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.