OC Transpo Bus Route Review
My office has received a large number of emails from residents concerned over the proposed changes coming from OC Transpo’s Bus Route Review. Personally, I’m not pleased that we’re seeking to raise fares by 2.5% when service is as unreliable as it currently is. And whereas OC Transpo is suggesting that changes emanating from the Bus Route Review will increase reliability, that increased reliability comes at a significant cost. Through this review OC Transpo is projecting to diminish bus service by 74,000 service hours, or 3.5% of total service. These cuts are coming from bus routes seeing a decrease in frequency of trips, routes being fused together, or many routes being altogether eliminated.
I’ve had numerous meetings with my own team as well as with OC Transpo senior leadership to discuss the proposed changes, and to seek modifications. Granted, some of the changes proposed for Ward 9 are improvements. Many of the changes will cause some initial confusion and frustration, simply because things will change. But some of the proposed changes have been quite concerning.
For the next issue of our newsletter, we’ll be providing specific information and route maps for all of the proposed routes serving and passing through Ward 9. For this issue, we’re focus on two of the proposed changes that posed the greatest challenge to Ward 9 residents:
- Changes to the 82/282
- Changes to the 86/89/111.
For the 82/282, the original proposed changes were quite horrible. Not only was the 282 to be eliminated, but the 82 was proposed to run only during weekday peak-hours. This would mean that all of Trend Arlington, much of Craig Henry and several surrounding areas would have no bus whatsoever during weekends or outside of rush hour on weekdays. Here are the changes that we have fought for:
- The 82 will run at the regular schedule, including weekends, weekday peak-hours, and weekday non-peak hours.
- The 82 may run every 15 minutes, depending on the volume of riders.
- Once the new Pinecrest LRT station is open in 2026, the 82 will run from Baseline Station (LRT) to Pinecrest Station (LRT), for quick transfers take riders there for a quick transfer to an east-bound train. Until then, the 82 will run from Baseline to Tunney’s Pasture during weekday peak hours, and from Baseline to Lincoln Fields during other times.
- Although the 282 will be removed from circulation, I’ve proposed a modification to the 82 route that would see the 82 extend its route a little further to provide access to riders used to the 282. I’m waiting for confirmation of those changes this week.
For the 86/89/111, there have been considerable changes to the various routes that run along Viewmount, Meadowlands, Chesterton and Fisher. Among the changes proposed, the element that our office is most concerned with is the loss of service along Chesterton, especially considering this street connects riders to two schools (Omer Deslauriers and Frank Ryan), but also services a major park and community centre (General Burns), along with a high density of lower-income rental properties.
Currently, the proposal is to have the 111 depart from Baseline and run along Meadowlands all the way to Prince of Wales and then to Billings Bridge for further connections. The 111 will run every 15 minutes. Riders looking to head downtown can either transfer at Fisher for a northbound 86, which will run every 25 minutes. Alternately riders can take the 111 west to Baseline for a transfer to a downtown bus (or eventually take the LRT from Baseline).
There is also a new route 112, which will also depart from Baseline and run along Viewmount, then ending at Billings Bridge. This route will run every 30 minutes.
Although the proposed loss of service along Chesterton is a significant concern – which we are trying to address – the dedicated routes along Meadowlands (the 111) and Viewmount (the new 112), combined with the high-frequency service running along Fisher (the 86) will hopefully provide more reliability for these high-traffic corridors.
It’s been an incredibly busy few weeks around city hall and a lot of that has to do with the fact that we are in budget season. Every fall, the city produces a draft budget to support the priorities of Council and to deliver the services that municipalities are required to provide. It’s a complex, intricate process. Once the draft has been released, portions of the budget are referred to various committees of Council for debate. I’m a member of three committees, and in the last two weeks, two of them reviewed and passed their various budget measures. In this issue we’ll talk about one of those budgets.
At the Environment & Climate Change Committee (ECCC), the greatest area of concern is always whether the proposed budget is reflective of our city’s self-declared state of climate emergency. On the positive side, we are spending a great deal to invest on more climate resilient stormwater infrastructure, and we’re moving forward on a bold plan for a more environmentally responsible Solid Waste Master Plan. On the negative side, the $5 million allocation for our Climate Change Master Plan is the same as it was in 2023, and there are concerns we’re not investing sufficiently to help our Forestry Services department meet its goal of restoring our urban canopy to 40% coverage city-wide.
