Wednesday, November 26, 2008

No EA for Carling Avenue, yet

In City Council on Wednesday evening, two separate motions were proposed regarding performing an Environmental Assessment (EA) on Carling Avenue during the first stage of EAs performed.

The first motion, numbered 17, was proposed to perform an EA on Carling and Carling alone, without performing one on the other options for the Western Corridor of the transit system, including Byron Avenue and the Ottawa River Parkway. It was rejected by a vote of 16-8, after a number of councillors (including, naturally, Capital Councillor Clive Doucet and Kitchissippi Councillor Christine Leadman, but also College Councillor Rick Chiarelli, Rideau-Vanier Councillor Georges Bedard, and Somerset Councillor Diane Holmes) expressed some amenability to studying Carling.

Doucet and Leadman, who jointly presented an alternative to the staff-recommended transit plan which included re-routing rail onto Carling instead of the Parkway recently, both spoke out in favour of Carling taking priority as the Western corridor's route. They especially noted the fact that the National Capital Commission (NCC) owns the Parkway, and that federal organization has made a few requests in consideration of allowing rail along their land.

Doucet suggested that there were three objectives that the NCC was looking for if they were going to consider the city's request; that it doesn't disrupt existing greenspace; that it is cost-effective; and that it is open to increasing ridership. He went on to state that the Parkway does not satisfy these objectives, while Carling Avenue satisfies each one.

Leadman suggested that an EA of Carling would prove to the NCC that the city had performed due diligence. If the EA proved that Carling was a more productive decision then they city could move forward in that route, but if it proved that it was not feasible, the fact that the EA was performed would at least demonstrate to the NCC that the city was committed to proactively studying the options for the Western Corridor.

The second motion about Carling, numbered 18, debated was on studying Carling in addition to the EAs already being undertaken. After another debate, which included an unsuccesful call of the question by Osgoode Councillor Doug Thompson, the motion was eventually defeated by a vote of 15-9. Cumberland Councillor Rob Jellet, who had voted against Motion 17, voted in favour of Motion 18.

During the discussion of the motion, Bay Councillor Alex Cullen stated that he was not persuaded that the EA of Carling was necessary. He, and many others, brought up the fact that voting against this motion was not a vote against studying Carling; instead, it was a vote to move forward with the current plan, pending results of the EA of the Parkway as well as a response from the NCC regarding light-rail along Carling.

A number of differences of opinion on the commonly-held understandings of the feasibility of Carling Avenue. Cullen based many of his points on the $600M cost estimate that staff provided of rail along Carling, but Doucet countered that the staff-calculated figure included tunnels along the street, which he said is not necessary. Doucet stated that grade-separated light-rail combined with some degree of traffic-light coordination would require only three underpasses.

Further disagreement was with the time difference with regards to using the Parkway or Carling as the Western Corridor. Many of those supporting the motion suggested that the time difference is not significant, while those who didn't support the plan were of the belief that the time difference--estimates pegging the Carling option as slower than the Parkway option--would make transit less appealing to commuters and riders.

City Manager Nancy Schepers estimated the cost of an EA of Carling at somewhere between $2 and 2.5M. She also stated that no official request has been made to the NCC for rail on the Parkway.


Centretowner said...

Thanks for covering this, Peter!

Anonymous said...

I could not believe Jan Harder said the difference between the River parkway and Carling was 17 minutes!!! It's actually no more than 4 minutes, 2 minutes according to Doucet.
How can a councilor be so ill informed and still collect a paycheck? Some of these people are not competent to vote on these matters.