Ottawa bike politics.
As I’d written in the past, the transportation plan for the Lansdowne Park renewal relies on many people leaving their cars at home. The breakout of that modal share is quite aggressive.
When figuring out trends, it’s important to try to measure the same thing (a 67s hockey game in this case). And find a baseline, which they’ve done by doing a survey of attendees of a game in March 2012. This is good news, they got the data before the games moved out to Scotiabank Place during construction.
I’ve compared them to the original June 2012 transportation plan’s expectation for modal share. I used the numbers for the 10,000 attendance; I know that’s a bit off the 8600 people who attended this 6s7 game, but it is the closest thing available.
Here’s the overall share, you can see there’s considerably more people arriving by car than should be in the future, according to the plan:
Let’s look closer at both the sustainable parts (walk, bike, transit) and cars (unsustainable):
We need to quadruple the number of people who walk, bike and take transit to achieve the goals. Note that pretty much nobody (0.3%) of people biked to that 67s game, and March 2012 was a great month to bike. Imagine January or February…
What one wants is to have fewer cars, but not necessarily having fewer people arrive by car. Ideally, all cars would be stuffed to the gills with as many people as possible, and based on these numbers that’s what seems to be happening.
The relevant count is called People Per Vehicle (PPV). The expected number is 2.5, but right now they’re exceeding it at 3.1. The number of cars is actually lower now than what the plan calls for, so on the surface it looks pretty good!
Here’s a back of the napkin calculation: in March 2012 there were about 2400 cars and 2200 on-site spots. The new plan is for 2760 cars, but with only 1000 on-site spots. Where will the rest go? They will wander the streets, searching for parking spaces, making it less desirable to bike or walk.
Some things have been said about how to deal with transit (adding free shuttle buses) and reducing number of cars (providing access to remote parking lots, with said shuttles).
But nobody’s said anything about how to get so many people to walk and bike and no funding’s been secured for a new bridge at Fifth/Clegg. No new bike lanes have been proposed by the city. It’s supposed to happen like magic.
And, congestion is going to get worse. Biking will become even less desirable when there’s more motor vehicle traffic.
The modal share measurements from the March 2012 67s game was presented on February 28th 2013 at the Lansdowne Transportation Advisory Committee called “Lansdowne Monitoring Plan – Implementation”. The presentation is a little confusing, but you can see it referenced on slide 19. It breaks out the modes into a greater resolution, so I did some consolidation to match the original transportation plan: transit is the sum of OC Transpo, Charter Bus and Para Transpo. Taxi got merged into Auto Driver. Here’s the slide that shows the measurements.
The modal share estimates for the plans are in Table 4-11 in the Lansdowne Revitalization Transportation Plan from June, 2010 (the latest).
There you go.
I got invited to blog over at the comparatively prestigious Spacing Ottawa, and to hit a significantly broader audience, I put a summary of the Lansdowne bike situation over there.
Here’s a quick review of what came from the open house sponsored by the City of Ottawa, MRC, OSCA and the Glebe Community Association.
For the first half hour or so, various poster boards were put up for guests to see. Then was a somewhat convoluted presentation in front of 100+ attendees on behalf of the city, and then the real entertainment of a Q/A session. There were about 10 people on stage, some GCA + OSCA members, plus Councillor David Chernushenko, Don Stephens (sp?) from MRC, and John Smit from the City. The last two guys got really hammered.
So many people are concerned about parking, few understand that reducing car usage is a way to address that, and that actual sacrifice is required to get there. I know and genuinely believe the city wants to improve their Transportation Demand Management (some people think the D is for ‘Dream’), but I’m not sure they understand what the non-financial investment is. They all seem extremely confident in making 2-3%. You know what I think of that.
My one question (after about an hour of standing up in line; why can’t we have the take-a-number system?) was about working together with the cycling community to do end-to-end bike planning. There was not much of an answer.
