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Japanese Balloon Team — During an attempt to set a world record for endurance, the balloon encountered turbulence that caused a tear in the envelope and negated the possibility of setting the record. Aerostar RX-7 (Midair Collision) — On March 16, 1997, the pilot was participating in a hot-air-balloon rally when he collided with another balloon after landing in Tucson, Arizona.
According to the pilot, participants in the hot-air-balloon rally had received full weather briefings for the area, near Tucson Arizona, before the rally began. This resulted from the touchdown sequence and led the gondola to twist, lift off at an angle and catch the edge of another balloon already on the ground, ripping holes in that balloon's envelope. Head AX-88 (Pilot and Passengers Ejected) — On April 13, 1997, the hot-air balloon impacted the ground in San Diego, California, and sustained minor damage.
Witnesses saw the balloon sink quickly, hit the ground and become airborne for a short time before the second impact, at which time the pilot and two passengers were ejected from the basket.
Cameron N-77 (Balloon Ignites Grass Fire) — On April 27, 1997, the sole pilot was engaged in a race when the balloon tipped over during the landing on a brush-covered hillside near Temecula, California, and ignited a grass fire. The pilot told Federal Aviation Administration inspectors after the flight that the balloon was drifting toward a hilly area and that he spotted a hill with a flat top, which had recently been graded, and decided to land there.
The pilot had left one burner on during the touchdown sequence and the burner ignited a grass fire that also consumed the balloon. Balloon Works AX-8B — On March 1, 1997, the balloon impacted the ground near Parker, Arizona, during a local pleasure flight. According to the pilot, after 15 min of flight, he noticed a drop in fuel pressure and switched to another tank, while the balloon lost altitude and changed direction.
Information identified as archived on the Web is for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. The O-Train was initiated to assess the technical feasibility of using an existing rail corridor for rapid transit, to validate expectations about ridership, performance and cost, and to allow proper analysis of possible larger-scale implementation. In 2001, 11 rural and urban municipalities—including the Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton—were amalgamated into the new City of Ottawa.
The city’s 2003 Official Plan and Transportation Master Plan set the objectives and the strategies for long-range planning for the public transit system. Overall, the city’s average transit modal share (the percentage of residents who use public transit) is 17% and is projected to be 30% by 2021. The O-Train travels on an 8-km length of existing freight rail track, and connects to the city’s bus rapid transit system (the “Transitway”) on each end of the line. In July 1997, the Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton adopted a new Official Plan and Transportation Master Plan that set a target of 73% growth in transit ridership in the region over the next 25 years.
To meet the needs of anticipated growth, the region set out long-range transit strategy that included, as one element, 40 kilometres of rail-based rapid transit along existing rail lines. In August 1998 the Region began a year-long study to assess the feasibility of implementing a light rail rapid transit project. In addition, the city aimed to reach a revenue-to-cost ratio of 27% to 32% with daily ridership of between 5,100 and 6,400 passengers.
CPR, as owner of the corridor, engaged Morrison Hershfield (an engineering and management firm) to manage the project.
Bombardier provided and maintains the trains and, with AR Concepts, developed and installed the signaling system. Transport Canada worked with the city to develop an operating plan that met federal legislation requirements under the Rail Safety Act.
Municipal staff also worked with the Women’s Initiative for a Safe Environment (WISE) and Ottawa Police Services on the design of the security system (extensive high-quality lighting, emergency call boxes and closed-circuit television surveillance).
Two station sites required EA screenings, and two stations required environmental site assessments. The CPR track crosses two other active rail lines, making the signalling and braking systems (discussed below) important safety elements. The original jointed track was upgraded but caused problems such as damage to the trains and excessive noise. Each train weighs 72,000 kg, is 48 metres long, with seating capacity for 137 passengers and standing capacity for 150.
Each train is equipped with two four-stroke diesel engines, water-cooled in-line motors, and a horizontal-shaft design with exhaust gas turbocharger and charge cooler. Daily ridership after a year in operation averaged 6,200 passengers and surveys indicated that approximately 1,500 of these passengers would have previously used other modes of transit or not have made the trip. In its final report to city council, OC Transpo estimated that if the O-Train were removed, the cost to purchase additional buses would take up most of the resources for growth planned in the 2003 budget. The city’s Transportation and Public Works department—formerly the region’s Infrastructure and Transit Services departments—took the lead on the project. OC Transpo cites Ottawa Mayor Bob Chiarelli (who was the chair of the Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton at the time that this project was approved) and the municipal council, as the pilot project’s main champions.
Several councillors also visited various European countries and saw, firsthand, how municipalities there had benefited from light rail projects. As part of the work to develop the 2003 Official Plan, the city undertook the Ottawa Rapid Transit Expansion Plan Study (ORTEP).
