Local Ottawa stuff Politics

Hey Jim. My son’s got an idea for the Prince of Wales train bridge

When my 9-year old son heard about the City of Ottawa’s plan to block off the historic Prince of Wales truss bridge, physician the controversy around it, more about and Jim Watson’s aversion to lawsuits on the grounds that: “It’s not safe to be on an unused, rickety old train bridge.”, my kid begged me to go out again last night to walk across the bridge while we still can.

So, like any irresponsible parent, we did a bit of civil-disobedience-trespassing-for-the-public-good. Now, you can disparage my parenting all you like, and neither my boy nor I are engineering experts, but here are a few things my boy said as we crossed that I think should be added to the public record.

“This place is AWESOME!!!”

Just a small selection of the Instagram shots tagged recently at the Bridge.
Just a small selection of the Instagram shots tagged recently at the Bridge.

He’s right. It is. It is almost impossible to quantify its awesomeness. The bridge has Ottawa’s most spectacular, Instagram-worthy views, and it connects the two cities in a way that made sense in 1881 and *should* be self-evident today. If you’ve never done it, GO and check it out while you still can!

“It’s a shame the O-Train doesn’t run across it.”

Yup. It sure is. There really should already be BOTH a train to Gatineau AND a cantilevered platform for bikers, walkers, and even cross-country skiers in winter. But you see, there’s no money (as the Mayor just told me on Twitter)… unless you want $58 Million to widen Greenbank Road I guess… but lest we get bogged down, let’s ponder my son’s next bit of wisdom.

“There’s already a path here!”

He’s right again. At least on the Ottawa side, a sturdy old 1.5m-wide access walkway goes all the way across. Check the picture below if you’ve never seen it.

“It doesn’t seem that unsafe to me. All they need are railings.”

Hmm… He may have something there. Right now, as you cross, all you have between you and the water is an old rusty wire of dubious support value. A solid set of railings with maybe some new decking and lighting along the existing walkway could SURELY be set up for a lot less than the widely quoted $10+ Million price tag for a full pedestrian/ cycling bridge.

So Jim Watson: how about this idea from a nine-year-old kid?

Nah. Probably too easy.

ScreenHunter_309 Aug. 19 10.39
Artist’s (sloppy) rendering of a simpler, more cost-effective solution for the Prince of Wales train bridge – from that idea by my 9-year-old son.
Local Ottawa stuff

Another idea for getting buses off Scott Street

Between 2015 and 2018, view the Scott Street / Albert corridor is going to be a nightmare of construction while the city builds three new LRT stations at Holland, Bayview, and LeBreton, then after 2018 the pain moves West to Westboro and Dominion. But almost worse than the construction are the hundreds of buses every hour that will have to find an alternative to the Transitway while it is being dug up for the trains. The city and the LRT builders favour Scott Street, but have yet to publish the exact details of their plan.

In the meantime, the NCC has let it be known that they are open to considering use of the Parkway as an alternative, so several citizen activists have developed their own ideas that they are shopping around.  It suggests that buses could exit the Trench West of Holland and head North across Tunney’s Pasture to the Transitway. But this would be a slow route, and I think the consultants are going to balk at the delays and awkward routing of sending ALL buses across there, as well as stranding Bayview Station from regular service by 95, 96, etc.

There are also two options put forward by Eric Darwin for mitigating the impact if buses go on Scott: 1) one by  Shifting buses to the centre of Scott/Albert, 2) another to the Northern edge.  All of these are helpful in their own way, but I wonder if we need to have such an “all or nothing” approach.

I have one more possible option that combined with Eric’s idea, could dramatically *reduce* the volume of Transitway traffic on Scott Street – particularly during rush hour.

