NCC chief executive Marie Lemay, Ottawa Mayor Larry O’Brien and Gatineau Mayor Marc Bureau met Thursday to discuss a plan to improve cycling infrastructure over the next 50 years and to create a safer environment for the region’s cyclists.It seems sensible to consider cycling when the region's municipalities work to integrate public transit. The two can often work with one another to provide transportation alternatives for residents, but serve more effectively as complements rather than mutually exclusive.
“If we do want to increase the percentage of people using their bikes to commute, we have to make the routes safer,” Lemay said. “The reality is, if people don’t feel safe, and if it’s not easy to do, the people that are not avid cyclers … won’t take their bikes.”
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Monday, August 30, 2010
Thursday, August 26, 2010
OC Transpo, as a mode of transport, in terms of the municipal service, is very inefficient. The subsidy this year is going to top $140M; well, that’s not sustainable, either. I’ll put it to you this way: Every dollar OC Transpo spends, they lose $0.50. Reducing the amount of participation in OC Transpo is not a bad thing at all, as long as you can make up a different mode of transportation that satisfies the commuting needs, while at the same time—hypothetically—reducing congestion, that’s a win-win. [...] As a corporation, as a service that the municipality owns completely, there’s no possible justification for a $140M-a-year subsidy for OC Transpo.
Where I differentiate this is the difference between mass transit and public transit. OC Transpo is public transit; whether that bus is empty or full, you still pay for it. Mass transit, for example, is Howard Bus Lines going through North Gower. Or the Laidlaw bus service going through Manotick; the Osgoode Flyer has been going through Manotick for 30 years, it’s cheaper than OC Transpo, and it gets you downtown 20 minutes faster. The big advantage there is if you take the Osgoode Flyer from the Manotick Public School to Parliament Hill, your neighbour doesn’t have to pay a surcharge. And it’s still cheaper. So why wouldn’t you do that, basically, in as many places as you can find a niche to exploit? The purpose of the excercise here is mass transit: We want to get people where they want to go, as efficiently as possible, as inexpensively as possible, and if that means not supporting a billion-dollar corporation like OC Transpo, so be it. OC is supposed to serve the people, not the other way around.
Will it happen in Ottawa? Perhaps not. But it's still pretty amazing.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
OC Transpo saw record ridership in December, when 8.4 million passengers were recorded. But ridership fell below budgeted levels after fares went up 7.5 per cent in March, says a staff report that’s to go to city council’s transit committee on Monday.
This year’s final ridership levels are expected to be down 3.1 per cent from budgeted levels, according to the report. Ridership in the second quarter of the year — 22.7 million passenger trips — was 6.7 per cent lower than budgeted levels, it says.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
All said, the cost of the new paths is estimated at $3.2M. Still, although the motion was approved unanimously by the Transit Committee, it still has to go through full council and budgetary deliberation.
- The Otrain corridor linking the Ottawa River paths near Bayview Station south to Carling Avenue and Prince of Wales Drive
- Rideau River western pathway from Belmont to UofO Lees Campus
- Sawmill Creek, Brookfield to Walkley
- Hampton Park pathway from Sebring to Island Park/Merivale
- Aviation Pathway, Innis to Prescott-Russell rail corridor pathway
Friday, August 20, 2010
You can’t avoid fare hikes, unfortunately, but you want to mitigate them. There is a demand curve, and elasticity. We have two clienteles who use the bus: Those who do not have an alternative; they’re low-income, and they don’t have an alternative, so they have to eat the fare increases, even though they have the least capacity. But those who have an alternative tend to be price sensitive, lo and behold. They’ve got cars, they’ve got a means to get about town, they take the bus because it’s convenient, but as soon as that equation shifts, we lose them.
If you only follow the inflation rate, you only follow inflation. But if you want to expand service, then that’s an additional cost above inflation. We’re going to be stuck with whatever the price of gas is, although, yes, our new buses are far more fuel efficient, and we’re making some savings on that. You want to look at those efficiency factors to mitigate the pressure of inflation.
And the other major component to inflation, of course, is wages. Did I mention ‘strike’? We just went through a difficult strike experience, and I don’t think we want to repeat that again. So we do want to ensure that there is scope to increase transit service.
The transit portion of the city’s budget is going to grow. Of course, this doesn’t happen in a vacuum; can we free up some money because of the upload of social services by the province? That gives us some tax room.
The Ontario government accepted the environmental assessment for Ottawa's new light-rail transit plan--downtown tunnel included--so cancelling the tunnel, according to current transit committee chair Alex Cullen, would bring transit planners back to the square one.
