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Old April 17th, 2006, 03:54 PM   #81
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From: http://www.canada.com:80/ottawacitiz...1-29e0dac884f6
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Monday, April 17, 2006
Fix, don't ditch, the NCC, mayor hopefuls agree
Chiarelli, Munter, Kilrea applaud minister's call for mandate review
Susan Mohammad, The Ottawa Citizen
Published: Monday, April 17, 2006

They agree the National Capital Commission needs a significant facelift, but none of Ottawa's three major mayoral candidates wants to see the secretive Crown corporation extinct.
Yesterday, Mayor Bob Chiarelli and two of his major competitors, Alex Munter and Terry Kilrea, offered similar views on the future of the NCC.
All three agreed that the minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, Lawrence Cannon, was right to call for a major review of the NCC's mandate in a speech he made last Thursday.
"I'm not willing to sign on to any plan to scrap the NCC until I know for certain that the interests of property taxpayers in the city are protected," said Mr. Munter yesterday. "But I think there is merit in the suggestion it deserves serious consideration."
The NCC, which has an annual operating budget of about $124 million, was created in 1959 to oversee federal lands and buildings in the capital region.
The candidates stressed the importance of federal compensation if the municipalities were to take on the NCC's responsibilities, but don't advocate they be assumed by the municipal governments.
"I absolutely would hope the NCC would exist, because they have certainly been a great help to the city of Ottawa. We have benefitted greatly with beautiful green space," said Mr. Kilrea, adding the city wouldn't be able to afford to do the same.
"I would hate to see any downloading occur because we can't take any more," said Mr. Kilrea
All three also agreed with the sentiment the NCC could take immediate steps to be more open with the public.
Mr. Munter and Mr. Kilrea suggested open meetings, while Mr. Chiarelli said the disclosure of agendas and regular reporting to the public would suffice.
"I think they could make some short-term decisions to improve accountability to the public in Ottawa, but take time to look at a fundamental assessment for the rest of the issues," said Mr. Chiarelli, who urges a review on how the different levels of government and the NCC collectively relate to the business community is needed.
"It's very frustrating to be mayor and to be sitting around the table dealing with the federal government and have Parks Canada and the NCC and Public Works at the same table having different points of view and arguing differently on an issue."
Despite his frustrations, the mayor said the NCC is "absolutely still relevant," because as a young country we are still in the process of building the national capital region.
He joined the other candidates in agreeing the decision to split the position of chief executive officer from chairman at the NCC was a good one, and the view that the NCC should continue its work, including the building of a waterfront park in Gatineau, despite the recent debate over its role.
Mr. Munter said efficiency and issues of "duplication" should be reviewed. He listed talented urban planners working for the NCC doing the same as the urban planners for the city as an example.
No schedule has been set for the review of the NCC. Mr. Chiarelli said he is looking forward to hearing about a more defined process of consultation on the issue.
Mayoral candidate Don Rivington could not be reached for comment.
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Old April 18th, 2006, 11:48 PM   #82
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From: http://www.canada.com:80/ottawacitiz...d-17df474c9b5b
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Tuesday » April 18 » 2006

It would be a 'disaster' to Ottawa to abolish the NCC, observers say
Agency responsible for much of what makes city beautiful: critics

Mohammed Adam
The Ottawa Citizen

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The National Capital Commission pours so much into making Ottawa a great city, even some of its critics say it would be disastrous for the capital if the agency is scrapped and not replaced.

They say the NCC's contribution to the well-being of the national capital region is invaluable, and the worst the Conservatives could do is abolish the agency and hand over its responsibilities to municipal governments or other federal institutions.

Major projects like the LeBreton Flats development and the massive waterfront transformation would be set back years, perhaps decades. And the future of a gem like the Greenbelt would be in serious jeopardy in the hands of municipal politicians always looking for a fast dollar. City governments are just too narrow-minded, and other federal departments are so lacking in vision, that their involvement in Ottawa's planning and beautification would damage its profile and threaten its future.

"The bottom line is that if you leave planning of the capital to Public Works, it will be a disaster. And the city governments have not shown yet that they can plan for a big city," said architectural commentator and critic Rhy Phillips, who once likened the NCC to a broken VCR that must be replaced with a DVD player.

Another problem may be money. Some city politicians, wary of previous experiences with downloading of services from senior levels of government, may balk at taking over the work of the NCC. Without iron-clad guarantees of long-term funding, municipal taxpayers may end up paying for the cost of services like maintaining bridges and the parks.

Erwin Dreessen, a former chairman of the Greenspace Alliance of Canada's Capital says there may be things that a particular federal department or municipal government can do. But in the totality of its work, the NCC, for all its failings, remains the better bet if the agency gets out of land speculation and opens up its meetings.

"There are some serious problems with the NCC, but abolishing it is not the answer. The underlying problem is that the city is far too beholden to developers, but historically, the NCC as an institution, is less beholden to developers," Mr. Dreessen said.

A new debate about the future of the NCC erupted after the federal Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities questioned the need for the agency in a speech last week. He wondered if some of the NCC's work couldn't be done by the Ottawa and Gatineau city governments and others by select federal departments.

Created in 1959 to beautify and transform the city into a great capital through urban planning, the NCC's mandate was expanded in 1988 to include the organization of cultural activities, such as those on Canada Day, as a way to enhance the country's social cohesion.

Today, the agency is the largest single landowner in the national capital region, owning 470 square kilometres of land, about 10 per cent of the region's land. This includes 170 kilometres of recreational pathways for cycling, walking and in-line skating, 40 kilometres of scenic parkways, 36,000 hectares in Gatineau Park, 20,000 hectares of the Greenbelt, 2,100 hectares of urban green space and parks such as Confederation Park and Jacques Cartier Park. It also owns 72 heritage buildings on both sides of the river. As well, the NCC is also responsible for the Portage and Champlain bridges and the maintenance at 24 Sussex Drive, Rideau Hall and Stornoway. It has a budget of $124 million a year.

Others, however, say whatever the NCC contributes to the city is part of the federal government's responsibility to the capital and should not be seen as an NCC freebie. They say much of the NCC's job could easily be done by the city and other federal departments.

NCC Watch, a website that says it wants to "consign the National Capital Commission to oblivion" says Gatineau Park and Rideau Canal should be taken over by Parks Canada and planning and development should be transferred to Ottawa and Gatineau. Maintenance of federal government buildings, including the official residences of the prime minister, governor general and leader of the opposition, could be undertaken by the Public Works department. The Greenbelt and properties like LeBreton Flats could be turned over to the municipal government.

According to NCC Watch, "all of these organizations, whether federal departments or municipal governments, would provide better accountability and more transparent operation than the NCC."

Mr. Dreessen acknowledges that things like Canada Day or maintaining federal buildings can be done by other departments. But he says the core of the NCC's work, which involves planning for and creating a more beautiful capital, can only be done by a body with a mandate and outlook like the NCC's. Left to municipal governments -- which in Ottawa and Gatineau have sharp differences on everything from bridges to public transit -- nothing will ever get done, Mr. Dreessen says. He believes that if it was up to the municipalities, the region would never have had the Greenbelt or Gatineau Park, for example.

Ottawa historian John Taylor agrees that with two city governments that have different values, and two provincial governments thrown into the mix for good measure, the federal government will be asking for trouble if it hands over key parts of the NCC's mandate to the cities.

"If you believe the municipal governments can do the work of the NCC, you also have to believe that the two provincial governments can agree on what the national capital region should look like," said Mr. Taylor, a retired Carleton University history professor.

The answer, says Mr. Phillips, is a new, slimmer organization that is shorn of its responsibility for cultural programming and mandated to focus solely on the physical development of the city.

"You have to have a national capital organization because you need to have a body with a national focus," he said.
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Old April 21st, 2006, 12:27 AM   #83
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From: http://www.canada.com:80/components/...b-d1fcf9279342
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Opponents ride Chiarelli on light-rail
First exchange for mayoral hopefuls

Patrick Dare
The Ottawa Citizen

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Ottawa's three main candidates for mayor got out of the election gates yesterday with a first public exchange at the Rideau Carleton Raceway that asked whether the biggest capital project in the city's history, the north-south commuter rail line, is a boondoggle.

Mayor Bob Chiarelli replied with an emphatic no, saying the new 28-kilometre rail line will serve Riverside South, a community of up to 55,000, and South Nepean, with up to 150,000. His two main challengers, Alex Munter and Terry Kilrea, said there's a growing suspicion among taxpayers that the project isn't good value for the $725 million being spent.

Mr. Kilrea argued the commuter rail line is going the wrong way and should be running east-west, where much of the city's heavy commuter traffic and congestion occurs.

Mr. Chiarelli said east-west rail will come in time, but that the city went with a pitch to the federal and provincial governments for the north-south line because it had a lower, more palatable price tag. He said the federal and provincial governments, which are contributing $200 million each for the north-south line, would never have gone for a $2-billion project, which is about what an east-west service would have cost.

Mr. Munter called for an independent financial look at the costs and benefits of the project and urged that city council not rush into contracts for the rail project before the Nov. 13 election. Mr. Munter reminded Mr. Chiarelli that he considered the bus-only transitway system too costly, at $5 million a kilometre, when he first ran for the regional chair's job in the 1990s, defeating Peter Clark. The north-south rail project has a capital cost of about $25 million a kilometre.

Answering questions later, Mr. Chiarelli said the north-south commuter line will be the first piece of transportation in the city that will serve neighbourhoods as they are growing, rather than after the fact.

Mr. Chiarelli said the city's east-west corridor has already seen a major investment of public money in the bus transitway.

During the moderated discussion, the candidates set themes for the seven-month campaign. Mr. Kilrea said the city's biggest problem is spending on unaffordable projects and programs and wants to see council stick to the basic services -- "police, fire, paramedics. Pick up my garbage, clean my roads."

He said business people and rural residents are upset with an administration that costs too much and demands uniformity on everything from chip stand fees to bylaw enforcement. Mr. Kilrea said the city shows businesses little respect, noting that it suddenly cancelled garbage collection for small businesses without informing them.

Mr. Munter said the election is about whether it's time for a change after a decade of Mr. Chiarelli as the top municipal politician. Mr. Munter said the city has to focus on things like ensuring a supply of affordable housing so it doesn't end up with Toronto's social and economic problems. He said the public's confidence in city hall's financial management is being eroded and he wants to ensure taxpayers get value for their money.

Mr. Munter said he was shocked by yesterday's news about a $1-million property tax increase imposed on the Ottawa Senators, without the team being notified. "The city is not prepared to listen. The city is not open."

Mr. Chiarelli said he is proud to run on a record that includes tax freezes in many years and a city economy that is booming. He said the city government is in solid financial shape, with a triple-A credit rating.

