Skip to content

May 15, 2020
Update : Progress of the analysis of options for the integration in Ottawa

Context and rationale

The connection with the Ottawa system is essential to the success of the structuring public transit system. Thus, the STO and its partners will proceed with detailed analysis of the options in Ottawa. 

As part of these analysis, one of the first activities was to estimate the number of public transit riders in order to calculate the number of buses or trams needed to transport them. Currently, approximately 3,500 public transit riders cross the Portage Bridge during the peak period. An increase to between 7,000 and 7,500 riders is expected for the peak periods over the next 15 years.

Moving these passengers would require at least:

  • 105 articulated buses per hour, or;
  • 75 bi-articulated buses per hour.

This would mean too many buses for the reserved lanes in downtown Gatineau and Ottawa, and for the Portage Bridge. Only a transportation mode that could move more riders could meet the need over the medium and long term.

Under the tram model, over the next 15 years, approximately 25 trams an hour would be needed, which is entirely feasible. Thus, of the five previously identified scenarios, only those with a tram component have been selected for further study. These are:

  • All tram scenario :  Operated by tram on the nord and south axis.
  • First hybrid scenario : Operated by tram on the north axis. South axis is operated by bus rapid transit with articulated and bi-articulated buses. 
  • Second hybrid scenario : Operated by tram on the south axis. North axis is operated by bus rapid transit with articulated and bi-articulated buses.  

See the details of the transportation mode features.

Main features of the system in Ottawa

A tram component is necessary for transporting riders from Gatineau's western sector to the Gatineau and Ottawa downtowns.

In Gatineau's western portion, local bus routes would get riders from the outskirts to the tram stations. Those riders would then take the tram to downtown Ottawa. Sectors such as Gatineau and Hull need a significant number of buses to get riders to downtown Ottawa. That number will rise in the coming years. This also applies to riders in the western sector in the case of hybrid scenarios along the axis served by a bus rapid transit system.

Studies were done to determine the most efficient way of getting those riders to downtown Ottawa. Several options were looked at, including:

  • taking everyone there by tram, or;
  • transporting all the riders that are not close to the tram by bus to downtown Ottawa.

Taking everyone there by tram

If only trams crossed to downtown Ottawa, all riders from the Gatineau and Hull sectors would have to transfer to it in downtown Gatineau. In the case of hybrid scenarios, riders along the axis served by bus would also have to make an additional transfer.

In that case, one or more stations would be needed in downtown Gatineau for all the transfers. As well, several riders would then have to transfer again to the O-Train if their destination is beyond downtown Ottawa.

Finally, additional tram cars would have to be acquired to cover the short distance between the two downtowns, which would mean significant additional costs.

This option was discarded because it would overly penalize riders, not to mention present significant challenges in terms of layout and costs.

Transporting all the riders that are not close to the tram by bus to downtown Ottawa

On the other hand, if in addition to the trams, all buses continued on to Ottawa, the Portage Bridge and downtown Ottawa would soon once again be saturated by the tremendous number of buses on the road. Thus, this option was also discarded.

The best compromise in terms of ensuring quality service and efficient operations is one where only a certain number of buses would continue on to Ottawa.

Thus, the main bus routes, such as those running along the Rapibus or the principal axes to Hull, would continue on to Ottawa.

On the Portage Bridge, buses would use the tram lanes and then, once in downtown Ottawa, loop around three circuits.

Comfortable transfer stations would be set up for the routes stopping in downtown Gatineau to enable efficient transfers to Ottawa.

Main design considerations

Various aspects are taken into account for the detailed analysis, including:

System Requirements

  • Straightest possible route for a tram.
  • Efficient connection with the O-Train stations.
  • Attractive system for riders (reliable, stops close to places of interest).
  • Double tracked. 

City of Ottawa's Plans for Downtown Streets

  • Queen Street redesigned as a complete street to accommodate more pedestrians.
  • Sparks Street revival plans.
  • Albert and Slater repurposed to include active transportation.
  • Cycling projects on: Bay (Wellington to Laurier West), and Wellington (Portage to Elgin) – a joint NCC-City of Ottawa project (in accordance with the City of Ottawa Cycling Plan).

Studied Options for Tram Component

After analysing different possibilities, the two selected options for the integration of a tram for the rest of the study are:

  • Surface integration on Wellington Street; 
  • Tunnel integration under Sparks.

Surface integration on Wellington Street


  • Ground level stations make it easier to access.
  • Easier to construct.
  • Potential component of an interprovincial loop with the Alexandra Bridge.


  • Corridor has several uses competing for space, requiring compromises to be made: 
    • north esplanade;
    • partial widening of the south sidewalk;
    • planned two-way bike facility;
    • vehicular traffic lanes.
  • Security concerns around the parliamentary complex and at stations.
  • Possible disruptions due to demonstrations and events on Wellington Street (alternative arrangements required to ensure service continuity).
  • Disruption to current traffic and transit service during construction (will require detour planning and traffic management).
  • Option will lead to a significant increase in the number of pedestrians crossing Wellington to reach the stations.

Tunnel integration under Sparks


  • Light impact on traffic and surface amenities.
  • Allows for more direct connection with the O-Train.
  • Weather protected environment for transferring passengers.
  • Less vulnerable to service interruptions from external events such as demonstrations.


  • Higher cost than surface option.
  • Complex and lengthier construction with higher risks.
  • Significant underground constraints (utilities and foundations).
  • Portal will significantly impact the open space west of Commissioner Street.
  • Possible security concerns of adjacent federal institutions.

Analysis of Options for Integration in Ottawa

The various options for insertion into Ottawa are evaluated following various aspects, as well as from the perspective of other complementary aspects.

Below is a list of the main aspects taken into account:

  • vehicular traffic impact in the downtown;
  • Impacts on public transit;
  • number of stations required and their locations;
  • boarding and disembarking issues at the platforms;
  • quality of connections with the O-Train;
  • security issues;
  • trade-offs and mitigation plan;
  • order of magnitude costs; and 
  • public consultation.

Voice your opinion on the studied options for integration in Ottawa

In June, Gatineau and Ottawa residents will be invited to participate to this new public consultation regarding the integration options into Ottawa. An online survey will be available.

Until then, we invite you to share your general questions or comments with us at

This study is being financed by contributions from the federal government and provincial government under the financial assistance program of the Public Transit Infrastructure Fund (PTIF).


2012 Société de transport de l'Outaouais. All rights reserved. The information and data on this site may not be used for business purposes or financial gain without authorization from the STO.