News & Updates

89 organizations submit Budget 2021 priorities to Mayor, Council

A total of 89 organizations and more than 350 individuals across the city of Ottawa have submitted Budget 2021 input to the Mayor, asking him to prioritize affordable housing near rapid transit stations.

The groups and individuals have asked City Council to put a minimum of $20 million in Budget 2021, to pass a strong inclusionary zoning bylaw, and to ensure government-owned land near rapid transit stations is used for non-profit, co-op housing.

You can read the letter below, or in PDF format here.

Individuals are invited to email the Mayor in support of these Budget 2021 requests here.

 

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From #Autowa to Healthy Streets: A Webinar with Lucy Saunders

“Healthy Streets is not about delivering a handful of high profile projects, it’s about changing everyday decisions and practice to deliver better outcomes for people across a whole town or city.”

-Lucy Saunders, Director, Healthy Streets (Cities Forum, https://www.citiesforum.org/interview/lucy-saunders/)

Street design is a public health issue.

Instead of being the cause of injury and fear, streets can be a source of health for us all.

But how do we get from #Autowa to Healthy Streets?

We’re thrilled to be hosting a webinar at 12 noon on October 7 with public health specialist, urbanist and transport planner Lucy Saunders. Lucy is the creator of the Healthy Streets Approach, which embeds public health in city transport, public realm and planning. (You can register for the webinar here.)

Her highly influential work put health at the heart of city policy in London, England, with Mayor Sadiq Khan adopting Healthy Streets as the framework of his 25-year Transport Strategy. Lucy now shares her expertise with cities and regions globally.

She’ll talk about the 10 indicators of a Healthy Street, and how to shift priorities from traffic flow and parking to the human experience of the street.

OTTAWA, 29 July 2020—The Healthy Transportation Coalition is asking that any federal stimulus money be invested in healthy transportation projects and affordable housing, and not in road projects to increase car capacity.

In a letter to Ottawa City Council, the Ottawa Board of Health, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches, and Minister of Infrastructure and Communities of Canada Catherine McKenna, the Coalition asks that federal money be put into public transit expansion, bus-only priority lanes, cycle tracks, widened sidewalks, traffic calming, and other healthy transportation projects—as well as deeply affordable housing in neighbourhoods with excellent walking, cycling and transit networks, including rapid transit stations.

“It would be irresponsible to use federal stimulus funding to build new and widened roads to increase car capacity,” says Coalition board member Trevor Haché. “We’re in an environmental, health, housing and homelessness emergency. We’ve committed to building 15-minute neighbourhoods. We need to follow the lead of cities worldwide and invest in healthy streets and a healthy recovery.”  

“It’s about health and equity,” says John Woodhouse of Walk Ottawa. “Serious investments in transit, walking and cycling are needed in every single neighbourhood. The city’s focus on parking and traffic flow has gone on for too long. If we don’t prioritize healthy streets now, then when?” 

“It is clear from the past few months that access to parks, green spaces, and safe active transportation routes has been incredibly important in helping our citizens preserve their mental and physical health through this difficult time,” says Dr. Mark Tremblay, Director of the Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group, CHEO Research Institute, and Chair of Outdoor Play Canada.

“It has also become clear that opportunities for social and environmental connections, recreation, play, and active transportation in the outdoors are not readily available to all. We have an opportunity now to think about how we can shape our city moving forward, in a way that promotes, protects, and preserves access to the outdoors for the health of all citizens, across all ages—we have a responsibility to do so,” says Tremblay.

The Coalition is echoing demands made by health professionals and organizations around the world, who have asked the G20 leaders to prioritize pedestrians, cyclists and public transport in cities as part of a healthy recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Coalition’s letter notes that cities worldwide are reallocating street space to enable safe walking, cycling and transit as pandemic restrictions lift, with Vancouver reallocating a minimum of 11% of city street space to “people-focused public space,” and Toronto building a 40-km expansion of its cycling network.

The Healthy Transportation Coalition is a group of 35 organizations and more than 200 individuals working together to create a better, more equitable transportation system in Ottawa.

 

For more information, please contact:

 

Trevor Haché

Board member and co-founder, Healthy Transportation Coalition

613-789-0604

 

Dr. Mark Tremblay

Director, Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group, CHEO Research Institute

Chair, Outdoor Play Canada

[email protected]

Coach houses can create affordable intensification

If Ottawa is to contain urban sprawl and increase the population, we need to ensure that there are more people living in many areas of the nation’s capital, not just downtown.

