Monday, May 19, 2008

Ottawa: City, or suburbs?

A great column in the Ottawa Citizen on Sunday by Randall Denley about using transit planning to build Ottawa into a functional city.
Ottawa city councillors' big decision next week on the future of transit is really more about planning than it is about transit. Or at least, it should be. The transit plan councillors recommend will determine what our city will be like in the future. Will it be a dense, urban city where people can live without cars, or is the goal to use commuter trains to enable even more suburban expansion?


Councillors who argue for rail to go all the way to their suburban wards are taking a stand guaranteed to please their constituents, but it would be poor planning. There just aren't enough people in the suburbs to justify the cost of bringing rail through the Greenbelt to reach them.

If Ottawa is to become a city, and not just a series of suburbs, making the right choice about transit is critical. It's unfortunate that the idea of a dense, vibrant, transit-dependent core has been so poorly sold by staff and politicians at City Hall.


The transit system we have now reflected its time. The big new thing then was the development of satellite cities connected to the core by a bus transitway. It was a plan to make suburbs a feasible place for downtown workers to live, and it did its job. Unfortunately, this suburban-driven plan never worried too much about all those buses converging on the downtown core. Now, we're focused on making the central part of our city more liveable. The rail and tunnel plan is a big step in that direction.
A very well-written column, all-in-all, and Denley makes a number of good points. If the city's plans put an emphasis on the core, "making the central part of our city more liveable", the suburbs get the shaft; what, then, was the point of amalgamation?

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