Westward ho ! (part ii) Western LRT along the parkway

central section


Rochester Field, now to be a condo development site with a green corridor to the parkway along its western (left) edge, is shown on the above map just above the word Richmond [Road].

The new LRT line, in a shallow cut-and-cover tunnel, with the eastbound traffic lanes of the Ottawa River parkway piggybacking on top, is shown as a thick orangey line extending straight along the parkland.

This kilometer-long straight section I find very alarming. The “Parkway” is already derisively known as the Ottawa River Commuter Expressway because of its current high volumes and speeds that rarely descend to the posted limits. The too-gentle curves and wide-open sight-lines of the current parkway perfectly fit the traffic engineers model for safe (to motorists) high speed highways.

The new Macdonald parkway / expressway will be flatter, straighter, and faster.

Unless: the designers deliberately introduce some curves, preferably sharpish ones, that force people who drive to engage with the road instead of “sightseeing” (aka pedal to the metal). The NCC parkways are one set of roads where the stated purposes are hugely at odds with the actual use.

Being on a raised embankment, the tire and engine noise will carry farther; however, there will now be automobiles rather than a mix of autos and (noisier?) buses.

The median between the two directions of the parkway appears to be about 10-15′. This will permit greenspace users to cross one direction of traffic to a “pedestrian refuge” before risking the crossing of the second set of lanes. Safe road design is,  of course, code for transferring risk from people who drive to people who walk.

There is always the possibility that the NCC will decide that the two new underpasses (at Dominion and Clearly) will suffice, and “for safety reasons” prohibit road crossing, but the diagrams thus far do not include fences. Cleverly designed embankments and shrub beds can do almost as good a job, and don’t have to be shown on plans.

An additional underpass to facilitate access to the river from the Rochester Field remnant / green corridor, or Mansfield/Fraser Streets, is infeasible due to the depth of the train tunnel. I cannot imagine the NCC “blighting” the motorists’ view with a pedestrian overpass. So the residential areas to the south of the parkway, including McKellar Park, will continue to have impaired accesses to the shoreline.

I also wonder if that median is wide enough to support trees or shrubs and snowbanks. Without vegetation, that central median is going to have all the charm of Carling Avenue.

At the red line marked B there is a cross section that looks like this:

cross section, skead middle section


The train tunnel is shown with centre divider wall or post(s). Above the tunnel is the eastbound lanes. The median is about the width of a car lane (12-14′). The roadbed under the parkway is about 1m deep.

For people in the residential areas bordering the parkway on the south, their view lines are preserved. For residents (and others) who wish to walk to the next LRT station at Dominion or Cleary (about 1/2 km away, an easy walk) there isn’t yet any clue if the NCC and City will replace the south side walking path much beloved by dog walkers.

For people who use transit, the design is bloody awful. The direct route itself is acceptable, but that tunnel ! The surface of the earth is reserved for people who drive cars, with some provision for people who walk or cycle. People who use transit are some sort of embarrassing defective cousins best shut up out of sight, buried in a tunnel or confined to the ditch. Tunnels are fine when necessary to go under buildings or congested cross streets, but here the design is primarily to ensure an entire class of people remain unseen. Unclean. Unclean !

I wonder what evils will befall people who commute from Kanata and actually see some of that very expensive waterfront park? Oh, yeah, they’re called car commuters.

The revised location of the parkway lanes will increase the amount of non-road parkspace along the shoreline by about 38%, a significant increase. The NCC intends to relandscape the now-wider space with a new contiguous park running from downtown to Pinecrest Creek. Note, however, that they could have got even more waterfront parkland space if they had removed two of the lanes and made the parkway more like the Queen Elizabeth Driveway (one of the consulting engineers on the joint NCC-City team believes this is feasible west of Dominion due to the low volumes of traffic on the road compared to its design capacity. East of Dominion, the road has to stay four lanes due to the queuing or tailback of cars waiting to turn at Island Park).

To misquote a poet, another road not taken.

