western LRT (part ii) : Byron strip

The strip of greenspace that runs between Byron and Richmond Roads in the west end is either a linear park, or a transit right-of-way, depending on your view as to the availability of said space for the LRT transit initiative.

The WLRT design folks are trying to tread a difficult path in saying they will use some of the Richmond Road right of way for LRT but not the linear park. It just doesn’t seem readily apparent that this can be done.

As a member of the Public Advisory Committee (PAC) for the WLRT, I had my share of frustrations with the transportation engineers and their unwillingness to deal with obvious objections right out of the gate, so that a more intelligent conversation could be had about the consequences of various routing options. Lack of information = distrust. Claims of conspiracy. Emotion over reason. Frustration that community consultation is a farce.

I think the public debate about the consequences of the Richmond options could be enhanced by providing a clear cross-section of the rights of way, from the north edge of the Richmond sidewalk to the property lines of the houses south of Byron. This would take the form of a plan, showing first of all a typical block, curb lines, lane widths, dirt space, greenspace, etc. Then would come the “after” drawing, showing a typical block post construction.

Before and after drawings would be required for one location where the LRT was at grade; one location where it was ascending or descending into a tunnel; and one location where it was underground and covered.

The reason I wanted to see such pictures is because we are mostly a visually-cued society. We watch TV or YouTube rather than read papers. Papers and magazines are moving on line, where they incorporate video material. We can see the existing Byron strip but have a hard time imaging what it could look like. So fear reigns, fertilizing wild stories.

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I have a hard time imaging what a redeveloped strip might look like. But I do know that Byron is wa-a-a-a-y too wide a road as it is, with grossly oversized dirt shoulders and parking areas. It appears a barrier between the Highland and McKellar neighbourhoods and the strip. The road attracts too much traffic travelling too fast, which is no surprise given its excessive width and straightness. *

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I imagine Byron rebuilt with two as-narrow-as-is-legal lanes. Add one set of parking bays, probably on the north side( the greenstrip edge). End the parking bays with bulb outs at every cross street. Plant trees in said bulb outs.

I fully expect that design to visually narrow the street, slowing traffic, making crossing distances shorter, and safer, and expanding the park significantly on its south side.

I don’t trust the engineering staff who say the LRT will fit easily in the south side lanes of Richmond. The actual train right of way will have to be about 30′ wide, that’s taking  at least one asphalt lane off Richmond and using the dirt shoulder to boot. Richmond could easily give up that lane space, and the community should be excited about the prospects of a road diet.

Without a set of plans showing the before and after across the entire Richmond – Byron rights of way, it will be difficult to have an informed debate about the impacts of using that right of way.




*  The last time I drove on Byron in a car — although I cycle it regularly — was with a community activist in her Volvo  We went terrifyingly fast, rolled through every stop sign, and squealed tires turning onto her side street. I opted to walk home.

8 thoughts on “western LRT (part ii) : Byron strip

  1. I completely agree – both in your critique of the process up til now, and of the limitations of this kind of presentation without more detailed visuals of overall impact. I’m particularly baffled by the series of drawings around the Cleary station showing bike paths in odd and contradictory places.
    I was never a fan of LRT on the parkway necessarily, but at least that would have given us the chance to consider re-engineering the riverfront expressway down to two lanes and negotiate for more access points.
    If this is the design we go forward with, I would hope the NCC would step up to the plate with some creative parkway redesigns of their own. Because after all, River Access is one of their criteria. So for example, perhaps creating a traffic-slowing pedestrian and bike plaza / crossing at Clearly would be nice for one – since with a train station there, more bikes and walkers will surely be sprinting across traffic..

    1. If I were a nearby resident I would welcome LRT to run along Richmond and leverage it into an opportunity to gain an attractive and functional space alongside. I have always felt that the flaws of Byron road are obvious and why people would stand up to preserve it is beyond me.