The City of Ottawa has a debt of about $454 million and total investments and reserves of about $860 million.

Mr. Chiarelli acknowledged that the property tax system is unfair to some business owners, but said the city is doing all it can to get the provincial government to change it.

And he noted that the city is finally getting some financial help from senior levels of government, including $80 million a year in GST and gas tax money.

He also noted that he created several business advisory groups, including a task force on cutting red tape.
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Old April 28th, 2006, 12:36 AM   #84
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From: http://www.canada.com:80/ottawacitiz...3-102159c5e0e3
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STO seeks $300M for Outaouais transit
Report urges busway, transit link to Ottawa

Dave Rogers, The Ottawa Citizen
Published: Wednesday, April 26, 2006
The Outaouais needs $300 million for public transit over the next 10 years to build a new busway and a transit link between downtown Ottawa and Gatineau, according to a report Gatineau's bus company released yesterday.
Gatineau's Rapibus system would connect to Ottawa's transitway via the Portage Bridge.
The first phase of the $150-million Societe de transport de l'Outaouais system is to be an 18-kilometre dedicated bus route next to a railway line from Lorrain Boulevard, near Gatineau airport, west to Montcalm Street, near Les Terrasses de la Chaudiere federal government complex. The rest of the bus system is to be on existing roads and bus lanes.
STO president Louise Poirier said Gatineau needs the $300 million to provide good service to its 235,000 residents.
The federal and provincial governments could pay up to 75 per cent of the cost of the 35-kilometre busway. Quebec has not announced funding for the Rapibus system, but federal Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon, a former Gatineau councillor and former president of the bus company, said he supports the project.
OC Transpo and the STO are spending $1 million on a study to determine the best transit technology to link the two city cores. The study is to be completed within two years.
"Rapibus will be a road for buses only that will reduce the time it takes to get downtown by four or five minutes," Ms. Poirier said. "Gatineau and Ottawa then will build a loop to link our two downtowns using new transit technology.
"All the workers and public servants will be able to use the new technology loop to travel around instead of riding in taxis," said Ms. Poirier.
She predicted that one new bridge instead of two or three will be needed between Ottawa and Gatineau because of improvements to public transit.
STO manager Georges Gratton said Gatineau's population is not dense enough to justify light-rail so its rapid transit system will be based on buses for now.
Mr. Gratton said the bus company will need 16 new buses each year. The vehicles will be low-sulphur diesel buses at first, then hybrid diesel-electric and eventually hydrogen fueled, Mr. Gratton said.
Gatineau will expand its network of reserved bus lanes to 40 kilometres from 20 kilometres and double the number of park-and-ride parking spaces to 4,000 by 2015.
The 10-year plan produced by the Societe de transport de l'Outaouais anticipates a 50-per-cent increase in bus ridership, an east-west transitway between Masson-Angers and Aylmer, more buses and bus lanes and an increase in the number of bus lanes and park-and-ride lots.
The plan predicts ridership will increase to 21 million trips a year from 16.6 million in 2005. The expanded service is expected to take 8,000 cars off the road and reduce greenhouse gases by 40,000 tonnes during the next 10 years.

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Old May 4th, 2006, 11:35 PM   #85
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From: http://www.canada.com:80/ottawacitiz...9-f4440d801b37
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NCC hears pleas to push Ottawa, Gatineau to mesh transit plans

Alex Hutchinson, The Ottawa Citizen
Published: Thursday, May 04, 2006
The National Capital Commission is failing in its duty to oversee public transit links between Ottawa and Gatineau, transport advocates said last night.
"The City of Gatineau is moving ahead aggressively with the plans for its Rapibus rapid-transit system, and the City of Ottawa is moving forward rapidly with planning for its light-rail system, and yet the link the between the two banks of the river is not being addressed," said David Jeanes, president of the advocacy group Transport 2000. He was speaking at the annual meeting of the NCC's board of directors and community interest groups at Christ Church Cathedral Hall.
In particular, critics asked why the Prince of Wales Bridge, just west of LeBreton Flats, was not part of transit plans. Marcel Beaudry, the chairman of the NCC, said the commission is already examining the issue, in co-operation with both cities.
"There are three studies going on, and they may well find that this bridge is going to be used, (or) it could be other bridges that will be used," he said.
But these studies have already been going on for several years, and their glacial pace could make them obsolete before they are completed. Ottawa's current light-rail plans, for example, could block train access to the Prince of Wales Bridge, said David Gladstone, chairman of the City Centre Coalition.
"The NCC's attitude of benign neglect is really not so benign," he said. "I personally think that what's happening is a failure of government."
Jurisdiction over interprovincial transportation is unclear, and Mr. Beaudry pointed out that the City of Ottawa recently purchased the Prince of Wales Bridge. But under the terms of the National Capital Act, the NCC has the mandate to oversee such infrastructure, Mr. Gladstone said.
A total of 17 interest groups made presentations to the NCC directors last night. The board will meet to consider the submissions and respond in writing to each presenter in the coming weeks.
Mr. Gladstone encouraged the commission to include O-Train rail service across the Prince of Wales Bridge in its planning for Canada Day.
"Wouldn't it be a lovely sight seeing red-and-white railway cars crossing the Ottawa River on the day when the NCR is awash with flags and maple leafs?" he said.
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Old May 10th, 2006, 12:33 AM   #86
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From: http://ottsun.canoe.ca/News/OttawaAn...70702-sun.html
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Tue, May 9, 2006
Barrhaven may get rail service

By DEREK PUDDICOMBE, OTTAWA SUN

A chance that the city's light rail transit line will travel into the core of Barrhaven is alive and well.

Bell-South Nepean Coun. Jan Harder said yesterday an announcement will be made soon that the $725-million north-south light rail transit line will wind its way through the south part of the community.

Original plans for the line called for the LRT to stop near Jockvale Rd. and Greenbank just behind a massive commercial complex, but were scrapped after learning it would invite a cost overrun.

However, Harder said that's been worked out.

"It allows it to be done within the current budget envelope," said Harder.


She added the key to the success of the north-south line is the O-Train reaching her community.

"Come out and travel the line where 60,000 live and where 100,000 are going to be living," she said, adding that in 15 years the population of Barrhaven and Riverside South will near 200,000.

Mayor Bob Chiarelli said with the recent announcement of the RCMP moving and consolidating several offices into South Nepean, the north-south line is justified.

"Those who are saying it's a line from nowhere to nowhere are full of hot air," he said.
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Old May 10th, 2006, 12:34 AM   #87
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Pedestrian bridge treads on developers' priorities
By Jim Donnelly, Ottawa Business Journal Staff
Mon, May 8, 2006 12:00 AM EST

The construction of a pedestrian crossing over the Rideau Canal has left some residential builders feeling walked on by the city, say industry officials.

Taggart Realty's Ted Phillips says the bridge, which cost $3.8 million and is due for completion this July, has been funded heavily by development charges (DCs) gleaned from residential builders.

Trouble is, he says, a bridge connecting the University of Ottawa to the golden triangle does nothing to help infrastructure within suburban developments, which is what developers expect when forced to pay thousands in fees on each unit they build.

"That bridge is primarily funded by development charges," he says. "So you've got us as homebuilders and BOMA paying money towards a facility that's a bridge in the downtown core, that has absolutely nothing to do with suburban growth."

"Where we get frustrated is not paying for the things that we believe are necessary," he continues. "We get frustrated when things get put in that don't seem fair and reasonable."

City officials say the project was funded 50-50 from both the tax base and development charge system, and that no objections were filed during the public consultation process almost three years ago.

They say it will benefit the University of Ottawa and surrounding areas of Sandy Hill and Centretown by creating a pedestrian link between the two, improving transit accessibility, enhancing bicycle path connectivity, and encouraging tourism.

"I understand the controversy carries on, but the public consultation and debate happened two years ago," says Bay Ward councillor Alex Cullen, who sits on the transportation and transit committee, which approved the project.

"The grumbling that's going on is not going to change anything. We do collect development charges downtown. They're not the same as the ones in greenfields because we have established services, so as a result they're less.

"But the developments charges are there to pay for infrastructure. This is a piece of infrastructure."

He says most DCs go towards rehabilitating existing city infrastructure anyway – the city has, since amalgamation, sunk money into renovating the Mackenzie King bridge, Laurier Avenue bridge, and the 'Sapper's bridge' (between the Chateau Laurier and Parliament Hill) – so instances when the city can afford new projects should be celebrated by developers.

"This is one of the few times that we're actually adding infrastructure to the downtown, with a pedestrian bridge that has been on the books for many, many years," he says. "And it's not as if it's going to go to waste. It's going to be used."

City-enforced development charges assessed to each home in the NCR sit at $10,146 for single dwellings inside the greenbelt and $18,081 outside the greenbelt; similarly, for apartments, the costs sits at $6,664 inside the belt and $12,801 in rural areas.

Others developers have complained the bridge's placement, at Somerset Street, is too close to the Laurier Avenue Bridge to be effectively used. Delcan Corp., however, which was contracted for the environmental assessment back in 2001, says its location was determined after an analysis of pedestrian and cyclist movement along the canal.

The bridge, being built by R.W. Tomlinson, even won an award of planning excellence in 2003 from the Canadian Institute of Planners.

But Ottawa-Carleton Homebuilders Association president John Herbert say this means precious little to developers, especially if they're footing a good chunk of the bill for something their customers don't use, says.

"That's always been one of the challenges of DCs," he says. "The projects that they fund and their relevance on the projects that have paid for them. In many cases it's a very questionable linkage."

And though both Mr. Herbert and Mr. Phillips say the city's DC system works well as a whole, its discrepancies like this that fuel most of the bickering between developers and their municipal counterparts.

"There was a lot of sympathy from members of our industry to fund things that are not even eligible from development charges," he says, adding that when the city unveiled its official plan in 2003, developers were solidly behind it.

"The discussion from the builders around the table was it would be something that we'd support, if we could put more things towards libraries and things like that," he says.

"Because that would be supported by the industry and would benefit the city at large.

"But the city gets caught up in things like this bridge, that we don't see any benefits for."

As for the bridge's construction, city project manager Marcel Delph says its well on its way to completion by late July or early August.
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Old May 11th, 2006, 01:05 AM   #88
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From: http://ottsun.canoe.ca/News/OttawaAn...72095-sun.html
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Wed, May 10, 2006
LRT plans gain steam

By DEREK PUDDICOMBE, OTTAWA SUN


Council should soon know the details of the bid to build the $725-million north-south light rail transit network.