Much of the ECCC budget is allocated to services the city absolutely must deliver: solid waste collection and disposal, and drinking and stormwater management. They may not sound sexy, but those services are critical to the daily lives of Ottawans. We have to get them right. But beyond approving funds to keep those services in good, working order, we also passed new measures to beef up the recycling program in city parks. $900 thousand will go to that ongoing pilot project to make sure residents have better options than just throwing that empty pop can in the trash. We also approved money to help develop a new approach to stormwater management rates. The proposal is to develop a system that incentivizes people to make their properties as absorbent as possible. The more of your yard you pave, the more water will run off and into the city stormwater system, and the more you’ll pay on your water rate. But if you make your property more permeable, add some plants and trees, break up those expanses of concrete and asphalt, the more the water will soak into the ground, lessening the burden on the city’s systems. And your water rate would decrease!
A Note on Property Tax Increases
Readers of this newsletter have already heard me express my concerns and frustrations with the way in which our city determines the rate of property tax increase, especially considering just how poor so many of our municipal services are performing, how much debt we’re taking on, and how much of our cash reserves are being depleted to support recent budgets. And so, I wanted to share some context for how other Canadian cities have increased (or decreased) their property tax rates in recent years.
The following is a chart of taxation increases across five Canadian cities (Ottawa, Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver) from 2013 – 2024:
Here’s what I quickly observe from these findings:
- Among the five cities observed, Ottawa’s cumulative tax increase since 2013 is the lowest
- Over the span of 12 years from 2013 – 2024 never surpasses 3.0%
- The range of variability for Ottawa’s tax increase over 12 years is 1.09%
Some people may look at this and appreciate the predictability of Ottawa’s tax rate, or the commitment to keeping taxes low. But in the face of increasing diminished services, underperforming public assets, crumbling infrastructure, and worsening emergency crises, some might see an ideological commitment to austerity. Considering just how affluent much of our city is (so many high-paying, secure government jobs), some might say we’re being cheap, or even selfish, especially when you consider that most of the under-funded areas (transit, affordable housing, social support services) have marginal impact on most middle-class taxpayers.
As I’ve mentioned before, a 5% increase on my own property taxes would be the equivalent of $13 per paycheck. And if my property taxes represent the average across the city, that $13 per paycheck increase would bring the city $115 million dollars more per year. Just think of what we could do with that!
Other cities have figured it out: the property tax rate isn’t something you set arbitrarily, devoid of a genuine assessment of what’s needed. Everyone who lives in Ottawa benefits from a properly functioning city. As other cities do, Council should engage our residents to find out what kind of city they want, and what rate of taxation are they willing to pay? I’m confident that Ottawa residents have the compassion and common sense to do the responsible thing.
“Stop blaming drivers! Pedestrians need to take more responsibility.”
Every time I make some public comment about traffic safety and the increasing risk to pedestrians and cyclists, this is the kind of response I get. Even if I don’t assign any blame, even if all I do is report the facts on pedestrian/cyclist accidents, this is the response I can expect. A defensiveness on behalf of individuals who think that I am anti-car. That I’m part of some “war on cars”.
My family owns two vehicles. My wife and I use them on most days. I put in a lot of kilometres. I am not anti-car. But if there’s a war between cars and pedestrians/cyclists, the cars are winning. And I fully support any initiatives to make us less dependent on cars, just as I support efforts to make roads safer for vulnerable pedestrians and cyclists.
This week CTV News Ottawa published a “By the Numbers” report on pedestrian/cyclist deaths in Ottawa, and the numbers aren’t good. So far in 2023, there have been 10 pedestrian/cyclist deaths and 23 vehicle collisions involving serious or life-threatening injuries pedestrians/cyclists. Two of those incidents (non-fatal) were in Ward 9.
There are things that we can and will continue to do. My office is continuing our work to advance much-needed modifications to the intersection of Merivale and Viewmount, where a student was seriously injured in a vehicle collision last month. And my team and I continue to be proud to have obtained two new locations for Automated Speed Enforcement cameras on Knoxdale Road and Merivale Road.
