Trillium Line

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Trillium Line
Ottawa - Line 2 Trillium Line.svg
Ligne Trillium Line logo.svg
O-Train after Bayview Station 16171195227.jpg
Train departing Bayview station
Type Light rail
System O-Train
Locale Ottawa, Ontario
Stations 5 (+8 Approved)
Daily ridership 18,600 (avg. weekday, Q4 2016)[1]
Ridership 3.631 million (2015)[2]
Website O-Train Trillium Line
Opened October 15, 2001
Owner City of Ottawa
Operator(s) OC Transpo under the name Capital Railway
Rolling stock Alstom Coradia LINT
Line lengthkm (5 mi)
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
Electrification None
Route map

Mooney's Bay
Walkley Yard
South Keys
Ottawa Macdonald–Cartier International Airport

The Trillium Line (French: Ligne Trillium) is a diesel light-rail transit (DLRT) service in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada operated by OC Transpo. The line is part of Ottawa's O-Train light rail system.

The present line runs north-south on a railway line, from Bayview to Greenboro, a distance of approximately 8 kilometres (5 mi). It is isolated from road traffic, but shared with other trains; after operating hours the track has been infrequently used by Ottawa Central for freight service to the National Research Council.

Since its opening on October 15, 2001, the Trillium Line hit the 1-millionth rider mark on May 29, 2002, the 5-millionth mark on January 21, 2005, and the 10-million in late 2010.[3]

Until late 2014, the official name of the diesel-powered, north-south line was O-Train. After construction started on a second, east-west light rail line (the Confederation Line) the O-Train name was applied to the entire system, and the north-south line was renamed the "Trillium Line".[4]

Between 2013 and 2015, there was an upgrading of the line, including the complete replacement of the train fleet, in order to cut wait times during peak periods from 15 minutes to 12 minutes and eventually to 8–10 minutes. The upgrade was also a precursor to extending the line southwards by three stations.[5]


  • Bayview station provides an interchange with the Transitway and will provide an interchange to the Confederation Line which is under construction. The station is located on a stub-end track branching off from the railway line, immediately under the Wellington Street and Transitway overpasses. It is currently the closest Trillium Line station to downtown Ottawa.
  • Gladstone had a passing loop added in 2013 to increase train frequency and line capacity.[6] It is the site of a proposed O-Train station.[7]
  • Carling station is located at Carling Avenue and Preston Street. South of Carling, the train enters a tunnel to pass under Dow's Lake.
  • Carleton station serves Carleton University and has separate tracks and platforms for each direction. Until the upgrade of the line in 2013, this station had the only passing loop along the line. South of Carleton, the train crosses over the Rideau River on a bridge.
  • Mooney's Bay station is located at Heron Road and Bronson Avenue, and primarily serves Government of Canada offices in the Confederation Heights area.
  • Walkley had a passing loop added in 2013 to increase train frequency and line capacity.[6] It is the site of a proposed O-Train station.[7]
  • Greenboro station provides an interchange with a large Transitway station, which has a large park-and-ride lot and is located next to the South Keys Shopping Centre. The Trillium Line platform is level with the pedestrian overpass crossing the Transitway.

Pilot project[edit]

This section and its subsections provide a historical description of the Trillium Line prior the upgrades of 2013-2015.

The Trillium Line, Ottawa's original O-Train, was introduced in 2001 as a pilot project to provide an alternative to the busways on which Ottawa had long depended exclusively for its high-grade transit service (see Ottawa Rapid Transit).

Until 2015,[8] the system used three diesel-powered Bombardier Transportation Talent BR643 low-floor diesel multiple unit trains. (Currently, the line operates with Alstom Coradia LINT DMU trains.) It is legally considered a mainline railway despite being used for local public transport purposes, and the service it provides is, in terms of its route and service frequency, more like that of an urban railway than a metro or tramway. OC Transpo operates it under the official name ‘Capital Railway’, which appears on the trains along with their regular logo. It was, however, described as ‘light rail’, partly because plans called for it to be extended into Ottawa’s downtown as a tramway-like service, and partly because the Talents, though designed for mainline railways in Europe, are much smaller and lighter than most mainline trains in North America, and do not meet the Association of American Railroads' standards for crash strength. Ottawa is also authorized to run trains with only a single operator and no other crew, something rare on mainline railways in North America.

As a pilot project, the Trillium Line system was built at the cost of $21 million, relatively little compared with the hundreds of millions of dollars usually required to build a new transit line. It runs on an existing Canadian Pacific Railway track (Ellwood and Prescott subdivisions,[9]) so the only construction work necessary was to build the stations themselves and the passing tracks necessary to allow trains to operate in both directions. The downside to this, however, was that much ground pollution remains from the track’s previous use. This will become a liability in the future day when the city has to pay for clean up; to avoid this expense, the city has not dug into the ground under the tracks.

