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 anyone who tries to cross it. There are no winners when it comes to Bronson.

The people at last night’s meeting know better than to send their kid to school if that involves crossing Bronson. Not if you want the kid back home, that is. On the other hand, it might be useful to send the mother-in-law to lawn bowling if that involves crossing Bronson AND you want to inherit sooner.

The audience last night were exposed to a flock of engineers and consultants and contractors. Entertainment consisted of a city staff reading giant Powerpoint pages, word for word, jargon by jargon, eye-glazingly slowly, while showing them up on the block wall. The total word count read must set a record for pius bumpf.

So after a year of planning and sweating and public meetings and backroom meetings, let’s compare the new Bronson Avenue to the current one.

It will be bad for motorists. It will be bad for residents. It will be bad for landlords. It sure won’t encourage anyone to walk along it. As for crossing it, the major crossing points at Laurier, Gloucester, Primrose, Somerset, Christie (nod to my grandma’s house on the corner there, although she fled decades ago…) and Gladstone –didn’t get one inch shorter, or any safer, or improved in any way. Nada. The new Bronson will be exactly the same as the old Bronson.  The only concession to peds is the new crossing at Arlington. Harvey’s must be pleased.

So how could the City labour for so long and so mightily, employing planners and engineers and political capital to come up with exactly the same mistake as was first perpetuated in the 1950’s? Have we learned nothing at all in over half a century of traffic misery?

That is not a rhetorical question.

Consider the state of traffic planning in Ottawa in 2012, during the second term with Mayor Watson at the helm.

King Edward is overbuilt, ugly, dysfunctional. It is not a nice as it was before we started all this rebuilding back in the 1960’s. And the City turned down the chance to tame it, apparently thinking it’s just fine for next fifty years.

Rideau Street is the busiest pedestrian street in the City, with over 7000 people on the sidewalks. It is to be reconstructed. And the City is going to improve it by … narrowing the sidewalks so the motorists can have lanes 2′ wider. Yes, you read that right.

And so on to Lansdowne. I suspect many approve of the new plans because they are better than the existing decrepit parking lot. But there is a lingering sense that we aren’t doing it well enough. We aren’t achieving its full potential. And the transportation aspects, well, we’ll figure something out closer to opening day.

Did I mention the City’s persistent attempts to widen Albert Street to six lanes where it runs through LeBreton Flats? Great urban environment that will make. We’ll be able to queue up cars bound for Pointe Gatineau three abreast instead of two abreast.

Mayor Watson, our comeback mayor,  has gotten to where he is by having a good nose for the direction the political winds are blowing. But are is sinuses letting him down when it comes to traffic planning? He’s had his way with Bronson. He won the battle. But the voters in the area are left bruised and resentful. As are the voters in lowertown, the Glebe, and … Moscow.



*interestingly, the traffic non-improvements prompted speaking out by landlords and a major property developer. Will wonders never cease.

5 thoughts on “City wins battle; Mayor losing the war

  1. I almost see a devious plan by the city whereby they make an outrageous plan (lets narrow the sidewalks on Rideau Street), so they can back down later and we will rejoice, when really there has been no improvement.

    How do we get Janette Sadik-Khan up here for a couple of years to run things? They closed blocks of BROADWAY to cars – we can’t even try a pilot project on Bronson.

  2. 17 Years ago when I was applying for a job as a planner at the region, I had a interseting conversation with another job candidate. We talked about cities and traffic and the location of certain roads when the subject of Bronson Ave. came up. He said somthing I have never forgotten. There really is 2 Bronson’s the narrow downtown street and the suburban 4-6 lane major metropolitan road. The connection to Airport Parkway is just an extension of that major suburban road. He told me the trick to taming it (Bronson Ave.) was to somehow seperate the 2 sections either by physically or operationally means. The real tricky part was where you did that and where the large volumes of suburban traffic would be headed after. 17 Years later, no one has come up with an answer to that guestion that pleases everyone. Neither one of us got the job. Both of us are planning consultants today who would like to find an answer if the city was really interested in finding one.

    1. I find at City Hall that those who think outside the box are often the first to leave as they get so frustrated at the inertia @ 110 and the fact that above them in the decision making roles are so many who are masters of telling people why they can’t do things. It sounds to me as you made the right decision to not pursue a career at the RMOC in planning with many municipalities is heavy on the reactive side of the tabel rather than the proactive side.

  3. hehehe! Moscow – Putin keeps his oponents in a prison during the election/voting, thus solves problem of a competition.

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