Afterwards, by cornering a few of the city folks, they were quite defensive about the QED crossing removal. I don’t think they actually knew what the story was.
I did manage to get them to commit to a face-to-face meeting. These meetings are always hard to get, particularly over something as contentious as Lansdowne. In that way, I should feel lucky. (One day, I’ll blog more about how community activists are made to feel ‘lucky’ for the privilege of doing work that should be done by taxpaying professionals.) I’ll try to blog more on such a meeting later.
The GCA guys worked very hard to put this together, and it was great working with them on this.
It is this map that got me really concerned:
This is a considerable step back. Cyclists who would want to leave from the park to go home along the NCC Rideau Canal path would want to exit straight to the west, and then cross Queen Elizabeth Drive and get on the pathway. This was on older diagrams, too, like from June 2010:
Cyclists leaving the park would want to exit directly to the west, cross QED, then head home (north or south) on the path next to the canal.
Now, they’d only be able to exit to the western path. The east and west sides are quite different, as the west one ends at Fifth Ave. on the north, and just under the Bank St. Bridge near Queen Elizabeth Place.
Let me explain why one wouldn’t want to use either crossing.
The problem at Fifth
It is possible to cross at Fifth Ave, but the trajectory requires crossing both QED and Fifth Ave. on a diagonal. The depressions in the curb on the east side of QED are not placed properly, which makes this intersection difficult. This is also expected to be the landing spot of the Fifth/Clegg bridge.
The problem at Queen Elizabeth Park
Southbound, the path also ends at an awkward angle, and requires the cyclists cross either directly diagonally across Bank St., or do a jog to get in line with queued traffic. Either way, it is an awkward manoeuvre.
Some people didn’t think Sylvia Holden Park was a park, so nothing can be taken for granted.
There’s two organizations that think that the western path is an NCC cycle route:
The following organizations I consider more authoritative do not think this is a bicycle route:
I have a bit of exposure to NCC and the City of Ottawa working together. It is definitely better (as evidenced by the Bay St/Wellington construction), but working out multi-jurisdictional problems is still hard. The whole project would be a lot easier to just not have to deal with the NCC. So I think they just chose not to.
Back in 2008, the NCC started a study to review how pedestrians crossed both Queen Elizabeth Drive and Colonel By Drive. They got some flack for being slow in delivering it, but the June 11, 2011 final release is well done. The problem was that with increased traffic, these driveways were becoming increasingly difficult and seemingly dangerous to cross.
Certainly the schedules of the authoring of this document and development of the Lansdowne plans overlaps, but the Lansdowne plans never say anything about this. And here’s the entire reference the NCC report has to Lansdowne, on page 83 (the last one):
“It is understood that the outcome of the current Lansdowne Park redevelopment may impact traffic and pedestrian patterns along Queen Elizabeth Drive. The NCC should monitor the projected/actual changes to these movements as this redevelopment progresses. “
The report goes through all the intersections and makes recommendations on what to do. In most cases, it is to do nothing, and there’s this predilection for roundabouts.
But let’s look closer at what the NCC says about the ends of this path.
NCC’s preferred option at Fifth
Notice how there’s no mention of the path as it enters into the circle.
NCC’s preferred option at Queen Elizabeth Place
Again, there’s no consideration for how the path would enter into the circle (and the path isn’t even drawn in).
The city should meet with the NCC to consider an enhanced intersection at the exit of Lansdowne, and do a complete route analysis.
And the more I get into this, the more I think they should put together an actual bicycle report.
I’ve written about how success is going to depend on getting a lot of people out to Lansdowne, how getting the bike modal share is difficult, and how bike parking should be built to attract people there. But it doesn’t help if you can’t get to Lansdowne. Now, let’s talk about how to get there.
The city removed quite a bit of infrastructure since the original plans in June 2010.
