Red flags for the proposed new Civic Hospital  


By Brian Murray Carroll

You may have heard it said that “if the tray table in front of your airplane seat is dirty or broken, what does that tell you about how the airline maintains its engines?”

The proposals for the new Civic Hospital in the Experimental Farm are replete with red flags that suggest this project is headed for parking problems that will cost unknown amounts to solve and huge cost overruns in construction.

Let’s start with a “tray table” example: the presentation by the consultants about the proposed parking garage which will replace Queen Juliana Park. Presentations like this are the bread and butter of the architectural business. If you can’t wow the client, how do you expect to win the contract? Two main pieces of the presentation were supposed to be animations. They probably looked good in PowerPoint. Except the consultants shipped a PDF file to the city staff, so the animations didn’t run. If they can’t get this little detail right, what else are they getting wrong?

Critical to the number of parking spaces of the proposed parking garage are the traffic modal shares of staff and visitors coming to the new hospital. The target automobile modal share (the percentage of arrivals by car) is ultimately 35 per cent. This is supposed to be achieved by Traffic Demand Management (TDM). There are two red flags for their projection. This is a level of TDM that has never been achieved in Ottawa. Not in volume. Nor in frequency. Let me explain.

For volume, Ottawa’s most successful TDM project has been the Redblacks games and major events at Lansdowne Park. There, transit share has been about 56 per cent, far short of the goal for the proposed Civic Hospital.

As for frequency, the above events take place a few dozen times a year. TDM for the proposed hospital is supposed to achieve its goals seven days a week, all year round.

A major part of the proposed hospital plan is use of public transit, including the Light Rail Transit (LRT). Except that the LRT station is five football fields (520 metres) from the entrance to the hospital. This will discourage LRT use by all but the very fit. The consultants proposed that the Carling LRT station be extended south of Carling. But city staff stated that no such extension can be built because the tracks curve and drop south of Carling to enter the Rideau Canal train tunnel.

This is a recipe for failure. TDM failure.

Beyond parking, there lies due diligence with respect to finances. The similar Oakville Trafalgar Hospital opened in 2015 with 340 beds. Total cost: $2.7 billion, or $8  million per bed. The new Civic is supposed to open in 2028 with 640 beds. Cost $2.8 billion, or $4.4 million per bed. Are we supposed to believe that somehow this new hospital will cost 45% less than a recently constructed hospital in the same province? Where is the due diligence?

This is another recipe for failure. This a recipe for another major cost overrun in this city, similar to the LRT. A failure of administration of the public purse.

These are but two examples of severe problems on the horizon.

Brian M. Carroll is a former president of the Dow’s Lake Residents Association.

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