Ghosts in the Transportation System

Ghost bikes.  Painted white, adorned with plastic flowers and teddy bears. Chained in situ where people who ride bikes come to a fatal end. A sobering reminder to others to drive carefully.

Ghost pedestrians. Cut out 2-D manikins shaped like the walking figure on crosswalk signals. Reminders of the risk people who walk face everyday in a transportation environment skewed to favour people who drive cars. Another sobering reminder of how close death stalks everybody who dares walk in the motor-age.

These memorials upset some people. Clutter, some say.  Hazards, say some. Creepy, opine others. Valuable reminders, chorus some. Hide them away somewhere, politicians suggest.

I noticed these signs in another place.  I kinda liked them. They are more subtle than ghost bikes. They include names, which makes the associated deaths more real. They do not specify the mode of death. The standard post still permits personalization by grieving families and friends. The signs are aligned where stopped motorists can see them and contemplate on mortality.

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I wonder if that florescent sign about right turns appeared before or after these deaths. The illuminated sign on the traffic signal prhobits right turns on red (note the crossride a bit to the right on the crossing road). When the traffic light goes green, the message on the overhead sign changes to tell people who drive to watch out for people who walk or bike.

I’d like to have seen a date and vehicle of death mentioned. But that’s quibbling.

Should we have signs like these in Ottawa?

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http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/dispatch/obituary.aspx?n=david-b-happeney&pid=145529342

Pathways of the Slippery Eel

I got several inquiries about the pathways proposed for LeBreton Flats. Some of this is due to the mess during the temporary transitway shift over to Albert Street, which blocks the popular Albert multi-user path )MUP). And the aqueduct path was removed about two years ago for soil remediation north of the aqueduct. And the closure of Booth going to Gatineau left some users upset.

So let’s review the current plans for pathways in the Flats and around Pimisi Station, now under construction. This plan comes to me via LS, a regular reader:

pimisi pathways

Albert runs east-west along the bottom of the picture, bordered on both sides by separated-from-traffic cycle tracks, which are to be built behind the curb, on the same level as the sidewalks, like the Churchill Avenue model. These facilities for people who cycle and walk won’t be constructed until 2018-19, assuming there is money and the plans remain the same.

The final location of the cycle tracks east of Empress St / The Good Companions Centre isn’t fully known either. A connection to the Laurier Avenue separated bike lanes, via a new crossing of the Ottawa Tech HS playing fields, will rearrange the facilities shown here. Hopefully there is some coordination going on behind the scenes. And I hope the soon-to-be-implemented connection doesn’t become permanent in the Albert-Slater-Bronson intersection area as that whole area needs a rethink and rebuild.

Going back to the drawing above, there is a new multi-user path parallel to Albert Street, along the south edge of the new Confederation Line LRT.  It is shown first as purple, then orange, then purple again, depending on who is building it and when. But all segments are supposed to be open when the LRT opens in 2018. That new path goes under Booth Street, utilizing the Pimisi Station & new elevated Booth Street overpass. The path then curves south to connect with Albert-Slater at the Good Companions intersection.

A new north-south link is shown in conceptual terms connecting the pathways at the Empress – Good Companions intersections northwards to Lett Street, in front of the new brown brick condos Claridge is building on LeBreton Flats. There is actually a stub of concrete sidewalk already built extending from the end of Lett southwards towards the aqueduct pathway.

There are pathways shown on both sides of the aqueduct. These are to open by 2018.

