Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Philip Craig, artist

While reading the October 09 issue of Cdn House and Home magazine, I noticed in their article on redecorating an historic showhome in Toronto there was a painting hung above a fireplace that looked vaguely familiar. I may never have seen the painting before, so it was probably the style of the artist. Sure enough, the sidebar credited the painting to Philip Craig. He has his studio just off Beech Street in Little Italy.

If you visit his studio, the entrance is off the to left side of the building in an alleyway. The artist's loft is everything a loft should be: wood floors, high ceilings, totally industrial look, skylights, modelling platform, paintings - some huge - all around the room leaning on the walls.

On the Path

This tiny mole (vole?) was trying to cross the Ottawa River bike path. Which goes to show that bike paths can be dangerous in their own way when the creatures are very small. The tiny puddle may have indicated it was hurt, and it wasn't scurrying off to safety. I stopped. It seemed to be unhurt, so I picked it up and put it in the bushes a few yards off the path.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Twilight on the Aquaduct and the ... come out to play

A number of earlier posts show damage caused to large trees in the LeBreton Flats area. The Dalhousie neighborhood hosts a surprising number of animals and birds.

These two twilights shots show the local vampires, err, beaver out to prey on unsuspecting urbanites. In the photo with a fine stone-arch bridge in the background, the beaver can be jut seen in the right foreground. Click picture to enlarge. The second picture shows him up close ... he was about 20 feet away from me and curious about the flash on my camera. After several shots, he dove leaving only a trail of bubbles.

Recall all those "raw sewage in the River" stories?

The media has had a field day with stories of raw sewage being dumped into the Ottawa River from ancient sewer control points, a number of which date from the late 1800's. Typically, the focus is on the obvious: raw sewage. Ignored is why those sewage facilities are over a hundred years old. My view is that successive councils have favoured glamorous higher profile spending projects that buy them favour with select voting groups. The go for the glitz, they delay and postpone the core civic expenditures. Hello Walkerton, decades of not-upgraded water works, cosy featherbedding, porkbarrelling, etc.

At the corner of Old Wellington (you know, the mostly closed segments of former-Wellington that runs from below the Garden of the Provinces till it meets Albert at the old Broad St intersection*) and Booth, construction has started to replace one of these old regulator stations. These drain pipes fill up in the Glebe, flow under Preston Street through Little Italy (flooding and backing up in basements there) and thence to the Ottawa River.

Why do they flood into the Ottawa River? Well, they always did, after all the flood overflow mechanisms were installed in 1880! But they probably flood more often in Dalhousie neighborhood because more and more city land gets paved over and built over and drains faster. The City has no regulations to require permeable pavements. More requirements are being put in place requiring new large buildings to "hold" their rainwater, but I am not sure if they apply everywhere (like upstream on the pipe, hello Glebe!) or just on the downstream portions of the sewers, in Dalhousie and LeBreton Flats (which must hold and delay releasing 100% of  rain fall).

What we really need are performance standards or benchmarks, a spreadsheet that every municipality could upload many performance standards for comparisson to all other municipalities. I did this is a businessman, comparing my stats with industry averages, and believe me its hard to hide behind "but we are different/special" whining for very long. Sloppily run cities, just like businesses,  show up in the stats right some quick. But businesses go out of business when they are run poorly. City halls just beg for grants from senior levels of government, and get bailed out, thus their bad behaviour gets rewarded.

No premier's name or mayor's name shown.

Mr Harper's name is also absent.

Workers doing what they do, without a shovel.

First priority, a portable sewage retention pond.

*On internet maps of the City, they persist in showing former Wellington as Wellington, and the newer Wellington going out past the War Museum as Ottawa River Parkway. How does one update the internet?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Crime, Supervised Injection Site, transition housing, etc.

Throughout the past months, the issues related to drug dealing, drug using, supervised (safe) injection sites, shelters, transitional or supervised housing units, a proposed parole office, and the impact on the rest of the community, have been visited a number of times on this blog.

Recall the supervised injection site focus group. Recall the impact of shelters like Shepards of Good Hope or Union Mission on adjacent neighborhoods. The parole office issue. Recall there is another proposal coming forward for supervised transitional housing units on Booth Street, perhaps with a shelter element, we don't know yet.

Dalhousie is still a very safe neighborhood. Its appeal, however, can change quickly when a number of factors come together that conspire to drive out the "middle class" and any neighborhood can go downhill quickly. The climb out is much slower.

Here is an article from City-Journal that deals with all these issues in the ghetto of Los Angeles, a neighborhood with many of the same issues as downtown east side Vancouver. Vancouver has tried the friendly helpful approach welfare advocates for a number of years, and the problems there do not seem to be getting better. In recent weeks, I have been reading in the papers of stronger enforcement efforts - probably related to the Olympics and the dreadful black eye the DTE gives to Vancouver.

Anyhow, here's the original article, it makes a provoking read:

Just Resting

Chair put out on garbage day in Little Italy.

Getting the last nap.

Red Friday rally Friday

There will be a rally on Friday Oct 2 at Dundonald Park in support of the families of Cdn troops. Here is a press release:

FestivAsia Celebrates Red Fridays

OTTAWA –FestivAsia, in partnership with the Canadian Forces, will formally kick off this year’s festival on Friday, October 2nd, with a Red Rally at Dundonald Park (Somerset Street W. between Lyon & Bay Street). This is an opportunity for the Asian community and the Canadian Forces to show their appreciation and support for each other. Vice-Admiral Dean McFadden, Commander Maritime Command and the Canadian Forces Champion for Visible Minorities, will be present at the Red Rally from noon to 1 p.m. Other Canadian Forces members will also take part.

