The City of Ottawa launched the first stage of the light rail transit system in September 2019. Multiple issues arising soon after the inauguration, Ecology Ottawa and The Ken and Debbie Rubin Public Interest Advocacy Fund saw an opportunity to assess and shed more light on how light rail stations perform across a range of social and sustainability-related concerns. As a pilot program, Ecology Ottawa sees a need for further study of the challenges and opportunities surrounding the implementation of light rail in Ottawa, ongoing monitoring of the Confederation Line network, as well as for content that will help ensure the successful delivery of the second stage of the light rail. This is a first attempt at delineating several lines of evaluation, studying only two stations.
Follow this link to access the final findings and recommendations on opportunities to improve Rideau and Parliament stations in order to make commuting safer, more accessible and more convenient for all users.
One major finding stemming from Ecology Ottawa’s analysis and public conversations around transit and active transportation is the critical role of the development of light rail transit in determining the way Ottawans choose to commute.
The audits of the Rideau and Parliament light rail stations revealed important issues that had not yet been discussed in the media. Ecology Ottawa is confident that the results of the audits support other studies conducted by partner organizations in the sector such as the Council on Aging of Ottawa with their Snow Mole audits, and the Ottawa Transit Riders. Ecology Ottawa encourages the City of Ottawa to acknowledge and fix the issues with the first stage of the LRT, as well as urges both the City and the Rideau Transit Group to consider the recommendations stated above to avoid similar problems in the second stage. While some constitute significant investments, such as implementing better weather-sheltered bus stops, others are simple fixes that will make the Ottawa transit system much more appealing. Ranging from suitable bike ramps, sufficient bike parking, and an increase of users’ sense of place with improvements of the access to greenspace and green infrastructure, we hope the City sees the co-benefits involved in implementing these suggestions, such as reduced road traffic and better air quality. The advantages involved in improving the light rail experience for transit users is multifaceted and is directly linked to the ability Ottawa has of being a leader in its response to the climate crisis. Ecology Ottawa is hopeful that further steps will be taken to have a bigger and better impact, both on the transit riders’ point of view, but also on the climate front.
If you would like to continue auditing light rail stations, please use this document as a template and send us your results. We will continue to accept reports and will communicate issues with city staff and councillors when relevant. Thank you for your continued support and help with transportation issues!
Contact Emilie at email@example.com for more information.
On Monday, November 25, Mayor Jim Watson and Coun. Stephen Blais launched the 2020-2024 Road Safety Action Plan.
To say this document was eagerly anticipated would be an understatement. For years, Ecology Ottawa and other local groups have been advocating for Vision Zero – a plan to eliminate severe injury and death on Ottawa’s streets. Yet when tangible policy reforms for Vision Zero have been proposed – as in June 2019, with a motion from Coun. Catherine McKenney – council was told to trust in the process. The June 2019 Vision Zero motion was ultimately rejected by council. The reasoning was that road safety was already a city priority, and that Vision Zero was “just a brand.”
In other words, council didn’t want a policy declaration that failed to amount to meaningful progress on road safety. Council chose to wait for meaningful action, and the upcoming Road Safety Action Plan was the vehicle for that action.
If the new Road Safety Action Plan was designed to signal that the city was finally prioritizing the safety of vulnerable road users, it has badly missed its mark. While we commend the staff that worked diligently and consulted widely, the document lacks ambition at a time when cities around the world are re-thinking their transportation networks to prioritize pedestrians and cyclists.
The Road Safety Action Plan lacks ambition in two major ways:
Beyond this high-level summary, here are a few other notable aspects of the report.
As the report points out (and contrary to some public statements made by the mayor and Councillor Blais), Ottawa still has a long way to go if it wants to take meaningful action on road safety. Ottawa’s fatality rate of 2.7 per 100,000 population is many times higher than that of leading cities like Stockholm, with 0.4 fatalities. So, while Ottawa may compare favourably to national averages (like Sweden’s), its level of ambition remains far behind leading cities.
The Action Plan clearly states that a business-as-usual approach to road safety will not result in reductions to severe injury and death. The authors write, “If the current safety efforts by the City and its partner agencies are maintained but not altered the likelihood is low that a significant reduction in either the number or severity of [Fatal and Major injury] collisions will be achieved, especially in the context of increasing traffic volumes” (pp. 17-18). Importantly, in order to effectively reduce collisions through safety programs, “significant additional resources are required” (p. 18).
Increased investment in safety countermeasures, such as the ones proposed in this document, would certainly be money well-spent. The report authors offer a range of safety ideas, such as roundabouts, better signals and red light cameras.
