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Paul G. Lewis

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Gérard Beaudet and Paul Lewis

Ottawa’s Transitway is one of the earliest implementations of a bus rapid transit (BRT), and for many a highly successful one. But for others, this system has not been as positive as it should have been, even though it was clearly an improvement over a regular bus system, comparable to what a light rail transit (LRT) could offer. It has been criticized for its exaggerated costs and for having an impact not as great as it should have been on ridership. The BRT can sometimes be viewed as an interim technology, a pre-LRT, while waiting for the conditions to implement an LRT are met. But the BRT was not, and is not, a transitional solution in Ottawa or in many other cities, even though Ottawa has also developed an LRT and is now building a metro downtown. The BRT is a solution well adapted to certain urban contexts, especially mid-densities and moderate ridership. It is well adapted to certain corridors, even in larger metropolises. Other technologies are necessary to face the demand for transit and because of the limits of BRT. Clearly there is a future for BRT in Ottawa and on the other side of the river, in Gatineau, if only because it will be difficult, if not impossible, to develop an extensive network of LRT, even on the Ontario side of the region. The capital costs are too high, and LRT is not adapted to all corridors that need a rapid and frequent service. The BRT is still an alternative in the long run. Therefore, the BRT will most probably coexist with other transit technologies. In that sense, the BRT will be more than an interim solution, waiting for an LRT. It is still a valid solution for Ottawa and for Gatineau.

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David Lewis, Tom Devine and Paul Harpur