FestivAsia is a diverse cultural celebration organized by the Ottawa Chinatown Business Improvement Area and its partnering organizations. It is an event contributing to the local and regional economies through increased tourism and its vibrant merchants activities. It also acts as a platform for residents to showcase, to share and to enjoy the creativity, the energy and the hope of the residents of Chinatown.

“It’s a great opportunity for everyone, military and civilian alike, to partake in the unique cultural festivities of FestivAsia, to celebrate our cultural diversity, and show pride in our Canadian Forces. The Red Rally is a symbolic event to demonstrate to fellow Canadians and our troops that we care and honour those who fought for our freedom, our peace, and our resolve,” said Vice-Admiral McFadden.

The first Red Rally was held on Parliament Hill on September 22nd, 2006 where approximately 20, 000 people showed up to show their support for the men and women of the Canadian Forces.

Since then, there have been many Red Rallies held across the country.

Red Rallies are part of the Red Friday campaign, which has evolved over the years from showing support for deployed military and their families to showing support for all the men and women of the Canadian Forces and.their families. Red has even become the official colour of supporting our troops and their families whether it is a Friday or one of the other 6 days of the week!

All are welcome to join us at the Red Rally to honour Canadian Forces members (past and present) and their families.

Rational Road Pricing

Back in the 80's I worked at Transport Canada doing strategic planning and policy advice. A big study back then was on Rational Road Pricing, by Zeiss Haritos. My memory of the study is this: the basic principle was to take the gas tax, subtract the portion that was equivalent to the general sales tax rates (since fuel should not be exempt from general tax revenue) and attribute the rest as revenue required to build and maintain the road network. From there, compare what all levels of governments spend annually on roads with revenues earned. Of course, there are many complicating factors, like whether some of  the gas tax revenues should be attributed to "externalities" - costs of health care or remediating environmental damage caused by motoring.

If I recall correctly (and this memory is 25 years old) the conclusion was that roads paid for themselves.

Now there is a study out of Texas, reported below, that offers another view. It concludes that roads pay for less than 50% of their construction and operating costs. Without accessing the whole study, and understanding what is covered and more importantly, not covered, it should be taken with a grain of salt, another info bite.

Texas is frequently looked down upon by Ontarians as redneck homeland to the Bush league. It is easy to disdain what is far away and little understood. But Texas, in my view,  is home of an inquiring engineering mentality that can be quite interesting. Recall that it was Texas, under Bush, that implemented the first trials of "pay as you go" car insurance that used  GPS to track low income car usage and charged for insurance by time of day and route risk. The biggest change was that participants modified their behaviour to combine trips, reduce risk and exposure, and reduced their insurance cost, thus increasing car affordability so that they could enhance their own employment prospects.

I think the problem in Ontario whereby the province and feds collect the gas tax and the municipalities supply many of the roads should be solved not by transfering gas tax revenues to the municipalities but by putting GPS in every car and charging users for every foot driven, with revenues going to the providing level of government. (This would reduce or eliminate the need for gas taxes beyond the PST-GST and environmental levies). And of course one would have to account for all the "tricks" governments use to hide subsidies - my favorite in Ottawa today is how many items can be burried in your water bill that are really road reconstruction and landscaping improvements that should be attributed to general taxes (which are somewhat scrutinized) rather than the water rates (which go unnoticed).

Why did car users pay for roads in the 80's and not today? Some of the difference may be what was measured in the studies. A big chunk is that the US gas tax has been frozen for decades while road costs have soared. Urban areas are less and less dense as most growth occurs in suburban and exurban areas (downtown renaissances may get the publicity, but the overall American growth is suburban) so mileage driven increases. Cars are astonishingly more fuel efficient than before, so they travel over twice as much road as before but pay the same uninflated taxes. Our standards for roads are much higher too - we want them wider, flatter, with gentler curves and safer verges and sound barriers and landscaping. Increasing capacity on older highways in built-up areas is very expensive.

Here is the Texas report, from Link provided by Bicycle Fixation Blog via Tom Trottier .

(and how I wish we could get Ottawa Council and The Citizen to pay as much attention to road expenditures and subsidies as they do trying to paint transit as a tax hog):

A major feature in the public debate about toll roads has been the issue of when or whether a road has been “paid for.” To better understand this discussion, it is helpful to ask two questions:

1. What is a traveler paying for when he or she pays state gas tax at the pump?

State motor fuel tax is collected from all over the state and goes into a single pool of revenue—about one quarter of which goes to fund education, and about three-quarters of which goes to the state’s highway fund, where it is spent on transportation uses and some non-transportation functions of government.

Then the state receives federal funds as the state’s share of the federal fuel tax; about 70 cents of every gas tax dollar Texans send to Washington comes back for road use.

The significant point here is that historically the fuel tax paid in any locality of the state is unrelated to the road projects in that locality. Every fuel taxpayer in the state paid something for any given road—which leads to the next issue.

2. When is a given road actually “paid for?”

Just like your car, it never is. You may have paid the note, but maintenance and fuel costs go on as long as you own the vehicle. Once a road is built, maintenance and rehabilitation costs last its entire life, generally about 40 years.

The decision to build a road is a permanent commitment to the traveling public. Not only will a road be built, but it must also be routinely maintained and reconstructed when necessary, meaning no road is ever truly “paid for.”