The pathway on the south side of the aqueduct is sandwiched between the LRT tracks and the aqueduct. It goes through the plaza forecourt on the north side of the LRT Station (the sketch below does not show the pathways on the south side of the Station, but the maps do show them there):

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Presumably both people who walk and people who bike will be able to go through the underpass under the Pimisi Station to connect to the (not shown) pathway on the south side of the tracks, or cut left over the heritage Booth Street stone bridge (which will remain, about 16′ below the new Booth elevated overpass) to get to the north side of the aqueduct, onto the Flats, or via a short temporary pathway segment (shown in gray, and very squared off)) eventually onto Booth Street’s east side.

pimisi pathways

For the area east of the new Pimisi Station, pathway users on both sides of the aqueduct will join up to a single pathway running behind Lett Street and the new brown condos. The pathway behind the condos should be in place this summer, as part of the landscaping by Claridge. This path will connect to Fleet Street Mews and Pooley’s Bridge, a non-car bridge connection to the downtown; or users may continue behind the yellow brick condos to joint the alignment of Wellington Street by the Mill Street Restaurant.

Backtracking a bit, note that the pathway map shows a connection over the Broad Street heritage stone bridge, just west of the Pimisi Station. This connection will help handle Canada Day and Bluesfest crowds, provided some right of way is built out to Wellington and the War Museum. Note that in the long-term plans, this Broad alignment connects with existing paths over the LeBreton park and up and over the War Museum (provided the security gate is open) and then connects to the to-be-repaired bridge over the dams on the Ottawa River leading out to the Zibi development by Windmill on the Islands. All this assumes, of course, that plans will continue to be implemented and coordinated. I am a tad pessimistic, since we already lost the connection from Broad to Rochester Street as there is no crossing of the LRT tracks at that location (yes, the underpass at the Pimisi will help, but it is a deviation in the straight line route). There is also no legal crossing of Albert Street at the Broad-Rochester alignment either, as it would upset people who drive and people who plan mainly for people who drive.

pimisi pathways

I am pleased to see an ongoing pathway linkage from Albert – Preston intersection northwards to the pathway on the south side of the LRT alignment. This is along the temporary Preston Extension route. It does not cross the Confederation Line tracks, nor the aqueduct, nor get all the way out the River, as it does now. I guess some neighbourhoods are more deserving than others to get new or continued access to the glorious waterfront parklands.

So, east-west is well cared for with an abundance of pathway facilities: cycle tracks on Albert (post 2018) and pathways by 2018 on both sides of the LRT corridor and the aqueduct. New north-south connections are in a few short segments. We just have to survive until that time.

The elephant on the bicycle, of course, is the lack of north-south connection at Booth Street – Pimisi Station.  Going north on Booth from Albert or the neighbourhoods, suicidally-inclined people on bikes are faced with a really busy intersection at Albert, then six lanes of roadway at Pimisi Station with no cycle tracks or lanes. Simply appalling.

The last I heard, the city was considering making the Booth sidewalks of asphalt, and declaring them multi-user paths, like the “sidewalks” on the side of the Preston Extension. Dismounting would be required to walk past the Station loading platforms themselves, lest people who ride transit become skittles for those who ride bikes.

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Pedestrians, dumb as posts

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Ahh, spring thaw.

And the puddles are here.

Primarily located at crosswalks of course. They are of much less value elsewhere. The picture above isn’t unusual.

And here is a cheap plastic post used to separate people who drive at high speeds from people walking to the transit stops at the temporarily relocated LeBreton transit Station:

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Salt and mud spray is the dejour fashion in Ottawa. I wonder if Nordstrom’s knows this cardinal rule of life in Canada’s Capital?

Presumably those cheap posts separating people who walk from people who drive were of some value, since many of them ended up in the ditch beside the roadway. Better a mangled post than a mangled pedestrian.

City engineer-types and their apologists tell us all, over and over, that the puddles at corners and crosswalks is caused by our severe climate, by freeze-thaw cycles, frost heave, by snow/ice banks, by God. But never by engineering design.

Of course, you and I know differently. The engineers insist on designing sidewalks so they are lowest where the cross side streets and driveways. Lower than road in fact. Water is known to flow to the lowest point. Puddles aren’t a flaw, an inadvertent by-product, puddles are a feature of  sidewalk design.

