OC Transpo looking for business help running retail operations

With construction of Ottawa’s LRT line in full swing, city officials are drafting plans for station amenities that include opportunities for businesses interested in operating convenience stores and other retail amenities.

On Wednesday, transit officials will ask councillors on the city’s transit commission for the green light to publish a request for proposals to develop and manage the retail spaces at its LRT stations.

The report – which also contains photos of how other transit services around the world integrate retail space into rail stations – is the result of a study conducted by OC Transpo and contains a series of recommendations for the implementation of retail, commercial and non-commercial spaces at transit hubs on the LRT Confederation Line.

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If accepted, the RFP would search for a company with transit retail management expertise to design, develop, lease and manage the spaces at approved stations. The report says that contracting an external company is preferable for the project due to the “unique challenges” of transit retail.

These challenges include the impacts of short transfer times on shopping behaviour, products matching the needs of customers on the go, and lower activity during off-peak transit hours.

As part of the planning specifications for the next phase of LRT construction, stations at Tunney’s Pasture, Rideau, Hurdman and Blair have been approved for retail spaces ranging in size from 18 to 34 square metres. Convenience stores are already leased to operate out of Hurdman and Blair stations, as well as Bayshore, Lincoln Fields and Place d’Orleans.

Purpose-built retail spaces were not part of the original Transitway and were instead constructed during retrofits. This means that the existing stores often have issues such as limited space and poor sightlines.

OC Transpo’s conducted study included a survey of 11 cities’ transit retail setups. Among the observed uses for retail space were primarily convenience stores, coffee shops and vending machines, but in some cases included pop-up shops, seasonal kiosks and services like dry cleaning, which are among considerations for the spaces.

If the transit commission approves the report, staff will begin drafting design and development standards for retail spaces to be included with the RFP. The report outlined core principles for the spaces revolving around matching design specifics to transit riders’ needs and usage as well as the City of Ottawa’s and OC Transpo’s existing policies.

The report notes that it has already received interest from vendors about operating in future transit stations. The aim is for these retail spaces to be implemented and vendors installed by opening day of the Confederation line in 2018.

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