Saturday, October 31, 2009

East Side of Champagne Avenue

The park at the corner of Beech and Champagne. It has bocce courts, playing fields (shown with ice-rink boards just delivered), a bicycle-polo park, and on the far side a play structure. The line of trees in the background is along the OTrain cut. Most of these trees will be lost when the cut is widened for the second phase of LRT construction, should the SW LRT service actually get built. This park could easily be expanded to the east by covering the cut with concrete girders and a playing field. The area on the other side of the cut is the north-south multipurpose path and narrow parkland corridor.

The Champagne animal shelter will be abandonned when the new shelter is finished out the 'burbs. The land will be sold, another excellent location for condos, with easy access to transit and the busy Preston Street of Little Italy, and with views to the Lake and downtown. The Bayview-Carling CDP will determine the degree of intensification, if the developers don't built it before the plan is resurrected.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Another house becomes a "cafe"

The conversion of residences to commercial continues in Little Italy. This house has had its front yard blown out and an enlarged basement put in. Presumably some new building will appear on top of the new foundation. I hear it will be another "cafe", a number of which exist already on Preston Street. I am especially amused by the cafe's that do so little visible business during the day but draw curtains over the windows and seem to be busy well into the night.

In the picture above, the black landscaping fabric is being installed in excavations being dug for tree planting wells in the new wider sidewalks as part of the streetscaping plan for Preston. The sign posted in the window may or may not be a building permit. Such details often do not bother developers getting in on Ottawa's next hottest neighborhood. The new location of the Black Cat Cafe (with no curtained windows at night) is on the left.

Winter comes

The skating rink boards have been delivered to Plouffe Park, behind the Plant Recreation Centre along Preston Street in Little Italy. Good bye soccer, hello hockey.

Champagne Ave condo site on the market

The Acquerello condo was in pre-sales several years ago but did not sell enough units to go ahead with construction. It was located at  the corner of Hickory Street and Champagne Avenue, one block south of the Carling Avenue O-Train station. The proposed building was quite large and offered nice layouts with views of Dows Lake and the downtown plus easy access to rapid transit.

The lot is now back on the market. Domicile has proved there is a market for condos at this location, with his first tower at "Merion Square" built, and another two condo towers nearing construction. With the City's continued push for instensification, I expect whoever buys the site will try to increase the density or height to take advantage of the views and location. One way to increase the FSI is to cover-over the OTrain cut to increase parkland as a tradeoff for more height.

Unfortunately, the City's Bayview-Carling CDP for the area along the OTrain was aborted several years ago. By the time it gets resurrected, all the larger vacant lands along the OTrain will already have development proposals. See previous blog postings on 855 Carling Ave, the lot next door.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

More Concrete Progress on Preston Street in Little Italy

On the residential portions of Preston Street the streetscaping is less fancy. A monolithic (one piece) concrete sidewalk + curb is poured in one go using wooden forms that were pegged in place a few hours before.

The old lampposts are now in the middle of the new sidewalk. They won't be pulled out until the new lamp posts with efficient "shoebox" overhead light fixtures and lower level decorative lighting fixtures are connected and working. Until then, the missing concrete squares will be filled with temporary asphalt patches. Then in Spring 2010, at the same time as the crosswalks are installed, the missing squares will be poured. The old post used to be on the "far side" of the old sidewalk, which just goes to show how "street narrowing" sometimes results in street widening, in this case to accomodate 53' tractor trailers turning the corner.

Preston Street

Until those new sidewalks are completed, pedestrians take their life in their hands to pick their way through the muddy construction sites to reach their homes or schools. I am constantly amazed at how fast drivers go through the utter chaos that is Preston Street -- one lady I saw yesterday was actually dialing her cell phone while driving too fast through the Gladstone-Preston intersection which was being dug up for the 45th time this year.

Goodbye Baseline Station

The old Baseline transitway station has been retired, replaced by one immediately to the west. The old location will become the site of new building with the transitway underneath it. The glazing was removed from the station shelters and the steel is being scrapped. The shelters are 25+ years old and not worth relocating.

Demolition of the concrete central structure at the station.

Steel and concrete and asphalt are separated for recyling.

The new station has side platforms rather than a centre-island design. A regular user of the station told me this morning that she much prefers the new side platforms, as being simpler to navigate.

Concrete Progress on Preston Street in Little Italy

In the commercial parts of Preston Street the sidewalks will consist of pavers and concrete squares, so curbs are poured first and the walks built later. Where parking insets are provided, the drainage continues to catch basins along a "flat curb" that helps define the travelled portion of the street (sometimes streets with bulb outs get visually confusing to motorists), and keeps water accumulation away from the sidewalks and snow-blocked road edges.

Metal stakes with a string are placed with the aid of survey equipment. The curb placement will be about 2m outside the string line. The new streetscaping will provide larger sidewalks for pedestrians and street animating cafe's in Little Italy.

Cement is poured through a convey belt to the curb former which is shown extruding the curb in place, much like toothpaste from a tube.

Look closely (click to enlarge picture) to see the finger that goes along the string, keeping the curb extruder aligned along the street. This is on St Anthony street by the Qway. The first pallets of paving stones have also be delivered to the site for constructing the sidewalks behind the curb line.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Main Stream Media (MSM) and Blogging

I received one email and one phone call from readers yesterday. Both were excitedly telling me that info I had blogged on had been picked up by MSM without credit to me. I tried, somewhat inarticulately, to explain why that didn't bother me.

Since I started blogging last April, several stories I wrote about promptly appeared in MSM, twice as headlines. I like to think my content is useful and fun, maybe that's why the site gets more than 3000 hits a month ( I want it to be higher, recommend the site to your friends !!).

 I have a number of sources of info. I network within the community. I am observant and see some things others don't. But when I post some "news" I am not the primary source. The MSM doesn't want to quote hearsay, they go back to the roots of the story. The MSM gets their news from a variety of sources, including blogs. I know a number of MSM that monitor my blog postings. Within hours of yesterday's post on BixiBike I had MSM calling me for details.

And that is how it should be. I don't own the news or events I write about. They are cast out into the public domain for consumption or rejection. I do hope to influence opinion and events, that is one reason I write. That it takes MSM several days to do its own report on something I wrote on (eg, bixibike, or POW bridge for rapidbus) is just fine, they do legwork, contact sources, add info and depth.

And I use the MSM for my inspiration too. For example, a Citizen story on burying the LRT if it used the Byron right of way, was a jumping off point for a new tangeant not followed or considered in the Citizen, ie the city might bury LRT only in affluent articulate neighborhoods but not in lower-income neighborhoods, thus municipal infrastructure continues to be a diagram of the political and economic influences when built. I try not to simply refer readers to others' articles (we all have way more reading potential than we can ever digest) but to build on the inspiration.

And in symbiotic continuation, the MSM takes the lead from my blog, I continue to be inspired by MSM. And all is well in the land.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Bixi Bike Service Expanding in Ottawa

  The experimental bike share/rental system in Ottawa-Gatineau will expand next year.

There are currently 4 stations - including the NAC, Musee de Civilization, and ByWard Market. The sleek bikes have 3 speeds in an internal hub (protected), an internal chain (no greasy stains on your pants or sox), adjustable seats, head and tail lights, and of course a distinctive shape.

The system will be expanded to 50 sites, but whether this is all next year or over several years is not yet clear. Sites have to be reasonably close together to be useful, frequent, and at desired destinations. Presumably the operators want to expand beyond the tourist market and get frequent daily use by residents. In Montreal, bixi bikes are rented an average of 10 times per day.

