The picture below shows the current Bayview Station. It is simply a bus shelter on a hill in the middle of a field. It’s been that way since 2001, and while not ideal, it does function.
The City is currently designing its transit stations for the new LRT network. For the first few years of the Downtown Ottawa Transit Tunnel (DOTT) process, they had very elaborate station design for Bayview. It was a long elevated structure with east-west trains on top, and underneath was a second set of platforms for the successor to the north-south LRT that would someday replace the O-Train. Until that replacement occurred, the O-Train could continue to stop at its own station under Albert Street, albeit one accessed with escalators and elevators and weather-enclosed platforms.
There were a number of very obvious problems with this design. First, it was very elaborate and expensive, I could not imagine the City actually building it as proposed. Especially since it is designed in considerable part to service a neighborhood that is not yet built. This ain’t the Glebe. While it is correct to design for the future, and for future development to be constructed taking full advantage of the proximity of the station, it also means building something for future voters, and council is much more concerned with delivering goodies to the current voters.
So I wasn’t surprised back in January when I caught a quick glimpse of a revised station proposal for Bayview. The new station was much more modest, but still with an enclosed platform and elevator access from the O-train level. It would essentially lay the LRT tracks on the current transitway alignment, reusing the existing bridge over the O-Train track, and build the station on the ground. The City wouldn’t let me have a copy of the proposed station, but when I saw Peter Raaymaker’s photo of Longfields Station at http://www.transitottawa.ca/, I thought it looked awfully familiar. It makes sense that the LRT station team would adapt from the latest transitway station designs.
Other aspects of the proposed station for Bayview were awful. They proposed a large “kiss-and-ride” drop off zone and a taxi stand. Such a facility makes sense in the ‘burbs, but not in a dense downtown neighborhood. The current drop-off layby built on Albert (with space for two cars) is more than enough. Furthermore, the proposed location for the kiss and ride is also the location the Carling-Bayview CDP plan shows as an intense Transit-Oriented-Development (TOD) building. Which of these two land uses is better for transit and a livable city?
While I know the Bayview CDP planners have been consulted by the Bayview station designers, their plans strike me as seriously at odds. Some of this relates to the station designers clearly being unfamiliar with the area, designing it from paper maps and plans rather than any on-site data. For example, they are designing the station without any traffic count of how many people walk in to the station now. Nor did they have estimates of how many will walk there when the new buildings are built and occupied. They don’t propose any improvement to the narrow sidewalks where Albert goes over the O-Train cut. Nor are they doing anything to connect the Albert Street multipurpose path (bike path) on the north side of Albert to the Scott Street path, frustrating the BikeWest proposal for a downtown-to-Westboro off-road bike track.
Instead, they view it primarily as a transfer station. My suggestions that there be a genuine public consultation with the adjacent neighborhoods and the people that actually use the station has thus far been ignored. Maybe, just maybe, the “public consultation” phase, whenever it comes, will be more than a “there it is, it’s too late to change it” charade. Otherwise, we run the risk of getting a multi-million dollar station that underachieves.
The Bayview CDP is not without its problems. It proposes a lot of intense urban building around the station. This would include two office towers on the south side of Albert (the area is now a hole, owned by Phoenix) in the 25+ storey range, plus the developments proposed for the City Centre site. Alas, the tallest buildings are closest to the station, which makes some sense, but also ensures that only the front row buildings get the fabulous river views. Ironically, the sketchups of all the tall buildings are like a bagel: there’s nothing in the middle. The most accessible, most transit-friendly area, where density should be highest, is proposed as a …. one storey transit station. The adjacent developers get building rights, the city gets nothing but an expense.
At the least, the station needs to be designed so that a building can be later built over it, and the city can recover some of its transit costs through selling the air rights.
One concern I have right now is that the proposed Bayview station will be just large enough, just fancy enough, just expensive enough, just good enough for the next half century. And thus the eventual replacement of the low rise station with a real TOD will be put off.
For that reason, I think we might be better off simply replacing the current bus-shelters-in-a-field station with more bus shelters in a field. At least that will cause every planner and developer to lick their lips and salivate over the opportunity to design the Bayview residential area, or the new Science museum, or the next condo or office development, with an integrated station befitting the neighborhood.
Sometimes, temporary is good.
For keeners, here is a link to a Chinese TV show. At about minute 2 there is an extended scene taking place on a LRT. I like this clip because it is not a wow-golly-gee promo clip, it purports to be a real life TV episode. It must still look really futuristic and glamorous to rural and small town Chinese. Or to Ottawans. http://tv.sohu.com/20100621/n272957944.shtml Note it may take a minute or more to download, but it is fun to watch. Note also how basic the transit station is.