The instant springing up of a “friends of” organization to oppose rapid transit is not unexpected. Everyone wants transit nearby but not too nearby. Me included. At least one block over is just fine. Just like for arterial and collector roads.
I think the City falls short in its communication of the LRT options. Many of the complaints about each proposed alignment are eminently predictable, or have been already expressed (repeatedly !) in the media. If I were running the show, these complaints / concerns would be addressed right up front, either acknowledged or countered. Instead we have endless rehashing of shallow comments.
At prior PAC meetings on the western LRT, I suggested to the City that the argument that the north side of the Parkway option can’t be intensified, is a superficially powerful one since everyone can see the River is there. But somehow no one notices that other options (eg Carling option starting at the OTrain cut) have lengthy sections along undevelopable lands too ( is someone proposing we build on the Farm?).
And really, is Watson going to suggest that the affluent low-rise neighborhood to the south of the Richmond corridor is going to be redeveloped as high rises? If not, then it’s just as much a dead zone for redevelopment as the River (although over time McKeller park might be rezoned, but before that happens, it will become very very valuable real estate, a preserve of the rich, which argues it is unlikely to get rezoned).
I think the “developable area” argument is way too dependent on a visual perception of the potential area for development. It would be really helpful is planning staff drew some of their catchment circles around each station on the River alignment, and showed its current population and fully-built-out potential. And then do the same for Richmond Road stations. And I bet those circles would overlap geographically about 80%, and overlap population wise about 90%, and overlap with regards to redevelopment potential about 100%. In short, there may not be much “city building” or “ridership” difference between the options.
So why doesn’t the City make (public) some of those obvious rational analyses? Surely they were done as part of the criteria exercise? Maybe they prefer that “consultation” be a simplistic charade with the public arguing emotionally over the routes, and counting on Councillors to make the right decision when the “facts” are whipped out at the end. That’s showing an awful lot of confidence in Council.
There are some other options that I don’t hear discussed much either. These relate to the overhead wiring that most people assume will be required along the parkway, and seem to find offensive. First, I have considerable faith that wiring can be aesthetically handled. It certainly should be much less a blight than all that road asphalt currently there. If the western LRT replaces then eastbound lanes of the Ottawa River Commuter Expressway, then the sea of asphalt becomes a field of grass, albeit with an overhead wire. And this is untenable??
Maybe we won’t require overhead wiring at all. When the international equipment manufacturers gave a presentation at the City a few years ago, at least one had battery powered LRTs already running, where they drew power from wires in some areas and in sensitive heritage areas they ran on battery. Since then, other systems have been built and run today where vehicles recharge rapidly while in the stations and have a enough “juice” to get to the next station. Again, no wires required in select high value areas.
That can also be a neat way to expand the LRT system since the core system is electrified, but each additional segment can be added as rail-only and electrified a few years later as volume increases. This makes it much cheaper to expand the service. Since we haven’t selected our train sets yet, the bidding consortia have a number of options open to them. Ugly wiring isn’t necessarily one of them.
In the meantime, the rather shallow debate on the western LRT makes for a quick read and then I can go do something more important, like sit in the sun.