About that new hospital site …

Windsor, ON, is also in the process of building a new hospital. They propose a 10-storey building with numerous wings upon which additions can be appended.


Like all artist conceptions, there’s an abundance of space coloured green, and of empty space. Walking from parking to the entrance will contribute greatly to your 10,000 steps-a-day quota.

Following Provincial guidelines, they looked for a 50-60 acre site, citing the need to allow for building expansion, but looking at the site plan shows most of the site is parking lot, and the initial expansions require minimal additional area.


The site will need $23 million of road upgrades in order to open. These are not part of the hospital capital cost. The hospital proponents claim these roads would be required in the future, anyway.

The hospital has pictures showing how accessible the site is to automobiles, ie within a 10-12 kilometer radius. It claims to be on a future bus route, but no accessibility data by transit is noted.

Everything I saw on their web sites assumes access by motor vehicle is the norm. If the car-deprived-by-poverty or the auto-free-by-choice folks need medical care, they’re going to attend a smaller facility in the core. Maybe there will be a public shuttle from there to the “growth area” locale to visit your mom.

The selected site is currently farmland, or suburban-growth-land-in-training.


It is a sub-urban site:


For Ottawa residents considering the new hospital, some takeaways:

  • there are a limited number of hospital design firms
  • there may be some generally accepted current facility designs
  • hospitals designed and built just before ours offer good clues as to what ours might be like
  • even if located directly on a transit corridor (eg Trillium Line at Carling) we will still need lots of road access
  • expect sites such as #11 (Carling and Preston) to “require” new on and off ramps in all directions at Rochester/Queensway ( concept drawings extend Isabella back to Rochester Street, I expect the same for Catherine extending to incorporate Raymond St all the way to the Rochester westbound on ramp)
  • extensive parking lots will be built, and rationalized as “temporary” until the hospital expands
  • we do not have modal split data on hand for Canadian hospitals in Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver (LRT-type transit) or Toronto or Montreal (metros/subways)
  • what is the modal split for the Ottawa General campus, which epitomizes car-centric thinking?
  • a top consultant at one of the largest planning firms in Canada advises me that hospitals are notoriously low traffic generators for transit


13 thoughts on “About that new hospital site …

  1. Obviously when people are sick or in pain they prefer to be driven in a car to a hospital. But hospitals also have many people travelling to them for appointments and may be forced to or chose to go by transit. If you live in the central core going to the General Campus or the Queensway Carleton is a long trip complete with transfers. I always try to be referred to the Civc or Riverside campuses because they have better transit. What I’m saying is all hospitals should have great transit whether they are great transit generators or not.

    1. There’s a huge group of people that go to the hospital on a regular basis that should be using transit and that’s the employees. There are thousands of people that work at a large hospital and if you put the new one at Tunney’s Pasture there would be no reason for most of them not to be able to take at least part of their commute by bus or train.

  2. One of the things that I never hear about having these huge parking lots is the environment impact of them. They are just going to create a massive surface for rain to go into the storm drains (hopefully not the sewers).

    The Ottawa Hospital has on their site for the new hospital the costs for building the three types of parking (surface, above ground garage, underground). But they neglect to include the ongoing maintenance of the three. For example the surface parking is going to have to be plowed in the winter and the grass between lots will need to be mowed in the summer. Additionally they could lease out the roof space of the above ground garages to a company to generate solar PV electricity in order to create revenue. While I doubt this would even the costs it would lessen the difference between the various options.

  3. Two challenges come to mind when comparing Windsor’s proposed new hospital to Ottawa’s.

    The first is that the only vehicle that you are less likely to see in Windsor than a city bus is a snow plow. Simply put, Windsor’s buses are infrequent, and the few that do run are all pointed towards the city centre. There are few, if any, cross city buses, so most trips to the hospital in Windsor would require one or more transfers. As such, personal vehicle use is virtually mandatory, and thus parking is a necessity.

    The second challenge is location. While Ottawa has the luxury of several sites of publicly owned (albeit federal government) within the city (read the Experimental Farm), the availability of larger tracts of land within Windsor proper are held privately. Could a to be abandoned auto factory be demolished and purchased so that the Windsor hospital could be built closer to the city centre? Yes, but at a considerably higher cost per hectare than the proposed location. Having said that, Essex County is prime agricultural land (better soil, longer growing season), as contrasted with much of the farm land around Ottawa. The non-cash cost of converting prime agricultural land should be taken into consideration, but very few governments take non-cash costs into account – sad, but true.

    Finally, If the Ottawa Civic’s “budget” reflected the true cost of land (i.e. not treating the Experimental Farm land as free) then they would follow the lead from Windsor and, for that matter the property developers inside Ottawa’s greenbelt, and recognize that higher is a far more effective and efficient use of resources than wider.

    1. Higher makes it much more difficult to evacuate patients, and it’s also riskier when you’re trying to contain fire (which itself is much more dangerous in a hospital, because of the piped oxygen in the walls)

  4. Reid

    1)The revenues hospitals make off parking makes up a good chunk of there budget with out that major cuts would need to be made.

    2)As for put it on a transit line fine but your going to have to invest massive amounts of money to increase the service and run 24 hour service it might even have to mean running shuttles from certain parts of the city.

    3)Most new parking that’s built now are set up so water can drain.

  5. One thing you should realize is that nurses and personal care workers, who make up the huge portion (the majority I think) of the employee base of a hospital, often prefer to live an hour or so outside of the city and drive in. As a nurse at the civic who lives a 20 minute walk away, I’m a rarity. Sure, the young nurses will live downtown, but as they grow older and have children, the salary isn’t enough for downtown living, and because they don’t commute during rush hour for the most part, that isn’t a deterrent to them from moving out to the boonies. There might be some transit options for them, but it’s rare for those options to get them to work consistently by 6:45 in the morning.

    I’m all for better transit options to the hospital, but when people suggest that the workers should all be taking the bus, i think people need to realize why that’s a hard sell.

    1. That hospitals are low users of transit isn’t a criticism, it’s a reality (apparently, I’d love to see actual data,and I’ve asked my Councillor to ask staff for comparative data). We shouldn’t locate a hospital on transit assuming it is a traffic generator. Maybe other uses of the land at Carling/Preston would make better use of the transit line. And the hospital location will generate lots of car and truck traffic, so we must deal with that reality too, which is why i suggest that new Qway ramps in four directions will come to Rochester St… and the consequences that fall out from that. Nurses and other staff are of course free to locate their homes where they wish, but I dont think society has to then accommodate their choices by providing / subsidizing uneconomic services to exurbia or convert local residential and commercial streets into commuter traffic sewers.

      1. I think the data usually doesn’t include hospital trips; however, some cities have significantly reduced frequencies for their hospital routes. One city I lived in had 70 minute frequencies (except in the afternoon peak), and usually only covered the hospital at the end of the route. In the afternoon peak, it started the route serving the hospital on 30 minute frequencies.

      2. I don’t disagree, but I was really responding to a comment above suggesting that the employees of the hospital should all use transit….this isn’t currently economically feasible for much of the staff. Not to mention the fact that many of the jobs at the hospital are very physical in nature; my husband loves to stretch his legs walking home after sitting at a desk all day working for the government. The person sweeping hospitals floors all day might look forward to the car ride home as a break, and be less enthused by having to walk to and from the bus.

        I don’t know the solution, just pointing out other reasons, besides the clientele, why hospitals aren’t the same as, say, a large government agency.

    1. No, and there’s a waiting list for parking that doesn’t require a shuttle to the hospital.

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