Frequently asked questions

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When? How? Why?

Get answers to the most frequently asked questions about the Gatineau-Ottawa tram.

The project

What is a dedicated public transit system?

A dedicated public transit mode is one with moderate to very high capacity, high frequency, moderate to high commercial speed, high reliability and a strong visual identity. It has its own integral or partial site. Thanks to this, as well as the quality of service, the length of the circuit and the many points of access, such transportation modes create a use of space around which a region’s public transit offer can be developed, and thereby configure and transform the use of land in a territory by organizing it and structuring activities within it.

Will the tram work in the winter?

Yes. Studies show that an electric tram is perfectly compatible with the region’s winters.

The snow is cleared from the tram tracks and platform pretty much the same way as from the roadways. Freezing rain is more of a challenge than snow, but given how frequently trams go through, it should not have a chance to accumulate on the tracks. In fact, there are several trams in operation in comparable climates, including Toronto, Waterloo, Moscow and the Scandinavian countries.

What is a dedicated site?

A dedicated site is a traffic lane reserved for the exclusive use of vehicles authorized to use it. In the case of the tram project, there are two lanes on a platform. The fact that it runs in a dedicated lane makes it possible for the tram to ensure reliable and regular service. Cars, pedestrians and cyclists will not be able to use that same space for safety reasons, but will be able to cross it at designated intersections.

Also, any public utilities (water, gas, electricity) will be moved, so their maintenance will never affect the tram service.    

How will the public cross the tram lanes (platform)?

The designated intersections will be equipped with traffic lights to ensure safe passage of the tram, cars, bicycles and pedestrians.

At intersections, trams will generally cross straight ahead at the same time as drivers. Tram trains are equipped with a sound signal to warn road users (pedestrians, cyclists, etc.) of their imminent arrival.

How much time will tram riders save compared to those taking the bus or car?

Travel times by tram and bus are about the same when there are no traffic disruptions. Poor weather, accidents, construction, traffic and so on can cause delays for buses and cars, particularly on roads at capacity. Travel times by tram on a reserved lane are far more consistent and reliable compared to by car or bus.

How long will it take to complete the different project stages?

An infrastructure project of this magnitude comprises several phases (technical and environmental studies, procurement, detailed engineering, construction, testing periods). The rule of thumb is about 10 years to complete all phases.

Was consideration given to alternative modes, such as light rail, metro and elevated trains?

Every public transit mode was looked at for this project, including alternative modes such as articulated buses, light rail transit and metro. The population in Gatineau’s west end and ridership projections justify the tram. Articulated buses would not be able to meet long-term needs, whereas the capacity of an LRT or metro system far exceeds the number of riders expected. In addition, a tram, thanks to its insertion at grade will make it possible to redesign the public space it passes through, unlike a raised rail system, which requires significant aerial infrastructure.

What is the difference between a tram and a light rail transit (LRT) system?

A tram can be readily inserted into an urban setting, using existing roads. It is also better adapted to our needs because it allows for more frequent stops given that the stations are generally located 700 metres apart. Also, its capacity is more in line with the expected ridership.

Light rail transit (LRT) is often recommended to serve larger populations and/or peri-urban areas. Ottawa’s O-Train uses light vehicles and works for all practical purposes like a subway. It uses a fully dedicated right-of-way with more widely-spaced stations, to optimize the speed of movement and thereby offer more appealing travel times. An LRT also requires the construction of specific infrastructures (tunnels, bridges, etc.) to avoid intersecting the roads.

Why not an electric bus system rather than a tram?

In 2025, the STO will start purchasing 100% electric vehicles, aiming for a fully electric (converted) bus fleet by 2041. While it may be good for the environment, this option will not address the population’s growing mobility needs. Given that the roads have been at capacity since 2014, adding the required number of buses would only aggravate the road congestion.

Because of the maximum capacity of this transportation mode, the tram is the only viable way to meet our long-term mobility needs because it can move at least twice as many riders as articulated buses can. The advantage of a tram is its ability to move a large number of riders, thereby reducing the number of STO buses in the Gatineau and Ottawa downtowns.

Why not build more reserved lanes instead of investing in a tram?