I can image that the NCC will put stations at tourist sites. A difficulty I see is if someone cycles out to the museum of agriculture and parks their bike but then comes out and finds no bikes in the rack ... its a long walk back to the downtown or an expensive cab ride.

I found myself wondering where bike stations might go in the west side neighborhoods. First thoughts include
 - the War Museum,
- St Vincent Hospital (it is a major work site even if the patients already have their own wheels),
 - Cambridge/Somerset by the new Chinatown Arch so people can pop over to Chinatown for Dim Sum,
- 333 Preston as its a major employment centre and popular restaurant hub in Little Italy,
- Dows Lake/Commissioner's Park,
- the Booth St government office complex (ride a bike to see your colleagues at Treasury Board rather than using a taxi chit)(may double as a Commissioner's Park site),
- CMPA building or Otrain station at Carling, as an employment node and high density residential node (2 more 8 floor condo towers are coming to the site)
- Bayview Station (take the bus or train to the station, hop on a bike)
- Tunney's Pasture station
- corner of Holland/West Wellington, to access the restaurants and shops
- Civic Hospital

Any other suggestions? I'll add them to the list. It sure doesn't long to come up with 50 suggested locations!
Plant Recreation Complex
LeBreton Station

Monday, October 26, 2009

DOTT plans affect west side residents (xii): Booth Station

The Booth Street station is location directly under the new elevated Booth Street overpass. The overpass crosses over the station and the aquaduct. The new LRT alignment is a few meters south of the current transitway which is closer to the aquaduct. Most frightening about this drawing is the abundance of car traffic lanes on Booth, the awful manoevering required to get buses from the Booth St bus stop over to the centre lane to turn onto Albert to go uptown, and the generous addition of lanes to Albert Street in both directions. Somehow, a transit project is providing lots of expensive car commuter infrastructure and generous road widenings on prime downtown development land. Just who will rush to live in condos facing such over-sexed roadways? What happened to neighborhood connectivity, with these proposed huge automotive rips to the urban fabric of Dalhousie neighborhood.

DOTT plans - posts updated

Note that the previous nine or so posts on the downtown Ottawa transit tunnel (DOTT) and LRT project have now been updated to include some sketches and plans from the City and its consultants. I invite you to go back to look at the posts again, which may make more sense when illustrated.

As usual, click on each picture to enlarge it to full screen.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

New Residential Building, Booth near Somerset

Shown is a interim elevation of the new senior's residence building proposed for the corner of Booth and Eccles Street, just south of Chinatown's main drag: Somerset Street. It has 42 residences, common facilities, a brick and well-detailed exterior finish. It complements the Somerset West Community Health Centre across the street. It should give a real boost to the appearance of Booth Street and the Dalhousie neighborhood as a whole. Anthony Leaning is the architect. Construction beings in 2010 for completion in 2011.

Friday, October 23, 2009

DOTT plans affect west side residents (xi): BikeWest

The city cycling plan includes conceptual improvements for cyclists heading west from the core towards Westboro. Councilor Leadman is fighting for improvements to the ill-designed Scott Street mixed-use path and a connection to the downtown. Cycling advocacy groups want better cycling facilities. The BikeWest plan proposes a segregated bi-directional cycling path on the north side of Albert and Scott from the downtown (Bronson Ave) to Westboro.

One of the original purposes of the BikeWest plan was to tie into all the construction projects planned along the Albert-Scott corridor. It is important not to construct anything that permanently blocks cycling improvements, even if the cycling improvements are not yet being built. It is also economic and thrifty to tie in cycling path improvements to new major road and LRT works planned along the corridor.

Working from the downtown west, the currently proposed DOTT plan does not adversely affect BikeWest between Bronson and Booth. It remains to be seen if city planners can be convinced to include BikeWest either along the north side of Albert or along the new grade-separated LRT alignment. The intersection of Booth at Albert remains a horror for local residents and the new intersection plans make it worse. It remains to be seen if the intersection can be scaled down, single-occupancy car motorists tamed instead of catered to.

In the latest DOTT plans the Preston extension will be built very early in the LRT construction process. This opens a few opportunities to facilitate the cycling experience in the E/W and N/S direction. It all depends on the willingness of council to direct that cyclists be treated seriously. However they design this road feature it is unlikely to create insurmountable cycling problems.

The Bayview Station design calls for a huge widening of the current transitway bridge over the OTrain cut. It would be economic to widen the bridge a bit more to include a segregated bike path beside the new station platforms. This would overcome the biggest hurdle for westbound cyclists: getting over the OTrain tracks. The current Albert St alignment has narrow sidewalks and very fast moving traffic that creates a cyclist-unfriendly environment. It is especially inconvenient for downtown-bound cyclists to get from the Scott path over the tracks to Albert Street.

At Tunney's, cyclists today are supposed to cycle on the north side of the Scott Street sidewalk/bus platforms. For much of the station length this is not a major problem with the current bus passenger volumes. However, when Tunney's becomes much busier it will be a major difficulty. Unfortunately, the current DOTT plan continues the unsatisfactory cycling-unfriendly  arrangement.

It is possible to do much better, and cheaply too. Recall that the new platform shelters for the LRT deep in the cut, will have roofs level with the ground at the Scott Street side. The City proposes a "green roof" here. They also propose widening the pedestrian overpass by 3x, while keeping the current elevator shafts, stairs, and exit buildings. It would not be difficult nor expensive to use the LRT platform roof as additional pedestrian areas, with entrance doors directly onto the new widened pedestrian bridges. This would reduce or eliminate the current exit that opens directly onto the bike path. While not ideal, since pedestrians would all have to cross the bike path at grade to get to the bus stops, it would be an improvement over the current plans.

Even better would be for the planners to sit down with cycling advocates for a few hours to hash out some ideas for reducing conflict. Note that the conflict with the sidewalk and station exists whether a bi-directional segregated bike path is built per the BikeWest model, or a uni-directional path is built along the edge of Scott Street itself. Opportunity knocks, will cycling be given a boost or a permanent block?

DOTT plans affect west side residents (x): Campus Station

The Ottawa U station on the new DOTT system will be located near the location of the current surface transitway Campus station. Recall that early plans had a new surface station here, but it made more sense to keep the LRT service in the tunnel longer to avoid having the trains climb to the surface and then descend again towards Lees Avenue, and the underground option also facilitates surface car traffic on the roads. This logical change to a better plan is, of course,  headlined as an example of wildly escalating DOTT costs, overruns, etc.

 (Note that this and other benefits to car traffic will be expensed as a DOTT expenditure, not charged to the general transportation budget. It is worth emphasizing because many of the DOTT expenditures will deliver great benefits to motorists (not the least of which is getting buses out of the downtown) but motorists will not pay a cent specifically for the benefits but can complain bitterly about the overly-expensive LRT).

The new Campus station will be located somewhat closer to the Canal than the current station. This shift is done to minimize surface road disruption during construction (car benefit!). But it generates some interesting benefits to residents of centretown. The station, like the others, will have two entraces. One will be a bit south of the current pedestrian underpass and Campus transitway station. The other will be a few hundred meters north. Most intriguingly, the north station entrance will be very close to the end of the new Corktown (Somerset Street) pedestrian and cyclist bridge. Recall that this much derrided and mocked bridge has proven very popular with residents, pedestrians, cyclists, and visitors, and resulted in new linkages between neighborhoods.

