DCA Comments on LRT Station design guidelines

The DCA is keenly interested in how the LRT project will affect or neighborhood and indeed all of Ottawa. We recently reviewed the proposed station design guidelines and provided extensive verbal commentary to the City at a recent PAC meeting. Here are our written comments:

Ottawa Light Rail Design Guidelines for LRT Stations

2 June 2010

The Dalhousie Community Association represents the area from Bay Street to Bayview, from the Ottawa River to Carling Avenue. As such, our area of interest includes two major LRT stations: LeBreton and Bayview. We have a number of comments on the draft guidelines for station design.

On the report as a whole: we are unclear as to a couple of key issues. The report calls for stations to be unique (3.2), and to have common elements. It is unclear if the idea is to have stations unique from each other or a signature design common to all stations. We prefer the each-one-unique approach. There needs to be greater clarity as to what elements could or should be common: for example, how unique will stations be if they have to used standard lighting and furniture from the city’s catalogue of approved street furniture?

Section 2.11 and 2.12 call for green design and crime prevention through design. Too often green design means heavily tinted glass. We favour all glass at public areas to be fully transparent and not tinted. Overhead glass can be tinted. Screens and overhangs can be used to shade windows to prevent glare and heat gain, but never at the price of reduced transparency.

Concessions and washrooms: the policy is overly pessimistic on both these issues. Every station should have washroom facilities inside the fare-paid area. At a minimum, there need to be keyed facilities for staff. At stations like LeBreton and Bayview, special events crowds require additional staffing, w/c facilities will be used by the staff. To reduce cost, consider using Clivis or composting toilets that do not require sewer connections. Better, would be to provide public toilets at all stations. Users will include an ageing population and children, both groups subject to short time horizons. The LRT system and stations should be user friendly, convenient … and this means w/c facilities. Recall too that many journey times will include multiple transfers and might easily last ninety minutes or longer.

From a narrow economic perspective, it may be viable to rent concession space only in the largest stations. But every station benefits from on-site staff or concessionaires, especially the smaller stations or in the evenings or other times of infrequent service. To get concessions at all stations, the city could rent concession space for all stations as a group; or to a social agency operating on a non-profit basis; or charge zero rent at some stations on the basis that the concession presence is a social benefit rather than a revenue source. Concessions sell tickets, provide change, provide direction, provide subjective security ….

The ten year time horizon for planning seems rather short. Stations should be designed for more than the opening volume and first decade of use. The system is designed to last for at least a hundred years, the stations should not require extensive expansion and refitting after just the first decade.

Station lighting: interior lighting should be designed to shut off when sufficient light comes in through the windows.

Sec 3.6 and other sections state that the BRT portions will have a different identity to the LRT sections. Yet for users, it is all one trip on one system; different identities and graphics may not make the trip easier.

Sec 3.9 calls for no cigarette receptacles outside the stations. While it is noble to refuse to enable smoking habits, people will smoke, they will smoke outside the station entrances, and they will throw butts on the ground/floor in the absence of ash receptacles. Non-provision of receptacles will cause the unintended consequence of making smoking more evident. At the same time, receptacles must be located to encourage smokers to move away from doors and busy walkways.

Sec 3.10 and others re advertising: the guidelines call for severely restricted advertising opportunities. The Assoc. recognizes that many people will want severely restricted or no advertising at all.

Others opt for advertising, as it provides a changeable message graphic that enlivens the station environment. It informs users of political events and advocacy, charitable events and causes, and products. A careful advertising policy is needed so that the LRT stations do not continue Ottawa’s general impression of staidness and bureaucratic over-rule.

Sec 3.13 bike facilities: twenty parking spaces for cycles at each station is unlikely to be sufficient. Provision should be made for many more, at least 100 for non-downtown stations, or expandable bike parking zones. Cycle parking must be located in close proximity to the entrance, or else cycles will appear chained to every post near the entrances. Also, allow for bixibike-type racks.

Sec 3.14 passenger drop off zones by car: there needs to be a clear hierarchy of drop off priority: bus, ped/ bike, car. Car stopping bays must not cause longer ped walks to the stations or be intrusive. We think they are unnecessary at LeBreton and downtown stations.

Sec 3.15 can read that developer-provided connections must look like the LRT station right up to the developer’s main building when it should read that the connections can be of a design of the developer’s choice right from the connection point with the LRT station.

Sec 4.2: Natural light sources should be used to replace (not supplement) station lighting requirements during daylight hours.

Sec 4.5, wayfinding: the current suggestion that direction be indicated by identifying the next station on the route is too limiting. It is better to identify end points of the route or general directions (east, west) in addition to secondary messages identifying the next stations. Please do not use the “inbound/outbound” designation.

Sec 4.10 advertising: consider having our sign displays of the same size as Toronto, to permit spillover advertising buys.

Sec 4.13 ramps: a six foot height change using a ramp requires a ramp length of at least 180 feet (20:1 ratio). Please avoid lengthy ramps and especially switchbacks.

Sec 4.14 para 2 reads only for centre platform designs.

Specific sites: the guidelines specify covered stations at Tunney’s, downtown, Lees, Blair, Cyrville, etc but not specify covered platforms at Bayview or LeBreton. Anything less than full stations will be unacceptable. Do not even consider “temporary” stations of bus shelters in a field pending “redevelopment” of the surrounding areas. Please specify that full stations, with covered platforms, are expected at Bayview and LeBreton from the opening day of the LRT system.

Sec 5.3.4 should include the role of the Bayview Station as a catalyst, a signature element, as having a leadership role in high quality urban redevelopment. The current criteria emphasize the empty area, the history. They also under-play the elevation of this station, the highest point for several kilometers around, which can make it a beacon, a glowing advertisement for the rapid transit system.

Sec 5.3.5 please note that the Bayview station fronts onto Albert Street, not Scott. Multiuse pathway connections are required on both the north (NCC) and south (city) side. Bike paths are not just recreational facilities, they must be considered valued parts of the commuter and daily use transportation infrastructure.

Sec 5.4.2 Please delete references to west centretown as a geographic moniker. The area is the former Dalhousie Ward, and has been known as Dalhousie on city maps since the nineteenth century. The surrounding neighborhoods are Dalhousie, or LeBreton Flats.

This section does not emphasize the opportunity to integrate the LeBreton station into the building development immediately to the south of the station on the east and west sides of Booth. The design suggestions of a historical theme need to be weighed against the overwhelmingly modern buildings that will surround it. Please also provide for east-west cycling facilities both on the north side of the aqueduct and the south side of the LRT corridor.

The section 5.8 guidelines for Campus station are too narrow regarding the Corktown footbridge and the opportunity to greatly improve the crossing of Colonel By Drive and integration of the ped network, possibly giving it higher priority than commuter traffic on Colonel By. As part of the station design, serious concern needs to be given to improving the east-west cycling and ped connections. Do not limit the design and network to the existing indirect paths and road crossings/tunnel. This is a once in a century opportunity to totally redesign this key transportation hub to reflect new priorities and to fix previous compromises at Colonel By and Lees that favour cars.

Section 5.9.5 misses the opportunity for a new direct cycling/ped link from Lees to Campus to the east-west cycling arterial using the Corktown footbridge. Indeed, do not Provincial guidelines call for improved cycling and ped facilities along the length of new transit corridors? Thus far, the LRT design seems limited to occasions when it meets existing facilities rather than looking for opportunities to mutually advance transit, ped, and cycling opportunities.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the LRT station design guidelines.

Eric Darwin
President, Dalhousie Community Assoc.


  1. Those are some very good comments.

    I hope the city incorporates them into their planning.


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