So here’s my idea:

This plan might divert a large number of OC Transpo Transitway buses away from the Scott/Albert Corridor.
This plan might divert a large number of OC Transpo Transitway buses away from the Scott/Albert Corridor.
  1. Designate ALL suburban express buses and a significant portion of regular Transitway buses (say 1/3 to 2/3) during weekday rush periods as “Downtown Direct” or “Parkway North” routes.
  2. These buses would never enter the Transitway trench at all, but would bypass Dominion and go all the way downtown on the parkway. This would keep a huge volume of bus traffic off Scott Street entirely. We might need an extra stop near Dominion, and Westboro Station would lose some service, which would be negative factors.
  3. But we could serve Tunney’s employees who ride these “Direct” buses, by building a temporary “North Tunney’s Station” – two sets of shelters at the North end of Tunney’s Pasture near the lights at Goldenrod and the Parkway. (See it here on Google Maps / Streetview).
  4. To serve Bayview / O-Train, we could build another “O-Train / Bayview Path” station just past the Prince of Wales rail bridge (here on Google Streetview ). With connections to the new O-Train path, this would be a moderately easy 150-200m walk South to the Bayview O-Train platform. (Although you could also easily build an O-Train  platform closer to the bridge / river. Or even – and this is a bit crazy – GO ACROSS TO QUEBEC?!?!)…
  5.  From here, to get buses back up to the Albert / Slater route (and they really CAN’T use Wellington across downtown) they’d either need to use the proposed Preston extension – which is not great for people on that part of Albert. Another possible, but less direct option would be to build a N/S lane and intersection where the old Wellington alignment forks away from new Wellington / Portage Bridge crossing (here on Google Streetview ).
  6. Alternately EASTBOUND buses could use the old Wellington option, while WESTBOUND buses could use the Parkdale route and the old unused Parkway underpass. This would further cut the bus traffic on Albert and clean up the turns.

I’m no transit planner, so there are lots of possible holes and offsetting factors in this idea. But I haven’t heard it suggested, and it seems worth a look.

What do you think?

Funny stuff Local Ottawa stuff

Pesky Sens Anthem (apologies to LMFAO)

Daniel Alfredsson said it: the Ottawa Senators are “in tough” against Pittsburgh tonight. But, prostate after hearing the original “Pesky Ottawa Athlete on Skates”, Elizabeth Manley on CBC Radio’s Ottawa Morning about her come-from behind medal at the Calgary Olympics, I thought I’d write my own version of the “fight song” she chose…

Pesky Sens Anthem - Every Game We're PESKIER

Pesky Sens Anthem

Dedicated to the Pesky Sens. GO SENS GO!!

To the tune of Party Rock Anthem (apologies to LMFAO)

Pesky Sens will rock the house tonight!
Every Penguin, get under their skin.
And Sens gonna make them lose their minds
Go Sens Army let’s have a good time!

Pesky Sens will rock the house tonight!
Crosby, Malkin, get under their skin.
And Sens gonna make them lose their minds
We just gonna plain out-skate them!

On the ice, Pesky Sens, lookin’ for the puck?
It’s on my stick, (huh) nonstop gonna make you sick,
Keep it movin’ FLICK, and we got you licked
Where’d that go? You’ll never know, tight team, hot skates ’cause we’re rock ‘n’ roll
Half red, half black, with a hint of gold, game’s still on, Crosby’s lookin’ old
Yo, Alfie’s runnin’ through these Pens like Gretzky
He got that devilish flow, rock ‘n’ roll, he’s PESKY!
We pesky Sens, yeah, beatin’ the Pens we’re preppin’
On the climb to the top, and you’re just one step in.

Pesky Sens will rock the house tonight!
Every Penguin, get under their skin.
And Sens gonna make them lose their minds
Go Sens Army let’s have a good time!

Pesky Sens will rock the house tonight!
Every Penguin, get under their skin.
And Sens gonna make them lose their minds
We just gonna plain out-skate them!

Every game we’re PESKIER, Pesky Sens, Pesky Sens!

Step up quick and be the first Pen, Neil crush with a check
We spoil your party, make you mad now? Ow! A pain in the neck!
One more shot for us, another round,
To the Stanley Cup, don’t mess around
We just wanna see you got the word, eh?
We ain’t gonna lose, to no flightless birdies!

Like ants on your pie – HEY!  Go Sens Go!
We get more pesky as we go!

Like ice in your eye – HEY!  Go Sens Go!
We get more pesky as we go!

We’ll make you cry – HEY!  Go Sens Go!
We get more pesky as we go!

