Leadman’s ward bumps up against Somerset Ward where I live, almost on the border of the two, which is why this blog is named West Side Action, since I try to cover events that happen on the west side of the downtown, regardless of fiefdom. Anyhow, I joined the big turnout for her forum Tuesday evening on the DOTT.
Her presentation and meeting themes covered two things: the DOTT in the downtown area, and the first-phase LRT in her ward terminating at Tunneys Pasture. She was accompanied by Renfrew Morrison, a transportation consultant that we recall was Clive Doucet’s hired gun for his Carling LRT proposal earlier this spring, and who was Urbandale’s hired gun in August 2007 when the developer lobbied to resurrect the southwest LRT.
What follows is not a report of the meeting, but my impressions of what went on. So, it is personal views, interpretation, and not “objective”.
Leadman claims that council approved the Albert St routing for the LRT tunnel, including a surface crossing of the canal using the Mackenzie King bridge, with a sharp turn south, ie the current bus route through the downtown. And that the counsultants have gone off and “surprised” her and “shocked her” by examining alternative routes, and eventually recommending the Albert St – Rideau St – Ottawa U route. She claimed to be shocked that they had extended the terminus of the first phase LRT to Tunneys Pasture instead of Bayview, as council had directed.
Both Leadman and Morrison want an underground city in the downtown, connecting the stations with underground malls under office buildings. I wondered why the underground city idea never dies: council killed the plus-16 version of it years ago, and the city’s developers have consistently refused to connect together their own malls. Minneapolis discovered you can have a lively plus-16 network or lively streets, but not both, and got the worst of both. I think Ottawa is way too small to support two lively streetscapes, or three, if plus-16 walkways are brought back in. Please “bury” this fantasy. And recover more of the surface from autodomination.
Morrison surprised me by claiming that 180m stations, capable of handling six car LRTs or future conversion to subway trains, would never ever be required in Ottawa, not in 100 years. I am in part puzzled by this because so many of the other blogsphere critics of the DOTT claim the system will not be able to handle the traffic proposed. Is the system undersized or oversized, on the short term or the long term?
I go to the DOTT meetings held about every two months as member of the public advisory council. The give the same presentation earlier that day to the business advisory council. And I thought they gave it to council members. But both Leadman and Morrison continually surprised me by their poor grasp of what I thought were well-covered items.
For example, Morrison chided the DOTT team for failing to include a spur at Rideau to extend the LRT east (along Rideau, or north to Gatineau), in fact, this has been frequently mentioned by the consultants.
More bizarrely, Leadman claims that by ending the first phase LRT at Tunneys, it forever “precludes any great circle line through Gatineau” (using the POW bridge) and will “eliminate potential for cross river transit forever”. I guess this eliminates any potential for a n/s LRT line along the O-Train route too, but elsewhere in the meeting Leadman seemed to support that route, and the Carling LRT, even with the LRT going to Tunney’s.
Well, maybe not to Tunneys. Her position alternated all night on that. Certainly building a major transfer station at Tunneys will be disruptive. But it will be very useful for the residential community, local bus transfers to the LRT, and Tunneys employees in the future, during the first phase LRT AND once the LRT is extended westward. Some citizens at the mike expressed appreciation for improved LRT service. It is not a “throwaway cost”. It is, of course, perfectly fine to build a major transfer station at Bayview, in the neighboring ward, and she expressed no concern about throw away costs there. So does she favor ending the LRT at Bayview, or continuing to Tunneys? And in future phases, should it continue west past Tunneys? The answers varied all night.
Similar confusion prevailed on the use of Scott and Albert for BRT service. Recall that during conversion of the transitway to LRT service (at least two years) all the buses that use the transitway from Tunney’s to the downtown will have to move off the transitway onto Scott and then onto Albert. This will certainly be very negative for adjacent residents, and I too question how the roads can handle all the buses. Staff suggests that the two curbside lanes will be bus only lanes, but I still see congestion hell.
Then, once the LRT is running, in theory most of these buses can be stopped at Tunney’s and riders transfer to the LRT if going to the downtown, and for those going to Bayview or LeBreton, every third 95 would provide this service. However, Leadman and many citizen speakers derrided putting buses on Scott, derrided transfers at tunneys, and derrided evil-Kanata residents who want one-bus service from Kanata to downtown. Well, if they dont want transfers at Tunney’s, they’ll have decades of buses on Scott until the LRT is extended to Lincoln Fields and transfers are forced there. At some point you cannot please everyone, tradeoffs are necessary. There are hard choices here, and more leadership and consistency is required than was evident last night.
