Fostering transit by catering to cars (part 1)

Too often I cringe in dismay at the 99% motorist-focus of our planning and engineering staff. Do [m]any of the staff and consultants working on the LRT stations actually use transit? I have been known to cause moments of embarrassment by asking at an OTrain planning meeting if any staff present have actually ridden the train. [answer: rarely]. It’s quite easy to tell the station planners don’t walk to stations.


Or take transit to work anywhere else, for that matter.

Here’s a small example of how even when building and designing a state-of-the-art rapid transit system (ie, the Confederation Line) the City still manages to elevate motorist’s comfort and convenience over that of pedestrians.

The City bought a lot on Albert at Lyon where one of the Queen station entrances is to be. (It was originally to be one block further south, which would have greatly extended its utility, and permitted more buildings to connect into the underground passage, but to save a dollar today …)

So for the year or two until the City has to dig a hole at this site, and build the entrance shelter, they are continuing to use the site as a parking lot. Here is what it looked like before the City bought it:

scone witch sidewalk


notice how the motorist enters the lot via a curb cut or depression by the little shack. Once the city bought it, even though it is to be used for only a relatively short period of time, they thought fit to replace the sidewalk slope and dip with a bigger one:


They made the bump at the curb smaller, the slope gentler. Ohh, such tender consideration for motorists !


A little bit further west, as the edge of the lot closest to the [now departed] Scone Witch and CS CO-OP, there is an unused sidewalk dip. An expression of memory, apparently immortal, cast in concrete, of a former driveway. The private parking lot didn’t use it. The City’s temporary lot didn’t need it. But it was not fixed.


Fixed. You know, made flat. Like un-sloped. Un-angled. Safe to walk on in winter. Less chance of pedestrians slipping and breaking something. More  comfortable for pedestrians.

Let’s look closer at that unnecessary hazard for pedestrians:


Naah, the City had to save a few bucks by not replacing those sidewalk squares while they rushed to make the motorist’s entrance more convenient but not more functional.

This, in a quick slip and slide, catches the City’s problem. Even when its TMP  claims pedestrians get first priority … even when building a transit network … even when claiming to promote car-free commuting … even while building an actual LRT station … it continues to put motorists first.



To its credit, the City did do something right at this site. They parked a bunch of attractive planters around the perimeter. They put in a bike rack.


Tomorrow: part 2, the temporary LeBreton transit station



5 thoughts on “Fostering transit by catering to cars (part 1)

  1. I’m thinking about all the sidewalks I have had difficulty walking on during winter due to those slants, which helps cars but not pedestrians. I walk in the street itself often now. Not a good solution. New sidewalks seem to have some portion of them slanted for the part where a driveway is, and at this same driveway the rest is greatly slanted. I don’t know why the slant needs to be so huge. Moreover, the horizontal part is not always uncovered thoroughly by plows.

    Of course the winter conditions make the slant so much worse than during the summer. I walk on streets (sidestreets) sometimes since, although the sidewalks may have been plowed once, the street snow melts rapidly by sun. The sidewalks (not black, but grey) take longer to melt and the result is slush. It’s like the effort of walking on the beach, but not fun at all — slippery, dirty, and wet. Couple this with the slants, and it’s just not walker friendly at all.

    1. I put wrong word in my note. I should have said, “Some new sidewalks seem to have a portion of them made horizontal at driveways and at the same driveways the rest of the sidewalk to the street is slanted. I don’t know why this slant needs to be so huge. ”

      Makes a difference in what I was trying to say.

      I occasionally do tweet to walk Ottawa and will do more. I hope it helps.

      Just read your column that follows this one, re Preston Street extension. So true.

  2. city policy is ‘bare streets’ and ‘snow covered sidewalks’. All the meltwater from the street gathers at the sidewalk dip / curb cut, and forms ice and puddles and slush, for the enjoyment of pedestrians. This is not an accidental by product of the design, it is a feature of the design, well known for decades and repeated over and over. Join walk ottawa to make your voice heard, and complain to your councillor and report really bad incidences to

    1. Oh Eric, you forgot the bit where they plow a great huge snow furrow into the curbside drains, which promptly ice up, so even if they remove the furrow later the drains are now blocked for days or more.

  3. Here’s an example of sloped sidewalks I find particularly galling:,+Ottawa+Division,+Ontario&ll=45.393466,-75.754606&spn=0.003232,0.004823&t=h&z=18&vpsrc=6&layer=c&cbll=45.393293,-75.754497&panoid=hX7jGZR9Z-X91Ed14WF-_Q&cbp=12,254.1,,0,12.91

    If you take a look to the right, you can see a bulbout for the nearby intersection. Fine and good. What they could – should – have done is extend that bulbout past the driveway, to correspond with the no stopping sign at left. In so doing, the sidewalk could have been left flat and the slope dealt with within the bulbout.

    There are some more egregious examples of this along Scott Street just west of Westboro Station, but they were installed after the last Google Streetview update. In those cases there are driveways emerging between bulbouts (probably a good detail) yet they slope the sidewalk rather than doing it in the bulbout. It’s probably more expensive the way they did it due to all the extra concrete work that would have been required.

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