In a memo to city council yesterday, Rejean Chartrand, the city's director of economic development and strategic projects, said city staff are in the final stage of their technical and financial negotiations with the winning bidder, Seimens-PCL/Dufferin.

The final report should be ready for the mayor and councillors by June 7.

Chartrand's memo also indicated that negotiations with the University of Ottawa to build a station on school property are moving along well.

The city is also planning a new transit route network to make room for the north-south line. The plan calls for fewer -- but more frequent -- express routes to downtown.
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Old May 11th, 2006, 01:11 AM   #89
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Superior transit makes a superior city. (Skyscrapers help too)
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Old May 11th, 2006, 11:43 PM   #90
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Rail to roll into centre of Barrhaven
North-south line extension a sure thing, Chiarelli says

Mohammed Adam, The Ottawa Citizen
Published: Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Mayor Bob Chiarelli said yesterday that the city's north-south commuter rail line would be extended to the Barrhaven town centre, finally resolving one of the most contentious issues at the centre of the $725-million project.
In an interview with the Citizen, Mr. Chiarelli said the city believes it can find the money needed to extend the line from its current stop at Woodroffe Avenue to Greenbank Road in the heart of Barrhaven. He said the light-rail package that will go to council in early June for approval will include the extended Barrhaven link.
The city estimated the cost of the extension to be $30 million, but the mayor would only say a solution has been found that will not cost taxpayers any more money.
"We have been analysing the whole construct of the project to see how we can improve the cost factors and we are 90 per cent of the way towards having the funding in place to take it the extra stop that is identified in the environmental assessment," he said.
"We hope to be able to complete that other 10 per cent in the course of the next month."
The original proposal would have taken the north-south line from the Rideau Centre to Woodroffe Avenue, just across the Rideau River -- a few kilometres from what's considered the centre of Barrhaven.
The change of heart comes as a huge relief to Barrhaven residents and other rail supporters who criticized the elimination of the three-kilometre extension as shortsighted.
Councillor Jan Harder, who represents the area, said Barrhaven is growing phenomenally and the link just had to be built.
"This had to happen. The success of the north-south corridor hinges on Barrhaven supporting it," she said.
"This is a visionary and forward-thinking project and we need the extension to make it work."
Transport 2000 president David Jeanes, who has severely criticized the north-south plan, agrees. "If the line is going to cross the Rideau River at all, then it is important that it goes to the centre of Barrhaven," he said.
The Barrhaven extension was cut from the original project to save money. With funding from federal and provincial governments capped at $400 million, and amid fears that the project might exceed the $725 million budgeted for it, the city sought to rein in the costs by eliminating or postponing the building of sections of the original 31-kilometre line. The Greenbank extension was one of the victims, along with the airport connection and several stations. But many people, including Mr. Jeanes and Ms. Harder, all said it didn't make sense to spend millions of dollars to build a link to Barrhaven and then stop the trains essentially on the outskirts of town.
Mr. Jeanes said that by stopping the train before it reaches the more populated areas of Barrhaven, where people are likely to ride it, the city was shooting itself in the foot.
Ms. Harder indicated at one time that, unless the extension was restored, she would have difficulty supporting the project. She said yesterday that one solution the city is considering is to build a single track for the extension to reduce construction costs to between $10 and $15 million. The city is also considering selling the three O-Train cars for between $9 million and $12 million, which, combined with savings from the reduction in the number of stations, will be enough to pay for the Barrhaven extension. Tim Lane, a member of Transport 2000 and longtime rail advocate, says the decision to extend the railroad into Barrhaven is one of the few bright spots in the city's plan.
"They deleted several stations and the airport to save money, but it is wonderful that they are finally going to stop where the train will get all-day riders," he said.
With the entire railroad up to Woodroffe Avenue double-tracked, Mr. Lane says a single track to Greenbank would pose some challenges.
But the roughly three-kilometre route is so short that, coupled with the modest frequency of a train every 10 minutes between Barrhaven and Leitrim Road, a single track would work.
Mr. Chiarelli did not reveal how the Barrhaven extension would be paid for, but he vowed that when the contract with German manufacturer Siemens is unveiled June 7, it will be on budget and remain so through the project.
"The contract will be designed in a way that maintains the project on budget."
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Old May 18th, 2006, 01:49 AM   #91
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From: http://www.ottawabusinessjournal.com...7092361190.php
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Hot retailer turns cold shoulder to downtown
By Kristin Harold, Ottawa Business Journal Staff
Mon, May 15, 2006 12:00 AM EST


Alison Steele-Myers, co-owner of Chilly Chiles. (Darren Brown, OBJ)
A local retailer of hot and fiery products is making a bold move by closing its location in the ByWard Market and relocating to the outskirts of the city.

Chilly Chiles will close the doors of its Sussex Boulevard store on May 23 and reopen in Navan in early June, says Alison Steele-Myers, who co-owns the store with her husband Rob.

Billed as "the hottest shop in town," the store specializes in a wide selection of dried chiles, as well as every other type of packaged heat, whether it's hot sauces, salsa, jams or sweets. It also sells paraphernalia for the fiery food lover, from cookbooks and calendars to hot pepper floor rugs and an inflatable chile pepper.

Ms. Steele-Myers says the decision to move the store to Navan was based on a number of factors, including the city's plans to add Sussex to their list of upcoming construction projects.

"The City of Ottawa informed all of the businesses that there will be construction on Sussex, with blasting through limestone and redoing all the sewers for a two-year project and our lease was coming up for renewal," she says. "The city now says it's put the construction off for another year, but we've been through it before five years ago at our previous location (in the ByWard Market Building). It was horrible because we have nothing, but nice shiny glass bottles that get incredibly dirty and dusty."

Ms. Steele-Myers says the move is also based on the fact that their warehouse is located in the Navan area, where they also base their busy online business and have lived for more than 30 years.

"We've operated in two locations for quite some time and we also already sell out of J.T. Bradley's Country Store in Navan," she says. "So, we thought we'd take a jump and said it's time for a change."

The couple, who admit to being passionate "chile heads", started Chilly Chiles 12 years ago as a mail order company that was the first fiery food specialty company to operate in Canada. While Ms. Steele-Myers says they've seen a lot of competition come and go in that time, their company has one of the largest selections in the world, with more than 900 items available.

"Our customer base stretches from St. John's, Newfoundland to Victoria, B.C. and all points in between," she says. "We also ship internationally to such diverse places as Ireland, the United Arab Emirates and Australia, which is about as far away from here as you can get."

Along with being a source for dried chiles and other fiery foods that can be difficult to obtain in Canada, Chilly Chiles also features a few products by local manufacturers of hot sauces.

"We make some of our own products as well – dry mix kit for making chilis, chocolate moule sauce that's a dry mix, we have a new rub out for ribs, a kit for making an enchilada sauce and for making a black bean sauce and we're also in the process of coming up with some new products," says Ms. Steele-Myers.

The move to Navan will also open a number of ways to expand the business, she adds. The new location will permit the addition of cooking classes, which was out of the question at the Sussex store.

"It's fun being in the Market, but I also love being in Navan and it's really growing with Orleans just getting huge and the building on Trim Road is amazing and changing every day."

She adds that she is encouraged by the exposure gained by the city's rural businesses and attractions last year through a new marketing campaign called Ottawa's Countryside. The $150,000 campaign was successful in raising awareness about the large number of award-winning attractions, country fairs, restaurants and stores located in the city's far-reaching rural villages. Organizers are hoping for even more local participation and greater visibility this year.

Ms. Steele-Myers says they are excited about being a part of Navan's growing presence as a destination for shopping and dining.

"There are a lot of interesting things going on in Navan, with a winery, Laura's Corners, a brewery and we're next to J.T.'s. He also sells beer and wine so we're hoping to do some wine tasting along with our cooking classes," she says. "Our dedicated customers have also told us that they're thrilled about these ideas and especially the idea of free parking and handicap access."

The new store is expected to open on June 7 at 1220 Colonial Rd. in Navan.
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Old May 21st, 2006, 01:37 AM   #92
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From: http://ottsun.canoe.ca/News/OttawaAn...81727-sun.html
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Tue, May 16, 2006
Success rides the rail
Light rail transit network expected to enhance Barrhaven's booming economy

By DEREK PUDDICOMBE, OTTAWA SUN



End of line for 2 tracks
THE NORTH-SOUTH light rail transit network could be Barrhaven's lifeline to the rest of the city.

With most residents employed outside the community and relying on a sometimes painfully slow commute by car or bus to get them to wherever they're going, the $725-million transit project might be the answer.

Already bursting at the seams with about 60,000 residents, the south Nepean community's population is set to explode over the next decade.

City officials say the community will grow by an additional 40,000 people, which in turn is expected to generate about 13,000 jobs, and the O-Train will run right into the heart of the development.

"This is not hypothetical. This is happening," said Bell-South Nepean Coun. Jan Harder about the development plans that will go before council next month.


The Barrhaven South community design plan will be a mix of high and low-rise residential buildings, commercial development, a major realignment of Greenbank and Jockvale roads, seven elementary schools, two high schools, several community parks and sports fields.

With the population set to grow rapidly and LRT coming, a few Barrhaven business owners are also seeing dollar signs.

Ken Ross, owner of Ross' Independent Grocer, said many businesses have trouble hiring people outside the community, but the LRT should encourage people in search of work to look at Barrhaven.

"This will allow people to come into our community to work and use our services," he said.

REALTORS BUSY

The growth is also good news for real estate agents.

Irwin and Mindi Hartman have been selling homes in the area for 18 years and the past five months is the busiest they've been. They are so busy, they haven't had a day off in about four months and have had to hire an agent to keep up with demand.

Until about six years ago, Barrhaven was Ottawa's sleepy bedroom community and had little to offer its residents. With only a couple of grocery stores, some gift shops and a few fast-food outlets, South Nepean now has about half-a-dozen grocery stores, a theatre, big box stores and fine dining spots.

The location is also preferable, says Hartman, who recalls clients commenting on how far Barrhaven was from the rest of the city.

"It's not considered far anymore. There is a lot more attention being paid to Barrhaven," said Hartman.

The type of diverse housing, neighbourhoods and services now at residents' fingertips are beginning to turn homebuyers to South Nepean. "All these factors are making it attractive," he said.
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Old May 21st, 2006, 01:41 AM   #93
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From: http://www.canada.com:80/ottawacitiz...1-92bce1533151
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Chiarelli unveils cost-saving rail plan
Single track in suburban Barrhaven will keep commuter train on budget, allow town centre service

Patrick Dare, The Ottawa Citizen
Published: Tuesday, May 16, 2006


Ottawa's north-south commuter train can be extended to the Barrhaven Town Centre and it won't cost taxpayers one extra cent, Mayor Bob Chiarelli vowed yesterday as he unveiled details of his plan to do so.