It is yet to be worked out if the new north entrance could be right at the eastern edge of the Corktown Bridge. This would make the Campus Station into a Golden Triangle station as well, and offer LRT service conveniently to City Hall, the Court House, and Elgin Street. The station access design is difficult here, with the various conditions attached to the Corktown Bridge design, the heritage status of the Canal, etc but it is exciting to consider the urban planning benefits of having one of the north entrances located right at the end of the bridge. (Does anyone else not feel there is something a bit wrong with the current handling of the bridge pedestrians and cylists that have to descend from the bridge to a at-grade road crossing, before ascending again into the campus? It always seems to me to be overly circuitous, inconvenient, and incomplete. Pedestrians go out of their way because the motorists come first).

I gather Ottawa U officials are ecstatic about the Campus Station design and entrance points. The DOTT LRT service will greatly improve the accessability and attractiveness of their business to all regions of the City.

DOTT plans affect west side residents (ix): downtown west station

The western most downtown station would be located deep under Albert Street * in the block between Kent and Bay. There will be two major entrances for the "base" station design. If developers wish to tie in, there could be more.

One entrance will be right where the CS CoOp building is now. The entire block housing the CoOp is to be purchased by the City for the new library project. If the library is under construction at the same time as the DOTT, then the station will be incorporated into the Library. If the Library is to be constructed at a later time, then a permanent elevator and escalator facilities will be built up from the underground station to the surface at the present CoOp location with a temporary building at the surface, which would later be incorporated into the new Library building.

The second entrance will be on the north side of Albert, in front of Place de Ville (PDV) right where the existing transitway bus stop is by the fountain and pyramid skylight into the PDV underground concourse. There will be a building at that location to weather-protect the entrances to the elevators and escalators going down. The surface facilities will intrude on the private property of PDV, in return for that, there will be a direct connection from the escalators and elevators into the PDV concourse. So this station at least will have some elements of the "underground city" some people want to see. It remains to be seen if the city can convince PDV to permit ongoing connections of their concourse to other buildings, such as the proposed ones immediately to the east or 240 Sparks (PDV has not connected to adjacent concourses over the last 25 years and I dont think they are likely to change that since their concourse - and buildings above - will have higher value being exclusively on the DOTT).

The DOTT planners also show a possible connection from an underground mezzanine in the escalator area across the street to Constitution Square complex. The City does not plan to build this connection (they provide two access elevators/escalators sets per station), the owners of Constitution would have to do this. Note that the connection would permit transit users to access Constitution Sq and thus weather-proof connections to Slater Street and Kent, but the link is from a mezzanine level below that of the PDV concourse. It is not a connection of the PDV concourse to another complex. Users could travel through PDV, enter the fare-paid zone of the transit station, travel down one or more floors, and then exit the station again towards Constitution Square. Do-able, but not convenient.

* Critics of the tunnel depth should note that the ground elevation of downtown Ottawa varies significantly, even though we generally view it as "flat". The tunnel will be deepest underground at the eastern downtown station, shallower at Rideau and Campus. The exact depth of the tunnel will be determined based on the results of bore holes to be drilled in the next planning phase. If the rock conditions are excellent, the tunnel might be shallower than if rock conditions are fractured. The planning to date assumes the worst, and keeps the tunnel deep.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

DOTT plans affect west side residents (viii): Tunney's station

At Monday's public open house, city planners will unveil the final system plans for the DOTT and LRT facilities to be constructed as the first phase of a city-wide sytem. The western terminus of the LRT will be at Tunney's until the LRT is extended west. A major bus transit to LRT facility will be constructed at Tunney's.

The current bus station is in the cut immediately west of Holland Avenue. The new station will be in the same place. The earlier plans for a centre platform LRT station have been scrapped, to avoid having to widen the cut under the Holland overpass. Instead, there will be two side platforms, just like now. The new platforms will be wider than they are now. The two tracks will extend a few hundred meters further west than the station platforms, to allow for the storage / positioning of extra rush hour trains, for switching trains from one track to another, and for any "dead" trains that need to be sidelined until they can be removed in the quiet hours.

plan of new station, bus staging and transfer area to north side, Scott side for local buses only; where did the bike path go to?

The existing transitway bus shelters, 25 years old and badly rusted, are nearing the end of their life, and will be scrapped. A solid flat roof, level with the top of the cut, will be constructed as the new roof for the platforms. This roof will be much higher than the current shelters. The solid platform roofs will be joined over the tracks by a glass roof section, making the whole station somewhat indoors, but open at the ends for the trains. The platform waiting areas will not be heated, but will be "tempered" from the extremes of hot and cold. There may be heated areas within the station, somewhat similar to the heated shelters at some existing transitway stations. The new roofs of the platforms may be "green roofs" (planted).

On the north side, the platforms will access a new tunnel access extending north and then up to an island platform for the bus transfer station. This will look somewhat like the current Hurdman transitway island station. Most arrivals and departures will occur from the north platform. The south platform will be used at rush hour and in the future when the LRT service is extended west to Lincoln Fields. Users on the north platform will be able to access the south platform when necessary (there will be TVmontiors to advise users which track will have the next train) via an overhead walkway or directly across the tracks at grade at the west end of the station.

The current pedestrian crossing of the transitway cut is deemed too narrow for the anticipated volumes of pedestrian traffic. It will be replaced by a new crossing, about 3x wider than the current one. The planners hope to keep the current elevator shafts, and maybe even the "buildings" at each end of the current bridge.

Buses on the transitway can currently climb up out of the cut at Tunney's. This access road will be relocated several hundred meters west, and made more gentle, as all transitway buses will have to exit the cut to the new transfer station at Tunney's.

The transfer station at Tunney's will receive huge volumes of traffic during the first phase of the LRT project, because allmost all bus passengers will transfer to LRT at Tunney's. The station is busy for accessing the employment node as well. Once the LRT service is extended further west in 5-20 years, the facilities will continue to be used for a more intensely developed Tunney's employment node and as a major transfor point for local bus services delivering passengers the line-haul LRT service. Local bus service east-west will be further reduced in favor of delivering N-S passengers to the LRT spine.

Planners have identified the east-west cycling route as passing directly in front of the station doors facing Scott Street, and continuing along the street level bus stops. This is exactly the same unsatisfactory situation as cyclists currently face when passing Tunney's. It is dangerous for cyclists, for pedestrians, and buses. There is a better way, which will be the subject of another post.

DOTT plans affect west side residents (vii): Bayview Rapibus Station?

The City has been evaluating the structural soundness of the historic Prince of Wales Railway Bridge over the Ottawa River to Gatineau. The City bought it a number of years ago for transit.

Friends of the OTrain and  LRT transit proponents have long viewed the POW bridge as a great solution for taking transit across the River. The interprovincial transit study offered renewed hopes for extending LRT service from downtown Ottawa to Gatineau over the POW as the first phase of a loop system serving the two downtown employment centres and to alleviate bridge congestion. Alas, logic may be loosing out to other concerns.

I gather that a leading proposal for addressing interprovincial transit woes is to widen the POW bridge to a two lane transitway (not LRT or OTrain) to bring the Rapibus system (Quebec's new bus rapid transit system just like Ottawa's 25 year old transitway) over to the Ottawa shores. A transfer station and bus storage area would be constructed under the new Bayview Station, connected by elevators to our E-W LRT line. The Rapibus terminal would be in place until such time as LRT was extended across the River. Of course, building a new terminal and widening the bridge * will work to delay that day by at least a quarter century.

