This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.
I can’t say that I really want to move to Canada (though I toyed with the idea after the ’04 elections!), but it’s sorta fascinating to get a glimpse at how light rail is being talked about in Ottowa:
City council set the municipality on a new $2-billion transit path Wednesday when it approved a series of projects as immediate priorities, but the questions of what to build first and how to pay for these things remain.
With very little dissent, council set its top priorities as a downtown tunnel, light rail to the south of the city, completing and extending the bus transit way the west and Barrhaven, and developing a new dedicated transit route in the east.
That’s right, folks — the city council just decided that they wanted a $2B light rail system, and so they made it happen. I can’t imagine any of our elected representatives here in the Pacific Northwest being so bold as to, you know, represent their constituents instead of punting the decision to the people in a big, confusing public vote.
Now, I won’t pretend to understand Ottowa politics, but from what I can gather, the old city council approved the rail system, then got booted out of office, the new council killed the contract, and then brought it back but without the expensive and controversial downtown tunnel (any of this sound familiar?). So it’s not all wine and roses up North. Still, the differences are telling:
Bay Councillor Alex Cullen said it is going to be a challenge for the cash-strapped city to come up money for its share of the cost of the plan, but he’s confident a way will be found. He said both the provincial and federal governments have been saying they want to get into the transit funding business in a big way, so it will soon be time to hold them to their word.
“Once we are ready, we will be asking them for money, which they have and we don’t,” he said. “It’s time to get moving, and we are. We just have to keep focused and see this through.” [Emphasis mine]
Can you imagine Governor Gregoire saying “man, we sure are excited to give Seattle money for light rail!” The feds, certainly, have been generous (due in no small part to Sen. Murray’s work on the Appropriations Committee). But I certainly wouldn’t say that either the State of Washington or the U.S. Government “want to get into the transit funding business in a big way.” But it sure would be nice, wouldn’t it?
Bonus Fun Fact #1: Ottowa has a very successful BRT system, but it wasn’t getting the ridership they projected and the buses were crowding.
Bonus Fun Fact #2: The current light-rail, the O-Train, is a Diesel Multiple Unit on a single-way right-of-way, not unlike the BNSF corridor being proposed for Seattle’s Eastside.