LRT revisions affect the west side

The City will shortly be considering some revisions to the downtown LRT project. The mainstream media focussed on the Rideau Station, which has been moved slightly east (main entrance no longer under the food court, but under the now-vacant lot immediately east of the Rideau Centre). But what are the changes that will affect us west siders? First, the portal. That’s where the surface track running across LeBreton Flats goes into the cliff face near the Juliana apartment building on Bronson, and then continues under the downtown along Queen Street. Previous plans had the tracks enter the cliff face in a typical train-tunnel entrance. The … Continue reading LRT revisions affect the west side

Claridge application for 1050 Somerset West

Claridge is proposing a new condo tower for their site at Breezehill and Somerset Streets, just west of the O-Train corridor. The site is between Devonshire school and Somerset, in the old Chinese market store (which was Acklands AutoSupply before that). (Pending zoning approvals etc the store is being renovated and rented out to a dollar store). Immediately to the west of the site is a four storey red brick office building, opposite that is the 18 storey residential tower that looks like it might date from the sixties or early seventies. Here in a nutshell is the neighborhood context: The left picture, a … Continue reading Claridge application for 1050 Somerset West

Signs of the times

Do our signs inform or amuse travellers to here?  Recall the “joke” about every bridge in Ottawa having the same name: The Pont Bridge. Here is the sign at the entrance to the Elks Opera House in Prescott, Az. At least the villains in the performance were safe from Frontier Justice: You do have to pause a bit at the condition ” unless otherwise authorized…”  Does that apply to any license to carry a concealed or unconcealed weapon?  Would someone unlicensed hand in their gun to the usher like someone might check a coat? But wait, there’s more: here is a sign … Continue reading Signs of the times

How to make a train out of a bus

As home to one of the few extensive bus rapid transit (BRT) networks in North America, we tend to forget what a marvellous system we have. Cities such as New York, which we yearn to emulate for its pedestrianizing activities, and its new bike ways, struggles to get bus lanes on regular streets let alone a bus-only road network such as we have in Ottawa. Our BRT is closer to a rail-transit network than the typical bus-on-streets-in-mixed-traffic that most urban transit systems are still stuck in. Our largely grade-separated transitway makes it frequently faster to take the bus than to drive a car, … Continue reading How to make a train out of a bus

Get paid to ride your bike …

    I met this cyclist on a pedestrian bridge in Utah. At first what caught my eye  was the number of instruments on his handlebars. Getting closer, the abundance of gear became more visible. Why so many cellphones?   Turns out he worked for AT&T. His job was to cycle through the city according to a map, stopping every 100′ to take readings as to cell phone signal strength. Was the download speed what was promised and what customers’ expected?   In the back panier was a battery and stuff to power his phones. It had enough power to … Continue reading Get paid to ride your bike …

Lonely house on the parking lot

The area along the O-Train corridor has undergone lots of changes from its original industrial beginnings. Occasionally, an old building survives. Notice that it has a real slate roof, there are few houses or buildings left in our neighborhood with slate roofs. In this case, it probably was to provide additional fire proofing from the sparks that flew out of the many steam engines in the area. David Jeanes tells me this may have been the home of Ottawa Stair Works. Probably built right after the Great Fire in 1902, the building then faced Somerset Street which was not yet elevated up on the … Continue reading Lonely house on the parking lot

Over arching concern

As land values increase and it becomes more urgent to maximize development potential. This necessarily causes architects and developers to focus on the space above driveways. The result has been a spate of “carriageways” or porticos. Sometimes these are on large buildings, such as Claridge has built on the Flats and is proposing for the project at Richmond/Kirkwood. Recall too that Ashcroft is proposing two pedestrian porticos from Richmond into the Our Lady of the Condos site. Here is a simple driveway entering a tiny courtyard with six or so garages. The “flatiron” rooms above it are interesting. It is … Continue reading Over arching concern

Signs of the times

  The City ascribes geographic omniscience as a characteristic of cyclists. How else could one explain the total lack of street signs or directional signs along the City’s multi-user paths (usually called “bike paths”). In contrast, vehicular motorists are considered by the City to be geographical ignoramuses. How else could one explain the provision of street signs on every corner of every street, no matter how minor the street or how few places (if any) there are on the street? Sarcasm aside, there should be street signs along pedestrian and cycling paths. They should be installed using similar criteria to regular street signs, ie at every … Continue reading Signs of the times

