Transcript of appearance on Ottawa Morning

30Apr09

Just in case you want to read what we said about Ottawa’s proposed transit tunnel early this morning, you can do so after the jump.

Kathleen Petty, Host: David, is it the route you were hoping for and expecting?

David McClelland, The Ottawa Project: I think so, for the most part. I was kind of expecting that the city would go with this cross-country route where they don’t necessarily stick to one street under downtown. I think for the most part it’s a fairly good route. The one criticism I think I’ve heard about mostly is the lack of a station at Bank Street.

I was actually looking at the map the city put out last night. Where I think a lot of people were fooled and thought it would be between O’Connor and Metcalfe, but it’s actually sort of centred on O’Connor. So there is a station that is a little closer to Bank than I think a lot of people thought. There is maybe room for another station downtown, but for the most part I think that the route looks pretty good.

OK. Nick, what do you think?

Nick Taylor-Vaisey, Public Transit in Ottawa: Yeah, I think a lot of traffic and a lot of noise on the blogosphere yesterday, anyways, on the Internet when this first came to light, was about the station debate, sort of. It wasn’t about the funding and where that’s going to come from. It was about: Where is that Bank Street station? Or why aren’t these spread out in a way such that one more could fit?

Yeah. And why is that important? Bank Street – obviously, a lot of people travel on Bank Street. The logic seems to be that it’s not on Bank Street, but it’s not too far to walk.

N: Well, one issue I think that some people have-and someone I got in touch with who is a regular commenter on the blog-suggested that as is it stands, there will be two downtown stations, which means there will be a lot of commuter traffic crowding those stations. And it will mean that the actual vehicles will have to stay in the stations longer, which will slow down transit throughout the core. And if there were one more station, it would mean that they would be less crowded, the vehicles would stay in the stations less time, and of course you’d lose a little bit of time having that extra station, but overall you would not lose that much time because, again, there would be faster flow.

This isn’t it. There are going to be public consultations still, even with this plan. So do you think people with this plan, David, are really going to get involved? Because the price tag for this is $600 million-that’s a lot of money.

D: That’s a good question, and I certainly hope people get involved in the public consultations, because it is probably one of the biggest projects that Ottawa is going to be facing over the next 10 or 15 years. As for whether people actually will get involved, that’s a little harder to say. I find people in Ottawa tend to be a little more apathetic towards urban affairs than places like Toronto or Montreal, unfortunately.

Why is that, do you think?

D: I’m really not sure, honestly. I think it may be just a character of the city. You know, we’re a big agglomeration. We’ve got all the rural areas, which are kind of lumped in with the city of Ottawa itself. So I think it’s partly the fact that our community is so large, it’s not like some of these other cities where they are very concentrated on dense, urban areas. I think people kind of feel disconnected from the city as a whole, perhaps.

But then perhaps as a result, Nick, being able to focus on the tunnel first, with a big price tag, is perhaps not a bad thing, because we can really focus. The downtown is the downtown is the downtown-as opposed to that ongoing argument about where, ultimately, light rail should go.

N: Yeah, a lot of people do see it as a good starting point. Some others see the tunnel as a very expensive gesture in some ways, because this is the beginning of a huge light rail system that could exist in Ottawa in the next 10, 15, 20 years. But for now, some people are asking is this too much money for too little? Is this going to increase ridership? It’s going to mean that people have to transfer from buses to light rail downtown at least in the short term. In the long term, of course, there is that vision. But is the public, the people who are going to be part of these consultations-are they really going to be gung-ho about the short- and medium-term? That’s the question.

And getting back to the money, I think that’s other question, David, isn’t it? Where are we going to get it?

D: I was saying to some people yesterday, and I’ve seen a couple of people say this as well, that I think the Ontario government will very likely be on board because Transit City in Toronto recently got billions of dollars toward building I think about 150 kilometres worth of new light rail in Toronto. So I think in the interests of fairness, we might see the Ontario government giving funding to Ottawa so that they’re not just funding Ontario’s one big city and they’re also funding our other…

The federal government, I think, is a little more questionable, because under the Conservatives, there hasn’t been a lot of money that has gone towards big public-transit projects. The only one I can really think of off the top of my head is Vancouver. I believe their Canada Line got funding from the federal government. But for the most part, they’re not quite as gung-ho about it as the Ontario government.

Nick, do you share that concern?

N: Yes and no. I think that the problem with the Ontario government is: yes, they did throw $9 billion, I guess it was, at several public-transit initiatives closer to the GTA. But where are they going to get the money to put into this project? It’s not shovel-ready, which is what the provincial and federal governments like so much these days. The shovels won’t even hit the ground until 2012 at the earliest. And where is the money going to come from? The mayor and Alex Cullen yesterday, of course, on All in a Day, were very confident about this summer being the time when announcements are going to be made. I’m as excited as anybody to hear about where this money is going to come from. Ontario doesn’t have that much.

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One Response to “Transcript of appearance on Ottawa Morning”

  1. 1 WJM

    The federal Tories directed funding to Vancouver’s Evergreen Line, which will spring out NE off the Millennium Line. The Canada Line funding I think dates back to Chretien’s days.

    Now I gotta get me back to Vancouver this fall to ride the new line!


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