Westward Ho ! (part iii) the curse of stations and transit users

The Cleary Avenue end of the western LRT and motor expressway corridor is shown here:

cleary stn area to richmond road


The westbound trains enter the picture from the right, along the orange line. Cleary Station is shown in dark blue. The Unitarian Church and apartment building is shown a bit further west (left). The underground track alignment swings gently under the Unitarian parking lot to get out towards its (under) Richmond Road alignment.

The swing out to Richmond will occur under a car repair shop and/or Kristy’s restaurant. These businesses will not remain in place during construction. Since dig-the-ditch-and-cover construction won’t start until 2017 at the earliest, there is still time to the get the beast repaired or fed.

richmond road


The Cleary Station is on NCC land. Therefore, it is under NCC land, as they cannot abide the sight of a station. The station is to be 100% underground and not visible. Presumably there will be some sort of access hatch for patrons to get to the station.

And the plans do show a revised pathway skirting the station to get to the new underpass under the road for people who drive. I hope people will be able to exit the station onto the path, since improving waterfront access to the great unwashed inland masses is a stated objective of the exercise to preserve a cultural landscape.

But why can’t station users wait in a lobby, of a NCC-vetted design, with a view to the water? The site the station is under rises sharply at its west end, so a building can have both a view and be nestled into the bosom of this great cultural treasure.

I find the CIty and the NCC both terribly bad at incorporating the stations into the landscape. The Bayview Station, for example, is on a relatively high point of land with fabulous views of the water and towards the downtown. The City is adamant that view planes, sight lines, and aesthetic values cannot be entertained for their Stations even if free.

The NCC wants a LeBreton Flats that is an exemplar of urban planning, an urban showcase befitting a national capital, etc etc. But that must not include actively working transit stations as a key feature of that design. Ditto for transit along the western parkway. Transit users should well bells to warn the NCC they are coming.

The NCC also wants to “animate” the waterfront, to attract more people.  I wonder why we couldn’t have had a Cleary Station with underground platform with a glass roof or skylights (suitably disguised from motorists’ view) and a above ground entry lobby with a new Kristy’s restaurant (or facsimile) where ordinary-budget diners could enjoy a waterfront view instead of Richmond Road. Kept well back from the shoreline, of course. And their parking lot wouldn’t have to be gracing the waterfront either. Too practical? Too lower class?

cleary stn cross section

Earlier plans for the western LRT had a station at Woodroffe Avenue. That is  gone. It would have been near Richmond and Woodroffe, accessible by bus and by people dropping off or picking up transit users.

There is no clue how people who are being driven will access the new Cleary Station, located as it is on a dead end road. Will the 87 bus that now uses Woodroffe and the Parkway now short-turn at Cleary? Or Lincoln Fields? Will the No 2 detour in at Clearly or stay on Richmond with stern admonitions to passengers to take a hike? Or will Cleary be led back out to Richmond through the spot where Kristy’s now stands?

Dominion Station has limited road access, but plenty of walk in traffic from existing and many planned highrises. Cleary’s southern hinterland is (currently) a very low rise low density area. So either the Cleary station will be lightly used, or some provision will have to be made for vehicle access. The station at Westboro modells about as skimpy a road access as could be achieved.

When will this all happen?

The City’s current plans are for Phase II (Tunney’s to Lincoln Fields, maybe all the way to Baseline and Bayshore) to start active construction in January 2017.  That gives us less than two years to sort out the paperwork and get the drawings done and contracts issued to RTG.

The section from Tunney’s to Lincoln Fields is definitely an essential part of the current Confederation Line transit system that extends eastwards to Blair but is truncated short at Tunney’s, due to the lack of a approved EA westwards. Constructing the LRT to Lincoln must happen for the basic LRT to function well.

Notice that the decision to go west, codified in the Official Plan, and now with a route, will be getting underway before the initial LRT stub line through the downtown is up and running. The tracks and stations of the current Phase I will soon start being visible on the landscape (the tunnel portion is anteclimactic as it is basically unseeable). The general public will become aware, all the time, of the LRT project, but limited to anticipation.

What better time to get the Phase II underway, based on the sizzle of an unopened system, avoiding any “teething problems” (the (N)o-Train is surely an anomaly) or disappointment of the actual product, should there prove to be buyers’ remorse.

Who Pays for all this?

We do, of course, either through our Federal pocket; Provincial pocket; or for the municipal pocket, anyone buying any new real estate or home sees a hefty capital contribution via “development charges”.  Housing along the LRT route won’t be getting any cheaper.

For the actual parkway section, the City pays for all construction of the LRT, all construction of the Stations, and all construction of the new parkway / expressway lanes, and for the two new underpasses, and for all the site grading and water handling. With NCC oversight.

In addition, the City will give the NCC not less than $30 million for landscaping the route. That $30 million divided by, say, 2km, works out to $15,000 a metre for landscape finishes. I’m sure they will spend it wisely all.

In addition, the City will pay the NCC for the use of the actual right of way privilege. I didn’t see a sum for this mentioned in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). However, earlier in the planning, the city was estimating the value of NCC land as being the same as land along Richmond Road that is already zoned for high rises.

The City does save 10% over the cost of running the tunnel under Richmond from Rochester Field to Cleary. Every million counts.

The NCC gets an invisible LRT route (except the 20 -25% at the Dominion end) and invisible Station, and it won’t have to pay anything to relocate its 60’s era waterfront parkway away from the water’s edge. It also gets $30 million of revised landscaping along the parkway which might elevate the terrain from its 60’s era eco-blight to a more ecologically friendly roadside verge. It also gets a large chunk of land (Rochester Field) to sell, conveniently zoned high rise, within an easy walk to Dominion Station. I’m not sure the NCC actually has any significant out of pocket expenses related to the LRT. It now has some cash coming to redevelop its shoreline per its objectives. Sweet.


