OTTAWA - Unlike many city initiatives, Downtown Moves isn’t looking to create the next “master” plan of anything to add to Ottawa’s overloaded shelf of planning documents.
It’s goal is simple: when light-rail transit comes to Ottawa, the travel patterns of people in the downtown will drastically change. How can we think ahead and ensure the city makes it easier for them to get where they will want to go in the core?
That means the team working on the project is considering everything from the proposed Centretown community design plan’s idea to convert some north-south streets to two-way traffic, to the shape of curbs at key intersections.
At the end of the process in December, the city will have a better idea of the aspects it needs to tackle to make sure people can get around downtown in the best way, whether that’s by foot, bicycle, train, bus or car.
It could include anything from advising that the city needs to hire a transportation planner dedicated to pedestrian issues to suggesting zoning changes to strengthen the city’s ability to create a livelier streetscape.
“We’re going to push out and implement the different pieces in different ways,” said Nelson Edwards, the traffic planner leading the Downtown Moves project. “We’re creating a lens to look at everything we’re doing.”
The project’s kickoff was the first indication that Downtown Moves would do things a bit differently. Instead of the standard open house in a church basement, the project launched with a series of lectures from top urban thinkers meant to inspire both the public and city staff to think differently and think big about mobility issues.
It inspired Edwards to realize both the big and small picture: the overall transportation web in the downtown, as well as things as detailed as the timing of crosswalk signals.
Between the buildings, the city has a swath of space it controls, Nelson said. In the future, we will need to change how we decide how much of that space is reserved for cars, how much for cyclists and how much for pedestrians, and that’s a framework Downtown Moves hopes to establish, Edwards said.
It could mean the width of sidewalks might be determined based on the level of pedestrian traffic on that street, said transportation committee head Marianne Wilkinson, the councillor for Kanata North.
“We’re looking at the kinds of concrete ideas that could be done to ease pedestrian access,” she said. “We’re looking at how we connect things.”
It’s a positive direction, said Jordan Charbonneau, president of the Centretown Citizens Community Association, who represents the City Centre Coalition on the Downtown Moves steering committee.
“It’s about restoring, or establishing and promoting a balance of users for the streets,” he said.
To get involved in Downtown Moves and provide your input, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.ottawa.ca/downtownmoves