Redesigning Ottawa’s BRT System

  • It not being able to get you where you want to go
  • Taking 50 minutes to get somewhere that could take 15 minutes
  • Getting lost or getting on one of the millions of variations of one line
  • Having to switch lines 3 times
  • Waiting in the cold or the rain
  • Being a minute late and having to wait another 19
  • Being a minute early and still having to wait another 21

Step 1: Find the densest places

The first rule of designing good public transit is pretty intuitive but somehow manages to constantly be overlooked.

Ottawa’s Population Density 2016 Census
  • Centertown
  • Sandy’s Cove
  • Byward Market
  • Little Italy and Chinatown
  • West Bayshore
  • East carling
  • Vanier + New Edinburgh
Follow the density

Step 2: Find the closest roads

Looking at the map like this in it’s purest form doesn’t capture all the ways we need our network to run.

Direct between zones of density
The most appropriate roads

Step 3: Turn them into trunks

One of the most widely praised transportation models is called the “trunk-feeder”.


Step 4: Modified Trunks

Now, not everyone wants to travel exclusively through center town. The most notable examples of this are

  • Vanier to Alta Vista to Greenboro
  • Kanata to Nepean
  • Nepean to Alta Vista/Greenboro
  • Alta Vista to Orleans

Step 5: Other commercial areas

Now, besides where people live making up density, where people want to go (commercial areas) also makes up density.

  • Albert
  • Alta Vista
  • Carling
  • Bronson
  • Greenbank
  • Ogilvie
  • Main
  • Smyth
  • Belfast
  • Woodruff
  • Churchill
  • Hunt Club

Step 6: Stops

Now, we need places where these busses can stop.

  1. Ogilvie x Kender
  2. Ogilvie x Naskapi
  3. Ogilvie Square
  4. Ogilvie x Blair Towers
  5. Ogilvie x City Park
  6. Ogilvie x Cadboro
  7. Ogilvie x Cummings
  8. Ogilvie x Cyrville
  9. St. Laurent
  10. Coventry x Belfast
  11. Belfast x Tremblay
  12. Trainyards x Terminal
  13. Trainyards x Industrial
  14. Alta Vista x Rolland
  15. Alta Vista x Dorion
  16. Alta Vista x Hospital Link
  17. Alta Vista x Smyth
  18. Alta Vista x Crestview
  19. Alta Vista x Pleasant Park
  20. Alta Vista x Cunningham
  21. Alta Vista x Randall
  22. Alta Vista x Heron
  23. Alta Vista x Ridgemont
  24. Alta Vista x Bank

Step 7: Feeder Lines

So, it’s all very well to have lines that just go through density, but we also need lines that go from these areas to the suburbs — i.e. the feeder lines.

Step 8: Scheduling

So, if we were designing a transit route where busses made headways of 90 seconds (ahem, Curitiba), we wouldn’t need a specific schedule because busses would basically always be coming. However, the cost of putting that many busses on the road is high and relies on high ridership in order to be offset.

Step 9: Bus only lanes

Now comes the question of where the bus will drive. On the road, yes obviously. But, what about the “bus-only lane”? The single most underrated transit invention ever.

Step 10: Stations

So, bus stations. If you’ve ridden virtually any bus line in North America, chances are you are familiar with bus stations which are nothing more than a metal pole sticking out of the ground with a plastic card affixed to the top. And while this can, on some occasions fulfill whatever aspirations we have for our bus stations, sometimes they just don’t.

Step 11: Signage

Signage is extremely important for any kind of transit line, because they tell users where they are and where they are going.

  • Where the rider is now
  • Where the rider can go from here
  • When the transit is expected to come by
  1. Figure out where areas of density are and connect them, both by following the shape of the density and inputing direct routes between adjacent areas.
  2. Figure out the roads that best align with these lines.
  3. Combine these roads into trunks, and add in modified trunks as needed.
  4. Identify commercial areas that are not yet serviced and add in commercial lines to connect them.
  5. Put in stops along these lines at their intersections and near walkable streets keeping in mind the 800 meter rule.
  6. Put in feeder lines which intersect secluded residential areas with these trunk/commercial lines.
  7. Schedule routes consistently but also paying attention to when demand is highest/lowest. Remember that modifications can always be made after a line is put in use.
  8. Consider putting in bus only lanes, bus bulbs and flush curbs.
  9. Bus stops should have some form of shelters and when you can, consider pay before boarding.
  10. Signage should be clear, consistent and indicate where a person is and where a person can go from each bus stop.



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Avery Parkinson

Avery Parkinson

Activator at The Knowledge Society | A Sandwich or Two Founder