But are these proposals – and the $4 million price tag associated with them – enough? Leaving cost aside for a moment, let’s talk about what the report fails to mention: policy reforms that would address safety challenges at a systemic level and allow the city to avoid future investments in retroactive fixes to the system. Imagine that streets and communities were systematically designed in a way that made safety “countermeasures” less necessary; that streets were built to prioritize vulnerable road users rather than motorists, and did not have to be retrofitted after the fact and at great cost. Imagine ambitious policy was the primary means by which the City of Ottawa sought to institute sweeping reforms to road safety.
While the authors reference the importance of existing city policies such as the 2015 Complete Streets Implementation Plan, they fail to mention that this policy still lacks the “teeth” needed to fundamentally change how roads are built in Ottawa. The Complete Streets framework is designed to prioritize pedestrians and cyclists over motorists, but because of a wide range of possibilities for what the City might consider “complete,” we’re still seeing roads built without sidewalks in school zones, and new arterial roads being without segregated bike lanes. The policy gaps in the current transportation system will not be addressed by the few measures proposed in the document, such as lower speed limits and some right-turn-on-red restrictions.
While the road safety action plan proposes $31.5 million in measures and initiatives, only a small portion of this is new money. The city was already spending $25 million in 2019, and was budgeting a similar amount for 2020 before the new funding announcement.
2020 will see a one-time cash infusion of only $4 million. And while spending increases on road safety are welcome, the $4 million addition must be put into the broader context of the city’s spending priorities. As we have discussed elsewhere, the city is making this marginal increase in a budget that overwhelmingly favours investments in road growth projects, to the tune of $66.2 million.
Ottawa’s addiction to road growth projects is more than a misallocation of precious resources that indirectly creates budget pressures in other areas. At a fundamental level, there are trade-offs between designing and building a city for cars, and doing so for vulnerable road users such as cyclists and pedestrians. Every new car-oriented community means more cars on the road, which makes our streets more dangerous. These trade-offs are not acknowledged in the report.
So, while cost is a consideration here, it shouldn’t be the major one. The root problem is political prioritization, and it’s clear that the City of Ottawa continues to disproportionately favour cars over other modes of travel in our city.
In the document’s opening pages, there are some reassuring words that indicate that Ottawa shares Vision Zero objectives while using different language. This Road Safety Action Plan is the third iteration of a model – called “Towards Zero” – that is “built on the integrated approach and adopted the Swedish Vision Zero model” (p.1). As with Vision Zero, the “Towards Zero model holds the understanding that no loss of life is acceptable from motor vehicle collisions” (p. 1). The document also claims to have adopted the “Safe System Approach to road safety” (SSA), which has the principle that “human life and health are paramount and take priority over mobility and other objectives of the road traffic system (i.e., life and health can never be exchanged for other benefits within the society)” (p. 1).
Yet, it’s also clear that Road Safety Action Plan doesn’t hold these views. After all, this is the same document that essentially establishes an “acceptable” level of severe injury and death in Ottawa. That is, a 20% reduction from today’s levels by 2024.
The document also seems to reject the Vision Zero premise that severe injury and death is a product of bad design, and that choices about design are fundamentally political ones. In other words, a Vision Zero perspective states that deaths are not accidental – they are preventable, and it is incumbent upon society and policymakers to take this into account. Instead, the Road Safety Action Plan states, “Serious injuries and deaths are an emotional subject, especially when they are preventable” (p. 48, emphasis added).
It would be helpful to know the degree to which the authors, and city officials, think road deaths are preventable. If their fundamental assumption is – as it seems to be – that a certain amount of death and severe injury is an inevitable feature of the transportation system, while others are preventable, why do they even claim adherence to Vision Zero ideal in the first place? City officials have cautioned about the “empty rhetoric” that might come with a Vision Zero declaration not backed by meaningful measures. This document is guilty of a similar charge – declaring adherence to Vision Zero while failing to follow through on what that vision entails.
On November 15th and 16th, Ecology Ottawa, Greenspace Alliance, Community Association for Environmental Sustainability (CAFES) and the Youth Climate Ambassadors hosted a workshop on Climate Solutions and Ottawa’s Official Plan. Individuals and organizations from all areas of the city, from the downtown core to the rural wards discussed and co-created targeted climate solutions that can help shape the Official Plan.
The City declared a climate emergency last spring. It is now in the process of developing its new Official Plan, which will frame land use in Ottawa over the next 25 years. Effective climate action must be central to the new Official Plan.