We will also continue to deploy our annual Temporary Traffic Calming (TTC) budget, which increases from $62,500 to $75,000 for 2024. We’ve already started preparing recommendations for new TTC measures in Ward 9 and will start talking to communities and residents early in the New Year to get the process going.
But frequently when we deploy TTC measures (whether it’s flex-stakes, or speed display boards, or other measures), we get complaints from residents that not only are they a nuisance, but that “they don’t work.” We wanted to share some data we’ve collected from staff to show just how they do work.
Knoxdale Road in Manordale is quite often an area of concern, which is one reason we pushed for the speed enforcement camera. We’ve got a lot of TTC measures in place there, and several local residents complain about it. And so, we reached out to city staff to ask for speed data collected on Knoxdale Road, for both before and after the installation of TTC measures.
The following is speed data captured on Knoxdale Road between Skipton Road and Cremona Crescent, where the posted speed limit is 40km/hr:
- In 2022 (data collected March 31st, 2022), before the installation of traffic-calming measures, the data showed that the 85th percentile speed (i.e. speed at which 85% of drivers travel) is 66km/hr, with an average speed of 58km/hr
- In 2023 (data collected October 31st, 2023), after the installation of traffic-calming measures, the data showed that the 85th percentile speed lowered to 51km/hr, with a lower average speed of 44km/hr
It works, everyone. It may be ugly. It may make it harder for you to park. It may take you 30 seconds longer to get to your destination. But it also may save a kid’s life.
As part of my ongoing mission of increasing our city’s resilience against extreme weather events, last week I joined Barrhaven Councillors David Hill and Wilson Lo for a meeting with Respond Ottawa, which is group of Ottawa “churches serving amid disasters”. Respond Ottawa works to prepare, connect and deploy volunteers from churches across Ottawa to ensure that urgent and critical needs are met during crises arising from extreme weather events. This organization currently comprises 40 churches from across Ottawa, including several based out of Ward 9. In fact, Respond Ottawa got its start during the 2018 tornadoes that devastated parts of Ward 9.
Currently my office and my colleagues Hill and Lo are working with our city’s emergency services staff to help support and develop Respond Ottawa as a potential “force multiplier”, so that a large and diverse army of volunteers might be trained and available to help fill the gaps where Ottawa’s own staff and emergency services might be able to fill. If you’re a member of a church in Ward 9, feel free to check Respond Ottawa’s website to see if your church is a member. Maybe you and your church can get involved!
Ottawa Film Office
One element I don’t speak about much in these newsletters is my role as a Board Director of the Ottawa Film Office (OFO). For those of you who don’t know, the OFO plays a vital role in promoting and building Ottawa’s film/television/animation industry, which is a major economic engine for Ottawa. One of my priorities in advocating for the OFO is to support its mission of getting a new soundstage built in Ward 9 (at southwest corner of Woodroffe and West Hunt Club), which would support far more investment in our local industry.
Another reason I’m a big supporter of the local screen industry is because that’s my former career! For several decades, both my wife and I made our living in professional theatre, film and television.
And yes, as our local film/television industry grows, this means that occasionally a film production will temporarily set up its trailers and vehicles in a residential neighbourhood, and this can cause inconvenience. These are short-lived interruptions, and it always means that dozens of local professionals are being employed in a career that they love, and that hopefully keeps them in Ottawa!
But the reason I’m writing about this today is because I want to let you all see the Ottawa Film Office’s newest promotional item called Ottawa: The World in One City, which is a “sizzle reel” that showcases the exciting range of shooting locations that Ottawa offers. In case you ever needed a reminder of just how beautiful our city is, look no further!
Ward 9 Fights Food Insecurity
This week I joined several other councillors to attend the Ottawa Food Bank’s annual Food Report. As I’m sure you can expect, this was not a “good news” report. The situation is bad and getting worse, as the demand being placed upon our city’s food banks steadily increasing. For anyone with the courage and compassion to learn more, please take a moment to review the Ottawa Hunger Report 2023 - Unravelling Threads: Ottawa’s Food Security Crisis.
When I was a kid, the first volunteering I ever did was preparing and delivering emergency food hampers through my church. While I wish that government would be more supportive and bolder in its investments in food banks, I know that it comes down to the generosity of residents to help our most vulnerable neighbours.
