proposed rail transit for Gatineau west end including rail across Portage Bridge

Gatineau is in a multi-stage process to study a system for transit in the west end of the city, and ultimately recommend which system to implement.  I have written previously about the initial report in proposed Gatineau west-end rail project.

In French this project is called un système de transport collectif structurant dans l’ouest de la ville de Gatineau. This doesn’t translate exactly to English because of the concept of “structured transit”; basically it means something like an organised, primary system of transit for the west end of Gatineau.

Note that this system is nowhere near being funded and approved yet.

UPDATE 2019-06-10: The Government of Quebec has pledged to fund 60% of this $2.1 billion project.

That being said, transit funding in Canada is highly political, so there may be many more twists and turns before a final project is approved and fully funded.

END UPDATE

Summary

They examine many options but the summary is that the first option proposed is two connected rail lines, running trams (streetcars) presumably not separated from regular car traffic, from the west end of Gatineau across the Portage Bridge to Ottawa.

Gatineau T1 rail with PoW
above map cropped from Gatineau STO Scénario T1 – Scénario par tramway, Caractéristiques du scénario (PDF) but edited to show the Prince of Wales Bridge crossing the Ottawa River

Information Sessions and Consultations

There will be information sessions (open house sessions) June 3rd, 4th and 6th, 2019.

Secteur Aylmer
Lundi 3 juin 2019, de 16 h à 20 h
Centre culturel du Vieux-Aylmer situé au 120, rue Principale

District du Plateau
Mardi 4 juin 2019, de 16 h 30 à 20 h 30
Centre communautaire du Plateau situé au 145, rue de l’Atmosphère

Secteur Hull
Jeudi 6 juin 2019, de 16 h à 20 h
Agora de la Maison du citoyen situé au 25, rue Laurier

There will be an online consultation June 3 to 24, 2019.

Un questionnaire sera disponible en ligne du 3 au 24 juin 2019.

UPDATE 2019-06-04: The online survey is available.  END UPDATE

And there will be a brainstorming workshop June 17, 2019.

Un atelier ouvert au grand public sera organisé afin d’engager une discussion sur les conditions de succès du système structurant et d’approfondir la réflexion sur les scénarios.

Lundi 17 juin de 18 h à 20 h
Hôtel DoubleTree by Hilton, 1170 chemin d’Aylmer

for more information, see

Portage Bridge instead of Prince of Wales

The part where the tramway would run across the Portage Bridge I think is a surprise to everyone.  Unlike the Alexandra, Chaudière and Prince of Wales bridges, Portage has never had trains crossing it. (You can read about the history of interprovincial rail in my blog post Ottawa – Gatineau interprovincial rail.)  It had long been expected that any renewed interprovincial rail connection would be across the currently disused Prince of Wales bridge.

CBC reports the analysis as

In a presentation Tuesday, the STO said the Portage Bridge would provide better service to downtown Gatineau, and would also allow the agency to drop off its users at Ottawa’s downtown Lyon or Parliament stations, which may have more capacity.

Le Droit says the issue is a lack of capacity at Bayview Station

Après avoir desservi sa propre clientèle ottavienne, la station Bayview ne pourrait pas accueillir plus de 1000 usagers supplémentaires par heure, en période de pointe, alors que le flot de passagers supplémentaires en provenance de Gatineau serait estimé à 6000.

Unfortunately, while bringing rail across Portage is a potentially bold transit move, it is fraught with challenges, particularly given the real geometry of the area, since Portage is not just a north-south river bridge, it also has a major east-west connection from the Sir John A. MacDonald “Parkway” (highway) on the Ottawa side.

Portage Bridge aerial from Google Maps
Imagery ©2019 Google, Map data ©2019 Google.

