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 for a “road diet”: reducing the over-sized road back to a slimmer, sleeker, healthier size. They managed to get the City study it, or rather, to hire consultants. And as we noted in this space just a few weeks ago, traffic is actually declining on the Mc-C Bridge but you’d be hard pressed to find that acknowledged. Our fair City’s traffic people simply cannot bring themselves to downsize the road, even with abundant evidence that the amount of pavement there simply isn’t needed.

As for our BIA’s … what can one say. Their pursuit of sacred parking is little short of suicidal. People don’t go to the Market because of the convenient parking. We have Loblaws for that. People go to the Market because it is a people place. Making the areas surrounding the Market more people-oriented is better, because then there will be more residents, and these residents will … shop at the Market.

I am delighted to notice Randall Denley’s column in today’s Citizen supports the right-sizing of King Edward, and correctly adopts the terminology of urban freeway foes by calling it a traffic sewer.

The Citizen was not nearly so supportive of our efforts to right-size that other traffic planning blight on the west side: Bronson Avenue. They sagely derided our efforts to get the City to examine Bronson for a road diet. In this case, the four lane stretch from Laurier to Gladstone could be reduced to two through lanes and a common left turn lane and still handle the declining traffic volume. There could also be additional turn lanes at major intersections.

After much nay-saying that it couldn’t possibly work, the City did permit the Engineers to run their traffic model with a road diet. Won’t work, came the quick answer. The Rescue Bronson community team requested a detailed briefing with the traffic model. Tinker, tinker … and lo and behold, the road can move the current volume post-diet. Hmm. Post-meeting, more private examination, and the Engineers decide it won’t work after all, they cannot figure out how to make the lanes align on each side of the intersections. “Whew,” they must have thought, “that was close”.

The mindset is still firmly entrenched in our traffic department that the main function of public space is the movement and storage of as many cars as possible. Leftover spaces unsuited for this can be relegated to pedestrians. Any really odd spaces can be planted. Maybe. (One of the terrifying experiences on the Bronson exercise was their landscape architect who started out by identifying the old trees that had to be REMOVED because they were too close to the sidewalk or “blocked the sight triangle”.)

Denley’s article is worth reading. My conclusion: the City can be forced to look at road diets but can’t be forced to go on one. Yet. Our traffic-clogged arteries will be right-sized someday. Right after that next road widening, and the next, and the next….

7 thoughts on “King Edward, meet Mr Bronson

  1. What do we need to do to break the hold of traffic engineers? Our city has an ethos that the function of the public space is to efficiently move people in cars from work to home. That is the primary role, and if it can serve a secondary role by enhancing people’s lives, well okay. But not if it hurts cars.

    Here is another example – in front of the Loblaws on Isabella, there is a little stup of road that connects Pretoria with Elgin/QE Driveway/Pretoria bridge. To line up with the new painted bike lane on Pretoria Bridge the biking people at the city proposed using some of the excess space on that road to put a bike lane on Isabella itself.
    This was turned down by the traffic engineers because “it might cause backups further down” even though this was EXCESS space. They did not propose eliminating a lane – they proposed eliminating yellow painted lines. The traffic engineers pointed out that cars often (illegally) use that yellow painted section to line up two abreast to go onto Elgin.

    What a city!

  2. Great news about the tunnel! You would think that once the tunnel is intalled it would add pressure to open up access… ! I’m really looking forward to that route.

    Thanks for your work. =)

  3. I echo Heather’s comments. Thanks Eric for getting the tunnel!
    My question is, if the city can’t afford to Open the tunnel, can then they also not spend money keeping people out? Interested volunteers could show up with some kelly tools to brush out the area, and some dirt stone dust mix to make the path.
    All the city would need to do is put up a fence so cyclists don’t fall onto the track, and add some lights.

  4. “Entrenched” is the right word:
    –verb (used with object)
    1. to place in a position of strength; establish firmly or solidly: safely entrenched behind undeniable facts.
    2. to dig trenches for defensive purposes around (oneself, a military position, etc.).

    People fear (and therefore overtly hate) that with which they are unfamiliar. If traffic engineers have never done this before, they don’t want to hear about it. We need some braver souls running the process.

  5. We should do a Google Maps (or City of Ottawa eMaps) search of arterial roads downtown that have intersections whose lanes “don’t line up”. I’m sure there are lots of them, including on recently-reconstructed roads.

    Heck, the two major roads that intersect Bronson—Somerset and Gladstone—are both very askew.

  6. Perhaps we need to recruit a bunch of environmentally-minded academically bright teenagers, send them to a university civil engineering program and then infiltrate them into the city bureaucracy and into the consultancy (they might have to hide their environmental bona fides in order to get accepted). Then, when the time is right, spring them loose (yes, a correct use of “loose”).

    It might take a decade or so before it begins to bear fruit, but that’s probably a better turnaround time than any other option.

    1. We have that already. They’re in the part of the planning department that writes new CDPs and policies, and there’s literally no communication between them and the people who actually apply the same rules and guidelines.

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