The total number of buses needed to meet the expected increase in traffic would saturate the reserved lanes, even with articulated or bi-articulated buses. Also, adding more buses to meet the increased ridership in coming years would only aggravate the situation and cause more road congestion. In this regard, based on complementary studies conducted, the “reference” and “all-bus” scenarios relying solely on buses were deemed non-viable because they could not meet future demand.

See the Complementary study for more details

Why was a rapid transit system like the Rapibus in the east end not considered?

As with any structuring project, we use projections to determine the most appropriate mode. In the east end, studies have demonstrated that a rapid bus system would be sufficient. In the west end, the large number of daily riders and the expected population growth, in the order of 50% over the next 30 years, call for a transit system with a greater capacity than buses. This system will relieve pressure on the road network and improve mobility in the sector, even with changes in travel habits related to teleworking. It should be noted that the west end of Gatineau is the one that will experience the strongest demographic growth over the coming years.

Might the tram be extended to the east end over the next few years?

Some day, in addition to Gatineau’s west end, the tram could serve the city’s east end. The buses currently running along the Rapibus corridor would then be replaced by rail transportation. This is only a long-term prospect.

How fast will the tram go?

Although trams can reach speeds of 50 km/h and more, the standard speed is around 22 km/h, taking into account stops times, distances between stations and slowing down at turns and intersections. 

The main advantages of a tram are its consistent and reliable travel times, its accessibility and the fact that it is more ecological because it runs on electricity.

What happens in a power outage?

There are several preventive measures to enable the tram to keep running, even in case of a power outage. For one thing, the power supply will be provided by individual distribution stations. Therefore, if one of stations is down due to a power outage, the other stations will supply the tram.

How long will the trip take during peak periods?

Compared to taking the car, where travel times are highly subject to weather and road conditions, the tram offers reliable and regular travel times because it has its own site and will have right of way at intersections. That means you’ll know at what time you’ll leave and arrive, regardless of the time of day and season.

How many riders, by time period and direction, will the tram be able to carry?

The complementary study states that with the two axes (Aylmer and Plateau), it is projected that by 2031, that the tram will carry approximately 18,000 riders during the morning peak period and 17,000 riders during the evening peak period. There may be an increase in riders during the off-peak periods (early morning, around mid-day, at night, and on weekends), for a minimum of 50,000 riders per day.

Taking into account the new travel habits, more than 30,000 passengers per day are expected as soon as the tram is put into service, and more than 40,000 in 2051.


What kinds of costs are we looking at for this project?

The project, involving overall at-grade insertion and including the vehicles and infrastructure required for its operation, is estimated at $3.5 billion before financing costs. The costs for the dedicated transit system will be reevaluated during subsequent project phases.

Why invest in public transit when so many maintain that it is not cost-effective?

Paid for through general funds, a public transit project aims to meet a community’s needs at an affordable cost. The main goal of public transit is to offer an equitable service to the population within its territory, rather than achieving financial profitability.

What impact will the tram project have on municipal taxes?

As of yet, there is no precise estimate of the impact on municipal taxes, but this will be determined during subsequent project phases.

What is the difference between the National Capital Commission (NCC) project office and the Gatineau-Ottawa tram project office?

Set up in 2020, the Gatineau-Ottawa tram project office has experts in different fields, including the environment, infrastructure, artworks, transportation systems and project management. The team members coordinate the project along with the partners, carry out technical and environmental studies, plan and monitor the construction, and meet with the public and local stakeholders, maintaining communication with them at all times.

The recently established NCC project office, for its part, plays a coordinating role for the different parts of the tram project along the Portage Bridge and in Ottawa related to interprovincial mobility and urban planning.

Mitigation measures

What will become of street parking along the tram circuit?

The tram’s development will take into account the wish to redesign and reallocate spaces for active transportation, such as walking and biking. In the long-term, the tram will support modal transfer and reduce the need for families to own several vehicles.

In order to properly meet demand by future riders, it is important to establish an order of priorities for access to the different stations: access for active modes, good local bus service, street parking regulations and park and rides.

The plan is to also develop a policy for parking on streets near stations.

What measures will be implemented during construction to facilitate the lives of residents living nearby?

