Ecology Ottawa–verbal remarks to the Transportation Committee, feedback on Transportation Master Plan
Friday, Nov. 15, 2013
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Good morning, Chair Egli and members of the Committee,
My name is Trevor Haché and I’m speaking today on behalf of Ecology Ottawa, a volunteer-led grassroots organization working to make our city the green capital of Canada.
Ecology Ottawa feels overall very much in support of the draft Transportation Master Plan, and staff should be congratulated for their good work on it.
The Plan’s Stage 2 Light Rail components represent a breakthrough in sustainable transportation in the City of Ottawa. Plans to extend Light Rail east, west and south more quickly is a bold vision, one Ecology Ottawa supports wholeheartedly.
We are also glad the City has committed to passing a Complete Streets policy; we anticipate that streets that better serve public transit users, pedestrians and cyclists will contribute to an increase in public transit ridership, especially if those Complete Streets are built to and from the Light Rail and Transitway stations. Indeed, a lot of focus should be placed on ensuring our streets have as many dedicated lanes for public transportation vehicles as possible, to ensure that public transit riders are able to travel across the nation’s capital as quickly as possible. We will be keeping a close eye on Complete Streets progress and we urge the City to take a comprehensive approach to ensure effectiveness. We look forward to supporting the City in its robust implementation of this policy and will be working in the New Year to help ensure that. Ecology Ottawa recently partnered with the Lowertown Community Association to conduct an Active Transportation Audit of Lowertown and it found that there are many improvements needed to complete our streets in Lowertown, and this is true in every community across the city.
We note that the Affordability Analysis has substantially reduced the number of new roads and road widenings planned for the next 5 years. We are very much in favour of this reduction, as the City currently operates and maintains 6,000 kilometres of roads, and it is not clear how the ongoing repairs and maintenance will be paid for, unless we anticipate significant increases in property taxes, similar to those we have seen applied with water and sewer rates. Moving forward we encourage the City to consider going even further to reduce the amount of new roads and road widenings, and to instead use that money to more quickly improve public transportation, cycling and pedestrian infrastructure.
We note that even if the Transportation Master Plan is fully implemented between now and 2031, overall greenhouse gas emissions are projected to increase. This is in contradiction to what the world’s leading scientists are telling us is necessary if we are to avoid dangerous climate change. We urge the City to move forward with more investments in public transportation (including light rail) more quickly, to help ensure Ottawa achieves even better modal splits than what is currently targeted.
We appreciate the current context of fiscal constraint, and therefore are concerned that the City removed any commitment to conducting research on any possible ‘user fee’ approach to roads. Funds raised could be invested in bringing more Light Rail to more places in the City more quickly. The Preliminary Policy Proposals tabled in January this year included a section focused to User Pay, I quote:
“All levels of government are looking at ways to expand user fees for transportation beyond transit fares, parking charges, vehicle licensing fees and gas taxes. Not only could user fees fund more of the City’s transportation expenditures, but they could also act as price signals that actively shift demand from less desirable travel behaviours to those that are more desirable and sustainable.
The plan review will identify several user pay approaches and assess their technical feasibility as well as their impact on other goals related to equity, efficiency, economic growth and public acceptance.
Candidate user pay approaches could include charges for the use of roads depending on the distance travelled, road tolls, parking space levies, commercial parking surcharges, fuel surcharges, and vehicle registration fees. Canadian examples exist for some of these approaches, but all require direct administration or special enabling legislation by provincial governments.”
Unfortunately all reference to this good idea was removed from the Transportation Master Plan tabled earlier this month; we feel this is a mistake. We have submitted a Memo to the City that elaborates on this concern.
Finally, we would like to congratulate the City for implementing the Presto card system. We recognize that you are trying to differentiate between cash fares and Presto fares and we congratulate you for trying to encourage public transit users here to move toward Presto. But, it is absolutely essential that our public transportation system is affordable for it users, including families and individuals struggling with poverty—many of whom cannot afford to own a car. We urge Transit Commission members and City Council to stop raising fares. We need to encourage more sustainable modes of transportation and send price signals about the modes we most prefer, consistent with the City’s stated priorities and policies.
Thank you; I would be happy to take any questions that the good members of the Transportation Committee may have.
Ecology Ottawa submitted additional feedback in writing to the City of Ottawa’s Transportation Committee including
- a Letter of Support signed by 30 local businesses & organizations urging passage of a strong Complete Streets policy;
- a Memo asking the City to conduct preliminary research on ‘user fees’ for roads; and
- for those that don’t have a Scribd account, here is the PowerPoint presentation as a downloadable pdf.