Wait, I have a new idea! An LRT subway through downtown Ottawa!

Here’s a blast from the past. The drawing below is from the 1915 Bennett Plan for downtown Ottawa showing a proposed East / West tunnel to carry street cars (the light rail before Light Rail) quickly and efficiently through the downtown core.

1915 - Proposed Ottawa subway line

(Click image for full size. Source file here.)

Note that the route it follows is only two blocks South of the current project’s Queen Street route but otherwise follows much the same path until it gets to the canal.

So how did Ottawa miss this train almost a century ago? The easy answer: World War I suddenly became the priority in 1917. But add to that bureaucratic dithering, site lack of political will, for sale and a general shift toward cars and away from public transit – and rail in particular – that was already underway.

Here’s how Bennett puts it in a section titled “relief to downtown congestion”, and note that even in these early days of the motor car, the priority has already shifted from moving people  to freeing up the streets for motor cars.

Means to operate cars faster through the down-town district are being sought in many cities. The end desired is that the round trip may be made in shorter time and the cars at present in use operated to do more work, with the increase in street congestion consequently obviated. This is being done in two ways,-first, by through-routing of all cars, that is, by the elimina­tion of as many as possible of the down-town terminals and loops,-second, by the construction, through the congested district, of subways for street cars, through which the (street)cars can move faster than they can on the streets.

Sound familiar yet?

So what do you think? How different would Ottawa be if we’d adopted the Bennett Plan?

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