Public Transit in the News: 1956 Version

From a May 22 1956 editorial in the Ottawa Citizen:

Toronto's Transport Commission, faced with a deficit of more than $4,000,000 this year has decided to increase the basic fare to 12 1/2 cents from 10 cents and is appealing to Metropolitan Toronto Council for a $2,000,000 subsidy. In addition, the outer zone fare will be increased. The reasons for TTC difficulties are complex but basically they are similar to those which have contributed to public transport troubles in other cities, including Ottawa, in recent years.

For one thing, the rapid expansion of urban building in lightly populated fringe' areas has forced public transport companies such as the Ottawa Transportation Commission to extend their services uneconomically. As well. civic administrations have done too little to discourage the use of the automobile in downtown areas so that public transport has to face stern competition from the private passenger car.

Yet the life of any large city depends on an efficient solvent public transport system. Without it property values in the vital central district would decline and the taxpayers would lose much of their large investment in the downtown area-sewer, water and lighting installations, for instance.

It is in the interest of any city, including Ottawa, to do everything it can to maintain an efficient transport system. Traffic regulations which would encourage the greatest possible use of public transport are required. As well, the private automobile should be allowed to impede the movements of buses and street-cars as little as possible. Finally, a stand-by charge could be leveled on all ratepayers for the benefit of the public transport system, because good public transport benefits all citizens, including those who use a bus or street-car only occasionally. Given sufficient help, there is no reason why a public transport company could not, even ln the automobile age earn enough to maintain and expand its service.

I don't know if the Citizen would write the same editorial today. As a bonus I also learned that the 1956 Citizen carried a Bible Message on the editorial page!


Hidden Treasure

Many of us like to complain about the way other people's websites are organized. Sometimes it is easy to see how bad information architecture or site navigation happens. Often the original navigation could not grow with the site. Sometimes the organizational structure changes and the site can't adapt. One of the most frustrating things about using a poorly designed website is finding buried content that should be easily accessible.

Conversely, when I have had the opportunity to professionally review and restructure websites, finding buried treasure and making it available is extremely satisfying. Sometimes organizations spend a lot of time and money developing content just to bury it. So here, for free, is a well hidden treasure from the City of Ottawa website.

The City of Ottawa Interactive Traffic Map is a good resource. It is Google map that includes cycle routes, city parking lots, links to traffic cameras, construction events and much more.

It is not linked to from the homepage or from the Maps page. A site search for the exact title of the page does not return it, although there is a link to it from some of the returns. One of the problems is that the map is poorly named, as it offers a lot more than traffic information.

Map of Ottawa on top of aerial photo.

Map from Illustrated historical atlas of the county of Carleton (including city of Ottawa) Ont. [microform] (1879) (

Aerial image from City of Ottawa


I came so close to lining up the streets.

ott sat mash


I Won a Prize

The email telling me I won a $50 gift card for Esso was not a scam. It looks like the kind folks at Canadian Web Hosting have rewarded me for filling out a survey.

Socialism Plus Electricity Plus Temperance Equals a Canadian Utopia


From In the new capital, or, The city of Ottawa in 1999

Socialism plus electricity plus temperance equals a Canadian Utopia.

This book published in 1897 imagines Canada in 1999 where alcohol and private property have been abolished and hydro-electricity has enabled a near utopia.

Skip ahead to the waking up in 1999 which begins on page 104 (pg. 95 of the text).

Highlights include:

Well, Baron, how is it that so many people have horseless carriages, and such pretty homes, yet they don't seem to labor much, and have so many holidays?" "That is easily explained. The great gift of electricity to us by nature assists in shortening our hours of labor, and is free to all now, but in the past it was legislated as a benefit to a few by the patent laws, and these patentees were protected by a law compelling the users to pay them their stated price, and only the rich could do it. As no monopolies or patent laws exist everybody is free to use any invention or apply it to his use. We respect foreign laws in patents, not to traffic in their patents, but may use them for private benefit, and as we have plenty of spare time we take a great pleasure of putting it in our homes and making a great study of it.
"In the past, money, which was spent in drinking habits and vice, is now spent in decorating the homes with statues, paintings, music and all results of modern arts.

pg. 118  (pg 127)

It is good to know bagpipes survive socialism.

“This is a wonderful age, but I would have thought that the great music by electricity would have super-seded the music of the bagpipes. Baron," said I.
Oh, no; you can't measure the Scotchman's love for the bag-pipes, or his ancient customs, yet he is very democratic in his ideas.

pg. 121



Great Moments in Open Data

I have been using the City of Ottawa eMap application a lot lately. It contains a lot of useful data including locations of city services, ward mappings and zoning maps. The problem is that the application itself is difficult to use and has a lousy user interface. In general one of the great things about geographic information is that it is easy to use and reuse.

Take a look at Google Maps or Google Earth and you can see all sorts of creative uses of geographic data. Not in Ottawa. The eMap web application makes it impossible (to me at least) to extract data. Even if it was possible to reuse the data, which is publicly paid for, you need to agree to a very prohibitive terms of use before getting access to the eMap application. I have copied a selection from the terms of use below.

City of Ottawa eMap Website Terms of Use

You may not copy, modify, distribute, transmit, display, reproduce, publish, license, create derivative works from, link to or frame in another website, use on any other website, transfer or sell the Site Products in whole or in part either voluntarily or by operation of law.  The foregoing prohibition expressly includes, but is not limited to, the practice of screen scraping, database scraping or any such practice or activity; the purpose of which is to obtain data or portions thereof, portions of databases from the Site, in any manner or any quantities not expressly authorized hereunder.

Makes me wonder whose data this is in the first place.

Google Maps + History

Current map of Ottawa with 1901 ward boundaries.

I assumed that the current O-Train tracks followed the previous CPR tracks.

My plan is for this to be the first map in a series of historical 'snapshots'. Here is my draft map of current Ottawa neighbourhoods. The plan is to create a high-level map and then to add sub-neighbourhods as time and resources permit. Feedback is welcome.

Downtown Ottawa Trains

With trains (potentially) making a return to Ottawa I was reminded of an image I bookmarked a few years ago. This is an image from the CN Rail Archives hosted at the Museum of Science and Technology in Ottawa.


Passenger train leaving Ottawa Union Station beside Rideau Canal

The photo caption reads:

Passenger train leaving Ottawa Union Station beside Rideau Canal
Image No.: CN000562


Notre Dame Mash-up

Update: Just in case it the origin of these two images is not clear. The current image is taken from Google Street Views and the older image is from the 1884 book Views of Ottawa which has been scanned and saved online at the Internet Archive.
Mash-up of Views of Ottawa and Google Street Views. I have a an idea for a little more creative mash-up for when I have more time.
Also I will need to improve my photo manipulation skills.


Time Travel Mash-up

Inspired by the mash-ups seen at The Torontoist and linked to by Andy I have tried to merge an image from my phone with an image from 1910 (these images can be seen at and

More coming as time permits.

One clear lesson from this is the my image manipulation skills are poor.



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