Mr. Chiarelli and his railway ally, Bell-South Nepean Councillor Jan Harder, said yesterday the 2.2-kilometre extension can be built within the train's $725-million budget all the way to the Barrhaven hub, near the intersection of Greenbank and Jockvale roads, if the rail line is changed to a single track from a double one in suburban areas.

The city could add a second track to increase service in the future, when there's money available and enough riders to justify it. The north-south rail project, to be running by 2009, is expected to come before Ottawa city councillors on June 7.

Going down to a single track on part of the line would mean trains would stop less frequently at the southern end than they would downtown. North from the Leitrim stop, through the Greenbelt and into the central part of the city, trains would stop every five minutes, but for stops farther south, at Spratt West, River Road, Woodroffe and Barrhaven town centre, the trains would only stop once every 10 minutes. There would be a siding in the southern leg so that trains could pass one another.

With the reduced cost of single tracking in the suburban area, the city could also add a station at the University of Ottawa.

The link at the northeastern end of the line would extend the project from a stop on the Mackenzie King Bridge, 300 metres east along Stewart Street. That extension is one of the promises the city made to business people who were upset with excessive transit traffic caused by the transitway system.

While many have questioned the cost effectiveness of the proposed north-south service, Ms. Harder said this is finally a project that won't come only after it's needed.

Getting the train to Barrhaven Town Centre has been a priority for Ms. Harder because the project's former southern end point only brought it to Woodroffe Avenue and she said ridership would be low. By going another 2.2 kilometres to the town centre, the train will serve businesses and the area south of Jockvale Road, which could ultimately be a neighbourhood of 30,000 people.

Barrhaven business leaders said the extra station in Nepean, if approved by council next month, will help businesses get employees and customers.

"Our commercial core is here, where we're standing," said Andrea Steenbakkers, executive director of the Barrhaven Business Improvement Area, standing on a windswept piece of land at Greenbank and Jockvale roads near a cluster of mall stores. "There's nothing down there at the bridge, and there won't be."

"This is essential for us," she said, adding that the alternative is making Ottawa "one big highway."

"This is great news. It's exciting," said Ken Ross, chairman of the Barrhaven business improvement area. "Maybe people won't have to have 2.5 cars per family now. Maybe people won't feel that they're tied down to their gas guzzlers."


"This is smart growth," said chiropractor Mike Carreira, who said public transit is essential for a community growing as quickly as Barrhaven.

Transport 2000 president David Jeanes said he wasn't surprised by the changes. He said he has been urging reducing the service to a single track in the suburban areas since 2003. Mr. Jeanes said it didn't make sense to bring the train across the Rideau River if it only reached a park and ride lot on Woodroffe Avenue.

He also noted that by going farther into Barrhaven, riders will be able to transfer to and from OC Transpo buses.
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Old May 28th, 2006, 12:41 AM   #94
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From: http://www.canada.com:80/ottawacitiz...9a6f05d7ea&p=1
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Tories could get on board rail loop plan, Cannon says
Linking downtown Ottawa, Gatineau can 'transform' capital

Mohammed Adam, The Ottawa Citizen
Published: Saturday, May 27, 2006
Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon says the federal government would likely support a rail loop around downtown Ottawa and Gatineau that urban experts say would dramatically transform the nation's capital.
In an interview with the Citizen, Mr. Cannon said the federal government would consider funding the project once it is finalized and provincial governments sign on.
He sees the loop as a way to improve the capital for residents and visitors.
"This initiative was bought into by the City of Ottawa, by the City of Gatineau and by every authority as worthwhile ... There might be a (federal) role in fostering and supporting that initiative if it came forward for some sort of support," Mr. Cannon said. "But the initiative has not flowed up here. I haven't had the opportunity of having a project on my desk that the provincial governments have said to us, 'We would wish you to fund it.'"
The support of Mr. Cannon, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's senior Quebec minister and the MP for Pontiac, opens the door to a project that a study five years ago estimated would cost between $110 million and $200 million; it never got off the ground due to lack of interest and funds.
Mr. Cannon said before the federal government considers any kind of support, the cities must first define the scope and justification for the project, determine how much it would cost, and ensure provincial government "buy-in."
A two-year, $1-million study on public transit integration in the capital, a key part of which is the loop, is about to begin.
Ned Lathrop, deputy manager of the City of Ottawa, says the loop is "hugely important" for Ottawa because it could help transform the downtown. In particular, he said, the loop could be the answer to complaints by downtown residents and businesses about diesel buses that pollute the air and congest major roads, including Wellington and Rideau streets.
And with the potential to link up with the city's new north-south light-rail line, and eventually the planned east-west link, the possibilities for Ottawa and Gatineau are endless.
"We are trying to move toward European standards of public transit and the loop is critical," said Mr. Lathrop. "It could clean up and rejuvenate Wellington, Rideau and King Edward Avenue. This is about improving the metropolitan health of the national capital region."
Barry Wellar, an urban planner and former University of Ottawa professor, says the loop could have a dramatic impact on the two cities.
"If this goes ahead, it would save a pile of money in infrastructure and rejuvenate both downtowns, not just Ottawa. This is, conceivably, a major step that will create a whole new mindset on how we develop downtown," said Mr. Wellar, a longtime critic of federal planning in the capital.
The interprovincial loop was first proposed in a 2001 study that also recommended a Rapibus system for Gatineau.
Running along Wellington Street and Sussex Drive, it would cross the Alexandra Bridge to the Museum of Civilization, circling back to Ottawa along the Chaudiere Bridge. A streetcar shuttle along the route would ferry thousands of public servants across the river, reducing the peak-hour gridlock and pollution on Wellington and other streets.
The loop also promised to be a boon to tourists, who would travel in style along the ceremonial route, taking in the sights and sounds of landmarks such as Parliament Hill and the Museum of Civilization.
But disagreement over the appropriate rail technology and lack of interest by all governments put the project on hold.
Mr. Lathrop says the 2001 report was largely conceptual and was never formally approved by any level of government. He said an environmental assessment to be launched soon will provide the technical blueprint for the project. The study will examine the route for the loop, how it would work, what bridges would be used, the appropriate technology and how much it would cost.
It will also look at the possibility of links to the Prince of Wales rail bridge, the major rail and bus hub at LeBreton Flats, and the proposed east-west route.
Mr. Lathrop said while the "most logical technology" is light rail, the study will examine other options, including buses. A request for proposals for the environmental assessment will soon go out and public consultations on both sides of the river will be held.
Jacques Burelle, president of Ottawa Tourism, said a loop would be an asset to the capital.
"It would be an additional tool that we could use to promote the city," he said.
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Old May 28th, 2006, 12:42 AM   #95
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From: http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/...083702906b&p=2
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Ottawa's rail renaissance generates electric debate

Mohammed Adam, The Ottawa Citizen
Published: Saturday, May 27, 2006
The vision is grand: a commuter-rail renaissance costing $725 million, the largest and most ambitious municipal project in Ottawa's history.
The city's plan to build a north-south light-rail line by 2009 will reshape Ottawa and, according to Mayor Bob Chiarelli, turn it into the "world-class city" that it aspires to be. And it won't stop there: a second phase will further expand the system -- to 100 kilometres by 2021 -- with a $1.5-billion east-west line.
But is it the right plan, at the right cost? Or is Ottawa on the wrong track?
The city says Ottawa will see a 50-per-cent growth in population and jobs over the next 20 years and, without effective public transit, will choke on its own traffic.
As well, it wants to use light-rail to shape growth in the expanding communities south of the city. Within 15 years, it wants to increase the number of peak-hour commuters who take transit to 30 per cent, from 17 per cent today. It is a tall order, but officials say that with light-rail -- faster, cleaner and more comfortable than buses -- they can get people out of cars and into public transit.
But skeptics, including some community and business groups, say the 29.5-kilometre north-south rail project is flawed, mainly because it leads into undeveloped fields in the south rather than helping with east-west traffic congestion.
Mayoral candidate Terry Kilrea wants to stop the project until after the November election. Rival Alex Munter is demanding an independent audit to assure citizens that the project is sound, and rail expert Tim Lane adds bleakly: "If it gets built the way it is, it will fail."
Hume Rogers, co-ordinator of the Albert-Slater business coalition, says so much doubt has been raised about the light-rail project that it should be suspended for a full public debate during the municipal election.
The key problems identified by critics include:
- Inflated population projections.
The city says Ottawa's population of about 850,000 will hit 1.2 million by 2021, which would require major transit investments. But experts say the population figures are inflated, calling into question the assumptions underlying ridership projections and, consequently, the project's success.
The city is spending $725 million on running commuter rail into the fields of Riverside South -- a suburb that is not yet built, says Transport 2000 president David Jeanes -- when the city's transportation problems are elsewhere, critics say.
They say the city's key transportation problems include: east-west traffic gridlock on the Queensway; the rush-hour transit bottleneck on Albert and Slater streets; traffic on King Edward Avenue, Wellington and Rideau streets caused in part by Gatineau city buses, and congestion on King Edward, Rideau and Nicholas streets caused by transport trucks coming from and going to Quebec.
- Excessive cost.
Some say politicians sold light-rail as an inexpensive and efficient alternative to the buses-only transitway, before opting for a more expensive double-track electric system at about $25 million a kilometre for the north-south link. A diesel system similar to the current O-Train pilot project could be done for about $4 million per kilometre. The critics say diesel technology is clean, and getting cleaner as the technology improves.
As well, they argue, millions of dollars are being spent on the extension of the train to Barrhaven, when a cheaper, faster and more practical alternative -- the existing VIA track -- has been rejected. Others say the real cost of the project will be closer to $1 billion, scuttling the ability to pay for an east-west expansion.
- Impact on residents.
Some people living near the proposed tracks say they do not welcome the arrival of rail through their neighbourhoods. Sahra Mah, who lives with her husband in Barr-haven's new Chapman Mills community, says she is appalled by the prospect of a six-lane road slashing through her community, with a train on one side and cars on another.
"It is just too close to us and I don't like it at all. If we knew the train was coming, we wouldn't have bought here," Ms. Mah said.
- Limited vision.
Former University of Ottawa professor Barry Wellar says the basic problem with the north-south plan is the lack of an overarching vision for the city. Nowhere is this more evident than the lack of integrated planning between Ottawa and Gatineau.
About 70 per cent of the morning cross-river traffic is made up of Gatineau residents coming to Ottawa. Overall, about 20,000 public servants work in central Ottawa and Gatineau, with a very large federal complex just across the Portage Bridge. But while Ottawa is focusing on a light-rail system to help ease downtown congestion, Gatineau is planning a $150-million bus system that will put 90 more buses an hour into downtown Ottawa. Lack of co-ordination means there is no attempt to extend the O-Train across the Prince of Wales railway bridge to Gatineau as a way of reducing the cross-border traffic.
"This light-rail project should be connecting the Ottawa downtown with the Hull-Gatineau downtown. That is what we should have done within the context of the national capital region, and that is what the federal government and the NCC should be pushing for," said Mr. Wellar.
"But no one has the big picture. No one has a global picture of the national capital region when it comes to land use and transportation planning. The federal government should be doing more, but it is not."
A study currently looking at a transit loop connecting Ottawa and Gatineau could lead to a change in plans that would answer Mr. Wellar's concerns.
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Old May 28th, 2006, 12:44 AM   #96
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From: http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/...a-f7cac40a35ec
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What Ottawa will get for $725 million
Beginning in 2009, single-car electric trains will carry passengers from Barrhaven to the Rideau Centre in 44 minutes, a route served by 19 stations.