Over 100 participants from environmental groups, community associations and the general public worked together to develop a climate action message. It is organized around the four building blocks (nature, food, buildings/infrastructure and transportation) and the priority actions defined by the working groups at the event. It also draws on ideas presented at the workshop and in prior documents developed through the People’s Official Plan (POP).
We have also posted to the internet the outstanding video by Diane Saxe (https://youtu.be/773nlW13agw).
In the meantime, we need your help! Please use any of these materials to engage urgently with your neighbours, your neighbourhood associations and with your Councillor on this topic. There is little time left to influence members of the joint Planning and Agriculture and Rural Affairs committee meeting in March 2020.
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to join a team of residents from your ward and meet with your councillor, participate in our phoning campaign or help with our petition.
What an amazing Gala we had on Wednesday November 20th, 2019.
We want to give a big shout out to everyone who helped make this night a success. Together we created an amazing space where the environmental community in Ottawa can gather.
Below are some photos highlighting the event. We look forward to next year!
On March 15th, more than 150,000 students were officially on strike across Québec. At other events, young people across have Canada marched in the streets, demanding action today to ensure we have a world for future generations.
Young people have been going on strike around the world every Friday since Greta Thunberg set off #FridaysForFuture in August of 2018, and have been waging creative protests to push politicians to take bold action and tackle the climate crisis head on.
On September 27, the entire planet is on strike. Not just students, but also workers, citizens – as the climate crisis spares nobody, we must all be mobilized. Let’s make this date an historic moment, a moment of true change.
It is high time we take matters into our own hands.
Join us at the Global Climate Strike to demand accountability and action regarding the climate crisis!
Let us know you’re coming! RSVP now at this link: https://www.ecologyottawa.org/ottawa_climate_strike
We will be meeting at Confederation Park at 11:30am.
WHEN: September 27, 2019 at 11:30am – 2pm
WHERE: Confederation Park (Laurier Ave. and Elgin St.)
After the mass marches and rally on Parliament for the Global Climate Strike… be part of a mass bike ride for the climate!
Bring your bikes to one of the two march meeting points, ready for the ride afterwards. Or if you can’t make the mid-day marches, meet us late afternoon at The Spider on Sussex!
3:00pm leave from Confederation Park
3:30pm meetup point in Gatineau (Portage @ Laval)
4:30pm meetup point at The Spider (at National Art Gallery)
5:45pm at Confederation Park
Here is the facebook link for the Climate Strike Bike: https://www.facebook.com/events/478631632730542/
For more information about the march, please see the event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/2358161320964436/
We need organizers! Will you step up to invite your friends to join you on the big day? Contact Clara to see how you can help out.
CONTACT: Clara Cuny · email@example.com · 613-860-5353
Hope to see you there!
A once-in-a-generation opportunity
Ottawa City Council declared a Climate Emergency in spring 2019. On May 4, 2020, the City will make a final decision on Ottawa’s urban boundary. The new Official Plan must be Ottawa’s climate emergency plan. Hold the Line is a necessary city-wide initiative to adequately respond to the Climate Emergency.
Future development needs to be 70% intensification (on currently developed land) and 30% greenfield development (on previously undeveloped land) within the current boundary. The new Official Plan proposal suggests 60% intensification and 40% greenfield development.
The new Official Plan is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the city to hold the line on sprawl by embedding strong intensification targets and ensuring that the urban boundary is not expanded. This will protect vast swaths of greenfield land – vital natural areas and farmland – for generations to come.
Urban sprawl will promote car-centric development moving Ottawa further away from a sustainable future. Intensification will allow to improve current infrastructure and public transportation and will help build healthy fundament for future greener development.
Besides the obvious environmental consequences, city expansion has economic, social and health implications for the residents.
The time is running out and the Planning Committee doesn’t seem to listen to our voice!
Here’s what you can do to help us stop urban sprawl in Ottawa:
If you chose to email your councillor, we strongly urge you to edit the automated message to make it more personal. Writing your own personalized email to your councillor would have a huge impact.
This is definitely the most impactful way to express your concern. If you choose to call, try to make your call during office hours. Use the attached cheat sheet, if you need some help expressing your argument.
We will be arranging face-to-face meetings with councillors. If you would like to speak with your councilor about the issue of urban sprawl, please reach out to our Political Organizer Isaac at firstname.lastname@example.org
So far we have met with Laura Dudas, Theresa Kavanagh, Rawlson King, Catherine McKenney, Jeff Leiper, and Scott Moffatt.
Our priority Council members moving forward are:
Last but not the least, please reach out to your friends and colleagues, and share this message as much as you can. It is crucial that Ottawa residents are educated about the importance of the vote on May 4th!
