NYC, after 12 years of Bloomberg

Cities for People

When Janette Sadik Khan and Amanda Burden visited CPH back in 2007, they were impressed with the overall vibe of the city as well as some of the practical design details. They were inspired by the diversity of public life, the quantity of cyclists, and quality of streets and spaces as well as by smart designs, like allowing parallel parked cars along streets to form a protective barrier for cyclists (aka Copenhagen Style bike tracks).  At that time, we emphasized again and again that as wonderful as Copenhagen seemed on that visit, it took 40 years of hard work by countless city leaders, advocacy groups, and citizens to get it to that state. They replied that it was fine that Copenhagen had 40 years to get it right but that they only had 600 days until the end of the 2nd Bloomberg term!

As the Bloomberg Administration winds down (The…

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Ottawa Master Plan, Suburbs, and Transit-Oriented Development

The most important consultation is the Master Plan.  It is the driver for all other planning.

The consultation phase is winding down.

The barrier to providing feedback is low, just email: planning@ottawa.ca

The overall site is http://ottawa.ca/liveableottawa

The display boards from the consultation, in PDF form, are at http://ottawa.ca/en/city-hall/public-consultations/planning-and-infrastructure/draft-transportation-master-plan-open – NOTE that in the display boards it’s only the “affordable” maps that are proposed to be built, not the ultimate “network concept”.

The Master Plans, including Transit (Transportation), Walking and Cycling, are available in multi-part PDFs http://ottawa.ca/en/city-hall/public-consultations/draft-master-plans-now-available

Note to city: A ZIP file of all these documents would save a lot of downloading clicks.

They’ve extracted out the parts that impact your neighbourhood into separate documents, but good luck knowing your neighbourhood from ward numbers.  There are clickable maps.  Here are the documents for downtown Ottawa (“inner urban”):

If you know where to find the layers, you can navigate around the Master Plan proposals in the city’s mapping system http://maps.ottawa.ca/ (GeoOttawa)

Deadlines

You have until the end of October 2013.  After that, it will be another five years before the Master Plans are reviewed.

  • In writing, in advance of the Public Meeting and no later than November 1, 2013, or
  • In person at the official Public Meeting of Planning Committee on November 8, 2013 at 9:30 a.m.

What is being proposed

Bottom line is a commuter rail network (think Paris RER, mostly surface rail, sometimes underground) plus $70 million for cycling and $26 million for pedestrians (that’s spending out for decades, not next year).

Beyond the funded Confederation Line commuter rail, from Tunney’s to Blair, the unfunded Stage 2 plan reaches electric trains east-west from Bayshore to Place d’Orleans, and diesel rail south from Bayview to Bowesville.  It also extends the bus rapid transit (BRT; Transitway) west and north towards Kanata.  You can see the Stage 2 pamphlet (PDF).

The full transit network is shown in Transforming Ottawa’s Transit System – Affordable Transit Projects (PDF).

TMP Affordable Transit

Purple is existing rail, red is new rail, hard-to-distinguish blue-purple is new bus rapid transit, grey is existing bus rapid transit.

The good news is that this is a reasonable commuter rail network, and an ambitious schedule (the Mayor wants it built by 2023).  The bad news is

  • it requires provincial and federal funding for Stage 2 to happen
  • as with all municipal transit, the plan can be changed at any time at the whim of council (as happened with the previous LRT/tram North-South plan)
  • this kind of system should have been built before the city grew, not shoehorned in after
  • this expenditure will consume all available transit money until 2031 – there will be no trams (“secondary LRT” as the city calls them)

If the Greber Plan had just been a generation earlier, it would have done traditional city-building, which was to run commuter rail out to village centres.  This is how much of Europe is built out.  Europe still has suburbs, it’s just they are rail-connected.  But we landed just at the peak of car mania and train disdain.  So now we have to retrofit the commuter rail into the existing car suburb city.

Overall it is fine.  I still worry that extending the lines out, particularly going beyond the Greenbelt and providing park-and-ride, just encourages people to live even farther away from the city centre.

If you want my opinion on the most impactful things that can be recommended:

Another Puzzle Piece: Transit-Oriented Development & Station Area Plans

What is supposed to reduce the sprawl-enhancing impact of the commuter rail is transit-oriented development (TOD) around the stations.  This makes for some weird looking plans, as some of the stations are at malls.  Blair Station TOD envisions the big box sprawlmall of Gloucester turning into towers and a park.  It is to dream.