From the Ottawa Citizen:
"Bay Councillor Alex Cullen, who is running for mayor, on Wednesday took a shot at anyone questioning the need for a tunnel, saying a significant change to the project would mean redoing the environmental assessment, and more publicA few of Ottawa's mayoral candidates have talked about cancelling or changing the transit plan. Jim Watson is the only one who seemed interested in trying to cut the tunnel out of the plan, and he hasn't said much about it recently. Mike Maguire and Clive Doucet want completely different plans, so it makes sense that cancelling the tunnel would bring Ottawa back to square one. Charlie Taylor seems resigned to moving forward with the current plan, although he's said he'd have chosen something else if it wouldn't cost the city so much time. Stan Pioro seems interested in cancelling public transit in any measure, aside from buses to Richmond. Both Larry O'Brien and Alex Cullen want to move forward with the plan as it is today.
consultation and background studies — something that took council four years to complete for its current project.
"Deputy city manager Nancy Schepers, who’s in charge of transit, said cutting the tunnel would mean the city would have “to go back to the drawing board” on its transit plan. Looking at another option, such as surface light-rail, would require figuring out how the system would work with different traffic volumes, Schepers said."
But for some reason, Metro Ottawa's story on the issue--and Cullen's quote about the tunnel being a 'dead issue'--is titled "Feasibility of tunnel an issue". Go figure.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
We can’t possibly afford the downtown Ottawa tunnel. [...] The downtown Ottawa tunnel and the LRT are proposed at $2.1B, which is a class-D estimate—which is plus or minus 25 per cent; it won’t be minus—so you’re looking at, realistically, it could be as high as $2.6B; if the present estimate of work is very precise and the only variable is cost, you’re looking at $2.6B. And there’s every opportunity for that to go much higher. Certainly, in terms of large infrastructure projects in the City of Ottawa, we would normally say a factor of 40 per cent would be reasonable for cost overruns in Ottawa. Round numbers, though, I don’t want to be too unfair to council, to staff: Let’s say it’s $2.5B, so the city has to borrow $1.3B, after we get $600M from the province, $600M from the federal government, so the difference is $1.3B. So $1.3B is going to be funded through the gas tax rebate.
If you look at it operationally; as monumental as the purchase price is, operationally, it will exceed that in seven years. So yes, $2.5B is a whack of money, but within less than a ten-year period, that will be distant cousin to what we’re going to spend operationally. We don’t have that kind of money.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Designated bicycle lanes, in Europe, they’re a different colour. They’re blue. I’ve biked a lot when cars are taking a corner, and they zip into the bicycle lane because it’s just another white line on the pavement and they don’t really pay attention. If you’ve got a whole different colour, it’s a lot more visible, and people think, “Oh, that’s where the bicycles are. That’s not for me, I’m a car driver; that’s where the bicycles are.” And how much does blue paint cost?
"There’s also this myth that bicycles are a motor vehicle, and are treated as such. A bicycle is not a motor vehicle, and they need to be recognized as a distinct form of transportation. I agree that most of the rules of the road should apply to cyclists, like stop signs, stoplights, all that good stuff, absolutely. But there are certain things. If a cyclist wants to make a left-hand turn on Bronson at rush hour, you can’t expect a cyclist to pull into the left-hand lane, sit in traffic with cars going by on both sides, you’d have to have a death wish to feel comfortable doing that."
Baird wasn't ready to say it was essential (that would be far too committal for a politician, no?), but he did say that in looking to the future, it seems highly likely that public transit will have to go underground in order to satisfy growing ridership levels.
From the Ottawa Citizen:
"By 2017, there just will not be room for any more buses," he said. "If you're not going to build a tunnel, you have to explain how you get that many buses or rail through the downtown core."
"The city's come forward with a plan," he said. "After the federal announcement, they said they would cut the cost to fit. We've put our money up, and it will be up to them to deliver the project."
He agreed, however, that the light-rail line is a "very, very big project. It's a huge expense."
At the same time, "I don't know what the expense is on gridlock and quality of life if we don't act on public transit," he said.
Monday, August 16, 2010
Tough month so far for OC Transpo.
On August 6, an OC Transpo bus was hit by a cement mixer, resulting in four injuries to bus passengers. The next day, in the midst of an audit on scheduling practices, the Ottawa Citizen printed an article on OC Transpo's "poisoned" working environment, citing several workers' experiences.