Until recently, when TxDOT built or expanded a road, no methodology existed to determine the extent to which this work would be paid off through revenues.

The Asset Value Index, was developed to compare the full 40-year life-cycle costs to the revenues attributable to a given road corridor or section. The shorthand version calculates how much gasoline is consumed on a roadway and how much gas tax revenue that generates.

The Asset Value Index is the ratio of the total expected revenues divided by the total expected costs. If the ratio is 0.60, the road will produce revenues to meet 60 percent of its costs; it would be “paid for” only if the ratio were 1.00, when the revenues met 100 percent of costs. Another way of describing this is to do a “tax gap” analysis, which shows how much the state fuel tax would have to be on that given corridor for the ratio for revenues to match costs.

Applying this methodology, revealed that no road pays for itself in gas taxes and fees. For example, in Houston, the 15 miles of SH 99 from I-10 to US 290 will cost $1 billion to build and maintain over its lifetime, while only generating $162 million in gas taxes. That gives a tax gap ratio of .16, which means that the real gas tax rate people would need to pay on this segment of road to completely pay for it would be $2.22 per gallon.

This is just one example, but there is not one road in Texas that pays for itself based on the tax system of today. Some roads pay for about half their true cost, but most roads we have analyzed pay for considerably less.

To conclude, in the SH 99 example, since the traffic volume for that road doesn't generate enough fuel tax revenue to pay for it, revenues from other parts of the state must be used to build and maintain this corridor segment. The same is true across the state, meaning that, as revealed by the tax gap analysis, overall revenues are not sufficient to meet the state’s transportation needs.

Friday, September 25, 2009

CBC morning interview

Even if you didn't get a chance to listen to CBC radio's interview with me about BikeWest, you can listen to it by clicking on the link below:

More on Bike West - part vii

The story of BikeWest began at the point where the transitway meets Albert-Slater where they split in front of the Good Companions centre just west of Bronson. It began there because the block between the split and Bronson used converted bus lanes which won't be required once the downtown LRT is built and BRT is suspended. For all points west of the Albert-Slater split, BikeWest does not use any street lanes but is a separate route all the way west to Dominion Avenue using the City-owned right of way on the north side of Albert and Scott Streets.

Alternative Route through LeBreton Flats

The Albert-Booth intersection will be a major traffic intersection in the future. It must allow for a number of complex and busy turning motions. It is subject to gridlock. Can BikeWest avoid this intersection?

If the BikeWest route detoured slightly north where the current transitway alignment is, it could pick up the new LRT right of way accross the Flats. The new LRT  LeBreton Station will be approximately at the same location as the bus transitway station, but one storey down from Booth Street. The LRT will pass under Booth with a grade separation. As it goes west accross the Flats, the new LRT route will drift south for a straighter approach to Bayview than the transitway now takes.

Alternative grade-separted route for BikeWest closely aligned with the new LRT route accross LeBreton Flats. Click to enlarge to see in more detail.

If BikeWest was built along the side of the LRT, it could also pass under Booth Street, and the eventual Preston extension too. This route would be only a few meters longer than the original alignment along the north curbside of Albert, but would be faster and safer as it would be grade separated. At some point west of Preston it would resume its alginment along Albert and then Scott. It does not matter for now which side of the LRT alignment BikeWest is on, there are attractive elements to either choice.

One side or two side?

The BikeWest project outlined over the previous few days envisions a two-way bike route on the north side of Albert and Scott. Some people may prefer the idea of a wider bike lane - separated physcially from traffic or not - on each side of the street, going with the car traffic. The reason to avoid this approach is apparent from a glimpse at a city map: the north side has fewer intersections (about 12 on the north side)  than the south side (about 36 intersections), plus the south side has numerous driveways and commercial entrances, some of which, like Holland Cross Beer Store and Trailhead, are very busy.  The north side has no driveways or commercial entrances, and is not likely to ever have driveways, since the buildings proposed along Albert will have their driveways from a new road to be built north of Albert, and of course along Scott the north edge of BikeWest would be the depressed transitway right of way.

Costly structures?

The relative scarcity of intersections is one of things that makes BikeWest affordable and usable and safer than on-road lanes. With the perception of increased safety, cycling becomes a more viable attractive option for getting around. Throughout its length, BikeWest requires only one expensive bit of physical structure: at Bayview. Albert Street already uses up all the available bridge over the OTrain tracks. The transitway bridge will be converted to LRT use. However, the LRT planners have identified that it may be necessary to widen the transitway bridge to improve alignment to the proposed Bayview Station hub. With all the contracting to build the north-south and east-west stations, allowing for interchanging passengers and trains, etc it would be a marginal additional cost to either widen the Albert street overpass or to construct a separate overpass for cyclists that would safely take cyclists past this busy interchange and permit cyclists to access transit and the river parkways.

At this point, it is assumed that BikeWest would be closely parallel to Albert Street. If however, the alternative alignment suggested above it taken through the Flats, the bike route might well be on the north side of the LRT station and could cross over the North-South train tracks to arrive in the middle of the proposed urban development on the former Bayview Yards and then pass under the LRT to regain the Scott Street right of way.

