A project that might affect sidewalks on Baseline Road is the Baseline Rapid Transit project, which was approved by City Council on Feb. 8, 2017. The project involves a rapid transit corridor along Baseline and Heron routes. Vivi Chi, project manager, proposed in a transportation committee meeting to build 24 transit stations along the corridor, each distanced by 575 metres.
Building these stations would be at the cost of having a longer walking distance between them, the transportation committee discussed. The walking distance would be up to 250 metres, in which Chiarelli explained to be “two and a half the length of a football field.” In the committee meeting, he expressed the difficulty that the distance will pose on seniors, especially in winter.
“In bitter cold and icy conditions…making them walk that much further seems self-defeating,” Chiarelli said to the project team.
In the City Council meeting, Chiarelli co-sponsored a suggestion with transportation committee chair Coun. Keith Egli to put an additional transit station at St. Helen’s Place to shorten the walking distance for seniors in this area. It will slow down the bus trip by 45 seconds, he said, but “it is worth it.”
“That puts two stations relatively close together, but it cuts the additional walking distance for the average person by the length of one football field,” Chiarelli said.
Though this transit station satisfies the senior community along Baseline/Clyde, seniors along the rest of the Baseline corridor still face the same problem. Chiarelli acknowledges the trade-off, but he said that rapid transit can only be achieved if there aren’t as many stops.
“You get the best deal you can get,” Chiarelli said. “The best deal we could get was an additional station in the area that serves the most seniors.”
Marjorie Shaver-Jones, Copeland Park Community Alliance representative, said that all her needs have been met through the transit station at St. Helen’s Place. However, she said she is still concerned about the project team’s plans to deal with snow removal along the sidewalks.
“I’m only left with more questions,” said Shaver-Jones in a phone interview about the project team’s plans on snow removal.
According to weather data from Ottawa.weatherstats.ca, Ottawa’s total average snowfall was 314 cm last year. That is a 79.4 per cent increase to a snowfall average of 175 cm between 1981 and 2010 in the government’s data release, Canadian Climate Normals 1981-2010.
Increased snowfall causes traffic jams along roads like Baseline, as well as poses a threat to seniors who are unable to walk through such conditions. Snow plows and snow trucks are responsible of clearing the snow off the roads and sidewalks. Giles said the City of Ottawa is doing its best in clearing sidewalks, but there are times when snow plows “don’t go down low enough when there’s a lot of ice and freezing rain.”
Sandra Gonzalez, 68, is a senior resident who used to live on Deerfield Drive, a road that connects with Baseline Road. She works at a homecare facility for seniors. She said in an interview that the seniors she helps don’t go out in the winter because they are afraid of slipping on the ice on sidewalks.
“They are prisoners in their own house,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez never fell on these sidewalks because she practices extreme caution, she said. During the interview, she stood up and tip-toed to demonstrate how she walks “like a handicap” on slippery sidewalks.
“I learned to tip-toe on ice because the worst thing you can do is go straight on your feet,” Gonzalez said.
Chiarelli said in an interview that the City of Ottawa didn’t clean residential sidewalks properly. He emphasized the importance of clearing the snow off the sidewalks to give seniors enough space to walk.
“People on scooters or wheelchairs need the space on the sidewalk. It’s not good enough to say that we’re only giving you half a metre when you need more than that,” Chiarelli said.