Along the topic of consultation, five urban ward councillors have launched a survey on what residents want to see the city focus on. It’s short and sweet and allows people to rank their preferences (affordable housing, waste collection, transit, etc.).
You can even indicate what percentage of transit costs should be supported by taxes.
Click on the link to make your voice heard: urban ward survey
Who gets to consult?
All residents of this city have one vote and technically speaking, we should stand on equal footing. But in reality … some people are more important than others.
An interesting tidbit of information that we learned at the Healthy Transportation Coalition meeting in February is that the city requires extensive consultation with communities, BIAs, and local councillors before they are able to increase parking fees.
In general, we’re big fans of consultation, but we’re also big fans of equality and inclusiveness and fairness.
The situation in Ottawa in 2019 is that transit riders can beg and plead and make impassioned speeches about how a 2.5% increase will affect our lives and how poor transit traps people in their houses or puts them in dangerous situations (see the letter from Stephen St. Denis below) and the reaction from City Hall is “too bad, so sad, there’s nothing we can do”.
But, consider a proposal to ask wealthier people to pay slightly more for parking and as soon as people object, City Hall throws up its hands and says “democracy in action – the people have spoken – we can’t possibly impose a fee increase”.
It’s rather shocking, isn’t it?
Parking fees have been frozen since 2008.
Transit fares have risen 70% over the same time period.
Think this is ridiculous? Speak up. Talk to your councillor.
Personally, I would like the following change:
- Put transit riders and car owners on the same level – mandate that OC Transpo consult with communities before making route changes/fare increases and remove the veto power of car owners so that reasonable increases in parking can be considered when a majority agrees.
Meaningful consultation means that you listen to all sides of an issue and make the best decision possible that benefits the most people and does not harm the most vulnerable.
The city of Ottawa is conducting consultations with residents on whether to re-think their parking strategy: Municipal Parking Management Strategy (MPMS) refresh
There’s also an online survey so we're hoping that people who read this blog will let the city know their opinion.
A final report on the MPMS refresh will be presented to Council in June 2019.
Attention transit users in Kanata, councillor Jenna Sudds is conducting a survey.
We’re big fans of consultation so it’s nice to see her reaching out. Add your voice if you can.
February 20, 2019
To the Transit Commission:
I have a specific and a general issue. I live at Grenon Ave. and Richmond Road, west of Pinecrest. I rely on route 11 to get my groceries, go to church and gym. I depend of the 11 for my physical, psychological and spiritual well-being. You could say it’s my lifeline.
Before OC Transpo took a machete to the route, I had almost door-to- door service to the Metro at Lincoln Fields. Now, my only option is to take the 97 to Carling where the former Wendy’s was, I can either wait for the extra long light at the corner or make a mad suicide dash across Carling. It gets even better. If the mall’s upper level is closed or the elevator is broken, as it is now, I have to wheel across the parking lot and down the hill to the lower level to get to Metro, I ask you, is that a reasonable expectation for someone in a wheelchair in such extreme weather conditions?
By the way, there are no sidewalks anywhere in the parking lot and poor lighting in some areas which is a serious safety issue. Never an issue when the 11 from Bayshore stopped right by the Metro. I am not alone in making this perilous journey. On Sept. 2, the very first day of the change, I saw a senior with a walker moving very slowly down the hill to the Metro right in the middle of road. It was pretty alarming to watch so I caught up to her and coaxed her to the side.
This is an accident waiting to happen. Compounded by winter, it's a nightmare. I have had a couple of close calls because drivers aren’t expecting to encounter a person in a wheelchair. Every day the restoration of route 11 is delayed is putting people’s lives at risk, mostly mine. Do OC Transpo and the City want another inquest or a negligence lawsuit on their bloody hands? What concrete action is the city going to take NOW GODDAMMIT to ensure this does not happen?
As you know, Route 11 is just one example of many changes across the city that caused havoc for thousands of riders. Routes that have served communities well for decades were torn up. John Manconi may think he is the God of bus routes, but none of us, including him, is infallible or have never made a decision without fully thinking out the ramifications which is why there must be a system of checks and balances. To use an LRT analogy, do you not agree that every train must have safety mechanisms and some kind of central override to prevent it from running out of control? We’ve already seen one train wreck.
