The city's current light-rail transit plan has, since its inception, pencilled in the western corridor of the line to run along the NCC-owned Ottawa River Parkway. Despite obvious reluctance on the part of the NCC to allow the line, it's continued on as the default option, even while the city investigates the feasibility of other western-corridor options, including Carling and Byron.
It seems that city staff and planners are reluctant to face an obvious fact: The Parkway option is simply not going to happen.
The NCC is obviously no in favour of the option. Since the plan was approved, the NCC has been telling the city that they'd better investigate every other option available, because they'd need a compelling case to offer the Parkway for light-rail. Although they haven't said so explicitly, they've hinted as recently as last week that they're not convinced.
The Parkway option would have advantages. It's the simplest because there's little development to disrupt; it's the cheapest for the same reason; and it's the current western corridor so there's an ease of transition. (It would also offer riders a pretty sweet view across the river as they ride the train, but that's probably not a deciding factor in the debate.)
But those advantages are based on a fact that is also the most significant criticism of the option: Namely, that it's not surrounded by high populations. It would draw well from the northern portion of Westboro, but on the other side is just a river--not many people live in there. Contrast that with Carling or Byron, which are surrounded on both sides by fairly high-density residential areas as well as retail sites and plenty of employers.
Last week, David Reevely blogged about a letter from the NCC to the city in which their tone changed slightly: They don't want to allow trains on the Parkway, and they see little reason to think that would change.
I'm sure few would argue that using the Ottawa River Parkway land as a scenic roadway is the best use of that land, but using it as a light-rail throughfare wouldn't be much better.
I learned a few things about the NCC working with them a few years ago. The polticos at the NCC can say anything they want. The actual build date of this section of LRT is a decade away, things can change. The NCC does nothing till their finance department looks at something. Many quick changes in NCC policy in the past were usually based on the boys and girls of the finance department finally looking at a project that the polticos, had been for or against for years and suddenly changing the whole thing around because the project does or does not work financially. The city of Ottawa gives money to the NCC to run buses on the parkway. That money has become a significant percentage of the operating and repair budget for the whole parkway system. If that money were suddenly stopped or is seriously downgraded, due to a lack of need for the City to run buses on their roads, the NCC could find itself in serious budgetary trouble.
I find the argument about there being no developable land on the north side of the Ottawa River Commuter Expressway too simplistic. There may well be as much intensifiable space on the south side as there is on both sides of other route options (what, are you seriously suggesting council will rezone Mckellar park for high rises??). As for the Carling Option, if it starts at the O-train corridor, then the whole first section from Champagne to Island Park has the Central Ex Farm on one side ... is this developable land? If the farm can be condoized, then so can the south side of the ORParkway.
Thank heavens for the NCC. The ORP is a ridiculous alignment. It's only value is that its cheap.
Carleton is slated to get Toronto Transit City style LRT on it. Mixing medium-haul and long-haul travel on the same corridor would ruin it for all riders. It will not be fast and the stop spacing will be too wide to make it a comfortable local streetcar line.
Richmond/Byron, however, offer significant opportunities for transit oriented development and is a more direct routing.
The only reason the City Council wants the ORP is because they don't want to have deal with the NIMBYs along Richmond. I say it's time for the Councillors to man up and grow a pair and actually make sound long term decisions for the city.
ORP is a horrible idea. Basing huge decisions that effect the long term future of the city solely on the price is generally a horrible idea.
Byron/Richmond has exciting possibilities. So does Carling though. If Carling, then it must be elevated along the medium so as to avoid traffic and traffic lights. Else, its not worth it.
I've live in this city all of my life and I've always pictured the ORP as a lazy leisurely meandering route that follows the ins and out of the river bank. Lovely for a scenic Sunday drive but hardly an efficient route that will save time and energy for a transit system. Carling or Byron are far more direct and will likely save money in the long term.
Great post and some really useful tips there. I love resource lists like this. Have social bookmarked it in the hope that others can also benefit.
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