Environmental assessments are now proceeding for a light rail line from the city’s downtown (Rideau Centre shopping area) to the south end (Riverside), and an east-west light rail transit corridor (Carling Avenue).
The study also recommends that the city explore public-private partnerships to implement rapid transit in other areas of the city, and continue negotiations with CPR for the acquisition of a second rail corridor. Some of the pages available on our Web site are electronic versions of documents that were originally designed for printing. Therefore, the crew elected to perform a controlled but rough landing in a field covered with deep snow.
They were picked up after their company, search and rescue and the Transportation Safety Board had been informed. The balloon was substantially damaged, the pilot was seriously injured, one passenger was slightly injured and the others were uninjured.

The pilot and four passengers were all right, but the ground crew member was seriously injured. The pilot and two passengers were not so fortunate, as they suffered serious injuries when they were ejected from the basket during a second landing impact. He began a descent toward the landing spot, but overshot and touched down on the far slope. The balloon was not damaged, and the pilot and one passenger were not injured; the other passenger sustained a serious injury to the ankle. Continuous application of the burner blast valve did not slow the rate of descent and a hard landing occurred.
Windshear was reported by several balloonists when they debriefed their flights later that morning.
It is not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards and has not been altered or updated since it was archived. The O-Train travels an 8-km track past five stations, two of which connect to the city’s bus rapid transit system (the “Transitway”), over two bridges and through a tunnel beneath Dow’s Lake. These are discussed in more detail in the Policy Context and Rationale sections of this case study. In addition, this was the first time Bombardier Talent DMU trains had been used anywhere in North America, and the first trains driven by bus operators. This network would support and enhance the city’s existing transit operations, which include the 31-kilometre Transitway. The Region studied the existing infrastructure, the types of trains that could be used, an analysis of ridership potential and how light rail could be expanded beyond a pilot project.
After a two-year community consultation process, Ottawa 2020 resulted in five growth management plans that will guide the city’s future.
The steering committee created to oversee the pilot project included two municipal councillors and members of Transport 2000, a non-profit organization whose primary purpose is research, public education and consumer advocacy.
With no prior experience in light rail, the region needed considerable outside expertise to implement the pilot project.
There were no examples in North America of a single operator passenger train, so municipal officials relied on the expertise of its partners to design and implement the O-Train.
The plan includes operating rules, emergency procedures, employee training programs, and a Safety Management System. A Light Rail Pilot Project Sounding Board was created and consisted of representatives from community associations and schools near the line, special interest groups, and major employment centres. The OC Transpo security group also established partnerships with Carleton University’s security department, Ottawa Police Services and the ambulance and fire services. Environmental assessments were performed under the Province of Ontario’s Environmental Assessment Act. Federal regulations required that a SMS be developed to ensure the safety of employees, contractors, the public and the environment.
Most railway systems operated in other North American jurisdictions employ locomotive engineers, who have already met all the necessary regulatory standards.
Promotion of the project started a year before the line was operational, beginning with a tracking-laying ceremony at Carleton University.
Prior to the O-Train project, the CPR freight line and its rail yard were seldom used and in poor condition.
The tunnel was upgraded to meet engineering standards and to install a water system to provide a source of water for fire fighting in the tunnel. The existing Automatic Block Signal (ABS) system was overhauled as it was antiquated and did not function according to the needs of the O-Train line. A German-designed Indusi automatic braking system was installed—the first time such a system had been used in North America.
The trains operate in a freight corridor and since freight trains are wider than the Bombardier trains, it was necessary to install flip-down platform extenders to allow wheelchair access. Using statistics from the United States, OC Transpo estimated the average cost to implement light rail infrastructure at between $15 million and $30 million per mile. The O-Train provides north-south connections parallel to a congested corridor (Bronson Avenue). If the O-Train were to be removed completely, the city would need to buy additional buses to service the same routes and accommodate the 6,000+ daily passengers. Approximately 15 articulated buses would be required to replace the O-Train at a cost of $715,000 each.
However, the long list of partners (above) gives an indication of the breadth of expertise and human resources required. These councillors recognized that in order to halt urban sprawl, reduce traffic congestion, and avoid gridlock, a new vision for transit was needed. Council of the former regional government directed staff to proceed with the development and implementation of a pilot project for light rail.
