Perhaps the most controversial and divisive suggestion for converting the transitway to LRT concerned the portion along the Ottawa River Parkway. There seems to be a large crowd that is convinced the parkway would be ruined by letting LRT transit users have a view instead of just motorists. Concerns were expressed about destroying green space, the aesthetics of overhead wiring, and the danger to dog walkers from high speed trains. Spectres of high chain link fences demarking the line where it slashed through mature forests … etc etc.
Recall that two of the Richmond-Byron options covered in the previous post used tiny bits of the Parkway – from Dominion Station to Rochester Field, and from Dominion Station to Cleary Avenue. Both of these options added the rail lines to the space south of the existing Ottawa River Commuter Expressway lanes. No car lanes would be removed.
For the options that use more of the Parkway, the City proposes removing the two eastbound car lanes, and replacing them with the LRT tracks. The alignment would have to be modified slightly to smooth out the curves. The City is allocating an enormous sum (compared to landscaping for other sections) to “restore” and grade the areas along the tracks.
The rationale for replacing two car lanes with transit tracks is interesting. They have not advanced the argument that it is better on environmental grounds to reallocate valuable cultural landscapes from private autos to public transit. Rather, they point out that the Parkway currently functions at rush hour as one lane in each direction for general traffic, and one lane in each direction for buses. Off peak, there is only enough traffic to warrant one lane in each direction anyway. So, they argue, removing the eastbound lanes and converting the westbound lanes into a two-way two-lane road has the same private car capacity as now.
As for the aesthetics, they put forward the position that the new tracks simply reuse a modified eastbound lanes embankment. The tracks will not be fenced. A number of people at the presentation scoffed at this, but the engineers point out that the existing buses travel at 80kmh with no fences, and some people elect to cross the road. The planners suggest that with some berming and careful planting of shrub beds, parkland users can be gently directed towards the underpasses. New underpasses would be added at Woodroffe and maybe elsewhere.
Instead of fence, the engineers suggest a more subtle penetrable warning line might work. For now, they are suggesting posts and a chain, like in a bank lineup, to warn users that they are approaching the track.
The warnings are required since they are also investigating “green tracks”, as used most famously in Holland. There, grass is planted right up to the rails, and the city places trays of grass between the rails. The result is two steel rails apparently running through a lawn.
At the meeting, someone scoffed that dog walkers and others would trip over the rails (and then be run over) so this is more hazardous than a road, but I don’t see why this is any different from six inch high concrete walls called curbs.
In the evaluation criteria (covered in an upcoming post) the attributes of each route option is measured, including the urban intensification potential. Ironically, I didn’t think (judging by the questions) that opponents of the Parkway option realized that dumping on it for reduced intensification implies they prefer the Richmond corridor as more attractive because of its greater intensification potential. Did the people living along the Parkway realize how much land along Richmond can be developed as high rises? Does Dilawri want to retire rich?
In the illustration below, the top left picture shows a train travelling past Ambleside. The bottom left picture shows how the eastbound berm is higher than the westbound, offering nice river views for transit commuters and transit tourists. The top right picture shows the bike path/car lanes/train track on the same parkway corridor. It also makes the point that a train track doesn’t take up much more room than the bike path. The bottom right picture shows the grass growing up to the edge of the rails, a gentle chain fence, and a membrane over the ties to create a smooth surface. It is also possible to put grass between the rails, in shallow trays.