Friday, September 12, 2008

Transit plan timeline: Where to begin?

Since agreeing in principle to a light-rail transit plan, Ottawa city council is now faced with the problem of deciding what phases to construct the transit system. There have been a few stories about the problems, with Kanata North Councillor Marianne Wilkinson promising a "war" if Kanata isn't involved in the first phase of the plan, while four east end councillors, Rainer Bloess, Michel Bellemare, Rob Jellett and Bob Monette, declared that they wouldn't vote in favour of any plan unless rail heads east in the first phase.

The current debate, as elaborated upon in the Citizen today, is whether or not the plan should move forward on the east-to-west and north-south lines while negotiating the west-to-east line along the Parkway with the National Capital Commission--who have expressed a reluctance to allow rail on the scenic road--and explore other potential options for the west-to-east route--including Carling Avenue.

This is contentious because a large proportion of commuters are heading east from the west, including Stittsville and Kanata. It also raises the question of why council voted against the north-south rail line that former mayor Bob Chiarelli proposed if the transit plans, now several years later, are simply going to begin with what city council of his era had agreed upon. Still, some supporters of moving forward with the north-south and east-bound legs of the system rather than waiting until the NCC discussions, which may take several years, to be resolved.

Personally, I think it remains important that light-rail start moving forward as soon as possible. The studies, environmental assessments, and land purchases allow for the north-south line to go forward, but it isn't the most pressing portion of the plan. If a decision can't be made on the west-to-east line, however, beginning the plan with other phases while sorting out that one might be the best possible scenario. Then again, the work finished would hardly solve any problems on its own; the north-south line is only realistically positive as a part of a larger plan.

EDIT: To voice your opinions on the planning process of the new transit plan, visit one of the city's open houses (see the dates in this previous blog post, or on the website).

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