Mohammed Adam
The Ottawa Citizen

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Nearly half a century after Bruce Dudley watched Ottawa banish his beloved streetcars to the scrapyard, the city has come full circle with its plan to build a 29.5-kilometre commuter-rail line from the University of Ottawa to Barrhaven.

Mr. Dudley, a 75-year-old former streetcar driver, is looking forward to the day in December 2009 when Ottawa wakes up to a new era in public transit.

"The street railway should never have been removed," Mr. Dudley said. "We had something really good going and it would be a great feeling to see trains in the city again."

So what exactly will Ottawa residents be getting for the $725-million investment in light rail?

The service will begin with a fleet of 21 cars built by German manufacturer Siemens, 17 of which will be used every day from Greenbank Road to the University of Ottawa. The remaining four cars will serve as backup.

The Siemens car, which is 30 metres long, carries a maximum of 212 passengers, with 72 seated and 140 standing. Siemens will train 58 people to drive the trains, and the company will be responsible for maintenance and operation for about 20 years.

The city chose an electric system over the diesel technology used by the experimental O-Train; from downtown to Leitrim Road, the trains will run on two parallel electric-powered lines. On the 13-kilometre suburban section from Leitrim to Greenbank Road, the trains will run on a single track, with sidings or passing tracks along the route.

Made up of only one car, the trains will run every 10 minutes between Barrhaven and Leitrim Road during rush hours, while the downtown service between Leitrim Road and the university will run every five minutes. Off peak, the downtown train will run every seven to eight minutes, while suburban service will be every 15 minutes.

The commuter trains have a maximum speed of 85 km/h, but the average speed in the downtown core will be around 25 km/h because of the short distances between stations. Outside downtown, the average speed will be about 45 km/h. It will take commuters about 44 minutes to get from Barrhaven to the Rideau Centre, 31 minutes from Leitrim to downtown, and 25 minutes from the major transit hub at Greenboro to downtown. (By comparison, the express bus from Fallowfield Road in Barrhaven takes 30 minutes to get downtown and 17 minutes on the transitway from Greenboro to the Rideau Centre.)

Nineteen stations, including key stops at the University of Ottawa, Rideau Centre, Bank Street, LeBreton, Carling Avenue, Confederation Heights and Carleton University, will dot the route. The LeBreton station, at Booth Street below street level, will be the largest, and riders will use elevators or stairs down to the station to board the train.

Station platforms will be 60 metres long in anticipation of two-car trains that will run in the future. Four park-and-ride lots, with room for about 6,000 cars, will be built along the rail line.

It is anticipated that fares will generate $12.9 million annually, or about 55 per cent of the operating cost (the same percentage as bus fares represent). The remaining costs will be covered by tax dollars and other sources of revenue, including transit ads.

When the service begins in 2009, the city projects 40,000 daily riders between Greenbank Road and the University of Ottawa, about 16 per cent of whom will be new riders. The number should rise to about 54,000 in 2016 and 62,000 in 2021.

With the possibility of higher parking fees, higher gas prices and an overall 50-per-cent increase in the operation of cars, ridership could be as high as 80,000 a day.

City officials say ridership projections for the north-south line are as good as other commuter rail systems in Canada, but a city study shows that it will take Ottawa about 10 years to hit the current volumes in major Canadian cities. Calgary's 14-kilometre Whitehorn line carries more than 60,000 riders a day, while Toronto's 13-kilometre King Street streetcar hauls about 51,000 riders a day. The 25-kilometre Queen Street streetcar has a daily ridership of about 45,000.

The closest to Ottawa is Edmonton's 12-kilometre LRT, which carries 38,000 riders a day.

Planning for the north-south rail assumes that most of the riders, the majority of whom will be headed downtown, will come from the developing community of Riverside South. Riverside South will generate 32 per cent of the ridership. Carleton University will likely be next with 24 per cent of riders, and the employment centres between Confederation Heights and Bayview should collectively add another 25 per cent.

The construction work will be a large undertaking, requiring careful planning and execution. The major works include about 15 bridges, the largest of which is a crossing over the Rideau River just east of the Carleton Lodge seniors home on Prince of Wales Drive. The Dow's Lake tunnel will be widened and an existing rock cut will be widened. Two pedestrian tunnels at Carleton University will be constructed and major utilities will be dug up and relocated.

Seven hydro substations will be built along the line to feed electric power, through overhead wires, from Hydro Ottawa to the trains. Emergency generators would provide electricity for short-term power outages.

One major problem the city will have to deal with is contaminated waste along the corridor. A park and ride slated for Leitrim Road is on the north side of the former Gloucester landfill, which was a municipal garbage dump and was used for several years by the federal government to store hazardous waste, such as arsenic, DDT and pentachlorophenols.

Despite remedial action in the 1990s, the site may still have petroleum hydrocarbons, heavy metals, spent acids and caustics and volatile organic compounds. A former gas station north of the Queensway and on the west side of the rail tracks, near Gladstone Avenue, has also been identified as a possibly contaminated site.

Construction of the double-track electric rail line will be broken into three parts, beginning in October with the downtown section. Between the University of Ottawa and Bayview station, twin rail lines will be embedded in the pavement to prevent the rails from sticking out in the street. The pavement, the gravel road bed and the underground utilities will be dug up and rebuilt.

The new twin tracks will be laid from Bayview along the aqueduct at LeBreton Flats, across Booth and up the escarpment. The tracks will then split, with the eastbound line going on Slater and westbound on Albert. They will merge onto Mackenzie King to the final stop at the University of Ottawa at Stewart Street. The railroad is being extended 500 metres from the Rideau Centre to Stewart to fulfil an agreement with the Albert-Slater Coalition.

The second part of the line will follow the current O-Train line from Bayview, across the Queensway and through a widened Dow's Lake tunnel to Greenboro. From there, it will go through the Greenbelt to the end of the CP Rail tracks just after Lester Road, near the airport.

The existing tracks, part of which are now used by the O-Train, will all be removed and replaced with new ones. On a part of this section, between Greenboro and Leitrim Road, three tracks will be built. The extra one will accommodate a train that often runs from the Walkley Yards to the National Research Council testing centre at the airport.

The last phase will be construction of a single track from Leitrim to Greenbank Road. The original plan called for twin tracks all the way to Woodroffe Road, which was to have been the last stop.

But under pressure from area councillor Jan Harder and other rail advocates to extend the line to Barrhaven Town Centre at Greenbank, the double tracking was ditched. Single tracking would save enough money to extend the line and keep the project within its $725-million budget.

The route will go through the fields of Riverside South, over the Rideau River on a new six-lane Strandherd Bridge, and across Prince of Wales Drive to link up with the new six-lane Strandherd Road in Chapman Mills. Two of the six lanes will be reserved for the trains that will continue to Woodroffe Avenue and the end of the line at Greenbank and Jockvale roads.

Although some residents in Chapman Mills worry about trains passing through their community, business leaders say the extension will be a boon to a growing Barrhaven.

"This is great news. It is exciting," said businessman Ken Baker. "Maybe people won't have to have 2.5 cars per family now."

- - -

By the Numbers

Cost of north-south rail line: $725 million

Governments covering the cost: federal, provincial, municipal

Length: 29.5 kilometres

Dates of construction: 2006 to 2009

City's projected population growth in 20 years: 50 per cent

Current users of transit by peak-hour commuters: 17 per cent

City's goal by 2021: 30 per cent

Amount of cross-river traffic made up of Gatineau residents working in Ottawa, rush hour: 70 per cent

Cost of Gatineau's new bus system: $150 million

German company expected to build Ottawa's new rail cars: Siemens

Number of cars: 21

Maximum capacity: 212 people

Number of drivers to be trained: 58

Time between rush-hour trains, downtown: 5 minutes

Time between rush-hour trains, outside core: 10 minutes

Average speed: 45 km/h

Estimated trip time from Greenboro to downtown: 25 minutes

Estimated trip time from Greenboro to the Rideau Centre, on transitway express bus: 17 minutes

Number of train stations: 19

Number of bridges to be built: 15

Number of hydro sub-stations to be built: 7
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Old May 29th, 2006, 12:00 AM   #97
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From: http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/...af211b&k=97532
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Rail advocates made a difference
In the four decades that Ottawa was without train transit, a handful of determined residents battled tirelessly to get the city on the rails again

Mohammed Adam
The Ottawa Citizen

Sunday, May 28, 2006


CREDIT: Chris Mikula, The Ottawa Citizen
THEN AND NOW Tim Lane, who photographed unused rail corridors from the air to convince councillors to adopt light rail, rode the streetcars as a boy, left. 'Even as a child, I liked the efficiency of rail,' he recalls, and he hated the noisy diesel buses that replaced them.
It was the mid-1990s, and things were looking bleak for Ottawa's public transit system. For a decade, OC Transpo had been losing a million passengers a year and the provincial government was threatening to cut subsidies that made Transitway construction possible.

Tim Lane and other rail advocates argued that a new approach was needed: light rail, they said, was the answer. But the regional government of the time did not agree, insisting buses were cheaper than rail.

So, with his friends working on several other fronts, Mr. Lane hatched a plan.

He rented an airplane and, with the help of a photographer, took pictures of kilometres of abandoned rail corridors criss-crossing Ottawa. He went up again and again at his own cost, hoping to create a dossier that would sway councillors.

"You think I am crazy for doing this," Mr. Lane, 55, said as he recounted his story. "Some people spend their money in tanning salons. I spend mine on promoting light rail. I think it is a good cause."

It worked.

After seeing a slide show of the aerial pictures as part of a Transport 2000 presentation in May 1997, councillors agreed to study the use of the rail lines. A few months later, council agreed to conduct a pilot-project study that ultimately led to the O-Train and, now, to the north-south expansion.