Wait, there’s more.

The City and NCC also provide these sketches to better illustrate what the new alignment and finished landscape might look like. Beware, it is planner’s porn (nice pictures, but you can’t have it). Does anyone really think we will get rows of trees densely planted along both sides of Woodroffe and the Parkway lanes?

Here’s the Westboro Station to Dominion Station to the tunnel portal bit:

planner porn pic dominion end(note there is some sort of  waterfront building on the top left. Too bad it we couldn’t have something atop Cleary Station too.)

Here’s that waterfront amenity building again, showing it at north of the still undeveloped Rochester Field, but without any parkway crossing:

porn pic of centre portion dominion to cleary


And, here’s the Cleary Station  (little red glob at the bottom right) and the treed Woodroffe:

porn pic of cleary to woodrooffe


 Tomorrow: WWED?











9 thoughts on “Westward Ho ! (part iii) the curse of stations and transit users

  1. Thanks Eric, great series. There is much to be annoyed about here, but I am trying to turn over a new leaf and not sound like such a sourpuss all the time…..that said – the locations of Dominion and Cleary stations: wtf?

    Dominion: OK. Grandfathered in. This will be a “lightly used station” since it’s off the main drag, and invisible to casual transit users. I don’t care how many highrises they put up there. But, it already exists so…fine.

    Cleary: Crazy. Just crazy. Please City, please: just move it a couple blocks west to Woodroffe. I didn’t realize that it was to be completely buried. If it’s going to be totally subterranean, at least put it under the intersection of two major roads and transit routes. The current planned location is…, I mean, good grief, I don’t know what to say…

    Presumably the city will say it needs to be there for two “walk radius” circles at Dominion and Cleary to intersect, or some such nonsense.

  2. The area around Cleary isn’t quite as low density as you’re making it out to be: to the east there’s a 5 or 6 storey condo, and townhouses to the east of that. To the immediate south is a strip mall slated for redevelopment, and south of Richmond and Byron are a number of low-rise walkups (which may be due for replacement). To the west is another apartment building, plus emptyish properties rife for redevelopment. It’s only off to the southeast and northwest that low rise low density exists.

    Looking at the diagram west of Cleary, I don’t get why the routing leaves the former CPR corridor to Richmond only after passing behind the dental office in the former Harvey’s building. Surely it would be a lot cheaper to expropriate a dental office – move it into the ground floor of a condo, say – than to do the same to Kristy’s. Doing so might also avoid taking out Dave Rennie’s garage and instead pass under the parking lot.

    They could also have located the station in these two or three properties that directly front Richmond Rd and leave the NCC’s lands to the NCC. Sell some air rights or something creative like that.

    Of course if the City had done some real planning on the conversion of its rapid transit system to light rail in the early 2000s rather than get distracted with an ill-conceived scheme to replace the O-Train, they might have been able to secure the property now occupied by the Continental condo building at Cleary & Richmond. That also would have taken place at a time when a far more rail-friendly federal Transport minister, David Collenette, was around.

  3. That is a huge pot of cash for the NCC to play with. They really extracted their pound of flesh. The best thing they could do with the money is reduce the parkway from 4 lanes to 2 west of Dominion. That would also make the construction disruption much less significant and costly as they could use the westbound lanes while the LRT is being constructed.

    Do you know of a good reason the Cleary station couldn’t be moved one block west to where it goes under Richmond? It seems to me it would be more accessible there,

  4. There is a 5′ watermain that runs behind the Continental condo tower, the imprecisely mapped location of which caused much grief and a delay in the building the condo of about one year. The LRT goes UNDERNEATH the watermain as the LRT swings out to Richmond Rd. If you build the station under Richmond as the LRT swings under it, you have to figure out ways to bring up the escalators and elevators between the watermains and sewers and cables, and then figure in the stopping and transfer points from buses. If you want the station on the road, ask the Councillor to request the city re-examine that option. But the city will generally prefer Cleary on the NCC side as it is totally empty land with lots of elbow room for equipment.

    1. They have – for some reason – studiously avoided even touching the parking lot of the Lord Richmond apartment tower.

      As I’m not aware of there being any underground parking*, if they were to make full use of all the properties fronting Richmond from the corner of the Continental to the Lord Richmond building itself, they could fit a station in entirely on the south side of the watermain and remaining north of Richmond Rd itself.

      *That’s from a site visit years ago (I did my best to walk the entire CPR corridor) and from their own website, which only lists outdoor parking:


  5. Can someone clarify when and why the Woodroffe station disappeared? Did planners feel it was too far from Dominion station? Was the station deemed to expensive to build?

  6. You said construction is starting in January 2017. That seems a little early to me, I thought the mayor said construction isn’t starting until after Phase 1 opens.

    Given the length of time the bidding process takes for P3s, the only way I can see construction starting that soon is if the city just gives the contract to RTG, aka sole sourcing, instead of going through the bidding process. Is that legal?

    1. para 11 of the MOU says: The NCC and the City of Ottawa are committed to work together to meet the City’s
      timeline when procurement and construction deadlines are required. According to current
      plans, procurement decisions regarding the construction of the Western Light Rail Transit
      Line are required by January 1, 2017.

      I interpret that to mean the contractor (probably RTG) has been hired by that date and engineering is underway. Test bores and other stuff will have been long complete prior to this. Does this mean bulldozers on the ground? Dunno. But it certainly means we are buying phase 2 before we experience phase 1, ie while the project is untried and exciting dream-ware. So we wont be able to learn what we do and do not like of phase 1 (eg platform sizes, access, trackside finishes, etc)before we are underway on phase 2.

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