Saturday, November 29, 2008

New transit plan approved

After two days of debate, Ottawa City Councillors approved a $6.8B Transportation Master Plan (TMP)--including a $4.7B public transit vision--by a vote of 22-2 in Council on Friday, Nov. 28. The vote is the most recent in moving towards establishing light-rail transit in the city, and allows the City to proceed in making funding requests to the Federal and Provincial Governments.

Before passing the TMP, Council debated each component of the plan, including the transit portion's implementation priorities. That vote voted to accept the vision beginning with a downtown tunnel and then moving east to Blair and West to Tunney's Pasture (along the city-preferred corridor of the Ottawa River Parkway, but possibly one of Carling Avenue or Byron Avenue depending on a land-sharing decision of the National Capital Commission) by a vote of 19-5. According to the Ottawa Citizen [1], dissenting votes came from Councillors Steve Desroches, Diane Deans, Clive Doucet, Christine Leadman, and Georges Bédard. Doucet and Leadman had proposed an alternative transit plan, which they called Light Rail Now!, and had support from Bédard to give more thought to their plan.

The two councillors to vote against the TMP were Gloucester-South Nepean Councillor Desroches and Gloucester-Southgate Councillor Deans. The wards of both councillors stood to benefit more from cancelled plans to begin with a north-south line rather than east-west.

Mayor Larry O'Brien was excited for the supportive vote, and wrote in his blog about his eagerness to begin discussing funding options with the other levels of government and private enterprise:

"Council’s strong vote today helps us put our best foot forward to secure funding from the provincial and federal governments.

"My priority now is to obtain funding from other levels of government, as well as look at alternative forms of finances, such as working with the business community downtown to obtain private partnerships for the construction of the downtown tunnel."
The idea of forming partnerships with downtown businesses who stand to benefit from the tunnel running nearby or with stations in their buildings is another funding option, on top of government investment, that the city is exploring.

[1] "Councillors overwhelmingly back new transportation plan", Ottawa Citizen, Nov. 29, 2008, page A1.