The service frequency of a train every fifteen minutes made it possible to run the line with a fleet of just three trains (of which only two are in service at any given time) and a single track apart from passing sidings at Carleton station. In 2015, the train frequency was increased after upgrades to the line and replacement of the train fleet, reducing headways to twelve minutes.[5])

In mid-2011, the Trillium Line carried an average of approximately 12,000 riders each day.[10]

At the station[edit]

Carleton is the only station with two platforms.

The Trillium Line opened in 2001 with five stations which are, from north to south, Bayview Station, Carling Station, Carleton Station, Mooney's Bay Station and Greenboro Station.

Before the 2013-2015 line upgrade, Carleton Station was the location of the only passing loop on the route, with the consequence that Carleton is the only station with separate tracks and platforms for each direction. The schedule was timed such that the southbound train arrived first and moved onto the platform siding, and then proceeded once the northbound train had entered the station. (Today the line has three passing loops between Bayview and Greenboro stations.)

The trains stop at every station and all trains run directly from one end of the line to the other.

Carleton is the only Trillium Line station with separate platforms for both directions; at Carling and Confederation one can tell where a train is headed by the direction from which it enters the station and by its electronic destination sign.

Ticketing on the Trillium Line originally worked entirely on a proof-of-payment basis; there were no ticket barriers or turnstiles, and the driver does not check fares. Occasionally, OC Transpo Special Constables or other employees checked passengers for proof of payment. Tickets can be purchased from a vending machine on the platform, and certain bus passes are also valid for the Trillium Line. Trillium Line tickets were exchanged for bus transfers upon boarding a bus. Although bus transfers can be used to board the O-Train, prepaid bus tickets cannot. As of 2018, ticket barriers (turnstiles) have been installed in all stations except Bayview, serving as a beta test of these systems which will also be used in all stations on the Confederation line when it opens.

Paper schedules rather than electronic signs were originally posted at the stations to supply departure information. At the Carling and Confederation stations, signs are posted indicating the direction of travel for northbound and southbound trains; Carleton has separate platforms, and from Bayview and Greenboro trains travel in only one direction.

The Trillium Line stations have sheltered waiting areas for passengers, but at three stations these are only large bus-style shelters beside the tracks. The exceptions are Carling, where an elevator building is required since the tracks are below street level, and Greenboro, where a covered walkway extends towards the nearby South Keys Shopping Centre. All stations have level boarding platforms to allow for wheelchair access and easier boarding for all passengers.

The European trains are narrower than the North American standard. In order to enable night-time use of the line by standard-width freight services, retractable platform extenders are mounted at each station (other than Bayview which is constructed on its own private rail spur). Passengers gain access to the Trillium Line on these extenders, three sets of which are visible in the above photo (at the location of the solid yellow platform markings). If the line is used for freight, the extenders are retracted allowing a wider train to pass through the station. The extender interface with the train has been refined over time, and cyclists and wheelchair users now have no trouble accessing the train.

On board the train[edit]

This section is a historical description of the Bombardier Talent diesel units that were retired in 2015. The Trillium Line operates with Alstom Coradia LINT 41 units.[6][11]
The interior design of the Bombardier Talent carriages shows their mainline railway heritage.

Ottawa’s three Talent units were built by Bombardier Transportation as part of a larger order for Deutsche Bahn’s regional network. The only significant difference between them and the German units is that their on-board toilets have been decommissioned. As well, the luggage racks have been blocked, although this seemed not to be a problem with the train's operation in Germany. Deutsche Bahn’s red-and-white colour scheme was similar enough to OC Transpo’s livery that the trains did not need to be repainted. The trains were purchased under an agreement under which they could be sold back to Bombardier if they were replaced or retired, but the agreement has since expired.

The Talent units can be coupled together to form longer trains, but current ridership levels do not require this extended service, which in any case would require more trains and longer platforms at the stations. Each of the three carriages has a plug-type doorway for each side of the train. Rather than all doors opening at each station, passengers must individually open the door of which they intend to board or disembark by pressing a button.

Despite their diesel engines, the trains are quite comfortable; even for passengers sitting directly above the motors, the ride is quiet and smooth. Seats are arranged with two on each side of the carriage, and the rows alternate facing directions, such that half the seats are facing forward in either direction of travel.