Certainly, concentrating development close to rapid transit (light rail, and bus rapid transit) makes a lot of sense. People’s housing and transportation needs would both be well-served. There is another opportunity not yet widely known: coach houses or secondary suites in existing backyards.

For example, I live in suburban Ottawa, in a 1,500 square foot home in Kanata South. Our semi-detached two-storey house is on a corner lot. Our lot size is 50 feet wide, and 80 feet deep. Our property and neighbourhood could easily accommodate another living space added to it. A 600-square-foot home would be comfortable for people interested in affordable, tiny living.

In 2017, Ottawa began allowing the development of coach houses in backyards and side-yards, but it seems few homeowners are aware of the opportunity. As of February 2019, CBC Ottawa reported that the City said “only 15 building permits have been issued for coach homes since the new bylaw came into effect. The city initially anticipated 50 applications per year.”

Coach homes could be an important part of the puzzle we need to fit together to help solve both the climate crisis, and the affordable housing and homelessness emergency.

There is a transportation crisis in this city.

We have a dysfunctional transit system, fragmented cycling network, narrow sidewalks, dangerous intersections, and streets almost entirely dedicated to driving and parking (even when nearly empty). These long-standing problems are being made worse by the need for physical distancing, and will become even more challenging as the economy reopens and we all make more trips around the city.

You might think this warrants a meeting of the Transportation Committee or Transit Commission. But no, the Transportation Committee meeting scheduled for last week was cancelled, as were the April and May meetings of the Transit Commission.   

What’s going ahead, on Monday, May 11, is a meeting of the Planning Committee, where the only agenda item is a report recommending that what we really need as a city right now is to lock in more sprawl.

Let’s not be fooled: we’re talking about driving-dependent sprawl. There is talk about building 15-minute neighbourhoods focused on transit, walking and cycling, but the reality is that our suburbs—especially the outer ones—are built for driving.

Press Release -- FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Healthy Transportation Coalition requests an immediate review of the COVID-19 restrictions of use of park greenspace, street lanes, and public space using an equity and inclusion lens

OTTAWA, 30 April 2020—In an open letter to Ottawa City Council, the Board of Health, and the National Capital Commission, the board of directors of the Healthy Transportation Coalition is asking that the City and the NCC stop limiting access to greenspaces within parks. Instead, the Coalition is demanding that more public spaces be opened, so that all residents can safely enjoy time outside, at safe physical distance from others, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Penalizing people who are using parks in ways that are no risk to others undermines civil liberties while harming the physical and mental health of our community,” said Trevor Haché, board member & co-founder, Healthy Transportation Coalition.

The Coalition is also recommending that the City use its now-empty streets to create more safe space for walking, cycling and rolling, and that it ask other levels of government for support as part of a coordinated pandemic response. In addition, the Coalition is asking that the NCC open more parkways to active transportation.

Mark Ertel, defense lawyer and partner at Bayne Sellar Ertel Carter, is offering his services pro bono to defend people in Ottawa who have received tickets for allegedly violating the Ontario emergency order that lead to the closure of outdoor recreational amenities, and the leveling of hefty fines.

Promoting Health, not Authoritarianism

Hundreds of epidemics have afflicted humankind. Few rivaled smallpox, which was easily spread and often killed over a quarter of those infected. One of the reasons it took so long to eradicate smallpox is that some authorities resorted to repressive and discriminatory measures that led to public opposition and even riots. Perhaps that history should inform our city’s approach to covid-19.

When faced with a pandemic, we are truly all in it together. Each of us is part of the response team. Everything from helping neighbours to donating time or money is an opportunity to build the social cohesion and trust essential to a thriving, healthy city.

In public health, we often talk about the need to empower rather than punish people, to understand their lived experience and to ‘meet them where they are’. But, as was seen with efforts to contain smallpox, there is a tendency among some leaders to choose authoritarian and coercive measures. These typically harm the most socially disadvantaged groups and do little to prevent disease. In the case of smallpox, authorities enforced the quarantine and vaccination of people arriving in the steerage class on ships—while leaving first-class passengers free to disembark. Today’s equivalent is unnecessarily limiting access to fresh air and exercise for Ottawa’s less advantaged populations.

