The Journal of Public Transit in Ottawa Launches

This morning, Adam had a chance to chat with Peter Raaymakers of Public Transit in Ottawa about their new Journal on, of all things, public transit it Ottawa. The journal is free, online, and has a neat community-reviewed structure, and deserves to be checked out.

A crisis is a bad thing to waste

That’s the aphorism that the Prime Minister referenced this morning when announcing revitalisation of Go Transit infrastructure as part of the government’s stimulus program. Dalton was there too.

I think that this is now the third or fourth joint transit announcement for the GTA since the LRT program was cancelled. I’ve come around to the downtown transit tunnel (slowly, but surely), but have to feel bad that we are several years out from breaking ground when the other levels of government are more keen to open the pocketbooks.

Radio Topics, December 9

Welcome to the real December: it is cold, and Christmas is around the corner! Adam and I will be on air at our usual time, 7am to 9am on 93.1FM or www.ckcufm.com.

So, OCtranspo might be on strike tomorrow. Don’t worry, the city has a plan! At least we won’t be short a bridge. What? Shit.

Governor General prorogues Parliament. Liberals return to infighting.

Remember when the tories had an expensive consultant look into contracts issued under the Liberals?

H.M. Dies: a man that could never know how important he was.

Competition Bureau acts against Rebate price advertising.

Greyhound ups security. It’s not too bad: don’t lose your head.

Ted Rogers dies.

Jean Charest re-elected to historic third mandate.

Councillors take the rail case to the Citizen

For those that are unaware, the Citizen is really good about posting the full audio of the discussions its editorial board has with various stakeholders. Yesterday they had a discussion with Councillors Alex Cullen, Peggy Feltmate, and Peter Hume. It’s available here (streaming MP3). Also of note is a conversation with the dissenting councillors from late June.
In any case, I’m working through it as we speak, but the general vibe seems to be that the councillors are understandably supportive of the plan (including the proposed tunnel), and meet some skepticism from the Board.
I really like that the Citizen shares these conversations, and during the election they were essential listening and pretty much determined how my vote would go. It’s also nice to see how these conversations develop, progress, and ultimately end up in various editorials and columns. What I really don’t like is that there doesn’t seem to be an RSS feed for when these go up, nor is there an obvious iTunes podcast option (I can’t check the directory from work; the words “itunes” and “podcast” certainly aren’t on the page).

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No light at the end of the tunnel

Councillor Doucet’s office has just issued a media advisory about a press conference he is holding tomorrow as part of the ongoing saga of Ottawa’s transit planning. I’ve pasted it below.

Essentially, as I’ve lamented before, it looks like the the tunnel plan is going to be expensive and add lots of delays. Moreover, it seems that some of the rail moneys will instead be spent on busses. Meanwhile, monies dedicated from other levels of government continues to go unused, and continue to exist only at the good grace of other budgets.

Press Release

Deputy City Manager confirms no tunnel for a least 7 to 11 years – and special tax levy required. City’s matching funds are no longer on table for any rail project.

At 11 am. on Thursday, July 24, in the Richmond Room at Ottawa City Hall, Councillor Clive Doucet will share responses he received from city staff confirming timing and cost implications of Transit Option 4.

Concerned that the current transit plan will do nothing for the next decade but invest heavily in more buses, Doucet put a number of questions to city staff.

What some of the responses mean for Ottawa:

The old plan had no special levy for transit and built rail first. The new plan will require as special levy to implement and will be buses first. The city’s matching funds that were available under the old plan are no longer on the table. They have been re-appropriated to busways and other projects.

“The new plan will invest approximately $900 million for about 65 kilometres of exclusive busways and $600 kilometres for buses…”

This means more congestion in the city core, more diesel pollution, and no relief from rising fuel costs.

With the city poised to spend hundreds of millions on more buses and busways, our priorities have become reversed. Clive will point out that “people are right to want light rail first, it’s the smart choice but that’s not what is going to happen. The train Ottawa is expecting is a bus”.

Questions and answers, and backgrounders will be available at the press conference.

- 30 -

One Quick Hockey Post

OttawaStart points to a snippy conversation about the 6th round pick we’ll never have. Now, I like that trade fine, but would be remiss to point out previous success with 6th round picks that Ottawa has had. Some 6th rounders even have slap shots so hard they’ll send you back to junior.
Oh yeah, and John Paddock got fired: too bad for him, but let’s hope that things aren’t so messed up that they can’t be fixed.

Coming tonight (or maybe tomorrow): My interview with Erna Paris in all its podcasty glory, and a response to what will eventually be Transit Plan 11 (details here, though I will still be disagreeable on the prospect of a tunnel.) For what it’s worth, I hear that the city is letting the guy responsible for Cloverfield “reboot” the plan. Hopefully, unlike Lost, the train will go somewhere.

Top 5 Least Important Stories of 2007- Part 1

On Christmas Day, Adam and I continued our annual tradition of counting down the least important stories of the year. There are lot’s of things we talk about that are important, and lots of important things that we don’t talk about. This show was about those unimportant things that, for whatever reason, we spent too much time talking about.

