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