I try to explain this in Figure 1; the original diagram from Transportation Impact and Assessment Study and Transportation Demand Management Plan Technical Report from June 2010 has been overlaid with changes in the Lansdowne Partnership Plan Implementation Status Report, from August 2011.
The changes I could find are:
There’s things that are totally missing, and it isn’t clear if that’s because they aren’t part of the plan, or they’re just an oversight:
The current plans don’t say much about what can change outside the park. This is because the area of study really is just the park; any changes to infrastructure to support increased transportation demands is secondary. I know this is cause for concern for the Glebe residence; squeezing more traffic into the same amount of space is going to be problematic. Biking can help squeeze more people into the same space.
Here’s a diagram that shows the actual state of the local bicycle routes. This ignores whatever bicycle maps or the plans say, but is based on actual bicycle experience. These are drawn with the expectations of novice cyclists.
I tried to figure out a reasonable diameter to use to figure out where cyclists were likely to come from. I can’t understand their numbers, but I’d say within 8km you could get 50% of the people.
But you need to make sure that these people have a safe route to get to the park by bike, or they won’t bike. Or they won’t come at all.
These things aren’t all new, but they are worth highlighting as they represent change in the neighbourhood. For this article, I’ll just consider them final and constructed.
Clegg/Fifth Ave. Bridge
I’m going to be so bold as to say that this is a bridge that will be built. It is going to make Old Ottawa East now a parking lot when there’s events on. This is no different than the expectation of the Glebe. But the city will see this as a minor inconvenience compared to the benefits it will provide. Undoubtedly, it will be important to the TDM of Lansdowne. I just count on this now, but my guess is this won’t be built until 2014.
Bike lane in front of Lansdowne
Did you know there’s a crappy bike lane in front of Lansdowne? It runs from the edge of the Bank St. Bridge to Holmwood. With others at CfSC, I did a lot of lobbying as part of the Bank St. Reconstruction Advisory Committee. Although I’m happy it is there, some complain that there’s no point in a lane that starts and ends. But it does line you up properly for what’s next here.
This lane seems to get way too much attention in the 2011 plans.
Left turn lane on Holmwood
This is not yet built, but will be in the summer of 2012 when the Bank St. reconstruction continues. It is helpful for when going northbound on Bank St, and wanting to westbound through the Glebe. It helps address some of the problems in needing to take a left turn on Wilton.
Sharrows on the Bank St. Bridge
Cyclists are generally irritated with biking over the Canal. Over the last few years, I’m a bit soft on the city with things like this, and I believe them when they say there’s not much they can do to make cyclists happier here. The bridge just isn’t wide enough to add a lane, and widening the bridge is unlikely to happen, as the political and economic clout of cyclists just isn’t enough to spend millions on widening it.
But… Councillor Chernushenko has this idea of painting sharrows, which would help with some of the expectations of drivers and cyclists. I’ve heard mumblings of having a ‘do not pass cyclists’ sign over the bridge too (which is more valuable on the Billings Bridge). That’s probably all they can do. Biking southbound on Bank St. will continue to be difficult, particularly in heavy traffic.
Queen Elizabeth Drive crossing
This is the most important project to facilitate cycling to Lansdowne, and what’s more concerning is how the plan has changed. More on this tomorrow.
Entrance from Holmwood
We started off with six entrances onto Holmwood, now we’re down to one new one, at the foot of O’Connor. It isn’t clear what traffic on the site will be like, but by eliminating all the entrances west of O’Connor, we’re forcing cyclists to either use a Bank St. entrance or have them go
The situation is unclear; is there access for motor vehicles between the buildings along Holmwood? If not, does that mean that bicycles cannot?
Bike lanes on Holmwood
There is to be a special launchpad to get from Holmwood east onto Holmwood west. It is originally intended for use for northbound cyclists wanting to get into the western part of the Glebe.
However, a contraflow lane on Holmwood would also allow exiting bicycle traffic from Lansdowne to skip having to exit and bicycle on Bank St. It would increase the chances that a Lansdowne cyclist would never have to bike on Bank St.