To see how poorly this change was planned, transferring at Lincoln Fields station not only involves back tracking, but the 11 leaves 3 minutes before the 97 gets there. Who’s the idiot responsible for this total lack of coordination? So I always have to wait for the next 11 bus. If I do that, which not even OC Transpo's trip planner recommends, a former 5 minute trip to the Metro now takes at least 25 minutes.
By some twisted logic, John Manconi says the route cannot be changed until Phase One of the LRT is in operation. The two events are totally unrelated. The LRT is only coming to Bayshore when Phase Two is completed at least 7 years from now, not 2019! But John Manconi has dug in his heels proclaiming from on high that any changes in the route network are frozen until just 12.5 km of track downtown is operational. I am also digging in my heels. I will not be a casualty of bureaucracy.
I understand the reasons behind the Delegation of Authority By-Law. I worked at Statcan for 32 years and saw two Chief Statisticians resign over undue political meddling. I have seen the toll it takes on employees. But in a democracy when making important decisions that could potentially impact thousands, final authority should never be delegated. To put it simply, the buck stops with you, the elected officials.
Given that public outcry, according to the Commission’s Terms of Reference below, you had a duty to at least review the changes. There was absolutely no mention of the route changes in the minutes. So what is the purpose of the Commission? Whatever happened to being responsible for providing "client-focused" transit? Shamefully, you chose to bury your heads in the sand and failed in your #1 duty as councillor, to act on behalf of your constituents. It’s time to show some backbone and lift the damn Delegation of Authority By-Law, which is within your power to do so, and get routes such as the 11 back on track ASAP where the LRT is not an issue.
There is too much power in the hands of unelected officials and there needs to be more political accountability. I don't know what makes me madder, the butchering of route 11 or the governance model of OC Transpo that not is in the public's best interest. This is a public system in which Ottawa taxpayers invested $551 million in 2017. We expect transparency and accountability for our money. Is that too much to expect from our elected officials?
I believe 2019 will be a tipping point. Transit Commission members, do you want to be known as someone who helped shaped that change or be known as resisting a necessary change?
Stephen St. Denis
 The Transit Commission is responsible for ensuring the development of a safe, efficient, accessible and client-focused transit system and for providing overall guidance and direction to the Transportation Services Department on all issues relating to the operation of public transit...
Worried about climate change?
Concerned that there’s not much any single individual can do?
One of the most effective things anyone can do is simply drive less. No-one is saying that people have to give up their cars and never drive again, but simply drive LESS.
One of the results of Ottawa’s deteriorating public transit system is that people are choosing to drive more.
I’m not here to shame anyone into driving less when the alternatives to driving are so poor. I’m here to advocate that Ottawa take a leadership role in building a city with a strong transit and cycling network so that people who want to drive less can do it without feeling like martyrs to a cause.
Want to do something positive?
Advocate for better transit.
Advocate for better cycling networks.
It IS possible.
Briefing after Transit Commission meeting
Sam: Well, I wasn’t able to go, how was the Transit Commission meeting? How did your presentation go?
Kari: Ahh … I brought a PowerPoint presentation that went wonky, first the slides started to skip, then it didn’t work at all and I tried to continue while the tech guy was leaning over my shoulder. It was all terribly distracting and I’m not sure anyone heard a word I said.
Sam: Oh dear!
Kari: Not sure that it mattered. The atmosphere was all very friendly, the councillors were all very warm, but no-one with any power seemed to be worried about transit. Some speakers made impassioned pleas to freeze fares. At least one person said that she’d been complaining to the Commission about ParaTranspo’s booking problems for ten years.
Sam: I hear that Mr. Manconi admitted that reliability is an issue.
Kari: Oh sure. He also apologized to a speaker for providing sub-standard accessibility. He’s a very nice man.
Kari: But so what? There’s apparently no risk to admitting poor reliability and inadequate accessibility. The councillors heard him say it and they nodded and went on with the meeting. No-one around the table seemed bothered by the news. No-one asked if Mr. Manconi had plans to improve transit. No-one suggested that maybe after a decade of declining service, some changes should be considered.
Kari: As we suspected, City Hall is not going to lead the way to better service.
Sam: What’s next then? Talk to pro transit councillors about a task force? Get the Ottawa Transit Riders group up and running? Should we be looking at legal options like Human Rights complaints?
Kari: All of those things and more.
For those who are interested, here is my presentation to the Transit Commission.
Come to the Transit Commission meeting TOMORROW
The Transit Commission is having its first meeting on Wednesday, February 20th at 9:30am in the Champlain room (City Hall) and we’d like to see concerned transit riders attend. Let’s generate some buzz about this issue.
