Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

29
Oct
09

Hybrid downtown transit

Even if you’ve been doing nothing but glimpse at the headlines of Ottawa’s major dailies, you doubtless know about the “rising” costs of the City’s light rail plans. With the first phase projected to top $2 billion, the province is starting to get cold feet over helping to fund the project, and it seems like many people are getting antsy over exactly how much the City will have to shell out to get things done.

Others have already done an excellent job of deconstructing the numbers that are floating around, showing that things may not be as bad as they seem, but the fact remains: the plan is now percieved as being too expensive. Regardless of the plan’s actual value and cost-effectiveness, it’s possible that it will need to be scaled down in order to secure funding from higher levels of government. So my thought is, why not a combined surface and underground system in the downtown core? Here’s a map I threw together:

Picture 3

Blue is surface rail, red is tunneled. Train symbols represent potential stations. Map created using Google Maps.

In this proposal, rail would follow the Transitway to Lebreton, where it would divert north along the current alignment of Wellington Street—currently used for tour bus parking, I believe—before diving underground for a short tunneled section at Commissioner Street. A slight curve under Bronson Park would line the rail up with Sparks Street, where it would come aboveground just after Bay. From there, it would run along Sparks with stops at Lyon, Bank, and Metcalfe, before diving back underground to curve around to Mackenzie King and Campus stations.

Before I go on, I should say that this is entirely conjecture. I’m not certain if any of these curves or climbs would actually work for LRT vehicles, it just seemed like the most logical way to do things at the time.

I think there would be a number of advantages to this idea. Most notably, it would remove nearly a kilometre of tunnel, which, at a guess, would probably shave $60–70 million off the bill, along with allowing for surface stations instead of underground stops, also representing a significant savings. Furthermore, I chose Sparks Street for the surface section for a reason: having trains running along that corridor would do a lot to improve the liveliness of that half-abandoned pedestrian mall, giving people a reason to be there outside of office workers on their lunch breaks.

Of course, there would be obstacles. The National Capital Commission would of course be reluctant to allow trains on Sparks, something that would need to be heavily negotiated. And it still wouldn’t be cheap, just somewhat less-expensive, so it would hopefully be more palatable to the McGuinty government.

Sparks is not the only option for surface rail, either. Albert and Slater could theoretically be used, as they are now, however I think it would be difficult to remove the need for tunneled sections entirely. If the current Transitway lanes were used, leading to the Mackenzie King Bridge, then an extremely tight turn would be required to align trains up for the run to Campus station. Either a tunnel would be needed to make a more gradual turn, or a serious reconstruction of the area around the east end of the bridge would be necessary.

In all, while it would require a lot of work and a lot of inter-agency co-operation, I think Sparks Street is the most logical place to build a section of surface rail, if we decide it’s neccessary to reduce the plans cost. At this point, I think it would be premature to scrap the current tunnel plan entirely, but it is at least worth considering our alternatives.

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01
Jul
09

Canada Day

Hey folks—I’m not dead, just haven’t been able to find enough time to blog much lately. I’m hoping to change that in the near future, but for now I’d just like to post a link to my set of Canada Day photos on Flickr. I tried to capture as much of the atmosphere as I could. Here are a couple samples if you’re unsure of clicking through to the set itself.

Canoeists on the Canal

Canoeists on the Canal

The crowds on Wellington

The crowds on Wellington

The Alexandra Bridge was crowded with people all day.

The Alexandra Bridge was crowded with people all day.

Here’s the link to the set again. Hope you enjoy!

20
May
09

That Which Survives: LeBreton Flats

It’s odd to think that a place can be completely obliberated nearly overnight. But in the case of LeBreton Flats, it’s happened twice—first in 1900 when The Great Fire of 1900 hit Ottawa, which leveled a vast swath of Ottawa from Carling Avenue to the other side of the river into Quebec. While disasterous, the Flats were eventually rebuilt, becoming an important industrial area in the first half of the 20th century for Ottawa, as well as a vibrant working class neighborhood. But in 1962, another disaster hit, one from which it would prove nearly impossible to rebuild from: the National Capital Comission. The NCC had been working for years to purchase all the land in the area, and began evicting residents in 1962. By 1965, the neighborhood was demolished in the name of urban renewal.

Two children in the half-abandoned LeBreton Flats in 1963. Image courtesy Wikipedia.

Two children in the half-abandoned LeBreton Flats in 1963. Image courtesy Wikipedia.

If you’re interested in reading more about what went on, there is a good—though admittedly very biased—account online here.

The fact of the matter is, the neighborhood was nearly obliterated, and few traces of it remain in the windswept plain that took its place. However, it didn’t entirely disappear, as I discovered thanks to an article in the Ottawa Citizen (which, unfortunately, I can’t find again or I would link to it). So a few days ago, I set out to explore the tiny remnents of one of Ottawa’s lost communities.

What’s left of LeBreton is focused primarily on a tiny street called lower Lorne Avenue, which is a City of Ottawa historic district. Along with a few homes on connecting Primrose Avenue, it’s the most complete remains of the old LeBreton, aside from a few modern townhouses which were built before before the area’s heritage value was recognized.

Looking up lower Lorne Avenue from Primrose Avenue.