Remember that you can influence the future of our city! It’s urgent to ACT NOW!
As many of you may know, a large part of the work that our Living City team does — beyond our green infrastructure and greenspace protection campaigns — relates to trees. More specifically, we collaborate on, organize, and attend community events so that we can give away native tree seedlings to as many Ottawa area residents as possible! The appetite for planting trees and re-greening our capital has proven to be a large one: Our goal for this spring and summer was to distribute 12,000 trees, and it excites us to announce that we have surpassed the 10,000 tree mark!
Since the beginning of April, our dedicated tree giveaway volunteers have allowed us to attend over 100 events across the city and surrounding areas to bring trees to YOU. We can’t do this great work without the support and energy of our volunteers, who are central to the success of the tree giveaway program — thank you.
And of course, our tree giveaways for 2019 are not over! We still have events scheduled into September, and opportunities to collaborate if you are looking to host a tree giveaway.
We are floored by the success of the giveaways and the desire by community members to invest in the future of our city, country, and planet by planting trees on their properties. The Living City team cannot wait to hand out the 12,000th tree this fall, knowing that the program is going to continue and expand in 2020 with 15,000 trees hoping to find their forever homes in your yards and properties next year!
Photo by Marc-Olivier Jodoin – https://unsplash.com/photos/NqOInJ-ttqM
It has been a dark week for local democracy in Ottawa.
Last Wednesday, council green-lit an Old Ottawa East development that violated a years-old neighbourhood plan. The original design was rooted in thousands of hours of community consultation and engagement with city processes, but no matter. In the end, the developer pulled the rug out from under the community. Planning committee refused to stop the process, and council gave its stamp of approval with a 14-9 vote in favour of the project.
Earlier that morning, one of the city’s most powerful committees blocked a non-member councillor from asking a simple question. While the councillor’s question was about a baseball lease, the move speaks volumes about Ottawa’s decision-making process on environmental matters. It points to a council whose decision-making process has been centralized around the mayor. This concentration of power has clear, negative implications for the areas of the city with councillors outside of the mayor’s inner circle.
If we needed further evidence of this point, last week’s Château Laurier decision made it crystal clear. Kelly Egan has pointed out that Ottawa’s urban councillors have been on the losing end of planning decisions for some time now. The root cause is committee composition, which stems from mayoral decisions. Immediately after the 2018 election, the mayor cut out urban councillors from key decision-making roles impacting Ottawa’s environment. In this way, the causes behind the “radiator-shaped goiter” on the Château Laurier are the same as those behind environmental crises like climate change, tree decimation and urban sprawl.
So what can be done?
Put simply, we can’t let cynicism induce us to inaction. We need to stand up and be heard. Even when we feel that residents don’t have a voice, we won’t be silenced. Even when our councillors push for what’s right, and risk being sidelined when they run afoul of the mayor, we won’t be silenced.
Now, more than ever, we need to bring the pressure of mass mobilization to bear on city council. Ecology Ottawa is uniquely positioned to amplify your voice to demand better from city hall. We must continue to organize in communities, pressure council at key moments and keep all council members accountable to the public.
We cannot do this without your support. Donate today to join thousands of other Ottawa residents who stand up for our environment. Your contribution will go towards building a better, greener city for now and for future generations.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted into our atmosphere from human activities is the leading cause of climate change. Over the last 200 years, the concentration of CO2 in our atmosphere has increased and to a level which is now 1.4 times higher than at any time over the previous 200,000 years. If we don’t reduce our emissions very rapidly, the consequences for our planet will be catastrophic.
Transportation is responsible for 44% of emissions within the City of Ottawa. This means tackling the climate crisis involves changing how we move around our city. We have found that most drivers are unaware that
the average car driven 20,000 kilometers per year emits over 3 tonnes of CO2 (4.5, in fact!).
The Know CO2 stickers, designed to be affixed to bumper stickers or other clearly visible surfaces, aim to make sure that all drivers are aware of the CO2 impact of their vehicles. Every time a following driver or pedestrian sees your sticker :
There are many ways you can take action in your daily life to reduce the carbon footprint related to transportation. The list below, although nowhere near comprehensive, is a good place to start.
The easiest and most affordable step is to switch to other modes of transportation, including walking, cycling and public transit, when you need to get around.
The more we design sprawling car-centric communities, the more we make transit unaffordable and walking or cycling unsafe. Consider writing your representatives and let them know you care about the future of active transportation and that you want to see more investments in walking and cycling networks and accessible and affordable public transit. We also need compact, complete communities and neighbourhoods, where walking and biking for daily needs is safe and convenient.
