Tuesday, March 10, 2009

DOTT - DCA Input March 2009

 Submitted by Eric Darwin on behalf of the Dalhousie Community Association.

This commentary is in response to the public open house held Feb.26, 2009 and the briefing by Dennis Gratton to centretown associations on March 10, 2009. Comments are roughly ordered as in the comment sheet provided by the DOTT team.

Tunney’s Pasture Station:

Our preference is for a Parallel station design, ie north of the transitway. The volume of buses will be huge, and in place for an undetermined number of years or decades. In Ottawa, and for transit plans, ‘temporary’ can often turn into ‘forever’. It is important to get the buses off the street and into a contained area away from cycle and pedestrian traffic. Noise barriers and landscaping is also possible if the bus lay-by areas are off Scott Street. This will be a major transfer station; we do not see any other major stations such as Baseline, Hurdman, or Lincoln Fields built on the shoulder of a busy road with adjacent residential land uses.

Bayview:

We think the Bayview interchange should be planned to permit direct N/S movements from Riverside to Gatineau over the POW Bridge; AND direct movements from Riverside/Airport to the Downtown; AND direct movements from Downtown to Gatineau over the POW.

We do not think a T layout is adequate. It is important for convention, tourism, and local traffic that there be direct one-train no-transfer service from the downtown and its convention centre to the airport. Our preference does not preclude direct airport-Casino movements and supports a circle route connecting both sides of the Ottawa River (the circle route should be located to meet the needs of future National Cultural Institutions and residential and commercial developments, not just the current built form, so the loop should be larger rather than smaller).

The DOTT criteria evaluation of the two alternative layouts for this area showed the only significant difference to be the amount of land used. We think this is an irrelevant factor for the following reasons: the land take is in a cut under the Albert St and Transitway overpasses and is easily decked over if needed; and we suspect that for operational reasons the LRT system will require the ability to move vehicles from the N/S to E/W tracks anyway.

Can a station be designed to serve such a variety of movements? We gave some thought to how a station could function with all the movements outlined in the first para. and we believe such a station could be built and function well. Platform A would service the N/S line directly under the E/W transitway, where the OTrain is now. Passengers would ascend up to the E/W line to Platform B which would extend eastwards from the OTrain alignment. Passengers on the N/S trains that turn onto the E/W line could transfer at Platform C which extends eastward from Platform B (or could continue to LeBreton Station and transfer there). Passengers desiring to transfer lines at Bayview would quickly learn to position themselves on their originating train to minimize their walking distance at Bayview. This 3 platform design could be easily phased into place as platform C is required only when the N/S line is electrified and the O-trains replaced by LRTs.

LeBreton Station:

This station remains a nightmare to the community. Constructing the station and associated roadworks will be difficult. But we do feel that the modified transitway can continue in place during construction. If the city chooses this option, the temporary transitway must run from Empress all the way to City Centre Avenue – it cannot be ended at the Preston Extension. We regret the throw-away cost of constructing the new temporary transitway alignment south of the existing transitway – perhaps it could be located and converted into a new east-west road servicing future NCC Flats developments along the north side of Albert?

We are totally and determinedly opposed to operating thousands of buses from Tunneys along Scott St to Bayview and then along Albert St to Preston, or Bayview to Empress. Albert between Preston and Booth is already at a failure state. Throw in station construction, a few thousand buses a day – it won’t work. The adjacent housing would be rendered uninhabitable. We have not noticed any other location in the city where it is proposed to run a transitway along a busy city street with residential development close to the curb and even some individual driveway access. Don’t do this !

For the above reason, the bus on Albert all the way option is not tenable either, although it does de-clutter the LeBreton Station construction site.

We recognize that rejecting both the DOTT proposals forces consideration of alternatives. We are willing to work closely with the study team to develop a scenario that will have less impact on the neighborhood.

