Rare unplanned-for-event at the transit station …


Readers of yesterday’s story might get the impression I was unenthused about the design of the Preston extension and LeBreton temporary transit station.

You’d be right.

Now we all know it snows in Ottawa. Sometimes a lot. So I am sure the planning boffins ran their fingers over the paved road shoulder “sidewalks” and the platforms at LeBreton Station and the walking required to get from platform to platform, or neighbourhood to platform. And then imagined how they  could be plowed. And then coordinated with the snow plow folks to ensure the stations and their access were plowed early, plowed often, and plowed well.

You’re not so sure? Cum’on, of course they did.

Well, at least for the motor vehicle road, they did. It was well plowed during and right after the storm. Right down to bare asphalt. With tons of salt to make one feel like one was on the rocks at Peggy’s Cove during “superstorm” Sandy.

The whole project opened up Dec 21st. Let’s look at the layout worked on the first not-atypical snowfall in January.

As visible in the picture (above) there is evidence of a sidewalk snowplow having been on site. May have been rather high speed, because the plowing is sort of hit and miss, much like it is when sidewalk plows go too fast on roller coaster sections of city sidewalks. (In contrast, the sidewalks south of Albert, and along Albert itself, part of the regular established plowing routine, were fully clear and gritted by 8am).


The road plows, of course, push the stuff onto the pseudo- “sidewalks”. While wading thru the muck, pedestrians get a quick rinse of the salty brine in the Great Ottawa Spray Wash event.

Parts of the walk are on the unraised sidewalks, ie paved road shoulders, separated from high speed vehicles by a row of spiked down curbs with barber poles demarking the pedestrian zone, such as it is. These pic were taken at noon, Jan 5th. Totally functional and appealing; for roadside snow storage:



Pedestrians or bus transferring passengers trying to get to the westbound platform, visible in the photo below (if you squint enough, in the distance beyond the utility pole),  have to cross Preston extension.   At a signalized intersection.   And that ped light, remember, doesn’t come on by itself. No siree, you gotta climb that bank and push that button or it will forever stay DO NOT WALK.




And if you manage to get across Preston, climb and safely descend Mount Slushmore, and want to walk to the westbound platform …


(Above): the amazing sunken sidewalk (to the right of those barber poles and fluttering yellow danger tape *) isn’t even plowed. Indeed, it may not be plowable, being pretty much a hole beside the road. Because the City saved a few hundred dollars by not putting in 50′ of raised sidewalk along those curbs which is at least in theory, plowable. Intimidating to walk on before it snowed, this space is criminally dangerous design when it snows. Nice to know the value of pedestrian safety and convenience at a major transit station.


At this point, I gave up going to visit my Alzheimer-plagued mother at her “home” and retreated back to my house. At least she will forget that I was on my way.

Of course, you could always walk on the transitway itself to the westbound platform, depending on our professional chauffeurs to avoid the peds. I have total confidence in that.

I might not feel so safe walking south towards Albert, as this man is, on the west side of Preston, on the 24″ road shoulder provided in lieu of a sidewalk. I’d be awfully nervous and tense walking with my back to those amateur drivers the traffic engineers are encouraging to speed through here at 70 kmh:



Mind, if he couldn’t or wouldn’t climb the snowbanks to push the button to beg for a crossing light, he would never be able to “safely” cross Preston back at the transitway. Faced with the choice of the impossible crossing or the unsafe road shoulder, he made his choice and actually survived all the way to Albert. Good for him.

But wait, at Albert, how did he manage to get onto the sidewalk along Albert, or to the post to push the button to beg for a light to cross Albert to go up Preston … when the sidewalks are blocked off by not just side-plowed snow and slush, but rammed in hard-as-rocks snowcrete:




Some plow operator, concerned to make this new high speed shortcut to Pointe Gatineau safer for motorists did an exemplary job of pushing the snow off the asphalt road. Too bad he had to stuff it all onto the sidewalk.

the Moral: even when designing pedestrian friendly infrastructure at major transit stations, we fail. Epic fail. Motormania rules.


* why was danger tape put up here? Was it because someone proactively thought (admitted) it was dangerous? Or because they observed peds walking on the road instead of the “sidewalk cleverly disguised as a road shoulder”? Do they plan on sending some city employee out every so often to replenish the tape? Would a better design have been cheaper?

PS: I tried to send these pictures to the city by email on Jan 4th, when the incident was fresh and the opportunity to learn and improve was (theoretically) possible, but all the emails bounced, there being some sort of very small limit on pictures in emails to city hall. I then found out that while some inside city hall can actually see this blog, their IT kindergarten kops strip out all the photos. Must make for fun reading to get captions but no pictures. Maybe it is time to drag out the old moniker “banned at city hall”.

5 thoughts on “Rare unplanned-for-event at the transit station …

  1. Just for the record, I work for the city and can view your blog, pictures and all, from a city computer.

    1. Chris – interesting. I know people in the councillors office area can see the whole blog. I was recently in contact with employees in traffic planning in the city hall bldg who said they couldn’t. Some in constellation bldg can see pic, some cannot, but this last bit of info is over 18 months old.

      How about it, city hall dwellers… who can see this blog, pic and all, and who cannot??

  2. I can see the pictures just fine on my regular computer with the scripts turned off.

    As for your main point, I agree completely. The city has been given over to the machines and I guess we should acknowledge our overlords. The humans really don’t have value in these plans. I worried about that when I walked the space before the snow. I’m very happy I don’t have to use that station or that pathway on a daily basis!

  3. On a related nearby note, there is new signage at the Empress and Albert intersection limiting pedestrian crossings. With the closure of the north side path this week, it will make the bus stop on the northwest corner of this intersection completely inaccessible, however, there is no indication that the stop itself will actually be out of service or relocating. In fact, the city seems to be directing people who use the similar westbound stop at Booth and Albert to this one in the link below. Know anything about the temporary plans for this intersection?


  4. I have a feeling the caution tape is not for pedestrians, but rather for bus drivers, so they are reminded not to open their doors until they are at the actual platform. A few stations (Pleasant Park comes to mind) have semi-permanent barriers to this effect.

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