From Parking to Parks

Miracles do happen at City Hall. Not often. But one is unfolding right now. Pay attention. Instead of paving over more of our scarce parkland for vehicle parking, instead of just whining forever about the lack of City park space in our downtown neighborhoods … our parks dept has actually agreed to expand a park onto the road allowance. And removing some vehicle parking too! Yes, this miraculous green space expansion is happening right here in little ole’ Ottawa. Chaudiere Park is a small pocket park on Elm Street in West Side Ottawa. The proposed expansion replaces on-street parking with a … Continue reading From Parking to Parks

On a Clear Day, (Dead) Councillors can see forever …

Back a few months ago when there was snow on the ground, I typically played around with it a bit when sent out to conduct my onerous shovelling obligations. For the first pass, I would make my six-foot-short sidewalk have perfectly vertical snowbanks on each side. Nice straight sides, looking like the whole bank was sculpted at once. A mini Corinthian Canal: Later, when the crisp edges started to blur, I would convert the sliced-through snowbanks into a gentle glaciated valley, with the sidewalk at the bottom and then the parabolic sides. This is a useful metaphor for Ottawa’s sight lines and view cones. There are a number … Continue reading On a Clear Day, (Dead) Councillors can see forever …

Planning in Ottawa, the Clint Eastwood Version

Last week the packed Urban Forum lecture heard and saw Dr David Gordon from Queens expound on planning and urban design in Canada’s Capital, 1800-2000. Note the cut-off year: amalgamation; also removing the necessity to venture views on current plans such as the LRT. He reviewed planning over the century using professorial wit and hectoring. His theme was drawn from spaghetti westerns, particularly The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. You’ll see the various planning efforts allocated to these categories in the picture below. Indeed, reviewing the outline below will give you a very complete summary of the plot. Like any … Continue reading Planning in Ottawa, the Clint Eastwood Version

Traffic calming at a very large scale

Councillor Hobbs from Kitchissippi is putting forward a long-verdue motion to transportation committee for the city to have a 40kmh speed limit. While this is referred to as a residential speed limit, I’m not sure if it would apply to local busy streets like Bronson or Scott which have 50kmh limits. I must say I am quite opposed to this universal 40kmh speed limit. Yup, opposed. Note, this is sarcasm. Not because it is too slow, but because it is still wa-a-a-a-y too fast. There is a world-wide movement to stop the total domination of public space by motorists. One group is called Twenty is … Continue reading Traffic calming at a very large scale

What to do with a highrise (proposed)

Right on the boundary of Hintonburg and Dalhousie, which is to say in the heart of the west side turf this blog purports to cover, at the intersection of Breezehill and Somerset, Claridge is proposing a 28 storey highrise. The adjacent mainstreet is lively; the views of the downtown superb. No doubt the 28 floor request is an opening gambit. If he actually gets it, bonus for him. But I suspect he will be quite happy to get 18. Why 18? Because that’s the height of the 30+ year old apartment a block west at Bayswater. Funnily enough, opponents of … Continue reading What to do with a highrise (proposed)

Spagetti dinner on the No 2 Bus

  It was a hot and sunny four o’clock as I left Loblaws in Westboro. My two cloth bags didn’t seem to have much in the line of groceries – yogurt (on sale!), cheese blocks (on sale!), oranges (on sale!) and a few other things already forgotten —  but still set me back seventy two dollars and change. Heading out the door I heard, then saw, the bus just taking off. That’s fine, I thought, the next one will have fewer people on it. Number two’s come constantly. Ahead of me, just short of the bus shelter, was a young woman … Continue reading Spagetti dinner on the No 2 Bus

Not inspiring confidence

The City held an open house last night on the OLRT. There wasn’t anything new there that you wouldn’t know about if you read the papers and this blog. I did feel a sense of  insincerity about it though. Quickly announced, not much content, a quick visit from Hiz Honnor: I got the feeling the event was held so that some lawyer could point to it later on, at a hearing, saying “See, we had lots of public consultation, blah blah blah”. Rather more disturbing was the number of minor errors on the display boards. Many of them I have seen before, … Continue reading Not inspiring confidence

Making streets livable

Streets take up an enormous amount of our public space. Currently, we dedicate most of our public space to moving and storing automobiles. In the Dalhousie neighborhood, on Elm Street, there is a little park due for a city refurbishment in 2012. At the public meeting, and again in correspondence, I suggested that if the park is so small, if the neighborhood is really short of greenspace, if it is economically impractical to buy new parkland for millions of dollars, then why don’t we do something simple like remove some of the street in front of the park and turn … Continue reading Making streets livable

Strip Mall loses its parking lot

I have never seen another North American city with as many strip malls — Mac’s Milk Plazas — as Ottawa. There are so many of them they become characteristic of the city. It’s harder to notice something by its absence, but keep your eyes sharp when visiting  other cities. Do you see as many strip malls? Sure, you see some, but not to the abundance we have here. Indeed, some Canadian cities severely restrict them or have no zoning provision for them at all. What would happen if Ottawa rezoned every strip mall as a five storey building? Well, there would … Continue reading Strip Mall loses its parking lot