We get more pesky as we go!

We just gonna plain out-skate them!

So come on Sens. Let’s get PESKY!


Local Ottawa stuff

Bones of Wellington Walk Part 3: Lebreton flats Transitway, Booth, and Broad

Stop 7: Old Wellington and Transitway

Jacques Greber

Comparisons: LeBreton Flats old and new:

7 Lost Tourist Attractions 

Stop 8: Old Wellington past Booth Street

JR Booth


File:City of Ottawa Insurance Plan 1888-1901 2 of 113.jpg

Stop 9: Albert Street and (former) Broad Street

Thomas Wilson – Profile:

1110train web Graphic: Brewery train discovered in tunnel

Local Ottawa stuff

“Ees new concept. Ees European.”


Okay, ask so it’s not exactly street food – or even tasty coffee for that matter. But this guy was selling $1.50 Styrofoam cups of coffee  and hot chocolate off his back this morning outside the Tunney’s Pasture OC Transpo bus station.

I shelled out $2.00 – including a tip – and talked to the guy. And in a thick Russian accent, he told me this was a new concept in coffee vending. I never finished mine, since I was heading downtown and near some decent coffeeshops. But has anyone else seen this out on the mean streets of Ottawa?

Local Ottawa stuff Politics

DenVan to Mayor Watson: Transparency means no private meetings

OTTAWA POLITICS: For those who need a refresher on the issue before reading this, website like this please scroll to the bottom for some background links.

Mr. Mayor, approved

I’ve just read the full text of your response to Jeff Leiper’s letter. And I think you missed the point.

You see, a lobbyist registry is nice, but it is rendered almost completely meaningless by the secret pre-consultation meeting you defend in your letter. And while it would be nice to take you at your word that everyone is playing fair and nothing untoward is being discussed or promised, the letter quoted in the original Citizen article leads us to believe that isn’t true. Are we wrong?

Great. Prove it.

Here’s my five-step approach to allowing you to continue your practice of holding confidential pre-meetings with developers but  also ensure that appropriate public oversight becomes an integral part of the process.

  • 1) Hold the meeting as usual – It can be private, and confidential, and frank discussion can be had about a given property and a developer’s options and plans; BUT
  • 2) All details of these meetings are recorded – Including who was there, notes on what was said, and all documents exchanged before, during, or after the meeting;
  • 3) Hold these details in confidence – Developers can adjust their plans without fear of competitors learning of their plans; then
  • 4) Release all details when a formal rezoning application is made – so community members can see that nothing untoward was discussed.
  • 5) If no application is ever made, discard the documents – after, say, 10 years.

There, simple, transparent, and easy to manage. What do you think?

Your humble citizen,

Background: secret meetings at Ottawa City Hall

For those just joining us, here’s where we’ve been so far:

Storified by DennisVanStaalduinen · Wed, Jul 25 2012 13:41:25

Community associations and long-time activists were shocked to read this story by Ottawa Citizen columnist David Reevely showing evidence of detailed, and secret, negotiations between Ottawa Planning staff and large developers where City staff seem to be pre-agreeing to rezoning applications that are double or triple the allowed height. 
City planners promise rezonings before talking to public, councilWould-be developers are regularly told how extensively the city is willing to rezone their property at private meetings before the public…
And all this came right before council debated a new “Lobbyist Registry” that is supposed to bring transparency to dealings between City Hall and moneyed people with agendas. 

Centretown Councilor Diane Holmes points out the contradiction in these live Tweets from the meeting:
Holmes wants clarification on planning consultations and pre-consultations.David Reevely live
"I think we underestimate the latent anger that’s out there in those communities, particularly mine."David Reevely live
Public consultations are "a sham. It’s really a con game." Points to two applications at council today.David Reevely live
Which led to this very articulate open letter to mayor Jom Watson from Jeff Leiper, head of the Hintonburg Community Association.
Open Letter to Mayor Watson and members of City Council, 10 July 201210 July 2012 Open letter to Mayor Watson and Members of City Council Mr. Mayor and Members of City Council, On behalf of the Hintonburg C…
Which in turn inspired my attempt at parody on
Cement trucks at 130 km/h? Why the heck not!A thought experiment: What if Ottawa treated speed limits like development applications? Recently, our City’s Planning Committee has been…
And now, here’s the long letter from Mayor Watson in response, which essentially tells Mr. Leiper (and the rest of us) to calm down and trust City staff to hold secret meetings. Because surely they won’t discuss the things they were clearly discussing in the correspondence that started this whole kerfuffle:
Watson responds to super-early promises of rezoningsThis story… Would-be developers are regularly told how extensively the city is willing to rezone their property at private meetings bef…