It’s hard to be functional in a dysfunctional city.

I suffer from invisible illnesses that have greatly impacted my life. I currently do not work or pay taxes, which I guess means that society can label me as “dysfunctional”. Because I live on a low income, I cannot afford a personal vehicle, and therefore my transportation options are limited. Ottawa—or AUTOwa (as per the popular Twitter hashtag, #Autowa)—is not designed to prioritize people over cars. This leaves a huge responsibility for the public transit sector, and it’s no secret that Ottawa has failed to deliver on its promise of a world-class transit system. Since the launch of the LRT, there has been an outpour of people voicing their frustration with it, and with our transit system in general—and with reason. From a poorly designed system for the Canadian climate, to the lack of planning of bus routes and shortage of drivers, issues abound. But let’s face it, Ottawa never got it right, and it is people living with disabilities (physical and invisible), and those with low incomes who suffer the most. I am terribly sorry that our LRT and the bus route changes that came with it, are causing emotional distress… but I see a silver lining: with transit riders expressing their frustrations loud and clear, the important conversation about poor public transit and its effects on mental health has made its way to our collective consciousness.

In the ten years that I’ve lived in Ottawa (way before the LRT launch), my experience is that public transit here has always been terrible, and it has caused me a lot of distress. As a person living with a mental illness, having to depend on an unreliable transit system has been detrimental to my mental health and hindered my recovery from major depression. For years, I depended on public transit to go to medical appointments and therapies, wellness workshops, exercise, occasional social opportunities, and school. These resources, located across the city, allowed me to survive very dark times, and having access to them is crucial to my recovery, as they increase my wellbeing and help me build the skills and confidence that I feel I need, to be ready for “a normal life.” Knowing how critical attending these commitments was for my recovery, I tried to push myself, but with commute problems being so frequent that they were to be expected, it was very difficult to stay committed to improving my health. With late or ghost buses, missed transfers, tracking reliability issues, and an overall poorly designed transportation system, I missed appointments, had to pay late cancellations fees, I missed school and social events, etc. With all the other challenges that I faced, I didn’t have the energy to deal with the added emotional and physical consequences that the transit problems created, that avoiding life was my default impulse. Some days, the thought of going out of my apartment gave me so much anxiety and dread, that I felt instantly exhausted. There were phases when I continuously cancelled my scheduled outings and would isolate. It felt impossible to build a stable and sustainable routine that would allow me to envision working in a near future, without the fear of relapsing. Consistency is so important in recovery, but maintaining a healthy routine is very challenging when you have a mental illness. For years, I felt like I was fighting to barely keep my head above the water. I had ninety-nine problems, and public transit was certainly one of them. Life was hard enough as it is, that adding the daily frustrations of dreadful commute made me want to give up.

After struggling for many years, I realised that my only solution was to remove my biggest barrier that prevented me from achieving more progress; I had to move to a part of town where I wouldn’t have to deal with daily public transit usage. I moved near downtown, to a more walkable neighbourhood, and I wish I would have done it years ago. Since I moved, my life improved so significantly, that I would wish for everyone to have the freedom of living near most of their daily destinations. It’s a life-saver. Literally. I instantly felt the weight of social isolation lift off my shoulders. Not only am I able to access most of my necessary destinations at a walking distance, I also feel much closer to people and a vibrant community. It is inspiring and motivating, and I am grateful that I no longer have to endure the troubles of public transit, to access that. Now, I rarely lose the momentum of my motivation, like I used to. I still have bad days when I struggle to leave my apartment, but I tell myself that compared to before, it’s a small effort to go out, and it has the potential to transform my day, in a positive way. I can just walk out the door and be at a nearby coffee shop, within 5 minutes. Just smiling at a stranger on the street or interacting with the barista when I pay for my coffee, can get me out of my head to break the negative thought loops, and can activate my productivity.

