Archive for January, 2009

29
Jan
09

Breaking news: Strike over!

From CFRA:

“Three reliable and independent sources inside city hall tell CFRA news that negotiators representing the striking drivers, mechanics and dispatchers have agreed to end the strike and to send all matters to binding arbitration.

It is believed the resolution could pre-emp the need for an emergency debate in the House of Commons, and the need for back-to-work legislation forcing an end to the 51-day walkout.”

All I can really say about this is it’s about time. I can’t wait to see buses back on the road, especially with Winterlude and President Obama’s visit just around the corner.

EDIT: CTV is also saying it’s over. The Citizen’s David Reevely, says “close but not settled” on Twitter.

24
Jan
09

Kettles versus Ducks

I’m sure if you’ve been keeping an eye on local news at all, you’ve noticed the storm brewing around the latest round of debates over where to build a new bridge across the Ottawa River. If you haven’t, though, here’s a quick primer:

The National Capital Commission (NCC) is looking to build a new bridge across the Ottawa River, with the intent of removing trucks from downtown Ottawa, which currently cross the river using the Macdonald-Cartier Bridge. This means that they usually exit the 417 at Nicholas Avenue, and take it up to Rideau Street on to King Edward Avenue, which leads to the bridge. Needless to say, this has a fairly detrimental effect on those streets, with noise, pollution and congestion all unfortunately prevelant.

With this in mind, the NCC commissioned a study which, last September, recommended Kettle Island as the best site for a new bridge. Naturally, this led to a fight between east end residents, with those living near the site coming out against the plan, suggesting Lower Duck Island as an alternative.

Now, I’m not an expert on bridge construction, but I am a geographer, and when I look at these two sites, I can see some clear advantages in favour of Kettle Island, which I’d like to break down here. (Full disclosure, first of all: I used to live near the Lower Duck site, so I do have some bias, here)

Infrastructure

Kettle Island, as it stands, has a solid link with the 417, the Aviation Parkway. The Parkway has a full on\off ramp system at the highway, and is a four-lane, semi-grade separated roadway running almost all the way to the river. It will require some re-working near it’s end point to avoid the Ottawa-Rockcliffe Airport, but overall few changes will likely need to be made.

Lower Duck Island has no such connection. For one thing, it is past the “split”, where highway 174 heads east after the 417’s turn towards the south, an area known for its congestion (though admittedly, there are plans to widen this highway). There is an exit at Montreal Road, but no clear link to the north.  Shefford  Road, not far away, does run towards the river, but is fairly low-capacity and directly abuts a residential area. Light industrial and commercial development, meanwhile, prevents the easy construction of a road from the Montreal Road exit north to the river.

Community Impact

When it comes to Kettle Island, personally, I think a lot of the negative reaction is overblown. The Aviation Parkway is, as mentioned previously, partly seperated from nearby neighborhoods, and is a large enough road to be able to deal with an increase in traffic. Residents near the Parkway, though, will see some increase in traffic noise, and the road will become more congested, but probably not unmanagable so. Care would also need to be taken to ensure that the Aviation Museum was not adversely affected.

Lower Duck, meanwhile, could have a very low impact, I will grant, if the bridge is built to the east of the Rockcliffe Parkway. However, this would require the construction of a new exit from the 174, meaning significant reconstruction would be needed on the highway—likely a prohibitively expensive gesture. As mentioned above, the only other possibility would be a Montreal\Shefford link, which would easily have a much worse impact than the Aviation Parkway. And finally, the increased congestion this bridge would cause on the 174 can’t be ignored, as congestion is already a significant concern for residents of the area.

Environmental Impact

It does almost go without saying that any new bridge will have an environmental affect, but they would likely be markably different between the two sites. At the Kettle Island site, there is, essentially a clear corridor to and from major roadways on either side of the river. The main concern here would be Kettle Island itself, a low-lying, environmental sensitive alluvial island (made up of sediments deposited by the river, in other words). According to Ottawa Riverkeeper, the island is home to a highly unique swamp ecosystem, one which we should definitely make an effort to preserve. From an evironmental perspective, Kettle Island is not ideal, but it is almost certainly better than Lower Duck.