Anyway, if you haven’t exhausted yourself providing feedback to the Master Plans, there is also a whole set of TOD plans.  As usual buried away on the city site and not linked together.

Completed TOD plans at http://ottawa.ca/en/city-hall/planning-and-development/community-plans-and-design-guidelines/community-plans-and-stu-341 comprising Train Station (VIA Rail), St. Laurent Station, and Cyrville Station.

Draft TOD plans including Blair at http://ottawa.ca/en/city-hall/public-consultations/lrt-station-area-transit-oriented-development-tod-studies

Display boards (PDFs) and planner contact info at http://ottawa.ca/en/city-hall/public-consultations/planning-and-infrastructure/information-session-september-24-2013

Somewhere in the TOD plans there’s supposed to be 15 minute bikeshed plans, but I can’t find them.  All I can find is 600m walkshed plans.  With stations at malls, for e.g. Blair Station this basically leads to a plan proposing better sidewalks inside what are currently mall parking lots, but not proposing better connections to existing employment nodes nearby.

The feedback deadline was October 7, 2013 but I think that’s not fair because 1) The consultations were poorly announced and 2) the consultations were completely overshadowed by the bus-train crash.

There is also a separate Gladstone Station (proposed new O-Train station) consultation, because things aren’t confusingly separated enough.  Find it at http://ottawa.ca/en/city-hall/public-consultations/gladstone-station-district-community-design-plan  Deadline looks to be April-May 2014.

And Beyond: The Suburbs

If somehow you’re not exhausted and are still reading, there’s yet another consultation specifically on suburban design.  Here what is critical is to move suburbs to a village design, centred around transit, instead of car sprawl.  Good luck fighting that fight.

See: Public input needed to design future suburban neighbourhoods

also http://ottawa.ca/suburbs

email feedback to BuildingBetterSuburbs@ottawa.ca

Primary and Secondary confusion about Ottawa LRT

2013-10-16: Found this in my drafts folder from 2012-06-29.  Published.

There are many elements of confusion about the Ottawa LRT project.  There has been poor communication and poor choice of language.  There are also legacy elements from the 2008 Transportation Master Plan.

First, the purpose of the system.  They are not just building “east-west rail”.  They are building a commuter rail system that will get you from Kanata (Terry Fox Station) to Trim Station (and/or Millennium Station).

That’s roughly 40km end-to-end.  That is a long stretch.  If you’re going to run commuter rail to get someone 40km every morning and evening, it must be

  • reliable service (always arrives when scheduled)
  • regular service (service departs frequently, ideally every few minutes at peak times)
  • fast service (the journey must take an hour or less, generally speaking, for commuters to tolerate it)

The service should also be high enough capacity to handle the current and anticipated load over its operating lifetime.  And it should be affordable.

There are various engineering ways to ensure you can achieve those goals.  In a modern commuter rail system, you ensure this type of service by

  • having continuous grade separation – this is a fancy way of saying “cars, pedestrians and cyclists never cross the tracks” – this means at all intersections the other traffic must either tunnel under or skyway over the transit corridor
  • having infrequent, widely-separated stops – the transit needs to have a high average speed, which means it needs to stop (with all the slowdown, boarding time, and startup from zero again that involves) as few times as possible
  • long buses or long train cars – this not only means high capacity for each transit unit but it importantly it also means many fewer passengers per driver (salaries are expensive)

Part of the problem is that, while the O’Brien east-west plan with a tunnel (to provide grade separation) downtown implies this service, it is a different service from what we have now, and while staff clearly understands this is what council has directed them to specify and procure, it appears that the councillors themselves and the vast majority of citizens don’t realise this is what we all agreed we’re building.  (The old north-south proposal was a mixed system that was only partially commuter rail.)

To make things worse council and staff use very confusing language to refer to this type of system.  Rather than calling it commuter rail or rapid commuter rail, they call it either LRT (“light rapid transit” or “light rail transit”) or PRIMARY.

As you can imagine, this causes confusion because people think primary means “the main route”.  So when staff says “route X should be the primary corridor” people think they mean “the main transit corridor”, they don’t realise it means “the commuter rail corridor”.