That's it. No other structures are required between Bronson and Dominion. If the bike route is extended beyond Dominion, along the LRT if it runs through the Ottawa River parkway/oldCPR alignment, then some underpasses would be required where the Ottawa River Commuter Expressway and the new LRT swing south at Lincoln Fields. Underpasses like the ones at Carleton and NewOrchard Avenues are simple and relatively cheap, or even cheaper if they are simple square box underpasses like the one where the river side bike path goes under the Champlain Bridge at Island Park.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

BikeWest on CBC radio, Friday morning, Sept 25

I cycled along part of the BikeWest route with Stu Mills of CBC Morning yesterday in the pouring rain. The interview, conducted while we pedalled, will air between 7 and 8am, probably (but not guaranteed) at 7.45am.

BikeWest - part vii - westward from Westboro

The previous posts followed BikeWest from the downtown at Bronson westwards along Albert, past Bayview, then along Scott to Dominion Station. This straight route is the crucial portion of BikeWest. To extend the route further west becomes more complicated, since it would involve other agencies such as the NCC, and depend on LRT routing and timing.

The essence of BikeWest from downtown to Westboro was that it is almost entirely along a straight right of way owned by the City where major planning studies and reconstruction projects will be underway for the next decade. Incorporating BikeWest into these plans is a rare opportunity.

 If the western LRT route extends west from Dominion like the BRT,  along the Ottawa River parkway, then the BikeWest route should be built along the LRT  all the way to Lincoln Fields. The bike route would be on the inland-side of the parkway, leaving the current bike path along the river edge for recreational users. The bike route could double as a service road for accessing the LRT tracks for maintenance. Note that running the LRT along the parkway is returning the parkway land to its origins – it incorporated the former CPR right-of-way, a few traces of which can still be spotted.

At approximately McEwan Avenue, BikeWest would split in two: one grade-separated route would cross under the Ottawa River Commuter Expressway lanes to pick up the existing western bikepath by Mud Lake en route to Britannia and points west.

The other branch of BikeWest would swing south to Lincoln Fields and link up with the existing Pinecrest Creek bike path that goes on to Algonquin College/Baseline and points further south.

The cycling time from Baseline to downtown along the LRT route and BikeWest would be about half the current Parkway path route time, expanding the comfortable safe cycling zone to tens of thousands of new households. The speedier travel time is due to the straighter configuration and shorter route distance than the current riverside paths.

The portion of new bike route closely aligned to  the LRT from Dominion to where it turns inland at Lincoln Fields would be a straighter and faster commuter route than the river edge recreational pathway. The routes west past mud lake and south from Lincoln would be existing NCC paths. Click map to enlarge.

If the LRT route does not follow the parkway, the BikeWest route could be left to end at Dominion Avenue, or it could be extended further west along the Byron right of way. Unfortunately, the Byron strip has a lot of cross streets and the existing path has been designed to make it unappealing to cyclists (it meanders, and is full of sharp turns). The success of BikeWest however does not depend on where it might be extended to, it is justified on its own merits for the downtown-Westboro length.

The opportunity to extend the BikeWest project west is just that, an opportunity. And it should be considered as another project to be examined and addressed separately. BikeWest is a viable concept running from the downtown to Westboro and is not dependent on a westward extension, however logical that extension might seem.

Coming up next: an alternative route opportunity, from the Albert-Slater split to Bayview, and a few elaborations.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

BikeWest - part iv - Scott Street from Bayview to Dominion

The Scott alignment is much straighter than the riverside path and passes through major residential and employment areas

For most of its length along Scott, BikeWest is pretty simple. The two-way paved surface would be set back from Scott Street whenever possible. At major signalized intersections, the bike route might snuggle up to Scott. Signalized intersections at Holland, Island Park, and Lanark would operate as described previously: through east-west traffic on both the road and BikeWest would proceed on green; all left and right turning traffic that might cross BikeWest would go only on green arrows when through traffic movements are prohibited. This would not unduly delay car traffic, and would minimize the conflicts between cyclists and motorists.

Lots of City-owned room along Scott for BikeWest and new pedestrian walkways

For the minor, unsignalized intersections, the bike route might be pulled close to the transitway cut, and would cross the streets on a raised surface. This sharply raised surface will be self-enforcing to vehicles, which will slow down before going over the hump. With a hump, motorists would be reminded of the cycle route whether cyclists are present or not. There would be at least one car length transition zone between the bike crossing and the Scott roadway, so cars would not get hung up in the intersections. There should be yield signs located at each car crossing of the bike surface, to remind vehicles that they are crossing the bike way and that cyclists have priority.

If the raised bike route crossing intersections arrangement fails to get past City hall bureaucrats and naysayers, it will be back to level crossings similar to the picture below, but with better alignment and hopefully a coloured asphalt path crossing the road to reinforce the presence of the bike route.

Current Scott path meets cross street: a mess that discourages path use

The preferred set-back / raised crossing is not perfect. Nothing short of a fully-grade-separated route can be. But most of these unsignalized streets are low volume local traffic roads. Signage would be required reminding motorists not to queue up blocking the bike route.

Exactly how the BikeWest route would bypass the bus transfer stations at Tunney’s and Westboro can only be determined when design criteria for these stations has been decided on.  The bypass need not be difficult or expensive or dangerous. But it needs to be designed into the stations right from the beginning. For example, the current arrangement at Westboro Station locates the bus bay well off Scott Street, letting cyclists continue along a painted shoulder. This is better than the Tunney’s arrangement that forces cyclists to mix with pedestrians and waiting bus users in the same area. Recall that both these stations will be redesigned as part of the LRT project and modifications/provisions for WestBike could be incorporated in the rebuilding.