First, should the Montreal\Shefford approach I mentioned be taken, Lower Duck Island would cause similar environmental concerns as Kettle Island. Furthermore, though, even if the bridge were built further east, then the northern end of Grant’s Creek Conservation Area becomes an issue, as it would need to be protected from heavy traffic flows across the river. The final nail in the coffin is the Quebec side of the river, where we find Parc de Baie-McLaurin, a large, marshy bay along the banks of the river. Having a bridge touch down here would be disasterous, to say the least.

I think that these three categories represent the  most important factors in deciding where this new bridge should go. Kettle Island obviously isn’t the perfect choice, but then, no choice is. Rather, I think that Kettle Island is simply the best choice of the available alternatives.

13
Jan
09

On the road again: The Ottawa Project visits Saskatoon

As I mentioned in a previous post, I was in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan last week for the 71st annual Canadian University Press conference, and during one of the few times where I wasn’t busy taking in the conference, I took some time to get out and explore Saskatoon.

My initial impressions were that Saskatoon is a very different city from those in Ontario. Most of the roads were quite wide, which made everything look very spread out to my Eastern eyes. Additionally, Saskatoon doesn’t use salt on their roads, so instead of the wet, slushy conditions you get on Ottawa roads and sidewalks during the winter, you tended to have a very hard-packed snow covering most paved surfaces. In fact, not once did I regret my decision not to take heavy winter boots with me—unlike in Ottawa much of the time, running shoes were more than adequate to keep my feet dry.

Over on his blog, my friend and fellow conference-attendee Carl Meyer described Saskatoon as a “cold desert”. While that may be scientifically accurate (I believe most of Saskatchewan falls a little short of being classified as a desert climate), I can certainly agree with the sentiment. The air is incredibly dry, and the cold is a biting one; you don’t really notice it at first, but the longer you’re out in it, the more it gets to you. All that said, I did find it to be an interesting city, one I’d like to go back and have a chance to explore more during warmer months. Follow the jump to see some of my pictures with comments.

Continue reading ‘On the road again: The Ottawa Project visits Saskatoon’

13
Jan
09

Clive Doucet calls out Mayor on transit strike

I may not agree with everything Clive Doucet says or does, but I’m entirely in agreement with him on the issue of the strike, and I’ll always respect his willingness to speak out. In an article in the Citizen, Doucet is quoted saying that “[City Council] screwed up. We need to get going with Plan B. Plan A is not working.”

He also notes that he feels Larry O’Brien deceived City Council into thinking that scheduling was not as big an issue to union members as it is in reality.

This may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, if other Councillors follow Doucet’s lead. If that should happen, we’re likely to see the city come back to the negotiating table with a lot more flexibility on the scheduling issue, which might be the fastest way to end this strike. At this point, we can only hope.

10
Jan
09

More on transit privatization

Over at Greater Ottawa, David Reevely has written an excellent summary of why privatizing OC Transpo would be a bad idea. It’s very well written, and I strongly recommend you check it out.

As an incidental aside, I’m in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan right now for the Canadian University Press national conference. I took some time to explore the city a bit earlier today, so I’ll probably be writing up my impressions sometime next week.

08
Jan
09

In case you haven’t seen it posted on Spacing or Greater Ottawa, this is an absolutely fascinating look at Ottawa in 1942.

The first 3:30 consist of then-Premier Hepburn’s farm near St. Thomas, a quick glimpse of Toronto (where St. James Cathedral, Commerce Court and the Royal York dominate the skyline) and then it’s off to Ottawa. The rather lengthy segment focuses on the Rideau Canal, Mooney’s Bay and downtown, with a few shots of the train tracks running into Union Station. It’s amazing how much the city has changed since then.

It’s also too bad the ByWard Market isn’t visible at all, but it’s understandable why they wouldn’t show it in a travelogue—as I understand it, it wasn’t a terribly pleasant part of the city, then.




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