The current parkland model is very 1960′s — it is designed to be seen from moving vehicles, rather than engaged with by foot or bike. The spaces between the trees are often huge. The ground is hard, as all maintenance is to be done from trucks, which requires hard-packed soil that hampers tree growth. Some of the “park” space is of course, paved parking lots, which have the right of way over people who walk or people who cycle along the pathways. There is much to improve.

The current parkways have “urban” style rainfall management. Water is rushed along paved surfaces to catch basins, where it is promptly piped to the river, to nourish our wild flora and fauna. The packed-hard surfaced slopes, so convenient for maintenance, reduce infiltration and starves the trees. I hope the new designers of the new parkways will strive for 100% surface run off into storm management swales and marshes, often marketed under the moniker “rain gardens”. Trees need to be protected from vehicles driving over and crushing their root zone. It’s a big design change, but I am confident the NCC is one organization capable of achieving a modern shoreline. Alas, its the City that is responsible in this contract for handling the runoff. Oh oh.

Next: Cleary Stations and reviewing the whole deal



4 thoughts on “Westward ho ! (part ii) Western LRT along the parkway

  1. Let’s not forget that with this scheme (as opposed to all the others that have been considered/proposed before), the Parkway will be reduced to just two lanes *during* the construction phase.

    That means transit service for those poor transit-riding souls living west of Dominion (or, rather, Lincoln Fields, since, apparently, given the “it’s not for us, it’s for commuters!” reaction of the loudest locals, no one living between Dominion and Lincoln Fields uses rapid transit ride now) will be unnecessarily disrupted for an extended period of time to construct this below the water table tunnel. In previous plans, the disruption would only have commenced when the Dominion-Tunney’s portion of the West Transitway was converted, a much shorter process than building a tunnel. Of course they’ll still experience that disruption, as well.

  2. “The surface of the earth is reserved for people who drive cars, with some provision for people who walk or cycle. People who use transit are some sort of embarrassing defective cousins best shut up out of sight, buried in a tunnel or confined to the ditch. Tunnels are fine when necessary to go under buildings or congested cross streets, but here the design is primarily to ensure an entire class of people remain unseen. Unclean. Unclean !”

    I had a slight preference for an uncovered LRT when I first heard about the alignment. The more the NCC insisted against it, the more I stubbornly wanted it, if only because the NCC didn’t like it. I didn’t have much of a reason beyond that and the price tag (burying it for no better reason than the NCC decided it was a better option never made sense to me) but it wasn’t until I spotted the article, Burying transit, and the people who use it on the blog Public Transit in Ottawa http://www.transitottawa.ca/2014/11/burying-transit-and-people-who-use-it.html that I realized WHY I opposed it:

    “A woman there discussed the city’s preferred alignment with me, and expressed her dismay that the beautiful scenery of the Sir John A. MacDonald Parkway was being taken away from transit users. Her point was that the users of transit, many of whom are lower-income residents of our city, were being buried underground in order to preserve the “experience” of private automobile drivers who use the Parkway.

    “The woman pointed out the fact that as buses today drive along the Parkway, riders are often visibly relieved by the vistas of trees, greenery, and the Ottawa River. Many look up from their phones, books, or magazines and out towards the Gatineau Hills, breathing more deeply and seemingly releasing tension from their daily activities. As a user of the line, this is an experience I can testify to; I often prefer to take an inside seat on the right side of the buses, where I can get a better view out the window.”

    Most importantly: the NCC’s “recommendations fail to acknowledge that OC Transpo riders are also users of the corridor, and they should be allowed to enjoy it as well.”

  3. The straightness of that roadway surprised me, too. It’s bound to become quite the speedway for middle-of-the-night drag racers.

    I did want to take issue with one tangential thing you said, though, Eric: “The “Parkway” is already derisively known as the Ottawa River Commuter Expressway…” You appear to be the only one who uses this expression, at least as far as Google can tell: https://www.google.ca/search?q=“Ottawa+River+Commuter+Expressway”+-westsideaction

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