The interior is clearly one designed for a mainline train; there are only a few poles for standing passengers, mostly located around the doors and closely integrated into the train’s overall design. There are no advertisements on board the trains despite the available space on what are in fact plastic covers over what traditionally would be overhead storage areas; viewable through the slats from below. These areas were presumably cordoned off in order to reduce litter and to improve safety however this often means more cramped quarters, especially during peak travel times. Although the trains consist of three carriages, they are connected such that it is possible to walk from one end to the other; the only noticeable divisions between the carriages are a short articulated section in the walls and a slight ramp over the dividing line. The trains have low floors, but the half-carriages at the ends of the trains have high floors with several steps up, to provide room for under-floor motors. The doors into the cabs are clear, allowing passengers to see in, but some drivers prefer to pull curtains across.

There are no maps posted on the trains, but electronic screens in each carriage and recorded voice messages announce the stations as they come up. The station announcements and all signs are bilingual in English and French; a few features of the trains, such as the buttons touched to open the doors, are also marked in German as a result of their design heritage.


In June 2002 the O-Train Light Rail Transit project received the Canadian Urban Transit Association’s Corporate Innovation Award.[12]

On January 16, 2003 the Ontario Chapter of the American Public Works Association presented the City of Ottawa, Canadian Pacific Railway and Morrison Hershfield, with the APWA’S Public Works Project of the Year award in the Transportation Category. This award was established to highlight the excellence in the management and administration of public works projects by recognizing the alliance between the managing agency, the Consultant and the Contractors who working together, complete public works projects.[13]

A third award the Trillium Line light rail transit project received was in May 2003, in the sustainable transportation category of the FCM-CH2M Hill Sustainable Community Awards.[12]

Criticism of pilot project[edit]

The main complaints about the Trillium Line pilot have revolved around its placement and ridership levels. The Trillium Line's route was determined by existing railway tracks, rather than the parts of the city that needed public transport, which would have required new tracks to be laid. Carleton University students, however, benefit from the Trillium Line pilot project, as it connected the university to the busy Ottawa Rapid Transit system.

The other criticism is that there is very low ridership the trains compared to some very crowded bus lines such as the 90-99 series routes. One fully loaded Trillium Line train carries 285 passengers compared to 131 passengers for an articulated bus.[14] The O-Train schedule is limited by track capacity.

Early extension plans[edit]

In July 2006, Ottawa City Council approved the north-south light rail expansion project. The project would have terminated diesel light rail service on the Trillium Line so as to reuse its right-of-way for a double-track, electric light rail line that would have extended west from the University of Ottawa to Bayview then south to Leitrim and then west to Barrhaven. However, in December, 2006, Ottawa City Council cancelled this project, thus leaving the diesel-powered Trillium Line unchanged.

Expansion plan[edit]

Map of expansion plan

Better train frequency[edit]

On May 18, 2011, OC Transpo approved a CA$200,000 study to expand the Trillium Line. The $59 million proposal included the purchase of six new trainsets and track improvements that would increase headways to eight minutes from fifteen.[10] The project would finally cost $60.3 million.[5]

In mid-2013, service on the Trillium Line was suspended for four months to implement service and track improvements such as new station platforms and two new passing tracks (near Brookfield and Gladstone).[5][6] Upgrades were also made to the signal system, train controls, stations, tracks and train yard. A new Centralized Traffic Control system was installed to improve safety and efficiency.[5]

Six new Alstom Coradia LINT trainsets (purchased to replace the three older Bombardier Talent units) and the two extra passing loops allow the number of trains on the line to double to four thus reducing wait times. The goal is to cut wait times from 15 to as low as 8 minutes for peak times. Service will run every 10 to 12 minutes. Signals and operations would be adjusted to increase frequency to approximately every 8 to 10 minutes. With more trains and a higher frequency of service, the line will be able to carry more people.[5]

Expanded service began on March 2, 2015, but suffered numerous problems during the first week.[8]

Stage 2[edit]

Stage 2 LRT logo

In a project called "Stage 2", the Trillium Line would be extended 8 km (5.0 mi) southwards with four stations at South Keys, Leitrim, Bowesville and Limebank in Riverside South. There would be passing loops at South Keys and Leitrim, and grade separations at Lester and Leitrim. In addition, two more stations are proposed along the existing portion of the line at Gladstone and Walkley.[7]

The City of Ottawa is also considering a separate 3 km (1.9 mi) O-Train line from Macdonald-Cartier International Airport to South Keys Station where riders would need to change trains to continue to Bayview Station. Mayor Jim Watson said he doesn’t want the Trillium Line slowed down by interlining trains going to the airport. If the airport link is built, the preferred station location at the airport would be between the terminal building and the parking garage. The project would cost about C$100-million.[7][15]


The Trillium Line fleet began with three trains sets of three cars. The front and rear cars are powered and the centre towed. There is no fleet numbering: cars are identified by the letter C and a number (C1 - C9). In September 2011, Alstom announced that it would deliver six new two-car Coradia Lint train sets in 2013;[16] the trains were handed over to OC Transpo in June 2013.[11] These trains were put into service on March 2, 2015 thus retiring the Bombardier Talent units.[17] The Bombardier Talents were pulled from service with the introduction of the LINT units on March 2, 2015.[17]