So now I’m going to see if I can leverage the power of my local office to encourage some increased generosity from Ward 9 residents. Here’s what I’m offering:
- My office just donated $1,000 to FAMSAC, a local food cupboard that serves several Ward 9 communities including Manordale, Craig Henry and Trend Village. Our contribution will help support 10 families for FAMSAC’s 2023 Christmas Gift Card Program.
- My office also donated $1,000 to The Care Centre, based in Ward 9 and one of Ottawa’s 5 emergency food banks. Our contribution will help support The Care Centre’s 24 Days of Christmas initiative to deliver food and personal care items to local families in need.
That’s $2,000 coming from my office’s annual Donations & Sponsorships budget, and so it’s funds that are typically meant to support Ward 9 community events and charitable causes. Not only do I hope that Ward 9 can support this important contribution from my office, but I hope that several of my fellow Ward 9 residents can help match it!
Today is Giving Tuesday and I would be thrilled if the $2,000 that my office just put in was matched by residents from our community. Whether you can contribute $25 or $100, please help out if you can.
- Here’s how to donate to FAMSAC’s 2023 Christmas Gift Card program
- Here’s how to donate to The Care Centre’s 24 Days of Christmas program
And speaking of volunteering, my team and I will be participating once again in the 39th Annual OC Transpo / Loblaw’s Christmas Food Drive on December 9th from 1:30pm – 3:30pm at the Merivale Triangle Loblaws. If that’s where you shop, I hope to see you there!
Update on Power Resiliency
Last week Councillor Devine represented the City of Ottawa at the media announcement for the modernization of Hydro One’s Merivale Transformer Station. Along with Hydro One’s Hawthorne Station further to the east, this is a significant upgrade to our city’s electrical distribution capacity and will also help to increase the resiliency of our city’s power grid. During this event Councillor Devine also confirmed Hydro One’s Community Support Agreement, which includes the commitment of $200,000 towards a community benefit project, which will be for a new splashpad in Tanglewood, aiming for completion in 2025. Councillor Devine was pleased to be joined at the event by Graeme Roderick, president of the Tanglewood-Hillsdale Community Association.
Councillor Devine also had a sit-down meeting with the CEO of Hydro Ottawa, Bryce Conrad, to continue their joint discussions on addressing the numerous outages that Ward 9 residents continue to experience, and the short- and long-term solutions coming forward. Councillor Devine was pleased to hear that among the long-term solutions is a plan to bury power lines across some of the more affected parts of Ward 9, but this will certainly result in rate increases for Hydro Ottawa customers. And Hydro Ottawa re-affirmed their commitment to holding two public engagement meetings in Ward 9 I the early New Year. One meeting will be in the north section of the ward (Fisher Heights, Skyline, Parkwood Hills), and the other meeting will be in the south section of the ward (Manordale, Merivale Gardens, Grenfell Glen, The Glens, Country Place).
Ottawa Islamic School
On November 1 Councillor Devine finally had a meeting with Mona Egeh, the principal of Ottawa Islamic School in Fisher Heights. Residents of that community have long dealt with the frustration of the school’s expansion project being delayed for over a decade now, leaving an incomplete construction site in plain view of a residential neighbourhood, immediately adjacent to a park and community centre.
Councillor Devine approached the meeting with the school in the spirit of building a good relationship, in recognizing the challenges the school is facing in advancing their project, while also conveying the community’s reasonable frustration with the project’s ongoing delays.
Councillor Devine met with the school principal, the project architect, along with the project’s director of fundraising and financial officer. It was a productive meeting, in which the School communicated their current plan, and the status of their financing for the next steps of the project plan. Here is a summary of what was discussed:
- The project’s immediate objectives are to complete two construction milestones: a) the pouring of the interior concrete slab, and b) the completion of the exterior façade.
- They wish to do this work simultaneously in Spring 2024.
- If they were to proceed only with the completion of the exterior façade now over the winter, it would be much more complicated (and costly) to pour the interior concrete slab later. Also, completing the exterior façade over the winter would cost over $100K in heating costs, which would put additional pressure on their fundraising.
- To accomplish the goals above, they have put out a tender for contractors, and hope to confirm their contractor by the end of November.