The big truck protest will be snarling traffic this week so media might be focused on them instead of city transit issues.
But, I will be there and I’ll be pushing for more ‘democratic oversight’. I don’t want the Transit Commission to be a toothless rubber-stamp that allows OC Transpo to do whatever it wants. I want the Transit Commission to show some leadership.
- I want ‘delegated authority’ to be removed from OC Transpo
- I want OC Transpo mandated to consult with riders and communities before they make changes to bus routes
- I want all councillors (not just those on the commission) to have the power to approve or veto route changes that will affect their constituents
- I also want councillors to have the power to reverse changes made in September 2018 so that routes such as 11, 12 and 28 can be restored immediately. Any future changes will require consultation.
Another option that has been suggested is that pro-transit councillors could form a TASK FORCE to review evidence and propose improvements to Ottawa’s transit system.
Come to the meeting to express your opinions.
What does housing have to do with public transit?
Well … in short … PLENTY!
Low income people need both affordable housing and access to good public transit. If you push affordable housing out into suburbs or regions poorly served by transit you create barriers to people getting to school, to work, to daycare, to appointments, to really getting along with their lives. You force people to give up things that might help. You increase isolation and dependence. You make it more expensive for people to live in this city.
Ottawa has an amazing opportunity with the construction of the LRT to mandate that affordable housing be built near LRT stations.
Here’s an Infographic from the Healthy Transportation Coalition with some interesting statistics.
Note one stunning bit of data: From 2011 to 2016, there was a significant drop in OC Transpo ridership (from 103.5 million rides taken in 2011 to only 96.5 in 2016) even though Ottawa’s population grew.
And here's a related article:
Media coverage of transit issues
If we want City Hall to make changes regarding funding and oversight of OC Transpo, we need to get people talking about transit. And so far this year, it’s been easy. From the terrible accident at Westboro station to the drumbeat of dissatisfaction on social media, transit woes have pushed themselves to the forefront of conversation about city activities.
Here are some links to recent interviews on transit:
Ottawa Citizen: Pellerin: Don't merely freeze OC Transpo fares – make public transit free
CTV Morning: Ottawa Transit Riders Join Forces
CFRA’s “Morning Rush” show
January 28, 2019
CBC’s “All in a Day” with Allan Neal
Let's keep people talking about TRANSIT!
With all this negative coverage about poor service, it’s easy to forget what we’re fighting for. Why do people need transit? Why do people use transit?
Here’s an article from National Express Transit (an American blog) on the 9 BENEFITS OF PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION
Smart Cities Dive goes one further with The Top 10 Benefits of Public Transportation
In Canada, The Star published Public transit benefits everyone — even those who don’t use it with an emphasis on the health benefits of public transit.
For those who don’t want to read the articles, I’ll summarize the benefits:
- Transit provides freedom for people who do not drive. Teens, seniors, persons with disabilities, people who do not own a car, people who do not have driver’s licenses …
- Transit is cheaper than driving. Even if you own a car, parking fees are considerably more expensive than transit fares.
- Transit is astonishingly efficient. It is estimated that each bus removes 30 cars from the road. Imagine the congestion in Ottawa if significant numbers of regular transit riders started driving instead. Or the competition for parking!
- Transit helps battle climate change. The single most effective thing that any individual can do to combat climate change is drive less – transit allows people the choice. Moving towards hybrid and electric buses is positive, but even regular diesel or gas-powered buses use less energy and emit fewer pollutants per rider than the equivalent number of cars would.
- Transit is cost effective. If climate change doesn’t motivate you, you’re probably fiscally conservative. Cities pay significant sums to build and maintain infrastructure for cars – roads, parking, enforcement, etc. Public money spent on transit improves the lives of more people and provides a better “bang-for-your-buck”
Why do I personally ride transit? I like being able to jump on and off a bus easily. I don’t like driving city streets or searching for parking. I certainly don’t like paying for parking. That 25 minutes that I spend riding the bus home from work is a kind of transition time for me – between the craziness of work and the chaos of home, I can spend a few minutes reading or playing Sudoku.
My teenage children ride the bus to work and to school and to visit friends – I no longer have to shuttle them around the city. And it’s cheaper. Our family can afford to have one car for all the things that are easier by car (hockey, camping, trips to Costco …), but we save money by biking or using transit the rest of the time.