Current Tunney's Station will undergo major renovation and rearrangment if LRT goes ahead. Could BikeWest be incorporated in the redesign?

Westboro Station. Cyclists either ride on the bus bay or between the island and the road

Once BikeWest approaches Churchill and Dominion, a number of options open up. Many cyclists will percolate south on the side streets that penetrate the residential neighborhoods between the River and Carling. For more dedicated longer-haul cyclists, two options will be explored in the next segment.

Click to enlarge route map along Scott

One key reason why the BikeWest concept needs to be accepted soon is there are a lot of road and infrastructure projects going in along the route in the next seven to fifteen years that can make or break the feasibility of the cycling route. In addition to the transitway and stations, Scott may be rebuilt/realigned, there is a Scott CDP (planning exercise), a Bayview-Carling CDP, and the Interprovincial transit study. The LeBreton concept plan and the city’s Escarpment CDP (covering the area from Booth to Bay) would need to be updated to incorporate the BikeWest concept.

The generous right of way along Scott facilitates BikeWest infrastructure.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

BikeWest - part vi - some path photos

Click each photo to enlarge.

Photo above shows a raised pedestrian crossing. Vehicle traffic moving across the walk has about a six inch rise, which has to be steep enough to slow traffic down without (excessively) angering motorists. This design effectively gives priority to pedestrians. A similar crossing would be employed for cyclists in the BikeWest project.

A segment of bike path directly adjacent the curb of a vehicle road.

A number of Ottawa River bike path segments closely parallel the Ottawa River Commuter Expressway, with only a 1 to 3 meter boulevard between the two surfaces. At dusk this is distracting to cyclists who face the car headlights.

BikeWest - part iii - from Booth to Bayview

Above: looking west from Preston, approaches to the Bayview Station area

From Booth, the BikeWest bike road would continue as a two-way road separated from the car traffic by a curb and possibly a boulevard, and coloured pavement, with a raised sidewalk to the side of the bike road, all the way west to Bayview Station. Note that the City already owns the right of way along the side of Albert to Bayview, it is where they buried a high-pressure water pipe and where a vague multipurpose paved path was installed two years ago. The path will pass between the existing Dalhousie neighborhood (which includes the first 600 houses built in the 1980's as LeBreton Flats phase 1) and the new proposed higher density mixed-use Flats project currently underway (slowly).

The bicycle road would be adjacent the (north) side vehicle lane of Albert to facilitate snow plowing, but the sidewalk, already raised slightly higher than the new bike road, would be separated from the roads by a boulevard of trees and grass.

Above: the current ill-designed multi-purpose path would be replaced with bi-directional BikeWest lanes along Albert with a new pedestrian sidewalk set back behind a landscaped buffer of trees and grass. Not quite the Champs Elysees, but that’s the inspiration…

At Bayview, Albert crosses the OTrain tracks and joins Scott. The intersection with Bayview Ave is unlikely to change from an at-grade signalized intersection, which would be treated the same way as other signalized intersections as described previously, to provide safe intersections for cyclists without frustrating delays.

The connection at Bayview of the north-south transit line with the east-west LRT line is not finalized. It will most likely involve a station just east (towards the downtown) of the current Bayview transitway station, and will be a major transfer point from the east-west service to north-south service, including service to Gatineau on the existing-but-unused Prince of Wales railway Bridge. As part of this transit interchange, the City may have to widen the Scott Street road bridge or the transitway bridge over the OTrain, in order to improve alignments and handle the number of lanes/tracks required. It would therefore be economical to widen either structure at the same time to accommodate a two-way BikeWest project. Suitable side access to the Bayview station and other routes (such as the NCC Ottawa River bike paths, and the southwest path along the OTrain right of way) should be incorporated into the Bayview area design.

Click to enlarge: BikeWest route on north side of Albert

After leaving the Bayview Station area and crossing Bayswater Road at grade, BikeWest would continue west using the greenspace along the north side of Scott Street, where an existing multipurpose path would be rebuilt as separate landscaped BikeWest and pedestrian paths. Whether the path is located adjacent the north road curb or set back in greenspace is subject to discussion and refinement, but either can work with the BikeWest concept.

Note that a key to the success of the BikeWest concept is that commuter cyclists have direct dedicated path westward. This will remove many of them from the meandering NCC riverside paths, thus obviating the demand to build separate pedestrian and cycling paths along the waterfront.

At every major intersection, BikeWest users would have the same length of green lights as would car traffic, ie not be second class to car commuters. The bike road will not be successful if users are frustrated by car-priority signaling at intersections or unpredictable, potentially fatal cross-traffic. Thus the emphasis that BikeWest users have the same green lights for through traffic as cars do. (Recall that traffic turning across the BikeWest route does so only on right turn/left turn arrows, from separate stacking lanes (most of which are already there) so car traffic does not cross the bike route when cyclists are proceeding through the intersections. Like all signalized intersections, obeying the signals promotes everyone’s safety.

BikeWest is not just for commuter cyclists though, which is why connections to other City bike routes and the NCC recreational paths are necessary to help construct a web of safe cycling routes in the city.

Next: segment 3, from Bayview to Dominion.

Monday, September 21, 2009

BikeWest - part ii - from Bronson to the transitway

The current transitway carries buses across LeBreton Flats and links them onto Albert Street (westbound) and Slater Street (eastbound) where Albert-Slater split, in front of the Good Companions Centre, located half way between Bronson and Booth Street.

Above: The Albert-Slater split, where the transitway begins/ends, by the Good Companions Centre. Slater, on the right, was originally built expressly for streetcar traffic to access the downtown.

