Ottawa River Action Plan a bit short on action

April 2013

Ottawa’s history and identity are closely associated with the Ottawa River and the Rideau River, as well as the Rideau Canal. If these waterways are a source of pride for our city, then their pollution with E. coli bacteria and other contaminants should be a source of embarrassment.

The City of Ottawa has put much effort into cleaning up local waterways over the past few decades. Unlike 50 years ago, most of our sanitary waste is now treated before it’s pumped into the Ottawa River. The health of the river in this area was rated “Good” in 2006, at least by the standards of the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment.

But “Good” isn’t really good enough, not when sewage spills measured in millions of litres continue to close beaches, pollute the local shoreline and contaminate habitats.

In 2009, the City began developing the Ottawa River Action Plan (ORAP), a long-term strategy plus a set of 17 shorter-term projects to comply with environmental regulations and improve the health of Ottawa’s water environment, especially as it relates to sewer discharge.

There are several types of sewer systems in Ottawa. Wastewater sewers transport domestic and industrial waste through a network of pipes and pumping stations directly to a treatment centre, where it’s treated before being discharged into the Ottawa River. Stormwater sewers carry rainfall and other surface runoff, including debris and various contaminants, directly to the nearest creek, stream or river.

The major problems are with combined sewers, common in older parts of the city like the Glebe. These collect rainwater runoff, domestic sewage and industrial wastewater in the same pipe and, in theory, transport it to the treatment plant. Unfortunately, heavy rainfall and snowmelt regularly overwhelm the system’s capacity, and the excess gets diverted straight to the Ottawa and Rideau rivers.

Progress on Bronson safety review

March 2013

Over the last few months, I have been working closely with the Bronson Operational and Safety Review Group to make Bronson Avenue between Brewer Way and Holmwood Ave. safer for everyone. Members include motorists, cyclists and pedestrians representing Carleton University (students and staff), Old Ottawa South, the Glebe and neighbouring residential communities, as well as City staff.

In addition, more than 600 residents provided comments and filled out a survey, and we organized an open house at Carleton University on Feb. 27 to review the complete list of recommendations before City staff delivers the report to the Transportation Committee in late April.

For residents unable to attend the open house to view and comment on the proposed recommendations, City staff has agreed to display the design plans at the Old Fire Hall (260 Sunnyside Ave.) and the Glebe Community Centre (175 Third Ave.). I’m also making plans and recommendations available on my website at www.capitalward.ca, and I welcome your feedback as we continue working together to improve safety on Bronson.

Among the options on the table are a new traffic signal on the south side of the Rideau Canal, bigger signage, better paint markings at the Brewer Way intersection, and creating a buffer zone between cyclists and motorists.

In the meantime, cyclists are allowed to ride on the sidewalk on the bridge. Some pedestrians were concerned about this change, but most feedback has been positive and cyclists appreciate being able to navigate the bridge without first crossing Bronson, at least until there's a safer way to do it.

Urban residents need to more room to play

February 2013

An important argument in favour of urban intensification — increased population density in central neighbourhoods — is that it generates higher demand for amenities and services, and more people to pay for them. Intensification should, in theory, bring improved transit and public health services, better-equipped community centres, and new sports and recreation facilities like arenas, pools, playing fields, and tennis and basketball courts.

But Capital Ward residents know we can’t count on population density to leverage more or better recreational amenities. Rather, we’re losing many traditional spaces to development and more people are competing to use what remains of existing facilities in increasingly space-challenged neighbourhoods.

In the past decade, instead of getting new, larger community centres, Old Ottawa South, the Glebe and Old Ottawa East have had to fight to hang on to and/or renovate old ones. Creative design generated more room in the modernized Old Firehall, but it’s not enough to meet demand. Heron Park, in the south end of our ward, continues to scrape by with a field house better described as a 50-year-old concrete bunker. This lack of functional space severely limits the possibilities for the programming and community meetings that are essential to a healthy neighbourhood.

As for open green space for organized games of ultimate, spontaneous soccer matches and community picnics, Old Ottawa South is reasonably well served. But Glebe residents have very limited options, and those in Old Ottawa East are about to see part of the heavily used open space at 160 Lees (actually part of the proposed Alta Vista Transportation Corridor) turned into a temporary parking lot to accommodate LRT construction.

What can LRT do for Capital Ward? Quite a bit, actually

January 2013

In December, when City Council approved the construction of Ottawa’s first Light Rail Transit line (LRT), it was very clear that the overwhelming public sentiment was to get on with it. That Capital Ward residents felt this way too — despite most of us not being directly served by the line — illustrates just how big a step this will be towards a better city for everyone.

On the surface, the new Confederation Line just barely touches the ward — the only station within our boundaries is Lees, in the far northeast corner. I suppose one could have said the same of the O-Train line, with its sole Capital Ward station, Carleton, on the very western edge. Not much use to us, some have said — and perhaps still do.

Yet the impact of the O-Train has been remarkable, if subtle. Despite its limited capacity and frequency, it has been embraced by thousands of regular riders, especially but not only Carleton students. It is a pleasant, bright and efficient way to travel, even if just part of a longer journey. Plans for an extended O-Train line and doubling service frequency by 2014 will be noticeable and almost entirely positive (although some Heron Park residents may experience more noise and vibrations).

I think the New Year is an opportune time to consider how rail transit can and should benefit Old Ottawa South residents.

Fewer cars on Bank and Bronson: How does that work, when neither the Confederation or O-Train Line serves Bronson or Bank — or Main, for that matter? Simply, many drivers currently using our north-south arteries will have a better option for the east-west segments of their trips, which may encourage them to start and finish their trips by bus or maybe bike. A lot of drivers are looking for a compelling reason to not be tied to the stress and cost of daily car trips. This is a good one.