15-Minute Neighbourhood Survey

Ecology Ottawa has just completed a survey to help identify which Ottawa neighbourhoods score well in terms of walkability – one of the key aspects of 15-minute neighbourhoods which have been proposed in the City’s draft Official Plan.

305 respondents living across Ottawa completed the survey and as well as quantitative data, respondents provided many suggestions of how they would like their neighbourhood to be changed or improved in the future. It is noted that this survey catches a very small sample size of City residents, but we hope it indicates in broad strokes the many steps which must yet be taken to transition to 15-minute neighbourhoods.

From the range of responses, we have been able to create a picture of how close each neighbourhood is to the concept of a 15-minute neighbourhood. Points were awarded when respondents indicated that they lived within a 15-minute walk of everyday retail needs and public services, specifically: a grocery store, pharmacy, library, café, book store, pool, community centre, arena, light-rail station, bus stop and school. Points were also awarded where respondents indicated that their neighbourhood has sidewalks, bike lanes and greenspace. The points awarded to each respondent’s neighbourhood were then added to the points of other respondents in the same neighbourhood. From this averaging system, we were able to create a visual indicator of the areas closest to the 15-minute neighbourhood concept.

As you can see from the map, the neighbourhoods closest to downtown scored well as containing elements of 15-minute neighbourhoods, with a good range of local shops, services and infrastructure to support walkability.

The draft Official Plan describes a growth plan for Ottawa which would involve increasing the City’s population by 400,000 people by 2046. The vast majority of respondents said they would support “gentle density” in their neighbourhood, following the definition given by the urban planner, Brent Toderian as follows: “Gentle density is attached, ground-oriented housing that's more dense than a detached house, but with a similar scale and character. Think duplexes, semi-detached homes, rowhouses, or even stacked townhouses.”

The full range of responses is given below.  It is clear that commercial enterprises were generally speaking more easily accessible than public ones, with access to grocery stores, pharmacies and cafes outranking libraries and community centres.

 

In terms of transit, whilst most respondents had good access to a bus stop, most could not access light rail within a 15-minute walk. It is noted that access to a bus stop is no indication of speed, frequency or reliability of service.

There was a clear disparity between the mode of transport used for travel to work, school or errands in the summer and winter months, with similar numbers of walkers in both seasons, but the number of bikers falling by 10% in the winter, whilst the number of car drivers increased by 15%.

In terms of infrastructure, 63% of respondents indicated sidewalk coverage on their neighbourhood streets, leaving over 33% with no sidewalks. Bike lanes fared less well, with over 42% indicating no protected bike lane on any streets in the neighbourhood.

Finally, greenspace was accessible within a 15-minute walk of over 96% of respondents. However, when looking more closely at the amount of greenspace, it was clear that having more local greenspace was a key concern of many respondents. 

 

Looking beyond what neighbourhoods already contain, we asked residents one fundamental question in relation to a transition to 15-minute neighbourhoods: what would you like to see change or improve in your neighbourhood? The range of suggestions was staggering and we have distilled those which occurred frequently below. Clearly it is time to listen to residents’ concerns and begin to make changes that can bring us closer to the healthy, vibrant communities that develop through the 15-minute neighbourhood concept.

Better local bus service, public transit

  • Bus service has been cancelled for many routes and is unreliable
  • Improve transit speed and reliability
  • Closer/more LRT stations
  • Bus stops cleared better in winter
  • Better bus route to stations, with dedicated bus lanes to avoid congestion
  • Walking access to light transit
  • Fare-free buses
  • Public transit to Costco
  • Increased number of car-sharing options

Reduce traffic

  • Less infrastructure devoted to fast moving motor vehicles
  • Reduce speeding vehicles, unsafe for pedestrians and cyclists
  • Reduce cut-through traffic
  • Reduce traffic lanes from 4 to 2 lanes
  • Use a lane of traffic to widen the sidewalk and create a protected bike lane
  • Turn each street into a single lane one-way
  • More 'no-car' days ie close certain streets on some days to car, only allow cyclists/pedestrians