Ottawa’s disabled public transit system kept me disabled and poor. It made me feel overwhelmed and deeply hopeless, because no matter my intentions and efforts, I had very little energy left to dedicate to taking constructive actions that would improve my life. However emotionally resilient that I thought I was, having chronic feelings of hopelessness forced my body shut down and avoid life. When I think of my experiences with the public transit system, the first word that comes to mind is “stress”… The last thing a person trying to recover from a mental illness needs, is MORE STRESS. Taking public transit should reduce the stressors of transportation; not add more. The physical, emotional and financial burdens of Ottawa’s public transit system is detrimental to people’s wellbeing, especially for those whose mental health is already fragile. A transit system that is inconsistent, unreliable, unstable and disabled, keeps people who are trying to be functional, dysfunctional.

Extensive commutes are dreadful, whether you are using public transit, or stuck in traffic inside your car. If this time could be spent doing more meaningful things it would greatly increase your quality of life. A better transportation system that includes good public transit and better neighbourhood design, could help create a functional, healthy and vibrant city that would benefit everyone in Ottawa, whether they suffer from a disability or not— but it could have an even bigger impact on someone’s ability to recover from personal challenges, to participate and ‘‘contribute to society’’, and to live a dignified life.

Land Trust to Protect Affordable Housing Sites Near Light Rail and Bus Rapid Transit Stations?

People across the city of Ottawa showed up in a big way today to support the declaration of a housing and homelessness emergency, an effort lead by City Councillors McKenney and King who won unanimous support at City Council for their Motion. The last clause of which included the following:

"BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT staff review and report back to the appropriate Standing Committee and Council on the steps needed for the City to establish a Land Trust to protect publicly-owned lands, including those identified by staff as appropriate for the development of affordable housing near rapid transit."

What the draft budget means for HTC

THANK YOU to the 180+ people who emailed the Mayor and council asking to prioritize $35 million in transportation equity investments!

 

On November 6, the City tabled its Draft budget.

We at the Healthy Transportation Coalition (HTC) board of directors see 3 of 5 transportation equity wins.

 

WIN: $15 million for affordable housing

By the end of this year, there is an expected 12 000 on the wait-list for affordable housing according to the Housing Registry. Affordable housing is in great need. On top of everyone's right for a decent place to call home, everyone should have easy access to rapid transit. Although there is no clear indication that any of these affordable housing units will be built close to rapid transit stations, there is news that certain developments may be by Tunney's Pasture (Forward Avenue) and the area between the future Main Public Library and Pimisi station. Take a look at our full list of asks here

WIN: A fare freeze for Equipass and Community Pass

However, further improvements are much needed (Take a look at our full list of asks here). It was also announced later that day on November 6, that there may also be a 3-month fare freeze for regular passes with the possibility of an extension. Well done Ottawa Transit Riders and transit users on being heard. Continue on with the #Freeze4FairFares #FreezeFares campaigns!

WIN: On-line booking for ParaTranspo users

This is way overdue so we are very happy to finally hear progress on this. The #ParaParity voice is strong. Many have been waiting for this for over a decade. A full suite of on-line services is promised by end of 2020, with a web form declared to be available by the end of this year. There will be more details on this in the upcoming Transit Commission meeting on November 20th at 9:30 am (Item 3 on the agenda). We would greatly appreciate the support by joining us at the meeting. We are expecting:

  • draft implementation
  • key components of the system
  • timelines
  • booking priorities (for 50% of seats be reserved online, 50% by phone)

 

 

 

There's more work needed

Snow and Ice Clearing of Sidewalks

 

Our ask:
Please commit $7 million a year to bringing winter sidewalk maintenance to a class 1A standard, starting in the 2020 Budget. People should not be confined to their apartments in the nation’s capital of a G7 country, and yet that has been the case these past few winters because not enough money is being spent to properly clear snow and ice off of sidewalks. People across Ottawa were trapped in their homes, unable to access transit, or experienced numerous slips, falls, and inconveniences due to lack of snow removal on sidewalks and at bus stops. Immediate action is required to ensure that no more people suffer from isolation, injuries and aren’t required to take great risk to leave their homes.

 

In the draft Budget (according to the Mayor's speech):
City teams regularly clear 6,000 kilometres of roads and 2,300 kilometres of sidewalks throughout the city. Maintaining our network is expensive – and last year’s harsh winter left our winter maintenance budget in deficit. The 2020 estimated base budget for Winter Operations is increasing by $5.6 million for a total of $78.3 million, which is a 7.7% increase over 2019. 
Of the $5.6 million increase, approximately $2.9 million will be allocated to sidewalk maintenance.