Infill that works

Complain, complain, complain. It’s too bi-i-i-g. It’s too ta-a-a-a-ll.  It’s not the same as now. It’s not compatible. We hear those whines every day when the subject of infill or new development comes up. It’s not always that way. It’s just that good projects that are welcome in the neighborhood don’t get good press. So here’s a good news story. On Booth Street there is a blight that has cursed residents for years, Cousin Eddy’s Garage and Uncle Chado’s body shop. The city trees in front of the garages mysteriously died so we could all admire their ugliness and garbage-strewn … Continue reading Infill that works

Urban Forum on Urban Fianance

The speaker last night for the Urban Forum lecture series was Peter Katz, from various places in the US. His focus is on New Urbanism. Not the fake new urban stuff of an isolated subdivision built with cute porches and picket fences, that still functions as part of a car-focussed larger environment, but on New Urbanism on a larger scale. He’s had a book out for a number of years: New Urbanism which may predate his new focus on the larger scale.  His topic last night was city finance. Whilst working for Sarasota in Florida, a city hard hit by … Continue reading Urban Forum on Urban Fianance

Crowdsourcing an Urbanist Trip

A faithful reader of WSA is heading off to the American southwest next week, for a ten hour tour  ten day car trip. She was wondering what nifty — or really horrible — urban thingys she should look for in the following places. Dear Readers, you know the stuff that interests fellow readers: nifty neighborhoods, old or new; traffic calming and streetscaping;  transit; architecture; the weird and wacky. Her list is already started, and includes these obvious things: Las Vegas – the new Starchitect hotel megaplex near the Bellagio, includes the Ghery building that focuses the sun’s rays onto a hot spot at the pool. She’s been to … Continue reading Crowdsourcing an Urbanist Trip

Money pipe

I notice the happy promise from the City that we will have a continued great water supply, provided we spend wa-a-a-y more than the rate of inflation to replace the water pipes. Several mainstream media stories acknowledged that we short-changed pipe repairs and replacement for decades in favour of more visible photo-op-friendly initiatives. Well, hello politics… So now we have to pay to replace ageing pipes pay to “catch up” for the skipped work and this will cost us big time. But, of course, it’s not a higher tax increase, no sir-ee it’s just user-pay, etc etc. Some people even … Continue reading Money pipe

Crackin’ Up is Easy to Do

The City lays new sidewalks during road reconstructions. They are supposed to last many decades. I notice they do not. Every pedestrian walking the City knows that many sidewalk squares get cracked, heaved, or otherwise broken. Sometimes the squares are too big: when the portion of Somerset between Lyon and Percy was done years ago, the sidewalk squares were huge, and by the first spring half of them had cracked. They were replaced by the contractor, but don’t think that cost wasn’t borne by the taxpayer somewhere, somehow. The City avoids putting rebars or reinforcing wire mesh into the sidewalks to save … Continue reading Crackin’ Up is Easy to Do

Mr Clean’s Magic Eraser hits Downtown streets

Installing the separated bike lane (SBL) on Laurier Street downtown was a new experience, with lots of little details to figure out. Fortunately Laurier had just been resurfaced, so City staff had a clean slate to work with. Less aesthetically, the lines were painted on the street, changed slightly, repainted, shifted again, repainted… leaving a rather confusing mess. At the last minute, just in time for the SBL opening,  work crews painted over the ‘wrong’ lines with black paint. This was obviously a short term fix, since the first thing to wear off would be the black paint, revealing the white lines again, which … Continue reading Mr Clean’s Magic Eraser hits Downtown streets

Raising the dead

Recall that Christ Church Cathedral is going to demolish some surrounding buildings to construct a new condo tower that will provide the operating revenue required to keep the Cathedral in good repair. And that they are proposing an office tower too, which will generate  additional income and a weekend parking garage. But, in order to get the occupants into the new offices and condos, it seems some current occupants must be displaced: Alas, the delightful images suggested of disinterring skeletons and relics is abused by the line in bold noting that the graves are empty. Still, a substitute fantasy must include ghoulish images of cubicle dwellers … Continue reading Raising the dead