- The School and our office are looking to announce a specific construction timeline in December, and to hold a public event in Fisher Heights in January or February, prior to the beginning of construction.
- The School also confirmed that this proposed construction phase is almost completely funded and provided details on their fundraising strategies for the remainder of the project. The Councillor will be helping to promote their fundraising campaign.
The Councillor is aware that residents of Fisher Heights may be skeptical about this news, and conveyed to the School that residents will understandably have their doubts. Councillor Devine has had numerous conversations with the City of Ottawa’s Building Code Services to discuss options to incentivize and/or apply pressure to advance their project. Staff have made it clear to the Councillor that so long as any work is happening, there are few options to impose punitive measures, and that such measures would delay the project further. For now, Councillor Devine will aim to foster transparent discussions with the School, continue advocating on behalf of concerned residents, and help push the project towards completion.
Conover Street Accelerated Traffic Calming Study: Survey Results & Construction Timeline
After a comprehensive public engagement survey which demonstrated clear community support, the City of Ottawa will move forward with the Conover Street Neighbourhood Traffic Calming project in the Craig Henry neighbourhood. This project will see the design and construction of three speed cushions and an raised pedestrian crossing on Conover Street between Craig Henry Drive and Knoxdale Road. The project’s construction is expected to be completed by the end of 2024.
The City of Ottawa conducted a thorough community consultation, both in online form and through paper notices mailed out to residents in the immediate vicinity of the proposed project. Here is some information from the survey:
- A total of 231 respondents completed the survey
- 63% of respondents indicated they were very or somewhat comfortable with the proposed plan while 30% indicated they were very or somewhat uncomfortable and 7% indicated they were neutral.
Councillor Devine also wanted the survey to distinguish between location of where each respondent lived. From that the survey revealed that:
- 16% of respondents live on Conover Street
- 51% of respondents live within the blue boundary, but not on Conover Street (see below)
- 33% of respondents live outside the blue boundary
Based on that, the Councillor was able to request additional data based on level of comfort with the proposed project in relation to where the respondent lived. From that the survey concluded:
- Among residents who live on Conover Street: 49% are very comfortable with the proposed plan, 11% are somewhat comfortable, 3% are neutral, and 38% are very uncomfortable
- Among residents who live within the blue boundary but not on Conover: 44% are very comfortable with the proposed plan, 16% are somewhat comfortable, 7% are neutral, 8% are somewhat uncomfortable, and 25% are very uncomfortable
Based on these findings, the Councillor was reassured that the clear majority of respondents who live on or close to Conover Street are comfortable with the proposed plan, and so the Councillor urged staff to proceed.
Anyone interested in reviewing the full survey results can consult the As We Heard It Report.
Craig Henry Drive: Speed Cushions
While the Craig Henry Drive traffic calming project is in the final stages of construction, residents have raised concerns regarding what appears to be the lack of uniformity in the height of speed cushions. Councillor Devine has inspected the recently installed speed cushions observed that several of them were higher than others, which was relayed to staff. The Councillor has been working collaboratively to ensure that the speed cushions are effective at lowering vehicle speed, but that road users won’t have to worry about damaging their vehicle, and so the speed cushions height will be brought down to a uniform height. The finalization of the project will include installation of signage and the painting of lines & speed cushions for better visibility. All which is set to be finalized in the spring of 2024.
Woodroffe Watermain Update
Our office has received some updates on the Woodroffe Ave watermain repair project. The project has now been awarded to a contractor who will begin the first phase of construction on Woodroffe Ave.
The first phase is the removal of a section of the concrete center-median on Woodroffe Ave, south of Slack Rd. The median is being removed to allow for a temporary southbound lane so that two southbound lanes can be maintained during the watermain construction work. During the removal of the median, one northbound lane, and one southbound lane on either side of the median will be closed at times during the off-peak hours of 9am-3pm. The removal of the median is being done in advance of the watermain work. The temporary southbound lane won’t be put into use until it’s required during the watermain work (i.e., the existing lanes will be maintained from after the median is removed until when the watermain work is commencing).
The watermain construction work is anticipated to start in January 2024, with construction completion set for spring 2024. The schedule is subject to coordination with the Ottawa South watermain emergency repair (Ward 17), as well as the Donald St watermain repair which is also being completed as part of this project. We will keep residents updated on the schedule as more details become available.
