Yes you can, Mr Mayor

John Turner and Jim Watson have lots in common. In a crisis, both  claim they can’t do something. It didn’t work out well for Mr Turner. So people get killed moving about in Ottawa. Anyone looking at the traffic fatalities knows … Continue reading Yes you can, Mr Mayor

Westward Ho ! (part iii) the curse of stations and transit users

The Cleary Avenue end of the western LRT and motor expressway corridor is shown here:   The westbound trains enter the picture from the right, along the orange line. Cleary Station is shown in dark blue. The Unitarian Church and apartment building is shown a bit further west (left). The underground track alignment swings gently under the Unitarian parking lot to get out towards its (under) Richmond Road alignment. The swing out to Richmond will occur under a car repair shop and/or Kristy’s restaurant. These businesses will not remain in place during construction. Since dig-the-ditch-and-cover construction won’t start until 2017 … Continue reading Westward Ho ! (part iii) the curse of stations and transit users

Westward ho ! (part i)

So the NCC and the City came to an understanding for routing the western LRT beyond Dominion Station. It’s time to go beyond the headline coverage. Let’s parse that agreement, and see what’s there and what isn’t. The basic concept: the LRT will extend west from Dominion along the Ottawa River Parkway (ORP) to Cleary Avenue where it will transition southwards to follow the Richmond Road corridor. Instead of being pushed up close to the southern edge of the parkway lands, close to some developed parcels, the LRT will now run roughly down the centre of the space, halfway between … Continue reading Westward ho ! (part i)

Chinatown Art Installation

The City sets aside a certain small percentage of its major capital projects budget (such as road reconstruction) for art installations. West Siders know the ones: Preston Street granite postcards from the piazzas, West Wellie’s marble veggies, the red chairs in the Glebe. The just-getting-completed reconstruction of Somerset between the OTrain tracks and Booth had a very small art budget. One that had to cope with three distinct areas: Chinatown, the bit of Little Italy around Preston, and the OTrain viaduct-bridge. With public consultation, the decision was made to have two installations: one on the Chinatown hill, and one on the viaduct … Continue reading Chinatown Art Installation

Controlling creepy car lots

One of my pet grievances is parking lots on the edge of the sidewalk. Too often motorists or the lot owner “creep” all the time onto the sidewalk. In the streetscaping treatment of West Wellington the City employed portable planter boxes, planted with currant bushes, to keep the cars back. They didn’t do this for every parking lot. But now, a few years on, I saw these planters being installed in front of yet another used car lot. Bravo! When the lot is redeveloped for urban purposes, the planters can be redeployed. I delighted in noticing that the lot owner was not moving his cars … Continue reading Controlling creepy car lots

City promotes tree growth

I’ll forgive you if the above pic is hard to figure out. Here’s what’s happening. Read on to find out why it is important. This tree is planted along Somerset Street. It was planted there sometime in the last 30 years. The curb, now removed, ran right close along the far side of the trunk. There was a four foot x four foot opening the concrete sidewalk, to let the tree breathe and obtain water. This opening was slightly constricted by being paved over in concrete cobbles, and packed down firmly. The four foot square opening was the minimum size tree hole as determined by the City … Continue reading City promotes tree growth

A rooting chance

  In urban environments trees have  a hard time surviving. Much of this is due to the abuse we inflict on them. Even when a tree well is provided, and a grate on top is installed to permit air flow and water flow while preventing the soil from being compacted. Most new tree grates in Ottawa look like the above picture. It does work, but in a limited way. The City long ago came up with a standard that the minimum opening for a tree to survive in was approx. 4’x4′. Naturally, this minimum opening became the maximum opening. Look at this picture of … Continue reading A rooting chance


This is a followup to yesterday’s post, called Trampled. That public sidewalk shrubs got trampled and mangled in renovations is sad, but then the renovation is a potential good. Less excusable is the downright murder and removal of mature trees. Have a look at this google photo: That mature tree growing by the sidewalk is a maple. It provided a pleasant bit of shade on the exposed sidewalks of the Somerset Street viaduct (overpass over the O-Train track). That it was alive and green last year is shown in this photo: (the tree in question is just above the cyclist’s head and … Continue reading Murdered

Protecting Urban Trees during construction

My first house was on Booth Street. It was a new townhouse in 1980, built by RJ Nicol. At the curb line was a very large street tree. I selected the my house in part because of the large tree in front. During construction, the approved plans called for its protection by wrapping the trunk in snow fence. The water main trench was cut out to the street a foot or so to one side of the tree. The sewer cut on the other side. Then the gas company came along and when they reached the tree, dug a hole … Continue reading Protecting Urban Trees during construction

Well planted trees

Here’s another bit of Ottawa sidewalk I like. It’s along Place Bell Canada. Notice how well the curbs protect the trees against snowplows, parked objects, construction vehicles and equipment, etc. The tree trunks are thick, the leaf canopy is generous. The trees appear to be happy and growing. What a difference from so many Ottawa trees so obviously struggling hopelessly along the streets. Hey, it’s a sidewalk worth walking on. Continue reading Well planted trees

City-provided sidewalk improvements

From time to time the City actually does spend some money for streetscaping projects. These projects are designed to “recover” the public space from adjacent property owners that have encroached on it over time, too often appropriating it for parking. Those property owners who have landscaped right out the sidewalk may not be affected at all. Adversely affected will be those who snuck in parking spaces on their front gardens. There have been previous blog posts that show condo and apartment properties widening the sidewalk in front of their buildings as part of the landscaping. See for example this: I think the project … Continue reading City-provided sidewalk improvements

Public gets chance to Rescue Bronson

  This flyer is making the rounds of the west side neighborhoods abutting Bronson Avenue. The above photoshopped illustration shows just ONE potential way to improve Bronson so that it meets the needs of pedestrians, cyclists, transit users, adjacent businesses and residents, as well as motorists and commuters. There are alternative ways to improve Bronson so that it makes more people happy. Anyone who travels on or across that blighted street knows that the 1950’s thinking that gave us the current “four lane” urban arterial didn’t work. Yet Ottawa seems on the way to fifty more years of a disfunctional … Continue reading Public gets chance to Rescue Bronson

On streetscaping (vi) Trees

The urban tree problem … Trees in the built-up city face difficult conditions. Among these are tiny porous surfaces around the bases (the city minimum porous surface was 4’x4’ and this became the maximum space, even when room was available); packed earth or paving base as “growing media”; pollution; car damage; snow removal damage from city crews or contractors; hostile property owners who remove street trees; cultural hostility from groups that feel trees are invasive or unlucky; sidewalk repairs that reduce tree wells; overhead wiring and over-zealous “pruning” and trimming by utilities, etc. City standards are sometimes unhelpful. The city may require … Continue reading On streetscaping (vi) Trees

Potted Tree Planting

Tom Brown arena got new front entry paving and landscaping courtesy of the water main installation along Bayview Road. The old front entry had a large concrete planter with low walls. Trees in it rooted right into the underlying soil. A sign on it indicated Tom Brown’s ghost or a concerned neighbor maintained the planting bed. The new entry treatment has lots and lots of trees. I love this aggressive tree planting. One tree philosophy, I’m told, is to plant too many trees in the expectation that some will die. Rather than come back and replace them (which is expensive), they just … Continue reading Potted Tree Planting