[to digress for a moment, the solution for all minor intersections is to simply leave the sidewalk at its above-the-curb level as it crosses the street, so people who drive in multiple horsepower vehicles could sort of, you know, drive up and over the sidewalk. The hump would be designed-in traffic calming. Sidewalks would be the driest part of the transportation system. Well, we can dream…]

So here’s another picture of flooded sidewalks at an intersection. This isn’t in Ottawa. It is, in fact, in a city where it NEVER snows. There is NEVER any frost. There are NEVER any snow and ice banks. And every crosswalk, every intersection, every major driveway, was similarly flooded. I know, I was walking, and my feet got wet.

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Gee, engineers everywhere must use the same design manuals. The ones that treat people who walk with such contempt. We aren’t such special snowflakes after all.

 

Nap time on LeBreton Flats

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With all the hoopla about exciting new developments on the west side of downtown Ottawa, we’ve lost some focus on the ongoing work in progress. Yes, the Phase I project by the NCC-Claridge partnership. Recall that the NCC and City chose the heights and courtyard arrangements; the NCC chose the materials and colour scheme and modern style; Claridge came up with the buildable designs.

Not exactly beloved by drive-by architecture critics, there is now a substantial number of homes built and we are about 30% into the tripartite agreed-upon plan. But I gather it’s now nap time for Phase I of the Flats, and it may be four years before Claridge builds the next group of apartments and townhouses.

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(above: two storey ground floor “townhouse units” actually got built at 300 Lett Street; unfinished stacked townhouses are shown running off to the right)

Why the delay?

I can speculate on several reasons:

  1. there is an inventory of about one year’s worth of sales yet to be absorbed by the market, so there’s no real reason to build more
  2. Claridge wants to focus buyers on its Icon project at Preston-Carling
  3. the Zibi project by Windmill on the Domtar site will bring some of the office and commercial projects on stream in the next two years, which will make the LeBreton site seem way less isolated and maybe even trendy
  4. the Zibi condos on the Ottawa Islands will be premium priced, and on the market in about four years, which will make the LeBreton project competitive (both will be similar in architectural style, and we may come to appreciate that Claridge builds with brick)
  5. the Pimisi LRT Station will be up and operating, making LeBreton seem much more central and well connected
  6. the proposed plan for the area of the Flats west of Booth will have been announced, adding sizzle to the area market
  7. the NCC may have finished its 3 million dollar  “bold, drive-by experience” temporary landscaping project at Wellington-Booth (kitty corner the War Museum), so the area will look less like Syria
  8. Claridge hopes that the remainder of Phase I planned build out can be changed to include taller buildings and higher density “because it is so close to a transit hub”

One of the above factors upsets me.  It’s the last one.  It seems sometimes that Ottawa, and especially the NCC, cannot stick to their plans.  Phase I of the Flats project had a variety of building sizes. The City went in wanting 5 stories mostly, with the occasional 8-10 storey tower, if I recall correctly. The NCC got 7 storey podiums with additional 7 storey towers on top (making 14 in total). Ground floor units were to be “townhouses” but mostly these became small apartments with walk-off balconies or patios instead of the child-friendly variety of housing types. The variety of heights got lost in the shuffle: the four storey apartment building became six, then built as eight, leaving a rather uniform skyline instead of a declining height gradient towards the pump house on the aqueduct.

The next blocks of buildings to be built  were to be mostly stacked townhouses in a modernist brownstone style, ie the lowest height and lowest density units in the plan. I don’t expect to see them to ever see the light of day. And this is a shame, because a number of tradeoffs get made by the stakeholders in creating the original plan. More density or height here, in trade off for townhouses here, for lower height along the path, viewlines, letting in light,  etc etc.

Being able to radically change a plan mid stream means that the concessions of some get ignored since the offsetting bits of the plan are thrown out.