Darwin Casino Suggestion a Real Crapshoot

There’s still something morally questionable about getting excited over a casino for downtown Ottawa (or the Casinoadium out in Kanata). It’s not enough to have “sin taxes”, we’ve got to provide the venue for the sinning and advertise to encourage people to come stay at a Motel 6 and lose their money. Isn’t it enough that we already send buckets of cash to Ottawa? I wonder if in another 30 years people who gambled away their savings will be joining war detainees, unwed mothers, and aboriginals in suing the governments for the “wrongs” they suffered. So what’s the alternative? How about a … Continue reading Darwin Casino Suggestion a Real Crapshoot

Islands in the … asphalt

It’s easy when in one’s home city to fall into the trap of the local mindset. For example, our traffic engineers seem to get really excited, in a negative way, whenever the local natives lobby for features in the middle of the street. “Can’t be done” they chime, “it’s unsafe”. Or we won’t be able to plow the streets. Or some such excuse. Because they really are just excuses. After all, are the streets there to serve the adjacent businesses and residents or are they there for the convenience of through traffic? Uh, no, you don’t have to answer that question. Every engineer … Continue reading Islands in the … asphalt

Phoenix LRT (part iii) The Video

Let’s go for a trip on the Phoenix LRT. The video at this link takes 10 minutes to play. The link may not be live, ie you may have to copy and paste to your browser. Leave the window size small, as the video is low resolution, taken from a handheld digital camera while sitting behind the driver. The Phoenix LRT is 20 miles long (32 km), and has 28 stations. It opened in Dec 2008. Ridership in 2011 averaged 40,600 pax per day. The peak day carried over 60,000 pax. The trains are two-car train sets, thus the … Continue reading Phoenix LRT (part iii) The Video

Phoenix LRT (part ii)

In the downtown Phoenix transit plaza there were these brightly coloured display boards. From a distance, I thought they were route maps or timetables. Upon closer inspection, they proved to be laser-cut metal sheets. Each one showed a subway or rail transit map from the major cities of the world. I felt a bit – discomforted – inspecting these. Was little Phoenix trying to cast itself in the Big Leagues, rather like Toronto (used to) cast itself as “world class” which simply proved it isn’t? Was it pompous? Or was it just Public Art? The station closeup (above) shows a number … Continue reading Phoenix LRT (part ii)

City wins battle; Mayor losing the war

Last night the City held a public meeting to tell residents all about the plans for Bronson. Well over a hundred people turned up. All were glum, and subdued. Resigned. Was I alone in sensing the seething resentment beating inside those winter coats? Recall that Bronson was widened from a street to a road back in the late 50’s. It was a bad road back then. And it only got worse. It’s bad for motorists. It’s bad for residents. It’s bad for landlords*. It’s bad for anyone who tries to walk along Bronson’s pathetic sidewalks. It’s life threateningly bad for … Continue reading City wins battle; Mayor losing the war

Phoenix LRT station designs

Phoenix has a somewhat different climate from Ottawa (why else would I go there in February?) and their LRT station designs have different functions. Mainly, they provide shade. The stations are simple raised platforms, about 16′ wide. Metal sails overhead provide dense shadows; tubes and fins provide dappled shade. Stations all along the 20 mile line were built on a common design.Most platforms had greenery, in the form of vines growing up between wire meshes. The mesh protects the greenery from damage, and provides support. Think of it as an ultra-thin hedge. Similar wire mesh fences have been installed between patios on … Continue reading Phoenix LRT station designs

From low rise to high rise …

The Dalhousie and Hintonburg Community Associations will be holding a joint open house on Tuesday at 7pm at Tom Brown Arena where interested people can see just what the City is planning for the industrial and vacant lands along the OTrain corridor. Most of the emphasis will be on the area north of Somerset Street, to Bayview Station, which is shown in the illustration below. Those are 30+ storey office towers on the top centre, opposite Bayview Station; the blueish buildings are already approved by the City and NCC as part of the LeBreton project (so don’t fret, we’ll all be dead before … Continue reading From low rise to high rise …

Ottawa robo-calls misdirecting citizens

Hundreds, possibly thousands of Ottawa residents are being misdirected by robo-calls. Innocent book readers are being directed from their local Hazeldean library to drive all across the city just to get their books. Only to find out, once they get there, that their books actually miles away, back at Hazeldean. Library spokesperson Pierrette Poutine confirmed that the City Library’s robo-caller is misdirecting readers through mischievous phone calls that direct far west end residents all the way to an alien place called The Glebe. Bobbi Rae, a reader, complained that thousands of her acquaintances that seek to borrow books through the InterLibrary Loan System are being misdirected to  places where their ILL books … Continue reading Ottawa robo-calls misdirecting citizens

OLRT to the Airport — Not

It appears the City of Ottawa is once again sloughing off easy expansion of the rail infrastructure in favour of more roads to the suburbs. Extending the O-train to Riverside South? Along an existing unused rail right of way? Where fields of houses are the main farm crop? Where long term plans call for rail eventually? Using the 3 Talent trains that are already on hand and soon to be declared surplus? Nahh, premature to consider such expansion. And of course, the line would go right past the Airport but not into it. Someday, there might be a shuttle bus from the airport … Continue reading OLRT to the Airport — Not