 I dislike the idea of building a bus parking lot on valuable LeBreton and Bayview Yards development lands. Extending the LRT across the river and having it service a transfer station on the Gatineau side and having a terminal station at Place de la Chaudiere makes more long-term sense to me. The interchange at Bayview would then be much smaller, more efficent, and technologically advanced. Has the interprovincial study really gone so far "off the tracks" and gotten stuck in bus mode?

* I hear rumors to the effect that the existing POW bridge is in really bad shape, and may only be worth the scrap value of its steel, and that to extend either bus transitway or LRT service from Gatineau will require a totally new bridge. In any case, double tracking it, converting/widening it to two way bus way, or building a new bridge altogether will be very expensive. Mind, a bike and pedestrian link along the bridge would make for a wonderful new link in the bike network.

DOTT plans affect west side residents (vi): Bayview Station revised

Currently the transitway passes over the railway tracks at Bayview with a simple high level overpass. At the east side, it widens for the Bayview station, which is built on a downslope into the LeBreton Flats area. The only access to the Bayview transit station or OTrain station is from the east side of the overpasses.

Passengers can transfer to the OTrain tracks which are on the east side of the railway right of way, simply by walking down the sloped asphalt paths (being careful not to fall off the broken up edges of the path). Recall that the OTrain service north terminus is at Bayview.

The transitway will be converted to LRT use. Earlier plans showed the new LRT station located roughly where the existing transitway station is now located, but with slightly revised elevation and alignment. The new plan proposes major changes to that scheme. The existing transitway overpass will remain in place, but will be widened by about 20' on EACH side, and the station will be on this elevated structure directly over the OTrain cut.

The west end of the station will be on the existing embankment with elevators down to the new OTrain platforms that would be relocated to the west side of the cut, about 100' west of the current OTrain platforms. Presumably the west end of the LRT Bayview station would also have access onto Scott Street, although this is not yet shown (plans are not fully developed). The Otrain platforms are being moved west to open up the area under the overpasses for future LRT construction and possible Rapibus terminal.

The east end of the station will be on the embankment where the current transitway station is now. However, the embankment itself will be gone, replaced with an elevated concrete structure to hold up the tracks and station. Pedestrians will walk over a pedestrian bridge from Albert Street to a mezannine level under the tracks, and then up escalators to the side platform station. Or, from the mezannine, they could go down one level to the future LRT station for the north/south LRT should that be built (currently converting the OTrain line to LRT service is phase 3 of the LRT system buildout). Until the N/S LRT is built, or LRT service is extended to Gatineau via the Prince of Wales Bridge, they may be going down to a Rapibus terminal instead.

The new station location preserves and serves all the necessary options for LRT service to Gatineau, to the south along the OTrain alignment, and east-west. It permits transfers and continuous service by the same LRT vehicles from the downtown to points north, west, and south. It seems a logical design, if expensive and years ahead of living up to its major full potential.

Given that so much bridge widening will be necessary at Bayview, it is time for cyclists and community associations to lobby for improved cyling access from the Albert Street rights of way to the Scott Street corridor rights of way. The simplest thing is to widen the transit bridge on the south side to include a bi-directional segregated bike route. If this link is not built (and during transit construction is the best time to do it) then the dreams of efficient and safe cycling from the west to the downtown will be thwarted as there are no plans to widen the Albert Street overpass over the cut.

DOTT plans affect west side residents (v): when the transitway ends at Tunney's

The first phase of the LRT system extends as far west as Tunneys Pasture. It may always terminate there, or may be extended further west as phase two of the LRT system. Until it is extended, a major transfer facility is required at Tunney's for bus users from the west who need to transfer onto the LRT vehicles for the continued journey through the downtown. (The design of that station will be subject of another post.)

Most of the users of the 95 and similar buses from the west will get off their vehicles at the new transfer station to be built to the north of the current station at Tunney's, and have grade-separated direct access onto the LRT station platforms in the cut. The LRT will take them through the downtown core. For users going beyond Blair, they would have to transfer again onto the east end of the 95 route.

However, for 95 users who wish to go to the OTrain or City Centre employment node, or wish to go to Gatineau, it would be frustrating to have to transfer to LRT at Tunneys and then transfer again at Bayview onto the OTrain or Rapibus (more on that! in another post), or at Booth onto a Gatineau-bound bus.

The solution the city proposes is for every third or fourth 95 bus to extend beyond Tunneys along Scott to Bayview and along Albert to Booth, and then turn north and go to Gatineau. Presumably,this may also apply to 97 and some other bus routes. These route extensions would run for as long as the LRT ends at Tunney's and is not extended west (ie 5 - 20 years, possibly forever). We have no word yet on how many buses will be permanently routed on Scott / Albert but we already know intersection widenings will be required/demanded for this at Booth and maybe elsewhere.

DOTT plans affect west side residents (iv): closing the transitway during construction

The new LRT line runs along the existing transitway alignment, with some slight variations. During the construction period of 3-5 years that transitway will have to be closed to buses to permit construction of the new LRT stations and tracks. Where will the buses go?

Earlier plans by the city to move all the transitway buses onto Scott and Albert, starting at Tunney's Pasure, have been abandonned. Thankfully. The additions of 1000 buses per day per direction on Albert and Scott would have horrendous social and environmental impacts.

Instead, the City is proposing to totally rework the bus routes that currently use the transitway. Some will be shifted onto the Ottawa River Commuter Expressway. A temporary bus station along the Parkway at Tunney's is being considered. Other buses will be diverted to the Queensway and Carling Avenue. It is unclear what routes these buses would then take into the downtown core. The Parkway buses for example may take the Parkway/Wellington all the way to the core, or may exit the parkway at Bayview and switch to Albert, which will be unpopular with Dalhousie residents. Of course, many buses will still be diverted onto Scott/Albert  as that route directly parallels the transitway. Planners see an advantage in having commuters see the progress as the new LRT line and stations are being built. We know there will be intersection widenings and new stack lanes at Preston, at Booth, and possibly at Bayview. Will buses on the Qway exit at Rochester to head downtown? Will Carling buses be added to an already congested Bronson (which will be partially closed and rebuilt over the 2011-2012 construction seasons).

Traffic engineers have a thankless task during the construction period. Buses cannot simply be moved onto Scott/Albert, the road cannot handle the volume. So the bus traffic detour "pain" will be shared by a number of neighborhoods. A bus commuters will also suffer as more routes means a lower level of service on each route, and lengthier commutes.

Note that construction of the tunnel itself from a point just east of Booth will not interrupt transitway service much. However, the construction of the LeBreton, Bayview, and Tunney's stations are complex and lengthy. We can expect continued transitway service as far as Booth for the first two years of LRT construction, then the bus commuters will be detoured elsewhere for the final two or three years of construction for the tracks.

DOTT plans affect west side residents (iii): Albert Street widening planned

tailback of cars on Booth going to Gatineau, evening rush hour at 3pm

tailback of cars extends back to Gladstone, every single vehicle had only one person in it

The intersection of Booth / Albert fails for several hours a day. Mostly this is due to our city policies of catering to single occupancy vehicles. Drive them by the thousands,  and we will widen the roads for you! Right now the "tailback" or long queue of vehicles trying to get onto Booth to go to Gatineau extends back to Preston on the west (often blocking that intersection) and back to Empress or even Bronson on the east. On Booth south of Albert, in the heart of a residential neighborhood cruelly sacrificed by the city traffic engineers at the altar of car supremacy , cars stack up in a line that always goes back as far as Somerset and sometimes back as far as Gladstone.

