Office of Councillor Jeff Leiper, Kitchissippi Ward, Ottawa | (613) 580-2485  |
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Bus detour, day one

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This morning was the first real test for the Scott Street bus detour, and I was onsite for a couple of hours through the morning peak to observe how it went. There are two categories of concerns that I and the community have had in the run-up to this: the impact on residents immediately adjacent, and the safety of pedestrians, cyclists, motorists and passengers through the corridor.

The latter were the focus of attention this morning as we watched the buses enter and exit the Transitway and make their way onto Scott Street. Because the buses need to wait for a light at Merton to continue eastbound (westbound buses will be able to turn into the Transitway on red if it's safe to do so), I expect that this morning's conditions will give us a good understanding of the biggest challenges faced by the detour, especially given that we had snow last night.

Here are a few observations:

  • Over the weekend, I passed on to staff my concern about Merton/Scott light timing. This morning, I don't think timing could have been any better. There was no significant back-up of buses into the Transitway, or on Scott at Bayview. Certainly, no bus ever waited more than a cycle to get through. There were about 15 minutes of car lane congestion from Carruthers to Merton, backing up a little toward Parkdale, but I'm satisfied that congestion was not a problem. I doubt any passengers saw more than the promised 3-minute delay. I did chat with some express bus passengers who said it was tough to tell if they were delayed since west-end 417 traffic was apparently bad.
  • The interaction between buses and cyclists/pedestrians at the cut was excellent. Right-turning westbound buses on the red are giving pedestrians and cyclists lots of room and consideration. For their part, pedestrians and cyclists are obeying the signal. I saw no cause for concern.
  • Road and sidewalk conditions were excellent given the snow last night. There was a slight issue with some slick snow on Merton that was giving right-hand turning cars a bit of pause, forcing left-turning buses exiting the Transitway to be a little tentative. As I was leaving, extra plowing had been called for.
  • I hired some help this week to hand out fliers and raise awareness about the multi-use path that runs to the north of the Transitway, bypassing the Albert Street bridge. I'm told awareness was high. People were choosing to walk on the south Albert sidewalk, but they were largely aware of the alternative. I'll have that person out each morning this week to continue the awareness raising.
  • Some operators were dropping passengers destined for the O-Train at the new stop at Bayview/Scott instead. I've asked that word go out to the operators as quickly as possible that there is still a Bayview stop. The audible stop messages are being updated as we speak.
  • My thanks go out to operators on mulitple routes who were picking up passengers at Bayview/Scott even though they aren't 95s. That's a good thing - but we'll see if the practice continues. Most of the 95s are pretty full by the time they get to that corner.
  • There are some cars winding up in the bus lane. If that becomes a problem, some enforcement may be called for. It's less of a problem eastbound than west, since if a car winds up stopped at the cut, it will prevent getting a few more buses into the trench on the red. Staff will be monitoring this all week.
  • The volume of traffic was such that making right-hand turns into the side-streets, and right and left hand turns from the side streets to Scott, seemed to work well.
  • I did see a few cars grow impatient during that short period of congestion on Scott, and move into the bus lane to by-pass traffic. But, I saw no one cut into the residential streets to get around.

Bottom-line? With some further tweaks and fixes, I'm satisfied that the detour from the perspective of all forms of traffic is working as well as we can hope. My worst-case fears - at least this morning - weren't borne out. Kudos to the City for having thought through the various aspects.

With respect to the other broad category of concern, the noise and air quality impacts to residents immediately adjacent to Scott, I need to speak with residents. Scott is loud, but in my view there was certainly an elevation in the noise level. We know that the City has modeled those noise levels, making assumptions about how much louder it might get. Our work will be to see whether that louder traffic is within the limits anticipated by the City.

Most residents are likely aware of my feelings about the detour, and I don't intend to re-fight old battles. The detour is here. Several of my worst fears were unfounded based on this morning's experience, but it's something I'll be keeping a close watch on. OC Transpo and the City have been very responsive all weekend. If there's something you think I should know about, please drop me a line.

Oh, if you haven't seen it yet, I've posted a short video looking at the detour that folks seem to have found useful. You can catch it here.

Posted January 18, 2016