Archive for the 'Outside Ottawa' Category

22
Sep
09

Found: Animated TTC vehicle map

This comes from out of town, but I needed to pass it along. It’s a video of the Toronto Transit Corporation’s scheduled vehicle movements throughout the day. It’s cool and rather hypnotic watching the grid burst into life in the morning, move steadily through the day and then die off into the evening. Be interesting to see what this would look like for Ottawa—certainly not as neat and orderly as Toronto’s wide grids.

(I recommend watching this one full-screen, by the way as it’s hard to make out in the normal size)

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22
Sep
09

Urban Barrhaven?

When Ottawans think of dense, urban neighborhoods, chances are good that Barrhaven is not high up on the list. In fact, most of us probably wouldn’t even put it on the list in the first place. However, it seems that Minto is trying to change things with a proposed new town “centre” for Barrhaven. I’m chosing to put centre in quotation marks simply because this development is not so much central as it is stuck on the southern end of the suburb, but it is an intriguing proposal nevertheless.

First, let’s take a look at the proposed location.

Image courtesy of maps.bing.com

Image courtesy of maps.bing.com

Located south of Strandherd and west of Greenbank\Jockvale, this is very plainly a new development. There’s no real urban fabric on the site right now, as it’s merely a collection of fields south of a big box\power centre development. Unfortunately, this means that it is a greenfields development, and one that pushes the boundary of Barrhaven further south and west, which is the proposal’s most negative aspect. However, this is balanced by the nature of the proposal.

As described in the article linked, the development will be reasonably dense and mixed use, with 1,200 residential units. Even taking the most conservative population numbers (assuming one resident per unit) that represents a population density of about 95 people per hectare, putting it right up with many of Ottawa’s dense neighborhoods in the core. The addition of office and retail space, as well as nearby transit infrastructure with the southwest Transitway extension definitely makes this a very progressive proposal for an area like Barrhaven. And provided it complies with the City’s urban design guidelines, it could become a genuinely urban space.

I’m not without my reservations, however. It’s becoming more and more common for developers to claim they are building a “new downtown” somewhere—it’s currently happening all over the Greater Toronto Area in reaction to Ontario’s Places to Grow initiative—but it remains to be seen if any of them achieve a true urban experience. Perhaps the best case study we have for this kind of suburban downtown is Mississauga, which is quite dense and actually has one of Canada’s most significant concentrations of high-rise development, but is a long way from vibrant.

Downtown Mississauga. Image courtesy of sherrybrandy.

Downtown Mississauga.

(Image courtesy of sherrybrandy)

While dense, Mississauga is still fundamentally suburban in character. Roads are wide, and cars are still the prefered transportation mode, while buildings ignore the street. It’s a common shortfall of these kinds of developments, and one which the Minto development should strive to avoid. Mississauga is not a perfect analogue, of course, as there is no mall anchoring this development, and the overall height is lower, however there are lessons to be learned. Keep roadways narrow and stops for cars frequent, so that pedestrians have priority over traffic. Don’t forget the sidewalk, and have plenty of shops and buildings fronting directly upon it, while removing parking lots that face right onto the street.

Creating a downtown instead of having one growing organically is always a challenge. I think it can be done, given good design and by paying attention to the mistakes of the past. This is a potentially important development for Ottawa, and hopefully Minto can come up with something interesting and urban.

10
Sep
09

Ottawa, a green destination

The Mother Nature Network—which I had not previously heard of—has named Ottawa as their green travel Destination of the Week. It’s an interesting read, discussing as it does all the reasons why they feel that Ottawa is an interesting, environmentally concious city. A few choice excerpts:

The green is easy to see in Canada’s capital. Aerial photos of summertime Ottawa reveal a tree-covered landscape that would seem suburban if it weren’t for the unmistakably urban architecture poking through the foliage. Not even the legendarily frigid Canadian winters are void of natural charms. Waterways used for boating in warmer weather are converted into skating rinks, and outdoor festivities continue year-round, regardless of the ambient temperature. There are more than 60 annual festivals in the Ottawa metro area each year.

Sure, the subtle quaintness of Ottawa might disappoint those who’ve already been seduced by Toronto’s diversity or Montreal’s Euro-American vibe, but the capital city offers one of the most pleasant and user-friendly travel experiences in northern North America.
Ottawa doesn’t often boast about its green features. The city’s breathable air and alternatives for carless commuters speak for themselves, Its green urban landscapes and multitude of outdoor activities complement the natural charms of Canada’s capital city.
I’m always fascinated to read an outsider’s perspective on our city, mostly because we have a bad habit of getting caught up around infighting and petty bickering over urban issues that it can be tough to see the big picture. We’re not without our problems, but it’s worth remembering that your average tourist comes away with a pretty positive image of our city. Granted, a tourist isn’t here long enough to see or understand the problems we do have, but perhaps that says something in of itself.
Sure we spend a lot of time complaining about OC Transpo and debating over our future LRT line, but at the same time, we still manage to have one of the most extensive and best-used transit systems in North America. We worry about bike infrastructure and bike safety, but what we have, again, is much more developed than many cities in the world. And we’re concerned over sprawl, and how to effectively contain our growing population, but without destroying the greenery and charm of many of our urban neighborhoods with excessive density, but again, we’re doing much better at it than places like the American Southwest.
This is not to say that Ottawa is a perfect place, but it is a very good one. And sometimes, we need an outsiders perspective to see just how well-off we really are.
(Thanks to Transit Ottawa for passing along the link)
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’




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