Funny stuff Local Ottawa stuff Uncategorized

Cement trucks at 130 km/h? Why the heck not!

A thought experiment:
What if Ottawa treated speed limits like development applications?

Recently, dosage our City’s Planning Committee has been happily rubber-stamping rezoning applications from large developers for skyscraper condo buildings – even though they are double, pills triple, or even quadruple Official Plan and Community Design Plan guidelines. So I wondered: what if we treated other urban regulations the same way? After all, they all get in the way of growth, don’t they?

Artist’s Rendering. Modern “Slimline” Cement Trucks Enhance Neighbourhood at Optimal Speed.

In the quiet urban neighbourhood of Placid Park, more than 750 giant cement trucks a day will now be able to drive at up to 130 km/h through small residential streets. “Maximum 40km/h” signs will remain in place for residents and all other vehicles,  but Devco Cement trucks will now be allowed to travel at more than three times the posted speed.

That’s because earlier today, the City’s Transportation Committee unanimously approved a proposal from Devco to allow their cement trucks and other heavy vehicles to travel through the neighbourhood of Placid Park at an “optimized speed”.

“They’re just being all “NOM-C”, saying ‘Not Over My Child’. But oh, wait till they see how lovely this proposal really is for everybody!”
~ Councilor Catherine Hobby

“Placid Park kids will absolutely adore these super-fast -moving trucks!” Says the Mayor.

According to Devco president Lance De Boil: “The goal is to help the city meet its “rapidification” goals, and ease traffic congestion on main arteries.” To do this, Devco will now be able to use Placid Park as a high-speed bypass – whisking their trucks from Highway 466 to a new Devco cement plant on the other side of the small neighbourhood.

“It’s a win-win!” Says Transportation committee chair, Councilor Peter Hummer: “Our Diesel 20/20 Plan calls for rapidification of 20-40% in this area, and this decision allows us to take one big step towards getting those trucks moving much more quickly to their destination.”

The City, for its part, will pay for repaving and widening the road – and removing all speed bumps, stop signs, cross-walks, bike lanes, and the school crossing zone next to Placid Park Elementary School’s playground.

“Fast is good. It’s really a step up from the clunky, down-speed proposals of the past!” said De Boil in his presentation, before handing off to his Transportation Architect, Roddy Heehee.

According to Hayhee, the old speed limits were about preventing dirty, ugly, old trucks, not today’s “low-profile conveyances, pulsing with power, energy, and grace”.  Heehee’s PowerPoint presentation showed artists’ renderings of pastel-coloured trucks on wide, leafy streets, moving past happily waving mothers and children. His presentation drew applause from the dozen lobbyists, consultants, and transportation architects on hand.

And area Councilor Catherine Hobby says she is enthusiastic that the community will eventually change their minds on the issue: “They’re just being all “NOM-C”, saying ‘Not Over My Child’. But oh, wait till they see how lovely this proposal really is for everybody! Devco has hired an expensive Toronto truck-decorating firm. And gosh, but won’t all those slim new trucks make Placid Park sparkle with urban energy!

But community representatives aren’t convinced: “I don’t care how pretty the truck is. If it runs over my dog, it’s going too damned fast!” said one grumpy man, who asked that his name (Fred Smith) not be used. “I thought the word “limit” meant, well, a “limit”. I guess not for everybody. If I asked for permission to drive that fast, I’d get arrested!”

“I don’t understand,” said Placid Park Community Association chair Les Pertinent. “The city’s official plan says one thing, and we spent years working with the city to develop a long Community Transportation Plan (CTP) – all of which were approved by Council. Then we put in countless hours and community dollars hiring experts to show how ludicrously dangerous this proposal is, and twenty-five of us took unpaid days off work to come downtown and say our piece. How can they just overturn all that with one, unanimous vote?”

