First Update on the Alta Vista Transportation Corridor (AVTC)
Environmental Assessment,
for the Greenspace Alliance of Canada's Capital, 8th October 2002

The consultant for the project is Delcan and its assorted subcontractors. It is required by the City to appoint a series of Advisory Committees who will have opportunities to provide input to the process at regularly convened meetings. The chief committees are the Technical and the Public advisory committees (TAC PAC).

As the GACC representative on the PAC, I have observer status only. So far there have been five meetings of the PAC. It was very clear from the outset that there is a small faction which is determined to de-rail the whole process by challenging practically every comma of every document tabled by the consultants. We have reached the point now where the various criteria to be considered have been agreed upon and we have been asked to evaluate them on a percentage basis. This too has been done and the consultants are busy analysing the results and blending them in with those from other committees.

These criteria were supplied by the consultants, and comments or additions were invited from the committee members. I asked that Chris Gordon the City representative, be the email co-ordinator, to enable a free-wheeling email discussion to take place between the members, in addition to the limited time available for such discussions at the meetings. This did not happen despite repeated emails from me to both him and the consultant, which I believe were included in the comments which were posted at one point on the GACC website. It was also fairly clear that there was really no will to make changes to the criteria, based on the comments from committee members. Those comments wered duly summarised and sent out to us as three-column tables, with the comments in the left hand column, the responses by the consultants in the centre, and any changes which were made as a result, in the right hand column.

In almost every case, the responses were deemed not to require any changes to be made to the criteria. As a result, the original criteria have passed through virtually intact. As far as I can determine, the impact of the input from the committee members so far has been absolutely minimal.

As far as greenspace is concerned, the general attitude of the committee members has been very positive indeed. There is clearly a very real concern that any sort of road solution will eat up the available greenspace faster than any other solution and that as soon as a road is there, new car dealerships will move in quickly to make sure it is saturated as soon as possible. (Just drive along Hunt Club road and see all the new ones that have sprung up there near to Bank Street.). The siting of on/off ramps to any new road is also of crucial concern to the residents along the corridor, because of their potential for cut-through traffic.

There are 26 criteria, grouped somewhat arbitrarily into five categories. The ones that have either a direct bearing on green space, or are very relevent are:

A. Social
A1: Urban Greenspace and Open Space
A2: Significant landscapes, vistas and ridge lines.
D. Biological
D1: Significant natural features
D2: Ecological processes
D3: Aquatic Habitat Type, Quality and Function
D4: Quality of Water (ground and surface)
E. Physical
E1: Presence of known contamination
E2: Potential for flooding and erosion
E3: Effects on Quantity of water (ground and surface)

The consultants have now come up with "Alternative Solutions". (Alternative to what, I asked and the reply was that this mangled description of what should have been 'Choices', has been frozen in the legal mumbo-jumbo of environmental law).

These are:

Outside the AVTC
Rapid transit only (bus/rail), e.g. extension of existing Southeast Transitway and/or O-train south of the Hunt Club Road to the Airport and to the Riverside South Community. and the development of a rail-based facility in the existing abandoned railway corridor extending from the Hurdman Train Station southeasterly paralleling the Hihgway 417 corridor to south of Walkley Road

Roadway only, e.g. widening one or more of Riverside Drive, Bank Streen, Alta Vista Drive, and Russell/St. Laurent blvd North of the Walkley/Heron Road link.

Hybrid solutions involving extending the O-Train together with widening as above.

Travel Demand Management - code for persuading people to take the bus or "O" Train.

Inside the AVTC
Rapid transit only: either bus or rail

Roadway only: A two lane road could be either for general traffic, with "High Occupancy" (more than one person!) traffic in rushours. A variation of a four-lane roadway could have two lanes for general traffic and two lanes for HOV useage in peak hours.

Hybrid solutions: combinations of the above.

Do Nothing: No transport facilitites would be built in the corridor, making it the subject of a land use study that would almost certainly result in dense development.

From the strictly greenspace point of view, the obvious choice is the last one. However it would ultimately be self-defeating, because once it is no longer protected as a potential transportation corridor, it will be up for grabs.

The reality of the whole situation is that when this study is completed, the solution, whatever it is, will only be valid until the sell-by date of 2011. The city and other levels of goverment will have until then to find the money for the approved solution. Implementation of that solution could then proceed with a starting date as late as 2011. The chances are that there will be so much going on in the interim, that the clock will run out on them and there will be yet another go-around, probably as part of a much more ambitious city-wide transportation EA.

I think the GACC position should be that light rail is the least disruptive option. In the somewhat unlikely event that it is indeed approved and is implemented before 2011, then the maximum of greenspace in that corridor will have been preserved, as opposed to a highway solution. As a matter of interest not directly related to greenspace per se, any trains should really be electric. The noise and fumes from diesel engines would be quite a problem for nearby residents. Moving the pollution back to the generating station, where massive scrubbers become economically viable, is the way to go in my view.

One of the most interesting aspects of this study has still to come , the so-called 'Impact Analysis' - how the consultants relate the blended weightings (as derived from the submissions given by all the various committees to the 26 criteria), to the various alternative solutions listed above. It seems to me that any such attempt will be subjective in the extreme. I am pretty sure this is why they are having these public meetings and open houses etc. The politicians want to be sure at the end of the day that their constituents agree with the preferred solution. There will after all be at least one municipal election between now and then!