Right now there is one turn lane for cars to stack up in. The left turn lane from Albert eastbound is constrained in length by the need to have a turn lane onto Preston. The City proposes to "ease" the situation by constructing a double turn lane on Albert. One lane will be the same length as the current stack lane, the other will likely be the entire block from Preston to Booth. The planners justify this construction as being necessary to move the bus traffic through the intersection once the existing transitway is closed. However, the additional stack lanes will be permanent, not temporary, and there is no word of making a stack lane specifically for buses. Instead cars will clog up the lane and transit users will be able to proceed only as fast as the slowest single-occupancy motorist.

This proposal strikes me as ill-thought-out. We cannot continue paving over valuable downtown development land for such low value uses. The stack lanes are justified as being for transit, but offer transit no special advantages. The widened Albert Street will simply deliver more cars to an already failing intersection at Booth / Albert. This part of the LRT plans definately needs a rethink based on principles of traffic demand managment (instead of coping with cars, figure out a better way to move people through the area / intersection).

While details are not available, the decision to build the Preston Extension will likely require the construction of  right and left turn lanes on Albert on both sides of Preston. Why do ostentiously transit-oriented projects result in so much road engorgement for commuters? The future Albert is looking a lot less like a city street and more like a mini-freeway.

Note to critics of LRT costs: the construction costs of the new Preston Extension and Booth / Albert intersections and Booth overpass over the transitway, primarily of benefit to single occupancy cars, will be billed to the LRT project rather than having some apportioned to the general transportation budget. Transit users and tax payers get hosed once again, car users get more hidden subsidies.

DOTT plans affect west side residents (ii): Tunnel entrance

 The new LRT  LeBreton Station is to be located roughly where the current transitway station is at Booth. The entrance to the tunnel portion of the new LRT service under the downtown core will be immediately east of the station. Its location and design is in accordance with the Escarpment Plan that outlines how the adjacent lands are to be developed.

During the tunnel construction period of 2-3 years, tunnel boring machines will eat their way through the limestone bedrock six to ten stories down under the street level of the core. All this chewed up rock has to come out of the 3km tunnel somewhere, and that somewhere is the entrance on LeBreton Flats. Running 24 hours a day, the boring machines themselves will be quiet and unobtrusive. But the tailings -- the chewed up rock removed to make the tunnel -- will be dragged out on mine cars 24 h/day and then lifted up and the rock contents dumped into dump trucks, that will rumble off at all hours of the day and night.

The tailings may be trucked to a site on LeBreton Flats to be piled up and stored, and later ground up to make construction gravel and for other uses in constructing the LRT system (a lot of fill, for example, will be required for a lengthy embankment at Hurdman). The contractor may install gravel crushers on the Flats to grind the rock. A similar setup was installed years ago during the transitway construction and the dust fall on the residents was noticeable and unplesant. The contractor may even install a temporary cement plan on site to make concrete to construct the stations and access shafts.

Residents of the Dalhousie area between Bronson and Bayview have seen the "land take" of much smaller projects. The high pressure water pipeline constructed over the last 3 years saw large areas temporarily fenced off to store equipment, supplies, and dirt. Similarly, the sewer regulator chamber currently being constructed at the intersection of Old Wellington and Booth has required large fenced off areas, road diversions, and conversion of space for temporary bus turning loops. The tunnel construction impacts for will for much longer time period, and involve much larger quantities of materials and crews. Imagine a snow-dump type operation running 365/24/7 !!

Planners for the LRT are aware that noise mitigation features will be required. It will be up to the community to demand sound and dust attenuation. Possibly we can ensure that some of the features are permanet, eg improved landscaping along Albert.

DOTT plans affect west side residents (i): Preston St

The city will hold an open house on Monday afternoon for the "final" recommended plan for the downtown Ottawa transit tunnel and LRT line from Tunney's to Blair. It has a number of modifications and changes from previous editions of the plan.

As somewhat expected but never expressed in previous versions of the plan, it has proven too difficult to keep the Booth/transitway intersection open during the construction period. Recall that the new station will be directly under Booth Street. The new Booth  will be elevated onto an overpass that crosses the LRT line and the aquaduct. It is simply not possible to build the station and the overpass at the same spot at the same time and keep the road open to traffic.

Therefore the plan now recommends that the Preston Extension be constructed first. This would have to be constructed in the very first year of the LRT project, similtaneous with the starting of the tunnel construction.

Preston Street currently ends at Albert, with some old pavement (closed to cars, open to cyclists and pedestrians) extending north to the transitway where there is a legal crosswalk to the bike path and riverfront parklands to the north. About a hundred meters further north and slightly east is the intersection of Vimy Drive (main vehicle access to the War Museum) and Wellington / Ottawa River Commuter Expressway. It was in the long-term build out plans (2030) for LeBreton Flats to build the Preston extension, but now this link will be accelerated to the early phases of the LRT project.

There is good news and bad news for local residents and cyclists. The good news is that the link will be made permanent, soon, giving residents and cyclists continued and permanent access to the Flats and riverfront paths and parkland. It will give improved access to Bluesfest and allow attendees easy access to the businesses along Preston Street and Chinatown.

The bad news is all the single occupancy car traffic that will hit the Albert / Preston intersection. Will the intersection need to be widened? It is likely, given the current and proposed width of the Albert / Booth intersection. Widenings are likely to include a left turn lane -- or two -- from Albert eastbound onto the Preston extension, and a right turn lane --or two -- from Albert westbound onto Preston extension. Will these widenings become permanent? I hope not. We cater to cars too much already.

The Preston extension itself as shown in the LeBreton plans was to be two lanes of traffic plus two parking lanes (which could, of course, be converted into traffic lanes in the future). If it is to replace Booth for the three years it takes to build the new Booth overpass, I can guarantee the Preston Extension will be four lanes plus lengthy turning lanes from day one. Will we ever be able to undo that damage?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Roger Geller, Portland's Bike Experience

Roger Geller, cycling coordinator for the city of Portland, OR spoke last evening at the CfSC meeting held at Tom Brown arena. Here are some of the points he raised in his PPT presentation on cycling in Portland.

1. There is a continuous interplay of facilities, ridership, politicies/politics, and funding. It is akin to a virtuous cycle, with any improvement to cycling facilities leading to increased ridership, more political support, then more funding of improved facilities, etc. The most common spot for the cycle to be broken is the policies/politics phase. He advises cycling advocacy groups to go for simple, easy to implement facilitiy improvements first, and then nurture the cycle onward.

2. Portland has an auditor that measures what the City does. Thus they have impartial counts of cyclists at a number of points -- particularly bridges, since they focus cycle traffic onto a few routes -- over a number of years. Thus the facts on the ground indicate to political and bureaucratic decision makers the payoff of their decisions. Geller cited numerous charts and graphs to show that each dollar invested in cycling was yielding a bigger and bigger return as the cycling momentum grows.

3. Portland has an economic model that shows the impact of cycling on the city budget. Rather than just looking at cycling expenditures as "expenses" they show that cyclists consume fewer road resources than motorists. If all the cyclists switched to cars, they would have to increase the road budget by $1.2 billion dollars (annually or one time expense? - not clear). Furthermore, since all expenditures on cars and their parts leaves the city (there is no auto parts or assembly plants) the replacement of cars by bikes frees up $800 million anually to spent locally.

4. He had a pithy expression of the city's saving: cycling is cheap. It is perhaps the cheapest expenditure the city can make to deal with travel. It makes it easier to sell cycling to politicians and taxpayers as it is so cost effective. He had other stats too, that claimed each dollar spent on cycling infrastructure saved health dollars or each mile of cycling saves one dollar of health expenditure.