Streetcars are a pre-automobile technology.  They can work in the 21st Century when all modes of transportation and the street design combine to enable the uninterrupted movement of the high-capacity streetcars  In its comparison of modes, STO shows 45-metre-long tram cars with a capacity of 375 people.  To be blunt, that means the tram should have 375x the priority of a single-occupancy car.  But in reality in North America we have:

  • drivers landing in the city centre on high-speed highways (like the SJAM “Parkway”) and expecting to continue driving fast through the centre
  • decades of prioritizing car traffic and high-speed car traffic over all other modes
  • high-speed one-way “arterials” and actual highways within cities
  • decades of prioritizing car traffic so that drivers aren’t used to mixing well with other modes, whether that be pedestrians, cyclists, bus transit or even more rarely at-grade rail transit
  • street design and expectations that prioritize safety for inattentive drivers

This means streetcars have really struggled in mixed traffic in North America.  This is why Toronto had to do the King Street changes, in order to reduce the ability of a single-occupancy car to block a streetcar carrying many more people.

To somehow insert a streetcar into Wellington and Portage’s mix of north-south and east-west traffic would be a huge challenge.  Just look at that intersection.  And keep in mind the vehicle they’ve depicted is 45 metres long, much much longer than an 18 metre extended (bendy) bus.

Portage Bridge - SJAM - Wellington intersection from Google Maps
Imagery ©2019 Google, Map data ©2019 Google.

And then it’s not at all clear to me how you land the tramway in downtown Ottawa.  It’s supposed to deliver its hundreds of passengers per vehicle to Lyon Station and the sidewalk basically.  There’s no way geometrically (that I can see) that you can get the tram around 90 degrees to Lyon and Queen (and incidentally up a bit of a hill), so I guess that means it just stops at Lyon and Wellington?  (STO actually talks about serving both Lyon and Parliament Stations.)  STO just shows some magic dotted lines once the tramway arrives in Ottawa.

STO tramway across Portage
above map cropped from Gatineau STO Scénario T1 – Scénario par tramway, Caractéristiques du scénario (PDF)

I’m not saying this is a bad idea.  If we were in Europe it would be easy.  European trams cross multi-modal bridges all the time, here’s one in Rouen.

DSC01142

But doing this in North America with the real geometry of the proposed location and the real behaviours of North American drivers will be a big challenge.

SIDEBAR: The entire area is a museum of 1960s traffic engineering and urban planning.  To the west you have the “urban renewal” of LeBreton Flats, where housing was flattened and a highway was built, and to the north across the river you have the Place du Portage megastructure, where an urban street grid was erased in order that an inward-facing building complex could be dropped out of the sky, a building complex you’re supposed to arrive at by car and never leave until the work day is done.  For more on that era’s disastrous urban design see William H. Whyte’s City: Rediscovering the Center, in particular chapter 14, Megastructures.  END SIDEBAR

Details

There’s way way too much information for me to expand out in detail so I’m mostly just going to point you to the STO web pages.

The area under study comprises Gatineau’s west end, downtown Gatineau, downtown Ottawa, the light rail stations and their surrounding areas as well as suitable routes for linking Gatineau and Ottawa.

There was a 2013-2017 Opportunity Study that you don’t really need to know much about.

Out of that, as far as I can tell, came the 2018 proposed Gatineau west-end rail project.

We are now in the next stage, the 2018-2019 Study.

And in June 2019 sub-step Public Consultation on the Structuring System in Gatineau’s West End.

In the June 2019 consultation they want you to consider 5 scenarios.