There was consistency though, in several aspects: Tunneys transfer station: bad; buses on Scott street: bad; LRT to Tunneys: good; no: bad; Kanata riders shouldnt be worried about making transfers at nice indoor stations; local riders wont stand for forced transfers; put the transfer station at Bayview, the city owns all the land around it (points to PPT slide that highlights land that is in fact owned by other parties like Phoenix DCR who have applied to build a condo on the land); its dumb to put LRT on the Ottawa River Parkway; the solution is to run all the buses on the parkway all the way to the downtown and not along Scott; look at the big picture, plan for the future and the whole city, but make decisions based on short-term local impacts. The tunnel selection should be based on city-building criteria, but give us the costs of each option first (so we can choose the cheapest?)
And the STO buses … Leadman claimed the study ignores the STO buses on Ottawa’s downtown streets, and claimed that there are more STO buses than Ottawa buses downtown. In fact, the DOTT projections always have counted all the STO users as being DOTT tunnel users, which gives some hint about the future of STO surface buses in the downtown, and some hint about the direction of the interprovincial transit study.
The audience asked many intelligent questions, and some whoppers. Members clearly disagreed as to whether transfers were good or bad, generally it seems Kanata residents should be prepared to transfer but local riders should not. The Byron right of way is useless for LRT, claimed a speaker, because it goes no where (gee, and I thought it ended so close to Lincoln Fields…). The LRT should run along Carling because there could be many stops serving local businesses and institutions (but no mention of why Kanata commuters would want such a milk run service). Use Byron, on the surface, no, put it underground. Leave the parkway only for cars, remove the buses, dont put LRT on it. No, keep the buses on the parkway. Even extend them all the way to the downtown on the parkway. A number of people spoke to the idea that the current transit planning too oriented to long-haul commuters at the expense of local transit (I agree heartily, but we still gotta deal with the folks in Barrhaven and Kanata). Keep the buses off Scott (cheers !) (how? by putting them on Albert, but hey, that’s not our ward, it’s someone else’s problem).
Oh, that Bayview station, great place to put it, its in a field surrounded by no one. As for the Blair terminus, its stupid, its out in the middle of nowhere with vacant space around it, move it into a built up area. Morrison: London transit cited as doing great innovative tunneling work using the Austrian mine technqiue, and we are not considering it. He ignores that the tunnel-boring consultants for DOTT are from London Transport. Dont build the DOTT near the Langevin Block … running it under the War Memorial would make a “nice” terrorist target … but not to worry about running it along or under DND …
Conspiracy theories abound, and are some of the reasons why going to public meetings can be so much fun. Did you know the LRT is intended for the Ottawa River parkway because they want to rezone it all for condos? That Hintonburg is always “targetted” because its poor? (I nod my head at that one …) That it should be run on Byron so locals can use the LRT, but not on Byron because it is no longer a right of way but a park? That the urban core is the victim of suburban dominated council? (allright, I’ve gotta agree with that one too). Or that city staff is so incompetant that they continually bamboozle councilors and go off on their own tangents regardless of council direction and staff is secretly running everything …
In summary, there were a number of valid concerns raised, in particular how well the DOTT will work at the great depth proposed; and how buses will be handled during construction and between phase and phase two. Yet if we are to focus on the big picture, the city-building one, we cannot continually nitpik on local impacts. The transit system has to serve a variety of needs and users, and cannot exclude the long haul, short haul, peak or off-peak users.
Leadman was listening, and giving people a chance to vent, and that is admirable. But she made no effort to reconcile her own mutually-conflicting options, and offered little leadership. I would have preferred her to have expressed some preferences for moving the system forward instead of just agreeing with every expressed concern. I think it is a leader’s role to also temper public opinion, to acknowledge that with change comes disruption as well as opportunity. There will be some pain along with the gain. She could also try to reactivate the Carling-Bayview CDP so that vulnerable chunks of the neighborhood are prepared for change as the LRT is built out. She could also attend some more of the DOTT briefings (or send her staff, or get more community association people attending) because the significant factual gaps and misunderstandings undermine the quality of decisions and leadership we expect.