Hindsight on road blight: Bronson Avenue in 2072
Almost 60 years ago the City of Ottawa pulled out rail lines to make way for what is now the Queensway. Given that Ottawa is now preoccupied with building light-rail the Ottawa Citizen headline from 1953 offers great hindsight: "Relocation Of Railway Lines Is Vital Key To Master Plan; Will Provide Relief For Traffic Tangles".
Of course 50 years ago all residents of Ottawa probably believed that projection to be true. The car is king today because it was crowned in the post-war era and hasn't been deposed yet. Yet.
In 2011 though there is a growing movement to reclaim our urban cores to create complete streets and make sure they are economic centres and not just commuter access routes. Eric Darwin, President of the Dalhousie Community Association, points out in a letter to Mayor Watson that the redevelopment of Bronson Avenue should focus on creating a liveable community that generates economic activity - to the city's benefit:
In tough economic times the City must continue to demand a great return on its capital investments.
The reconstructions of Preston Street, Wellington West, Richmond Road, and parts of Somerset Street have resulted in adjacent property values doubling and tripling in a short period of time. Economic activity along these streets is booming. The City is prospering as a direct result of good investment in livable streets. What a wise policy.
In contrast, all our suggestions to make Bronson more livable are being rejected by city traffic engineers who have a single focus on enhancing rush hour traffic. (read the full letter)
Bronson Avenue is a disaster and the City's current plan to widen it is a lost cause. We need to take a lesson from two historical truisms:
- In 1953 Ottawa decided the car was going to be king and we have the current state of Bronson Avenue and the Queensway as a result. More lanes on Bronson will solve nothing.
- More lanes on Bronson will inch Ottawa one step closer to Toronto's current state of affairs. Do we really want Toronto's congestion problems? We should learn from them.
In 2072 I wonder how this Ottawa Citizen article on Rescue Bronson will seem: lost opportunity or turning point in Ottawa's pattern of transportation development?
I seriously doubt four lanes will be enough then - so why not start making the switch now and save a ton of money in the process.