The scenarios are:

  • The reference scenario, in which the current bus system is improved.  All other scenarios can be compared against the reference scenario.  /  Le premier est le scénario de référence, qui inclut des mesures préférentielles telles que des voies réservées ou des priorités aux feux de circulation à plusieurs endroits sur le réseau actuel, mais pas de mesures structurantes. Il sert de base de comparaison aux autres scénarios.
  • The all-bus scenarioScénario B1 – Scénario par autobus.  Le scénario tout bus comprend des aménagements structurants pour autobus le long des axes Allumettières/Wilfrid-Lavigne/Aylmer/Taché avec une antenne par le chemin Vanier, le boulevard du Plateau et le boulevard Saint-Raymond. Des variantes sont possibles par le chemin Eardley, via Allumettières plutôt que par le boulevard du Plateau ainsi qu’à l’arrière de l’UQO. Des connexions entre les deux axes sont possibles soit par le boulevard des Allumettières ou le chemin Vanier.
  • The all-tramway scenarioScénario T1 – Scénario par tramway.  Le scénario tout rail est un scénario opéré par des tramways sur les axes Allumettières/Wilfrid-Lavigne/Aylmer/Taché, avec une branche qui part du boulevard du Plateau vers le boulevard Saint-Raymond.
  • Two hybrid scenarios, one of which (H1) has tramway on the north section and bus rapid transit on the south, and the other (H2) which has bus rapid transit on the north section, and tramway on the south.Dans le premier scénario hybride H1, l’axe Allumettières/Plateau est desservi par des tramways. Une variante est possible via McConnell et Allumettières.L’axe Allumettières/Wilfrid-Lavigne/Aylmer/Taché est desservi par un système rapide par bus opéré par autobus articulés. Des variantes sont possibles par le chemin Eardley ainsi qu’à l’arrière de l’UQO.Dans le deuxième scénario hybride H2, l’axe Allumettières/Wilfrid-Lavigne/Aylmer/Taché est desservi par des tramways. Des variantes sont possibles par le chemin Eardley ainsi qu’à l’arrière de l’UQ.L’axe Allumettières/Plateau est desservi par un système rapide par bus opéré par autobus articulés ou biarticulés. Une variante desservie par bus est possible via McConnell et Allumettières.

I’m only going to include the slides about the all-tramway scenario.

The tramway depicted by STO is 45 metres long and carries 375 people.

STO_consultation_planche-modes_imp 75
above from Caractéristiques des modes de transport (PDF)

That’s much, much longer than the familiar OC Transpo articulated (bendy) bus which STO shows as the second green bus at 18 metres and a capacity of 90 people (I’m not sure how the half-person depicted works, but anyway you get the idea).

You can see the full map of the proposed routes with alternatives.

STO_consultation_planche-scenario-T1_imp
from Scénario T1 – Scénario par tramway (PDF). Note that the maps do not show Prince of Wales Bridge crossing the Ottawa River.

UPDATE 2019-06-04: There are now videos available explaining the scenarios

and there is now an FAQ

END UPDATE

You can also read the press release (in French only)

and watch the video of the announcement (in French only)

Previously:
February 10, 2019  proposed Gatineau west-end rail project

the liquorice emoji

There is no liqourice (or licorice) emoji.  There is a chocolate bar emoji.

Creating a liquorice emoji may seem simple, but it immediately runs into cross-cultural challenges, specifically what is liquorice and what does it look like.

In Scandinavia and northern Europe, liquorice is salty.  This is called salmiak liquorice, you also often see the the term zout (salt) as in double (DZ) or triple salt liquorice.

See Wikipedia – Salty liquorice and the New York TimesThe Saltier the Licorice, the Happier the Country.  Just Look at Finland.

One typical form for this liquorice is a small black diamond. Finland actually did a set of joke Finland emoji (as a tourism promotion) with a “black gold” liquorice emoji
black_gold white background

Finnish sweet ‘salmiakki’ is liquorice spiced up with Ammonium chloride. It is something Finns can’t live without.

Unfortunately it doesn’t have great characteristics, which is to say if you didn’t already know what it is supposed to represent (a woman eating diamond liquorice) then you would have a hard time figuring it out.

The ideal representation would be a simple black diamond, which could be reused for other purposes as well.  Except the emoji set has no black diamond.  There’s a set of card suit emojis, so of course the emoji is a red diamond.  There are also, inexplicably, blue and orange diamonds in two sizes (I guess these must have some culture-specific meaning).  The only place you can get a black diamond emoji is from Mozilla, who have misread the ridiculously confusing specification.  The specification says that “black” means filled, not, you know, black.