It makes me wonder if we would be better off saying that plans – be they for the Flats, or Domtar, or a neighbourhood CDP or secondary plan, should be in place for 20 years minimum, so that everyone has certainty.  Not changing plans midstream adds some rigidity. It also adds some credibility to the Plan, which the previous Council was eager to toss overboard.

The City could still update its OP on a five or ten year cycle, but those component areas recently planned would have some ongoing fixed life expectancy. If Peter Hume comes back to City Hall in the bureaucracy, I expect a lot more plans to be jettisoned as so much meaningless paper.

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above: the current view, to be frozen?

Note: a reader has pointed out the phase 1 plan for the Flats dates from 1997.

 

Ottawa’s LRT: Sifting Commercials for Info

 

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The City has decided some time ago not to engage transit users for feedback on the design and use of its new LRT vehicles and stations.   Instead, users are stuck until they can “try out” a PR model of the new trains, or watch PR Videos cheerleading the project.

At Lansdowne Park, a mock-up LRT vehicle reveals numerous shortcomings, from entanglement points, very hard seats, to the lack of footroom at some seats that will make winter riding uncomfortable  and exiting the window seats acrobatic enough to challenge cirque de soleil performers. It’s a shame these details are coming out so late in the game.

Similarly, the City had only a small public / users focus group for the early design of the “wish list” stations, and none at all for the actual RTG-proposed stations. Is the City really so confident that users cannot contribute anything worthwhile to making the stations better value for the dollar?

The City has a promo video for its chosen vehicles. The background scenery is somewhat recognizable (the VIA Train Station, Ottawa U) and offers close-ups of one station: Pimisi.

On the assumption that the station layout information shown in the 26 Feb 2015 video is correct (a big assumption, but we haven’t much info to go by), here are some screen grabs, and some comparisons with similar pic released earlier by the city:

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This is Pimisi Station, at the middle  (track) level.  The train in the background is going westbound; the track we are looking along is headed east toward the downtown tunnel portal just a few metres east of the station. Booth street is barely visible crossing over at right angles, in the top right corner.

There is a single escalator to this end of the platform, plus stairs. I’m glad to see stairs, it may be the only exercise some people get. Our sedentary society needs more mindless exercise. The escalators might be reversible to operate in the direction of maximum flow, or maybe just “up”.

The escalator area is protected from rain and (some) snow by a dramatic sloping roof and full height glass wall. I do hope we etch the glass with nice patterns before the screwdriver set get at it to tag it with gang initials. The underside of the roof over the platform areas appears to be wood; beyond the platform area, it is metal.

All these elements – cone elevators, wood undersides, metal overhangs … are commonly seen in Ottawa at other buildings, for example the credit union at Bank-Isabella, a school on Bank just south of Sunnyside, Lansdowne Park, the Mackenzie King Bridge, etc. The stations will have a familiar at-home-in-Ottawa feel.

The escalator is in an unheated area, and to be shut down during non-operating night time hours * for maintenance and energy savings. When its -40C overnight, will a wet and gritty mechanism  start up in the morning?

On the south side, there are struts sticking out over the passenger platform from the red line of Station Identification signs. I hope these are for glass roofs so people on the platform will have some rain and snow shelter, as the station roof is very high up and may not extend over the tracks on the south side. To the north, the roof and side walls will protect the westbound platform area.

The track bed on the right  is shown as smooth concrete, not rails – ties – gravel ballast, which should keep it all neater and cleaner. Although in the screen grab, over on the left, on the platform,  the image of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev leaving a bag is an unpleasant “where’s waldo” moment.

Here’s an earlier but similar still shot released by the city:

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Moving a bit further along the platform (see pic below) the maybe-glass-roof-over-the-platform is a bit more visible. The large metal cone in the centre is an elevator going down to the underground passageway that takes users down and out to the aqueduct pathways. From there, people can cross the parallel aqueduct over the historic stone bridges at Booth (sheltered from the rain by the road bridge waaaay up overhead) or at (unsheltered) Broad Street.

