By Barbara Popel
The new Civic Hospital is scheduled to open in 2028. When it does, Ottawa residents will be in for some nasty surprises, one of which may be deadly. This article describes three of them.
Most people – staff, outpatients, visitors – get to the current Civic Hospital in a car, usually a private car but sometimes a taxi or an Uber. We know this because the Ottawa Hospital (the corporation which owns and manages several of the city’s hospitals, including the Civic) measured what’s known as “modalities” – how people arrive at the Civic – just prior to the pandemic. 85% of the arrivals were “auto driver” (that is, private car), the remaining 15% being “all non-private auto” (that is, bus, LRT, bicycle or walking). In June 2021, the Ottawa Hospital announced that their plans for the new Civic Hospital campus in the Experimental Farm involved a big “modal shift” – by 2028, only 50% of arrivals would be by car! There are as yet no detailed plans on how this will be achieved, but if it doesn’t happen, well, then in 2028 they’ll see if they can figure out how to fix the problem. Oh, and by 2048 (when the other five buildings on the campus are finished), only 35% of arrivals will be by car.
Another thing we learned, buried in the thousands of pages of documents the Ottawa Hospital has posted on the City’s devapps website about the new Civic campus, is that 17 intersections in the vicinity of the campus are already congested at certain times of the day. This should come as no surprise to the readers of the Glebe Report! I bet you could name most of these intersections without reading the Ottawa Hospital’s documents.
But let’s get back to what Ottawa will see in 2028.
When the hospital opens in 2028, it will have 10,439 staff (the current Civic has 3,473) and 50% of arrivals by staff, visitors, outpatients and construction workers are supposed to be by car. The number of parking spaces – 3,122 – will be not much more than the 2,700 spaces at the current Civic. To replace the NCC parking lot across from Dow’s Lake Pavilion, 199 of these spaces will be reserved in the garage for the NCC, leaving 2,923 parking spaces for everyone else who wants to park on the campus. Most of these – 2,324 – will be in the parking garage. That’s a lot – the garage is about the same size as the garage at the airport – but will it be enough? So, let’s say you are driving from Orleans to the new Civic Hospital to visit your grandmother who has just had her gall bladder removed. You get off the Queensway at Bronson and, if it’s the wrong time of day, there’s a good chance that from Bronson to Carling, your car crawls along. Once you get onto Carling, you speed up a bit, but then you hit the Rochester intersection. When you get to Preston, it’s even worse. The worst intersection will likely be a new one, when you try to turn left onto the campus’s Road A to get to the hospital’s parking garage. Ouch! And when you get to the garage entrance – surprise! It’s full!
Let’s say you are having an MRI and you have the option of taking the LRT to the hospital. That’s ecologically responsible! So you get off at the Dow’s Lake LRT station and…face a walk of 520 meters to the main entrance of the hospital. That’s what the City’s Planning Department says is the distance. (They originally said it would be 250 meters, or about the length of 2 1/2 football fields.) You’ll take the stairs from the existing LRT platform up to Carling (or take the elevator if you have trouble with stairs), then walk a short distance to the existing traffic light next to the LRT tracks to cross Carling. Then you’ll walk to what seems to be the shortest pedestrian route to the hospital – the sidewalk next to Road A, which will take you up to the hospital on the top of the escarpment. By the way, the distance from a transit stop to the old Civic is about 75 meters. Wear comfortable shoes!
I hope you don’t get the third nasty surprise, because it could, quite literally, kill you. Remember that I mentioned all those congested intersections? With the added traffic the campus will generate, plus the traffic from all the new developments nearby (the ultra-tall condo towers on Carling, the Booth Street/Canada Lands development, the new towers near Carling and Bronson), traffic congestion will often be ugly. Ambulances already have difficulty travelling north on Bronson. There’s a real risk that some ambulances – especially ones travelling south on Preston or west on Carling or Queen Elizabeth/Prince of Wales – will be delayed in getting to the ER entrance in the rear of the new hospital.
These are only three of the nasty surprises Ottawa residents will get when the new Civic opens. Sadly, there are more.
Barbara Popel is secretary of the Dow’s Lake Residents Association and a member of its Special Committee on the New Civic Hospital.