Entrances from Bank St.
Of all the bounding routes, Bank St. is the worst one to bike on. Sure, it might be the best one for passenger vehicles, but cyclists have different routes.
There’s no indication how exiting cyclists are supposed to go southbound on Bank St. Is there a bicycle box? Are there bicycle lanes within the park that will merge in with motor vehicles? How will southbound bicycles get into the park? And why do there need to be four exits for bicycles?
North/south route through the Glebe
Two good bicycle routes going through the Glebe are O’Connor and Percy St. These both go along relatively calm residential streets.
However, these are not ideal. The large number of stop signs makes these paths difficult for cyclists. Stopping and starting in a car is easy, it is inefficient on a bicycle.
Routes through the park
There is not enough explanation of the types of surfaces that will be used within the park.
The plan affecting bike infrastructure seems to have been lead by the plan for motor vehicles.
In order to make Lansdowne easy to get to and get from by bicycle, the city should:
In the first of this sequence of blogs, I wrote about how there were really very few bike facilities in the Lansdowne plans. Then I wrote about how 25,000 person events really needed to have 2-3% bike modal share, even though I can’t find any other stadium in North America that gets near that, even Minneapolis and Portland, OR. Today, I hope to be more positive by explaining what can be done with the parking aspect to the problem.
The challenge is this: how do you convince 740 people that parking is safe enough? How comfortable would you be in parking your bike near a crowd like this group of comparatively calm Winnipeg Blue Bombers:
Now, picture 24,000 of them after the game, and imagine some of them being overjoyed or disappointed in the final score. And some of them are drunk, and know they’re leaving the neighbourhood on their way back to Toronto.
If people don’t feel safe in parking their bikes, they won’t. This has nothing to do with reality, it has to do with how they feel. Cyclists imagine things like this:
How safe would you feel?
The parking at Lansdowne needs to be so good, cyclists no longer worry about this.
The 10,000 and 25,000 floods require some special attention.
The plan for parking 3% of 25,000 visitors (750 spots) is to use all of the existing permanent 300 spots, then a temporary corral of 450.
For event parking, I support bike racks that are in one big group, under camera and slightly off the path of the crowd of exiting pedestrians, like this:
For cyclists to feel safe, bicycle parking for events should be:
The plan is to put in temporary corrals for the overflow of the 300. I think these programs can be great; Bluesfest in the summer parks about 1000 bikes some nights in their temporary corrals. This has some problems:
My prediction: if the city sticks to the current plan, there will never be bicycle corrals as there’ll never be anywhere near 300 bikes, and with no good parking, there’ll never be bikes, etc.
Parking for access to retail is a different problem. If you want to go to the market or shop at Whole Foods or pick up a bottle of Chateau Lafie Rothschild, you don’t want to have to park in a nearly empty lot, walk 100m to your bike, pick up whatever it is, then walk back. What you’re looking for is:
There are a lot of examples of these; the plan gets it right by having many of these racks around the facility. I haven’t checked to make sure that all retail has the right amount of parking nearby all obvious stores. I have a sense the only ready they got this right is because they adhered to the Section 111 of the Parking, Queuing and Loading Provisions bylaws.
What hasn’t been made clear is the exact style of bicycle rack, and if they are covered. They should install some sort of covered rack. There’s lots examples. The ones I found quickly that I like are from Brussels and Corvalis, OR:
I’m sure an architect could design one that would fit in well with the existing style.
I am also a fan of the ones in Manhattan, which look like this:
You know, I’m not going to get into this. The debate about what rack is the best is just going to confuse this article. Just choose one, but be smart about it. And no wheel benders like this one at the Rogers Centre in Toronto:
The arguments for Lansdowne aren’t particularly different than anywhere else.
