New-style traffic lights

In passing the city’s signals yard on Gladstone near the OTrain track, I noticed that an intersection’s worth of signals were up and running, but with signal heads I have previously not seen in Ottawa.   Cities with streetcars or surface rail use signals with different size heads or the ‘straight bar’ of light to signal transit drivers when to stop and go. Motorists continue to obey signal heads with the standard roundish light that we are familiar with. But Ottawa doesn’t have a surface rail system, and we junked our streetcars half a century ago. So I found myself … Continue reading New-style traffic lights

Major changes coming to downtown streets

The current downtown Ottawa is rather blah. Some might even call it bleh. Over the decades, it has become a motor-vehicle-oriented environment, with the fast movement of vehicles the main only priority. We all know about the walls of buses. And the priority given to automobile commuters over pedestrians. Trees: rare as hen’s teeth. It has become a downtown one goes to because you have to. It is not a shopping, or even much of a recreation destination. All rather sad. When the LRT is opened, there will be major changes. Most OC Transpo buses will be off the Albert … Continue reading Major changes coming to downtown streets

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

Progress on Rescuing Bronson

The City has compromised on some Bronson issues. They have agreed to remove their proposal to widen the street, which would have speeded up vehicular traffic while simultaneously making the corridor less cycling and pedestrian friendly and chopping off numerous front yards, church entries, and mature trees. In our opinion, it didn’t make the road any safer for motorists either. I like to think it had a lot to do with people objecting. Rescue Bronson encouraged many people to have their say. This included residents, landlords, school principals, recreation coordinators, churches … and yup, we even got some of Ottawa’s condo … Continue reading Progress on Rescuing Bronson

The Queensway Forest

One of the recommendations in the New Centretown Plan currently doing the rounds, is for a densely planted urban forest along the banks of the Queensway. Currently, there are some unpretty barren spots: And even where there is a bit more planting, it is sparse: Compare that with the lush vegetation a bit further west, along Edgar Street: A couple of observations: the lush growth shown above does not look “planned” or “planted” by landscape architects. I saw no evidence of retaining walls, gabions, well spaced hardwoods, scenic selection of trees … no, they just appear to have grown there all by themselves. Aided, … Continue reading The Queensway Forest

Development charges and misleading headlines

Today’s Citizen has a story on development charges. The headline, picture,  and first part of the story emphasizes how much of the development charges will pay for transit. Buried deeper in the story, and not all that easy to spot, is this bit: But in general, fees for new roads are far and away the biggest chunk of any of the charges: for a new house inside the Greenbelt,You can read the whole story here:         Do you notice that the headline doesn’t read “rampant road construction boosts housing costs?”  There is no picture of Terry … Continue reading Development charges and misleading headlines

Road improvement only temporary

The City repaved Somerset west of Preston this morning. Don’t get too excited though. It’s just short term improvement change followed by more disruption. The section of Somerset further west, near Bayswater, is not ready for paving yet. The newly paved section will be striped next week as a two-way cul-de-sac street, ending at Musca’s. There will be no vehicular traffic, east or west, over the O-Train bridge, starting in August. The road will be completely dug out to insert a new underpass, for the north-south cycling route that parallels the east side of the O-train corridor. The contractor will keep … Continue reading Road improvement only temporary

YES ! to municipal bike tax

So a City Councillor has suggested we tax bicycles, perhaps by levying a license fee. I suspect he pictures in his mind a miniature license plate, similar to the full size plates that a car has, or what bicycles in the 1950’s used to have. Some places use stickers instead of metal plates, but these are hard to read, and certainly cannot be read while an offending cyclist speeds off into the sunset after his or her dasterly deed. I agree with Councillor Monette. The municipality should license bicycles and indeed all vehicles driving in the City. Right now, the City … Continue reading YES ! to municipal bike tax

The devil rides Watson’s new LRT route

Warning: long post. Go pee or get your coffee before you start reading. After so much huffing and puffing, the City has detailed its final LRT route and station locations, and their costs, to Council and the Public. The most noteworthy change has been to move the tunnel from the “cross country” deep alignment under Albert Street, then Queen Street … to one that traverses the downtown always under Queen. I have read the available material from the City justifying the move. It is a very political document, light on the technical stuff. It’s way more PR oriented than the previous reports. … Continue reading The devil rides Watson’s new LRT route

Hope for traffic calming

I came across this example of traffic calming in Port Hope. A residential collector street obviously suffers from excessive speeding traffic. And Port Hope certainly had an abundance of jacked-up pickup trucks and elderly cars with look-at-me “mufflers” (amplifiers?). I suspect cruisin’ the streets is a vehicular  passeggiata for the Hopeful. This long thin traffic island, repeated every block, effectively narrows the available lane space and forces a certain percentage of vehicles to slow down a bit. I was impressed by the intensive landscaping in the medians, which even included trees: Trees were planted both in the island and on both sides … Continue reading Hope for traffic calming

Great Roadway Removal Contest

It seems to me that other cities are galloping ahead of Ottawa, converting freeways and elevated structures to other, more urban-friendly purposes. New York converted an elevated rail line to the High Line linear Park. Seoul, Korea tore down a huge urban freeway in just six months and created a long linear park along the (previously sewerized) river below once it was daylighted. San Francisco also removed freeways and no one noticed any transportation disaster unfolding. Now Vancouver is examining removing some elevated road bits: This leads me to wonder what roads in Ottawa might be candidates for removal. Not downsizing, not … Continue reading Great Roadway Removal Contest

