Capital Attraction: Traveling In and Around Ottawa

Posted by - February 7, 2015 | Category: Contributing Author

If you’re looking for a place to visit, Canada is one of the friendliest countries in the world, especially Ottawa. Whether it’s by plane, train, or automobile, you have an almost endless number of options to get here. But, most people choose to drive around in the city once they get here. Here’s what you need to know.

House of Parliament, Ottawa, ON CANADA

Public Transportation

The city of Ottawa has one of the best public transportation services for any major city in the world. Its main transit system is the OC Transpo, which consists of a fleet of almost 1,000 buses. The public transport will even drop off and pick up individuals with disabilities through its branch service called Para Transpo.

There’s also a rapid portion of the bus system called Transitway, which is handicapped-accessible and runs constantly throughout the day. These busses transport people very quickly, even during rush hour. How? Because there are various roads and bridges throughout the city that are reserved only for public transit, meaning that these busses travel on a semi-private road system.

The O-Train is Ottawa’s light rail train system that runs 8km north and south through the city from Bayview to Greenboro. it’s isolated from road and train traffic, which makes it a very fast method of travel.

A somewhat unusual method of travel that’s open to the public during winter months is the Rideau Canal. When the water freezes, the rivers also freeze, and the canal locks are open for a distance of about 8km. You can actually ice skate your way between Carleton University and Rideau Center.


Most people drive in Ottawa, as this is the accepted form of transportation when you want to control how and when you get to your destination. If you rent a vehicle, you’ll have to do so from a qualified rental business.

There are several major highways in Ottawa, including the 417, also called the Queensway, the 416, 174, 7, 16, and 31. Those sound a little like lotto numbers, but they’re how most people get around and through the city.

The speed on most major highways is about 100km/h (about 60mph). The limit on some highways, however, is just 80km/h, so make sure you’re paying attention to where you’re driving, because police are not lenient about speeding here.

Many of the streets in the city, especially the ones downtown, are one-way. If you’re not used to this, it can be a little bit disorienting. Beware of the signs so that you avoid a car crash.

Some streets also have adopted second names. So, for example, if you’re driving down Preston Street, people may call it Corso Italia. Gladstone Ave is sometimes referred to as Via Marconi. In Ontario and Quebec, but not Montreal, people are allowed to turn right on a red light unless there’s a sign not permitting this.

Finally, you must pay attention to highways and roads marked for the OC Transpo. You’re not allowed to drive on them. These are marked with a diamond in the lane and a sign above it.

Parking Rules and Regulations

When you stop for a bite to eat or to get out and stretch, pay attention to the parking rules. There is a three-hour limit on all Ottawa streets unless otherwise marked. Overnight parking may be permitted but rules change during the winter months.

During rush hour, many of the city’s streets close down parking, so you’re not allowed to park on the side of the road. This improves traffic flow. There will be signs letting you know – pay attention to them.

You’re also not allowed to idle your vehicle for more than three minutes in a 60 minute period, except in extreme temperatures.

Obeying Traffic Laws

Some of the traffic laws in the city may be unfamiliar to you. Don’t expect police to be understanding. They are there to enforce the law and protect citizens so they may issue you a ticket, even though you’re an “out of towner.”

If you’re involved in a car accident, you must not leave the scene of the accident. This car accident lawyer deals with a lot of accidents in the city of Ottawa, and they can cause serious injuries.

Wait for the police to arrive, and contact emergency services if you or anyone involved in the accident is injured.

Lastly, make sure you notify your insurance company immediately, as well as the rental agency. Ideally, you’ll have someone from the area drive you around but, if you don’t know anyone, make sure you are carrying a paper map along with your GPS-guided instructions.

Barbara Meijer worked as a legal secretary for Ottawa-area law firms for 12 years, and currently serves as an advisor and assistant at Ottawa Injury Attorneys. Barbara attended the University of Western Ontario and graduated with honors, receiving a degree in history. She currently resides in Ottawa, Ontario with her husband and daughter.

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