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The lower level exit is designed to handle surge crowds from events like Canada Day and Bluesfest. As yet, crossing the Broad Bridge won’t get you anywhere, and even if you make your way out to Bluesfest it’s unlikely there will be an entrance there.

There appear to be horizontal louvres on each outside edge of the track right of way, in lieu of chain link fences, to prevent people from stepping off the curb and crossing the tracks, and possibly to serve as windbreaks. I wonder if these will be recycled Ash wood?

Here’s the still shot:

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This screen grab (below) is taken pigeon’s eye view from a point over the aqueduct and a bit west of Booth Street, which is just visible in the top left corner of the pic. The roof starts out as a V at Booth street and flattens as it descends. The chain link fence is not shown extending along the trackside where the decorative slatted fence ends, but will surely be there.

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I do hope the runoff from that very large roof will be landing in a water garden and not just being directed into a downpipe into the sewers.

In early design considerations, the architects and planners decided that the south sides of stations should be mostly glazed or open to let in light and warmth; and the north and west sides glazed or solid walls, to block the northwest winds.

While that makes sense as a general rule, at Pimisi all the view is to the north, towards the aqueduct, the pathways, the ceremonial Algonquin welcoming area. Alas, the north wall is still mostly solid, reducing the pleasant views and restricting sightlines that would enhance subjective safety on the paths and underpass approaches.

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The pic above more clearly shows the lowest level underpass. It goes at least as far as the centre platform; I don’t know if goes all the way under the tracks to the south side of the station. The cone structure to the far left is the elevator pair to the Booth Street level. The video creators kindly pre-graphittied the underpass wall by advertising themselves.

In these two colour stills from the City, the three level design is more apparent: aqueduct and pathway level; track level; Booth Street level. The walking areas shown in these pic are where the transitway is now at LeBreton Station; the new Pimisi Station is actually located a bit further south and higher, more cut into the hill.

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The pic below shows the canal-side pathway with people who walk but no people who cycle. Note that the lower level walkout is actually several feet lower than the current transitway and canal edge, ie it’s in a dip.

 

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When the camera angle shifts to up above Booth Street (see pic below) , you can see the four lanes of Booth plus a bus-bay and car-drop-off-and-pick-up zone along the edge. It is unclear how much roof  shelter there is for pedestrians on this level. I previously saw plans that showed ordinary bus shelters parked along the eastern road edge, which suggests not much overhang.

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Because of the traffic pulling in and out of the laybys, the City has decided the road is too dangerous for people who cycle, as they might get squashed by the busy bus movements, so there are no bike lanes, neither curbside nor floating somewhere out in the middle between traffic lanes. Behind-the-curb cycle tracks were also ruled out by OC Transpo who felt high speed cyclists would bowl over transit users like so many skittles. Instead, cyclists will be directed to walk their bikes on the sidewalks (from Albert to Wellington out by the Museum?) or use alternate routes (not yet provided?).

Nonetheless, the City trumpets the station as friendly for cyclists, as evidenced by four parked bicycles at a world’s worst designed bike rack:

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The video-pic above also shows a centre boulevard. Orginally designed as a skylight to the platforms below, it has been added and subtracted from the plans at each iteration. The whole station is to have a Algonquin culture theme.

Construction is now underway.

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You can watch the video from which I took the screen grabs here:

http://www.ligneconfederationline.ca/category/lrtv/   The Pimisi Station shots come right at the end.

 

* Note that the Confederation Line will close at night. Late night travellers will be on buses on a roughly parallel route. Sort of like the Bus 107, but forever. A single incident on a train at any station (for eg a heart attack, or other series medical issue, or central electronic fault) will bring the entire system to a halt, both directions, within 20 minutes or so. Will we have the buses available?