Other Impacts:

Constructing the Preston extension before closing Booth has been mentioned. It has the advantage of maintaining pedestrian and cyclist access to the riverfront lands. This would benefit commuters and local residents. It is unacceptable to us that access to the riverfront be curtailed -- during or after the construction period -- between Bayview Road and Fleet St/Bronson. Such a link would also be of lasting value to the Flats, and not be a throw-away expense.

Constructing the Preston Extension needs to be examined carefully to estimate the traffic impacts on Booth, Preston, Wellington, and Albert Streets. Buses coming from Tunney’s would still need to be detoured off Albert at City Centre Avenue, where a paved access out to the transitway alignment is already in place. A thousand buses a day is not acceptable even for the City Centre Avenue to Preston segment of Albert Street.

Downtown alignments:

We prefer the cross-country option.

Downtown Stations:

The sketches of the centre platform layout are not convincing. The centre platform design is supposed to create a large, vaulted ceiling. How much of this will be visible if long mezzanine floors are constructed over 80% of the platform? Mezzanines over the platform should be kept short.

It has been suggested that the downtown stations might be carved out for six car trains but only opened for three car trains. This is false economy. The only saving is on floor tile. Leave the option open for six car trains from day one, to handle peak flows such as Canada Day or Bluesfest. It will also be necessary to utilize every foot of the station length to access exits up to building level. Building exits at both ends of a three car platform length will results in access points too close together at the street level.

Rideau Centre:

We noticed that the public presentation and the centretown briefing ignored the Rideau St station. Our preference is for the original location running from the NAC to Conference Centre to Rideau Centre/Convention Centre to Friedman Mall.

The Daly option might be acceptable, but we need to see a lot more details.

We do understand the pedestrian traffic flow implications of removing the transitway from MacKenzie King Bridge. We suggest that some alternative measures might ameliorate the situation. For example, OC Transpo favours eliminating cross-downtown local bus routes. All these routes from the east could use a loop to MacKenzie King Bridge to Elgin to Rideau.

Perhaps all STO buses could be routed on this loop too and removed from Wellington Street and either put on Albert OR routed back to Hull the same way they came and downtown STO users would have to take the LRT to Rideau and cut through the Rideau Centre to MacKenzie King Bridge to catch their buses.

A New STO -- Loop proposal:

We are aware there is to be a loop study for bus or LRT service for the downtown Gatineau and Ottawa. We prefer a non-bus solution, ie a LRT service. Building a loop line would involve major construction and expense and will not appear soon enough.

Even better would be for STO users to take the LRT to Bayview and a new LRT connection north across the POW Bridge to a major transfer station on the Gatineau Side so there would be no more STO bus service into downtown Ottawa. Instead of waiting years to develop a grand circular loop LRT service, there could from opening day in 2017 be a direct LRT service from downtown Ottawa to the Gatineau transfer station via the POW.

Portals:

We favour the following design sequence: trains from the west are in open air across the Flats, enter the enclosed but brightly skylit LeBreton Station and exit directly into the tunnel. At the Campus end, trains would exit the tunnel directly into a skylit station and from there proceed in the open air eastward. Thus both ends of the tunnel would have stations with skylights as transitions from tunnel to daylight.

Hurdman:

We would like to see another option worked on with the NCC: move the existing station north to be centered in the development area that includes the proposed NCC land developments and the existing high rises. This new station would be fully integrated within the first building in this new area.

We notice that all the design options assume a direct to downtown movement for SE transitway LRT vehicles. A T station is not being proposed. Neither should one be proposed for Bayview, where passengers would be forced to transfer from N/S to E/W vehicles.

We would also like to note that there are interesting possibilities for SE transitway trains to travel through the downtown and then S on the O-train alignment back to Riverside, once it is electrified.

Centre vs Side Platforms:

It would be nice, but not essential, if most /all stations had centre platforms and users did not have to concern themselves about which side of the car to exit when going to unfamiliar stations.

Art, Safety, Security:

We have some concerns about the depth of the tunnel in the downtown. There is the potential for some long boring escalator rides. Escalators are subject to significant downtime.