Both Albert and Slater have dedicated bus-only lanes from the split right into the downtown core. These lanes will not be required for buses once the Downtown Ottawa Transit Tunnel (DOTT) is constructed and the Light Rapid Transit (LRT) service replaces the current bus rapid transit that uses street surfaces.

There are many contending uses for the bus lane space in the downtown core (east of Bronson over to the canal). But for the lanes west of Bronson, both Albert and Slater traverse vacant lands. The City, in its prior southwest LRT project planning, identified the Slater Street lane between the Good Companions and Bronson as unnecessary for traffic, and proposed converting it into a pedestrian sidewalk (currently missing either side of Slater) and additional greenspace merging into the wooded slope up towards St Vincent Hospital. As for Albert west of Bronson, currently four lanes (including the one counterflow lane that eases traffic onto Bronson), the City proposed reducing this road to three lanes once the buses were replaced by the LRT service.

Click to enlarge map. Dotted line shows the new bike route on the right side of each of the streets.

The BikeWest proposal is for a dedicated 3m-wide bike lane to replace the surplus bus-only lanes on these portions of Albert and Slater. There should be a concrete curb separating the car road from the bike road. The bike road could be about eight inches higher than the car road surface, to clearly identify it as separate from the vehicle road. Or it could be separated from the car traffic by a two foot wide curb/boulevard. Then beyond the bike path, there would be another curb and the concrete pedestrian sidewalk eight inches higher than the bike surface. These differing surface elevations and coloured asphalt paving will self-enforce a separation of traffic types.

Above: Slater Street bus lane would become a dedicated, physically-separated eastbound bike road made of coloured asphalt and there would be a separate concrete sidewalk for pedestrians.

This proposed tripartite vehicle road/bike road/pedestrian sidewalk would blend very easily into the existing wooded slope on the side of Slater. It would also coexist wonderfully well with the recently-constructed separate raised pathway that runs along the north side of Albert between Bronson and the transitway.

Above: west bound bus lane on Albert – shown on the far left - would become separated westbound bike route; boulevard and sidewalk would remain on both sides. Click to enlarge photo, and the new raised sidewalk on the far side of the photo (north side of Albert) will be apparent.

Only for the segment of BikeWest that runs from the downtown to the split would there be separated east-bound and west-bound bike lanes; for the rest of BikeWest project from the split to the west end, both directions would be on one paved surface on the north side of Albert. Cyclists would transition from the one way pair to the two-way portion at a signalized crossing where Albert-Slater split.

Here is a satellite photo of the route from Bronson west to the split at the Good Companions where the transitway is shown curving in from the lower left.

From the Albert-Slater split west towards Booth and then other points west, both direction lanes of the BikeWest road would be on the north (LeBreton Flats) side of Albert. This surface would not be reclaimed from the car road surface, but would be entirely new separated-by-curbs route, paved with coloured asphalt, created on the city-owned space along the north side of Albert, roughly where the current multi-purpose path is now. The pedestrian path/sidewalk would be located immediately north of the new BikeWest surface. This right of way is City owned for parts of the route, and might require some space from the NCC as part of the LeBreton Flats development in a few other spaces.

Above: the current ill-designed cyclist-ped path would relocate a few metres to the right as a new pedestrian-only sidewalk, leaving lots of room for a bi-directional BikeWest surface between it and Albert Street.

The first major intersection the BikeWest road faces is when it reaches Booth. This intersection is already a horror. It is scheduled to get worse. In order to be successful, the BikeWest users must have a fairly generous opportunity to safely cross Booth without excessive wait times.

I suggest this could be done by permitting right or left turns off the Albert Street stack lanes onto Booth only when there is a right turn/left turn green arrow. When there is a green light for through traffic on Albert, the bike road would also have a green light. There would be no turning traffic to cross the bike route during the regular green. Thus cyclists would have exactly the same amount of time to proceed through the intersection as would through-traffic motorists, and there would be no turning vehicles crossing WestBike when cyclists have a green light.

This procedure would be employed at all the subsequent major signalized intersections along BikeWest (eg Bayview, Parkdale, Holland, Island Park, Lanark).

Tomorrow: the Booth to Bayview segment

Sunday, September 20, 2009

BikeWest – part i - Opportunity Knocks

The BikeWest project is an idea. An idea about how we can move beyond shared bike lanes. About doing something significant and big to promote cycling to work. An idea for a dedicated, separated-from-cars two way bike road capable of moving thousands of people between neighborhoods and to the downtown. At the same time, an idea that is affordable. Achievable in the medium term. An idea that doesn’t monopolize cycling resources or block other projects. A project that builds up Ottawa rather than dividing it.

Ottawa has many cycle paths now, almost all of them provided by the NCC (bless them for that!). Most of the paths are designed for recreational use: they are scenic, winding paths rather than straight origin-destination commuter paths. The City has marked some “bike routes” and “multipurpose paths”, but they are often unsuitable for both commuters and users who feel threatened by pavements shared with motorists. Some of the marked lanes are really beneficial to those comfortable with on-road cycling.

The main impediment to a high volume dedicated bike route are pretty obvious. First, there’s the car-oriented mentality that dominates City Hall and the NCC. Of course, cars currently are the dominant mode of transport. Second is the short-term mentality at City Hall and the preference to do small-area planning and thus miss the longer-term opportunities. As for the NCC, it’s simply not in their mandate. Third, there is the physical problem of finding a route that has land available, is fairly direct, and goes where people want to go.