Once construction starts, it will be done in stages. There will be information and consultation meetings with affected residents and merchants before any work begins. Key stakeholders will provide a link with the community throughout the construction.

What measures will be implemented to mitigate the impact on neighbourhoods along the circuit (noise, vibration, aesthetics)?

The tram is an important infrastructure project that will transform several parts of Gatineau but that, in the end, will add value in the context of fighting climate change.

Every affected area will be carefully identified, and analyses, alternatives and mitigation measures will be developed as the project progresses. For every situation, there is a mitigation measure, each of which will be selected in collaboration with the sector in question, depending on its reality and needs.

How will the residents be affected by the noise once the system is in place?

Given that the tram vehicles are electric, the noise level will be the same or less, depending on the sector. However, mitigation measures are recommended in those sectors where a slight difference has been noted, and meetings will be organized to discuss this issue with the affected residents and merchants.

The circuit

Why is there no link between the two circuits in the west end? (northern axis via Vanier /Du Plateau and southern axis via Allumettières/Wilfrid-Lavigne).

Data on demand for Plateau-Aylmer origin-destination pair trips does not justify extending the optimal scenario axis ending at Vanier/Allumettières. Planned bus service will meet the projected demand between those sectors.

Will the tram use the same lanes as cars?

No, the tram will have its own dedicated lane. Not sharing space with other road users will enable it to offer better service and consistent trip times. Allowing cars to use the same lane as the tram would result in significant congestion around stations. 

The only place where the tram and cars will cross paths will be at intersections, where measures will be in place to give the tram right of way and ensure the safe passage of cars. Giving the tram its own dedicated lane will make it more punctual and reliable and ensure its performance by offering consistent trip times.


How does it make sense to build a tram when so many people are teleworking and there is so much less traffic because of the pandemic?

Although the demand for public transit has fallen as a result of the pandemic, this situation is not indicative of the ridership projections for the next 30 to 50 years. Telework, which will continue to be used by part of the population, will lead to a change in habits, which will mean fewer trips in peak periods and more in off-peak periods. 

At the same time, Gatineau’s west end (the Plateau and Aylmer districts) is growing significantly, and will continue to do so over the coming years, hence the need for a dedicated public transit system that will connect those residential neighbourhoods to the main activity hubs.

The tram will meet the public’s travel needs at all hours of the day, not only those of workers during peak periods. It is an efficient alternative to single-occupancy vehicles, in a sector where the roads have been at saturation since 2014.

Consultation and information meetings

In the coming phases, do you foresee any further consultations or other activities involving the community?

Over the next few months, we will be conducting detailed analyses required for the pre-project phase, including the preliminary project design, the environmental assessment, calls for proposals and preparatory work for technical services. Efforts to engage the public will continue in order to keep residents and stakeholders informed and to consult with them about different aspects highlighted during the pre-project phase.

What kinds of consultations will be conducted with the Indigenous communities, in particular the Algonquin community? The circuit being proposed crosses unceded ancestral land.

The STO intends to maintain an ongoing dialogue with the Algonquin communities concerned, and is preparing an information and consultation plan in that regard.

Quebec’s environmental assessment procedure also provides for an information and consultation process with Indigenous communities as part of the impact study.

For additional details, go to Guide on the information and consultation process carried out with Aboriginal communities by the proponent of a project subject to the environmental impact assessment and review procedure as well as the Federal Land Use, Design and Transactions Approval process overseen by the National Capital Commission.

When do you plan to organize consultation meetings to discuss sector-specific issues with the public? (consultations upstream from the BAPE hearings).

The project office team is well aware that a project of this magnitude has to be planned and developed in collaboration with different stakeholders, including residents and business and institutional organizations, and is developing its communications accordingly.

A team of engineering consultants will be in charge of designing the preliminary pre-project phase and the environmental impact study. That study includes public consultations upstream from the BAPE hearings, and will be available on the project website when the time comes.

The Loop

What loop is the federal government advancing? What impact will it have on the STO’s tram project?

The purpose of the complementary study is to propose a mode and circuit that address the congestion issues and the needs of residents in Gatineau’s west end in terms of getting to and from the Gatineau and Ottawa downtowns. The interprovincial loop advanced by the federal government could complement the tram. There is no contradiction or conflict between the two projects

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