Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Idealistic goals, realistic means

The Ottawa Citizen printed a story today about Kitchisippi councillor Christine Leadman, notably that she has a feeling that transit plans currently under review by the city are lacking in depth:

Ms. Leadman says the mayor's task force report contains options, like extending the current O-Train south, that are "much cheaper and could be done much quicker" than what staff are recommending.

She was careful to say she is not "against" the plan staff are recommending, but that she thinks they haven't considered enough factors and choices.

"We're being focused and narrowed to one option, and I don't think we've looked at enough options," she said.

Obviously, it is important that planners consider all possible options before committing to any transit plan. That is why the north-south plan of 2006 fell through; not enough thought was put into it, and it was found to have flaws after it was approved by council. Now it's costing us $177M or something similar.

When it comes to transit planning, however, the "cheaper and quicker options are often not the best. While listening to a radio interview on CBC with Samantha Power, author of Chasing the Flame: Sergio Vieira de Mello and the Fight to Save the World, she spoke of leadership and the ability of leaders to use realistic means to achieve idealistic goals.

A public transit infrastructure that connects all of Ottawa, including suburban areas, quickly and easily, is an idealistic goal.

The transit plan options currently under review are realistic means. Perhaps options three and four are the most idealistic of the options, but--with a little help through provincial and federal funding--they remain realistic.

If city council wants to show leadership in the issues that matter most to Ottawa, they'll look primarily at idealistic goals, and consider realistic means to get there.

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