Richmond Underground is the City’s preferred route
By Kathleen Wilker
Hundreds of citizens attended last night’s City of Ottawa open house on the Western LRT line and crowded into council chambers to hear about the presentation.
The City’s Deputy City Manager (Planning and Infrastructure), Nancy Schepers, began the presentation. The presentation consisted largely of three sections: an outline of why the Carling Avenue route was not appropriate; an outline of key community concerns that were being taken into consideration in route choice and a look at the City’s preferred route choice, called Richmond Underground.
Carling was dismissed as a route choice because it was slower than the other routes, it would require continued bus service, it was more expensive than other options and it would require transfers to the airport, among other considerations.
Key community concerns that guided Council’s decision about the 15 initial proposed routes included: protecting and not ruining the Byron Linear Park, connecting and not dividing the community, encouraging (not restricting) access to greenspace, waterfront and pathway network and avoiding (not making use of) the Parkway.
The Richmond Underground route, estimated to cost $900 million, protects the Byron Linear Park and keeps the LRT off the Parkway. This is the shortest and fastest route identified. City slides also say it maintains community connectivity and encourages access to greenspace. These claims (about community connectivity and access to greenspace) were hotly contested by residents in the over three hour question and answer session that followed the presentation.
A number of common concerns emerged from resident questions. People felt the consultation process was rushed and inadequate. When residents pointed out that the comment form handed out prior to the meeting asked for feedback only on the Richmond Underground route, including specifics like suggested locations for the three pedestrian access corridors, Councillor Egli, Chair of the Transportation Committee, said that Council did, in fact, want feedback on all four routes still on the table.
People also expressed frustration that although construction for the Western LRT is ten years away, the deadline for submitting comments to email@example.com is May 10. Councillor Egli encouraged residents to attend the June 5 Transportation Committee meeting. “Delegations are encouraged,” Egli said, explaining that the deadlines are for Council to finalize the Transportation Master Plan.
After numerous pro-Carling comments and questions, Councillor Hobbs was asked if she would support the Carling route at Council. Councillor Hobbs answered that she would support it as a secondary, future route in the overall transit network but would not support it as the Western LRT route.
Many questions also addressed cost. Residents spoke to other cities, like Boston, that are currently reclaiming their waterfronts and relocating transit underground at considerable cost. Residents whose homes are located within metres of the proposed Richmond Underground route expressed concern over years of construction and asked if their potentially decreased property values were taken into consideration during the costing of the project. They were told that studies indicate that property values of homes located close to transit increase.
Neighbours for Smart Western Rail suggested that focusing on a Western LRT route that takes people from the suburbs to Tunney’s Pasture instead of looking at all the other origins and destinations along the route does not fully examine all the places of employment, shopping and recreation where people in Ottawa want to go throughout the day.
Residents asked if tax hikes could pay for a route like Carling (which, if located underground is estimated to cost $2.3 billion). A 1% property tax increase would raise $ 12 million, residents were told.
To submit your comments on the proposed routes, email: westernLRT@ottawa.ca by May 10.