The majority of Canadians are concerned about climate change and would be happy to purchase a CO2-free vehicle provided it was economically
competitive and met their transport needs. However, while the number e-vehicles in Ottawa-Gatineau is growing, it remains a tiny fraction of the total vehicle population of over 0.5 million.
The main barriers to purchase are the high initial cost of electric cars and chargers compared with their gas powered equivalents, range anxiety and concern with access to charging facilities. The auto industry and governments are making large investments in transport electrification. New models are being launched, range is increasing, costs are coming down and the charging network is growing. Progress will come faster if drivers show they care and that they want action. Our stickers are one way of doing this. Voting for politicians with strong climate platforms at every level is another.
If you are looking for ways to reduce your impact on our environment and help fight climate change in your daily life, consider purchasing an electric car the next time you need to buy a new vehicle. For more information on options and incentives to go electric, click here.
Even after a cyclist was killed outside of City Hall on May 16, and over 200 gathering outside City Hall a few days later to demand safer streets, it was not enough for councillors to take a stance and adopt Vision Zero policy.
On June 12, City Council discussed the motion brought forward by Councillor Catherine McKenney on May 22 asking for the city to adopt Vision Zero policy and framework for eliminating all traffic fatalities and serious injury while promoting safe, healthy, and equitable transportation. The motion asks staff to report back with recommendations for the Road Safety Action Plan with respect to traffic lights, putting vulnerable road users first, options to eliminate ‘revert reds’, criteria to eliminate ‘beg buttons’, criteria for the elimination of right turns on red in the presence of bike lanes, identify the floating bike lanes and criteria to turn them into safe segregated bike lanes, and review requirements and costs to impose a city wide 30 km/h speed limit on residential streets.
The push back from some councillors was concerning. Councillor Stephen Blais, also chair of the Transportation Committee, pushed back and moved to refer the motion back to Transportation Committee. The general question surrounded the reason why Ottawa needs Vision Zero if road safety is already on the agenda. John Manconi, General Manager of Transportation Services asked council to refer the motion, reassuring council that staff already supports Vision Zero, and that referral to committee will give staff more time to find funding to implement the measures proposed by the motion. He reiterated that “Vision Zero is just a brand.”
Councillor Leiper reminded his colleague of the death outside City Hall, as well as two more cyclists being struck by cars that morning, and requested a clear direction in what we want to see in the Road Safety Action Plan. Councillor Menard pointed out that if the motion is referred, then it will delay the actions to make streets safer. Both urge council to vote against the referral. In her closing statement, councillor McKenney reminded us that our roads are unsafe, and delaying meaningful action on Vision Zero sends a message to road users and the public that we “normalize deaths on our streets”.
Before Council voted on the referral motion, Mayor Watson pointed to the City’s $80 million investment in cycling infrastructure, reminded his colleagues that “we can’t just get rid of beg buttons”, and urged council to vote to refer the motion to allow the public to have a say.
Council then voted to refer the Vision Zero motion back to transportation committee, with 15 yays and 9 nays. The nays were councillors McKenney, Leiper, Menard, Fleury, Kavanagh, King, Deans, Meehan, and Gower.
A second motion by councillor Leiper to allocate the federal gas tax towards cycling infrastructure was also referred to the City Treasurer to be considered with other competing priorities. Councillor Laura Dudas moved the motion, which passed 19-5. The nays are Leiper, McKenney, Menard, Kavanagh, and King.
City Council also discussed in depth the ramifications of the latest LRT-Stage 1 delay on current OCTranspo services. Councillor Allan Hubley moved to freeze transit fares until the LRT Stage 1 opens, and councillor Diane Deans provided an amendment to reduce fares by 30% from July to September 2019, funding to be taken out of Rideau Transit Group’s contract. In a passionate speech, councillor Deans criticized OCTranspo’s poor and unreliable services and disrespect for transit riders. “The very principle of fairness would suggest that we should not be charging full fares for a partial or unreliable system,” she says to Council. Mayor Jim Watson on the contrary refers to the fare reduction motion as “one of the most ridiculous motions” he has ever seen.
Councillors Brockington, Cloutier, Blais, were among those who objected to the fare reduction, citing the financial costs ($29 million lost in fare revenue), the low likelihood of RTG covering the cost of fare reduction, and that it doesn’t help improve service. The vote to reduce transit fare failed 6-18, with councillors Deans, McKenney, Menard, Chiarelli, Kavanagh, and King. The vote to freeze transit fares until LRT opens passed unanimously.