LRT Was Too Complicated For Watson: WHOPPER WATCH

 

whopper.watch .12.26

 

“I think one of the problems that we had was that most of us who were involved in the LRT did not fully appreciate how complicated and complex this new system was. You look at it today, even the stations. I think they’re building like 40 stations for Phase 2. Each one of those in and of itself is a major construction project.”

Former Ottawa mayor Jim Watson

 

The Transitway bus stations were built so that, when the time came, these structures could be quickly be converted to light rail.


But no … oh no … the city wanted an “award-winning” light-rail project so all the stations had to be new. That was an enormous cost for a system that failed to get to Kanata (the economic future of the city), to the Canadian Tire Centre, Lansdowne and Barrhaven. The line also lacks the capacity to effectively serve an arena at LeBreton Flats or anywhere else downtown.

Meanwhile, Watson spent millions on environmental studies in preparation for the train going to Barrhaven and Kanata knowing full well that LRT would not get to those communities in his lifetime due to cost. But he wanted to make it appear to the voting public that the train was on the way. Money for nothing.

So Ottawa has perfectly good stations on the same line as the Transitway but built new ones for planners’ and Watson’s vanity dreams. This became an architectural beauty contest rather than a mass-transit project. Toronto’s subway is not pretty but it works.  At present, Lincoln Fields has a new station being built directly beside the functional Transitway station. What an enormous waste of money.

Another huge waste is the tunnel downtown. Surely if Houston can put light rail down its main street, so too can Ottawa. And how did that work out in Texas? Houston is building kilometres and kilometres more surface light rail. Maybe the city could have found some whiz kid from Kanata who could co-ordinate the lights on Albert and/or Slater so that cars and light rail would work well together. Then use the tunnel savings to go to Kanata.

And then there’s the perfect routing. Because the National Capital Commission didn’t want the line on the Ottawa River parkway, it demanded the city bury it at a huge cost. Why did the city want the line down the parkway? Because it gave developers, under provincial law, the ability to erect high-rises of unlimited height in the expensive Westboro and Wellington Village areas … which they are doing now. Combine that with provincial rules that on a residential lot, developers can build at least three-storey apartments now and those two neighbourhoods and others will be destroyed.

If you live in those neighbourhoods, move. That unkempt, empty or rented house on your street (and others) will soon have an apartment on it costing you hundreds of thousands of dollars of your property value. The construction will happen when interest rates fall, if not before. If you think the 14-per-cent drop in home values from the recent peak in prices is steep, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Abutting neighbourhoods to light rail will become high-rise and low-rise hell.

That’s the light-rail legacy of Watson.

We could go on. LRT is the biggest and worst fiscal project in Ottawa municipal history.

Other cities such as Calgary could build light rail quickly, effectively and efficiently. Ottawa could not.

Watson can try to paint it another way but riders and residents know otherwise.

You can put lipstick on a pig, but light rail is still a pig.

Ken Gray

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1 Response

  1. sisco farraro says:

    An excellent summation and history lesson. The principal takeaway is that Ottawa just can’t seem to do anything right. The quote from Jim Watson reminds me of an important maxim – “the excuses database is full”. If you can’t do it right, don’t do it. Heaven help us all if Slim Jim runs for city council and wins. He’ll feel it’s his duty to take control.

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