The new LRT transit rail lines will go where the bus transitway is now. For the duration of the construction period, the buses will have to run somewhere else.
This is not an insignificant matter. There are about 190 buses per hour per direction. On the west side, the city is going to move them all onto Albert / Scott Street.
I don’t think I have been particularly somnolent in the last year, and I have attended several briefings (last one just in October) by the City on the upcoming construction work, but the detour stuff was not, to my recollection, portrayed as decided.
There will be a public meeting* on Tuesday at Tom Brown Arena between 7 and 9pm. Bring your pitchforks and bodyguards, it promises to be exciting.
[ * Just like the last public meeting on the construction, the city has managed to schedule two important community meetings at widely separated places at the same hour, both involving the same community associations and neighbourhoods. Unlike some people, I am sure this not a conspiracy to repress the restless populace]
What is proposed
The city will detour all buses off the transitway onto Scott at Holland. They will travel along Scott to Bayview, then go past Bayview Station / OTrain along Albert, following Albert past Preston to Empress, where they will join the existing bus lanes on ALbert-Slater through the downtown.
For the most part, the buses will travel in the curb lanes. The number of buses is approximately 190 per peak hour direction, ie rush hours.
Scott is rather narrow and undulating. Albert has dysfunctional storm drains/catchbasins and the sidewalk is mostly flat to the road. Both streets have been constructed very close to the houses.
The existing curb lanes are too narrow to fit that many buses onto. So they will widen both Scott and Albert on the north side. The new bus curbside lanes will be 3.8m wide, about 12 feet. This is not a generous lane width.
In addition, so as to not unduly inconvenience motorists on the same routes, in particular to avoid any delays to motorists, there will be some additional lanes here and there:
- at Booth, there will be 7 lanes
- east of Preston, there will be 6 lanes
- west of Preston, there will be 5 lanes, plus a median
- they will not repair, replace, nor rebuild the existing sidewalks on the north side
- east of City Centre, there will be 6 lanes
- all these will reduce to the existing four lanes on the OTrain overpass, which many consider claustrophobic now
- there will be no change to the [unwalkable?] sidewalks on the overpass
- there will new traffic signals at City Centre avenue
- they will remove the current signalized pedestrian crossing at Bayview Station
- OTrain station access will be via the current sloped pathway on the north side of Albert; and new similar pathway to be constructed on the south side
- widening Albert will cause the reconstruction of a temporary multi user path on the north side of Albert
- the new path will be at the same height as the north curb, and flush to the curb. Cyclists will no doubt enjoy riding in the mirror zone of 190 buses per hour
- a temporary connection of the northside MUP will be constructed from City Centre Avenue to Bayview Avenue, around the north end of the OTrain Station.
Theme of the Open House
It appears to some observers that the main theme of the open house is to inform the public that the detour selection is a fait accompli, there are no alternatives, and the focus now is try to identify some “mitigation measures”.
This may be why the crudely typed public invitation to the open house was headed “Notice” rather than some more tactful wording that might suggest consultation.
Despite a number of community association briefings — which we all lamented were distressingly vague and imprecise — it turns out that there actually are a number of background studies to this detour, which the City has
concealed forgotten to share. These date back to October 2011, and do have pretty coloured covers and bound edges and lots of data in them. Data which the City has consistently denied it had available, when we asked.
One study is on the noise impacts along Scott-Albert.
This, i should point out, is the noise of the buses, not the noise of the community associations and residents. While the volume has been loudest from Hintonburg, there are actually only 9 houses facing or side-on to Scott between Holland and Bayview. There are, of course, many more houses up the side streets.
Between City Centre and Preston there are about 21 houses, mostly backing onto Albert. They have back fences, but the buses will be visible well above them. There is also a approx.50 unit senior’s apartment building. East of Preston, to Lorne, there are 77 townhouses, mostly owned by OCH and CCOC, and a approx 50 unit apartment building at the corner of Booth. Many of the townhouses are set behind a short sound and dirt wall (approx 3′ high on the dwelling side; about 8′ high on the street side). There are 9 traditional houses with doors facing the street, between Lorne and Empress.
But, I didn’t find that data in the reports. I had to go out and count the houses. I did not count mailboxes or doorbells, which would have identified which houses are duplexed.
The sound study also did not measure sound or vibration inside any houses. Only at street level. And, most curiously, only on weekends.
