Thursday, September 18, 2008

Kanata councillors rail against beginning LRT to south and east

At the Transportation Master Plan Open House in Glen Cairn on Thursday night, all three Kanata councillors--Shad Qadri of Kanata West-Stittsville, Peggy Feltmate of Kanata South, and Mariannce Wilkinson of Kanata North--spoke out against the favoured implementation scenario of city staff and council's Planning Committee.

The third implementation scenario outlines a first phase which would see light-rail transit (LRT) east to Blair Station, south to Riverside South, and west to Tunney's Pasture, as well as bus-rapid transit improvements in Kanata, Barrhaven, and Orléans. As the Ottawa Citizen reported on Sept. 12, Scenario 3 (S3, for brevity's sake) "got the quick endorsement of some influential city council members yesterday, including Mayor Larry O'Brien, transit committee chairman Alex Cullen, planning and environment committee chairman Peter Hume and River Councillor Maria McRae."

Councillors Wilkinson and Feltmate, however, felt that this third scenario was simply reliving the old argument about whether to begin rail by moving east-to-west or by moving north-to-south. Much of the southern leg of the third scenario, critics say, is a reflection of the rejected North-South Line was such a huge issue--possibly the biggest--in the last election. (You can read a bit more about that debate in a previous blog post here.)

Both Feltmate and Wilkinson supported implementation Scenario 4 (S4), which includes in the first phase LRT east to Blair Station and west to Baseline as well as an extension of the O-Train southwards. The estimated cost is $2.4B, compared to $2.6B for Scenario 3.

One issue Wilkinson outlined specifically is the cost-effectiveness of S3 compared to S4: according to the City's own Evaluation Summary (PDF), S3 meets 'fewer' of the city's cost-effectiveness goals, whereas S4 meets 'more' (their words, not mine). Wilkinson predicted an 8-9% increase in property taxes to pay off the deficit S3's operating and capital costs per passenger-mile would, according to Wilkinson, bring about. Wilkinson also suggested that the time it would take to complete the downtown tunnel and east portion of the plan would be more than enough to answer the NCC's concerns with development on the Ottawa River Parkway, and to explore other options (Wilkinson suggested the Byron option as one alternative).

Feltmate had similar arguments to Wilkinson. She suggested that "bringing back the south plan is wrong at this point in time" because the last election was fought over whether to start with north-south or east-west transit. Something in favour of S3 is the Ease of Implementation (as outlined on the City's Evaluation Summary once again), in which S3 achieves far more goals than S4. Feltmate countered, however, suggesting that "just because it's ready doesn't mean we should be throwing good money away [on it]."

Although I didn't speak to Qadri personally, he was very vocal at the open house. He has also released e-mails and circulars stating his opposition to S3. You can read Qadri's stance on his website, but I think an e-mail that he sent to constituents sums up his position well:
I cannot support such an endeavour, as it closely resembles the original north-south proposal drafted in 2006, which I campaigned on defeating.

While the proposed third implementation scenario is the first phase in a long-term transit vision, it is imperative we properly capture the needs and demands of our entire City.

The west-end of Ottawa is growing at a rapid rate, both in terms of residential units, as well as employment. With this in mind, a reliable, fast and efficient transit system is vital to maintaining, and advancing, the infrastructure needs in Ottawa’s west-end.
--Shad Qadri
To learn more about the implementation options, I highly recommend you visit the City's Transportation Master Plan website, especially the section on Implementation, and look at the graphics on the various implementation scenarios. Although it seems to be a two-scenario race at the moment, there are certainly dfferences worth examining. And that Evaluation Summary is a great synopsis of the numbers behind the options. Feel free to e-mail with any questions, or offer your comments in the comments section below.

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