Tuesday, October 13, 2009

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.


  1. So the original transit alignment has been forfeited for streetcars, LRT, and cycling, and given over to dog walkers.

    Just like in Aylmer, with the exception of cycling.

  2. Interesting discussion, thanks for posting.