Councillor looks to L.A. to map Ottawa road conditions

Coun. Tim Tierney wants to take a cue from the City of Angels to help give Ottawa residents a clearer picture of the state of the city's roads.

Interactive online map allows anyone to check road conditions in Los Angeles, Coun. Tim Tierney says

Coun. Tim Tierney said Ottawa's pavement conditions should be easily accessible so people can see how their street compares to others in the city. (Laura Osman/CBC)

Coun. Tim Tierney wants to take a cue from the City of Angels to help give Ottawa residents a clearer picture of the state of the city's roads.

It only takes a click of a mouse to look at the state of the road surface along Hollywood Boulevard, or find out when Melrose Avenue was last paved.

Los Angeles shows the condition of all of its roads on a real-time interactive map that anyone can access online.

A screenshot of the map featured on the City of Los Angeles website, which shows the pavement conditions of each street. (City of Los Angeles)

It's difficult to get a similar picture of what's happening in Ottawa, Tierney said.

He's asked city staff to study the possibility of creating a similar map using Ottawa's pavement condition data.

That study is underway.

"I want to be able to have a full, high-level view of exactly what's happening in my neighbourhoods," said Tierney, the councillor for Beacon Hill-Cyrville.

Ottawa reports every five years on the overall state of city infrastructure.

Last year, Ottawa's roads were considered in fair to poor condition, but the study doesn't show where the biggest problems are.

Even as a councillor, Tierney finds it takes time to find out the condition of a given road.

"I literally have to email city staff members and they have to pull it out of a spreadsheet," he said. "But we pay for those roads, and we should have access."

L.A. sees success

The idea was controversial when it was first pitched in Los Angeles, but officials there say the system has worked well.

"A lot of my colleagues in other cities were telling me 'You're crazy, the more information you give them the more they're going to stab you in the back,'" said Nazario Sauceda, the director of public works for Los Angeles.

"It hasn't worked like that. It's the opposite."

The roads on the map are colour coded: green for those in good condition and red for those in rough shape.

The map makes it easy to see and understand the issues on the roads, and the added transparency has helped the city to work with its neighbourhoods to come up with strategies for tackling the road maintenance issues, he said.

The L.A map helped shape how much money the city spends keeping the streets in shape.

That's why Tierney wants an Ottawa version in place before the city budget is set for 2019.

Ottawa city staff are studying the possibility of creating an Ottawa-based map using existing road condition data. They will report their findings to city council.

Sauceda has even offered to help Ottawa with its version if this city decides to move ahead.