Now, there is a completely different goal that you can set.  You could set the goal of moving people within the city, and generating economic development continuously along the route.  If you want to do that, again there is a set of requirements:

  • convenient – it can’t be too far to a stop
  • integrated – the transit should be part of the streetscape, easily reachable from the sidewalk
  • moderate speed – the transit should be going at a speed that is safe and pleasant when experienced both by bystanders and those potentially crossing its route

This is the classic “clang, clang, clang went the trolley” type of street-level service most people are somewhat familiar with.  To meet these goals you:

  • run the transit on the street, with perhaps priority over other types of traffic but nevertheless sometimes intersecting with other kinds of traffic, including e.g. rails that people can just walk across
  • have stops close together, sometimes just a few blocks apart
  • (on the street and stops close together pretty much constrains the maximum speed)

This kind of service is what the city staff calls SECONDARY or SUPPLEMENTARY.  They should call it local service, or name it by a particular instance of the service (call it a tram).  Unfortunately the use of “secondary” makes people think it is less important, or lower priority, even though it is the service that people living in the downtown core would use the most.  They really just mean “slower local service that isn’t commuter service”.

(It’s not actually this simple as e.g. the Western LRT investigation calls it Primary and Supplementary, referring within Primary to LRT and BRT, and within Supplementary to “intensive bus” and “intensive rail” transit.)

To make things extra confusing, in Ottawa we have both these types of service, but we mix them together under the general heading of “bus” or “OC Transpo”.  And we mix the two types of service together in a single route (which you should never do, because as shown above, they have completely different requirements).

The closest to commuter service we have is the Transitway, our pseudo-BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) system.  (Pseudo because we don’t do pay-before-boarding, which slows the system down considerably.)  The dedicated parts of the Transitway are classic commuter design: grade separated, widely-spaced stops.

OC Transpo provides a map that is a representation of our current Transitway system.

The big problem is that as soon as the Transitway hits downtown, it turns into a local service with sidewalk-accessible frequent stops.  This completely screws up the end-to-end transit as you’ve inserted a slow, disruption-prone segement into the middle of a fast disruption-free route.  And that’s why as long as you’re building commuter rail, you have to do a tunnel.

We also have a local service in the non-Transitway buses.  People tend to mix them together as it is never clearly stated that there is a local system and a commuter system, both systems use the same buses and they interconnect.

The Parkway

The Parkway would be terrible for a secondary (local, tram) service.  There’s no one there.  There’s no shops by a sidewalk that people are going to go to.  There’s no existing corridor that will be uplifted by having frequent local transit.

The Parkway is ideal for a primary (commuter) service.  First of all, the commuter service ALREADY runs on the Parkway (the Transitway buses).  Replacing those buses with rail would mean less pollution, less noise, a lower number of transit “containers” and a predictable service (both in terms of it being fixed to rails and in terms of it keeping to its schedule).  A predictable service means you can cross the path safely (unlike the current life-in-your-hands situation now where it’s basically a highway).  A rail service means people can look out the big windows and actually see the river and the green.

The idea that single occupancy vehicles (eyes on the road!) and commuter buses is a better combination for highlighting and enjoying the Parkway than packed train cars gliding along is just bizarre.  The idea that a predictable train on fixed rails driven by a professional driver is more dangerous than thousands of amateur drivers careening around in cars is ridiculous (which is to say, if we don’t require a fence to protect us from the cars that kill people ALL THE TIME then we shouldn’t need a fence to protect us from the train that kills people approximately never).

That being said, the city has to completely change how the NCC thinks about the Parkway (it appears to imagine it is some 1950s Sunday drive scenic leisure route).  They need to understand how it is actually used (as a busy and dangerous car commuter highway) and appreciate how it could be better used (as a modern rail corridor).  Both data and storytelling will be required.  A Horizon 2067 that imagines the Parkway is best used in 55 years by cars and buses would be just bizarre.

The Parkwark (ORP) will never be used for the LRT.  NCC is completely opposed to it.

Carling

The Carling story is the inverse of the Parkway.  Carling would be terrible for primary (commuter, rapid rail) transit.  Either you do as you’re supposed to and grade separate the rail you put on Carling (at enormous expense) or you intersect the train with traffic, which introduces a fatal unreliability, unpredictability, and great danger into the middle of your route (not to mention which a wall of trains that will completely block your north-south traffic flow).

Carling is fantastic for secondary (local, tram) service.  You can have lots of stops.  People can start using the sidewalk and shopping along the whole length of the street.  Housing and shopping will be attracted to the route.  The economic development that Holmes wants is a strong possibility with a local route on Carling.

