An interesting aspect of Ottawa is that apart from 2 million passengers per year on the O-Train (a 8km light rail utilising an old rail corridor) all of the current 111 million passengers per year carried on the Ottawa (92 million) and Gatineau (19 million) public transport systems are carried by bus, including many kilometres built (more planned) of exclusive busways and trenching etc underpassing other roads etc. It is possible on many Ottawa bus routes to run into the city from outer areas and barely stop, completely by-passing other traffic in totally segegated bus lanes or bus corridors, or passing underneath it.




More statistics - normally transit usage is closely linked to city size, it increases exponentially the bigger the city. Running contrary to this normal pattern Ottawa is only slightly below the much, much larger cities of Montreal and Toronto in percentage of peak hour commuters carried by public transport - all around the 20% mark - and also ahead of larger Vancouver. What seems particularly interesting in both the inner suburbs and the very outer suburbs this 20% percent peak hour patronage moves up towards 30%. Greater use of higher frequency, short trips by inner city residents is fairly common in most systems; the more interesting and unusual figure is the high bus use by those residents living much further out. Presumably this is because the dedicated busways offer such a competitive advantage against car travel and car congestion over longer distances. This is important because it is the car drivers making  the longer journeys that cause and suffer the most from congestion, and loss of "living time", and do more damage with climate change gases.

Ottawa strategic plan is to move towards implementing more light rail, firstly on a high usage corridor that includes a 3.5km section underground through the central city, at a phenomenal cost in billions. This is partly because it never had enough room on the surface to accommodate the multiple number of buses arriving and departing the central city area - a key problem Brisbane has directly addressed right from the beginning. Light rail has its place at the evolutionary end of a process which begins - possibly decades in advance - by creating rapid transit corridors, offering frequent services and relatively brief journeys using buses. Along these corridors density will naturally grow or can be factored in.

A wise city will do everything to identify and protect valuable "rapid transit" (by any mode) corridors early on.


1 comment:

  1. Having been to Ottawa in 2001, I agree that the system there is far more advanced than what is in Christchurch.

    An interesting feature throughout the routes is the dedicated yellow bus stops which are the only stops used at night.

    These yellow stops are extremely well lit and often have security guards patrolling close. Passengers feel safer around these areas. The bus do not pickup or setdown at any other stop.

    Something like this would be a boon to Christchurch. How many passengers have experienced a bus driving right past them because he was unable to see them?

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