However given the prospect of someone persuading the National Capital Commission (NCC) to let the City of Ottawa put Light Rail Transit (LRT) on the Western Parkway I thought it time to say something. This is my take on that follows.
Contributor: Amy Kempster: An Amy’s Corner article – September-2012.
The Western Parkway and the LRT: The question is should the desire for fast transit for Kanata trump the idea of using the Transit stations for nodes of intensification. Any route except Carling is aimed to some extent at fast transit for Kanata. There are very valid reasons why the emphasis should be on intensification. While communities are often not fond of intensification it is necessary if we want to avoid more urban sprawl. One can argue if the needed intensification can be achieved without skyscrapers or other tall buildings but it is clear that intensification is the best way to accommodate much of the inevitable growth. This is because the costs of providing services to far-flung suburbs often exceed the increase in taxes stemming from their construction. The Western Parkway being to a large extend bounded on its non-river side by low-rise successful communities is obviously not a place where one would wish to intensify (nor is the Byron strip). The lower cost of the Western Parkway route might be negated in the long run by the costs of the urban sprawl which would result from the lesser intensification possible on that route. Note that the supply of urban land has been significantly increased by the recent Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) and Council decisions. We do not need in further increase.
The Region when it set up the satellite communities beyond the Greenbelt (Kanata, Orleans/Stittsville, Barrhaven and Leitrim) intended them to be complete, i.e. to include employment for much of their labour force. Kanata is the one which has come closest to this intention and there is considerable employment in the Kanata area. Thus my suggestion: forget LRT as a really fast system for the west end and use it instead to ensure good transit for west-end residents inside the Greenbelt to downtown and for intensification along Carling. LRT will work well for Orleans and using the O-train for Leitrim and Barrhaven. So what about Kanata commuters? For the next several years the plan was to have them change at Tunney’s Pasture from the buses into the LRT. I see no reason why this service could not continue and the route for the LRT use Carling but on a schedule which builds a portion at a time so that the costs can be managed.
Many people have talked about the current lack of access to the river and the lack of animation along our waterways. For the canal downtown and the Ottawa from Chaudiere Falls this is probably merited. In the western portion of the Ottawa I think this is somewhat exaggerated by people who have not walked or biked along the river. Access is available at Remic Rapids, from Champlain Park, at Island Park Drive, at Westboro Beach and Woodroffe either with lights or under highway passes. Parking lots exist at Remic Rapids, Champlain Bridge, Westboro Beach and Woodroffe. It is also possible to cross the parkway by foot at other spots outside the rush hours. Adding the LRT would make this last type of access almost impossible especially if the LRT was fenced off. If one lane of the Parkway was used for it this might as well have an effect on the bicycle use of the road.
In connection with animation a seasonal café exists at Westboro Beach. Possibly a drink stand might be viable at Woodroffe and/or Island Park Drive. Memories of the restaurant on Bate Island just off Champlain Bridge suggest that it may not be easy to succeed in such locations. Great changes to the bordering communities might be required to have the population for such animation as I think is daydream. Such changes would not be welcomed by the communities involved so I doubt that much animation can be added.
The Western Parkway can provide a soothing drive and I suspect it helps many people de-stress as they wend their way home or to work. The aesthetic and natural values it provides would be sullied by the LRT, and for no benefit for most inside the Greenbelt residents of western Ottawa. It also provides a lovely entrance to Ottawa for tourists who come from the south and west, if they find its entrance near Pinecrest. Visitors I have asked about the addition of rail to it are always surprised that anyone would suggest such a thing. Therefor I fully support the opposition of the NCC to its use for LRT.