All amalgamation really did was turn a two-tiered municipal government (The Region of Ottawa-Carleton) into the single tier “City of Ottawa”. Amalgamation hasn’t really had a huge impact on transit service delivery in Ottawa as it was a regional responsibility before amalgamation. Rural areas are located outside the transit service delivery area and don’t pay for transit on their property taxes. Therefore there has not been a big push to extend transit into the rural areas. There is much more pressure to serve growing suburban areas located within the urban area (but outside the inner area Greenbelt).
As mentioned, BRT allows buses to circulate in the outer areas before hoping on the Transitway (fully grade separated roadway) to get downtown. In theory this is great as it provides a single-seat ride from suburbs to downtown, which is great for commuter riders but is inefficient in terms of the amount of buses and drivers needed to operate the system. It also results in a byzantine route structure which is difficult for even regular users to comprehend. Reverse commuting or commuting to places off the Transitway can be a hard slog, even during peak periods.
When the Transitway was originally planned/built they skipped the expensive downtown bit in order to build-up a more extensive system in the suburbs. The downtown segment operates on-street, along dedicated bus-lanes. It’s the downtown portion of the network which is the weak link as it is now practically at capacity and can be greatly affected by traffic congestion, accidents, weather, etc. The City has recently completed a Planning and Environmental Assessment Study for the conversion of a part of the Transitway from BRT to LRT technology and the construction of a downtown tunnel. It really is more of a Rapid Transit project as the LRVs will operate in long trains and be completely separated from traffic. LRT provides the flexibility to have future extensions operate at-grade in the outlying areas.
Don, yes the tunnel will be built using TBMs (Ottawa’s limestone bedrock is actually very good material for tunnelling). The tunnel will be about 3 km long, starting at LeBreton Flats and ending somewhere south of the University of Ottawa. It will be a deep-level tunnel in order to get under building foundations, major infrastructure and the Rideau Canal.