 

 

Westward Ho ! (part iv) in which Fantasies come to the fore …

ORP overview

 

In the previous three stories I’ve tried to review what is planned, what some of the tradeoffs were, what the consequences area, and slip in just a teensey tiny wee bit of my opinion.

So what would Eric do if faced with the same starting situation,  of the City insisting its Western LRT had to go down the parkway space; and the NCC insisting that people using transit is incompatible with their revised greenspace plan? (note I am not considering other completely different route options).

The physical plan

My goal going into the conflict would be to keep rail on the surface, as that is a better customer experience, its much more equitable, after all why should the view be reserved primarily for people who drive?  I’d let motorists continue to use a parkway too, but it would be two lanes only west of Dominion. This can handle the same number of cars as the current parkway does with 50 gazillion buses a day on it.

The surface rail option is so much cheaper, we’d be able to extend LRT further out into new neighbourhoods, which would also increase potential modal share for transit. That rail alignment through the parkway would need to be fenced, but anyone who has visited a Frederic Law Olmstead park from a century ago can only marvel at the subtle techniques he employed to divert the eye, focus the view, and steer park visitors to the desired path of least conflict with other modes. I bet no one would notice the “fence”, which would be run through shrub beds and in some places take the form of attractive retaining walls or stormwater ponds – it would not take the current  restriction that it has to be glued to the edge of the LRT roadbed.

I’d relocate the current westbound parkway lanes for people who drive to be more curvy, and closed in by landscape features, more like Queen Elizabeth Driveway, to do away with the freeway-in-a-frustrated-golf-course look that typifies 1960’s parkway planning. This would deliver the same 38% more shoreline parkland the NCC wants, but at NCC expense. They can earn their dollars by selling the rights of way to the city, as they currently intend to do.

I’d reallocate the east bound lanes to the surface LRT, which would require some realignments of the roadbed and lowering it by about 2-3′.

Without the LRT tunnel, it would be possible to install many more underpasses — say every 300 – 400 metres — to improve access to the waterfront; and I’d use careful berming and shrub planting and stormwater ponds to gently direct pedestrians toward the underpasses so they wouldn’t even miss the up-and-over trek dodging cars. Indeed, many more parkway visitors would likely stay on the now-neglected south side of the parkway space because it will be made interesting to enjoy with a wider variety of plantings, ponds, and amenities such as nearby washrooms. Our greenspace is too valuable to be ignored like the south side is now.

Both Dominion  and Cleary Stations would be treated as gateways to a wonderful waterfront experience. Bright glass-lit stations would have inviting views of the waterfront parkland, with a restaurant or cafe on the second level to take advantage of views, Instead of waterfront space being taken up for parking lots, the station-area parking would be on the south, more urban side. People would actually go to transit stations because they are hubs of urban conversation and activity.

Cities like Portland celebrate transit stations; the NCC must stop being embarrassed they exist.

Those no-longer-buried stations will be much cheaper to construct, so we might even be able to squeeze in another one without blowing the budget. Station locations should be based on transportation need and neighbourhood planning rather than budget rigidity.

As gateways to a recreational wonderland, and to take better advantage of the cycling paths, I’d make it possible for people who find it too far to cycle into town from the the farther suburbs to take transit to a waterfront station and switch to their own bike stored in a locker or use a shared bike. Those starting their bike ride at Dominion would have a choice of the water’s edge bikeway or the BikeWest route along Scott-Albert.

These crystal-palace stations would have public washrooms  – perhaps privately operated —  to serve the travelling public and the parkland users. They would provide a refuge from bad weather, a place to buy a chocolate bar or get a coffee, and other amenities. They would both serve the parkland users and attract more people to the waterfront.

Convincing the NCC

The NCC has a raison d’etre and strategic objectives. I’d focus my arguments on showing how surface rail and the related changes above attain all their objectives much better than their current anti transit attitude. The yawning gap between their overall goals and their articulated parkway position is a weak point that needs to be emphasized.