Joining us was Joshua Prowse and Giacomo Panico. This is our number 5.

Thursday Morning Frustrations

Four quick hits of frustration on a Thursday morning:

1) David Reevely asks what happens to transit plan #1137. Now, what David doesn’t know is that there never actually was transit plan #1137, nor was there 1-1136. The current incarnation is the best for Ottawa, and is the result of laborious study on the part of city council. I mean, it would be crazy to toss out a perfectly fine plan and risk having to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in lawsuits, all while driving the cost of the inevitable light rail project up, wouldn’t it? Perhaps if we keep assuring ourselves, it will be true.

2) Friends of the O-Train points to Transport Canada’s summarry of the O-train pilot project. On time? Inexpensive? Crazy!

3) Strings attached to a Conservative pork barrel promise? Never. I’m not necessarily opposed to a bridge, but it is a bit rich to see how the federal tories “remain committed” to transit funding in Ottawa. But while John Baird threw a wrench into the original plan,  it remains that Council didn’t have the good sense to  re-approve it, nor have they had the subsequent good sense to act on money that  was available to us.  Eventually, other levels of government will decide to spend money earmarked for us, and its nobodies fault but our own when it happens.

4) No Tax Increase. No cuts to libraries or transit. Which is it? (PDF). I swear that the mayor has two speech writers, one who he talks about services with, the other who he talks about taxes with, and never the two shall meet. The surprising thing is that he could get 17 councillors to stand behind him as he further erodes any credibility that he means what he says, but perhaps people just like to see a train wreck. I want to know which 6 weren’t there and why as, at the end of the day, that is a much more interesting question.

Light Rail Redux Redux Redux Redux

For the – what is it now fifth? sixth? eleventh? I’ve lost count – time in a year, the city seems to have a new transit plan. The mothercorp has a run down here. For those that like to read Council committee minutes, you can find them here.
First, the good:

  1. At least people are talking sense and moving forward with some form of light rail. This will likely change the question I was planning toasking on Monday at the budget consultation meeting at Lansdowne park (“How much of a tax increase will it be when we have to pay Siemens $300 million dollars?”)
  2. There seems to be a bunch of councillors that approve it, as well as the Mayor and the City Manager. It’s nice to know that they can stop the feudin’ and a fightin’, even if just for a little bit.

And the bad:

  1. They still have the tunnel on the proposal, which is absolutely unbelievable. This is a city in the midst of seriously considering shutting down 10 libraries and as much as doubling some user fees, and yet there is still serious consideration that we should all but double the cost of our transit megaplan to build a tunnel under the city. And for what? So that we won’t have to wait for – at maximum – 5 minutes in the cold? So that there won’t be trains dropping people off right in front of storefronts? Please. Let’s also remember that, for the period of construction aside, dedicated light rail corridors certainly couldn’t make congestion on Albert and Slater worse, and also remember that if we make it too easy for people to drive downtown one of the big incentives to actually ride the train is removed. Let me also point out (again) that things have been doing just fine with a principle downtown artery blocked to vehicles for the past month.
  2. I am more than a little reluctant that the new route is one that comes from a developer, and not by way of several years of concerted study as to where the route should be. Maybe it still makes sense, but there are very good reasons why we had the city do this the first time. Perhaps for the next transit plan I’ll propose to the city that they should build a train that runs on magic beans and runs from outside of my office downtown, via my doorstep, to the the Carleton and the Best Buy on Merivale Road. There’s a reason that we have the city do this sort of thing, and a reason why many of the usual suspects go apeshit when “public-private” partnerships are introduced. Sure, we’re gonna build it and operate it, but should we be saying something about who designed it?
  3. The cost. Chiarelli O-train plan: $780 million, including the maintenance contract. This one? $2 billion, which also includes the transitway and cumberland projects. But you can bet that a good chunk of that increase goes to the tunnel. Already in the transit committee minutes we see the hats getting ready to be put out, let’s just hope that the feds and province decide to be even more generous than last time.
  4. Delays. Had we broken ground last December as planned, we’d be that much closer to having the buses removed from downtown. We’d be that much closer to having a mass transit system befitting a city of our size, let alone a National Capital. And we’d have insulated ourselves against at least 2 years of increases in the cost of labour, materials, and fuel, let alone legal and transaction costs.

Now, I do not think that the first plan was perfect: it should have used what rights of way it had to create the first stage of the east-west route, going as far east as Hurdman and possibly pushing west to Tunney’s Pasture. It should also have gone to the Airport. It is also unacceptable that, to this day, we can’t be sure what exactly was in the proposal because so much of it was kept from public eyes, leading to poor publicity and, in turn, people believing what they wanted to believe.

It’s also a testament to the dysfunction of this city that I think many people believed that if they didn’t get their part of the expanded o-train in the first go, they never would. That’s bad, in part because it discourages smart planning to meet growth, but also because it encourages a dangerous sort of IMBYism, where if it doesn’t directly affect your back yard, you are reactionarily opposed to spending money on it.
Previously on the Mike Powell Fan Club: David Gladstone on transit planning; Clive Doucet on another O-train proposal