What about Route X?

If there is an existing local neighbourhood, running commuter rail through it is going to suck.  You can’t make it unsuck.  You can maybe make it less visible (e.g. using cut and cover) but you can’t make it fit well within an existing urban fabric.  By design it must be fast and separate.  If you put in stops that will just slow it down for everyone, end-to-end.  There is no way that you are going to be able to do this without making some local residents unhappy.  That’s the political reality.  That’s a job for the politicians to sort out.  What you must not do is try to turn it into a local transit segment, then you’re just reinventing the problems of our current Transitway (which slows almost to a standstill in peak hours when it hits the downtown core) in a new location.

Transportation in General

I already walked this out in a previous post.  First, it’s important to understand that TRANSIT is about moving people.  Not stuff.  People.  People are small.  The issue with cars is they make sense if you are moving a lot of stuff (which people almost always aren’t) but are nonsensical if you are moving a single person (which they almost always are).  Cars and small trucks are fine if you need to move stuff.  They make no sense for moving people in a dense environment.

In a dense environment within a city you:

  • walk if it’s a short distance
  • cycle if it’s a medium distance
  • tram (or bus) if it’s a long distance
  • subway if it’s a long distance and there are a lot of people to move

That’s it.  There are no other solutions for moving people around a city.

If you need to get from the city to a nearby village (or more usually in from the village to the city to work) you take commuter rail.

If you need to get from city to city you take high-speed rail.

That’s how you move people around.  The only time you need cars is if you need to move around places that aren’t served by rail.  In the North America we used to have (and in the Europe that still exists) all villages are served by rail.  The only places you need to use a car are to get around in rural areas.

High Speed Rail

The Government of Canada’s own study (or I should say, the latest of many studies) says that the Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal corridor can be done for $9 billion dollars and that the economic benefits mean the corridor would pay for itself.

There is however zero chance of a conservative government building high-speed rail.

Union Station

In a perfect world, Union Station would be used for the passenger rail service (and that service would be high-speed to Montreal and Toronto).

This is never going to happen.

In a reasonable world, Union Station would at least be used as a commuter rail station, since the commuter rail goes right under it.  This would connect with our history, and open our miniature version of Penn Station up for tourism.

Union Station will never be a train station again.  (It is bizarre beyond belief that the debate was about whether the commuter rail station should be to the east or the west of an actual existing station, but that’s Ottawa for you.)

In fact, given that Union Station needs millions in repairs, the most likely situation is that it will have to be demolished (after a decade or two more of total neglect).

Barry Padolsky’s firm has completed a heritage conservation plan for the building, but I don’t know where or if you can find it online.

Trams

There is zero funding for local (street-level, slower, many stops) rail in Ottawa.  We are building a commuter rail system that will do the centre (Tunney’s Pasture Station to Blair Station), then west (Lincoln Fields to Tunney’s Pasture Station) then east (Lincoln Fields Station to Trim Station and/or Millenium Station) then south.  That will cost a hijillion dollars and at Ottawa’s pace will take another three to five decades.

If we were France we would be building local trams in addition to commuter rail.  In fact we could just copy our 1948 street car system (which to a large extent created many Ottawa neighbourhoods including the Glebe with the B line and Westboro with the S line).  If you want trams you will have to do a ton of work to get the city to budget and plan for them.  This is currently not on the budget radar at all.  The Transportation Master Plan consultation and the Horizon 2067 plan are both key places you would insert tram planning and funding, if that’s what you want to have.

fall 2013 urbanism events in Ottawa

November 14

The Royal Danish Embassy and Urban Forum present for one night only the Ottawa premiere of The Human Scale at the Mayfair Theatre.  Show starts at 7pm.  Doors open at 6:30pm.  It’s free and first-come first-served (as are most Urban Forum events).

It’s a full rental of the theatre, so the concession stand will be open if you want to buy popcorn etc.

Jan Gehl made his first studies in Italy and later he inspired the planning of Denmark’s capital, Copenhagen, for 40 years. His ideas inspired the creation of walking streets, the building and improvements of bike paths and the reorganization of parks, squares and other public spaces throughout this city and in many other cities in the Nordic region. Around the world cities like Melbourne, Dhaka, New York, Chongqing and Christchurch are now also being inspired by Gehl’s work and by the developments in Copenhagen.