When describing pre-emoji Unicode symbols, black in a character name refers to the symbol being solid/filled in.

So the emoji “black diamond suit” is actually a filled red diamond.  Except from Mozilla.  In the Mozilla emoji set on Emojipedia the diamond is black, and in the Mozilla emoji set on Github the large diamond is red but the smaller diamond on hover is black.
Mozilla black diamond suit
So for salty liquorice all that is needed is an actual black diamond emoji.

But that doesn’t represent liquorice globally.  In the US and Canada, probably the closest would be a black Twizzler, which isn’t even really liquorice.  Plus which particularly in the US, it tends actually to be a red Twizzler, which they call red vines (I only know this from Gilmore Girls).  This red candy is popular enough (or maybe recognizable on screen enough) to have appeared being enjoyed by characters in US TV shows, including The Flash and Agents of SHIELD.  Since “red” liquorice doesn’t actually exist, it’s not actually liquorice at all.

In the UK I don’t know, maybe a Pontefract cake? (Which is not actually a cake, it’s more like a coin-shaped candy.  I only know about these because of a BBC Radio 4 Extra cake series – episode Pontefract cake.)  And in France probably a Zan tablet (now Haribo Zan), which is yet another different liquorice experience.

Basically there’s a good case for the salty liquorice black diamond emoji, but I don’t think there’s an emoji that would recognizably represent liquorice globally.

As a sidebar, a much better emoji approach to shapes would mirror the one used for skin tones, which is to say, just have the hollow and filled shapes and then add markup for colour.  And maybe markup for size.  With four emoji codes already for blue and orange diamonds, it doesn’t make sense to keep adding two more codes for every new colour.

City of Ottawa’s transit budget planning projects one hundred percent funding from higher levels of government

The Executive Summary of City of Ottawa ACS2018-CSD-FIN-0003 Long Range Financial Plan Transit Update (PDF) contains an interesting change.

The key changes made to the revenue projections from the 2017 model are as follows:

  • Transit Taxes – increase in the assessment growth factor from 1.3% to 1.5%, to reflect recent trends, and increasing the transit tax to 3% from 2.5% to align the increase to the same rate as operating costs and capital costs.
  • Transit Fares – increase of 2.5% aligned with the increase in operating costs, consistent with the CUTA definition. Fare revenue projections were also decreased to reflect recent trends and the decrease in the average fare.
  • Grants from Senior Levels of Government – the revenue from senior levels of government is projected at two-thirds funding for future [Bus Rapid Transit]. For future [Light Rail Transit] this assumption was changed from two-thirds funding to 100 per cent funding.

The city is now assuming that Stage 3 LRT will be 100% funded by the provincial and federal governments.  (Stage 2 LRT will use the current 2/3 funding model.)

UPDATE: This is even clearer in slide 104 of the Stage 2 Light Rail Transit Project: Technical Briefing – February 22, 2019 (PDF) – section on changes since the 2017 Long Range Financial Plan (LRFP): “Assume 100% senior level government funding for Stage 3”

Stage 2 LRT presentation slide 104 Updates to the 2017 LRFP
above from slide 104 of Stage 2 Light Rail Transit Project: Technical Briefing – February 22, 2019 (PDF). Highlighting of line in blue mine.

END UPDATE

The previous 1/3 federal, 1/3 provincial, 1/3 municipal funding model was manifestly unfair considering that municipalities collect 8 cents out of every tax dollar.  But it seems a bit unrealistic to me to expect provincial and federal governments to suddenly fund all of rail transit, particularly if those governments are right-leaning.

UPDATE 2018-02-27: Jonathan Willing has summarized the city’s approach in the Ottawa CitizenCity of Ottawa leaving it entirely up to other governments to fund future LRT projects.  END UPDATE

DISCLAIMER: I am definitely not an expert in the long term financial plan or in Canadian transit funding.

