Not inspiring confidence

The City held an open house last night on the OLRT. There wasn’t anything new there that you wouldn’t know about if you read the papers and this blog.

I did feel a sense of  insincerity about it though. Quickly announced, not much content, a quick visit from Hiz Honnor: I got the feeling the event was held so that some lawyer could point to it later on, at a hearing, saying “See, we had lots of public consultation, blah blah blah”.

Rather more disturbing was the number of minor errors on the display boards. Many of them I have seen before, and pointed out at consultation sessions. But they don’t get fixed.

And I must say I don’t mind if ordinary citizens get mixed up which is Scott Street and which is Albert. But it does bug me when city planners mislabel Albert as Scott. Accuracy and good knowledge starts at the top.


At Tunneys Pasture, the City planted a dense grove of trees along the north edge of the transitway cut. After 30 years or so, these have grown to a nice mature size. They are to be cut down, replaced by a bus stop, on the other side of which the city proposes to plant a new double row of trees. Why not simply move the bus stop a few meters north and keep the mature trees and don’t plant the new ones? But trees seem to be just decorations, accessories, the throw-pillows of transit decor.

And why is Ottawa’s largest (or maybe it’s the second largest) office building, the 29 storey Place de Ville, home of Transport Canada no less, labelled as the Canadian Chamber of Commerce Building, when they are mere tenants in another multipurpose building? And the Bank of Nova Scotia, located next door, left years ago; and ditto the Marriott Hotel is not Scotiabank either. Nor is there a BofM at Kent/Albert anymore; try SlatOr. I’ll forgive the old Delta not being The National, as that is new, but the new Delta replaced the Crowne Plaza about a year ago.

It doesn’t inspire confidence.

It also gets tiresome at public consultation sessions when suggestions are batted away. The Lees Avenue station, for example, delivers all its users out onto the street above, where they can make an at-grade crossing to the Ottawa U satellite campus there. Now students are disproportionate users of transit, and if I may so observe, somewhat prone to feeling immortal and above the law. I therefore predict there will be widespread crossing of this street against the light. And the City enthuses about putting lots more traffic at that intersection, where peds are just so much collatoral delay to motorists.

 So why not simply connect the platform to the University property after going under Lees? Ah, the answer is that “such details are to be considered later”, perhaps when the adjacent property owners “offer to pay for the connection”. My answer to that, based on decades and decades of hearing the same cock and bull story from the city, is that when the final plans are being shown such suggestions will be deemed “too late to make any changes because they would delay the whole project and you wouldn’t want to do that, would you?”

The ritual of public consultation grows wearying.

12 thoughts on “Not inspiring confidence

  1. Yeah, dismayed to learn about last night’s session in today’s Ottawa Citizen. Really seems like the worst kind of tokenism, and it’s not as if they don’t collect e-mails (mine included) at EVERY SINGLE PUBLIC SESSION. (sigh)

  2. I ride my bike past that Lees connector every day (to get onto the old train bridge across the River) and will confirm that there are dozens of jaywalkers.

  3. I think having a station serving the market makes a lot more sense, even if it means having only two business district stations (I like walking). So, I support that from a design perspective, and if its cheaper so much the better. But — you also have to get the smaller scale details right and this doesn’t smell good.
    It would be one thing if they brushed aside public participation while giving the appearance of competent technocrats who “knew better”. But “Slator”? Really?

  4. I suppose it’s all well and good ’cause it looks like the metaphorical wheels are coming off this round of light rail planning anyway. Unless construction begins RSN™, the 2014 election isn’t that far away, and problems like this lack of accuracy will feed into the “lets get it right” criticisms (which are valid) from the supporters of the project. This will dovetail nicely with the people who are opposed to it (“it’s too expensive and trains are for communists”) anyway and I think that it does run the risk of destabilizing the whole project.

    1. I think the business case for the OLRT is still excellent. People will always complain about the route and station details, regardless of what is chosen. Unanimous support is impossible. It should go to contract in early 2013 and people will see physcial construction work underway well before the 2014 election, so it will be “too late” to stop it. The main reasonable criticism, that it is too short on the west end, should be fixed by 2014 when the winning contractor offers to build design, finance and build the western extension to Lincoln Fields or Algonquin by the same opening date, which I also predict will be brought forward to May 2017. If I’m wrong, you may forget this prediction.

  5. What I find incredible is that they still have that entrance on Albert for the Downtown West Side stop with an underground passage way for a short block. That doesn’t make any practical sense and surely adds several million to the cost of the project. This is a similar problem to the Confederation Entrance to the Rideau station. Somehow all the steps underground don’t count and you draw the 600m radius circle from the street entrance.

  6. But didn’t you hear the news on CBC Radio this morning, Eric? Ottawa is the most livable city in Canada, so everything must be all right.

  7. The folks that own Place de Ville have never permitted their underground city (now much reduced in size from the original) to be connected with the old Delta, 240 Sparks, or Constitution Bldg, for competitive reasons. They are now proposing to replace the short podium building (old home of Scotiabank) with a 22 storey tower. I suspect they want all the OLRT entrances for themselves. So the city is building a go-around tunnel to the south, where it can economically be connected to Constitution Place, the new bldgs to go on the west side, and maybe even as far as Minto Place. Ergo, the tunnel makes sense. One could even ensionion it going to 240 Sparks. BUT, and it is a huge BUT, this is not a competitive real estate market where a subway connection might allow a landlord to get premium rates or attract a better client. The feds want cheapest space, will pay for cheapest space, and dont give a flying F if their cubicledwellers have to walk a block to the subway, they wont pay a premium for a building with a link so the landlords are faced with the expense of the link, maintaining it, and not seeing much benefit. But, on the other hand, this might keep ottawa street levels vibrant with people rather than shuffling thru underground corridors.

    1. Well since there doesn’t seem to be a west end entrance other than the one down on Albert there might be significant pedestrian traffic from Sparks past Queen south to Albert just to walk back via the tunnel to the west end of the platform. I have to hope that wise heads will prevail and a western entrance on the north side of Queen will be in the final construction.

  8. The worst thing vis-a-vis Lees isn’t necessarily the students jaywalking, it’s the thousands (likely literally) of residents living there that do so every day just to get to the station. I would know, i live there, and see it everyday. Making that a go to space (a stadium, plus a true satellite campus) is simply going to make it worse, and the city seems to ave no idea how change this.

    Its sad, really.

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