On a recent visit to Toronto, I made a point of noticing overhead electric wiring for streetcars. My general memory of streetcar wiring was situations like the one pictured above, a spagetti heap of wiring over an intersection.
Of course, such situations occur when different streetcar lines meet. And for the Ottawa case, the LRT is a single line with no branches or loops or turnoffs, so wiring situations like the above just won’t be here [yes, there will be a spur line off to the maintenance yard, and in a few cases parallel tracks to store trains, but these will be no where as a common as streetcar intersections are].
In Toronto, the overhead wiring running up the centre of the street above the track is supported by cross wires, running from one side of the street to the other. It quickly became apparent to me that the really visible part of the wiring was that running parallel to the street, from post to post, above the sidewalk. This was a tangle of thicker cables, messy connections, utility boxes, etc, whereas the single strand up the centre line I had to search for.
During the first WLRT public meeting last month, angry Westboroites claimed the City had fixed the pictures to hide the overhead wiring, to make it invisible, whereas it was sure to be a visual nightmare. After a few times pointing out that the pictures did have the wiring on them, to jeers from the audience, the consultant gave up and just let the audience wallow in their anger.
Fact was, one had to squint really closely to actually see the wire, which may be a factor of enlarging the photo, or maybe, just maybe, the wiring isn’t all this visible. Ergo, my inspection of the scene overhead Toronto streets.
The above pic is a view along the Spadina streetcar line. The Spadina line is modern, running down the centre boulevard, with some landscaping and curbing elements. The overhead wiring was again visible mainly by looking for it, and accentuated here by using a zoom picture. Some of the overhead signs on the wires related to the LRT line and others to traffic movements on the road lanes. If those signs weren’t hanging on the wires, they would have been put up on freestanding posts.
In front of the AGO, the wiring was actually hung on the frame of the new building. It made for a wonderfully clear sidewalk, and I think it quite bold that the planners / architects or whomever actually allowed the wires to be attached to a significant public building we are all supposed to be admiring. I can’t see Ottawan’s welcoming wiring anchored to our new convention centre, or the NCC ever agreeing to such a practical solution if other, hugely expensive alternatives are around. Here is a closer picture:
It is very noticeable that the wiring is underground only on one side of the street. On the north side, the old posts continue, including some real monsters:
The question of what the posts along Ottawa’s new LRT will look like may have been discussed with the NCC but I am not priveleged to that conversation. I do recall how nicely redesigned the red light camera posts are in front of the War Museum compared to elsewhere in the city. So I expect the NCC will be very keen to approve the posts holding up the wires if the Western LRT skims the edge of the Ottawa River Commuter Expressway.
Maybe someone will even be concerned about how they will look going through condoville on LeBreton Flats. Claridge and the NCC’s third building is now going up on the Flats, and has a direct view of the wiring between the LeBreton Station and the tunnel portal under the cliff at Queen Street.
Interestingly, the NCC has shown (thus far) no interest in what the trackbed will look like when viewed from all those condos they hope to develop on the Flats, but I suspect their level of interest will be much higher when it comes to the sacred green blades viewed by motorists on the Parkway.
Sir John just might be rolling in his grave — for various reasons.