This section summarizes existing conditions, identifies key issues, and discusses opportunities and challenges of interprovincial travel in Canada’s Capital Region (the Region).

Current Conditions and Emerging Trends

Key travel conditions and long-term trends are described below:

  • During the morning rush hour, almost 10% of all trips in the Region cross the Ottawa River.
  • The main direction of travel is towards Ottawa in the morning rush hour and reversed in the afternoon peak. This reflects the high number of commuters going from Gatineau to Ottawa each day (see Exhibit 1).
  • During the morning rush hour towards Ottawa, all five interprovincial bridges are close to or over their designed vehicular capacity resulting in traffic congestion, particularly on the Chaudière and Alexandra crossings (see Exhibit 2). Car travel in the opposite direction (towards Gatineau) is much less congested.
  • The number of transit, cycling and walking trips have increased in recent years, however, car-based trips into Ottawa still represent almost two thirds (64%) of all morning rush hour trips.
  • The Region is expected to add 300,000 residents by 2031, with most of the growth taking place in the central core and outer suburban communities of Ottawa and Gatineau.
  • As the population grows, so will employment. Central Ottawa and key employment hubs are expected to remain the dominant locations for jobs in the Region, although remote working and other emerging trends could influence this and will be considered in later phases of the Plan.
  • Rush hour interprovincial travel in personal vehicles is expected to increase 21% by 2031. Travel toward Ontario is expected to increase more rapidly, at a rate of 25%, although remote working, remote schooling and other emerging trends could influence this growth and will be considered in later phases of the Plan.
  • It should be noted that the current pandemic has changed how people travel. The ongoing impacts of these changes are difficult to foresee just now. However, changes are being monitored and will be considered in later phases of the Plan.
  • It should also be noted that all forecasts and trends will be extrapolated to 2046 / 2050 conditions in later phases of the Plan.
Two bar graphs showing the 2017 weekday rush hour traffic volumes by bridge, mode and direction of travel. The graphs show that the main direction of travel is towards Ottawa in the AM rush hour and out of Ottawa in the PM rush hour on all bridges except the Portage Bridge which has more traffic going to Québec in the AM peak period than to Ontario. The graphs also show that the dominant modes of travel in both directions during the AM and PM rush hours is cars and light trucks.
Exhibit 1: Weekday Peak Period Traffic Volumes by Bridge, Mode and Direction
A bar graph showing the volume-to-capacity ratio during the AM rush hour for the five interprovincial bridges in use, by direction of travel for 2011 and 2031. The graph shows that for travel towards Ottawa, the Chaudière Crossing and Alexandra Bridge are already above their capacity. The Champlain bridge, Portage Bridge and Macdonald-Cartier Bridge are nearing their capacity. By 2031, for travel towards Ottawa, all bridges will have more car volume than capacity. For travel towards Gatineau, there is still additional capacity through to 2031, however, the Chaudière Crossing will be approaching capacity by then.
Exhibit 2: Volume to Capacity Ratio for the Five Interprovincial Bridges

Broader societal and consumer trends are emerging. These are different from past trends and are expected to influence the movement of people and goods in the Region. They include:

  • Increased public awareness of the impact of climate change on our lifestyles and wellbeing, and the contribution of personal vehicle transport to greenhouse gas emissions. There is also increased openness by the public and employers to adopting ‘green’ travel choices as a result.
  • Increased green policies at all levels of government that promote the use of more sustainable transport modes for people and goods.
  • Increased shift to new transportation technologies such as electric vehicles, automated vehicles, drones, and mobility as a service options (e.g. Uber, Lyft).
  • Reductions in regular commuting trips resulting from COVID-19, such as working from home, remote schooling and increased online shopping.
  • Increased focus on designing streets that accommodate users of all ages, abilities, and travel methods, and providing more equitable access.

Needs and Opportunities

The key challenges for interprovincial trips are listed below:

  • Demand for Travel
    • Planned investments in transit and active transportation infrastructure will most likely increase the use of these methods of travel, but even so, forecasts still show that all five bridges will be over their designed car-carrying capacity by 2031.3 This means that more needs to be done to support sustainable travel, like buses and light rail, walking and cycling, and other green ways to travel.
    • In the short term, the planned replacement of the Alexandra Bridge and the planned rehabilitation of the Chaudière Crossing will create additional congestion on the other bridges. The design and future vocation of these bridges will influence long term interprovincial transport capacity needs.
  • Safety
    • There is a need to provide a better separation between cyclists, pedestrians and vehicles at, and approaching the interprovincial bridges.
  • Multi-Jurisdictional Governance
    • Canada’s Capital Region consists of multiple municipalities and two provinces. Collaboration across multiple governments is therefore required to coordinate interprovincial transportation planning and service delivery. This Strategic Plan will examine and recommend a governance framework to support the long-term planning and delivery of coherent and thorough interprovincial transportation and transit.

Some potential opportunities to address these challenges in the long term are outlined below:

  • More unified and seamless interprovincial transit services that offer a more connected service and help reduce personal vehicle dependence.
  • A combination of “New Mobility” options such as ridehailing (e.g. Uber and Lyft) or e-bikeshare with transit could make door-to-door trips easier, even over long distances such as suburb-to-suburb.
  • Re-balancing the proportion of Federal employment between Ottawa and Gatineau in a way that could reduce the existing imbalance of interprovincial trips and associated traffic congestion during rush hour periods.
  • Incentives that could encourage more sustainable travel modes, such as tolls, road pricing or car-free zones thereby encouraging shifts to other methods or less-congested times of the day.