Art installations in long escalator runs such as at the Detroit airport tunnel from the midfield terminal would be nice.

In case of emergencies, it’s a long long climb up stairwells out of the tunnel to street level.

The depth of the platforms underground precludes the development of a PATH system nor do we think Ottawa has the pedestrian volume to support a viable street level environment plus an underground system.

We also think the DOTT team is being unrealistically optimistic about developers paying to construct access to the stations. Owners of underdeveloped lots will welcome the city constructing a portal on their vacant lots. A few major existing complexes such as Constitution Square, Minto Place, and Clarica will welcome a city built pedestrian portal adjacent to or incorporated into their buildings. Owners of smaller buildings and new buildings will not pay to provide access since they cannot recover the cost from rents charged to Public Works.

Downtown developers could never manage to connect adjacent one-floor-down spaces (eg Place de Ville is unconnected to the Delta, 240 Sparks, Constitution, etc; WEP is not connected to the new building to the north or the Varette Building to the south even though a Plus-16 portal was designed into WEP) and we cannot imagine them somehow expending millions of dollars to connect their fully-occupied buildings to stations. The City is going to pay, 100%. All the action will be major landlords pressuring the City to pay to build access close to their lucky buildings.

If the city does construct direct station access into Place de Ville, it should be conditional on the PDV owner cost sharing a connection to adjacent buildings such as 240 Sparks. The city should not deliver an access bonanza to property owners and then let them block out other buildings.

We do not want to see “temporary” stations constructed at LeBreton or Bayview. These should be designed and built from opening day to be full, complete, indoor stations. Especially at LeBreton, it should be easy for the city to assign an architect to design (even the first phase of) an apartment building extending from over the station south along Booth towards Albert. With seven years or more before the system opens, there is lots of time for the city to design a building in conjunction with the station program and its own Escarpment CDP.

Conversely, we fear that once the City gets the OK for the plan, showing marvelous airy station concepts for LeBreton, Bayview, or Lees, these will be canned at the last minute for budgetary reasons in favour of being built out later. We are confident later will not come in our lifetimes. We will be stuck with bus shelters on the side of the track for decades. The City has had lots of experience in mastering bait and switch planning in our neighborhood.

Indoor stations shall be designed with washrooms only inside the payment area, so that they cannot be pressed into use for temporary shelters for the “homeless”.

We want stations in our neighborhood to be designed to the same standards as those in higher income areas, or like the downtown west station. We are tired of getting second rate facilities simply because the area from Bronson to Holland is a lower-income part of the city. The same goes for trackside noise abatement and landscaping: we want Glebe quality, not promises that our grandchildren might someday see an amenity, if they are lucky.

Maintenance and Storage:

Bayview has been suggested as a possible site for such a facility. We feel that is a significant under-usage of prime development lands close to the river and downtown. The opportunity cost is horrendous. We will not accept a temporary facility, either.

The only way a Bayview maintenance facility could be tolerated is if it is one hundred percent indoors, decked over with a parking facility and above that a landscaped deck with the Bayview plan apartment buildings constructed over the landscaped deck, which would be integrated seamlessly back to ground level on all four sides. The cost saving in not having to buy 30 acres of land for a maintenance facility elsewhere should be enough to build the deck over the City-owned Bayview site.

We note with some annoyance that the city talks a lot about intensifying development but when it comes to its own projects, single storey single use land gobbling designs predominate. Multiuse intense developments of city land and projects is alien to this city. Stations at Bayview, LeBreton, Hurdman and elsewhere must be integrated at the design stage into buildings constructed that should be constructed as part of the LRT transit implementation process.


This response to the City’s DOTT consultation process was written by Eric Darwin based on community input at the March 4th monthly DCA meeting and after a community consultation meeting w/presentation by D Gratton on March 10th.

It is intended to be a useful set of comments to forward the consultation process and is not an official position of the Board or association. Our opinions may change.

- Eric Darwin, on behalf of the Dalhousie Community Assoc.

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