Jan Gehl spoke in Ottawa in October 2010.  (The NCC briefly had both the video and the presentation slides on their site, but now they have neither.)

Posters & Links:

Subscribe to the Danish Embassy newsletter by emailing ottamb@um.dk
Follow the Embassy on Twitter: @DenmarkInCanada
The Human Scale info on the Embassy site.  Also see Danish Bicycle Culture.

Subscribe to Urban Forum announcements by filling in your email in the “Register for Event Updates” section of their website.
Follow Urban Forum on Twitter: @ufottawa
The Human Scale info on the Urban Forum site.

Danish Embassy - The Human Scale

urbanforum-20131023

Thanks are due to the Canadian distributor Mongrel Media for helping to make this event happen.
http://www.mongrelmedia.com/data/ftp/The%20Human%20Scale/HumanScale_Poster_sm.pdf

UPDATE 2013-10-27: Hotdocs and other reviews

2013 Hotdocs selection & media coverage – The Human Scale
Cinemablographer – Hot Docs Review: ‘The Human Scale’ – April 27, 2013

The Montreal GazetteReview: The Human Scale.  Documentary takes concrete look at the urban experience. – September 20, 2013

New York TimesMaking Cities Work for People.  ‘The Human Scale,’ an Urban Documentary. – October 17, 2013

UPDATE 2013-11-05: More reviews

Calgary HeraldBuilt for humans: Documentary looks at a shift in city design – November 4, 2013

VarietyFilm Review: ‘The Human Scale’ – October 16, 2013

ENDUPDATE


All events below are in the past.

November 4

Cycling in Cities: What route types are best for motivating cycling?
7pm
City Hall, 2nd floor Colonel By Room
free

from Ottawa Bike Lanes Project, hosted by Councillor Chernushenko

Kay Teschke is Professor in the School of Population and Public Health at the University of British Columbia where she has been on faculty for 30 years. She initiated the Cycling in Cities program of research in 2004. It investigates factors that encourage or discourage bicycling and transportation infrastructure associated with increased or decreased risks of cycling injuries.

You can register directly at http://oblp.eventbrite.ca/

October 23

The Healthy City: Shaping the Public Realm
7pm
City Hall, Champlain Room
free

Can the way we shape our built environment of streets and public spaces help to develop a robust “social immune system” that contributes to our mental and physical health?

Suzanne H. Crowhurst Lennard will explain how adopting healthy planning and urban design strategies for the public realm can vastly improve the physical health and well-being of the whole population.

October 15

Liveable Ottawa
Information Session Fall 2013
Drop-in: 4 to 8 p.m.
City Hall

What will Ottawa’s transportation network look like in the years to come? How will we move around the city on the bus, in our cars, on our bikes or on foot? How does the way we move around our neighbourhoods fit in with the way the city will physically grow and develop as guided by our city’s updated Official Plan?

What can we afford to build and maintain?

Hashtag is #liveableottawa

Gladstone [Station] Community Design Plan
Open House #1
Drop-in: 7 to 9 p.m.
Tom Brown Arena, 141 Bayview Road

The Gladstone Station District today is a unique area within the heart of Ottawa brimming with both history and future potential. The City of Ottawa is undertaking the Gladstone Station District Community Design Plan (CDP) to work collaboratively with the community to explore, develop and recommend a vision and design concept to guide private development and public works projects in the area over the next 20 years.

Residents and landowners are invited to attend the this first Open House to review the display boards and speak with City planners to learn about this CDP study, its purpose, the study area, the process, timelines and background analysis completed to date.

(In case you’re wondering why it’s Gladstone Station, it’s because there is a new O-train station proposed at Gladstone in the new Transportation Master Plan.)

Hashtag is #GladCDP

Previously:
October 2, 2013 Cycling, Walking & Transit in Ottawa – updated plans

Cycling, Walking & Transit in Ottawa – updated plans

The city has to update its major plans every five years.

They’ve bundled together the update of the plans under the heading “Liveable Ottawa”.  This includes:

  • Official Plan
  • Infrastructure Master Plan
  • Transportation Master Plan
  • Cycling Plan
  • Pedestrian Plan

Of these the most important is the Official Plan.  When something is challenged to the OMB, one of the tests is “what does the city’s own plan say?”  If the Official Plan isn’t clear, then it becomes hard to defend against developers at the OMB.