How to Train Your Dragon movie trilogy

How to Train Your Dragon 1 is a wonder.

Hiccup as an outsider, an inventor, compassionate.

Astrid as a strong independent woman.

Toothless as a sort-of cat with a lot of personality.

It has lots of humour and loads of heart.  Even the music is great.

(It’s particularly a wonder if you consider the source material; the movie takes some concepts from the book but basically is completely different in almost every way.  I found the book pretty much unreadable.  Definitely a case of Movie Better Than Book.)

How to Train Your Dragon 2 is good.

It still has most of the elements that make the first movie work.  Sequels are always hard.  I do think Stoic’s end should have been more heroic, but that’s really my only complaint.

Challenging Hiccup’s optimism and pacifism makes for an interesting change from the first movie.

How to Train Your Dragon 3 is… not good.  The 91% on RT gave me a lot of optimism, but I definitely wouldn’t rate it anywhere near that.  50% maybe.  The humour is off and the story is just another dragon-hating-enemy variant.  Gobber is underused, the secondary dragonrider characters are way overused.  The only good part is the ending.

Plus which, I have to say, the new star character, the Lightfury, is just… not good.  It doesn’t even look good.  The entire movie is full of beautifully rendered details down to glints off of dragonscale armour, but the Lightfury looks like it is made out of styrofoam.  Sparkly styrofoam.  And has the personality to match.  They should call her Blankness.  Instead of a strong female character the Lightfury is basically all damsel in distress.  It kind of coos incomprehensibly and has to be rescued from danger.

Every time I looked at it I was pulled out of the movie, into wondering why with all that computing power and animation expertise they made a partner for Toothless that has no detail or personality.  Just a sparkly white blue-eyed blandness.

I will watch the first movie many times, the second occasionally, but for the third I will skip the entire movie except the ending.

City of Ottawa updating Road Safety Action Plan

The City of Ottawa has a Safer Roads Ottawa program including a Road Safety Action Plan (2012-Beyond).

What the web page says is the right things

The City’s Safety Improvement Program (SIP) touches on all three Es of road safety: education, enforcement and engineering, with primary focus on engineering. The program selects locations to study, carries out in-depth studies of collision patterns and recommends countermeasures. Typically, the program studies locations with higher-than-average traffic collision rates.

There is however a big difference between saying the right things and actually budgeting and carrying through.

If you look at the Road Safety Action Plan e.g. Emphasis Area – Vulnerable Road Users, Focus: Pedestrians, pp. 7-10, what you see is

  • Awareness Campaign
  • Media Event
  • Education
  • Education
  • Safety Program
  • etc.

That doesn’t look to me like primary focus on engineering.

The city is updating the Road Safety Action Plan, there is an online survey running until Tuesday, March 19, 2019, 11:00 pm.

The survey is in my opinion super confusing.  You’re supposed to select road safety priorities, but it mixes causes of road safety problems with vulnerable users, e.g. Aggressive Driving is listed along with Pedestrians.

If I rate Aggressive Driving 5 – Highest priority and I rate Pedestrians 5 – Highest Priority, does that mean Pedestrians pose as great a road safety risk as Aggressive Driving?  By giving that priority am I saying Pedestrians cause road safety issues?

There is space for comments.

You might just want to email them at rsap-pasr@ottawa.ca though if you want to be able to be completely clear about what you mean.

There is a general frustration I have with these kinds of consultations which is that we already have best practices.  How many times do we have to provide the same input: follow international best practices, redesign the roads, slow the cars, increase the budget.

I feel a bit like the Vision Zero Canada response to Hamilton’s proposed road safety action plan:

“If you’re going to spend money to try to save lives, spend it on actual concrete changes that we already know are effective”

There are already the right words in the 2013 Transportation Master Plan, there are for that matter already the right words on the Safer Roads Ottawa web page itself: primary focus on engineering (i.e. redesign the roads).