This weekends-only data leads them to the conclusion that the noise increase is minimal. Mind, that might have been influenced by the lack of the 190 buses per hour per direction that they missed on weekday rush hours. That’s right, the noise and vibration study only considered Saturdays and Sundays.
What happened to residents from 5am on Monday to midnight Friday remains a mystery. Are no residents home during the day? No one is retired? No one works from home? No one is home with the kids? The kids are so busy with Mario Cart or — if older — making four o’clock pregnancies, that they won’t notice the buses and bouncing floors?
And, curiously, they evenly spaced out those weekend buses, so that they go by only every five minutes. They managed to miss that the buses are scheduled to go by in platoons (groups of buses).
Indeed, in a mastery of understatement, the city claims Scott-Albert currently has 30-70 bus movements per day, but after the transitway is diverted, this will be “more than 70” per day. However, the sound tests were only conducted on weekends, and the recommendations only apply for “occasional” bus events, not 190 buses per hour per direct direction.
Noise abatement? Yeah, sure, but only AFTER the buses are Scott-Albert, and only IF new sound tests show the noise levels to be too elevated, then the city will CONSIDER retrofitting the road with temporary sound abatement walls (presumably this means jersey barriers, those portable concrete walls put along construction zones).
What of all those buses passing over the catch basins along the curbside? They already bounce the adjacent sidewalk. And these are for catch basins that neither catch nor drain the street promptly. Well, the city proposes that maybe a neoprene ( rubber) ring put under the metal grate will “mitigate” the vibrations except for residences that directly front or side onto the street. (Recall, that is about 225 units).
Perhaps the city can charge admission to walk on the sidewalks while being sucked back and forth by fleets of passing buses and simultaneously being drenched in salt spray?? Losers will get the mirror prize, and “getting mirrored” will enter our lexicon.
The city’s studies do NOT include any study of the diesel fumes, vaporized rubber (tires wear out … where does all that rubber go to?) , air quality, or brake dust. Brake dust is probably waaaaay more dangerous than the diesel fumes, but I may be wrong about that. Perhaps the unmeasured rubber particulates are worse. But we won’t know.
It is notable that the city’s stated objectives for the studies (maintain existing routings as closely as possible; minimize additional transit travel times; minimize additional transfers; minimize additional buses required due to slower service; minimize throw-away costs (ie unreusable stuff); minimize bus traffic in residential areas, minimize disruption to cars) only one of those is a reference to adjacent residents, and even that seems to refer more to buses on residential streets which assuredly Scott and Albert are not.
A number of alternative detour routings that interest community groups were dismissed by the studies right out of the gate, in order to “ensure study resources were focused appropriately”. So kind.
Using the Queensway was ruled out based on “the experience of regular commuters” that it is inappropriate. Presumably these regular commuters are the authors of the study who commute by car, as they neither sought out nor provided any actual data.
The Ottawa River Parkway? No, it might inconvenience motorists. Bus lanes on the parkway? No. To quote: …not pursued because of the negative impact the removal of travel lane would have on general traffic travel times”. Car commuters reign.
Can the city run all those express and transitway buses on Scott along with the local buses? Well, those few local buses (eg, No 16) might stop along the street (the transitway buses won’t) so maybe they will have to be moved off Scott-Albert to “an adjacent street”. Details unspecified.
Note to City staff: it would be helpful if you knew which street was Scott and which was Albert, as they are mislabeled and misreferred to throughout the reports and drawings. Remember: Scott runs west of Bayview; Albert runs from Bayview Avenue to the downtown.
The bus detour studies also seem to skip over the need for a replacement station for LeBreton during the two years or more that Booth Street to Hull will be closed, due to construction. If a replacement is located at Preston, that will mean a lot of stopping and starting buses right outside people’s houses and apartments. Pesky details. Move on folks.
Maybe there will be more info at the public meeting Tuesday evening, Dec. 3rd, at Tom Brown, 7 to 9pm.
Endnote: the City promises residents that all this will be worth it, because the shiny trains will be so impressive. And after it is all built and opened, the City may rebuild Scott and Albert to new complete street standards. However, the stick (all those buses) is guaranteed; the promise (gorgeous new road) is just a promise. No guarantees.
And no, they can’t rebuild the road first. Is that because all those buses would wreck it?