The other plans provide an overview of the city’s goals, but to be frank, the city (and the citizens) have not done a good job of holding particularly to the pedestrian plan in the past.  It is important that citizens contribute to and understand the plans, and then hold councillors accountable when they don’t follow their own city plans.  Every future vote should be based on the direction stated in the plan.  Instead votes tend to be seen as standalone, isolated events.

The latest round of consultations was scheduled to start September 23, 2013 at City Hall, but has been rescheduled following the tragic bus-train crash.

The overall information is available at

ottawa.ca/liveableottawa

and the consultation page is http://ottawa.ca/en/city-hall/public-consultations/planning-and-infrastructure/information-sessions-fall-2013

In addition to attending information sessions, you can read the documents and provide feedback directly by email to planning@ottawa.ca

Twitter hashtag: #liveableottawa

Schedule of releases and events

  • released June 2013 – draft Official Plan
  • released Sept 2013 – draft Infrastructure Master Plan
  • Oct 9, 2013 – drafts of Transportation Master Plan, Ottawa Cycling Plan and Ottawa Pedestrian Plan – see http://ottawa.ca/en/city-hall/public-consultations/draft-master-plans-now-available – special joint meeting of Transportation Committee and Transit Commission
  • Oct 15, 2013information session at Ottawa City Hall – 4pm to 8pm
  • Oct 16, 2013 – Consideration of the Transportation Master Plan at Transit Commission
  • Oct 17, 2013 – information session at Kanata Recreation Complex – Hall A
    100 Walter Baker Place – 4pm to 8pm
  • Oct 22, 2013 – information session at Walter Baker Sports Centre – 2nd floor Food Court, 100 Malvern Drive – 4pm to 8pm
  • Oct 24, 2013 – information session at Bob MacQuarrie Recreation Complex – Orléans, Covent Glen Room, 1490 Youville Drive – 4pm to 8pm
  • Nov 8, 2013 – Consideration of Official Plan and Infrastructure Master Plan at Planning Committee
  • Nov 15, 2013 – Consideration of Transportation Master Plan, Ottawa Cycling Plan, and Ottawa Pedestrian Plan at Transportation Committee
  • Nov 26, 2013 – Approval of all Master Plans by Council
  • Dec 11, 2013 – Consideration of Official Plan amendment by-law by Council

You can also see the above schedule at http://ottawa.ca/en/city-hall/public-consultations/planning-and-infrastructure/project-timelines

Centretown restaurants and shopping

My personal list of local, independent places to eat and shop in Centretown, with information about nearby neighbourhoods.  I’ve been to all these places, unless indicated.

(This post was originally for Can-Con 2013.)

Building on blog post Places to Eat, Drink or Get a Coffee at Can-Con, I thought I would add my perspective.

Ottawa: What it is

Ottawa was a small prosperous lumber town, transformed by the Gréber Plan vision of a modern capital city.  Unfortunately in the post-War era when it was transformed, the best thinking of the day was that everyone should live in the suburbs and commute by car to the Central Business District (CBD) downtown.

Downtown: Where you are

If you’re south of Parliament Hill, you’re probably in the Central Business District, between Gloucester and the Ottawa River.  The CBD is the northern part of Centretown.  Centretown is between the highway (Queensway, 417) and the Ottawa River, bounded by Bronson Avenue in the west and the Rideau Canal in the east.

If you’re east of Parliament Hill, you’re in Byward Market (“the Market”).

Food and drink

The Scone Witch
Good for breakfast or a snack. Many delicious scones.
388 Albert Street 150 Elgin Street

Bridgehead coffee
all over the place in Ottawa, but some CBD outlets may be closed weekends and evenings
Bridgehead at Bank and Albert (109 Bank Street) will be open

Bread & Sons
bakery and pizza, open until 8pm Fridays, opens 8:30am Saturday, closed Sundays
195 Bank Street (Bank Street just south of Gloucester)

Som Tum
Thai
260 Nepean Street (Kent & Nepean)

Ceylonta
excellent Sri Lankan (spicy)
403 Somerset Street West (Somerset near Kent)

Grounded Kitchen
good lunch service, open Fridays until 11pm, Saturday 5pm-11pm, closed Sundays
100 Gloucester Street (Gloucester east of O’Connor)

Riviera
Reservations recommended (open seating at the bar).
62 Sparks Street

Bekta
fine dining.  reservations recommended.  check the menus to see if it’s in your price range.
226 Nepean Street (Nepean between Bank & Kent) 150 Elgin Street

Dosa Inc.
a food truck that parks on the north side of Dundonald Park, serving Indian food
south side of Somerset, between Bay and Lyon
check their Twitter feed @dosa_inc to see if they’re open (summer only)

other food trucks
not many are open on the weekends.  Check Streetfoodapp Ottawa for what’s open (summer only).

