Ottawa tries to avoid the Vanvouver T.O.D. disease.

In Vancouver, metro construction is planned andAi??built toAi??subsidize land development, not to provide better transit for customers. In theory it is to greatly increase ridership for the new metro line, in practice some unpleasant things happen,Ai??such asAi??people moving into the new high rise apartments and condos and driving to work because they work where the metro doesn’t go.

The gurus of density will never be happy until everyone is living in high rise apartments, with shoe-box size living accommodations and work in downtown Vancouver. Mind you the gurus of density, always mindful of their stipends when spreading the gospel of Vancouver styleAi??T.O.D. at public meetings, (who also tend to be developers)Ai??also want to make a ‘quick‘ buck by increasing density and building condo’s and apartments on what was once single family lots.. Good transit planning (transit designed for the transit customer’s satisfaction), just never enters the picture as metro lines are built to where friends of the government owns land, so they can have the excuse to increase density, encouraging the great development ponzi scheme.

If one reads the followingAi??article item correctly, Ottawa doesn’t want to follow Vancouver’s rush to turn areas of single family homes into high-rise ghettos and all I can say is good on them. The Vancouver penchant for ever higher densities is based on the philosophy of unlimited growth in the region. But there is a problem with this, the region presently can’t afford to build more than one metro line a decade, yet the metro population continues to increase, with the result of three heavily overcrowded metro lines, which will find it all but impossible to cater to the increased densities that politicians have allowed to happen in the metro region. The result is easy to see, the car remains the most important transit mode in the region.

Instead of building much cheaper light rail lines, which does not need the proscribed residential densities that SkyTrain/Canada Line metroAi??are supposed to have, for the same amount of investment for our present metro system, the region could have had at least three times theAi??LRT network in the region, offering a far superior transit service than what we have today, while at the same time, protecting residential neighbourhoods from the ravishes of Vancouver style (in reality, an old fashioned land rush, causingAi??a localAi??inflation of property values) T.O.D.

But then, transit planning in Vancouver has always been about moving money, not people.

Plan is to double the density of homes and jobsAi?? around future LRT stations

By DavidAi?? Reevely, The Ottawa Citizen December 30,Ai?? 2011
OTTAWA ai??i?? The city is about toAi?? move into high gear on redevelopment plans for the neighbourhoods around threeAi?? stations in the eastern stretch of the planned light-rail line, with majorAi?? rezonings to come at four more within a couple of years.

The mission is twofold: First, to more thanAi?? double the density of jobs and homes around stations like St. Laurent, CyrvilleAi?? and Train. Like many Transitway stations outside the downtown core, theyai??i??reAi?? surrounded by other roads and low-density stores and light industry, and if thatAi?? doesnai??i??t change, the cityai??i??s $2.1-billion rail project wonai??i??t be as busy as theAi?? city wants. The city wants to more than double the population around thoseAi?? stations in the next 20 years, ideally to make the neighbourhoods even denserAi?? than Centretown outside the core business district.

ai???Our drive is to ensure that to the best of ourAi?? abilities, there will be the people that are going to drive ridership on theAi?? LRT,ai??? says Councillor Peter Hume, who chairs city councilai??i??s planning committee.Ai?? Whatai??i??s going on, he says, is a basic shift in the purpose of public transit,Ai?? from a system thatai??i??s mostly about getting commuters from the suburbs to downtownAi?? and back, to a system that serves distinct neighbourhoods built up around eachAi?? station.

And so, second, the goal is to have a good ideaAi?? what those distinct neighbourhoods will look like and how theyai??i??ll fit into theAi?? neighbourhoods that are already there. With LRT stations due to begin servingAi?? districts of parking lots and highway cloverleafs in 2018, the city doesnai??i??t haveAi?? much time. The goal isnai??i??t to have several million square feet of offices andAi?? condo towers built around the stations in the next seven years, but to beAi?? completely ready with neighbourhood plans for what can go where and cityAi?? infrastructure, from bike paths to water mains, thatai??i??s up to the job.

Hume says ai???transit-oriented developmentai??? hasAi?? been a hot topic around city hall for years (city council approved designAi?? guidelines for it in 2007) but itai??i??s only been executed in a ai???tentative,Ai?? fracturedai??? way. Often, the language in the cityai??i??s development rules isAi?? dangerously vague: Just this week, city councilai??i??s planning committee backed aAi?? pair of residential towers at the north end of Roosevelt Avenue that are to beAi?? twice as tall as the zoning allows, in part because the property is so close toAi?? the Westboro and Dominion stations on the Transitway. The cityai??i??s officialAi?? land-use plan calls for taller buildings close to the Transitway that willAi?? someday be a rail line, but the zoning, providing rules that are finer-grained,Ai?? doesnai??i??t match up. Nearby residents, who are getting 14- and 16-storey buildingsAi?? in their backyards, screamed. But to no avail.

ai???Weai??i??re always responding to someone whoai??i??s sensedAi?? an opportunity,ai??? says Hume, reacting when a developer wants to do one particularAi?? thing on one particular lot. When an application comes in that makes sense underAi?? one set of rules but not the other, ai???people say, ai???Whoa, whoa, whoa, shouldnai??i??t weAi?? do this comprehensively?ai??i?? Well, weai??i??ve learned that

St. Laurent, Cyrville and Train are first, withAi?? the cityai??i??s planners having just finished mapping the areas they want to look at:Ai?? anything within roughly an 800-metre walk of the stations. In the new year, saysAi?? the cityai??i??s top planning manager John Moser, theyai??i??ll make contact with theAi?? landowners and begin to talk about the possibilities. Around the Train station,Ai?? for instance, the existing density is about 100 people a hectare, roughly 7,000Ai?? people, and just about all the people who count toward that figure are workers.Ai?? The city wants to increase that to 200 to 300 a hectare, and have a mix ofAi?? employment and residential uses. Centretown south of Gloucester Street, forAi?? comparison, has about 200 people a hectare today, with a plan to increase thatAi?? to 250.

ai???We want to have these areas be site-plan andAi?? building-permit ready,ai??? says Moser. ai???And do we have the right pedestrianAi?? patterns to get to [the stations]? Do we have the right cycling routes to get toAi?? it?ai???

