Saturday, May 16, 2009

Inter-Provincial transit study - some observations

I went to the Open House held Thursday about the interprovincial transit study. The study should identify problems with transit going between the two cities, user problems, and suggest solutions. I signed up for a round-table exercise. It was the first one I think I have attended, and it wasn't as bad as I feared.

First, the moderators at each table were well informed and not too rigorous about keeping the participants on topic. This was important, because the topics, defined beforehand by the sponsors, were very narrow. Basically, they were looking for expressions of what the problems were.

In contrast, most of the participants were selling something: their transit solutions. I recognized a number of the participants. General public? Not really: they were, like me, transit and planning hobbyists/activists/proponents of their pet projects.

This open house, like a number of other ones I have attended, are not really broad public consultations because the attendees are self-selected (ie, already interested in the subject) or nominated by their councillors (mine checked to make sure I was going...). I think this is why the final plans that come out of some of these planning sessions and public consultation sessions generate opposition later on ... because the general public wasn't really there.

For example, a number of the people at the interprovincial meeting were the same ones I see at the DOTT meetings. I have sat on the Preston Streetscaping project for 16 years, and only now that concrete is being poured that some residents pop up saying "What?". Similarly, after all the public open houses, suddenly some are questioning the basics of the DOTT.

I don't know what the solution is. People cannot go to every meeting on every subject, there are too many meetings, on too fuzzy objectives, on projects that too often die on the vine. On the other hand, it is frustrating to go thru a multi-year process and then have people pop up at the last minute objecting to everything and wanting to start all over with a different project. LeBreton Flats planning process is an ideal example. Even though dozens of meeting have been held and the city and NCC established a final build-out plan --- politicians, citizens, newspapermen, want to throw it all out and introduce something new, like a soccer stadium. For the DOTT plan, many of the critics question decisions made a year ago, eg council says it will be a tunnel, not a surface system. So DOTT produces a tunnel options, wieghs them, and recommends one ... at which point whiners start advocating for a totally different system to solve other problems.

This interprovincial study might find something useful from the public consultation process. Or it might just be a routine gone through to say the public was consulted, to pacify the civilian planning hobbyists.


  1. I don't think it's at all fair to be characterizing those who dislike the tunnel scheme as "whiners" or that they are "suddenly" questionning the basics of it.

    The facts of the matter are that a surface option downtown, either short term or long term, has never been seriously looked at, and, more to the point here, that many have been trying to get this looked at for far more than a year. It's not "suddenly". For instance, I suggested in my initial input in the autumn of 2007 that we build LRT downtown on the surface right away to deal with the current problem while going forward and conducting a tunnel study for the long term. Once the tunnel was complete the surface line would be available for handling interprovincial traffic and/or the future Carling LRT line. One of the international peer reviewers even suggested that this was an appropriate phasing approach. And what came of it? Nothing. Instead we'll have buses for another decade downtown.

    In the other post today, you write that many, including it would appear yourself, are in favour of using the Prince of Wales Bridge. Personally, I don't think it'll happen - it makes too much sense and it's not expensive enough. So if I'm correct and the consultants recommend something else, like a new bridge at Chaudiere Falls, and the same people are still saying we should use the PoW Bridge, will they then be classed as whiners?

  2. This is my second try at posting a reply to the comment from David, my first one disappeared into the ether.

    The "suddenly" appearing comment is addressed at the general public who dont go to the meetings designed to gather public input, and then appear near the end of the process with comments that want to totally rewrite the whole process and its results and disregard the previous public input. It is obvious from a number of these comments that appear, for eg, at the end of Citizen stories, that the writers have only the most vague idea of what is proposed or what it is designed to address. I find it frustrating, but that doesnt mean I dont realize it is reality.

    "Whining" is a different matter. Throughout the planning process, decisions get made. I dont like a number of them, and have reservations about some. Nonetheless, once a decision has been about the transit mode (LRT vs BRT) or surface vs tunnel, I dont think it is appropriate to continually obstruct/object to the tunnel study because they are carrying out their assigned task, in favor of another solution that has been rejected (whether or not we feel it was adequately considered).

    In short, I am able to "go along" with the decisions already made in an effort to advance the current study process. Focus. If the logical outcome of the process is a system that is rejected, fine too, then the option was studied and rejected. Start over. Repropose favorite solutions.

    BTW, I find it Hilarious, in a sad sort of way, that the Citizen opposed the southwest LRT because the main traffic flow is E/W, now derrides the e/w LRT as an expensive replacement for the BRT, and seems to favor the n/s LRT again. Whiners !

    - eric darwin