Social Thai
I recommend the Burmese tofu.
399 Bank Street (Bank at Waverley)

Whalesbone (Bank)
Oyster House, sustainable seafood and fish.  reservations recommended.
430 Bank Street, Bank north of Gladstone

Whalesbone (Elgin)
231 Elgin Street

Town
small plates of delicious things.  reservations recommended.
296 Elgin Street (Elgin north of Gilmour)

The Manx
opens at 10 on weekends for a delicious and interesting brunch.  recommend lining up by at least 9:45 unless you want a long wait for a table.  also popular as a pub.
370 Elgin Street (Elgin at Frank).  Manx is downstairs.

El Camino
Tacos.
380 Elgin Street (Elgin north of Gladstone).  El Camino is downstairs.

there are lots of places for Vietnamese soup (pho), including
Pho Bo Ga Truc at 275 Bank Street (Bank north of Somerset) and
Viet-Thai at 312 Bank Street (Bank at Maclaren)

there are lots of diners including
Wilf & Ada’s at 510 Bank Street (Bank at Arlington) – highend diner
Bramasole Diner at 428 Bank Street (Bank north of Gladstone)
Elgin Street Diner at 374 Elgin Street (Elgin south of Frank, next to The Manx, more or less)

bakeries & pastries

Three Tarts Bakeshop.  Tarts, cookies, cakes.  The wafer-thin ginger cookies particularly recommended.  464 Bank Street Unit #3 (Bank between McLeod and Flora)

The best pâtisserie is Macarons & Madeleines, 46 Lorne Avenue.  1323 Wellington Street West. (not in Centretown)

The Middle East Bakery has baklava.  605 Somerset Street West.

Art-is-in is another top Ottawa bakery but far from Centretown, in an odd location (if you walk down Somerset Street West, then turn north onto Preston, then west on Spruce and across the City Centre parking lot, behind the drycleaners, you’ll get there, it takes about half an hour).  (not in Centretown)

Shopping

Perfect Books
great bookstore
258A Elgin Street (Elgin north of Somerset Street West)

Stroked Ego
clothing & accessories
224 Bank Street 131 Bank Street (upstairs)

Comic Book Shoppe 2
comic books
228 Bank Street

Flowers & Vintage
What it says on the tin: flowers and vintage clothing.  I haven’t been.
502 1/2 Somerset Street West
http://www.herdmag.ca/flowers-vintage/
IMG_6520

Neighbourhoods & Quebec

There are some main streets, often old street-car streets.
In Centretown there’s Bank Street, but it doesn’t have a lot other than what is mentioned above, and Elgin Street, which has a good strip of bars and restaurants (it’s near uOttawa).

If you continue south on Bank underneath the highway you’re in the Glebe, and a few blocks south of the Queensway there’s pretty good shopping along Bank in the Glebe.

Somerset West has Chinatown, officially west of Bronson at the Chinatown gate

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but really these days starting west of Bay Street.  UPDATE: Charles Akben-Marchand tells me that Chinatown officially starts west of Bay already.  ENDUPDATE

If you continue west on Somerset you’ll eventually hit Preston Street, which has Little Italy.

If you continue west even farther on Somerset you’ll go on a bridge over the O-train tracks and then you’re in Hintonburg and Somerset soon turns into Wellington Street West.  There is good shopping and lots of restaurants starting in Hintonburg all down Wellington Street West continuing into Westboro.

If you go north-east from the hotel instead, the Byward Market is walkable but touristy.  Murray Street Kitchen is a good nose-to-tail restaurant.  If you go east to Dalhousie Street there’s some good shopping, including L’Hexagone menswear and Cylie Chocolaterie.

If you continue quite a bit north-east from there you’ll reach New Edinburgh, where there’s another good strip of shopping and restaurants, including Books on Beechwood.

Chez Edgar is good (but tiny), in Quebec.

Please let me know in the comments if you have other suggestions or feedback.

See also: Ottawa restaurants and shopping.