What’s in the works for 2014

February 2014

City Hall is unlikely to launch big new initiatives during an election year. The focus will be on keeping current projects on track and on budget (Light Rail, road/sewer/water infrastructure renewal), and wrapping up others (new rules for infill development, Lansdowne Park). Here are some issues I’m working on that are of particular interest to Old Ottawa South residents:

Park improvements
It’s difficult to create new parks in a dense, older neighbourhood, so I’m working with City staff and OSCA to make minor improvements to existing parks with a specific fund available to the ward councillor, and to identify medium- and long-term needs requiring larger capital investment. Brewer Park is slated for a major renewal (arena, pool, change hut, etc.) in the next 7-10 years. I would like to see public consultation start early, so we can clarify our needs and approve a plan to make them a reality. By doing the work in phases, we may be able to start sooner than planned.

Active transportation
The Bronson Avenue safety initiatives approved last year are central to my vision for safer, more attractive walking and cycling routes. We should be able to start work on redesigned ramps connecting with Colonel By Drive this year, then add a signalized crosswalk south of the Canal in 2015. I also expect detailed design of the Rideau River Western Pathway to go ahead, providing a river’s edge route all the way to the Lees transit station.

Ottawa can do more to prevent urban isolation

January 2014

Speaking to a neighbour while shovelling snow, I learned of her plans to retire in Toronto. Thanks to our harsh winters, Ottawa just isn’t a place for seniors, she said. “They feel isolated. It’s not healthy.”
I was tempted to rhyme off my usual lines in defence of the city and season I love: “It’s not that bad. Winter is just a state of mind. You’ve got to get outside and embrace it …” But I had a feeling that if I were 20 years older, perhaps with mobility challenges, I might not be so enthused about winter.

Just that day, I had been slip-sliding my way home from my Bank Street bus stop. It’s just three blocks, but they felt plenty long even for me, fit and active at 50.
What must it be like for somebody older, less fit, living alone or reliant on an assistive device? How likely would I have been to venture out that day to run errands, attend a fitness class, meet friends at the local cafe? Not very! I would have needed someone to drive me. If no such someone was available, if the wait for Para Transpo were lengthy, if I couldn’t afford a taxi, or if I just didn’t feel up to making those calls, I would likely have stayed home, perhaps alone.

Long and lonely winters are the reality for many amongst us, and the number of people facing such challenges will only grow as our population ages.
Yes, there are ways to connect virtually with friends and family. Between Facebook, email, Skype and the good old telephone, can you ever really feel alone? We’ve never been more connected and in touch with our “friends.”

Three years serving you: Wins, losses and ties

December 2013

After three years as councillor for Capital Ward, what have I/we got to show for it? Let’s take stock of big issues facing the ward and Old Ottawa South, with an eye not just to where we’ve been, but to where we’re going next. We’ll call it wins, losses and ties.


Residential infill study – Phase One: Council approved new guidelines and bylaws to define and enforce residential intensification design that respects neighbourhood character. This first phase addressed “visible from the road” issues like location of parking, permitted projections, front yards and grade.

Complete Street policy and a Main Street for all: In a first test of Ottawa’s policy to promote “complete” streets — ones that cater equally to all kinds of users — Council voted 18-6 to transform Main Street. The redesign will subtract one motor vehicle lane, add a “cycle track” and wider sidewalks, and create a streetscape suitable for vibrant retail and spaces where you might actually want to linger.

Light Rail movement, at last: After years of false starts, Council approved a design for the first section of light rail and construction has begun. In a bold move recognizing public transit as the key to a more mobile and livable city, Council recently also approved a “Stage 2” proposal to extend LRT further and faster than originally planned.

Transportation Master Plan moves in the right direction

November 2013

On October 10, the City of Ottawa publicly released its Transportation Master Plan (TMP), Cycling Plan and Pedestrian Plan. Like many people, I hoped these documents — and the mayor’s speech that opened the day — would signal an important change in strategic direction and spending priorities. I was looking for a substantial shift in favour of public transit, walking and cycling, and a significant move away from car-centric planning and spending.

To some degree, that’s what we got, although the shift is subtle. Yes, the City has made a major commitment to expanding the light rail system faster and further, and cycling and walking have been granted greater prominence. But actual spending on traditional road projects will not be significantly downgraded.

Still, I shouldn’t be overly critical, as tempting as that is when I think of how many roads are to be built and/or expanded under the TMP.

The City now has a more ambitious goal to increase non-car commuting to 55% of trips in the morning peak, instead of 50%. Not earth shattering, but it’s a move in the right direction — by which I mean less congestion, pollution and noise, more people choosing active transportation and, with additional Complete Streets, more vibrant and people-friendly roads across the city.

Here’s an overview of other benefits for the city as a whole and for Capital Ward.

The boldest element of the TMP is its commitment to expanding Ottawa’s light rail network much earlier than anticipated, and in three directions at once. As soon as trains are rolling on the first phase of the Confederation Line in 2018, construction would begin on Phase Two. By 2023, residents should be able to travel by rail as far east as Place d’Orleans and as far west as Bayshore, where a new grade separated bus transitway will take them onward to March Road and Carling.

Official plans may not seem exciting, but they’re extremely important

October 2013

It’s an especially busy autumn at City Hall as we prepare to adopt an updated Official Plan (OP), Infrastructure Master Plan, Transportation Master Plan (TMP), Cycling Plan and Pedestrian Plan.

Talk of official plans may make your eyes glaze over, but these documents are very important, and that’s why we revise them every five years. They contain policy directions and lists of priorities that will determine where and how your tax dollars are spent, whether a road is widened or a rail line or bike lane is built, and when critical infrastructure gets repaired or replaced.

Following six months of input from the public a councillors, we got our first view of official drafts in late September, with the TMP delayed until October. Next, Council members will formally review the plans and welcome public delegations at committee meetings at which the plans will be debated and most likely adopted, with or without changes.

Here are a few major issues directly affecting Capital Ward residents:

  • Will there be changes to the OP policy direction that currently promotes intensification? Will it provide specifics on acceptable height and density, and just how much such intensification is going to be promoted around new transit stations (Transit Oriented Development)?
  • Will the TMP go further to promote public transit and active transit as the most efficient and cost-effective ways of moving people and goods? If so, will any major road projects be removed from the TMP or placed on the backburner?
  • Will the proposed footbridge spanning the canal between Fifth and Clegg (currently in the detailed design phase) be listed as a priority project?
  • Will the Cycling Plan and Pedestrian Plan propose new routes or infrastructure for our neighbourhood, to address subpar linkages for walkers and cyclists along our main roads and bridges?