King Edward, meet Mr Bronson

The Transportation Committee meet yesterday morning and I was there to speak on the funding of the Somerset multipurpose path underpass at the O-Train corridor. The motion passed, the tunnel will be installed later this year, although it won’t be opened because the City hasn’t yet funded any paths or access along the route. Presumably that will come later. I rejoice we got as much (as little?) as we did and am confident we will get the actual usable facility in the next few years. The Committee then moved on to discuss King Edward Avenue. Essentially the Community there has been fighting … Continue reading King Edward, meet Mr Bronson

Guerilla Parking Enforcement

  No, these people aren’t Algonquin College students being persecuted for driving to school. These are their parents, married to their autos, and too lazy to park in the merchant’s free parking lot behind the store. Much easier to just park on the sidewalk. Why don’t they stop on the road? Heavens! that would block traffic! That would be a sin! Much better to park on the sidewalk, the pedestrians won’t even know, and if one comes by, there’s lots of room to squeeze by. Mr Red Volvo the Duck Lover, parks 100% on the sidewalk. He does this regularly, while … Continue reading Guerilla Parking Enforcement

Changing the face of Carling Avenue

For decades — it seems like centuries — passersby have seen the dark brick façade of this building on the north side of Carling between the federal government office complex and the residential neighborhood that runs up to Bronson Avenue: Here’s a closer view (Look! pedestrians!!): The building hasn’t been used for some years, but the NCC took good care of the front yard (facing Carling) planting tulips and there was a green thicket of shrubs. While it the construction fence is a good indicator of impending demolition, the view from the street is largely unchanged. However, the view from … Continue reading Changing the face of Carling Avenue

Sidewalk spacing

This is a post I wrote for Spacing Ottawa earlier this week. I repeat it in case you managed to miss it at that site. It was subsequently picked up on the national spacing network, as our problems with sidewalks are common throughout Canada: Sidewalks are installed by the City as an after thought. They are simply glued to the side of the curb on the assumption that if the road geometry is good for cars, it’s perfect for pedestrians. There is little consideration given to pedestrian origin or desires. And certainly no thought is wasted considering the pedestrian experience when actually using … Continue reading Sidewalk spacing

Declines in Interprovincial traffic on bridges

This is a guest post by John Verbaas, continuing on the theme of declining traffic counts even while we build more roads: “Here’s  one that is dear to my heart.  The information is from a graph taken from the Dillon Consulting Study in 2009-2010 done for studying the impact of reducing King Edward from 6 lanes to 4 lanes.   It shows the 10 yr  trend analysis of daytime traffic volumes on all of the Ottawa River Crossing bridges.  The traffic is flat to declining on all of these bridges except the westernmost one (Champlain).   Amazingly somehow the NCC decided in their … Continue reading Declines in Interprovincial traffic on bridges

Traffic counts

 Here is a city data set on streets and traffic volumes. AADT means average annual daily traffic (ie, daily traffic averaged over a year to account for seasonal and daily fluctuations). If you find a four lane urban road with under 18,000-21,000 aadt then it is a candidate for a road diet. The diet might recover the outside lanes for landscaping and streetscaping, protected parking lanes, bike lanes, or some combination. But maybe it isn’t needed for through traffic. Get out your red pencils! Roadway Classifications & Volumes     Roadway Classification Street Location AADT Survey Date Ward   Local    … Continue reading Traffic counts

Traffic in decline? some examples

In response to the previous post, a reader JV sent me data showing that some traffic predictions for 2021 (predictions made in 2003 TMP) are wildly too high, and that in fact measured traffic is actually declining on the Main Street and Bank Street bridge screenlines. (Bridges make nice places to count traffic as they are funnels, with limited by-pass options). Nonetheless, these old predictions continue to carry weight in justifying more road expenditures. Hmm. Anecdotal evidence, or some sample points, does not yet make a trend. But I am reminded that when our neighborhood fought the Bronson widening (see, suggesting … Continue reading Traffic in decline? some examples

Condo, heal thyself …

  Part of the controversy about the Laurier Separated Bike Lanes relates to who gets to use the street. According to the Bank Street BIA, it’s for cars and deliveries, period. Less strident but still vocal are the various condo owner and management groups in the core. Let’s look at one downtown condo, Queen Elizabeth towers, and their parking issues. Built in 1975 (left tower, 500 Laurier, 238 units) and 1978 (right tower, 530 Laurier,  217 units)  these 26 storey big block condos are a well known downtown presence. For these 455 units there are 455 parking spaces (according to the building manager’s office), … Continue reading Condo, heal thyself …

New Year’s Diets: for roads

  Everyone is familiar with the New Year’s resolutions to lose weight, to get fit, to go on a diet. For the better part of a year the Rescue Bronson group in downtown Ottawa have been pushing back against the City’s plans to rebuild Bronson without first looking at what should be done with the road. Is it so perfect today that no improvements could be made? Is its interaction with the adjacent community, landlords, tenants, businesses, pedestrians, transit users … so obviously beneficent that no one need inquire if it could be improved? Or was the city just trying to slip a 1950’s … Continue reading New Year’s Diets: for roads

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

Bronson Engineers Going on a Diet !

After relentlessly mocking the City for its proposals to widen Bronson, and to make the sidewalks narrower, and for its myopic focus on commuter-traffic-and-damn-all-the-rest, word percolates out of City Hall today that the scheduled Bronson stakeholder meeting for the fall has been postponed to allow the engineers time to examine a road diet for Bronson. Continue reading Bronson Engineers Going on a Diet !

Gov’t Downsizing

These mini-traffic lights were on a post in Gatineau. I could not determine if they were for cyclists. Or pedestrians. Or if they went off and on with the bigger lights. I recall seeing these everywhere in France, but that is because they skip the big light fixtures on the far side of the intersection in favour of big ones over the stop line only. The plethora of push buttons didn’t make it any clearer. I eventually walked my bike across against a red light (I was on a bike path detour that led me to the intersection and abandonned … Continue reading Gov’t Downsizing