The first three plans should be done by the endAi?? of next summer. Over the following two years will come similar plans for Blair,Ai?? Hurdman, Lees and Tunneyai??i??s Pasture stations. Theyai??i??re supposed to governAi?? development around the stations for about 20 years and be nearly impossible toAi?? overturn.

A very similar plan for the northern part of theAi?? O-Train corridor, between Bayview station and Carling Avenue, offers a glimpseAi?? of what all those neighbourhood plans might look like. The area around theAi?? Bayview station includes a lot of unused publicly owned land; most of the restAi?? is light industry or low-density commerce, like the self-storage business thatAi?? took over the former bus barn on City Centre Avenue, and the currency-printingAi?? company that just announced itai??i??ll shut down next year. Theyai??i??re uses that made aAi?? lot more sense when the O-Train line carried freight.

The latest draft of the Bayview plan calls forAi?? the storage place to be replaced with townhouses, new shopping and commercialAi?? towers going in several blocks to the northwest, all linked up via treed plazasAi?? and cunningly connected pathways. It imagines ai???point towersai??? ai??i?? tall buildingsAi?? with small bases ai??i?? along the O-Train track north of Somerset and againAi?? overlooking Dowai??i??s Lake, surrounded by shorter buildings that step down to theAi?? houses and small apartments of Chinatown and Bayswater.

The O-Train corridor is in fairly tightAi?? quarters; the eastern rail stations give the city more room to work with. SouthAi?? of the St. Laurent station, for instance, the federal Public Works department isAi?? planning an office complex on fallow ground once occupied by the provincialAi?? government. The city wants 80 per cent ai??i?? four out of five people! ai??i?? to get toAi?? work there using transit, Hume says.

ai???One thing that has to come out is parking,ai??? heAi?? says. ai???The only way itai??i??s going to work is if thereai??i??s very little parking and soAi?? what parking there is, is expensive. And so people will say, ai???I can pay $400 toAi?? park my car, or I can spend $100 on a transit pass,ai??i?? and theyai??i??ll do the thingAi?? that makes To make that work, itai??i??ll sure help if people arriving byAi?? transit can live close to stations somewhere else.

In Vancouver, theyai??i??re working on a similarAi?? project with ai???upzoningai??? around stations along the Canada Line ai??i?? the undergroundAi?? extension of the SkyTrain built before the 2010 Olympics to connect theAi?? Vancouver airport to downtown along Cambie Street. Itai??i??s been a major north-southAi?? artery forever, but long stretches of it are lined with single-family homes andAi?? Vancouver wants to replace them with taller mixed-use buildings.

Thatai??i??s created a land rush, crazy even byAi?? Vancouver standards. Houses along Cambie assessed at $1.2 million went for $3.4Ai?? million earlier this fall, once developers realized theyai??i??d eventually be able toAi?? knock them down for taller buildings. Residents are getting tired of agents forAi?? would-be buyers pounding on their doors, but also fretting that if they donai??i??tAi?? sell out, their homes will soon be surrounded by construction sites and then sixAi?? storeys of neighbours peering down on them.

Ottawa intends to avoid that. Almost anywhereAi?? thereai??i??s an existing house, itai??i??s being treated as off-limits.

ai???If I was a homeowner, and I was to look at itAi?? strictly from a value perspective … I would want my land in the area,ai??? HumeAi?? says. But most residents probably donai??i??t want to move and including peopleai??i??sAi?? homes in the redevelopment plans would be extremely disruptive. ai???For those whoAi?? [would] choose to stay, it has the potential to fundamentally change theAi?? character of the community,ai??? he says. And itai??i??d likely mean the planners wouldAi?? spend nearly all their time discussing changes in a relatively small part of theAi?? land that needs redeveloping. So, Hume says, theyai??i??re just staying away unless aAi?? community approaches the city en masse with the intention of selling.

There may be a sticky exception to the hands-offAi?? rule: At Tunneyai??i??s Pasture, single-family houses right across Scott Street fromAi?? the station are just the sort of thing transit-oriented development doesnai??i??t callAi?? for. The redevelopment plan there is barely a gleam in the planning departmentai??i??sAi?? eye right now, somewhere on the to-do list for 2013 or 2014, but the plannersAi?? will have to deal with it. Figuring out what to do there and how to involveAi?? residents will take a star urban designer, like Larry Beasley (credited withAi?? many of the successes of downtown Vancouver) or George Dark (behind the cityai??i??sAi?? downtown urban-design strategy and part of the panel overseeing design work atAi?? Lansdowne Park) to ai???engage the community and make sure that theyai??i??re fullyAi?? represented and fully

Ultimately, the city hopes to solve two problemsAi?? at once, by making it easy for people to build their lives around transit andAi?? dramatically reducing neighbourhood zoning fights, one neighbourhood at aAi?? time.

ai???We want to make it so that communities can knowAi?? that density is going to happen here but itai??i??s not going to happen here,ai??? HumeAi?? says.

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