5. The city has a number of innovative cycling measures it is currently working on.
- pavement with green plastic imbeded in it so it appears to be painted green. This gives clear visual signal to motorists and cyclists.
- bike box - a green square on the pavement ahead of the automobile's  stop line, so cyclists jump to the front of the queue and get first crack at moving through the interesections. Ironically, his illustrative photo of a bike box in operation showed the cyclist had moved ahead of the box and partway into the intersection, foot down to the ground, straddling the pedestrian crosswalk.
- they invest in custom bike signals, signage, passing lanes for bikes on hills (ie a slow lane and a fast lane for cycling, side by side)
- they are always having to go back to widen the bike lanes as traffic increases. Their lanes are now 3m wide per direction
- make bike lanes visible and separated by taking over car lanes. In built up areas it is seldom possible to add cycling infrastructure to a street, it is generally required to convert road infrastructure to cycling infrastructure

6. He showed pictures of businesses that favour the removal of on-street car parking from in front of their businesses to be replaced by on-street bike corrals, replacing each car with up to 20 cycle parking spots.

7. to get more cycling in a city, it is necessary to build facilities to increase cycling attractiveness

8. the population consists of
1% - strong and fearless cyclists who are willing to compete with cars in vehicle lanes (these cyclists will not move onto segregated paths)
25% - enthused and confident cyclists, who very much want cycling lanes/routes
51% - interested in cyling but concerned about safety, routes, etc
33% - no way, no how, will not cycle

9. Geller identified 5 principles for improved cycling;
- comfort (cycling in the middle of a vehicle lane may be safe but it is not comfortable)
- safety (measurable and perceived safety)
- attractive facilties
- direct routes
- interconnections that are known (so riders are confident they can get there from here)

10. He showed a slide of a miniscule dusting of snow on a road (not enough to be plowable) with cyclists to illustrate that cycling is doable year round.

11. He did not discuss the vehicular model of cycling (cyclists mixed with traffic) vs segregated lanes. I do not recall any slides showing segregated lanes.

12. Political support is key. His city is in competition with other cities to be the most environmentally "green", the most bike friendly, etc. and thus the cycling measures have a boosterism or marketing element.

Geller's presentation was interesting and overlapped in many points the previous evening's presentation by Suzanne Lareau at CycleVisionOttawa. He mentioned that Portland has a population of 500,000 in a metro region of 2million. He did not mention if the municipalities representing the other 1.5million residents shared downtown Portland's enthusiasm for cycling. I wondered if the modal split numbers would be as attractive if they included the surrounding more-suburban areas. Picture for example what Ottawa's cycling and pedestrian numbers would look like if they only included the inner city areas and excluded post-1960 suburban growth.

Portland is well known for its city policies, "smart growth" mantra, transit and cycling measures, etc. It is rewarding to research the controversial nature/impact of these practices, since the impacts are not always what is expected. His presentation was definitly worthwhile seeing and I look forward to one day visiting Portland.

After Geller spoke, Councilor Leadman spoke about the importance of cycling initiatives in her ward. She highlighted the 2011 introduction of a bike box at the Churchill / Richmond intersection and one at Bay / Wellington (no date). She mentioned the importance of a Scott Street cycling initiative, once referring to it as BikeWest.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Words of Wisdom from Velo Quebec in Ottawa

On Monday evening over 100 people jammed into a too-small reception room at the Lord Elgin to hear Suzanne Lareau. She is head of Velo Quebec, a cycling lobby and information group. The event was organized by Cycle Vision Ottawa (why weren't they signing up memberships??).

It wasn't just ordinary citizens that came out in unexpected numbers to hear her speak. Prominent in the front row were Roger Geller (cycling coordinator from Portland OR and speaker at tonight's meeting at Tom Brown arena), Vivi Chi and Mona Abouhenidy and Robin Bennet from the City, and Marc Corriveau, new transit and cycling honcho from the NCC. A number of local cycling advocates were amongst the crowd, and a few were noticeable by their absence. Clive Doucet was there, spoke passionately on global warming, sporting a battery-powered red light (not flashing at the time) on his butt.

Ms Lareau spoke for 90 minutes about some of the successes and problems of cycling in Montreal. She had a PPT presentation to illustrate some of her points (could someone please volunteer to take some new photos, ones not taken at 5pm in the winter? No doubt some good points were lost in the murky images). While not minutes of the meeting, here are some of the points raised:

1. Recreational paths are fine and have a valuable purpose, but should not be confused with the importance of having a network of routes usable for day to day activities, like commuting or shopping. (The recreational paths she highlighted in Montreal tended to be circular or purely recreational and differ significantly from the more linear NCC paths in Ottawa that adequately double as origin-destination paths.) Local trips are just as important as commuter trips.

2. The network of routes or links need not be lengthy. Rather it is important to first identify key desired segments where improvements can be made quickly and easily (and often cheaply) which has a cascading effect of increasing cycling traffic in other areas. She cited the example of McGill St (?) in Mtl where the addition of a counter-flow lane (complete with parking between the lane and the curb for traffic going the opposite way to the path!) for a short few blocks dramatically increased cycling rates on dozens of contributing or feeder streets.

3. Chevrons seem to be important. These are painted markings on the street, usually consisting of two thick arrow points ahead of a bicycle outline, painted on the street. In Montreal, they are painted very close to together, just a few feet apart. The chevrons also indicate the direction of cyclist travel. They are painted across intersections to guide cyclists from one cycling lane or position to another. They remind crossing traffic that cyclists are present. They remind everyone of the presence of a counter flow lane or bi-directional lane.

4. There were more painted features. Cycling boxes are a painted square on the lane ahead of the vehicle stop line so that cyclists move to the front of the queue and may have first chance at moving into the intersection. Yellow cross-hatching was painted near intersections to make certain parking or stopping spots illegal, where it was desirable to preserve sight lines of cyclists or of motorists to see cyclists. The usual diamond painted in the lane to identify a bus lane or cycling lane were also visible in some pictures, although some cyclists present at the meeting did not seem to recognize the symbol.

5. Signage: the only Montreal cycling route sign shown was a 3D silouette of a cyclist mounted atop a pole. It had no text at all. It was clean, elegant, not large. It was certainly better looking than the clumsy big signs (in two languages) used in Ottawa that reflect the car-traffic mentality. Similarly, Montreal now has some cyclist-scaled traffic signals -- smaller than those for cars, with the red-yellow-green lights shining through a cyclist outline.

6. Bi-directional paths. The topic of on-street bi-directional paths came up repeatedly during the evening, and it is only by dint of connecting all the single bits of info that a comprehensive view of the situation comes about. I really wished Suzanne had addressed the issue more directly. On one prominent one-way downtown street a single curb lane was removed from regular vehicular traffic and separated by a conrete curb about 18" wide from the rest of the road. The lane was repainted as a two-way bike route (bi-directional). It seems there have been some issues with this route. Ms Lareau stated a preference for having a one-way path on two separate one-way streets rather than the bi-directional path now in place, but upon clarifiication it turns out her ONLY concern with the bi-directional path was that there is not enough width from converting a single car lane into a bi-directional path plus median, but if they lane had been a bit wider, then she was completely comfortable with it. She later clarified that the bi-directionality was not the problem.

