Launched in October 2013, Société de transport de l’Outaouais’ (STO) Rapibus offers high-frequency transit service between the Gatineau area and the downtown cores of Hull and Ottawa, thus providing a new east-west link. This innovative project converted a rail passageway into a sustainable mobility corridor that benefits the entire community.

A brief history of Rapibus

Construction of Rapibus began in 2009. Growth forecasts for the Gatineau territory threatened its accessibility, as the city’s road system is limited by the bridges that cross the river. A solution was needed to maintain quality transit service away from traffic congestion.

“The idea was to set up a system that meets the need for greater mobility throughout the territory,” said STO General Manager Line Thiffeault. “As there were no plans to build another bridge over the Gatineau River, the best solution was to make the most of an existing axis — the rail corridor.”

The idea caught on, and the Rapibus corridor was created within the existing railway right-of-way. The concept resembles a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, with a 12-km two-way reserved bus lane, safe stations, and several integrated technologies.

Rapibus uses mainly Nova LFS Artic buses. “The main advantage of articulated buses is, of course, their high capacity. But they also perform better in environmental terms,” added Line Thiffeault. “At peak periods, there are approximately 80 vehicles on the corridor, of which 50 are articulated. That helps us optimize our resources – both buses and drivers. In off-peak periods, we also use articulated buses on certain busier routes to ensure greater accessibility and comfort for our riders.”

Frequent, efficient and fast service

STO’s Rapibus works on a feeder principle. Neighborhood lines provide riders with a single, simplified route at any time of day to the local stops of the Labrosse, de la Cité et de la Gappe stations. Once at the station, riders can take one of eight high-frequency lines that run along the corridor.

“Frequency of service, at peak periods, is approximately every two and a half minutes,” said Line Thiffeault.

The service also integrates several intelligent transportation system (ITS) innovations, which help ensure network efficiency, corridor safety and passenger information. 

“Technologies integrated in the Rapibus project include audio messaging at stations and in buses; emergency call boxes and intercoms at stations and park-and-ride lots; visual displays at stations showing next-bus arrival in real time; and traffic-light controllers to grant buses priority using on-board GPS systems,” Line Thiffault continued.

Combining multiple modes of transportation

The Rapibus corridor is adjacent to a 10.7 km bicycle path, 8.1 km of which is separate from other forms of traffic. Most stations have bicycle racks, some of which are covered.

“The corridor is within walking distance of 20,000 homes and 879 businesses, enabling users to combine various modes of travel – walking, biking, and of course, taking the bus,” Line Thiffeault concluded.

STO’s Rapibus is a green, creative solution that enhances public transit in the city of Gatineau, while making the most of existing infrastructure and urban space.


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