Queen Street wrap-up : for people who walk

The raison d’etre for the Queen Street reconstruction and streetscaping is to enlarge the sidewalks enough to carry all the people walking to and from the new subway entrances. All the entrances are on one street, the originally planned ones on other streets were value engineered out of existence. That there is some access from other streets is strictly courtesy of private-property access: through the Clarica Buildings lobby from Albert Street, or the underground concourse at Place de Ville (but not 240 Sparks or Constitution Square or Minto Place).

A principle Lyon Station entrance is through the Podium Building, shown below.  The inside lobby space looks generous. The sidewalks space out front is generous too, in part because the sunken sidewalk in front of the podium building has been filled it to make it level with the sidewalk. I’m not so sure why the busiest bit of sidewalk in the downtown deserves to have the curbside occupied by motor vehicles. Thousands of people will be exiting here and possibly crossing the street directly in front, stepping out from between parked cars. Or maybe it will be a taxi stand or spot for frequently moving vehicles, which is scarcely more palatable. It’s almost like we want to make it look like a pedestrian priority space, but can’t quite follow through.


The parking strip is at sidewalk level, bollards to keep cars and people separated. I think the vehicle strip extends too far east and west, as it appears to pinch the sidewalk just as people leave the forecourt to walk east or west. Physically, it will be easy to change. Politically, less so.

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I hope those tiny tree grates are an illustration error only, as they won’t let any tree survive.

If transit users walk east towards Kent, they will be rewarded by generous bulb outs at the corners. It looks like there will significant planters at the west corner too, curbed, with tree. Possibly with enough soil volume to support a tree.



Here’s a nice planter example, although it would be better with curbs around it:


Or if generously planted as in la belle Montreal:


The intersection at Bank also had wide pedestrian gathering places while they wait, and wait, to cross the street. The crosswalks are a bit longer here, because of the generous turn radii for vehicles. I rarely see people actually follow the indirect path of steeply angled crossings; people seem to prefer walking in a straight line. Two streetlights are shown here in black, on the SW and NE corners, right on the curb line, due to underground infrastructure. I really like those, they will prevent turning vehicles from climbing the curb.


The intersections all have those dreadful metal plates buried just before the curbs. The raised Lego dots are supposed to warn the visually impaired of the curb. Alas, they are expensive and well suited to Los Angeles where the codes are written, but they turn into toe-shredding hazards in Ottawa. Flip flops not welcome here! Or maybe McDonald’s will offer happy meals with toe band-aids included for the kiddies.


An alternative to metal shredders are cement pavers. It looks like those will be used to create channels in the sidewalks to lead people from entrance doors, like at the Lyon Station below, to the corner (squint to see the faint gray line set in the pavers):


Those raised intersections are interesting too. Up to now, the city has been adamant that intersections cannot be paved with decorative stones, as it would distract the drivers. Despite most other cities in north america and europe doing just that for decades. Says something about how we drive.

The paver design remains rigid squares. I wonder if that reflects the Ottawa residents’ mentality. No patterns, please, we are civil servants:


The raised crosswalks might help with winter drainage, or might not. It depends on whether they are raised six inches or eight. As evident at every driveway curb cut, slush puddles of four to six inch depth are common, and thus cover considerable sidewalk and crosswalk. Since the whole street is raised in the intersection, the road will still drain over the top of the crosswalks. If the rest of the street also drains towards the corner catchbasins, then we will accomplish very little.

Also visible on the plans are a number of large grates set in the sidewalk for exhausting air from the subways beneath. All exhaust ports are flush with the sidewalk. Strangely, the city has demanded on occasion that private developers put theirs in vertical grates suitably disguised by planters or other features (eg Minto Place). I hope the grate grids here are very tiny, as some people are nervous walking over apparently bottomless holes. As are guide dogs. Try walking up to the front door of Cathedral Hill tower to find out what I mean.


I remain unsurprised that given a generous source of unlimited exhausting hot air, the city has not seen fit to put a heat pump in the vent shaft (the Mitsubishi ones are over 400% efficient, and cost less than $4000). The hot air, converted to glycol or other liquid, could be circulated through pex tubes under the paver blocks to keep the sidewalks dry all winter. It would also reduce slush and grit tracking into the station lobbies and escalators (where provided).

I also remain unsurprised, albeit disappointed, that the conspicuous caring for pedestrians only extends a bit east and west of the stations along Queen. For transit users walking onto the north and south streets bound for their office cubicles it is back to narrow concrete sidewalks festooned with utility poles and sign posts. And on-sidewalk bike parking posts. But in 2020 or so we may get some redo-lite on Albert and Slater Streets should the buses actually go away. That will only leave the north-south sidewalks for improvement in the 2030’s.