More affordable housing options

  • More funding for affordable cooperative housing
  • Fewer high rises at market prices, need more for lower incomes
  • Too few apartments; more apartment buildings on corridors such as Carling
  • Developers forced to include affordable housing
  • More social assistance

More greenspace needed

  • Need better connection/access to greenspace
  • Plant trees to add greenery and replace lost ash trees
  • "Wilding" of grass covered city lands with trees and bushes
  • Stop mowing public spaces
  • Rain-catchment 'boulevards' expanded
  • Exercise stations for adults along paths in parks

Residential Infill/Trees

  • Keep mature trees, ensure that each development maintains the required greenspace and replace every tree cut down
  • Unnecessary concrete/asphalt removed from yards and corners and replanted with trees, shrubs, and ground cover like clover; more trees in front private lawn
  • Fewer large houses and more green space
  • Encouragement of larger yards (i.e. adherence to setbacks in zoning) - for environmental and hydrological reasons
  • No lawns, but gardens or just wild

More street-side trees planted

  • Technical standard for planting trees so they have sufficient soil volume to survive
  • Mandatory City replacement of removed street trees that are cut due to age/safety
  • Laws governing the cutting of mature trees
  • More trees planted on the city allotment outside private houses

Bike lanes

  • Protected dedicated bike lanes and signage to improve safety
  • More bike lanes on the busier streets and bridges
  • Protected bike lanes connecting to NCC trails
  • Dedicated bike paths in winter
  • More bike locking spots and racks

Sidewalks

  • More complete sidewalk network and signage
  • More sidewalks between neighborhoods
  • Connect cul-de-sacs which otherwise cut off cyclists and pedestrians
  • More crosswalks to get out of neighbourhoods
  • Where neighbourhoods are bordered by highways, create pedestrian and bike crossings to allow residents to cross
  • Wider sidewalks; ensure sidewalks wide enough for mobility impaired and elderly
  • QED closed to traffic on a permanent basis for pedestrians and cyclists – extend to other roads in the city
  • Better maintenance of sidewalks in the winter
  • Raised crosswalks on through roads
  • More outdoor seating areas
  • More pedestrian crosswalk lights
  • Resurface sidewalks so safe for elderly
  • Fewer hydro wires and utility cables in neighbourhoods, buried underground

Integrate small commercial enterprises into residential fabric of neighbourhoods

  • Less reliance of chains and box stores, strip malls including grocery stores
  • Expanded "retail in residential" shops and restaurants
  • Single story strip malls, and full-scale malls should have at least one level of housing above
  • Less vacant retail space on the main arteries
  • Encourage career type organizations into neighbourhoods to preclude the need to commute

Retail services needed within a 15-minute walk:

  • More local, independent shops (cafe, small grocery, hardware)
  • Independently owned organic/local butcher
  • Independently owned green grocer
  • Bookstores
  • Pharmacy stores
  • Corner stores
  • More/better restaurants and patios
  • “Quality retail”
  • More local produce in stores
  • Less plastics in stores; more options to refill existing containers

More, and more diverse, amenities

  • More pools and splash pads
  • A library and community centre within a 15-minute walk
  • More community centre space to match the huge population growth over the last few years
  • Designated dog park within a 15-minute walk.
  • Cultural spaces, ie for food, music, art, and community
  • A public bike repair station
  • A walk-in medical clinic, doctor’s office
  • A community police station
  • Garbage/ recycling bins along main roads, parks and bus stops
  • Bike and toy / equipment lending programs for children
  • More facilities/support for disadvantaged

Density

  • Density in order to support local businesses
  • Fewer obscenely tall high-rise condos
  • More mid-rise buildings and low-rise apartment buildings
  • More mixed developments (3-6 storey housing), for those who don't want high rise living
  • Mandatory composting for apartment buildings

Bank Street

  • More ‘gentle density’ along Bank Street
  • More and more diverse shops along Bank Street
  • Maximise the occupancy of retail storefronts, no more vacant/abandoned buildings
  • Make Bank Street more pedestrian and cycle friendly; take away a lane of cars/parking and replace with wider sidewalks and fully segregated bike lanes

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