Fortunately, there is an opportunity for a dedicated bike route where there is space available, all in City ownership, in a direct line to where users want to go, and where a dedicated bike road can be built where already in-advanced-planning-process major capital expenditures are planned over the next decade and a half.

BikeWest is a bikeway from the downtown running due west along Albert Street to Bayview, continuing west along Scott Street to Westboro, and easily extendable to Lincoln Fields and other points west and south. As evident from the map, it’s an amazingly straight line in a built up city.

The population between the River and Carling Avenue, from the downtown to Westboro, is about 80,000 people. All these people live within an easy ride on residential streets that feed into the BikeWest route. This is a tremendous prime potential feeder area to BikeWest. Of course, there are also many hardier cyclists that would come to the route from outside this catchment area

Above: the main route (click to enlarge)

In subsequent entries, I will describe each segment of the BikeWest project.

The next entry will look at the first section, between the end of the Transitway at the Albert-Slater split by the Good Companions centre, and the downtown.

Opportunity is knocking. Will Ottawans let it in?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Last traces of former rail line

What may at first glance seem to be a jersey barrier*  in the woods is really one abutment of a culvert crossing on the former CPR (?) tracks that ran west along the Ottawa River where the Ottawa River Commuter Expressway is now.

The rail right of way was expanded and converted into a car road allowance in the early 1960's following Greber's plans for scenic drives throughout Ottawa. Many of these drives were never completed, but the NCC still holds numerous rights of way undeveloped, waiting for LRT, other transit, or a serious non-recreational cycling network. Toronto, not blessed with the NCC holding open rights of way, is examining if it can convert hydro-electric rights of way into a commuter cycling network.

The right most abutment in the above photos shows up well because it has been painted cream, probably to cover grafitti. The left abutment is au naturel.

Also missing is the creek it crossed. It has long since been redirected into a storm sewer, to the detriment of birds and other natural life systems it should be supporting.

*a jersey barrier is one of those portable concrete barriers used to block off lanes during construction. they can be linked together and provide physical safety to workers and successfully intimidate car drivers. They help ensure cyclists have no room between cars and the side of the road. Popularized by the NJ Dept of Transport.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Grape Stomping Good Time on Preston Street

Double click on image to enlarge.

The Grapes are Coming

Life in Dalhousie is never dull. As seen on Somerset Street, just west of Preston, another tractor trailer load of California grapes is unloaded by Silvano Musca, owner of Musca Wine Supplies. The grapes are crushed into juice on the premises, and sold directly to customers to ferment into artisanal wines. Some grapes are kept in huge drive-in refridgerated rooms for use later. Wine making is especially popular with the many Italian families that have traditional ties to Dalhousie and the Little Italy neighborhood, most obviously along Preston Street.

Coming soon: BikeWest

Starting Sunday or Monday I will deviate a bit from my catch-all blogging and post a multipart series on a project to improve the cycling experience from the downtown to Westboro.

At the end of the series (next Friday?), the entire post will be available, with photos, as a single document, for anyone upon request to my email or to via comments on the blog (be sure to include your email address explicitly stated, it won't show up even to me when you submit comments to the blog).

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Otrain "temporary" station at Bayview

When the OTrain service began in 2001 it was a "temporary" experiment to see if Ottawan's would like a train. That the service - derrided as being from nowhere to nowhere - quickly exceeded its longer time ridership projections was a pleasant surprise. Today it carries 50% more riders than the optimistic forecast.

Still, being an experiment and all, the stations were designed to be "temporary". Bayview Station was no exception. The City engineers designed the paved paths with steeply sloping gravel sides. No doubt their text books and tables told them that these would be "stable". Of course, in the real world people walk on the verges, OC Transpo maintenance vehicles and snowplows drive on the paths, and they have erroded. In many places 10" to 14" of the asphalt path has broke off, leaving a dangerous to walk on edge. In the few spots where the gravel base extended out further or cannot be walked on because of the handrail, there is no breaking up of the surface.

Temporary facility or not, maintenance is essential. Repairs are required now.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Light Rail and the SW (OTrain) route

I am constantly amazed at what I hear about light rail planning in the City.

I have to conclude it doesn't matter what happens, people will simple reinterpret it (twist it) to fit their own preconceived agenda. It is part of the hyper-partisan-ization of our society that I find distressing.

There was a SW transit plan under Mayor Chiarelli. It ran on street surface in the downtown, accross the Flats and Dalhousie neighborhoods,  and turned south at Bayswater, ran along the OTrain line, managed to miss the airport, to Riverside,  to the new Strandherd Bridge over the Rideau and thence into Barrhaven where it ended.

The plan had a number of merits. It put transit into a rapidly growing area at the same time as the population moved in, which meant people could get used to transit from day 1, and the street plan could be shaped to feed to it. It serviced a lot of underused lands en route to Riverside. It did not go to Kanata or Orleans, because those areas already had the transitway. It was to cost well less than a billion dollars.

Voters turned it down. Some because it was too expensive. Some because it wasn't expensive enough: they wanted a tunnel. Others wanted it to go East-West first, even though most of the new LRT would simply replace existing BRT. Thus was born an unwiedly coalition of nay-sayers who voted to delay the SW - LRT til a later point in building out the LRT transit system.

