Historically, the role of the NCC and its predecessors in urban transportation derived from its legislated federal planning mandate and its ownership of lands and infrastructure such as bridges, parkways and corridors.
In the years following 1950, the Federal District Commission, and later the NCC, reshaped the region’s transportation networks by reimagining the Capital’s core and relocating the region’s industrial functions and the rail network toward the urban periphery.
In the second half of the 20th century, as in all North American cities, there was a move to give precedence to the use of private automobiles, which underscored the 1950 Gréber Plan. In recent years, there has been a reversal of this trend, with a substantial emphasis on public transportation, ride sharing and segregated cycling facilities. Though it is difficult to predict the course of urban mobility over the next 50 years, advanced information technology is already shaping mobility patterns and transportation systems management. The likely changes may be a continuation of investment in public transit and cycling, more emphasis on the pedestrian experience, substantially enhanced universal accessibility in public realm design, and much more on-demand and automated vehicle services. The NCC will actively encourage transportation policies leading toward environmental sustainability.
Transportation investments by the NCC over the next decades should support placemaking, in addition to enhancing the experience of the Capital. Federal involvement in regional transportation should then concentrate on investing in assets that serve as a foundation for a distinctive and attractive sustainable mobility network.
Improved interprovincial connectivity remains an important aspect of the federal contribution to regional mobility. The federal workforce in the Capital Region, distributed on both sides of the Ottawa River, depends on these connections. The NCC supports the improvement of urban transportation in Canada’s Capital Region with sustained efforts to ensure effective, cooperative and integrated planning, as well as high standards of design, environmental quality and stewardship. Success will require a collaborative approach across jurisdictions.
Key roadways and bridges accessing the core area, as well as other entry points (air, rail and bus) are important contributors to the symbolic character of the region, and should foster a sense of arrival and welcome for all visitors. Capital arrivals and gateways require a cohesive Capital brand and exceptional design, and the NCC will work with its partners to achieve these aims; well-designed visitor orientation and information is an important factor in making the Capital Region an excellent destination.
The NCC focuses on mobility as fundamental to the Capital experience, providing opportunities to enjoy and explore the diversity of natural and built environments and landscapes in the region. Walking and cycling are two important active mobility modes that often provide the best way to fully appreciate the Capital. The renowned Capital Pathway network, developed in partnership with the municipalities, provides residents and visitors with continuous, safe and enjoyable routes to discover the Capital. The pathways serve the diverse needs of commuter and recreational cyclists and walkers, and are integrated with other on-road and off-road links. They allow access to Capital institutions and attractions, federal accommodations, scenic spaces and parks. The pathways running along the region’s waterways offer users a scenic, leisurely excursion focused on interpretive and experiential elements along the way.
Likewise, the parkway corridors within the urban area of the Capital, located mostly along the banks of the Rideau Canal and the shorelines of the Ottawa River, frame the beauty of the Capital setting and its waterways for public enjoyment. Their signature scenic qualities accentuate the quality of the journey experience, and distinguish them from the local transport network. They contribute to the green and ceremonial Capital, and they form part of the Capital green space network.
Under the Plan for Canada’s Capital, the NCC will preserve the intended character of parkways as low-density, low-volume, slow-speed scenic routes in park-type settings, and will create a set of riverfront parks. In some cases, the connectivity of parkways with local roads renders them de facto commuter routes, though this is not their intended function. The NCC will accordingly continue to discuss ways of limiting this unintended use with the relevant authorities.
Interprovincial links are vital to the region’s economic vitality and growth. The NCC acknowledges that the seamless integration of interprovincial crossings with municipal and provincial transportation networks is essential for a prosperous and sustainable region. In this respect, there is a need to achieve coherent strategies for regional transportation that will improve connectivity across jurisdictional boundaries through the respective transit authorities’ plans.
The NCC proposed a vision, through its Strategic Transport Initiative in 2005, that was multi-modal for both goods and people movement. It recognizes steps that are needed to enhance the resilience of interprovincial transport infrastructure, and advocates a stronger, joined interprovincial transit network through additional capacity and transformational connectivity. The Plan will build on this vision.
The NCC will also accentuate its role as facilitator and coordinator of investments for increased connectivity and services, and will support federal investments toward these goals. The region’s various governments at all levels must focus on strategic investments to promote active mobility and multi-modality. Gaps in the efficient continuity of a unified and integrated network of transport infrastructure need to be addressed through collaborative planning approaches with municipal and provincial authorities, using state-of-the-art information systems.
Cooperation with other levels of government and the freight transport industry is required to support interprovincial truck traffic and goods movement. A successful outcome balances delivery efficiency, meets the requirements to facilitate both local and through-trip patterns, mitigates community and environmental impacts, and better preserves the special character of the Capital’s core area.
Key policy directions for the next 50 years
- The NCC will invest in prudent stewardship of the parkway network, with a focus on protecting and enhancing its intrinsic qualities as robust and interconnected federal “green infrastructure.”
- The NCC will work with partners to develop appropriate signage and an integrated wayfinding system and other applicable, innovative communication enhancements, in response to the specific needs of visitors and to address increased participation of persons with disabilities.
- The NCC will join forces with its municipal partners to adapt the Capital Pathway network in order for it to meet the needs of users, while reducing conflicts between different types of use.
- The NCC will work with the City of Ottawa and PSPC to reimagine the streetscape and improve the pedestrian and cyclist realm on Wellington Street.
- The NCC will explore extending federal ownership or collaborating in the financing of critical Capital features such as Confederation Boulevard, the Capital’s official ceremonial and discovery route.
- The federal government will maintain ownership of the interprovincial bridges, including the two owned by the NCC. These bridges over the Ottawa River serve as unifying and defining elements of the Capital Region.
- In the short term, the NCC will continue to work with the municipalities and PSPC to improve interprovincial transportation connections using existing bridges. In the long term, if a consensus emerges between the provinces of Ontario and Quebec and the affected municipalities that a new interprovincial bridge crossing is required, the NCC will collaborate in the planning and delivery of future interprovincial crossings.
- The NCC will support efforts toward seamless and continuous interprovincial transit services, consistent with the principles espoused by the Interprovincial Transit Strategy, including the adaptation of the Prince of Wales rail bridge for transit and active mobility.
- The NCC will continue to contribute toward high-quality mobility and access in the region in support of its mandate to develop and enhance the Capital, and ensure that the character of the Capital is worthy of its national significance.
- The NCC will continue to work with the municipalities, transit authorities and community groups to find ways to balance the modal split of transport (i.e. the percentage share of the different modes of transport used) in the Capital and to make walking, cycling, transit and car sharing more attractive alternatives to the use of private automobiles.
- The NCC will collaborate with PSPC to develop a core area universal accessibility plan for federal assets.
- The NCC will collaborate with the municipalities to develop a core area pedestrian plan to improve the quality and safety of the pedestrian experience.
- The NCC will monitor the use of its high-usage pathways and, where feasible, it will segregate commuter and recreational users.
- The NCC will work with the respective authorities to improve interconnectivity between air, rail and bus systems, as they serve Capital arrival functions. The NCC will continue to support the respective authorities to ensure that air, rail and bus facilities and linkages are state-of-the-art, designed to offer a pleasing and welcoming arrival, and signal entry to the capital of Canada.
- The NCC will work with transit authorities to improve access to national institutions, including amenities such as shelters and benches.
- The NCC will consider locating transport infrastructure on its lands to support regional transportation needs that meet the objectives of sustainable growth and development, when no other viable alternative exists, and where the new infrastructure is not a detriment to the NCC’s mandate.