      I believe that whatever the LRT steals from the north side could be gained back in spades on the south side by redesigning and, in some spots, eliminating Byron. I can imagine a beautiful linear park running alongside the rail which is completely suitable for cycling and dog-walking. A berm (if needed) could shield residents from any noise and view of the train. Beneficial commercial development could happen on the north side of Richmond effectively extending the Westboro strip and helping reduce rent inflation by adding a bit more supply. I see it as a win-win opportunity. Lobbying efforts should be put into getting a good plan, not trying to push the LRT elsewhere.

  2. Is there a reason why the LRT has to be on the Richmond side of the linear park? It seems like you are saying that the Byron roadway could be narrowed much more conveniently than the Richmond roadway. It certainly would be a much less disruptive during construction if they are closing off sections of Byron instead of Richmond.

  3. I was suspicious when I read about the “new” routes for western LRT. What had changed in the NCC position that all of a sudden allowed them to consider the Parkway land again?

    The answer came in the news today. Nothing. So the city is down to one option. Frankly, I’m pleased to hear it. Not just because I have always thought that Richmond road was the best route, but also because it was the inevitable last contender.

    1. I scanned the open house at City Hall tonight to see if Eric was there. Not sure, but I’m curious to find out. At any rate, if tonight was any indication, the city’s latest plan has an uphill climb. Not because it isn’t a good plan; I think it is. But because the residents of the neighbourhood (at least those who showed up and lined up to strut and fret their minutes at the microphone) appeared to care little or nothing about transportation, civic finances, logic, physics, or indeed anything but their peace, quiet, and property values (which are apparently going to be slashed by the city’s callous building of rapid transit to their doors.

      We heard about years of explosions (to lay streetcar tracks in a former rail bed!) the 30 metre right-of-way required for the trains (the width of Carling, approximately 4 times what is actually needed!) the fact that the train would be right beside houses (actually about 27 metres!) as opposed to the buses on the parkway, which are hundreds of metres away (actually about 50 metres — the entire corridor along the river is little more than 100 metres wide!). We heard – at the public consultation! – that there was no public consultation.

      This gang wants the line on Carling, despite the opinion of every transport planner who’s been asked, and the fact that it would cost 3 times as much, and be an elevated eyesore, and would lengthen commutes by 3 to 13 minutes. Or entirely buried, which would cost twice as much. But they don’t care about that. I pointed out to the woman beside me that her idea, underground from Rochester Field to Lincoln Fields would cost every living soul in Ottawa $1000 dollars more than the preferred rout. She could not have cared less. They made it clear that they didn’t care if any other transit project in Ottawa ever got built.

      I don’t know how the staff and councillors there — all were very cool and well prepared — do it. Certainly, they seldom ever called out even the most egregious misrepresentations of reality. Maybe they’ll get through this and come up with a plan that pleases all. Or maybe the city will build rail south and further east, where people are asking for it. And buses will trundle down the Parkway forever, safeguarding the stunning views and fresh breezes of this pristine wilderness.

      1. Capital Seven: Yeah, I was there. I can justify the meeting last night on only one grounds: that it allowed people to vent (there’s another V word that might be more apt) and thus avoids armed insurrection. Hopefully, having spewed their say, the neighborhood will go back to sleep and the city will build the WLRT. It would be safest for hobbs and whomever else represents the area to vote against it, sure to lose in a watson-coordinated vote, and preserve their re-election chances.

        Sure, most of the commentary was breathtakingly self-serving and short sighted and illogical. As a taxpayer, my biggest concern is that the city will bury the rest of the line under Richmond between Cleary and Rochester field, sticking us with the bill. But the city of ottawa generally works that way, rich neighbourhoods get tons of services and deluxe tunnels, the rest of us get an open trench with minimal landscaping.

        I also noted the high degree of infighting within the “community”: east of cleary denigrating those west, low rise dwellers despising apt dwellers, speakers eager to preface their remarks by noting their status “I’m a doctor and own a house facing the riverfront and ….” sort of thing.

        1. Yep, lots of NIMBYs in this corner of the world. Had I been free, I would have been the lone local resident applauding the return of light rail to the neighbourhood, and asking them to start sooner rather than later… and then been tarred and feathered by the neighbours.

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