Community Newspaper Columns

O'Connor Bike Lane promises much better conditions, but it's not perfect

June 2015

A recommendation to proceed with a North-South bike lane on O'Connor St., from Parliament Hill to Lansdowne, will come to Council for approval in late June. The proposed design would see dedicated/segregated lanes for the entire Centretown section and some of the Glebe section, but not all — the report recommends shared lanes between Strathcona and Fifth Aves.

As is typical of a major project affecting many people and organizations, the recommended outcome will not satisfy everyone. To the many people who advocated for a dedicated cycling lane along the entire recommended route, with no exceptions, I hope you will understand that the City made a concerted effort to achieve that result.

In the end, though, there were enough significant obstacles to conclude that a shared lane was the better option in some sections. Where the impacts to residents and institutions with unique and very real needs could not be reconciled with a dedicated lane — from Strathcona to Fifth — the City's managers and I agreed to a "shared lane" approach combined with additional traffic calming measures.

Since this decision was first communicated in early May, I have spent many hours reviewing the route and discussing possible improvements. I hope Council will approve the project with the following modifications:

  • Extend the dedicated bike lanes further south an additional four blocks from Strathcona to Glebe Ave., with the exception of the parking and service area to medical offices and a diplomatic loading zone. This would result in shared use lanes for only five blocks, from Glebe to Fifth Ave.
  • Designate O'Connor St. as a 30 km/h zone from Pretoria to Holmwood.
  • Modify bulb-outs with a "ride over" feature to eliminate the need to continually enter/exit the travel lane
  • Add traffic calming features such as speed humps in two locations where stop signs are more than a block apart.

Review of water rate structure
The City is reviewing the way residents and businesses are charged for water services. The Water, Wastewater and Stormwater Rate Structure Review will examine best practices in other municipalities, with a view to establishing a new approach that's fair to all customers while ensuring the system's long-term financial sustainability.

The current system, which relies on variable, consumption-based revenues to pay largely fixed costs, is not financially sustainable. Water consumption in Ottawa has decreased by nearly 15% over the past decade, which is undeniably good news in terms of preserving a precious natural resource. But, because the costs to maintain the infrastructure don't decrease along with consumption, it has also led to significant revenue shortfalls for the provision of essential services.

The City's current rate structure includes two main charges: $1.699 per cubic metre for water consumption, and a sewer surcharge for wastewater and stormwater services, set at 117% of the water use charge.

Over the years, many residents have pointed out that the current rate structure, where stormwater costs are included as part of the sewer surcharge, is unfair, because properties that do not receive water bills are not charged for the maintenance of stormwater infrastructure from which they benefit. Downtown parking lots pay nothing for runoff that must be absorbed by the sewer system, and rural ratepayers on wells and septic systems pay nothing towards the City's drainage ditches and other stormwater management and flood-control systems.

Although revenue stability should be a primary goal of any new approach — this essential service must pay for itself through rates — the review will consider five other guiding principles: fairness, affordability, transparency, preserving gains in water conservation, and supporting economic development.

Staff will report back with options for a new rate structure in early 2016. Members of the public will have opportunities to provide comments and review the options as part of this process, with public engagement sessions planned for Fall 2015.

OC Transpo service changes
Starting Sunday, June 28, the frequency of service on Routes 1 and 7 will be improved on weekends to accommodate an expected increase in demand due to residential and commercial growth at Lansdowne Park.