Mr. Lane is one of many ordinary residents who fought decades-long battles to keep the dream of commuter rail alive -- despite the resistance of city politicians and bureaucrats. While Mayor Bob Chiarelli has become the public face of the new, $725-million project, much of the credit may actually belong to people such as Darrell Richards, Greg Ross, Barbara Ramsey and Mr. Lane.

Mr. Ross fought in vain in the 1970s and '80s to return the city to its rail heritage, decades after the last streetcars were pulled from service. Later, in the 1990s, Mr. Richards, often with Ms. Ramsey by his side, was the gadfly who prodded the regional government to change its thinking on commuter rail. And, at critical stages in the battle, Mr. Lane and others dipped into their own pockets to produce key evidence that turned skeptical politicians into supporters.

Political scientist Caroline Andrew, director of the University of Ottawa's Centre on Governance, said that "if we are going to salute anyone" for what might be one of the most significant changes in the city, it has to be individuals who, against overwhelming odds, won over the community to light rail.

"It is the pioneers, the people who took an idea that was not thought possible, stayed with it, pushed it until enough support was built for it, who deserve credit," she said.

l

Ottawa's love affair with rail goes back to the 1870s, when the Ottawa City Passenger Railway Company pioneered horse-drawn streetcars that ran about six kilometres from New Edinburgh to the Chaudiere Falls. In 1891, the first year of electric streetcars, the Ottawa Electric Railway carried 1.5 million riders.

But it was the more modern streetcars

of the 1950s that captured the imagination of people like Mr. Lane. His grandfather drove streetcars and, as a seven-year-old boy, he rode streetcars to school in Westboro.

Beyond his childhood nostalgia for rail, the 55-year-old Mr. Lane sees light rail as the future of modern cities aiming to make a mark in the world.

"Buses have a certain stigma that trains don't have, and with light rail you attract people who will never ride the bus," Mr. Lane said. "Modern cities have a mix ... to some extent, Ottawa is a laughing stock for doing it all with buses."

Mr. Ross agrees. "Rail has a bit of class and it gives cities that have it some cachet. It helps cities present themselves as modern and progressive."

Ottawa's decision in 1959 to abandon streetcars after seven decades of service was a major turning point in the city's transportation history. The National Capital Commission, under the guidance of French planner Jacques Greber, was in the midst of building Ottawa into a modern capital, and rail had no place in his world view.

Beginning in 1960, the city's rail tracks were torn up and, in their place, major roads such as Carling Avenue, Colonel By Drive and the Queensway emerged. Progress was measured in the expanse of freeway lanes; in 1965, the Citizen captured the mood, writing about "superhighways (that) will streak through commercial areas to quiet dormitory towns."

City planners considered downtown rail tracks an eyesore. Former streetcar driver Bruce Dudley, 75, remembers Mayor Charlotte Whitton's disgust at the electric wires and cables that webbed the Ottawa skyline.

"We had a system that was clean, quiet and very efficient," Mr. Dudley said. "But they junked the trains."

For the young Mr. Lane, it was a shock when the city abandoned the streetcar in favour of buses. "I loved streetcars and even as a child, I liked the efficiency of rail. I couldn't understand why they stopped the service," he said.

"I hated the diesel buses because they were noisy and smelly and I had to cross a dangerous intersection at Richmond and Churchill to take my bus."

Mr. Chiarelli agrees that it was a mistake to abandon streetcars and tear up the tracks that ringed Ottawa. That mistake would not be corrected for nearly 40 years.

The first opportunity to fix the problem came in the 1970s. Mr. Ross remembers heated debates over whether to restore rail or expand the bus service. Regional government politicians and bureaucrats fiercely opposed rail, and Mr. Ross and a small band of volunteers were no match for them.

The region chose to expand the bus service, beginning with the construction of the Transitway in 1983. Mr. Ross tried, but failed, to get elected as a councillor, on promises that he would fight for light rail.

"It was a kind of losing battle. I lost interest and moved on," he said.

Mr. Richards, Mr. Lane and several others stepped in as the debate was rekindled in the early 1990s.

But regional chair Peter Clark said the estimated $5- billion cost of light rail from Orleans to Kanata was unaffordable. Besides, he said, the region didn't have the volume of riders to make it work. Ottawa Mayor Jacquelin Holzman said she didn't buy arguments that commuter rail would revitalize downtown, and doubted whether "we'll see rail in our lifetime."

Ian Stacey, the OC Transpo general manager at the time, was blunter: "The bus system has the lowest cost with the highest service. It is the best thing we've done. Why should we abandon it?"

The rail advocates refused to give up. Mr. Lane took to the air to take his pictures, and council finally agreed to study the options.

Enter Bob Chiarelli. Despite the historic vote, regional bureaucrats wanted to delay the study for up to 10 years. But 1997 was election year and Mr. Chiarelli seized the issue and made it a key plank of his campaign for regional chair, promising to accelerate the study. In a major surprise, he beat Mr. Clark and became a champion of light rail.

Mr. Lane acknowledges that without the weight of the regional chair behind it, the project might have been lost in a maze of bureaucratic red tape.

Ironically, most of the activists who spent the better part of their lives fighting for light rail don't like the plan they ended up with.

Primarily, they say, the city failed to take advantage of the "economies of scale" that light rail provides, turning commuter rail into an expensive project. The choice of diesel technology instead of an electric system could have saved about half the $725-million price tag, while still creating a fast and efficient service, they say.

In an era of tight budgets, Mr. Lane, a self-confessed "skinflint," believes light rail to be the cheaper public transit option. He says the city doesn't have to spend so much.

"For $325 million, the city's share of the north-south project, we could have 80 kilometres of diesel light rail on existing rail corridors in the city. It irks me that we are not using them," he said.

"We had rail before and we let it go. We should be using what we have."

Instead, the city is opting for a more expensive system that runs on urban roads and other corridors that require large investments in bridges and tracks.

Mr. Lane said he fears that the city's approach will make light rail so expensive that it would be difficult to win public support for the east-west line.

"If the idea is to get more people out of cars and into transit, you can do it cheaper and faster than the city is doing," he said.

But Mr. Ross is more sanguine about it, preferring the half a loaf he to than nothing at all.

"I am not necessarily happy with every aspect of the project, but at least we are getting light rail," he said.

"I am glad that we have something at last."

HOW RAIL TRANSIT CAME AND WENT - AND CAME BACK

1866

Incorporation of the Ottawa City Passenger Railway Company, which pioneered rail transit with horse-drawn street cars.

1870

First rail transit line from New Edinburgh to the Chaudiere Falls.

June 1891

First electric streetcar service by the Ottawa Electric Railway Company (OER). In its first year, it carried 1.5 million riders.

1893

Ottawa Car Company established to build streetcars.

1924

Diesel transit buses introduced for the first time by the Ottawa Electric Railway.

February 1948

City of Ottawa buys out the OER in a dispute over fares, setting the stage for the creation of the first public transit commission -- the Ottawa Transportation Commission -- which was established in August 1948.

April 1959

Last day of regular streetcar service in Ottawa. Removal of tracks begins in 1960.

August 1972

Ottawa-Carleton Transit Commission established. Introduction of the term OC Transpo.

December 1983

The opening of the first section of transitway between Baseline and Carling avenues in the west and across the Rideau River in the east.

May 1997

Regional government approves study of rail corridors that lead to the O-Train pilot project.

October 2001

O-Train takes its first run from Bayview to Greenboro.

February 2003

City council approves rapid transit network; the top priority is the north-south line.

April 2006

A consortium led by German manufacturer Siemens is chosen to build the 29.5-kilometre north-south line.

Fall 2006

Expected beginning of construction of north-south line.

December 2009

Fifty years after trains disappeared from city streets, the north-south commuter line is scheduled to open.
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The light rail effect
Several cities have enjoyed increased development due to light rail -- but only if the projects are planned right

Andrew Mayeda
The Ottawa Citizen

Monday, May 29, 2006

How much of an economic benefit has light rail been to other North American cities? Some have seen a substantial boost in development. Others haven't been so lucky.

City of Ottawa staff point to Portland as a model for "transit-oriented development," a term used to describe high-density urban communities built around public transit with a diverse mix of shops, office buildings and residential developments.

Since 1982, the Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon, the area's transit authority, has built a network of three light-rail lines connecting Portland with the surrounding cities of Gresham, Beaverton and Hillsboro.

After the first line opened in 1986, Tri-Met ridership grew 40-per-cent faster than the population in the region.

With more riders came more development. Tri-Met estimates that developers have invested $3.8 billion U.S. along the light-rail corridor since the agency decided to build the system in 1978, though critics point out that some of the projects have required public money and produced mixed results.

"When people talk about transportation, they always talk about getting from point A to point B," said Tri-Met spokeswoman Mary Fetsche. "But it's also about influencing development."

Several other U.S. cities have enjoyed the benefits of the light rail effect.

In St. Louis, transit officials estimate that the city's MetroLink system triggered roughly $1 billion U.S. in development in the first decade after the line, which crosses the Missouri River into Illinois, opened in 1993.

Meanwhile, a light-rail system operated by Dallas Area Rapid Transit has attracted $3.3 billion U.S. in development to areas around the stations since 1999, according to researchers at the University of North Texas. They also found that the value of residential properties and office buildings near light-rail stations grew significantly faster than properties elsewhere.

A number of studies have documented this so-called value "uplift." But cities shouldn't assume that the mere presence of rail transit will automatically increase development, warns Robert Dunphy, senior resident fellow in transportation and infrastructure at the Urban Land Institute, a real-estate think-tank based in Washington, D.C.

"It doesn't happen just because of the trains," said Mr. Dunphy. Cities that want to capitalize on rapid transit must put the right plans in place, such as zoning changes, to enable high-density development, he said.

The institute, for example, recently studied the impact of rail transit on San Diego County, which has a light-rail system called the Trolley and a heavier commuter-rail system called the Coaster.

In most cases, residential properties close to light-rail stations commanded a significant price premium. But along two of the lines studied, single-family homes actually sold at a discount.

Similarly, most commercial properties near rail stations sold at a premium. But in "less vibrant" districts, proximity to stations hurt property values.

The institute notes that premiums tend to occur in neighbourhoods with healthy real-estate markets and no signs of "stagnation or distress."

"Being near a rail track but not near a station, in fact, usually diminishes a property's value," it adds.

Certainly, not every experiment in rail transit has been successful. In Miami, the Metrorail rapid-transit system has been so poorly planned that critics have nicknamed it "Metrofail." The system doesn't serve the tony entertainment district of South Beach, and transit officials only recently announced plans to expand the line into the fast-growing suburbs southwest of Miami. As a result, ridership has only reached a fraction of what planners predicted when the system was launched roughly two decades ago.