Up next: fixing up paths and crossings so cyclists can actually get to Lansdowne. So they show up, spend money, etc…
Yesterday, I gave an explanation of what bicycle facilities are in the current plan, and what’s not. Today I’ll compare this to other cities.
Here’s the short of it: the modal share for sporting events is far greater than other bike-friendly cities.
I’ll mention here that stats around traffic management are notoriously shaky. It’s really easy to come up with reasons why a number or report isn’t valid. This is especially true when it comes to modal share or anything having to do with biking; the methodology for counting bikes isn’t consistent. Even the definition of modal share isn’t consistent.
But this doesn’t mean that we should just ignore everything; there’s actually quite a bit of value in even rough research like this. Bear with me while we get into the expectations…
Let’s work out a reasonable estimate for the amount of traffic to expect. The city’s doing the right thing in planning for the worst.
The most regular events expected are for 10,000, I’d guess for soccer or 67s games. The event size getting the most attention are CFL games. There’s typically one preseason game and nine regular games.
For the unnamed CFL team, I’m sure they’d want to max out the 24,000 seats, and I’m sure they have a business plan that says how many tickets they have to sell; I wish I could find it, it might not be available. There’s going to be a lot of pressure to sell out. If they fail, sure, they’ll go into receivership and taxpayers might get some of our money back. But we’d lose time and money, and we’d be looking at a huge empty stadium, like we are now.
I used to think 24,000 seats was preposterous, but then I found some raw data online and put them in a chart.
Here’s some conclusions I came to:
There’s also non-CFL events that are also large. They keep saying that we could get the Rolling Stones, but I’m imagining Justin Bieber or Rebecca Black. It’s all traffic to me.
And then there’s the regular commercial traffic. Just because the CFL is playing doesn’t mean other people won’t want to go see a movie. So I think their number of 25,000 is pretty likely to come up a dozen times a year. I’ll continue using this number in these articles.
And the whole thing could easily be worse. I’m not sure they’ve explained what happens if the CFL team is selling out, the 67s are playing also, Titanic II is premiering and there’s a snow storm. Plus there’s the Grey Cup every once in awhile, so I’d say one huge transportation day of 40,000 about once a year.
Let’s take it directly from the plan: 2-3% need to bike for the TDM goals to be met, from page 8 of the Traffic and Parking Management Plan from this July. For 25,000 people, it is 3%.
And if they don’t get enough people to bike in, more people will bring their cars or cram in buses, the harder it will be to get to the facility, etc.
Here’s what I’d have done, ideally: found every new stadium in a climate like ours, also with a similiar combination of retail, condos and hotels resuscitating a CFL team. We’d have year-round data that showed who was going to which facility and when, including a CFL team. There is no such other city. So I chose some that I can get some data for, which on its own is really hard. This won’t be exact, but I think you’ll see the pattern.
Here’s some detail on each of the cities.
I emailed the stadium to try and find out how much bike parking they had, and what the utilization was. I was told there’s always lots empty. A friend and co-worker of mine, Mark, went through Google Streetview and noticed he could see pretty much all the spots (like this), which are on the outside. He counted about 120. I’m willing to move that up to 150 in case we missed some. That’s never more than 0.7%. Mind you, there is a lot of good transit nearby, so even though this is local, it might not be all that useful.
The Twins sell out, always. There’s lots of paid parking. There’s some nice bike trails that go right by the stadium and there’s a handy parking and route map.
The stadium has 400 bike parking spots, and run near capacity (but not past) for their games. I understand that many people drive nearby, then bike to the stadium from there. If the spots were to fill up, that’d be a bike modal share of 1%.
What I get from this:
I know Portland pretty well, I’ve been there a dozen times to visit my employer’s parent company, Intel. I’ve biked there a handful of times, it is lovely.
JELD-WEN Field is located pretty much right downtown. They sell out pretty much always. Many people go to a game after work. This city also has an excellent light rail system called TriMet. The stadium provides about 105 fixed parking spots, and they close off neighbouring roads to provide 230 temporary spots during games. The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) wrote up about some field research they did.
