Moving through the capital, and staying in
It’s interesting to see the feedback on this piece. Almost all the negative comments I got were to the effect that it wasn’t enough to make Wellington pedestrian, we should keep Sparks pedestrian, too.
My heart agrees. It’d be nice if we had no cars at all anywhere in the downtown core. And maybe we can, one day. But not overnight, and not next week.
Here are further thoughts on this question:
If we make Wellington pedestrian between the War Memorial and the Supreme Court (more or less), we’ll need some place to put the transit buses, tour buses, trucks, cars, taxis, and tourist chariots that currently use it.
But wait, I’ve skipped a step. We need fewer of those vehicles in the downtown core each and every day. That’s why we need congestion pricing (and fewer, more expensive parking options) so that people who don’t absolutely need to be in a car aren’t in a car downtown. Make transit free to users so people take the bus instead of their car, including on weekends when they take the kids to see the sights. Currently it costs as much if not more in transit fees to take two adults and two tweens downtown by bus on a Sunday afternoon than it will cost you to park the minivan at the World Exchange Plaza except the minivan is way more convenient because it allows you to swing by Dairy Queen on the way home unless the kids want Subway at the last minute. If parking downtown Sunday afternoon cost you $20, and OC Transpo was free, that would change a lot of things right there.
I was in Washington last weekend, as I said in the original piece, staying in Rosslyn just on the other side of the Potomac, walking distance from Arlington cemetery, Theodore Roosevelt island and that awe-inspiring Iwo Jima memorial. We drove from Ottawa to Arlington. But did we take the car to DC? No way. We took the Metro from Arlington. It’s not free, but it’s pretty reasonably priced and the service is reliable and frequent. I’ve driven in the District a few times in my life, and I did not find it especially rewarding. And parking is murderously expensive. Subway and legs that were badly in need of a spring tan did the job, thanks very much. We could also have rented a bike or a dockless scooter if we had wanted to.
OC Transpo buses, I gather, will be a lot less numerous in downtown Ottawa once the LRT is operational. Well, then. As Forrest Gump would say, that’s one less thing to worry about.
Tour buses: If you can think of a way to erase those from the face of the earth I won’t mind. I positively hate them. They’re big, they’re loud, they stink, and they block the view. Right now, they block the view of Parliament Hill which makes me itch for a potato launcher. I want them to go block some view that’s not worth viewing, like whatever it is we have on Slater, where they should disgorge their passengers and never come anywhere near the beautiful stuff we want to showcase.
Delivery trucks and utility vehicles are another necessary evil, but at least these guys aren’t trying to block the view. They need access to the shops, institutions and attractions they service. Some places restrict deliveries to specific hours when tourists tend to be somewhere else, and in theory I think that’s a fine idea.
All other vehicles, including taxis/Uber and private cars of residents or folks who don’t mind paying extra to drive through downtown instead of taking a different route, they have to go somewhere. No, “to hell” is not a practical option in the immediate. People’s habits take forever to change, you know that. We have to work with them, not declare open warfare.
Here’s what I’m thinking: We make Sparks St. one way east-west. One lane on the right side for metered parking and drop-off/pick-up. I would make it free to stop in a drop-off/pick-up area with a strictly enforced time limit of, say, 10 minutes. People who take taxis or Uber or who get dropped off or picked up by their sweetie need safe places to do that.
In the middle, one lane of traffic. A narrow lane of traffic. This isn’t for tour buses, trucks or whatever transit buses are left after the LRT is operational. This is for small vehicles, including motorcycles. Strictly enforced speed limit, no more than 40km/h, ideally 30.
Then to the left of that narrow lane of one-way traffic you have another lane, narrower than the narrow car lane but wider than your average bike lane. It’s for cyclists. It’s a protected, segregated bike lane, going one-way, east-west like the car traffic. To the left of that is another lane, about the width of the Laurier bike lane, for dockless scooters, rollerbladers, and whoever else goes faster than pedestrians but slower than cyclists. This, too, goes one-way, east-west like the rest. On each side of the road are regular sidewalks.
Do the same on Queen, except going one-way west-east.
Albert and Slater would be for buses (transit and charter) as well as trucks and other vehicles moving east-west. They would remain one-way, the way they are now, with regular sidewalks on each side.
I would add segregated bike lanes going north-south on Kent and Lyon. Add a north-going segregated bike lane on Metcalfe and make the existing O’Connor bike lane one-way going south (at the moment that bike lane is two-way but vehicles travel southward only and it’s confusing as all hell, putting cyclists in undue danger).
Traffic in the Sparks-Queen-Albert-Slater (SQAS) rectangle between Elgin and Bronson should be made to flow east-west, at least north of Laurier. North-south traffic north of Laurier shouldn’t be encouraged. That means trafic lights on SQAS are most often green. Because SQAS are all one-way streets, as are all the north-south streets except Bank, nobody makes left turns in the core. All vehicles turn right. That’s why the parked cars and drop-off zones are on the right, and the cyclists on the left. Oh, and Bank Street? North of Laurier it should be pedestrian, too.