Then last week, a bus engine caught fire (see above photo) on Monday. On Wednesday, the utility released their stop-announcement numbers: Still only 77 per cent, nowhere near the 100 per cent demanded to avoid further fines from the Canadian Transportation Administration (CTA) to comply with accessibility regulations. Then on Friday, a collision between a car and a bus left two individuals (the operator and a passenger) with minor injuries. And later on Friday, a second bus caught fire (by all appearances the same bus model: the Orion VI, according to the OC Transpo Livejournal community), bookending a pretty rough week for the corporation.
And on Saturday, more bad press: With unreliable elevators at major transit stations, some riders are faced with time-sucking detours, missing connections and wasting time. It is a serious accessibility problem, and could make OC Transpo vulnerable to more fines if an accessibility complaint is made (similar to that made about the previously-mentioned stop-calling deficiencies, which have cost OC Transpo $5,000 and $12,500 in separate fines).
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Our last TransPlan eliminated some express bus routes, and those folks weren’t happy. In one sense, I don’t blame them, because they had a very convenient means of getting to work, but it was not efficient. Certainly from a cost perspective it’s not perspective—efficient for them, but not for the taxpayer. And we’re hitting capacity constraints in the downtown, and can’t take anymore. The city is growing, and we can’t take any more.
We have to do a better job of showing people why we have to eliminate that bus route, that express route. [...] What my colleagues need to do is not try to hide from the reaction that we’re going to get, but anticipate it, be up front, and show the benefit of the alternative. This is a process where we need to engage people to help us to the transition to a better system. Once the LRT is in place, once 2017-2018 rolls around, people will be taking the bus to the LRT station and making a transfer. I think it will work, because once they get on the train, they can relax, it’s going to be comfortable, and there shouldn’t be anything slowing down their ability to get from A to B.
I look at Toronto and the vast numbers of people that get off the GO-train and get on the subway and take the subway to wherever and then take the bus to their ultimate destination, there are millions of people who do that every day, and it functions very well. And people understand that this is a system that works. We’re getting to that stage.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
The [financial] numbers that you see come from, in many cases, individuals who advise CN and CP on rail replacement and things of that nature. The operational costs come from comparing the model I’m using, which is based exactly on GO Transit in Toronto—which is why I’m calling it “GO Ottawa”—so their exact model, with parallel services and parallel numbers. [...] So I had managed to boil this down over four months, and we ended up with a number, very ballpark-ish, what I thought was reasonable, and then I added that huge contingency. Just in case I’m wrong, I don’t say double it, but almost add half again and say no matter what it is, it will be less than this.
The advantage of diesel light-rail is that it’s extremely affordable. And we have a surprising network of rail rights-of-way all around the city. It’s really interesting to see where rail used to run, and the rail rights of way are still there.
Friday, August 6, 2010
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Walking ties in very nicely with the rapid transit plan, because we're encouraging more intensification along the rapid-transit route so people can walk to the LRT station, take the train, and walk to their place of work. We do have a pedestrian master plan to assist with that. One of our challenges, of course, is the weather: winter really interferes with pedestrian safety. We have more freeze-thaw cycles today than we did 20 years ago, because of the change in climate--Kingston's weather has now moved up here--so that's a challenge. But I see a symbiotic relationship between transit and walking.Cycling, on the other hand, can take one of two roles in public transit: Either as start-to-finish transit form on its own, or as a complement to the bus- and train-based system. While serving as a city councillor, Cullen worked on a few different cycling projects, and he plans to continue working on them if elected mayor.
We have a cycling plan, which I had a hand in crafting, with $20M that we need to spend on this. I expect to see a pilot project for a winter-cleared lane, just to see how many cyclists we attract. Is that a good idea? You don't really know until you've tried it, but I think doing it as a pilot project, an east-west corridor ploughed in the winter, and if we have the takeup, we know it's a good idea; if we don't have the takeup, okay. We're back to what Montreal does: Montreal has dedicated cycling lanes with poles that they put in to demarcate the lane from the road, and then when the winter comes they take out the poles and use it for snow storage. And Montreal has much the same snow as we do, so that may be an option.
There is going to be competition for space. Obviously, you don't want cyclists' lanes to interfere with bus lanes, but you can't fit everybody on the same road. So some cars are going to have to cede space, either parking space or travel space, to permit dedicated bike lanes--whether it's on Somerset, or some other street. That's going to be a big cultural adjustment; the car has been king for so long. We do like to consider ourselves as a pro-cycling town, but we still have yards to go. The good news is that we are beginning to talk about dedicated cyclist lanes, whether it's Gladstone or Somerset or Wellington.
The status quo is going to change on cycling, and it's going to move towards providing more facilities. And it's the car that's going to have to make the concession.