On Thursday, April 14th, 2011, the PBOT did a survey to see how many of the spots were used during the game. They came up with 185 on this dreary, rainy day. They had sold out at 18,627 seats, so about 1%.
It got better on Sunday, April 17th, 2011 at the afternoon. PBOT counted 385; excess bikes were locked to posts and railings. That’s about a 2.1% modal share for this sellout game. The weather was pretty much perfect: 16C and mostly cloudy. This is the largest number I have come across for a spectator sporting event in North America.
Here’s something cute: they reserve 250 spots for season ticket holders. And all of their parking is staffed by security during games.
Here’s what I get out of all this:
Let me make this short:
Tomorrow: Doing something pretty special with parking to get more cyclists
Why biking’s important to Lansdowne
I’m fervently in favour of making the best Lansdowne Park we can make. This means making the facilities enjoyable for everyone, as well as an economic success for businesses and taxpayers. Now, with that out of the way…
If it is difficult to get to the site, people won’t go. The businesses at the site are expecting a lot of people to go through their doors. They should be motivated to get as many customers there as possible. Transportation’s important for businesses.
You can get an awful lot more people into a site by bicycle. The plans acknowledge that cycling is important this way; it just doesn’t do very much to ensure that that happens. If we don’t address this, we won’t get the people onto the site we need to make this successful.
What cyclists are getting
Understanding what we’re getting requires a bit of research.
First, MCR only deals with the site itself, not with any other location. Here’s the best diagram that explains what facilities we can expect on the site. I know it is fuzzy, it is all we have.
There’s two other local developments:
What we’re not getting
What’s missing is actually more important.
There’s nothing about missing links to get from the site to local bicycle routes.
The most important missing link is from the park to the NCC Rideau Canal Pathway. Along Queen Elizabeth Drive, there’s an eastern and western multipurpose path. The western one really goes nowhere; it connects nicely to the park, but then ends up at one end at Ralph, and at the other end at Fifth. In both cases, it ends somewhere you probably don’t want to go. The real gem is getting to the eastern side.
Right now, the crossing looks like this:
There’s no reasonable way to cross in heavy traffic.
I don’t know what changed; it used to be on the list of things to do, on page 2 from Transportation Impact and Assessment Study and Transportation Demand Planning, which says “Safe linkages across and along Queen Elizabeth Driveway”. And the Terms of References refers to it four separate times.
We’ve heard nothing from the NCC. And there’s no mention of it in any of the more recent material from September.
There’s also nothing in the plan about fixing up existing bike routes. The Glebe has a lot of stop signs, which are irritating for cyclists, and of questionable value. Using these residential streets is normally pretty good, but will be very busy when there are events. Riding between parked cars and motor vehicles is quite difficult. Overall, these just aren’t great routes.
And there’s also a set of just really bad intersections. The Bank St. Bridge’s problems are severe: it is too narrow to add lanes, and the sidewalks are heavily used. We’ve talked endlessly with staff about Bank and Wilton. We’ve heard nothing about these developments, and there’s been nothing in the drafts of the 2012 budget.
Finding all these documents can be hard, so here they are.
“Transportation Impact and Assessment Study and Transportation Demand Management Plan Technical Report “, dated June 2010. Weighing in at 195 pages, it tries to show that the use of this site is possible with the infrastructure available.
“Lansdowne Revitalization Transportation Impact and Assessment Study and Transportation Demand Management Plan Terms of Reference “, March 2010. A bit old, back when people were a little more optimistic.
“Traffic and Parking Management Plan DRAFT Final Report”, dated September 2011. 50 pages of recent info.
“Transportation Demand Management Plan Final Report” , dated September 2011. Provides some ideas on what bike parking looks like.
Tomorrow: comparing cycling facilities from elsewhere.