 Class  Image Type Number of Doors Top speed Number Routes operated Built Years of service Notes
Bombardier Talent BR643 O-Train C3 at Walkley Yard.jpg DMU 3 per side 100 kilometres per hour (62 mph) 3 × 3 car units
(9 cars total)
Bayview–Greenboro 2001 2001-2015 Originally ordered by Deutsche Bahn and later delivered to OC Transpo. Multiple attempts[18] to auction off the trains have not resulted in any buyers. The trains are still kept at Walkley Yard.
Alstom Coradia LINT 41 J95729 OnOCTotrain 20160815-113119.58 Bayview.jpg DMU 2 per side 140 kilometres per hour (87 mph) 6 × 2 pair units
(12 cars total)
Bayview–Greenboro 2013 2015–Present Ordered by OC Transpo 2011, delivery was in June 2013[11]

Future Fleet[edit]

On May 3, 2018[19] it was announced that the city would be purchasing seven new Stadler FLIRT trains to use on the extended Trillium Line after the completion of Stage 2. The new trains would operate along side the existing LINT trains on the main line in a mixed fleet.

 Class  Type Number of Doors Number Routes operated Entering Service Notes
Stadler FLIRT DMU 8 per side 7 x 4 car units (28 cars total, not including power packs) Bayview - Limebank (Stage 2) 2021 Announced on May 3, 2018. Will have a Diesel-Electric drive with the possibility of future electrification.


Train sets are stored at the Walkley Yard located northeast of the Greenboro station. Before their retirement, the Bombardier Talent trainsets were maintained by Bombardier Transportation at the Walkley facilities. Trains are towed to the site by Ottawa Central Railway locomotives, thus there are no work vehicles for the Trillium Line fleet.

The Walkley Yard was built in 1955 by the National Capital Commission for the Canadian National Railways and later sold to the Canadian Pacific Railway.

The yard has enclosed buildings for repairs and outdoor storage tracks.

  • Year: 1955 (as O-Train facility 2001)
  • Building: Yes
  • Location: Albion Road North and Kitchener Avenue
  • Status: Active

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Transit Ridership Report Fourth Quarter and End-of-Year 2016" (pdf). American Public Transportation Association (APTA) (via: ). March 2, 2016. p. 33. Retrieved 2017-12-28.  External link in |publisher= (help)
  2. ^ "Transit Ridership Report Fourth Quarter and End-of-Year 2015" (pdf). American Public Transportation Association (APTA) (via: ). March 2, 2016. p. 33. Retrieved 2017-03-06.  External link in |publisher= (help)
  3. ^ "OC Transpo - Odometer passes 1 Millionth KM!". Retrieved 2010-08-07. 
  4. ^ "O-Train name approved for Ottawa light rail system". CBC News Network. September 17, 2014. Retrieved 2014-12-29. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f "New Trains improve O-Train Trillium Line service". City of Ottawa. March 2, 2015. Retrieved 2015-07-31. 
  6. ^ a b c d Hua, John (September 3, 2013). "Ottawa's O-Train back on track". Bell Media. Retrieved 2015-07-29. 
  7. ^ a b c d "Stage 2 - Trillium Line South". City of Ottawa. 2015. Retrieved 2015-08-01. 
  8. ^ a b "O-Train shut down day after launch of expanded line (with video)". The Ottawa Citizen. 3 March 2015. Retrieved 2015-07-29. 
  9. ^ Duncan, Paul. "Ottawa Railways" (GIF). Retrieved 2009-01-12. 
  10. ^ a b "Ottawa O-Train extension proposed". Railway Gazette International. 24 May 2011. Archived from the original on 28 May 2011. Retrieved 28 May 2011. 
  11. ^ a b c "In Ottawa, Alstom introduces first European-style commuter trains for North America". Alstom. 2013-06-25. Retrieved 2013-07-06. 
  12. ^ a b "O-Train Light Rail Project". Retrieved 2011-04-05. 
  13. ^ "". Retrieved 2011-04-05. 
  14. ^ "OC Transpo adds new low-floor articulated buses to its fleet". OC Transpo. 2001-04-05. Archived from the original on September 29, 2007. Retrieved 2009-01-12. 
  15. ^ "OC Transpo chooses Alstom to supply six new commuter trains to Ottawa". Alstom. 2011-09-16. Retrieved 6 July 2012. 
  16. ^ a b
  17. ^
  18. ^ "- Jim Watson". Retrieved 2018-05-25. 
  19. ^ Letsgomoose

External links[edit]

Route map: Google

KML is not from Wikidata

Media related to Trillium Line at Wikimedia Commons