Ottawa at Night


Erin and I have had a full two days in Ottawa. On Friday, Erin conducted two school visits while I explored OC Transpo. Yesterday, Erin participated in the Ottawa Teen Authors Fest with a meet and greet and an authors’ panel, and I was there to watch. The event was well attended, with happy and eager readers asking questions, and we all had a great time.

We’ve also taken the time to see a bit of the city, even if much of its downtown does seem to keep civil service office hours. However, there was a nice Indian restaurant open on Bank Street on Friday night and, on Saturday night, we went to the Byward Market (where Ottawa lets its hair down) and met up with an old friend of the family and his husband at the FatBoy’s BBQ restaurant (which has fabulous barbecue). Then Erin and I walked back to the hotel taking time to pause at parliament for the night shot above.

Ottawa is a fascinating city. It’s big and diverse, but it’s undeniably influenced by its role in the country, and also by the decision to lock its urban development with a green belt. Exploring on OC Transpo, I was impressed by how well the city was connected to its suburbs. I was able to get to the edge of town on public transit within about forty minutes, but the urban development does lead to some odd images.

With the greenbelt protecting vast swaths of rural and natural land, the suburbs have leapfrogged the greenbelt, and so full buses often head screaming out on bus only roads past farmers fields and wilderness before entering a self-contained suburban neighbourhood. There may be pluses and minuses to this approach (it’s good to have the land protected, but if you have to drive farther to get where you’re going, that can’t be good for air quality). On the other hand, I’ll give Ottawa a lot of credit for trying to develop its suburbs with a more transit friendly vision. Its Transitway Bus Rapid Transit Network stretches all the way across the city, and many of the newer suburbs appear to be built around key transitway stations. They’re trying, even if the developments remain fairly car dependent, and somewhat unfriendly to pedestrians.

Work on Ottawa’s LRT appears to be going well, and I’m sure that Ottawa residents will breathe a sigh of relief when it’s all done. It has been messing up downtown traffic for years, but it will be a tremendous addition to the city’s rapid transit network. Maybe Ottawa should have built its transitway as an LRT to begin with, but they have shown that bus rapid transit can work. They’ve also shown what the maximum capacity of bus rapid transit is. And soon they’ll show how LRTs and BRTs can work together to provide even better public transportation.

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