By Adam Bentley
The Ottawa River is an urban feature that has united and yet also divided local inhabitants. For centuries, people have exploited both the space between and within its shores for politics, commerce, and leisure. The National Capital Commission has launched nationwide public consultations this autumn for Horizon 2067, its plan to guide development in the National Capital Region up to Canada’s 200th anniversary. Residents of Ottawa must take an active role in the planning process for their city by, amongst other things, developing proposals to bridge the space between the Ottawa River’s shores with a long-term planning solution that uses low-impact, human-focused technologies. One such proposal is a gondola crossing the Ottawa River. The gondola would be a striking addition to our skyline akin to the London Eye, permanently linking Ottawa and Gatineau for pedestrians and cyclists, and providing tourists and residents alike with new views of Parliament Hill, the urban region, the Gatineau Hills, and the Ottawa River.
An urban gondola is a great way to transport people across physically difficult landforms while, unlike bridges, having a minimal impact on the land between each end. If Ottawa opened an urban gondola, it would join a growing number of cities using this and similar modes such as aerial tramways and funifors to allow people to travel to different urban communities without an automobile. Cities with such modes include Portland, Oregon; Medellin, Colombia; Caracas, Venezuela; and New York City. The Cities of London and Vancouver are planning to build such gondolas in the near future. Gondolas and aerial tramway systems in Portland, Medellin, and New York City transport tens of thousands of people each day and are integrated into the local public transit networks.
Our capital region gondola would cross the Ottawa River to allow people to travel easily by foot or bike between Ottawa and Gatineau’s respective downtowns and experience great views of the urban and surrounding landscapes along the way. The south terminal would be located at the National Capital Commission’s long-proposed lookout directly north of Bank and Wellington Streets, also known as the Bank Street Axis. The north terminal would be located at the future Canada Science and Technology Museum on the current Kruger Products site on Gatineau’s rue Laurier, where it could be associated with the museum’s technology-focused subject matter. Each terminal’s close proximity to recreational pathways and major mass transit corridors would make it easy for the gondola’s passengers to access regional walking, cycling, and public transit networks.
If Ottawa is to improve its residents’ quality of life, it must develop plans that are resilient against coming planetary changes such as climate change and the post-oil economy by adapting to a low-consumption, human-oriented, and holistic way of thinking about urban planning and design. This gondola is a good example of such planning that offers an affordable mode of transportation between Ottawa and Gatineau and should be discussed during the National Capital Commission’s national public consultations for Horizon 2067. It is imperative that residents of Ottawa continue to collectively design and build new spaces and landmarks that improve our ability to engage with our country and one another.