"Probably the biggest failure is Miami," said Mr. Dunphy. "They put it in the wrong place for political reasons and, not surprisingly, nobody rode it and it didn't promote any development."

Rail transit has also fallen short in terms of ridership and development in Buffalo and Baltimore, he said.

North of the border, there are also signs that light rail might not be a slam dunk. Calgary's light-rail system, called the C-Train, is celebrating its 25th year in operation.

The city has seen a pickup in big development projects along the transit line in the last five years, said Dave Colquhoun, manager of transit planning for Calgary Transit. But he said it has taken longer than expected to get developers and residents on board.

"In general, our experience with transit-oriented development is that it has been much slower to materialize than what we had thought."
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There's a lot riding on light rail's success
City argues new transit project will generate millions of dollars in investment; critic says people are being 'oversold about the benefits of light rail'

Andrew Mayeda
The Ottawa Citizen

Monday, May 29, 2006

To most people in Ottawa, Gladstone Station will be just another stop along the north-south light-rail line. But to Brian Murray, it's a major selling point for the Little Italy office complex being developed by his company.

Since the City of Ottawa began planning the north-south expansion several years ago, Sakto Corporation has been betting that light rail would stop within blocks of Adobe Tower, its new building on Preston Street, just south of the Queensway.

"It's a big carrot for us. We use light rail prominently in our marketing," said Mr. Murray, Sakto's director of leasing and marketing. "Being able to get people to and from the development in this area is huge for us."

Sakto isn't alone in banking on light rail. At various points along the proposed line, which will run from the Rideau Centre to south Barrhaven, property owners are hoping the value of their investments will rise once the trains start running.

In Riverside South, a suburb sprouting out of farm fields south of the Greenbelt, home builders are expecting light rail to form the transportation backbone of the community. The construction industry, for its part, is salivating at the work the project will create.

And at City Hall, where perhaps the biggest bet is being placed, planners are predicting the project will be an economic boon. "We're very confident that (the economic benefits) will all come over time. This is very clear in our minds," said Rejean Chartrand, the city's director of economic development and strategic projects.

The city foresees a three-year construction boom that will inject hundreds of millions of dollars into the national capital's economy. But the good times won't end there, according to the city.

Over the next 15 years, staff expect to see at least $800 million in residential, retail and commercial development along the light-rail corridor that wouldn't have happened without the project. Then there are the intangibles. Building a world-class light-rail system that will reduce congestion will enhance the city's "brand," making it a more desirable place to live, work and play, says Mr. Chartrand.

"If you talk to people in the high-tech community, you'll find that one of the things that attracts talent and capital to the city is quality of life," said Mayor Bob Chiarelli, a leading proponent of the light-rail project. "That includes schools, it includes arts and culture, and it includes transit."

But not everybody shares the city's vision. Skeptics say the project will give the economy a short-term shot in the arm during the construction phase, but little else. They say the project will end up more of a boondoggle than boon.

"It will ultimately generate some development in the long run, yes," said analyst Barry Nabatian, general manager of Market Research Corp. "But I think we are all being oversold about the benefits of light-rail transit."

The city bases its development projection on a report prepared by consulting firm Corporate Research Group. It predicts that light-rail stations will not only attract development from other parts of the city, but also stimulate new investment. This is because high-quality public-transit systems tend to improve a city's competitiveness and standard of living, city staff say.

But Mr. Nabatian doesn't believe light rail will be the attraction that the city expects. In his view, any growth along the transit corridor will simply be a redistribution of development that would have taken place elsewhere in Ottawa.

"It's a zero-sum game," he said. "We have a fixed population forecast, and for that population there is a fixed amount of retail and office space needed. Because of the rail line, we aren't going to get more population and more housing development. It's just going to be a rearrangement of growth."

Mr. Nabatian, whose company competes with Corporate Research Group, warns that he can't do a proper analysis without seeing the actual report. But the city says the report contains confidential data on certain properties and can't be released to the public.

He also questions the city's estimate for the number of jobs that will be created by the project, which it says is based on figures provided by PCL Constructors, the construction firm that is part of the bidding consortium that has been named the city's preferred partner on the project. The city says 8,500 local jobs will be created by the construction of the rail line. But based on the size of the investment, Mr. Nabatian says the city can expect no more than 6,900 jobs.

He isn't the only skeptic.

The city expects the value of property within walking distance of the stations to increase by more than 10 per cent, over and above the general growth rate in the city. Mr. Chartrand said the value "uplift" could approach 20 per cent, though it may not reach the roughly 30-per-cent increase seen in denser urban areas such as Toronto.

"We've had numerous calls from landowners or developers who are keenly interested in developing land the city owns along the corridor," Mr. Chartrand said.

But the head of an association that represents homebuilders such as Minto Developments and Claridge Homes says the city is being too optimistic.

"They seem to believe for some reason that there will be a significant boost, but we certainly don't," said John Herbert, executive director of the Ottawa Carleton Homebuilders Association. "We see those lands increasing at the same rate as other lands in the city. Light rail won't have a really significant impact."

He said acquiring land along the transit corridor is hardly a "hot topic" among Ottawa builders.

Mr. Chartrand says the high-density, pedestrian-friendly environment around the stations will create a steady flow of traffic to local retailers. "People will walk to the station and as they walk to the station, any shop along that distance becomes an attraction," Mr. Chartrand says.

But Mr. Nabatian doubts that stations will become bustling commercial hubs.

"Look at the existing (O-Train) stations. Very little has happened," he said. And he notes that for people living or working along the line between stations, light rail will be more of a nuisance than an attraction.

Without question, light rail has its boosters around town.

When Sakto Corp. heard that Gladstone Station might be dropped from the city's plans, Mr. Murray didn't waste much time getting booking a meeting with the mayor. Representatives from the Preston Street business-improvement area and community groups also met with the mayor to voice their concerns. Much to their relief, they were assured that the city doesn't plan to ditch the station.

Executive director Lori Mellor says the Preston Street BIA is working on plans to turn the area around the station into a farmer's market, much like the Byward Market but with an Italian twist. The neighbourhood is also planning a renewal project that will beautify the street and make it more pedestrian-friendly by widening the sidewalks and planting trees. Ms. Mellor hopes the measures will make Little Italy a more popular shopping destination.

"We're doing our homework to be ready to grab the opportunity at Gladstone Station," she said. "What Little Italy is missing is a heart. We need a place where people can gather and meet."

Condominium developer Doug Casey said light rail, if executed properly, presents an opportunity to realize the city's strategy of encouraging intensification in the downtown core. The president of Charlesfort Developments has a reputation for building stylish urban condos such as the Hudson, a Manhattan-inspired project at Kent and Nepean streets.

"I think the opportunities could be really cool," said Mr. Casey, who has approached the city about developing a project along the transit corridor. "Look at Toronto. Look at New York. You can go downstairs in your building and maybe grab the subway and go to work and avoid winter."

The city's construction industry, for its part, can expect a pickup in contracts. The chief contractors are expected to be PCL Constructors and Dufferin Construction, which, along with Siemens, form the bidding consortium that was recently named the city's preferred partner. But many other companies in town should get a piece of the action, said John DeVries, president of the Ottawa Construction Association.

"You see Dufferin, you see PCL, you see the train manufacturer, Siemens, but below that is a huge pyramid, and across the big base of that pyramid is the Ottawa construction industry," said Mr. DeVries.

Others aren't so bullish.

Although some developers have shown interest in investing along the light-rail corridor, many are waiting to see if the project will deliver the level of ridership that the city is targeting, said Ian Fisher, president of the Building Owners and Managers Association of Ottawa, which represents commercial developers.

"We're very supportive of public transportation, but this one still has a lot of questions," he said, noting that light rail will have to prove that it can transport people more efficiently than cars or buses.

The city's ridership target is certainly aggressive. By 2021, it wants 30 per cent of all "motorized" trips during afternoon rush hour to be taken by public transit, versus 70 per cent by car. Only a handful of North American metropolises, such as New York, Boston, San Francisco and Toronto, have achieved that kind of ridership. Currently, transit accounts for about 17 per cent of rush-hour trips in Ottawa, versus 83 per cent by car.

The ridership target is itself built on aggressive forecasts for population and employment that were formulated before the dot-com bubble burst and sent Ottawa's technology sector into a tailspin.

The city's 2003 official plan predicts that Ottawa's population will grow to about 1.2 million in 2021, based on a study completed by the Centre for Spatial Economics of Toronto in 2001. The projection assumes that tech jobs in Ottawa will grow by an average of 2,300 per year between 2000 and 2031. If the city hopes to match that pace, it has some catching up to do. Technology employment is still below its pre-crash peak.

The centre has since sharply downgraded its population projection. It now forecasts a population of only about one million by 2021.

"The meltdown of the high-tech sector was much bigger than even we thought was going to happen," said Tom McCormack, the centre's executive director.

The city conceded earlier this month that Ottawa's population is not growing as quickly as anticipated. But it has not indicated any immediate plans to revise its ridership projections, which are based on the forecasts in the 2003 official plan.

Even using the aggressive population and employment estimates, the city's goal of 30-per-cent transit use appears to be a long shot. A ridership study conducted for the city by the IBI Group and released last year suggests Ottawa will be hard-pressed to reach that mark.

Under one scenario, for example, the study estimated how much public-transit ridership during morning rush hour would grow by 2021, with or without a light-rail extension to Riverside South. In either case, public-transit use would only grow to 21 per cent, the study found. (The scenario used is slightly different from the city's proposed system, which does not include a link to the airport but does extend into Barrhaven.)

If many developers are indeed taking a wait-and-see approach to light rail, then they will want to see people on the train before they invest. Will there be as many riders as the city hopes?

That could turn out to be the $800-million question.

By the Numbers

With a budget of $725 million, the north-south light-rail transit line is the biggest civil-works project in Ottawa's history. Not surprisingly, it is expected to generate significant economic activity. Here's a breakdown of the potential impact:

- The Conference Board of Canada estimates the project will contribute $690 million to the city's gross domestic product from 2006 to 2010. The agency forecasts that light rail will add 0.2 of a percentage point to Ottawa's GDP this year, and 0.3 of a point in 2007, when construction is expected to be in full swing.

- The construction industry will enjoy much of the boost. The Conference Board sees construction output growing 7.9 per cent next year -- more than twice as fast as the overall economy.

- The city estimates the project will create at least 8,500 jobs over the construction period, which will run from the end of 2006 to 2009. The estimate includes employment directly related to the project, such as construction and engineering work, as well as more "behind-the-scenes" functions such as materials supply and administrative support.

