Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Stop the train; stop everything

Though I do have some reservations about the feasibility of running them through the downtown core, I'm not against Ottawa's light rail plans. However, this is not endearing me to that larger scheme. Bombardier plans to park a mockup of its commuter rail vehicle on Laurier Avenue in front of City Hall during the 11 days of Bluesfest in July, says the festival's executive director, Mark Monahan. Bombardier, which is bidding for part of the $675 million in contracts for the city's giant rail project, gained that right by becoming an official partner for the festival beginning July 7, Mr. Monahan said yesterday. The train mockup will be plopped in the middle of Laurier Avenue, which a council committee last week grudgingly voted to close during the festival. The festival had asked for more space to comply with Ontario liquor regulations, and to accommodate crowds of up to 30,000. The show had threatened to move to Hog's Back Park had it not received more room. Laurier being closed is bad enough, for the havoc it's going to play with regular traffic in Centretown; while a fan of public transit, I don't think forcing it on users by making vehicular traffic worse is good for public perception of the system. Those who resent taking the bus due to fallout from municipal shenanigans aren't going to be very positive towards the experience. Parking a huge Bombardier train on Laurier, though, making it seem like the PR display is part and parcel of the initial road closure - that's adding insult to injury. Rick Chiarelli has it right: Baseline Councillor Rick Chiarelli said the move could backfire on Bombardier. "Having a commuter train congest traffic is a bad way to sell your commuter train," he said. "I hope this is out of heartfelt commitment to the community because it is not having any impact on whether they are getting the contract." Either way, the hordes descend in two weeks. May they not blame the city or Bombardier for each other's gaffes, for the sake of longer-term transit plans.

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