Hummer rolls his eyes: “Sure, we all support CTPs in principle. But this one only covers the middle of the street Devco is proposing to use, not the new wider street! And the wording says “greater speeds than 40 km per hour should be discouraged. Discouraged? How can we possibly know what that means? That would get thrown right out at the Ontario Motor Board (OMB)!”

Hummer angrily denied that this decision was simply a way for Devco to increase profits at the expense of safety for local residents. He also denied any connections between campaign funding and the pattern of voting on the committee – which routinely approves major speed limit rezoning applications by large companies against community objections.

“Besides,” adds Hobby,who has herself also reacted angrily in the past to questions of campaign funding: “You can’t say it wasn’t democratic. We did hold consultations. Well, one public meeting anyway. The company presented the idea to the community, while I hid… er, um, took notes at the back of the room. And even though there were hours of objections, Devco staff very patiently explained how wrong and narrow-minded everyone in the room was.”

Then Hobby smiles beatifically and gestures to the huddle of angry citizens outside the Committee Room: “And gosh. These people did elect me. So they must approve of what I’m doing!”

When asked what the next steps are for the Community Association are, Les Pertinent shrugs. “We’re a small community, so we can’t afford a legal challenge. I guess we’ll just have to keep our kids off the streets.’

“And I guess, since Devco originally asked for 160 km per hour, it could be worse….”


Local Ottawa stuff Politics

Wait, I have a new idea! An LRT subway through downtown Ottawa!

Here’s a blast from the past. The drawing below is from the 1915 Bennett Plan for downtown Ottawa showing a proposed East / West tunnel to carry street cars (the light rail before Light Rail) quickly and efficiently through the downtown core.

1915 - Proposed Ottawa subway line

(Click image for full size. Source file here.)

Note that the route it follows is only two blocks South of the current project’s Queen Street route but otherwise follows much the same path until it gets to the canal.

So how did Ottawa miss this train almost a century ago? The easy answer: World War I suddenly became the priority in 1917. But add to that bureaucratic dithering, site lack of political will, for sale and a general shift toward cars and away from public transit – and rail in particular – that was already underway.

Here’s how Bennett puts it in a section titled “relief to downtown congestion”, and note that even in these early days of the motor car, the priority has already shifted from moving people  to freeing up the streets for motor cars.

Means to operate cars faster through the down-town district are being sought in many cities. The end desired is that the round trip may be made in shorter time and the cars at present in use operated to do more work, with the increase in street congestion consequently obviated. This is being done in two ways,-first, by through-routing of all cars, that is, by the elimina­tion of as many as possible of the down-town terminals and loops,-second, by the construction, through the congested district, of subways for street cars, through which the (street)cars can move faster than they can on the streets.

Sound familiar yet?

So what do you think? How different would Ottawa be if we’d adopted the Bennett Plan?

Local Ottawa stuff

Jane’s Walk 2012 – my CBC Radio interview

My Jane’s Walk in 2011: picture this with bikes. And water. And sunshine!

This morning, price CBC Ottawa morning aired an interview with me about the Jane’s Walk I’ll be leading on Sunday afternoon along the Ottawa River waterfront. Give this a listen and please let me know what you think!

CBC Ottawa Morning Interview – May 4 2012

Dennis speaks to producer Christine Maki about attractions and amenities that used to exist along the Ottawa waterfront. The interview took place at the base of the Rideau Canal locks along the NCC Bike Path.

Archive: Other Jane’s Walk interviews from Ottawa Morning.

More info on the Walk:

Yesterday’s Jane’s-Walk-related blog post:

Local Ottawa stuff Politics

The Growth of Ottawa 1810-1945 – illustrations from Greber plan

As part of my preparation for my 2012 Jane’s Walk, cialis 40mg I found this fascinating sequence of 9 graphics in the Greber plan that show how the urban area of Ottawa (in red) expanded over its first century and a bit.

Here’s the link if you can’t see the Slideshare window.