Below is a markup showing the approximate work area for the removal of the center-median (Woodroffe south of Slack):
PUBLIC HEALTH & SAFETY
Increasing respiratory virus activity
The temperatures are falling and we are all spending more time indoors, bundled up and cozy. And that means we are sharing a lot more indoor air than we do during the warmer months. And that can lead to increases across the board in respiratory viruses. The Ottawa wastewater is painting a pretty clear picture right now: there is a lot of flu, RSV, and COVID-19 out there right now. COVID, particularly, has been building gradually in the community over the last few months. There is a lot of it out there right now (see the graph, below). So, take some precautions: wear a mask in public spaces, crack some windows to bring in some fresh air, and use indoor air filters to help reduce the viral load you’re breathing in. And, of course, update your vaccines.
Last week OPH released a video featuring Dr. Etches and Councillor Brown to help promote the fall COVID-19 and flu vaccine campaign. Take a look... and then go get your vaccines!
PLANNING & DEVELOPMENT
The re-zoning proposal for the redevelopment of 780 Baseline Road is coming to the city’s Planning and Housing Committee on Wednesday. At the time of writing this update, there has been a change in what will be considered by the committee. For purposes of approval, the project is being separated into two parts: Tower ‘A’, the 24-storey building at the south end of the site on Fisher, and Towers ‘B’ and ‘C’ which front onto Baseline Road at the north end of the site. For this week’s meeting, only Tower ‘A’ will be considered for approval. The rest of the site will be brought forward once concerns around shadowing on the Central Experimental Farm have been fully assessed.
This is a recent change and comes after months of work by Councillor Devine and his team, trying to bring the parties to the table to discuss all the implications of the proposed development. Of particular concern is the potential for extended shadowing onto the farm. The Councillor is very much in favour of bringing more intensification to the Baseline corridor but wants to see it done with a mind to minimizing the impacts on that important institution (for a good summary of the state of the discussion, see this news story from CTV Ottawa, late last week). The Councillor has been having fruitful discussions with the city, the farm, and the developer and is hopeful that the outstanding issues can be resolved.
IN THE COMMUNITY
72nd Ottawa Scouts visit the Traffic Operations Centre
Last week Councillor Devine hosted a curious group from the 72nd Ottawa Scouts at Ottawa’s Traffic Operations Centre, which is where all of the city’s traffic operations are managed, and also where all of Ottawa’s road & traffic signs are manufactured, and where our traffic lights are built and repaired. Big thanks to Karson Blank from the city’s Transportation System Management team for being a great tour guide!
NROCRC Week of Giving
Kicking off on Giving Tuesday, the Nepean Rideau Osgoode Community Resource Centre (NROCRC) is holding a Week of Giving Fundraising Campaign from November 28 - December 5. Donations from this campaign will go toward supporting programs and services that NROCRC does not otherwise receive funding for, such as the Emergency Baby Cupboard, Food Support Programs, and Transportation Vouchers. If you are able, please consider making a donation in support of community members who are currently facing difficult circumstances. Thank you for considering this request and helping to provide critical assistance in the communities of Nepean, Rideau and Osgoode.
Trend Arlington Community Association’s Holiday Food Drive
On Saturday December 2nd from 10:00am – 1:00pm, the Trend Arlington Community Association (TACA) will be collecting donations and canned food once more for FAMSAC Food Cupboard which serves this and other communities in Ward 9 and Ottawa’s west end. The Trend Arlington Community Centre is located at 50 Bellman Drive. Come on out and kick off the holiday season in the spirit of giving!
Tanglewood-Hillsdale Community Association AGM
Last week Councillor Devine attended the Annual General Meeting of the Tanglewood-Hillsdale Community Association (THCA). Even with nothing contentious on the agenda this was one of the better attended AGMs the Councillor has been to this year. Maybe it’s because the THCA had their meeting catered, or that they had some lovely door prizes! But the THCA is always a very well-run organization with a lot of community engagement. Community associations like the THCA and the several other ones that serve Ward 9 play such a vital role in engaging and serving our communities, and the City of Ottawa should treat these organizations like partners, not like renters of community facilities. A big thanks from our office to all these vital community-led institutions.