The UK government did a public consultation (call for evidence) on cycling and walking safety in the context of road safety just last year.  There’s a 48-page summary of responses (PDF) with some key references (note that UK “junction” is the same as Canada “intersection”):

  • British Cycling – Turning the Corner – “A simple amendment to the Highway Code and regulations to give priority [at intersections] to people walking, cycling or driving straight ahead could reduce motor traffic queue lengths by 43%”
  1. Establish consistent design standards to ensure cycle and pedestrian-friendliness is designed-in from the outset into all highway and traffic schemes, new developments and planned highway maintenance work.
  2. Make 20mph [30km/h] the default speed limit for most streets in built-up areas, with 30mph [approx. 50km/h] (or higher) limits being the exception that requires signing, not the other way round.
  3. Rebalance overall transport spending, making a far greater proportion available for cycling, walking and safer streets, including local road and path maintenance.
  • an alliance of the UK’s leading walking and cycling organisations – Moving the nation (PDF)

moving_the_nation_manifesto - make it happen - crop

You can read more about the UK consultation and results:

There’s no shortage of information from other sources, including e.g. The Conversation – Why US cities are becoming more dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians

Even today, motorists in many cities are able to turn onto streets at intersections where pedestrians are also crossing. Most pedestrians and bicyclists are killed or injured while they are obeying the law.

And you don’t have to speculate about Vision Zero, there’s a whole Vision Zero Academy from Trafikverket, the Swedish Transport Administration.

Anyway, I encourage you to respond to the consultation by the March 19, 2019 deadline.

Strawberries and cream: the UK branch rail lines

The branch lines in the UK in the 19th century brought some major changes.

One was a spring rush of early flowers and strawberries flowing from the countryside into the cities.

Another was a steady traffic of fresh milk from farm to city, usually at night so that the milk stayed cooler.  (Although it seems like this should be the origin of the term “milk run“, it appears this is not the case.)

Most of the branch lines were closed in the 1960s following Dr. Beeching’s report.

You can find out more in:

There are also books e.g.

podcasts I like – 2019 edition

Since 2015 the main changes in my podcast listening have been:

  • Since BBC Radio added ads to its podcasts outside the UK, I listen to all BBC Radio content directly on the website (which does not currently have advertisements)
  • I use Castro for podcasts on my iOS devices because 1) Apple Podcasts app now tracks every podcast you listen to and 2) Castro is a much better application for selecting specific episodes to listen to when you subscribe to a large number of podcasts

I should probably mention as a sidebar that I just stream podcasts, I don’t actually download them, as I am always on wifi or LTE.

Main Podcasts

I consistently listen to:

I also tried the Caesar’s Gallic War podcast but I found the level of detail overwhelming.

BBC Radio

I listen to a lot of BBC Radio, but on the website now rather than as podcasts.

I most consistently listen to In Our Time.

I also like the walking show Ramblings, as well as Open Country.

For science interviews I like The Life Scientific.

There is also a yearly series of lectures, The Reith Lectures.

I very much like BBC Radio London’s Robert Elms, in particular on Tuesdays when he has Maxwell Hutchinson about architecture and on Thursdays when he has Jason Solomons about movies.

I like BBC Radio 3 Essential Classics, but only when Suzy Klein is the host.  I also like Sunday Morning, with former Essential Classics host Sarah Walker.

More Podcasts

There are also lots of other podcasts that I pick specific episodes from:

And there are some podcasts I haven’t tried yet:

  • Les balades à Paris (Balades d’été à Paris) – France Bleu Paris
  • Paris insolite et secret – France Bleu Paris – « Chaque jour, Murielle Giordan vous invite à parcourir le Paris insolite et secret, côté coulisses pour faire le plein de curiosités et d’anecdotes. »

Previously:
September 6, 2015  science podcasts
April 12, 2015  podcasts I like