This is why people don’t walk

Today at lunch, I decided to run a little errand. I walked up to Metro Music to pick up some Christmas gifts for my girls. (FYI, it’s a good thing they don’t/can’t read this blog.) I started just south of Fifth Avenue and Metro is just north of Glebe. There are lights at Fifths, Third, First and Glebe.

I missed every light.

I then had to make the return trip. Again, I missed every light.

This was lunch time in the Glebe, an eminently walkable place with a good deal of pedestrian traffic. It’s winter. There’s rain. And I have to wait at every light for cars to go through.

This is car-centric development. This is how you kill your downtown.

*It shouldn’t matter what I was doing, but the city always wants a “business case” to let people live their friggin’ lives in their own neighbourhood.

This is why people won’t take the bus, Mr. Blais

Last Wednesday, I took my daughters to do some Christmas shopping. I bussed down to the Rideau Centre, and then decided to walk home (I had some stops to make along Bank Street, and it’s not going to kill them to walk).

It was almost 4:00 and I walked down Bank Street from Slater to the Shopper’s Drug Mart just south of Glebe before a #7 bus caught up (actually, it didn’t…it was at Glebe as I was walking into the drug store). I was at about Gloucester when I was passed by a #1 and I got to the drug store without seeing another #1 (one may have passed while I was in the store, who knows?).

So, to be clear, I walked from Gloucester beyond Glebe Avenue before a bus passed me…and I was walking with my four-year-old and my seven-year-old. At a four-year-old pace, I walked from Centretown to the Glebe without a bus passing me.

…during rush hour.

Think what it’s like on the weekend or in the evening. Last winter, I would regular walk down Bank Street with my then three-year-old from Sparks Street to Fifth Avenue without a #1 or #7 passing me. It could be -30 degrees, and it’d be faster to walk 45 minutes down Bank Street than wait for a fucking bus.

This is why OC Transpo is shedding riders like a…well, I can’t think of a polite analogy.

Of course, mention this to a city councillors who also chairs the transit committee (from his ward in Cumberland), and you’ll basically be called a liar:

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(It’s funny–in a horribly not-funny kind of way–but if you were to check out his timeline just after this post, he has a nuanced discussion with a male interloper after yelling at a Darlene.)

So, no Mr. Blais, there is a fucking chance. I just lived it last week during rush hour. Your on the transit committee and you don’t know what you’re talking about. Worse, you’re effectively calling residents liars when they tell you about their actual experience with OC Transpo.

I want Ottawa to have a great, thriving transit system. The people in charge show no such inclination.

Saving Lebreton Flats

The Feds have done significant damage to Lebreton Flats. First they razed it, dispossessing an entire community. They let it sit fallow, essentially rotting. They paved over it with stretches of freeway. They built some…imperfectly developed…condos, and then plunked down the War Museum without much thought to infrastructure or integration.

Now we have a chance to salvage the space, but there’s little to engender confidence in the current process.

The NCC put out an RFP for development plans. They had five potential bidders. They’ve just announced that they have only received two bids. Worse, both include a new hockey arena.

Two bids. That’s it. This land that should be important to Ottawa’s past and future may come down to a coin toss. This is no way to decide. Receiving only two bids (both with the same prominent feature) demonstrates that the NCC’s process is broken. They need to scrap it, now.

It’s not that a hockey arena is a bad idea. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it probably is, but it’s not like every downtown arena in North America is an urban development failure. However, there’s no reason to believe that this Commission in this city will be able to do it right.

The NCC has an unhealthy obsession with cars. They talk about building parks and developing waterfronts, but what they really mean is making a pretty backdrop for people racing down city expressways. It’s an outdated Robert Moses-esque view of the city; the land is there for the wealthy man being chauffeured around to look at as his ride goes 80.

(Naturally, this is why the Flats needed to be raised. Wealthy men riding around in cars should never be subjected to the sight of poor people. How unseemly.)

The city, too, has an unhealthy obsession with cars (though it appears that city planners are starting to realize that building a city around driving and parking is just batshit crazy). We have to drive. We have to park. We’ll plunge a bazillion dollars into LRT, but then we’ll starve public transit to ensure no one actually wants to use it.

If the NCC really wants to build a hockey arena (and why they hell would they? How could that possibly fit in their mandate), there should be no surface parking, none. There should be very minimal underground parking (again, probably none). There should be no freeways or road expansions to get more cars there.

