May 2017 consultations

A variety of consultations closing in May 2017.




comments on proposed Elgin Street redesign

Ottawa Transportation Committee is meeting on May 3, 2017 to consider the staff report including proposed designs.  Here’s what I wrote to the committee:


Dear Councillors Egli and McKenney:

I am writing to you as chair and vice-chair of the Transportation Committee, about the Elgin Street redesign that will come before the committee on May 3, 2017 (ACS2017-TSD-PLN-0007 Elgin Street and Hawthorne Avenue Functional Design Study).  I support the report recommendations, namely (1) that the functional designs in the report be approved as-is and (2) that the speed limit be posted as 30 km/h.

I want to emphasize particularly strong support for the speed limit reduction to 30 km/h, and the language of the report “Designed for lower operating speed” (page 14).  Using design to lower the speed of vehicles in the downtown core is the single most important intervention that council can make to provide a safer and more pleasant experience for pedestrians and cyclists, and to make an even more liveable Ottawa.  This is particularly important given the presence of Elgin Street Public School.

I also want to express my support for the particular design intervention of raised intersections.  I very much hope this means that the crosswalks themselves will be continued across the street at sidewalk level (“continuous sidewalks”) across the side streets (I am using the language from NACTO guide “Pedestrians at Multi-Modal Intersections” ).  To me raised intersections and continuous sidewalks are a very significant design improvement that helps ensure lower operating speed.

I hope as well that the committee will recommend careful monitoring of speed and multi-modal level of service after the redesign, to ensure high levels of service are being achieved for pedestrians and cyclists, and to ensure that the design is keeping speeds below the 30km/h target.  If the data indicate that speeds are higher than 30km/h, I expect the city to continue to modify the design until speeds are 30km/h or less.

In my submission to the Elgin Street consultation I had recommended either no parking, or parking on only one side

While I am pleased to see some reduction in parking, I will just echo Councillor Chernushenko (page 25):

I am concerned that the proposed 90 spaces, although less than the current parking supply, is a half-measure that will ultimate prove a disservice to the same businesses that are in favour of more parking, as the renewal of Elgin Street will not be as complete as it might have been had fewer such parking spaces on the street itself been included.

I would particularly emphasize the fact that the report states (on page 18) that there are currently 3749 parking spaces within 2 blocks of the area (including 850 underground parking spots at City Hall ).  It seems to me the city could be more ambitious than cutting 32 parking spots out of 3749, particularly given the substantial downsides of on-street parking for traffic flow and safety, including circling cars and dooring of cyclists.

I look forward to the Elgin Street redesign.  I am pleased to see the city following Complete Streets design principles and emphasizing streets designed for safety, with improved levels of service for pedestrians and cyclists.

Thank you,

Richard Akerman

CC: Councillors Fleury, Chernushenko and Leiper


As a side note, on the topic of the 850 underground parking spaces at City Hall, here’s how many were free on Sunday April 2, 2017 around 10:30am.

IMG_9284-9284-20170402-6S - Version 2

rebuilding Elgin Street

Thanks to Catherine McKenney for posting the Elgin Street consultation deck (PDF, 11MB) in advance of the public meeting that took place on June 28, 2016.  UPDATE 2016-07-07: Deck is now also available from the City of Ottawa.  ENDUPDATE

UPDATE 2017-04-30: The final proposed redesign goes to Transportation Committee on May 3, 2017.  I have provided my comments on the proposed redesign.  ENDUPDATE

Particular kudos for including multi-modal Level of Service (LOS) which shows that cars get top level of service (A) while every other mode has a terrible experience.

Elgin Multi-modal Level of Service LOS slide 79

From the many many options presented, here are my top three designs in order of preference, with my priority being on slowing cars, shortening crossing distances and other safety considerations:

1. One Lane Per Direction, No Left-Turn Lane, No On-Street Parking (slide 81 in the deck)

Elgin street design slide 81


  • Having two narrow lanes in opposite directions provides the design signals that will cause cars to slow down dramatically.
  • Expected slower speeds means cyclists can mix with traffic.
  • Using space for pedestrians rather than parking means smoother traffic flow (no waiting for cars to enter, exit, or find parking spaces).
  • Using space for pedestrians rather than parking means cyclists can’t be doored by parked cars or otherwise cut off by cars entering or exiting parking spaces.
  • Maximizes sidewalk space, with equally-sized sidewalks on both sides.  Good for a highly-pedestrian, mostly-restaurant-with-patio street.
  • Wide sidewalks mean ample room for street trees (which will struggle nevertheless) and street furniture (being mindful that unless full width is plowed it still may be narrow in winter).
  • Dramatically shorter crossing distance will mean safer, quicker crossings.