7. Bike route types: Ms Lareau was politely scornful of simple claims that making the right-most vehicle lane wider than other lanes was satisfactory accomodation of cyclists. Wider lanes make for faster vehicles -- she was clearly a fan of vehicle calming measures like speed bumps and curb bulbouts and felt Montreal was behind in this respect. Ms Lareau prefers marking cycling lanes, seeing an improvement  from on-street painted lanes to the much-preferable on-street segregated lanes where there is a 18" or wider median separating the cyclists from motorists. Even more useful and safe were photos of intersections where cyclists had priority, better signalling, and even exclusive cycling lanes approaching the intersection separate from car lanes. In the latter case, the improvements will be lost if the wait times are too long for cyclists due to signal light timing favoring cars.

8. Suzanne Lareau emphasized that there were different types of infrastructure choices for different clientelles and functions. The 20km commuter has different needs than the local retiree going to the library or depannier. She admitted she would never take her 9 year old son cycling on a busy downtown street even with bike lanes. The cyclists own perception of safety and convenience is key, not abstract policies of what is right or wrong.

9. Average cycle commute: According to her data, the average Montrealler commutes 8km to work, which is a 20 minute cycle ride. Cycle commuting is therefore feasible not just for a select few but for the majority of the population, if we provided safe and comfortable facilities. An audience member said that Stats Can shows similar data for Ottawa.

10. Timing: like most cities, cycling infrastructure improvements in Montreal are tied to other road-reconstruction improvements, ie the driving force is less the needs of cyclists than the needs to improve motorist's roads. Regretably, sometimes cycling improvements are not made during reconstruction, this is especially true in some boroughs where cycling is not regarded so favorably, and where "old" functionaires rule the roost. What is required is a combination of action: identify high-payoff cycling improvements and lobby directly for them, while similtaneously working for cycling improvements as part of other road projects.

11. Winter  cyling is now a focus of her group's activities. Certain cycling routes are to receive snow clearing in the winter. The problem now is identifying reasonable standards of clearance. Finding equipment is not an issue -- sidewalk plows or road plows do the job fine -- it is ensuring the paths are clear and by what time of day they are clear. Bike racks are now being left in place all year.

12. It used to be illegal to lock a bike to a parking meter post. Now, parking meters are being equiped with simple 1' diameter horizontal ring 30" above the pavement, expressly for the convenience of cyclists to lock their bikes to the post. Such a clean, simple measure with immediate payoff. (Note, Ottawa will shortly be removing all the parking meter posts in favor of pay-and-display vending machines, which cannot be used as cycling posts).

13. Helmets: Suzanne favors voluntary helmet wearing. She cites evidence that making helmets compulsary severely reduces the number of cyclists by making cycling more cumbersome / less easy. She also felt that some cyclists felt wearing a helmet increased their immortality which contributed to more risk taking.

Her presentation was interesting and clearly stimulating to the many cylists present. I would like to see more facts and figures and concrete expressions of policy of the organization. We were left with the impression that things are great in Montreal and getting better, but several times during the meeting I was uncomfortable with what seemed to be left unsaid or glossed over. This was especially true with the Bixi Bike system (short term rentals) which was portrayed in booster terms without any mention of expense or difficulties. The organizers, CycleVision Ottawa, performed a valuable public service in bringing in this speaker. They concluded with a survey of attendees to identify the "first" segregated bike route in Ottawa. (I suggested BikeWest was ideal).

I look forward to seeing if Roger Geller will be as interesting at tonight's meeting.

Monday, October 19, 2009

BikeWest hits EMC Community Papers

The current issue of the EMC news has a story on BikeWest by Rosalyn Stevens: you can read it at this link:

Underground City Not Premature, its DOA

"The feeble business response to the city’s plan to create an underground shopping plaza along the proposed downtown rail tunnel is mainly due to lingering doubts about the $1.7-billion project," -- Ottawa Citizen, quoting expert.

There are two possible issues here, and I dont know what was in the city's tentative RFP. (And yes, they should be guaging interest now, even with conceptual LRT plans, rather than once the project is costed with assumptions of connections and revenue).

The first issue is whether the city is looking at what buildings/landlords want to be connected to the LRT system. Here are my comments from 4 June 09: Please do not dream of a connected underground city. Pl de Ville has for decades refused to connect its mall to 240 Sparks, Constitution Sq or other adjacent developments. I suspect other landlords also feel the highest and best capture of revenue and benefits is to be one of the very few buildings directly connected to the DOTT. In this scenario, a shallow station will only connect to the first adjacent building. If the stations are very deep, then a horizontal pedestrian tunnel can be run out north/south (or any other desirable direction) from the mezzanine level of the new station, underneath the nearest building and 'up access' can be built to several building complexes, sometimes a few blocks away.

But what are the probabilties of such connections? I personally think they are very low, for these reasons: First, the downtown office building market is not a open market, there is essentially only one tennant, the Feds. What landlord wants to increase his expenses to land a price-conscious tennant who probably won't pay extra to have a direct link to transit? In Toronto, or NYC, there is competition for tennants, and a transit link is a marketing advantage, that can be paid for by increased rents. Those rules don't work in Ottawa. I hope the (Delcan / Toronto / London )consultants realize that our market is different.

To summarize: I dont think Ottawa landlords will find it economic to spend large sums building deep elevator or escalator shafts to lenthy pedestrian tunnels to connect their buildings to the downtown stations that are 5-10 stories down unless the Fed tennant is willing to pay for it.

This brings us to the second issue. Once the LRT network is given the go-ahead, there should be significant interest in Quickie Marts or similar locating in station mezzanines. This means the downtown stations (Downtown east, downtown west, rideau street, campus) but much less interest in other stations like LeBreton or Westboro, where there are no Quickies now. Some surface stations, like Bayview, or Tunney's that should see huge increases in traffic volumes, might of interest to a convenience store, but the traffic flows can be pretty erratic and the store has to be open long hours. If they also sold passes, that would be a real convenience to transit users. But the rent collected from a Quickie Mart is not going to make or break the economics of the LRT project, and can safely be left for much later in the detailed design process.

Which brings us back to the question of just what was the city's proposal for? Linkages to the stations ... or convenience stores at the stations?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Broken Promise of Interlock

When interlock paving first appeared on the Ottawa scene back in the early 1970's -- remember those "trillium"shaped paving blocks?-- one of the advantages touted over concrete was that the pavers could be relaid when necessary, individual blocks could be replaced when damaged, without tearing out and throwing away the entire concrete "square" of regular sidewalks.

Of course, what we really got was endlessly heaved and uneven interlock sidewalks, often patched with asphalt. Individual stones are not replaced because labor costs are too high and the block shapes discontinued every few years. Sometimes we get mismatched "repairs" using different block shapes. Concrete removed from walks is now routinely recycled.

I worked for years in or near the Place de Ville complex downtown. When built, the street level plazas were paved in exposed aggregate. As that broke up or cracked, it was redone in interlock. The initial H-shaped blocks heaved endlessly, and wore asphalt bandages like festering sores. Then a decade or so ago parts of the sidewalks were replaced with granite blocks (6" square and 12" square granite pieces).

Every developer seems condemmed to go through a granite paver phase, similar to the marble'exterior building clad phase. Typically, it ends in doom. The granit pavers cracked up under the weight of sidewalk plows and vehicles parking on the sidewalks. The rocked and splatted salty ice water in the winter. Eventually they were removed and replaced with concrete with granite inset strips.

The pictures above show the new sidewalks around the Crowne Plaza hotel at the west end of the PDV complex. Simple white and black concrete. Smooth when laid. Strong, if it has wire mesh reinforcing in it (the city foolishly "saves" money by not reinforcing its sidewalk squares, ergo, they crack). Easy to repair, even if the repairs vary the surface texture or colouring.