Although the trains were a good choice for this pilot project, as the city proceeds with a more in-depth Ottawa Rapid Transit Expansion Plan Study, alternative vehicles and propulsion systems will be studied. The city trained its own bus drivers to operate the O-Train, maximizing the use of its human resources and providing a pool of back up operators. The former regional government approved the pilot project and this support was carried over into the council elected after amalgamation. With no other examples in North America to learn from, the region needed considerable external expertise on the design and process of the O-Train. The study made use of the results of this pilot project and recommended, as a top priority item of the ORTEP, extending O-Train service to many other parts of the city. These documents may also be available for download in PDF format so that you can view and print them with virtually the same graphics, typography and layout as the original version. During the landing, the balloon sustained damage to the gondola and propane tanks; however, there were no injuries. No balloon was authorized to enter Class D airspace, nor was there any contact between the balloon and air traffic control.

Witnesses reported observing two flashes, or explosions, each time the crew basket contacted the ground. The balloon gondola touched down on a large rock hidden in tall vegetation just as the pilot pulled open the rip panel to deflate the envelope, and the balloon tipped over on its side. The line serves Carleton University, a major employment centre, and a shopping mall in a densely populated neighbourhood.
One of these is the Transportation Master Plan, which includes objectives and strategies for an expansion of light rail transit.
The steering committee reported to council and to the Transportation and Transit Committee on a regular basis.
Other businesses and institutions that would be affected by the project were also consulted. The EA also met federal requirements through a harmonized process to satisfy the National Capital Commission (which owns part of the property) and Public Works and Government Services Canada.
Under stringent environmental guidelines, new foundation requirements temporarily re-routed the creek into a culvert. Municipal staff worked with Transport Canada, Human Resources Development Canada, CPR, CN, and VIA for their input and to review the SMS.
Media and local politicians participated in the ceremony and promotional literature was distributed to the public. CPR upgraded the line to accommodate the O-Train, and no other trains use the track except when the O-Train is not operating.
Instead, OC Transpo installed continuous welded rail in the summer of 2003 at a cost of $2.2 million, adding to the original capital budget for the project. Signal hardware and wiring were renovated and locations changed to provide efficient signal communication to trains. The Indusi system is computerized and consists of track magnets and speed monitoring devices on the trains. The trains were built in Germany and shipped first to Montreal before arriving in Ottawa in January 2001. The trains comply with exhaust emission requirements of Euro-II contaminant standards (the standards set by the European Union).
The extenders are lightweight, but strong enough to hold a wheelchair, and are easily flipped back on top of the platform when freight trains use the line.
An additional bus station was built at Bayview (the north end of the line) to enhance connections between the O-Train and buses along the Transitway. The O-Train uses 40% less fuel than when compared to the average amount of fuel per kilometre used for a transit bus.
Capital costs were $21 million to cover purchasing of the trains, upgrading signalling and the track lines, installing the braking system, constructing new stations and a maintenance facility, etc.
Municipal staff worked with several community groups every step of the way to resolve any issues that would affect local neighbourhoods.
The funds available to upgrade the existing infrastructure and build the new stations were quite limited for a project of this magnitude.
Several requirements including turning radius for inner city use, platform height, train acceleration and vibration would be problematic for downtown service.
This promoted better labour relations, as union representatives were initially concerned that the project would threaten their members’ livelihoods. The knowledge and experience of the project’s many partners enabled the city to implement the O-Train service quickly—only two years from the beginning of the project to final implementation. The personal approach helped the city’s partners to understand the project better and reduced the bureaucracy that is often inherent in large capital projects. Several community groups and advocacy associations provided support for the project from the beginning. He stated that he had flown both Friday and Saturday and the weather conditions were good, and that it had seemed like it would be more of the same on Sunday. The Board sought input from these stakeholders on issues of customer security, noise, and accessibility. On-going monitoring conditions had to meet the approval of the conservation authority, as Sawmill Creek is a sensitive environmental area with fish habitat. One hundred and twenty-five bus drivers applied for 28 positions, and those chosen successfully completed a six-week training course presented by CANAC, a consulting firm associated with CN Rail.
If the train is moving too fast, the braking system detects it and initiates the brakes automatically.
To make the transfer between bus and rail easier, the city changed the grade of the ramp from the station to the Transitway and raised the O-Train track by nine feet.
Accessibility to Carleton University, which has a population of approximately 25,000, has also been greatly improved.
Operating costs totaled $8 million ($4 million per year of the pilot project) to cover salaries, training, fuel, marketing, etc.
Because of the limited budget, architectural or aesthetic decisions—the designs of the train stations for example—had to be secondary to the functionality of the O-Train.
In addition, the city hired a project manager from the rail industry to facilitate these partnerships and a rail superintendent who handled operational issues and dealt with CPR, CN and Transport Canada.
Construction activities were highlighted in the local press, and billboards in support of the project were erected in the summer of 2001. Of the 6,200 daily trips made on the O-Train, one third of them are by Carleton University students and staff.
The balloon came in low and fast and hit hard, causing the pilot's leg to go through the gondola.

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Rubric: Canada Emergency Preparedness


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