This week the Ottawa Centre EcoDistrict had the chance to work with the City of Ottawa in a small group setting to review the stations proposed for Stage 2 Light Rail Transit (LRT). Working alongside with Citizens for Safe Cycling, Ecology Ottawa and the Healthy Transportation Coalition, we looked at the connectivity for pedestrians and cyclists to each LRT station.
In mid-August a meeting was held to help community groups to reconnect to the City after their staff re-organization. Hosted by John Manconi, General Manager, Transportation Services Department at the City of Ottawa, a number of City staff from various departments met with community groups on the topic of active transportation.
One of the outcomes was a promise by the City to review all of the Stage 2 LRT stations in a single meeting. In reality this became a two-day workshop but the meeting was a huge success.
For community groups, it offered an opportunity to come to one meeting rather than have to try to get to all of the community meetings held in August. This gave groups a way to ensure that staff or volunteers were available to review each the station.
The meeting was also a great community building exercise. The time spent by City staff and consultants to explain the preliminary design in detail was both educational and expedient. Together we were able to brainstorm about each station and to add ideas that will help to improve the preliminary design.
It was also impressive to see the extent to which the team from the City is working to ensure that sidewalks, bike paths and multi-use pathways are connected to the stations. In many cases there is a transfer of responsibility from the Stage 2 design to City transportation staff and it would appear that every effort is being made to ensure that this hand off, and indeed the physical connection, is seamless.
In 2015, the EcoDistrict completed its first Cycle In report. During that project, we learned two important lessons: 1) many cycling routes are not continuous, in fact they are disconnected; and 2) we have too many pinch points – points where cyclists are forced to choose between riding on the sidewalk and mixing with dangerous traffic.
The two-day workshop helped greatly by focusing in on connectivity. This included: connecting to existing or planned cycling routes; making recommendations to designate some low traffic, low speed streets as bicycle routes to the stations; and pushing the envelope to include specific connectivity fixes in the LRT work where they fall within 600 m of a station.
The next step is for the City to finalize its station designs and to report back to the active transportation groups. The final preliminary plans will then be part of the bid package that goes out to potential vendors looking to construct Stage 2 LRT.
There is no doubt that the City has learned some lessons from Stage 1 LRT and it is great to see them working to incorporate those lessons into future design. The plans look very good for pedestrians who want to walk from the station, and for the 70 percent of residents who will be within a five KM ride of an LRT station.