After the election, the east-west route took priority. To appease those who did not want surface rail in the downtown, it was put in a tunnel. Even if the LRT could run on the surface for a while, it wasn't a good long term solution, which the tunnel is. Those who claimed the SW - LRT was too expensive gladly voted for the more expensive tunnel version. Converting the BRT transitway to LRT was seen as progressive, even if it didn't give a huge boost to ridership. From a strategic point of view, these Council decisions are defensible.

Along comes the recession and government stimulus money. Stimulus money isn't to be spent far in the future if it is to stimulate us out of a recession, it needs to be spent soon (unless you are US Congress which will announce the majority of their stimulus money next June, before their re-election, and well after the recession is over). The stimulus in Canada requires municipalities to accelerate or bring foreward planned projects so that they can be implemented sooner than otherwise planned and stimulate the economy. This means projects that are already in the planning pipeline. They are not to be the projects the City planned to build this year anyway - that wouldn't be a stimulus, it would just replace municipal money with federal money. Ottawa has two transit plans with environmental approvals: the E-W  LRT from Blair to Tunney's, and the SW - LRT from Bayview south.

The City is suggesting it could build the segment from Bayview to Riverside immediately. This is NOT the old SW plan that included the street surface tracks in the downtown. It does not include the link to Barrhaven. It builds on elements from the old SW plan, which Council has previously decided needs to be built someday, and offers it up for immediate funding. This is smart politics. If other levels of government are waving money around, rejiggle City transit projects timelines around a bit to take advantage of the free - or at least cheap - money.

Let's not forget other elements of the transit route nirvana. The NCC, Gatineau, and Ottawa are examining a better linkage of interprovincial transit. The most logical first-phase outcome, in my opinion, would be a LRT service from Rideau through the new tunnel to Bayview Station and thence north accross the Prince Of Wales Bridge to Gatineau. Say goodbye to most of those blue buses in downtown Ottawa, and hello to a busier LRT system. The converted OTrain alignment looks pretty prescient in this case.

Take a valium Ottawa, the unfolding LRT plans are not to everyone's liking, never will be. But they are certainly not a disaster.

[Note that the extension of the LRT from Tunney's west to Lincoln Fields is not eligible for short-term stimulus money because the route hasn't been decided on yet. There is still lots of consultation and hand-wringing to do].

Bayview - Tom Brown Landscaping Continues

west side boulevard sodded

Bayview re-landscaped

Looking east on Albert as it goes over the OTrain

Boulevard trees, west side of Bayview seen from Scott

Curious curb jogs, seen from Somerset looking north

Field of Trees, between TomBrown Arena and Albert

Sometimes the City makes me very happy. Like when I see the amount of generous landscaping going in along Bayview Avenue between Somerset and Albert/Scott.

For several years the City waterworks people have been burying high pressure water mains in the area. Approx.where the sidewalk is shown in picture 4 & 5 is the route of the pipeline. There was a bare grassy lawn running from Tom Brown arena's bright orange roof over to the intersection of Scott/Bayview/Bayview/Albert (that's right - all four streets at this intersection have different names, possibly a record for Ottawa). The area was used for staging construction supplies and got all chopped up. Now there is topsoil and a host of new trees. My only regret here is that once again the City cannot bear to actually pave the desire lines that pedestrians wear into the grass showing where they really want to go, but the city makes the sidewalk follow the street line as if pedestrians are just slow cars. By next year, the grass will be worn into a few popular walking lines, diagonally over to Albert Street.

At least the sidewalks here are not glued firmly to the curbline, but are set back generously from the curb, with trees planted in the boulevard, as shown in picture 2. I do hope all these trees survive.

It is always difficult to picture the final layout and appearance of the streetscape before it is all put in place. Certainly I have been fooled before by what something looks like in isolation, but makes more sense as more elements are put in place. But looking down the Bayview the curb line from Somerset the jogs do not make much sense. Bayview is wide at Somerset, to allow for three lanes of traffic and to align with Bayswater on the south side of the interesection. As Bayview goes downhill from Somerset, the street narrows to a two lane road. But notice in picture 3 that the road then becomes much wider again where the new pavement starts, and over the next 40m or so goes back to a narrower roadway. The widening cannot be used for parking, as it is a row of townhouse driveways (and the sidewalk in front of them stays depressed, it doesn't roller-coaster every driveway!). I'll keep an eye on this, but it looks bizarre now.

Picture 1 is looking uphill along Albert as it ascends to go over the OTrain tracks. There used to be a lengthy "merge" lane here. When the City help public meetings on these roadwords, they had kept the merge lane in place, and I had a lengthy debate with the engineers as to why they shouldn't have one (it isn't a Qway merge lane, after all!) and that City policy required they remove it. They insisted it stay. Now its gone, and that is good news. I hope some trees appear in the boulevard.

BTW, the sidewalk running up the hill is brand new concrete squares. The City actually took out and replaced all those squares just last year. Maybe second time lucky ...

This wouldn't be my blog if it didn't contain a beef about the City, and here it is. The high pressure water pipe project runs from Bronson to Bayview. The portion from Bronson to Empress is beautifully landscaped with path and trees and pedestrian lighting, even though the area along the path is subject to redevelopment in the near future and Albert Street is to be reconstructed. Then, there is no landscaping from Empress to Preston to City Centre Avenue, and the City refuses to plant trees because it would be only "temporary" until developments come along the street. But these new buildings are not scheduled to come for another 20-plus years! Then, once the pipeline crosses the OTrain, the lush landscaping resumes. Did our neighborhood do something wrong that we can't get trees from Empress to City Centre?