LRT is running there. It’s downtown adjacent, in (what should be) a very walkable area.

But, really, the NCC shouldn’t care a bit about the Ottawa Senators, a team that has flirted with bankruptcy in the past. That won’t build a great capital. It might be a nice accessory, but it shouldn’t be a primary concern at all.

We need and deserve a new community implanted in Lebreton Flats. We need a mixture of uses, a mixture of residences and a mixture of residents. We need this land returned to the city, not gifted to a hockey team owned by a resident of the Barbados.

This national celebration brought to you by slurs and CIBC

There’s one thing I really don’t get. There people, prominent people, who want to promote the city, who claim to love the city, but can never give up an opportunity to put the city down. If you think Ottawa sucks, why on earth are in the business of promoting it?

For instance, take Ottawa 2017:

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First of all, this is really dumb. The 2017 celebrations have no whiff of being bold. There’ll be concerts and special events, probably some fireworks and a lot of corporate branding. This confederation is brought to you by CIBC! is kind of dumb, not bold (and no offence to CIBC; I’d say the same thing for just about any corporate sponsor).

And it’s not like Ottawa is lacking for “event” happenings. We have Bluesfest, CityFolk, RibFest, RedBlacks, Fury, Champions, Wine & Food, Comicon, Lumiere Festival, GlowFair…and the list really goes on and on.

If you want to be bold, start building a better city. Let’s do some real place-making. Let’s rejuvenate Sparks Street. Let’s create more pedestrian-friendly areas. Let’s build communities. There’s much we can do.

But that’s not really the point of this post. The point is that Ottawa 2017 had no business insulting the city and its residents.

What the hell is “Ottawa the old” anyway? If you’ve been downtown (and elsewhere), you’ll know that we are (slowly, sometimes) transforming the city. We’ve re-developed Lansdowne. We’re fixing Main Street. We made Churchill a complete street. We’re developing Stittsville Main Street. We’re building a new central library. We’re building LRT. We built the EY Centre. We’re developing Carling Avenue. We’re doing something (allegedly) with Lebreton Flats.

There are a lot of cliches people like to throw around about Ottawa. They’ll claim it’s boring. They’ll claim it’s dead. They’ll claim it doesn’t have any fun. These people clearly have no idea what’s actually going on in Ottawa. They’re filled with disdain for a city many of us actually enjoy.

Some of us enjoy Ottawa in 2015. Some of us will enjoy Ottawa in 2018. Ottawa 2017 will be a blip in the life of this city.

Laughing about starving the city of infrastructure

It was a good day for city of Ottawa infrastructure Friday, as the Adàwe crossing–a foot bridge linking Somerset and Donald Streets–opened six months ahead of schedule.

It was also a day of unintended candour when Mayor Watson joked about the infrastructure deficit Ottawa has suffered during his tenure:

Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 10.07.12 PMThis is in reference to the Fifth/Clegg bridge that would connect Old Ottawa East and the Glebe. It has been talked about for a while, and during the last election, the mayor quipped that it might happen, but we’d have to choose between it and converting the old Prince of Wales rail bridge.

Watson and much of the current council has a real habit of this. They like to play different neighbourhoods and different residents against each other. It’s a cynical ploy that serves no purpose but to insulate politicians from actually having to accomplish much.

As it turns out, the Prince of Wales bridge isn’t on the table anymore. It was cancelled, and if you were following things on Twitter, you know there was much confusion over this point. Regardless what actually happened, it looks like David Chernushenko might be (eventually) getting a bridge connecting two neighbourhoods in his ward.

It seems like scraps thrown to a councillor who hasn’t rocked the boat too much.

 

Incongruous

There was a semi-interesting matter that came up at City Hall this week. Councillor David Chernushenko wants the city to begin taking some serious action when it comes to climate change:

The chair of Ottawa’s environment committee wants the city to align its targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions with the more aggressive ones set by the Ontario government.

Coun. David Chernushenko would also like to see the committee he chairs renamed the “environment and climate protection committee” to better reflect his personal aim of keeping global temperatures steady.

I think I would tend to agree with him on this issue. At the local level, we need to contribute to ailing environmental woes. I don’t know how much the city can or will achieve, but let’s start working on this.

By the way, if you remember David Chernushenko being in the news for something else this week, you’re right!

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Now, if you’re wondering how you can be a champion for reducing greenhouse gases a couple of days after you celebrated a car-centric development and encouraged even more driving, well, I don’t have an answer.