- Over the longer term, the city foresees robust development along the transit corridor. It expects to see at least $800 million in residential, retail and commercial development along the line over the next 15 years that would not have occurred without the project.

Consultants hired by the city assessed the value of properties within a 400-metre radius of 15 stations along the proposed line. They estimated that, under normal market conditions, the value of those properties would grow to $6.5 billion in the next 15 years. With light rail, however, it is expected to hit $7.3 billion. Therefore the increase in development value is roughly $800 million. The increased value of properties along the rail line is primarily attributable to their improved accessibility.

- Under the $800-million scenario, the average value of properties within walking distance of the station, including homes and office buildings, will increase by slightly more than 12 per cent. But city staff say the "value uplift" could approach 20 per cent.

- Finally, staff say light rail will make Ottawa more marketable to potential residents and visitors by raising the city's overall standard of living.

About the Series

Saturday: A look at the vision and blueprints for a light-rail system that, when completed in 2009, will become the largest municipal project ever built in Ottawa.

Yesterday: Ottawa abandoned rail 50 years ago; why is it going back? We learn from the lessons of history.

Today: Hundreds of millions of dollars in development, thousands of jobs. An examination of the economic impact of the light-rail project.

Tomorrow: The city is choosing to start with a north-south route, but many say east-west traffic is the bigger problem. We explore the debate over direction.

Read previous stories in this series at www.ottawacitizen.com

Ran with fact boxes "By the Numbers" and "About the Series", which have been appended to the story.
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East-west line up for debate
With a north-south commuter-rail line in the works, the next challenge is how to go about planning for a new, $1.5B east-west transit corridor

Mohammed Adam
The Ottawa Citizen

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


CREDIT: Robert Cross, The Ottawa Citizen
(See hard copy for map.)
Deepjot Sethi used to ride the bus to work.

When he switched jobs, though, the commute from his home near Bank Street and Walkley Road to his Blair Road office was simply too long and inconvenient for him.

So the 25-year-old software developer joined the majority of Ottawa residents who commute by car.

Then Mr. Sethi heard the city was planning an east-west light-rail line, and he was excited at the prospect of being lured back to public transit.

But Mr. Sethi has been disappointed yet again: He says the city's plan to run trains on congested streets such as Walkley would not be an improvement on the meandering buses he abandoned.

He hopes councillors and bureaucrats come up with a better plan.

"What I am looking for is something that will save me time. I don't want a train that is slow. I don't want a milk run," he said.

Mr. Sethi's situation raises critical questions for the city to answer in its attempt to build the next phase of its public-transit revolution:

- What kind of service would an east-west rail line offer, and what route would it take? How can it best be built to achieve the goal of improving peak-hour transit ridership to 30 per cent by 2021, up from 17 per cent today?

- Why is the city proposing to put east-west rail on city streets when critics say a cheaper, faster and more appealing alternative along existing rail corridors is available?

- Why does the city want to put an expensive streetcar service on streets such as Carling Avenue when there is no major traffic congestion there?

- How do trains on Carling, and eventually Rideau Street and Montreal Road, deal with east-west traffic gridlock? And if Carling has to be served by rapid transit, why not bus-only lanes on the road to complement the Transitway service from Lincoln Fields?

- And do commuters really understand that the city's east-west plan doesn't include a direct link to downtown?

At the heart of the matter is whether the city should have rapid transit, as originally envisaged, or a streetcar service on urban streets, as some councillors are now suggesting. That issue is important because thousands of commuters are counting on the link to solve the city's daily east-west congestion, particularly on the Queensway.

But whether east-west rail gets built at all may well depend on the route chosen.

At $1.5 billion, its estimated cost is double that of the north-south line to be built by 2009. The city would need considerable federal and provincial help to pay the bill, but its ability to get those funds would depend, to a considerable extent, on whether politicians -- including Treasury Board President John Baird, the MP for Ottawa West-Nepean, and Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, the MPP for Ottawa South -- back the route that is picked. It is hard to see how they would fund a route that offers little relief to their constituents.

Two corridors form the east-west line are now being considered; it has not yet been decided which one would be built first.

The first corridor is a 47-kilometre east-west line from Cumberland through Nepean to Kanata. The second is a 24-kilometre streetcar service known as the Carling-Rideau-Montreal line, which itself has two sections. The first is a 13-kilometre Carling Avenue line that goes from the Queensway-Carleton Hospital to Carling and joins the north-south line near Bronson Avenue to connect to downtown. The second section is an 11-kilometre Rideau-Montreal line, which goes from downtown through Vanier to Blair Road and, eventually, Cumberland.

Ned Lathrop, the City of Ottawa's top planner, says the southern route was chosen because it serves the largest number of people and provides the greatest economic benefit. But, he says, neither route is favoured. When the environmental study on the Carling-Rideau-Montreal line is completed in two years, it will vie with the other route to determine which gets built first.

The vision of east-west commuter rail originally envisaged by the city was to have a service that would bypass downtown and operate in the south end of the city, linking business parks, employment centres and residential communities. Running on existing rail corridors, the line would connect with the O-Train and southeast Transitway around Greenboro and offer transfers to downtown.

Eastward, it would continue along rail, hydro and Transitway corridors to Orleans. Because bus travel in the southern part of the city was considered difficult, a rail link would make life easier for residents who have long been poorly served by buses.

"If you look at the system right now, it is a solid line, it is all focused on taking people downtown," said Mona Abouhenidy, the city manager in charge of the east-west link.

"What is lacking is that it is hard to go from one area of the city to another area. What the east-west corridor will do is connect all these communities together ... So if people are in Orleans, they can still go to southeast areas, they can go to the southwest areas of the city without having to go through downtown."

Last month, however, the city proposed a route that put large sections on city streets. Beginning at Frank Kenny Road, the train would travel along an old Transitway corridor, through Blackburn Hamlet on Old Innes Road and then onto Innes Road. From Innes, it would veer on to a rail corridor and, when it reaches Walkley, turn back on the road, all the way to Airport Parkway. At the parkway, it would travel on a hydro corridor, crossing the Rideau River through Colonnade Business Park, then would go along the Ottawa-Central Railway corridor to Woodroffe Avenue.

At Woodroffe, it would go on Baseline up to the Queensway-Carleton Hospital, where it would turn north, crossing the Queensway near Bayshore. It would then run west, parallel to the Queensway, to Scotiabank Place, and south to Hazeldean Road in Kanata. The line is now the subject of public consultations.

The Carling line would go from Cedarview and Baseline roads, at the Queensway-Carleton Hospital, under the Queensway at Holly Acres Road and then to Bayshore station. From Bayshore it would continue on Woodridge Crescent to Bayshore Drive and then hit Carling Avenue, where it would run in the median until it connects with the north-south train near Bronson Avenue. The city envisages 26 stations along the route, meaning two stops every kilometre.

The 11-kilometre eastern leg of the line starts downtown along Rideau Street, goes across the Rideau River to Montreal Road and then south to the National Research Council campus. From there, it would continue to the Blair Road Transitway station at the Gloucester Centre shopping plaza and then across the Queensway. It would then go on an existing hydro corridor to Innes Road, where it would link up with the east-west line to Cumberland. In all, 13 stations are planned for the Rideau-Montreal line.

Because of plans to develop the former Rockcliffe airbase homes and offices, the city will study an alternative street corridor along St. Patrick, Murray, Beechwood and Hemlock. A two-year environmental assessment of the Carling-Rideau-Montreal route is to begin soon.

Many commuters, including Kanata resident Ed Sich, have long believed that east-west rail would take them directly downtown, without transfers. "There's nothing down here of interest to me," Mr. Sich said recently of the line that snakes its way through the southern part of the city.

O-Train rider Mohammed Jamal, 27, a resident of the Bank and Walkley area, shares the concerns of his friend, Mr. Sethi.

"The light-rail plan is a fabulous vision," said Mr. Jamal, who works for a downtown law firm, "but putting a train on busy streets like Walkley will cramp the whole street and make it slow and inconvenient. I am against it totally."

Transport 2000 president David Jeanes says the only east-west corridor that can really ease traffic congestion on the Queensway and other streets, as well as offer direct downtown access, is the Transitway, which can be converted into a light-rail route. It was built for that in mind, but is not being considered for east-west rail.

While some people criticize the east-west proposal because it doesn't go downtown, others attack it because it offers slow streetcar service on urban roads when faster light-rail corridors have been ignored.

Tim lane, a rail advocate who has spent a lifetime studying abandoned and little-used rail corridors, says the city is making the east-west link more complicated and expensive than it needs to be by running it on urban streets.

He proposes using a rail corridor that runs through the Kanata North technology park at March Road and Carling Avenue to run an efficient diesel rail service. That route would go from March across the Queensway to Cedarview and Greenbank roads, to Woodroffe Avenue, Merivale Road and the Colonnade business park. From Colonnade, several lines offer links to north-south rail and, using hydro and old Transitway corridors, could get the service to Cumberland. Mr. Jeanes says using the rail corridors would cost about $4 million a kilometre instead of the $25 million it would cost under the city plan.

But the most baffling issue for several rail advocates is the Carling Avenue plan.

Councillor Alex Cullen, who represents the area, says the Carling plan is not justified by either traffic or economics.

"Right now, there is no business case to justify a train going down Carling Avenue. Twenty or 30 years from now, there may be a case for it because of the population growth," Mr. Cullen said.

"It is being pushed for reasons that have nothing to do with today's conditions. (Mayor) Bob Chiarelli has been successful with north-south rail and it is part of his political agenda to be seen as the person who can deliver east-west. To say Carling is part of east-west rail is bull s---."

Practically, the Carling corridor just doesn't make sense, adds Mr. Jeanes.

The trains would be so slow that it would be about 20 minutes faster to use the Transitway from Lincoln Fields to get downtown. A train on Carling would certainly benefit people working at or going to the Civic and the Royal Ottawa Hospital, as well as Bayshore and Carlingwood malls. But serving those employment centres and people along Carling is not worth the hundreds of millions of dollars it would cost, the critics say. If the idea is to speed up transit, the city might be better off adding bus-only lanes on the street, Mr. Lane said.

But Councillor Clive Doucet says the Carling corridor offers a better opportunity for mass transit than the southern part of the east-west line, which goes from "nowhere to nowhere." Mr. Doucet says building a multimillion-dollar commuter-rail system on routes where very few people live is self-defeating. There is no point in commuter rail built for speed if no one rides the trains.

"I am interested in fast transit, but it has to be available to people. It is not helpful to the city if we have a fast line and nobody uses it," Mr. Doucet said.

"To me the Carling line is instinctively better. It goes through built-up communities. It serves at least 200,000 people and it is more direct."
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