Looking up lower Lorne Avenue from Primrose Avenue.

Today, Lorne is a pleasantly middle-class street, no doubt bolstered by the heritage designation. Still, when you walk along the sidewalk, it’s easy to get a feel for what the old neighborhood must have been like. The houses are solidly built, if unremarkable, and are evocative of the similarly working-class heritage rowhouses found throughout neighborhoods like Lowertown.

Typical residences on Lorne Avenue.

Typical residences on Lorne Avenue.

A couple of Lorne’s neighboring streets also survived the demolition, though they are far less intact. Perkins Street, one block over, is rather unique and almost seems like more of a laneway, as many of the houses on Lorne (as well as those along neighboring Empress Avenue) have direct backyard access to parking areas on Perkins. There are also a few remaining older residences along Perkins.

The laneway-esque Perkins Street.

The laneway-esque Perkins Street.

Finally, there’s Empress Avenue. Though one side consists of a (relatively) modern health centre and its parking lot, the western side contains a few more rements of the old LeBreton Flats.

The west side of Empress Avenue.

The west side of Empress Avenue.

Finally, at the very end of Empress, I noticed an impressive bit of infill. Unlike the 1970s-style townhouses which had popped up on Lorne and Primrose, some townhouses had been built which seemed very respectful of the street’s history and character and blended into the streetscape quite well. It’s exactly the sort of development I’d like to see more of in Ottawa’s older neighborhoods.

Newer townhouses on Empress, which appear more sensitive to the neighborhood than some developments.

Newer townhouses on Empress, which appear more sensitive to the neighborhood than some developments.

I hope you’ve enjoyed a quick look at what’s left of the old LeBreton Flats, and I hope it gives you some idea of what must have once filled the area.  It’s borderline tragic that Ottawa lost such a large historic district, but unfortunately what’s done is done. All we can do is try to hold on to what we have left.

Peeking down at lower Lorne Avenue from atop Nanny Goat Hill.

Peeking down at lower Lorne Avenue from atop Nanny Goat Hill.

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Incidentally, if anyone else has any more nominations for Ottawa’s best park, please let me know over on the original post, here.

30
Apr
09

Interview on CBC Radio

For those who missed it, here’s an mp3 download of my interview on the CBC’s Ottawa Morning, alongside Nick Taylor-Vaisey of Transit Ottawa.

23
Apr
09

Whither Bayview?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Ottawa City Council yesterday voted in favour of further exploring a deal to redevelop Lansdowne Park around a new Canadian Football League Franchise, beating out Senators Sports and Entertainment’s bid for a soccer stadium in Kanata. If you read this blog regularly, then I’m sure you know that I’m all in favour of major developments like this being built downtown, but the more I think about it the more I have to question whether or not the City made the right decision.

It’s not that I think a Kanata stadium would be better—far from it—but rather I’m concerned that a third option was not analyzed as much as it should have been: Bayview. The idea of a stadium at Bayview first came up a couple months ago, when the City released it’s survey of potential stadium sites, which wound up ranking the area, located between Tunney’s Pasture and Lebreton Flats, first overall.

And the more I think about it, the more I feel that a stadium at Bayview would be much better overall for the city. First of all, it’s got location. Sure, Lansdowne is right in the middle of the city, but it’s not easily accessible. Short of running light rail down Bank Street (a pipe dream at best), it’s not serviced by rapid transit, and it is only connected to the 417 by two narrow and easily congested roadways. Bayview, on the other hand, will be located right at the transfer station between our future east-west and north-south light rail lines, and can take in road traffic off the Ottawa River Parkway. And as a bonus, Bayview also offers the chance to construct a stadium with stunning views of downtown Ottawa and the Ottawa River—perhaps not the most important factor, but these things never hurt.

Secondly, I think that we’re slowly coming towards an unavoidable truth: Ottawa needs a new stadium, not to rebuild an old one. Frank Clair Stadium is, for all intents and purposes, falling apart at the seams. I was there a number of times in the fall to cover Gee-Gees games, and it was obvious that there was very little worth salvaging there. You can slap however many new coats of paint on it you want, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s an old, creaky concrete monstrosity with few of the creature comforts people expect from modern stadiums. And in the Citizen article I linked to at the beginning of this post, you’ll note that even with the proposed upgrades, there’s only an estimated 28 years of life left in Frank Clair… is that worth $100 million?

Given all this, I think the choice is clear. Bayview is the best place for a stadium, and because we’ll probably end up needing a new one anyway, we might as well build it in the best possible location. It’s not like anyone will miss a dumping ground for snow removal, anyway.

29
Mar
09

Hello again

It’s been far too long since I updated. Unfortunately, when you’re a student and also hold down a full-time job, things like blogging can sometimes slip by the wayside. I don’t really have much to say right now (though I have something I’ve been sitting on a while, just don’t have the time to write it up right now), but for now I thought I’d share a couple photos I took last night from Nepean Point at sunset.

The sun setting over the Alexandra Bridge and Gatineau

The sun setting over the Alexandra Bridge and Gatineau

Samuel de Champlain's statue is silhouetted against the twilight sky

Samuel de Champlain's statue is silhouetted against the twilight sky

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.




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