2. One Lane Per Direction, No Left-Turn Lane, Flex Bay Parking One Side (slide 82 in deck)

Elgin street design slide 82


  • Having two narrow lanes in opposite directions provides the design signals that will cause cars to slow down dramatically.
  • Expected slower speeds means cyclists can mix with traffic.
  • Will make people who complain about needing on-street parking somewhat happy


  • There is no such thing as “flex bay” parking (i.e. parking that is at sidewalk level so in theory available for pedestrian space).  The Lansdowne experience shows that anything in Ottawa that looks like car space will be used as car space.
  • Cyclists can be doored by parked cars or otherwise cut off by cars entering or exiting parking spaces.
  • Disrupted traffic flow (waiting for cars to enter, exit, or find parking spaces).
  • Doesn’t have separated bike lanes (cycle tracks) but I think these would interfere with the bus stops.
  • Much less sidewalk space (1.2 metres less per side) for pedestrians, trees and street furniture than first option

3. One Lane Per Direction, No Left-Turn Lane, Raised Cycle Track, No Parking (slide 89 in deck)

Elgin street design slide 89


  • Having two narrow lanes in opposite directions provides the design signals that will cause cars to slow down dramatically.
  • Using space for pedestrians and cyclists rather than parking means smoother traffic flow (no waiting for cars to enter, exit, or find parking spaces).
  • Using space for pedestrians and cycling rather than parking means cyclists can’t be doored by parked cars or otherwise cut off by cars entering or exiting parking spaces (except see cycle-track-as-parking issue below)


  • Narrowest sidewalk option (0.6 metres less per side than option two; 1.8 metres less than option one)
  • Cycle track may interfere with bus stops
  • Even with an elevated cycle track, vehicles will still manage to park on the cycle track, which will both disrupt traffic flow and interfere with cycling

It may surprise people that I don’t automatically recommend cycle tracks.  I do strongly support them.  But I’m not convinced we can make them work well on a street with buses where people will also be tempted to use them for car parking.  I think cycle tracks with barriers or cycle tracks protected by buffered car parking work better.  It doesn’t appear that there is space to do either.  Nevertheless, any of these three options would be much better than the status quo.

It’s hard to get the visitor traffic that centres around the Convention Centre and Parliament Hill to circulate down Elgin Street; having a dramatically better pedestrian experience will be key to drawing this traffic so that visitors can experience more of Ottawa than just the Byward Market.

I would also like the street to be signed for 30km/h, being mindful that only design controls speed.

The city contact on this file is Vanessa Black.  If you have thoughts on the Elgin Street redesign, make sure that you share them with her.

Vanessa Black, P. Eng.
Transportation Engineer – Network Modification
Planning and Growth Management
City of Ottawa
110 Laurier Avenue West
Ottawa, ON K1P 1J1

Here’s the city site for this particular consultation where (hopefully) new information will be added as necessary.

UPDATE 2016-07-07: There is also a quick survey about Elgin Street that you can fill out, in order to indicate your priorities for the redesign.  ENDUPDATE

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:

The overall site is

The display boards from the consultation, in PDF form, are at – 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

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 (GeoOttawa)


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 comprising Train Station (VIA Rail), St. Laurent Station, and Cyrville Station.

Draft TOD plans including Blair at

Display boards (PDFs) and planner contact info at

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  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


email feedback to

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

and the consultation page is

In addition to attending information sessions, you can read the documents and provide feedback directly by email to

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 – 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

Downtown Moves final presentations – Jan 17, 2013

January 17, 2013 – Ottawa City Hall, 110 Laurier Avenue West

What is Downtown Moves?

Downtown Moves is an urban design and transportation study that will identify ways to create vibrant, safe and accessible streets for pedestrians, cyclists and transit riders by pursuing a balance among street users and by improving the streetscape environment.

This study was formerly referred to as the Downtown Ottawa Mobility Overlay…

  • 5 to 7:00 pm  – Open House drop-in event with exhibits, newsletters, comment sheets, in Jean Piggott Hall.
  • 7 to 8:30 pm – Presentations with special guest speakers and the Downtown Moves consulting team in Andrew Haydon Hall
  • 8:30 to 9:00 pm – Informal small group discussions around the exhibits in Jean Piggott Hall

Guest Speakers will include:

  • Amanda O’Rourke, 8-80 Cities
  • Donna Hinde, the Planning Partnership
  • Ron Clarke, Delcan Corp, and
  • Ken Greenberg, Urban Design Consultant

More information: Study Completion – Open House and Presentation and

If you scroll down on Open House #2 – June 13, 2012 you can find the slides from the last open house.

Hashtag: #dottmo

June 4, 2012  Downtown Moves – Ottawa CBD post-LRT