Monthly Archives: March 2008

Ottawa’s Transit Plan: Critique

So what would make a good transit plan? I’m not an urban planner, but I can make a few ill-informed guesses:

The plan shouldn’t be based on streeters that ask people what they think of their current transit system – that model is too easily biased. Instead, they should do a survey of where people actually go. Ask them for their home and work/school addresses, for example. Build a map that shows where people go and when, then build transit to service their needs, not what you think they may want.
The plan shouldn’t just have a “vision”, it should also explain how the goal will be met. The existing plan states that they want to see 30% – in 2001, it was around 16%1, but they provide no indication of how those goals will be achieved.
Include city growth as part of the plan. Ottawa is all crawling with new condos downtown and new subdivisions in the ‘burbs. The plan should serve existing population centres and plan for new growth.
The transit plan should include zoning amendments to encourage growth and in-fill around transit lines. The old 2020 plan alluded to that, but the new napkin sketch doesn’t even raise the possibility.
The plan should provide a basic breakdown of costs. We’re told that laying track from Baseline station to Blair, and from the Rideau Centre past the airport is only $660 million more expensive than upgrading the transitway? And that a fleet of a few dozen trains won’t cost much more to buy than the 690 buses that OC Transpo runs? That may be true, but it’s hard to believe without knowing where the numbers came from.

The proposed plan is fine – if we want to pay around three billion dollars to get the same service we have today.

Ottawa’s Transit Plan: Yesterday’s Solution Tomorrow

As others have mentioned, the City of Ottawa has put together four possible plans for public transit in 2031. The four plans cover the same ground, they

follow the current east/west arterials running parallel to the Ottawa river;
head south as far as Bowesville and Barrhaven Town Centre;
go north into Gatineau;
feature a tunnel though the downtown.

The only difference is the mode: the first plan is entirely bus, with each of the other three plans phasing in gradually more light rail. Plan four has the most track, featuring rail lines from the current Baseline station to Blair with a dogleg down to Bowesville and the airport.

If I sound unexcited about the plans, it’s because they’re all pretty much the same. Swap tracks for Transitway, and add a few percentage points of capitol and ongoing costs, and they’re basically the same plan: what we have now. Even the growth projections for transit trips downtown are ho-hum: they project an overall rise of transit use (heading into the downtown core) of 10%.

Tomorrow: suggestions for what a transit plan should include.

The Red Apron

The Red Apron is an Ottawa-baesd food subscription service. You pay their not-too-cheap fee, and then they deliver meals to your work or home. If my food budget wasn’t already maxed, I’d give it a shot.