Mayor Jim Watson said the crush of traffic for the week surrounding Canada Day was a “once-in-a-150-year” event.
In fact, it happened again four weeks later. Yet another glib statement that turns out to be wrong.
The City of Ottawa closed 93 streets from Wednesday to Sunday for La Machine … the story of a great mechanical spider competing with a great machanical lizard in the streets of Ottawa. This was done in conjunction with Ottawa 2017 that celebrates the 150th anniversary of Canada, not Ottawa, despite the name.
Presumably this show honours the contribution of spiders and lizards to Confederation. That said, symbols of Canada were few and far between when lizard met spider (which theatrically no doubt signified man’s inhumanity toward his fellow man … I mean don’t they all?).
This will come as a shock to Mayor Jim Watson, who treated La Machine like a 2018 election extravaganza, and the City of Ottawa, but this urban area (and particularly the private sector) tries to continue to operate when Watson decides he’ll take over the centre of the city. But then Watson barely had a cup of coffee in the private sector so he knows little of how capitalism works. Making a profit is absolute foreign to him. Look at Lansdowne. Look at the accumulated debt. Look how Watson created the largest operating debt in local municipal history. Look how he won’t release a full accounting of Ottawa 2017.
People in this economy need to move and much of that movement comes from cars and trucks.
Watson closed off so much of the downtown that the interprovincial bridges became clogged with people and traffic.
When Booth Street was shut due to La Machine, hundreds of cars made dangerous U-Turns on Scott Street to see if the Champlain Bridge were open when the Chaudiere Bridge wasn’t. In fact, the Champlain was crushed with traffic that would normally be using other bridges.
Your agent crossed there and the wait was interminable. Adding to the chaos was a fire truck with siren wailing and lights flashing trying to cross the crammed bridge. The location of the lizard and spider walk and the crowds watching them blocked downtown bridge crossings at various times over four days.
While business people most often can’t use transit, the city encouraged Ottawans to take the bus but transit couldn’t get through downtown. Yet another screw-up.
And parking? Forget it. In the downtown west end, empty parking spaces were a scarce luxury when the lizard-and-spider show combined with a big festival in Chinatown made parking-crammed neighbourhoods.
The City of Ottawa needs to make better plans to handle traffic during special events.
The Ottawa Race Weekend is especially a problem when the marathon route travels west along Wellington West, north to Island Park Drive and east along Scott Street. It hems in the whole Wellington Village neighbourhood from about 7 a.m. to about 2 p.m. on race weekend. Nobody can get in or out by car.
That’s not the worst of it. Frustrated, angry drivers try to get out but become so perplexed that they spin tires and drive far too quickly down little residential streets seeking an exit and putting pedestrians and little ones in jeopardy. It gets so bad that some residents erect little, temporary signs at the open end of their streets saying something like “no exit”.
That Wellington Village mess should not be allowed to happen by the city annually. Someone will get hurt.
With festival after festival after special event occurring in Ottawa’s summer, perhaps the city (so good at coming up with the figure 750,000 people at the robot fest immediately after the last lizard spray was sniffed) could find an instant estimate for how much business is lost due to paralyzing Ottawa’s transportation network and the interprovincial bridges throughout the summer.
This breakdown doesn’t occur once every 150 years but weekend after weekend during the hot weather.
The city must find a way to handle traffic much much better during special events or have fewer of such happenings.
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