I’d call out the NCC every time it commits another gross verbal discrimination.  it could start phrasing its pronouncements with people who use transit as “users” of the parkway, instead of reserving that phrase just for people who drive cars. As they get weaned off their vocabulary of abuse, their attitudes will change.

I’d push a lot harder on the NCC to justify their current no-rail position. Why are 20,000 people a day going along the waterfront in quiet-ish non-fossil fuel burning vehicles with giant picture windows to enjoy the view,  worse than people going along the waterfront in personal automobiles using fossil fuels when most of them cannot get much more than quick glimpse at the scenery (they are already driving and maybe multi-tasking aren’t they?). Why this retro-fetish with the private automobile? It’s unjustifiably inequitable. 

I’d challenge them on the environmental impact on the parkland itself of a 100% rain permeable railbed vs asphalt roadway with storm sewers dumping into the Ottawa River. The impact of salt. The impact of snowbanks. The impact on wildlife.

I’d compare the danger for people who arrive from south of the parkway to cross the four traffic lanes vs the improved access that could be attained with surface rail and several more frequent underpasses. Isn’t improving access to the waterfront a goal? Wouldn’t more underpasses  drastically improve safe access to the NCC’s revised shoreline experience?

In short, I’d use all the criteria the NCC uses to evaluate its own wonderfulness.

The City of Ottawa, of course, should hop on board this scheme because it so much cheaper to construct, while maintaining a grade-separated LRT that could be automated.  The other benefits from improved waterfront access to a better transit experience to less greenhouse gases, should also appeal to Mayor Watson and Council, even if they can’t save actual budget money by doing it. Mind, I think they’d fret a lot about the possible downsides to having tenants (restaurants, bike shops, even toilets! etc) in their stations. I’d also like some acknowledgement from the city that long tunnel segments will be noisy for riders inside the cars, if that is indeed the case.

I expect it might be harder to get adjacent residents to listen, since they are emotionally invested in the status quo. It’s hard to question the present arrangement as the environmental drawbacks and inequitable access are now accepted and considered “normal” or “natural”. The loudest objections focus on access to the waterfront, potential noise, and wires.

I’d use aerial photographs to identify “goat trails” where people often cross the parkways, and make sure the several new underpasses reflect current and future likely desire lines. I am confident talented landscape architects could program the space to make it almost impossible for visitors to sense they are being steered along (not to say they aren’t being steered around today, but people just accept it as “natural” or the way things are). Net result: much better access than the current plan.

While the rail tracks would be at grade, I’d try to put a 24 – 36″ wall along their south side, and build it into the landscaping, to absorb and deflect wheel noise. Tree clustering and shrubs can also reduce or mask noise. With any skill, the main noise generators will continue to be the rubber tires on wet asphalt that dominates the soundscape today. Net result: much less road noise, some new rail noise.

The overhead wire for the LRT can be dealt with imaginatively. I’m sure the NCC would demand expensive nifty poles. While some would be stand alone, others could be incorporated into landscape features. I don’t find LRT wires objectionable in modern systems I’ve seen installed in other cities. But if the McKeller folks are still anti-wire, perhaps we can go for no net increase by removing the overhead wires that festoon the adjacent city streets. Sort of “net wire neutral” result by removing the wire in one’s own eye — or front yard —  first.

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Mission accomplished? 

But only in a fantasy world. In the real word, the City is too unimaginative; the NCC too mired in the past, the neighbours are too unchanging.

Instead, the current NCC-City plan has many drawbacks. People who drive will have a wonderful, faster waterfront drive. People who take transit will have … a long dark noisy tunnel, and will be safely preserved from seeing greenery or water. The City will have an expensive LRT. The NCC will have a revised shoreline park and myopically won’t miss the better options. The neighbours will continue to think its all about preserving a “natural” environment installed by the taxpayer.  For future LRT extensions,  every neighbourhood group will now have the license to demand it be buried at huge expense.