I am pleased to say that the Winter Operations budget now reflects the latest 3-year average actuals (2016-2018). The 2020 Draft Budget also includes $250,000 in funding to undertake a review of the winter operations Maintenance Quality Standards, which will focus on sidewalks and Class 5 residential roads. Following last year’s challenging winter, staff have been reviewing their service delivery model to ensure better sidewalk maintenance this coming winter. They will be increasing coverage on the network with a goal of having 24/7 coverage available on all sidewalk beats.

In this article, one of our board members, Terrie Meehan, has expressed how the harsh winters led her to replace her wheelchair. Some had no other choice but to be house-bound. We realize that the maintenance standards are set for review for 2022-2023 as they have not been updated since 2003. But meanwhile, for seven straight years, the City has exceeded the funds it has allocated for winter maintenance. Last year, it was reported that $9 million was spent on sidewalk clearing alone. We expect more than $2.9 million.

Vision Zero Road Safety Action Plan Improvements

 

Our ask:
Too many people biking are being killed and injured on City streets, therefore a minimum of $12 million must be spent on building cycling infrastructure for all ages and abilities, based on Vision Zero principles and international best practice. Vision Zero principles must be implemented into planning documents, alongside consultation with those found to be most at risk (specifically seniors and children). These cycling safety improvements could be partially funded by charging for parking on evenings and weekends in on-street paid parking areas, and in City-owned parking lots (as per Chair Blais's Motion at the Oct. 2, 2019 Transportation Committee meeting).

 

In the draft Budget (according to the Mayor's speech):

Again, this year, Budget 2020 also includes funding for active transportation – with an investment in both the Ottawa Pedestrian and Cycling Plan of $9.1 millionCe financement nous permettra de prévenir ou d’éliminer les décès et les accidents de la routes à travers Ottawa.We remain committed to develop a safe and sustainable transportation environment that focuses on pedestrian and cycling safety, with funding geared towards highest ranked locations – as I think we can all agree that any cycling or pedestrian death is one too many.

In addition, Budget 2020 includes $4 million towards initiatives identified in the 2020-2024 Strategic Road Safety Action PlanThe Strategic Road Safety Action Plan identifies areas for road safety, along with countermeasures that can be implemented to address associated collision types. These initiatives align with Vision Zero (or Safe System) principles of road safety. The emphasis will be on areas with vulnerable road users – pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists – at intersections and on rural roads.

Budget 2020 also includes $1.65 million to fund the Traffic and Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Program, with each Councillor receiving $50,000 for road safety initiatives in their community – an increase of 25% over 2018.

There is also $500,000 set aside for Pedestrian Crossovers, in order to improve the safety of pedestrians at key crossings across the city. As a result of the 2016-2018 Pedestrian Crossover Pilot Program, there is a list of approximately 100 locations city-wide that have been confirmed to meet the pedestrian/traffic volume warrants for PXO implementation. 

There is also $4.2 million for intersection control measures, and just over $3 million for network modifications for to existing intersections (Albion Road and Leitrim Road). Budget 2020 includes: $2.4 million for New Traffic Control Devices Program; $1 million for the Safety Improvements Program; $600,000 towards Accessible Pedestrian Signals; and $420,000 for Safer Roads Ottawa.

 

Of the $151 million invested in infrastructure as a whole, we believe that there should be greater investment in active transportation infrastructure. We expect more than the $9.1 million declared.

 

We remain hopeful that, together, more can be done to reach transportation equity.

 

 

In solidarity,

HTC Board Members

November 9, 2019

 

 

 

The elected Board of Directors of the Healthy Transportation Coalition recently sent in our Budget 2020 requests to the Mayor, City Councillors, and relevant City staff.

We are calling for an investment of $35 million to achieve more affordable public transit for people living on lower incomes, better snow and ice clearing off sidewalks, affordable and inclusive housing near rapid transit, safe cycling and pedestrian infrastructure, and on-line booking for ParaTranspo users.

If you too want the City of Ottawa to invest in these improvements to help ensure the transportation system is more equitable, please email the Mayor and your City Councillor today, using this tool on our website.

Since our founding in 2014, we are proud of the progress we've made to make Ottawa better for pedestrians, cyclists and public transit riders. Transportation equity is a big focus of our work, and 2019 has been filled with important investments in the change we need.

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