Infill on Elm Street

I admire this porch rebuild on Elm Street. It began as a dilapidated wooden porch that was sagging off the house. The new room has new studs, floors, roof, exterior wrap, windows, new door and windows. It short, it complements the house and the streetscape very nicely without being precious. I especially appreciate the care the renovator took to get the porch, columns, and steps. The porch is shallow, perhaps due to setback limitations, not so much useful for sitting on as for storing the blue blox, black box, green bin, and regular garbage bin. So often in this neighborhood, porches are now used as glorified garbage sheds.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Multi-user bike paths

All sorts of creatures use the NCC Ottawa River bikepaths. This user usually shares the path at a wide berth from other users.

It was limping, clearly injured in one leg.

I cycled past it when it did not move off the path and I tired of watching it. No smell.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Another Infill on Cooper

This Cooper Street infill is just a block down the street from the one in the previous post. The cribs are still in place, some in the foundation hole and some in the driveway. The exterior was likely to have been brick on this house, as the exterior cladding has been removed and the house wrapped in fabric for weather protection.

Note that the new foundation has lots of windows, so it will likely be living space. There is also a large addition to the rear. The access to the addition will be along the side yard on the left of the house, as shown in the last picture -- notice the sonotube of concrete to hold up the porch.

Click to enlarge on the pictures, the details are interesting: cut off wiring will need to be patched together, the foundation sills are apparent (pressure treated on this one, regular spruce on the previous house), the sistered joists etc are visible.

As always, the ubiquitous go-hut arrives first and leaves last. This infill project will leave the "new" house significantly higher than its immediate neighbor to the right, although at a similar level to the earlier generation of infill house (with a driveway sloped down to a basement garage) on the left. There is a lot of variation along these blocks with houses up and down, forward and back, on the lots.

It is interesting to me that it is economic for someone to buy the house, gut it, lift it, put in a new foundation, and build and extensive extension, adding several living units. I would love to know the $numbers$.

Infill on Cooper street

There are two houses on Cooper undergoing interesting infill treatments. This older house has been jacked up and put onto a new foundation. The two openings at the foundation facing the street were for the steel beams holding up the house. The process: the house is supported from underneath with cribs, the joists cut off around the old stone foundation, and new joists sistered onto the old ones, along with additional supporting beams. Then the house is lifted, new foundation poured, and the house lowered down again.

In this case, the new foundation under the old house has few if any windows, so it will not be used for living space, which strikes me as curious to put in a new foundation and raise the house without using the space underneath for more than storage. There is a new foundation at the rear, which will be either a big addition or another housing unit(s).

This type of infil preserves the streetscape while intensifying the neighborhood by building in the back yards.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Busy Bike Week

Next week will see two interesting guest speakers in Ottawa on the topic of improving cycling facilities. Both speakers are highly credible experienced individuals with real-world accomplishments.

On Monday, CycleVision Ottawa presents Suzanne Lareau (see poster below) and on Tuesday CfSC presents the cycling coordinator from Portland OR. Portland has a much-lauded cycling network.  Tuesday's meeting is 6pm at TomBrown Arena (right along the proposed BikeWest route!).

Catch the Montreal Cycling Wave!

Meet Suzanne Lareau
The woman who is transforming
Montreal for cycling

A Public Presentation
Monday October 19, at 8 p.m.
St-Laurent room, off the Elgin Café in the
Lord Elgin Hotel, 100 Elgin Street at Slater
Refreshments will be offered

Why you should come:

Discover the vélo culture of Montréal and its great network of

segregated bike lanes. Suzanne Lareau will show how

Montreal is achieving a cycling transformation. Ms Lareau is

a founding team member of Tour de l'Ile, the annual bike ride

on the streets of Montreal that attracts some 30,000 cyclists.

She heads Velo-Quebec, one of the largest cycling

organizations in the world with 80 paid staff.

Come out and be inspired!

Hosted by Cycling Vision Ottawa

RSVP appreciated. E-mail to

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

BikeWest project update

A series of posts on the possibilities of a segregated bike route running from Bronson due west to Westboro was a big hit with readers and CBC listeners who yearn for a safe way to cycle.

The various blog postings have been collected into one, slightly revised document, which you can have for your very own, free, just by asking me:, or use the comment button for this posting. Be sure to include your email address if you use the comment button, as all input comes to me on an anonymous basis.

EMC newspapers will be running an article on BikeWest this week.

Don't forget the CfSC event next Tuesday, at 6pm, at TomBrown arena (right along the BikeWest route!). Speakers include Roger Geller, cycling coordinator for Portland, OR.

A tale of two neighborhoods

Digging a trench along the old Byron trolleyway park just north of Highland Park for these beasts? That's just slightly less brutal a planning decision than running steam trains through slums in 19th-century Manchester.  -  Ottawa Citizen editorial

Hmm, let's see if I can get this right. As part of its LRT program the City is converting the current bus rapid transit (BRT) roads (the "transitway") to LRT ("the beasts"). A problem arises where the BRT shares road surfaces with the Ottawa River Commuter Expressway. It shares the road alignment ... because the original alignment along the Byron transit streetcar right of way was opposed by local residents of McKellar park. So the Byron right of way became a linear park, at first temporary, then permanent, with short sharp curvy paths so they are useless for cycling but great for dog walking. A main impetus for the "park" was to thwart the transitway. The Lincoln Fields station is built where it is and in its current alignment because it is line with the curve from the Byron right of way, before the right of way was killed off.

So the original transit alignment has been forfeited for streetcars, LRT, and cycling, and given over to dog walkers. The neighborhood along the Byron right of way is sort of interesting. It was one time forest. Then farm land. Then a golf course. Then housing subdivisions. It is primarily low density, with a few towers along the river front. There is abundant parkland and lots sizes are large. The neighborhood reads as one large green space, with some tacky commercial developments/strip malls.

So McKeller residents have worked for decades to prevent rapid transit from servicing their neighborhood, first by pushing it onto the parkway. Only problem today is that there is a vociferous group opposed to running the LRT along the parkway. Commuting motorists spewing gas fumes and racing through the frustrated hay fields are to have their riparian views preserved. Transit users are to be forbidden to have views. But if they don't run the LRT along the parkway ... Byron is the most logical choice. Out of this difficulty comes the suggestion that express long-haul LRT service be shoved off to ... Carling Avenue. If that is built, Kanata and Barrhven commuters will have longer trip times, with dozens of stops, and transit service is likely to face numerous interruptions and delays due to conflicts with traffic. None of this is very pretty.

 The attitude expressed in the Citizen editorial bothers me: a grade separated (ie, trenched ) LRT would be brutal for the neighborhood, a decision worthy of 1800's decision making rathe than 21st century enlightened civic government.

 It is offensive to the Citizen to permit a open-cut transit line go through the area. But it is apparently OK that lower income neighborhoods, with the least parkland in the City, get open cut transit corridors. One corridor, the OTrain alignment through Dalhousie, actually has one of its few parks -- a linear path along the track (Carling Ave to Young St)-- to be reduced or eliminated in order to widen the cut.

My prognosis: Byron right of way will the chosen LRT route. The tracks will be cut and covered at great municipal taxpayer expense so dog walkers of the inner suburbs can continue to do their bit up above. The open cut going through Dalhousie, Hintonburg, and Mechanicsville neighborhoods will not be covered, as it is "too expensive" to provide any parkland or recreational facilities to the urban lower classes. The completed LRT network will be a diagram of the economic profile of the city: underground in affluent neighborhoods; in open cuts through poorer ones.